Friday, July 4, 2008

Homeopathy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome




I wrote this article for a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome website and when I came to email it to the editor, I found that her details were absent- gone - nada! Doh.... It must have happened in the change over from PC to Mac, when so many little details seemed to dissapear into the ether, never to be found again.

The only solution I can see is to publish it here and hope that in the fullness of time those details will come to light. In the mean time at least I can share my experience of the condition and hope to help someone in the process.

Most doctors draw a blank when confronted with CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). So it can feel pretty bleak when you finally get the longed for diagnosis. As it is an auto-immune condition, the best thing you can do is rest, de-stress your life and start to strengthen your immune system, so you can heal yourself from the inside. Good advice for all of us really – but hard to put into practice in the hectic bustle of the modern world. Those of us with a pre-existing auto-immune condition (celiac disease in my case) can be more prone to CFS than the general population because our immune system tends to over react to stimuli and our weak adrenal glands can easily become exhausted.

My strategy is threefold. First to support the adrenal glands with gentle stress relieving exercise such as yoga, or relaxation techniques such as meditation and conscious breathing if you are severely debilitated, and exercise would deplete you further. The point is support and relaxation, not stress and strain!

Secondly, to eat food that does not cause fluctuations in blood sugar. By maintaining the blood sugar at a constant level and avoiding peaks and troughs, the body can focus on repairing itself rather than producing large amounts of insulin and adrenalin which burden the liver and lead to exhaustion. CFS is often accompanied by digestive disorders such as diarrhoea, leaky gut, candida and food intolerance. By eating only what your gut can digest fully, you will absorb the nutrients you need from your food, rather than having it pass undigested through the intestines – causing inflammation and feeding yeasts and harmful bacteria on the way.

Thirdly I use homeopathy to rebalance the body and support the emotions. Homeopathy is great for CFS because it does not chemically burden an already weakened system. It can help raise energy, manage aches and pains and soothe the difficult feelings that arise from such an overwhelming condition.

Let me start by explaining a little about homeopathy:

Homeopathy is a system that uses microscopic quantities of medicine to stimulate the immune system and bring about healing by providing the stimulus that allows the body to find balance and harmony again. Disease generally comes about through failure to adapt to our environment and homeopathy enables us to adapt again and thrive. It is based on three main principles:
Like Cures Like
A substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person will cure those same symptoms in someone who is unwell. For example, a remedy made from onions can be used to cure hay fever with streaming eyes. This is because onion causes your eyes to stream when you chop it. The symptoms of the person are matched to the substance that can cause similar symptoms.
The Minimum Dose
The smallest amount needed to stimulate the immune system is given. Rather than giving a drug which changes the body’s chemistry and needs to be given in ever increasing amounts, as in orthodox medicine. This means that there is no drug dependency, no side effects and remedies can be changed quickly, according to the needs of the patient.
Individualisation
No two patients are alike, even with the same disease. A Homeopath looks at the patient as a whole, taking emotional, mental and physical symptoms into account when selecting a remedy. Homeopathy does not treat diseases, it treats people with symptoms. This means it is effective even when there is no diagnosis of a particular disease. The homeopath is looking to rebalance the patient, to enable them to heal themselves. If you are treating yourself, you should try an embrace these principles too, so that you can prescribe something that fits you as a person.

Ideally you should see a qualified homeopath who will look at all your symptoms, including your previous history and prescribe remedies over a period of months that work on the underlying problem causing your CFS. It requires great skill and perception to assess which remedies to use, what potency and how often to give a dose. Homeopaths undergo years of training in order to practice this form of medicine and lasting cure is unlikely from home treatment.

However, there are some remedies that can give palliative relief (not curative but make you feel better) and these are safe to use at home in the short term. The first step in helping yourself is to look at diet and remove what homeopaths refer to as obstacles to cure. If you are eating something that you are intolerant to, this will constantly sap your energy and undermine your immune system and foods that are refined and processed are not health promoting in any way.

Start by taking all the worst offenders out of your diet for a few weeks, by this I mean:

• All refined sugar - except for a little honey if you really need something sweet. This includes muscovado, fructose, molasses, and rice syrup etc, any sugars that have been manufactured in some way. Refined sugar exhausts the adrenals and yours are exhausted already, so they can’t cope with the rollercoaster ride that sugar gives them!

• Cut out wheat and corn (maize) completely in any form and try to only eat grains in their whole form, unprocessed by factory means. Many people with impaired immune function cannot cope with modern wheat and maize exhausts the adrenals as it releases its starch quickly into the blood stream and contains lectins (proteins) that inhibit metabolic function. If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome too then just eat a little brown rice or quinoa and leave the other grains – they are tough to digest.

* Due to the presence of phytic acid in wholegrains - they are often poorly assimilated and bind with minerals in the gut, carrying them out of the body. The best way to maximise your absorption of grains is to soak them in water with a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice added, at room temperature for 24 hours. Drain and cook in the usual way. Alternatively, eat sourdough bread, which has a long and beneficial fermentation period.

* If you eat museli - switch to homemade Bircher Museli. Oats for porridge should also be soaked overnight in 3 times the quantity of water with a teaspoon of whey, or lemon juice and then cooked as usual in the morning. Add a little maple syrup or honey and some cream or greek yogurt.

• Only eat dairy in cultured form and sparingly, live yoghurt, kefir and very small amounts of cheese are ok. Use nut milks, oat milk or a little goat or sheep milk. Some CFS sufferers have lactose intolerance and should avoid all uncultured dairy, and eat only yogurt that has been made at home and fermented for 24 hours to eliminate all lactose. If you can get hold of raw, unpasteurised milk and cream, this is hugely beneficial.

• Avoid soya unless it is cultured as tamari, miso or tempeh. Soya contains hormone disrupters that can exacerbate CFS.

• Minimise consumption of legumes (beans and lentils). When you cook them, soak for 24 hours and change the cooking water at least once to make them easier to digest.

• Avoid all stimulants; coffee, tea, cocoa cola, chocolate, cocoa and alcoholic spirits. A little wine with a meal may be ok for some, but not every day. I would advise avoiding alcohol completely if you can.

Then try to follow the following principles:

• Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, especially the bright and deep coloured ones. That way, you will maximise the range of nutrients you consume and increase your intake of those all-important antioxidants. Don’t eat too much raw veg to start with as it can be tough to digest. Invest in a steamer and steam everything together, adding it according to how long it takes to cook. Much less washing up when you are exhausted. Mashed vegetables such as squash, carrot and sweet potato are very nourishing, easily digested and comforting.

• Eat your fats raw as much as possible and use coconut oil or animal fats such as lard, dripping, duck fat or goose fat to fry in rather than olive oil, which is unstable at high temperatures. Coconut oil is fantastic if you suffer with candida as it is anti fungal – use it in place of butter and for frying, or mix in a little honey, ground almonds or cashew butter and vanilla extract and freeze in ice cube trays for a delicious and healthy treat. Eat raw olive oil and butter - these are excellent immune supports. Add a little flax seed oil to your salad dressing to increase the omega 3 content and think about taking a good quality cod liver oil supplement to combat inflammation.

• Eat lots of things that come from the sea. Sea food, fish and sea weeds are great metabolism regulators as they stimulate the thyroid and provide it with the building blocks it needs to function. Supporting the thyroid helps the adrenals as they are intrinsically linked. Sea salt is an adrenal tonic, so including a small amount of it in your diet is a good idea. Fish stock is a great metabolism and thyroid support - make bouillabaisse or add coconut milk, chili, tamari and coriander for an instant thai fish soup drink, to pick you up when you're too shattered to eat.

• Eat slow cooked food such as soups, stews, casseroles and braised meats, not only are they easy to prepare – all the work is done by the oven or stove – but they support your spleen and adrenals according to traditional Chinese medicine.

* Look at your plate as though it is a pie chart. Half of it should be vegetables, a quarter protein and fat (fish, meat, eggs, yogurt etc) and a quarter whole grains or carbohydrate. If you have irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut then the grain portion should be even smaller or non existant and you should try to get your carbohydrate from starchy vegetables (except white potatoes which are very fast releasing).

When you have done this for a few weeks think about taking one of the following remedies. The important thing is to match your symptoms to the symptoms of the remedy. Think about what characterises the way you feel. Are you exhausted and apathetic? Do your legs feel like jelly when you try to walk? Do you feel fluey and just want to lie down in a darkened room? Do you feel tearful and helpless? When you have thought about it a bit, have a look at the remedy list and make a selection.

Phosphoric-acid – Complete apathy and exhaustion. You may find yourself going through the motions without even the energy to feel anything about it. Contact with friends can feel like too much work, even though you usually love to be around people. You may find it hard to remember things and concentrate. Physically, you may need to get up a lot in the night for a pee, may have painless diarrhoea and crave juicy fruits, juices and refreshing things like fizzy drinks and fruit sweets.

Kali-phos – Nervous exhaustion. Your nerves are shredded and you feel that the slightest thing might make you lose your self-control. You feel easier on your own because there are no demands on you and may feel irritable when others are around – even family. Physically, your excretions may have a yellowish colour to them – orangey yellow snot, coating on tongue, stools or vaginal discharge. There are sweet cravings and a tendency to nibble constantly on biscuits and chocolate or to feel ravenous first thing in the morning. You may have back pain with a weak feeling.

Gelsemium – this is a classic flu remedy so symptoms often feel like early stage flu. Weakness and heaviness, especially in the legs that can tremble especially during stressful times. All muscles feel sore and tired. There may be a lack of thirst but a great need to pee with a feeling of relief afterwards. You just want to lie down and be quiet.

Picric-acid – This is the remedy for brain fag. There is a complete inability to perform any mental task as though capacity for though has been reached. There can be headaches from mental exertion with a feeling of fullness in the head, and burning pains in the spine, between shoulder blades or in the legs. A great feeling of heaviness at the back of the head and down the spine. There may be pernicious anaemia.

Muriatic-acid – There is complete physical debility but you remain clear headed and calm. As soon as you sit down you could sleep, your body collapses, lower jaw drops; ‘the mind is willing but the body is weak’. Sometimes fever and diarrhoea accompany this condition, or there may be an inability to control bowel function when urinating or passing wind. There can be complete aversion to meat.

Stannum – Extreme weakness especially in the upper part of the body, can’t even talk. Trembles on moving, trembling hands. Great sadness and desire to weep constantly, but crying just makes you feel worse, more depressed, exhausted. Bizarrely you may feel better for rapid movement and worse for slow movement. There may be a complete lack of appetite or even nausea and vomiting at the sight of food.

New ERA tissue salt combination for Nervous Exhaustion – this is a general tonic that will help most sufferers in some way. It is a combination of Calc-phos, Kali-phos and Ferrum-phos. Especially useful where there is iron deficiency anaemia.

This is not an exhaustive list of remedies than can help sufferers of CFS. Because homeopathy is individualised, you may have symptoms that are not covered by any of these remedies and will need to consult a homeopath to get a prescription that suits you. I also must emphasise that prescribing for yourself will only give short-term benefit and you should not take any of these remedies un-supervised for longer than six weeks.

When you have chosen your remedy you need to decide which potency to take. A good rule of thumb with homeopathy is that the weaker you are, the lower your potency should be. If you are very weak then you should chose a 6x, less weak a 6c and just exhausted a 30c. Then take your remedy once a day for a week and see how you feel (twice a day for 6x). If there is some improvement then continue taking the remedy for up to three weeks. If there is none then you may not have the right remedy and need to chose again – or consult a homeopath. If over the three weeks you feel that the benefits are less, you can increase the dosage to twice daily (up to four times daily for 6x). If you feel you are no longer getting any benefit after three weeks but your energy has increased then chose the next potency above. If you were on a 30c then it’s time to go see a homeopath!

Remedies can be purchased online from Helios Homeopathic Pharmacy or by phone on 01892 537 254, where you can also get advice from a homeopath.

Any questions regarding dosing or potency can be addressed to me at: naomidevlin@f2s.com