As always, you know the drill, 100% of these proceeds benefit the LymeLight Foundation and their incredible work!
I'll Be There For Youuuuuu ...
Hello all! I have quite a few comprehensive blog posts in the pipeline, but for now I wanted to pop on here quickly to share this new shirt design! This is definitely a niche design and will only make sense if you've watched the show 'Friends', but it came to me one day while watching the show and I knew it had to be made. The text I used on the shirt is the classic 'Friends' font, and the text beneath it is stylized the way that each episode of 'Friends' is stylized. Each episode of the show begins with "The One..." and so I used that to put my own spin on it to say, "The One Where We Find A Cure." I thought it was cute, so here it is! If you are a fellow lover of this 90's comedy and want to purchase this tee, it is available on Amazon Prime in short sleeve and long sleeve both (for Men, Women & Children)!
As always, you know the drill, 100% of these proceeds benefit the LymeLight Foundation and their incredible work!
This shirt is also available on Amazon UK and Amazon DE! The links for these shirts are below:
There's one thing that goes hand in hand with Lyme Disease, and that's Detox. Detoxing while you are treating Lyme Disease is crucial, and it's necessary if you are in any stage of treatment.
For those of you who might be new to Lyme, let me explain a bit more. Lyme Disease is caused by the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria, which is a corkscrew shaped bacteria that has a habit of burrowing its way deep into the tissues of the body. When you begin to kill this bacteria with antibiotics of any sort it releases toxins as it dies. This is a strange analogy, but if you've ever encountered a stink bug you'll know that when you kill them they release an awful odor. This bacteria is much the same, but when it dies it releases a cloud of toxins into the blood stream and surrounding tissues. Your liver, kidney & lymphatic system work really hard to get these toxins out of your system, but there is often an overload of toxins which can't be cleared fast enough on its own. So what ends up happening is that these toxins build up, stick around in your body, and start to cause some pretty terrible symptoms. This is called a herxheimer reaction, and it typically feels like an extreme flare up of your symptoms or like you have a really really terrible flu. Herxheimers have landed people in the ER, and can get very severe, so detoxing is of the utmost importance.
A herxheimer is normal and par for the course of Lyme Disease treatment, because no matter how careful you are the bacteria inevitably release more toxins than your body can naturally clear. It's one of the unavoidable parts of Lyme treatment, but in a way it's good because you know that your treatment is working. Pretty much every Doctor who treats this disease tells their patients, "it will get worse before it gets better," and that can't possible be more true.
I am often asked for suggestions on detox methods: which ones are the best, which ones are the most gentle, and which ones are my favorite. So today I thought I would do a round-up of the best detox methods I have found, along with step by step info on how to use them all. Through the course of my Lyme journey I have used a ton of methods, and I've pretty much tried it all.
I'm going to group these methods into categories, and also give it a rating from Low-High on how gentle it is. Some methods are very gentle and others are more hardcore (for more intense detox). Every body is different, and at my most fragile I only tolerated very gentle detox methods. So, you know your body best and will be able to pick which feels right for you.
Burbur Detox - Very Gentle
Burbur is hands down my absolute favorite go-to detox method, and it's one I have used for years on end. I have a whole blog post about it, but for now I will summarize its method of action. Burbur is an herbal plant extract which has a unique ability to help drain the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system. The liver helps you detox by dumping out bile which contains toxins; the kidneys help flush out toxins via urine, and the lymphatic system is your system of lymph nodes whose primary job is to rid the body of waste. When you take burbur it very gently initiates each of these systems to start up and begin to work. You can feel the positive effects of burbur quite quickly, usually within 30-60 mins (sometimes less). Burbur comes in a tincture, and the instructions for use are to take approx 8-10 drops and place it into about 4oz of water. Slowly sip this over the course of 15 mins. You may do one cup every 15 minutes until you feel better. Burbur works very quickly for me, is gentle to use on an empty stomach at any time, and has always consistently provided me with relief. I can't live without it. Some people like to use Burbur along with Pinella, which is a brain/nerve detox. I use Pinella on occasion, but it can be a bit more harsh so it's not recommended if you're in a really fragile state. NutraMedix sells Pinella on its own, or in a pre-mixed Burbur/Pinella combo.
Epsom Salt Bath - Very Gentle
Epsom salt baths can be done two ways: either in a proper bath, or via foot bath. I have pretty much exclusively done foot baths due to the fact that I have heat intolerance, so a full on bath leaves me feeling pretty crummy. You get the same benefits both ways, so it's just a personal preference. Many people find a whole bath soothing because epsom salt also soothes sore muscles, but if you are intolerant to heat, don't own a bathtub, OR just want an easier method then a foot bath works the same (and uses less epsom salt). Epsom salt is essentially just magnesium flakes, but it works by stimulating the liver to dump bile. Epsom salt comes in two forms: Magnesium sulfate & magnesium chloride. Many with Lyme disease (and other chronic illnesses) have a MTHFR mutation which doesn't do well with sulfates. Therefore I always recommend using magnesium chloride flakes, which is also more pure. The method for Epsom salt baths (and the trick to it), is to add a few cups into water + add in some baking soda as well. The two react to each other and will fizz up at first then completely dissolve. What is most important though is that you use enough magnesium to your water ratio, or else it won't get into your system. The way this works is essentially via osmosis, and you need a high enough magnesium ratio in the water to create a "pressure" so to speak that pushes its way in through your skin. This is why I prefer foot baths, because they require less magnesium. If you do a full bath you will need to use much more. When doing a foot bath I do 2 cups of magnesium flakes with a sprinkle of baking soda. You will need to do the bath for about 20 minutes to get the full effect, and I generally find it very relaxing. I used to put the foot bath up on my bed and lie in bed with my feet in it. So even if you are bed-bound it's a really easy and gentle way to help your body detox.
Lemon Essential Oil/Lemon Juice - Very Gentle
Lemon and lemon essential oil have long been used to help detox, especially to help rid people of "water weight." Lemon juice works by stimulating the kidneys to work faster and therefore it helps detox via that method. This is an alternative to burbur if you don't have any on hand, but in my experience isn't great on an empty stomach (it's quite acidic). Lemon essential oil however is not acidic, rather it is alkaline, so can be used at any time, even on an empty stomach. Lemon EO works to stimulate the liver and kidneys both, and is best used by adding 1-2 drops to a glass water bottle and drinking it throughout the day. You do not need a lot of the essential oil because it is already incredibly concentrated. You must put it into a glass water bottle (not plastic), because the oil can corrode plastic and you don't want to be ingesting any of the plastic byproducts. Water and oil do tend to separate by nature, so you need to remember to shake up your bottle each time before you drink. Since you already have to drink water throughout the day, adding a drop or two of lemon EO helps make it taste better and as a bonus it will help your liver and kidneys detox as well. It's gentle, it's easy to do, and it isn't harsh by any means. Tip: Get a high quality essential oil that is food grade, NOT simply aromatic grade. Food grade means that it can be safely ingested. I recommend young living brand as I've been using it for years, and a 15ml bottle will give you about 250 drops.
Dry Skin Brushing - Very Gentle
When you aren't able to get a full lymphatic massage, dry skin brushing is the next best thing. It is, as it's name implies, the act of gently brushing your skin while dry. But, there is a specific method to it. Your lymphatic system is the main waste removal system inside of your body, and you can feel your lymph nodes swell up when it is having a hard time moving properly. Even if you don't feel enlarged lymph nodes it's incredibly helpful to get the lymphatic system moving because it can get sluggish easily when it's working around the clock. Dry skin brushing is very easy, all you need is a dry skin brush (which is very affordable), which is made of special bristles that gentle exfoliate and drag the skin. The trick to dry skin brushing is that you need to brush in the direction of the lymphatic system. An easy way to remember is to brush everything towards the heart. You will want to go the correct direction, or else it won't work (and might leave you feeling worse). I attached a graphic above that is helpful to reference, but once you do it a few times you will get the hang of it. Dry skin brushing is incredibly gentle and gets your lymphatic system moving quite rapidly. Make sure that you drink a lot of water after brushing in order to help your body flush out all the toxins that get mobilized.
Charcoal Poultice - Very Gentle
I first discovered charcoal poultice's a few years ago during a time when I was very ill and having lots of issues with my pancreas and liver. I wrote a full blog post here if you'd like to read more in depth. But for the purpose of this post I will just explain how it works & what you need to do. A poultice is by definition: a soft, moist mass of material, typically of plant material, applied as a hot medicament to the body and kept in place with a cloth. The purpose of a poultice is to draw things out from the skin, and is often used in areas of inflammation. Imagine it like a charcoal patch that sits over the liver or pancreas. Activated charcoal is a very powerful binder, they use it in ER's for people who have alcohol poisoning or have ingested some form of poison because it binds onto toxins and safely removes it from the body. For the purpose of this poultice it will be used on the outside of the body, because it has those same properties when it is driven into the skin with heat. Doctors use charcoal poultices over the liver to lower liver enzymes from an over burdened liver, or over a pancreas for an over worked pancreas. Both of these organs can really struggle during a herxheimer, and some people find themselves with high liver enzymes in the hospital if they aren't careful. I was in a similar situation when I discovered the poultice, and it's ability to pull toxins out and bring relief. I know it seems a little out there and far fetched, but you have to trust me on this. When you've tried everything else and your organs hurt, and you hurt, you will attempt anything. That's how I was, I was desperate when I tried this, and much to my sheer surprised it worked so well. My low grade pancreatitis resolved, my liver pain resolved, and I felt like my body had a huge toxic burden removed.
How to do it: You will need pure activated charcoal powder for this, and its crucial that it is pure powder without any fillers. Then you take about 1-3 tbsp charcoal powder and mix it in a small bowl with some water (go teaspoon by teaspoon), until you create a paste. You want it to be thin enough to spread, but still thick enough to stay in place where you put it on your skin. You have two options to application: either put it directly on the skin, or take a cheesecloth material and put it on your skin, and place the paste on top. I will warn you that the paste does stain the skin temporarily, but putting it directly on the skin is stronger than via the cheesecloth. The cheesecloth however is an easier clean up, so it's up to you. I always did it via cheesecloth, and I still got a great result. Then over top of the paste you will place a wet warm paper towel (enough to cover the area), then a piece of Saran Wrap to seal in the moist heat, and finally place a heating pad on top of all of that to keep it warm and drive it into the skin. Lie like this for 20-30 mins and then remove. It's as easy as that! This can be done 2x daily and is incredibly gentle yet very powerful. It will pull the toxins out and unburden your liver/pancreas.
Activated Charcoal & PectaSol - Gentle
Activated Charcoal is most commonly taken orally in a chewable tablet, pill, or powder mixed with water. Activated charcoal is a powerful binder which works by latching onto toxins and holding onto them until they make their way out of the body. This is an important step, because when the liver or lymphatic system dumps bile with toxins in it and you don't flush them out of your body quickly enough then much of it can get reabsorbed. Using a binder such as charcoal helps prevent the toxins from reabsorbing while they are on their way out. There are many different binders out there, and out of all of them Activated Charcoal is the most gentle. For starters it won't give you too powerful or quick of a detox to where it will make you sick or overburden the body more. It is not that strong in comparison to other binders, but I still marked it just as "gentle" because for some people who are in an extremely fragile state even that can be too much. In my experience I haven't ever not tolerated charcoal, but others have so it is important to note. Since charcoal is one of the most gentle binders you need to take a few tablets to get full effects. It can easily be taken on an empty stomach and won't cause any upset. Like many other binders it can cause constipation, so you want to drink plenty of water with it. I recommend at least 8oz of water per tablet you take. Another comparable binder to charcoal is pectin, which is derived from citrus fruits and also helps latch onto toxins and shuttle them out. Pectin is pretty mild in strength as well, but it can cause some stomach upset in sensitive individuals if taken on too empty of a stomach. Pectasol is a really popular brand of Modified Pectin (not just any form of pectin will work), but it's a bit pricey in comparison. You will have to find which works best for you.
Molybdenum - Gentle
There are many different toxins created in the body during a die-off or herxheimer reaction. A common one with Candida die-off and often with Lyme also a neurotoxin called acetaldehyde. This toxin accumulates in the brain, spinal cord, muscles, tissues and is difficult for the body to properly detox out. Therefore it leads to a whole host of unpleasant symptoms such as: rashes, muscle pain, joint pain, weakness, fatigue, brain fog, migraines, depression, memory loss, nausea, and the list goes on and on. This neurotoxin in particular can make you feel really crummy, and it's molybdenum (a trace mineral) which is required by the body to make several important enzymes that allow your liver to neutralize and eliminate acetaldehyde. You do take in some molybdenum from food, and some multivitamins contains it as well. However, during a die-off your body will use that up quickly, and supplementing it becomes crucial. The best form of molybdenum to use is Glycinate Chelate. There are many molybdenum products on the market, and I have tried a few, but by far the best is made by Seeking Health (Optimal Molybdenum Drops). The reason for this is that it's very concentrated, and you need such a small amount to get benefits. One single DROP contains 25mcg which is 56% of your DV. During a herx the recommended dose is 100-300mcg. It's very easy to reach that with 4-12 drops under the tongue. Other varieties of molybdenum require you to dilute it in water and you need to drink a higher overall volume. I rated this as 'Gentle' because the right brand is very gentle, but some others I tried were harsh on my stomach and not tolerated what so ever on an empty stomach. Thats why I prefer this sublingual variety because it goes around the stomach. Also, some people have reported having too fast of a detox from it, but to that I say they likely took too much. Start with 2 drops (the daily value) and see how you feel, then slowly increase. Taking a big dose all at once isn't wise with any supplement until you know how it works with your body. I found the Seeking Health variety to be very well tolerated.
Milk Thistle - Gentle
Milk Thistle might have a funny name, but it's actually a plant from which a powerful herb is derived. The active ingredient in Milk Thistle, silymarin, is the star player here and what performs the difficult task of detoxing the liver. Dr. Axe explains it as, "Milk thistle benefits work by drawing toxins out of the body and protecting the liver from damage. Silymarin, which is a flavonoid derived from the milk thistle plant, has been used in traditional medicine as a natural remedy for diseases of the liver because of its potent antioxidant activity." Studies have also shown that there is an improvement in overall liver function and inflammation when people with liver disease take Milk Thistle. The compound silymarin helps to clear free radicals, lower inflammation in the liver, and in turn helps the liver to regenerate.
How much should you take? If you want to do a more powerful liver detox then 150 milligrams one to three times a day is good. But for ongoing liver support, a dose between 50-150mg daily is best. You know your body best, so adjust it based on how you feel. I recommend a lower dose liquid supplement so you can adjust it easily as needed. I also love a good Milk Thistle tea, this works just as well as a capsule supplement.
Lymphatic Massage - Medium
For starters, lets discuss what the lymphatic system is. The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. The vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where the lymph is filtered. In summary the lymph system picks up fluids and waste products from the spaces between the cells and then filters and cleans them. As you can see the lymphatic system plays a huge role in detoxing the body. When the lymph system gets backed up and sluggish its unable to do its job properly. Herbs like burbur help to drain and move the lymph fluid, but a stronger cleanse can be accomplished by a lymphatic massage.
A lymphatic massage is like a regular massage, except it is altered to be more gentle and surface level. The massage therapist will also massage in a way that moves the lymph fluid up towards the heart in the way it typically flows. This means they will work up the legs, up the arms, up the stomach and down the chest. You need to make sure that your massage therapist knows what they are doing and specialize in lymphatic massage, because someone who is uneducated in it could make things worst by using too much force. I ranked this as 'Medium' because you have to make sure you are very hydrated before hand and then stay very hydrated afterwards too so that your body can flush out the toxins that have now been mobilized. If you don't do this you may end up feeling worse. There are also some people that feel like they flare up for the first 24 hours and then get much better afterwards. Everybody is different, and you do need to be careful and start slow. I received lymphatic massages from 2 different massage therapists, and one did an amazing job that helped me while the other just made me feel worse. Sometimes it requires trial and error.
Bentonite Clay & Cholestyramine - Medium
These two are both binders (like Charcoal and Pecta-Sol), but they're a little bit stronger. If taken too much or too fast they can cause a toxin dump that only flares up symptoms, so I put them into the Medium Category.
Bentonite is a light grey colored clay that consists of volcanic ash called "Montmorillonite." Because of this it contains a high amount of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium, and potassium. On top of that it has the ability to absorb and remove toxins, heavy metals and impurities from the body. It comes in two forms: 1. A powder you need to mix into 8-16oz of water and drink 2. A pre-mixed ready to take liquid that you mix a tablespoon of into about 4oz of water. It comes down to preference, but they both do a great job. This is a stronger detox than charcoal, but not too strong. Just make sure you are drinking plenty of water with it and start slow. When you start to latch on to toxins its a careful balance, because if you do it too quickly your body will dump more toxins out of the tissues and into your blood stream to fill it back up. This can quickly get out of hand, so I recommend starting at about 1/4 of the dose on the bottle and working up.
Cholestyramine is a prescription powder that was originally created for those with high cholesterol. They soon realized it was also really helpful for patients after gallbladder removal by soaking up the extra bile that may irritate the stomach. During this process they noticed that it did a fantastic job of absorbing bile and holding onto all the toxins in it until its excreted. I would say Cholestyramine is the strongest binder of them all, and my favorite too. I wrote a whole post about how it works HERE. Cholestyramine is very useful for mold illness too, as it holds onto mold toxins and helps flush them out of the system better than any other binder. It is a prescription, and typically comes in packets from the pharmacy. However the trouble with those is that they contain a lot of sugar and fillers that often make patients detoxing feel worse off. It is recommended to obtain Cholestyramine only from a compounding pharmacy where it is pure and without any filler. This is what I have done, and its allowed me to use smaller amounts and achieve the same results. It's crucial to start slow with Cholestyramine because it's strong at first, but once it gets working it works amazingly well.
Coffee Enema - Medium
I gotta say, this detox method was by far the hardest for me to understand. I have of course heard of colonics and I always had mixed feelings about it because they really mess with the colon flora, the mucus lining, and electrolyte balance. I think at first I assumed that coffee enemas might also bring a similar danger, but I finally came around to doing some research and learning more about how it works. I do want to mention that if you have an IBD then this method can be a little dicey, and I don't know that I would recommend it. But that is of course a personal decision.
If you are sensitive to caffeine you might have a thought to simply use decaf coffee instead, but it won't work. Oddly enough the caffeine portion is exactly what's needed to make the whole process work. However, the coffee used for enemas isn't the same as what you would get at Starbucks. It's completely different, relies on high amounts of cafestol & palmitic acid (to open the bile ducts) and is balanced in a way that the caffeine content is just right. As always though, if you have a heart condition and are sensitive to caffeine then proceed with caution.
So, now do coffee enemas work? When you fill an enema up with coffee and start to let it flow the hemorrhoid veins absorb the caffeine. From there it goes up (very quickly) to the portal vein which carries it right up to the liver and gallbladder. Once the liver receives the caffeine and palmitic acids it immediately reacts because the caffeine is an irritant to the liver. This makes the liver open its bile ducts and start dumping bile out quickly. Since toxins are stored in the liver this process of draining the bile from the liver dumps all of it out into the stomach so it can be shuttled out of the body. For best practice drinking a binder after a coffee enema will help soak the toxins up so that they cannot be reabsorbed while its making its way through the intestines. Also, many people ask if you can just drink coffee instead and get the same results and the answer is no. It must be given via an enema because there is a direct portal to the liver and it's the only way this process works. It's also a quick process, taking less than about 20 minutes. If it's your first time I recommend a Coffee Enema Kit that will have everything you need, and also Enema Coffee which is balanced and made only for enemas. I marked this as 'Medium' because it mobilizes a lot of toxins all at once, and you have to be ready for that.
Zeolite - Medium
Zeolite is a volcanic mineral, high in silica and alumina tetrahedra. What makes it a go to for detoxification is its honeycomb-like crystalline structure that traps toxins in the body. Think of Zeolite as being a molecule with many chambers inside of it. These chambers hold a negative charge, which attracts positively charged toxins as it travels through your body. You could say its a bit like a toxin magnet. The crucial aspect of Zeolite though is that you buy one which is properly cleansed. As it comes from volcanic substances, not all of the supplements are completely pure. You need pure Zeolite in order to ensure its safety. I ranked this as 'Medium' because it has also been shown to activate the immune system, which is someone in a very fragile state could lead to even more herxing. It should be used with caution and started slowly to see how the body adapts.
I prefer to use the Zeolite spray because I trust that it is pure and the nano particles absorb very well, but many people prefer a powder form that they mix themselves.
Castor Oil Pack - Medium
When you hear about Castor Oil your mind might immediately go to Ricin (a poison) and wonder how on earth this is safe. I want to reassure you that you will be using this externally on the skin, not internally. But even if it is used internally it's considered safe by the FDA up to 1 Tablespoon a day. Ricin is found in castor oil, but in very low concentrations. Pure ricin that can be a poison is extracted from the beans and put into its own pure concentration. So, no worries, you will be safe! However, as a warning you should never use this method if you are pregnant.
Next up lets discuss how this oil is used, and then I will explain the logistics of why it works. Castor Oil packs are made by taking a piece of wool cloth and coating it in castor oil. This is then placed on the abdomen (usually directly over the liver), covered with a piece of Saran Wrap, and then topped with a heating pad to drive the oil into the skin. You lie like this for about an hour to let it work and then clean it off of your skin. It's a relatively easy process, but its also a messy process. Castor oil is sticky and will stain clothes so you need to use towels underneath you and wear old clothes. The good news however is that you can re-use the castor oil pack over and over by storing it in a sealed glass container without needing to add more oil to it.
So, how does it work? When the castor oil is applied topically over the abdomen it is absorbed through the skin into the tissues. With the use of the heat it helps drive the oil even deeper so it's able to increase lymphocyte production and increase the circulation of the lymphatic system. Using it over the liver also stimulates the liver the dump bile, so you get a two in one benefit that way. I marked this as 'Medium' because it can also cause a quick detox, and if you are in a very fragile state it might be a bit too much for your body. It's not harsh by any means, but it's somewhere in the middle of the intensity scale.
Castor Oil packs come in a really handy kit that has everything you need in one place, which makes it very convenient. This is what I have and I like it because I also trust the purity of this brand to be very clean. Alternately you can also buy the items separately and make your own kit if you'd like, but the kit is pretty inexpensive. Just remember to use old towels and clothes when you do decide to do it!
Ionic Foot Bath - High Intensity
An ionic foot bath is created by using a machine with conductive arrays and placing that array into a tub of water which has sea salt in it. A patient puts their feet into the water and the machine in turned on. A direct current goes through one end of the array, through the salt water, and comes out the other end. This current creates positive and negative ions which do two things: 1. help to pull (like a magnet) the toxins out through the skin 2. latch on to cells as the current travels through the body to pull toxins out of them. During this process the water changes colors, and some people say that is direct proof of the toxins that are being pulled out. This has been disputed, but if you look past that and look at some science based results then you can see it definitely works. If you have heavy metals for instance, it does a fantastic job of detoxing the body of them. Tests have shown that by measuring patients heavy metals prior to an ionic foot bath and then testing it a few days after, they see that there is a huge dump of heavy metals in their urine after the foot bath. No one is exactly sure how this mechanism works on a cellular level, although it is hypothesized that the charged ions coax the heavy metals out of the tissues. Either way, it certainly works for many people and brings them great relief.
I rated this as 'High Intensity' you can actually feel a small shock when the machine turns on, because its sending an actual current through the body. Just like the salt water is needed for conduction with the array, our bodies are also largely made out of water and electrolytes. This provides the perfect atmosphere for the currents to travel through. I would not recommend this to someone who is very sensitive or ill. There are also some warnings about pacemakers and the such which would make you unable to use the machine.
Many clinics have foot baths which you can pay for by the session. These are typically the higher end machines. There are also some modest priced models out there which you can purchase for at home use. If you want to do these often then owning one will be a better value. A warning through, if you buy a very cheap or inexpensive unit there are risk that it might make you feel worse off. That's because the difference between a $100 model and a $1500 model are the frequencies which are produced. The right frequency should put your body into a parasympathetic state of relaxation and detoxification. The cheaper models though are no better than a 9-volt battery with some copper wires, as they often produce a frequency that stresses the body, puts it into fight or flight mode, and only shuts down detoxification. So always read reviews and be choosy with which machine you use.
Infrared Sauna - High Intensity
I will begin by saying that infrared sauna's are not for everyone. Some chronically ill patients are so sick that they can't sweat (it's more common than you think). If you are someone who can't sweat or has trouble sweating, do not try this. On the flip side, you might think that a condition like POTS would be badly triggered by the heat, but its actually a very dry heat vs a humid heat so I found it to be much more tolerable. In fact, it someone doesn't even feel nearly as hot as it is. That being said, if you have heat sensitivity approach this with caution.
Infrared Sauna's work simply by creating a kind of infrared ray that heats your body up by penetrating very deep. This deep penetrating heat goes into your tissues and gets them to dump their toxins into the blood stream. Also, as you sweat you are releasing all the toxins currently circulating in your body as well. This is a very effective detox method, but it is definitely 'High Intensity.' For starters, since it heats up your entire body it will dump toxins from your entire body out too. You need to be ready and prepared for this by staying very hydrated and making use of binders. However, if you are new to detoxing then I do not recommend this at all. You need to go slow, because a sudden dump can make you feel awful. If you tolerate an infrared sauna though then it can be a real miracle worker, and most people report feeling better about 24 hours after a session (once the toxins have cleared).
You have a few options to accessing an infrared sauna. Some gyms and spa's offer them in packages, so you can do that if you have a location nearby. You can also buy your own infrared sauna for your home because they come in two sizes: 1. Wooden Units 2. Portable Units. I had enough room in my home for a stationary wooden unit (this is the one I got), but the portable ones work just as well and do cost less. Some people prefer the portable units actually because your head is left out and they can tolerate the heat better if their head stays cool. It's all about personal preference!
All About Hydration - What you DON'T Know About Electrolytes & Why There Is A Better Alternative!
If you have Lyme, POTS, an IBD, or really any chronic illness where you struggle with staying properly hydrated, please read this post! I have known I had POTS since way before I ever knew I had Lyme, and yet somehow this vital piece of information was something I just learned. As someone who researches so obsessively about everything (especially my medical conditions), I really couldn't believe how much information is often left out around the topic of hydration and electrolyte balance etc. This is a long post, but please trust me, if you struggle with dehydration or any of these conditions this is critical info to have.
So, a bit of a back story about me. It took me 5 years of misdiagnosis to finally learn that I had Lyme disease as the underlying condition for all of my struggles. During that 5 year journey I met a lot of Doctors who were trying to uncover the link to all of my symptoms, and one of these Doctors led me to a diagnosis of POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). I won't go into the condition in-depth, but you can read more about it here. This condition is a "Syndrome" and that means that it is a presentation of symptoms caused by something, but the cause is unknown. So it wasn't really an end-all be-all diagnosis per se, but rather a clue about what was going on in my body. It was however a very helpful piece of information for me, because there are some medications you can take to control POTS. My goal at the time was symptom relief, because life had become very grueling while I was in college. POTS is a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, which is what controls your heart and how it pumps blood throughout the body. For example, when I stood up I always felt faint and had to pause to catch my breath and my heart was constantly racing trying to keep me up right, etc. There is a lot more to POTS, but for the basis of this post I will keep it very surface level.
Many of the things one can do to ease the symptoms of POTS are: drinking more water, eating more salt to raise sodium levels, wearing compression stockings, strengthening the legs so it pumps blood to the heart more efficiently, and prescription medications such as Midodrine (which was a life saver for me at the time). I did everything imaginable that one can do to help POTS. I upped my water intake big time, I salted everything heavily, I got prescription compression socks, I got prescription medications, and I enrolled into an up and coming study at the time for POTS patients. I saw Doctors who specialize in POTS in Kentucky, and also all the way across the country in California. I really believed if I just found the best of the best to help me then I would somehow be fixed. While I found experts in this field (at the time POTS was a very niche diagnosis and not very well known), I still got the same general advice as listed above about staying hydrated, except one Doctor suggested I drink electrolytes too. Still, nothing really solved all my problems, and I was receiving IV's to try and pick me back up when dehydration was constantly creeping in. In fact, I have needed hundreds of such IV's over the years due to POTS which was later complicated by a Crohn's disease diagnosis.
My past history is relevant because I feel like those who are diagnosed with POTS get the most tips about hydration, but in my opinion it is still very lacking. Even with Lyme Disease, your body uses up a lot of magnesium & potassium and yet there’s minor information highlighting the importance of drinking electrolytes. In comparison, with Crohn's disease there is even less information or open discussion surrounding dehydration. I don't think I have had one conversation about that topic with any medical expert regarding Crohn's disease and that truly baffles me considering an active Crohn's flare depletes a lot of electrolytes and fluid. With all the conditions I have been told I had, the only one that got any emphasis on "staying properly hydrated" was POTS and even that was lacking. For one, not all electrolytes are created equally, and furthermore drinking your run of the mill electrolytes is not enough when you are losing lots of fluids day in and day out for long periods of time. I would say the topic of fluid loss is perhaps most relevant for those with IBD's or IBS, but it also goes for patients going through cancer treatment, or any other chronic illness where loss of fluids is applicable. For me, the fact that I had underlying Lyme/POTS complicated the issue tenfold. Not only was I already someone who struggled to stay hydrated without Crohn's, but once that came into the picture it left me incredibly reliant on IV hydration and my veins were taking a beating.
Now I have seen my fair share of advertising on social media about various electrolyte brands who promise to be the very best on the market. And I have done a lot of research looking for electrolytes that aren't full of fillers, corn syrup, corn glucose, or loads of sugar. Time and time again I have only landed upon a few which fit the bill, and I used to think they were the best I could get. I should note that while I drank electrolytes daily for years on end, my potassium, magnesium and chloride were always at the rock bottom of the scale. I could not understand how on earth that was possible, but I chalked it up to a common POTS problem and quite frankly I never though that much about it.
It wasn't until recently that I had been in the worst and longest Crohn's flare to date that no matter how much I drank my electrolytes, I was still showing symptoms of dehydration. With each passing day of my flare I was going further and further down the rabbit hole. I could not understand how I was drinking two liters (or more) of water and electrolytes and yet I still felt very dizzy when I stood up, my heart was acting up, I would tremble if I exerted myself too much, my hands were ice cold all the time, and I could barely stand for 2 minute without almost fainting. Those symptoms lasted for weeks and were growing worse with each passing day. I was really starting to worry, and I thought I had something seriously wrong. Remember, I was drinking loads of electrolytes every day, so it did not dawn on me that I could actually be dehydrated even though my symptoms all seemed to fit.
Everything came to a head recently when I had what I consider one of the most terrifying nights of my life. For about 48 hours prior I developed a lower pulse, a thudding heart, shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness, and when I stood up (even very slowly) my heart felt like it would explode out of my chest. I thought maybe I was developing pericarditis again, so I tried not to worry too much because my pulse ox looked okay. Fast forward to the night in question and things started to deteriorate quickly. My heart rate did this thing where it was very low (50's, which is super low for me), and then shoot up to the 120+ range and then drop back down again. This would happen very quickly, within 2 minutes total. Then, it happened again, and again, and again, finally hitting over 135 while lying down and climbing higher. My pulse ox meter got so high it couldn't even go any higher. I reached the top threshold that it was able to measure so I can't even tell you what the highest number was that I got to. When I put my hand on my wrist to feel my pulse it was going to fast I couldn't even count the beats. Listen, I understand that to someone out there these numbers might be no big deal, but for my body and for what my heart rate and blood pressure typically is, it was astronomical. Not just that, but the actual bodily sensation of my heart beating this fast was the scariest thing I have ever felt. My head was cloudy, I could barely speak, parts of my body felt numb, and I genuinely thought my heart might stop all together. No I am not being dramatic, when this happened I was alone and I could barely grab my phone to call my mom so I did not know what to do, which way to turn, and I've never felt anything like that in my life.
At that point we sprung into action because it was obvious something is seriously wrong. I will spare you all the step by step details here, but the crucial things like a blood clot were the first to be ruled out (thank God). Judging by my CBC it looked like I was dehydrated, but I couldn't grasp how that was possible. This my friends, is when I learned the lesson that I have finally came here to share to you all today: Volume depletion and dehydration are two totally separate things.
One more time: Volume depletion and dehydration are two totally separate things.
You can be drinking plenty of water and not be technically 'dehydrated' by the definition, but you can be severely volume depleted and have very similar symptoms. Volume depletion, or extracellular fluid volume contraction (ECF) occurs as a result of a loss of sodium. It comes from your typical suspects such as diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, diuretics, kidney failure etc. Because water crosses plasma membranes in the body via something called 'passive osmosis,' a loss of sodium quickly results in water loss in your cells (extracellularly). Basically, a loss of sodium always causes a loss of water in the body, especially on a cellular level. This is why POTS patients are told to eat so much salt, with the theory that more sodium means more water in the body. The main gist here is that every cell in your body needs water to survive, and when you lose sodium the water gets sucked out of those cellular spaces and your overall circulating volume decreases. When you simply drink water it takes a lot of time and work for that water to actually get INTO your cells. It first has to go into your stomach, and using osmosis it must be taken up and distributed into your cells. But not all of the water gets soaked up (ill explain more on that later), which is why when you drink a lot of water at once you will usually have to pee really soon after. Most of it passes right through you. That's why severely dehydrated patients are given an IV because that goes directly into the blood and into the cells that desperately need it.
Volume depletion is referring to the water that is actively in the cells. You can drink loads of water orally and yet if it can't get into the cells you will still be volume depleted. How is that possible? I'm glad you asked. If you look at any electrolyte drink on the market today you will notice that they all contain sodium and then some kind of sugar (glucose). In the past I actually wanted completely sugar free electrolytes, and honestly those are as good as useless and I'll explain why. Glucose is needed to increase the absorption of sodium in your intestines. This discovery that sodium transport and glucose transport come together in the small intestine to accelerate the absorption of water was a huge discovery that changed the way we rehydrate the human body. However, this balance of sodium and glucose is very specific. Just having any ole amount of sodium and glucose in an electrolyte drink is not going to be enough. In fact many drinks like Gatorade that are loaded with sugar will only dehydrate a person more, because your body doesn't know what to do with all that sugar and the gut can't absorb electrolytes if there is too much sugar. This is a very crucial balance.
"Glucose enhances sodium, and secondarily, water transport across the mucosa of the upper intestine. For optimal absorption, the composition of the rehydration solution is critical. The amount of fluid absorbed depends on three factors: the concentration of sodium, the concentration of glucose and the osmolarity of the luminal fluid. Maximal water uptake occurs with a sodium concentration from 40 to 90 mmol/L, a glucose concentration from 110 to 140 mmol/L (2.0 to 2.5 g/100 mL) and an osmolarity of about 290 mOsm/L, the osmolarity of body fluids. Increasing the sodium beyond 90 mmol/L may result in hypernatremia; increasing the glucose concentration beyond 200 mOsm/L, by increasing the osmolarity of the solution, may result in a net loss of water. CHO to Na ratio should not exceed 2:1 in these solutions."
Basic electrolyte drinks do not follow these standards or have these properties. They simply do not. So it is questionable how much of the actual electrolytes in the drink are even being properly absorbed. This is when I was led to information on Oral Rehydration Solutions (or ORS for short). ORS is a solution that was discovered and is used by the World Health Organization and the Military to rehydrate people who do not have access to an IV but are severely depleted. They use them in developing countries which face diseases like cholera or dysentery or out in combat zones because they are able to rehydrate as well as an IV. There are strict guidelines for what kinds of drinks can call themselves an ORS, because it must have a specific osmolality and sodium to glucose ratio (as discussed above). Do not be fooled by some brands who call themselves "Oral Electrolyte Solutions" to try and sound similar, because that is not the same thing. Oral Rehydration Solutions must meet certain criteria to get that qualification. These solutions force the electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride to all be absorbed in the stomach along with the water itself which can then get into the cells that desperately need them. Remember, if the sodium can not get into the cells then the water can not get into the cells, period. This is why you can be drinking loads of the wrong electrolytes and loads of water and still have issues with volume depletion and be symptomatic.
When I got my hands on an Oral Rehydration Solution, the difference was shocking. When I would typically drink my electrolytes/water it all went straight through me, but when I drank a liter of ORS I didn't go to the bathroom for hours and hours. That's because it actually got absorbed, and the change was incredibly noticeable. I used two packets in 16oz of water per day, and by day 2 I felt like a different human being. Drinking an ORS feels genuinely comparable to when I would get a lactated ringer IV in the past. I can't help but think how many veins I could have saved had I known this information sooner. While yes, there were still some times when I couldn't physically get water down and I needed an IV (and might still need that), there were other times when I needed an IV because my standard electrolytes just weren't quite enough.
You might ask yourself why standard electrolyte brands don't just fix their ratios and get the official ORS qualification. And the answer to that comes down to money. It's pricey to create these solutions that are perfectly balanced and pass the test to become ORS. You are looking at about $2.50 per packet of ORS compared to maybe $0.50 a stick of basic electrolyte powders. Other times companies don't want to go through the work because for most average people a simple electrolyte works just fine. It's really a much smaller population who have medical conditions that force them to seek out a more potent form of hydration. You will need this more potent ORS if you are someone with a chronic illness that warrants it, someone who loses a lot of fluid and electrolytes on a regular basis due to a medical condition, or the elderly who fall into the trap of dehydration very easily. The scope of where ORS was primarily used and focused was in developing countries or in the military and other places that it was a necessity. That left the market for ORS in the United States pretty small, and thus very few people actually know it exists, where to get it, or why it is superior.
I know this has been long, but theres a bit more info that is really important. I want to quickly discuss the two types of ORS on the market, and some of the studies showing which of the two are superior and why. I also want to recommend two brands (after excessive trial and error), so if you made it this far stick with me a bit longer!
The WHO and Red Cross use a very standard Oral Rehydration Mix which comes in a packet and tastes pretty bland. It gets the job done in developing countries, but as I was reading about the WHO brand of ORS I came across some journals and studies discussing the differences between Polymer based ORS and basic ORS, and which was superior. Polymer based ORS are those who have a base such as rice, or another short chain polymer. These studies were looking to see if a short chain polymer would increase the rate of absorption in the intestines. Specifically, they were looking to see if they could make absorption noticeable better. This study by the NIH looked at 4,284 participants and compared those who used P-ORS and those who used standard ORS, and came to the conclusion that Polymer based ORS was superior. Another study echoed those sentiments by saying that Polymer based ORS had a better recovery rate by day 3, shorter duration of diarrhea, less ORS solution use, less stool output, and better rehydration.
This information is important, because if you go out onto the great worldwide web and look for classic Oral Rehydration Solutions you will find a few. The trouble I found with 90% of them is that they contain either corn based glucose, maltodextrin (also from corn) or Sucralose instead of just classic cane sugar glucose. I only found one that was very pure and only used cane sugar, lime juice powder, and the needed sodium, potassium, magnesium etc and it's called Hydrant. Right off the jump this was my pick, and it is genuinely great. I would recommend Hydrant in a heartbeat if you want a classic ORS that will work great and not be full of useless junk. But, as I learned about polymer based ORS I realized that I was still missing out on having the best of the best and I was on a mission to get it. And let me tell you, it is not easy to find it online. It took a lot of digging to finally find the one single company that sells to average consumers. Polymer based ORS is not something you just find floating around out there, and I actually found 2 others who only sell to healthcare facilities strictly.
Before I go any further you should know I am not sponsored by any of the companies I have discussed. I am not being paid by them to write this, and I never got anything for free or in return for doing a write up. I researched all of this information by myself tirelessly, and bought everything with my own money.
The only company I found who creates polymer (rice) based ORS is called Cera, and they are actually the official supplier of ORS for the United States Air Force. In the early 2000's their Ceralyte 70 drink was put to the test by the Uniformed Services University and the researchers at Ft Detrick, Maryland. This P-ORS worked so well, and is so effective, that in 2005 the US Air Force Surgeon General testified before Congress to the efficacy and effectiveness of it, calling for its use. It was put into all United States Air Force IFAKs and pilot SERE kits shortly after. Thankfully Cera decided to create a product that the public can use as well, and this is how I discovered them. Cera has 3 levels of ORS depending on your needs. Their Ceralyte-50 is a lower potency then their Ceralyte-70, but they are both incredible. Then they have the Ceralyte-90 which is for severe cases and only to be used for short periods of time in severe situations. Their formula uses rice as the polymer, and the ingredients are very pure. For example their Lemon Ceralyte-70 bottles contain: water, rice syrup, (sodium, potassium etc), citric acid, citrus flavor, and stevia. Their drinks come in individual sticks as well as pre-cartoned beverages. I prefer the pre-cartoned beverage because it has the best taste and packs a punch in a small container. The Ceralyte-70 has 404mg Sodium and 200mg Potassium per 8oz, compared to two of my favorite old go-to electrolyte drinks which only had 55mg and 100mg of sodium respectively. Not to mention, neither of my old electrolytes had any glucose source. NONE. They only had Stevia. So it didn't matter how much potassium, magnesium or zinc was in either of them, because very little likely ever made its way to cells as evidenced in years of blood work that showed I was depleted.
I honestly can't believe how long it took me to learn about volume depletion, and how long it took me to learn about ORS. It is so superior to standard electrolytes, and it feels like some kind of hush hush underground secret that very few patients actually know about. I had to sit down and write this post immediately when I learned all this info and saw how it worked in my own body, because I wish I learned it sooner. I wish I didn't have to go through what I went through to lead me down this path of knowledge, but I'm just grateful I got here. I am not saying that if you are someone who depends on IV's and has a port or PICC line that this can replace your daily saline IV's just because it is "as effective as an IV." I do not know your situation or needs personally to be able to say anything that radical. Sometimes the IV's are needed to flush toxins out of the body, or to be used if one can't take in fluids orally etc. They are still incredibly vital. But I am saying that it is very possible that if more patients knew about the option of ORS and were able to give it a chance (especially those with POTS), that perhaps it could have spared them a more permanent port to begin with, or at the very least a few less trips to the ER. At a bare minimum I would guarantee it would spare a lot of veins and a lot of unnecessary needle sticks.
Okay, that's finally the end! Sorry for the length, but I really sincerely hope that this was informative for those of you who are in the same bus as I am. If you have any further questions please leave them in the comments below, and I will do my best to help! I currently drink both Ceralyte 70 in the cartons and also Hydrant. I add the Hydrant packets to my 16oz water bottle every day because I find that I drink much more fluid in general when it has the ORS in it because I love the taste. Then I also drink an 8oz carton of Cera. Some days if I am having trouble drinking enough (due to tummy troubles) I'll only do the Cera because thats my non negotiable drink, but most days I will do both! Thus far I have been able to keep up and stay well hydrated while in the midst of a Crohn's flare.
Hi everyone! Many of you participated in my 2019 Giveaway, and I want to thank you for joining me! I also want to thank all of the amazing companies who donated such helpful items to the Giveaway. I am so blown away by their generosity. In order to make this easier to read, I am compiling the 5 Giveaway posts into this one blog post, so you can read all about all 5 products in an easier cohesive way.
Please support these brands, give them a follow on social media and thank them for all that they do for the our community by joining my Giveaways! I want to encourage these companies to come back again for future Giveaways, and if they feel the love and support from this wonderful community it will make them feel more welcome :)
Without further adieu, here is the recap & winners list!
Hello, and welcome to Week 3 of the Lady of Lyme Giveaway! Today's Giveaway comes from a company that I love, and they really went above and beyond to celebrate Lyme Disease Awareness Month! Cambridge Mask is donating TEN of their military grade respiratory masks to ten winners! Not only that, they are also offering 10% off their masks with code LADYLYME10 during the entire month of May and will donate a portion of those profits to a charity that is dear to my heart, Lymelight Foundation. How amazing is that?? I was blown away by their generosity to help improve the lives of so many people, and their dedication to the cause. So first things first I want to say a huge thank you to Cambridge Mask, and if you want to read my comprehensive blog post about their masks you can check it out HERE.
Cambridge Masks are respirators that use military grade filtration technology to filter out nearly 100% of particulate pollution, gases, as well as bacteria and viruses in a fashion friendly mask suitable for the whole family. Cambridge Mask’s inner filtration layer is made from a 100% pure activated carbon cloth, which was originally invented by the UK Ministry of Defense It was extensively developed and has been made into products for use in chemical, biological and nuclear warfare protection. These masks are a necessity to protect yourselves from germs, as most patients who struggle with chronic illnesses also have weaker immune systems. I for one can attest to this, and I can also attest to the fact that if I get a virus on top of my regular chronic illness struggles it hits me much harder than someone who is healthy, and I have a much tougher time recovering. I take this very seriously, and I appreciate the safety that Cambridge Mask provides me. It also works to filter poor air quality and can help filter fumes and chemicals for those who are sensitive to chemicals (MCS). You can read more about their FAQ's here.
You can check out the Cambridge Mask site HERE, and remember that if you use code LADYLYME10 you will receive 10% off your order and will be helping LymeLight Foundation as well! It's a win/win!
You can find Cambridge Mask online at:
Cambridge Mask Facebook
Cambridge Mask Instagram
Cambridge Mask Twitter
This Giveaway will run from today, May 15, 2019 until midnight on May 22, 2019. You can enter via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with direct links below. Good luck!
1. Enter on Facebook here
2. Enter on Instagram here
3. Enter on Twitter here
IT’S BACK! The Lady of Lyme Giveaway is coming back again for 2019! This year there will be 5 weeks of Giveaways, with a new Giveaway launching every Wednesday of the month, beginning on May 1st. Each of the prizes are items that came highly requested from those of you in the chronic illness community and they include PEMF, Far Infrared, EMF home protection & more! PLUS on a few surprise days during May I will be dropping Amazon gift card codes to be used by anyone on a first come first serve basis. Last year I did daily Giveaways which I loved, but it was a lot of work (perhaps a bit much to take on), so I decided to meet my goals halfway with weekly Giveaways of some larger items instead :)
This Giveaway will be running on ALL my social media platforms. That means that for each Giveaway item you can enter via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. You can choose to enter only on one platform or on all platforms, it’s completely up to you! Winners will be chosen at random at the end of the Giveaway period. For one Giveaway you will have the ability to enter here on my blog without the need for any social media, so keep an eye out for that! I recommend signing up on for post alerts on the right hand side of my website (or at the bottom on mobile) to stay up to date with everything that's to come.
There are so many events & gala's in the chronic illness community, but many patients can't attend because of financial constraints or physical constraints such as being bed bound. I had this dream to create a virtual event that included everyone no matter what. This Giveaway is all inclusive, it doesn't cost anything, and you can participate no matter what kind of financial or physical state you might be in. Come one, come all!
I am SO excited about this Giveaway. It’s my way of acknowledging that I see ALL of you, and I hear your struggles. I don’t just have this platform to share my story, but also to give back in any way I can to all of you fellow warriors.
One Day You'll Look Back
One day you will look back
when you're so far beyond
far from this place that
you're in today
far beyond what words can ever
and you'll barely remember the
intensity of this pain
and you'll barely recognize
this bedridden soul
and you'll barely care about
how far you had to go
to get to this place
If you stand still and look around at your current chaos it can cloud your ability to notice the improvements (big or small) that have been made. It's easy to be swept up in the daily pain and struggle to the point of not being able to see the forest for the trees. It's often not until you step back and assess your situation clearly that you might realize some symptoms are gone or less intrusive. For me it took looking back a few years to really see the stark contrast, and that's because healing is not linear; It's a rocky road where old sets of problems get replaced by new sets of problems and that cycle continues ad nauseam. The trick is to look back far enough until you realize that a once persistent symptom might not be there anymore, or perhaps you have more better nights sleep per month than you did prior, etc. They can even be less noticeable victories, like tolerating showers a tiny bit better, or being less sensitive to a supplement you used to only take micro-doses of. Each of these are pieces which should never be overlooked because they are victories in their own right. These are the building blocks of healing. Even if you are still in the thick of it with other symptoms I urge you to cling to the things that are better, and use them as a reminder that your current struggles will fade too. One day you will look back on this exact moment and you won't believe how far you've come. I believe it for me, and I believe it for anyone who is reading this post right now.
It is not lost on me how far I've come. Even when I get frustrated in the here & now I am reminded of where I began and the dark days I never thought I would come out of. I remember being so weak that my mom gave me sponge baths in bed and washed my hair for me in the sink. I remember the agonizing liver and pancreas pain that left me in a ball unable to eat or move and barely breathe. I remember vividly stepping on the scale and looking in the mirror with tears in my eyes because I was skin and bones. My body was so weak, so wore down, and everything I tried to eat caused excruciating pain. I lived on homemade shakes until I developed food allergies to even my shakes, and then I was left with nothing. And oh do I remember the fear and worry that even if I did get hospitalized and needed a feeding tube that there wasn't a formula on the market that I could tolerate due to all my food allergies. So I thought about how this might be it; this might be the end of the road where my body just can't recover and I was beyond help. All of this and more still haunts me because I lived in it for months and years until my spirit was so wore down that I was ready to give up. I didn't think I had the strength for another day, let alone another minute.
But now, as I stand here with my current bag of struggles, I thank God that he didn't let me give up. I thank God that he gave me the fuel to hang on, and that he gave the knowledge to my parents and Doctors to light my way when I couldn't do it for myself. This blog is my place to speak about my health and share everything I have learned along the way. It's also a way to connect and give back to everyone who gave me hope and kept me going as I waded through the darkness. I am still healing, and I'm still working to fix the broken parts of my body and put them back together. But while I share my health struggles on this blog, I don't share much about my personal life due to it being separate (and not the purpose of my blog), and due to me being incredibly private by nature. And it's strange because many of my biggest victories have been in my personal life, and maybe that's because I've reached a place where I'm able to co-exist with my struggles and live a semblance of a life in the mean time. In prior periods of my life I was too sick and wore out to move from my bed for weeks at a time. I'm much more mobile as a whole now, and I'm more nourished and nutritionally stable which allowed me to put on weight and gain strength. I will do a whole post soon with a health update that will include a lot more info, but for this post I just wanted to share that compared to the paragraph above I am leaps and bounds better, even on my bad days. I still face hurdles, flares, and struggles, but my soul is thriving and I have found joy in so many places of my life that I never imagined I would. So please, do not give up. It does get better, it WILL get better.
I have stated this many times before, but I won't give up working to heal until I am 100%. I won't settle for a mediocre version of life and call it a day. I will fight tooth and nail for every single semblance of independence, health, and vitality. I am not there yet, but I am sure as heck a lot closer than I ever was. I will keep this blog updated until the very end; until I take my last pill and can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am healed. Until then I will bring you along on the journey of filling in each missing piece of the puzzle that will make me whole again.
I'm lying in bed and I glance over at my dog who is sleeping next to me, curled up like a little cinnamon roll with the sweetest look of on contentment her face. I want to take this moment and capture it to have forever, so I pick up my phone to take a photo. But as I look through my view finder I realize that no matter how I change the angle, and no matter how I shift the brightness, what I see on the screen doesn't look anything like what I see in real life with my eyes. I keep playing around with different angles, but it never looks as life-like and real as what I am seeing. The essence isn't there, no matter how hard I try. 30 photos later I eventually give up, and set my phone down.
Thats when I glance out the window and I happen to see a beautiful sunset. This time I grab my fancy DSLR camera and I head over to the window. I begin to play with all of my settings, shifting the f/stop, the contrast, the ISO; but again, I can't seem to capture what I'm seeing in real life. Sure, the photo looks beautiful, but not nearly as breathtaking as the view I have in front of me. If I were to show someone this photo they wouldn't feel what I feel in this moment. It's impossible to replicate the big open sky with the pinks, reds, and oranges dancing together in swirls as far as the eye can see.
Maybe that's just a parallel to the reality of life. When you try to re-tell a story to someone it never packs the same punch as the first time you lived it. No matter how much detail you try to put it in, and no matter how many words you use to try and paint a full picture, it will never be exactly the same as the original experience. And that's because the current moment you are living in, you can never get it back. You might take a picture to remind you, and your memory might be there to try and re-play some aspects; but you can't hold onto it, you can't grasp onto it, and you can't feel it the way you felt it when you're physically there.
There is much to be said about living in the moment. It sounds cliche and it sounds cheesy, but it's true. You only get one chance to live a moment, and after that it's gone. So often in this world we are distracted; we're distracted by the news, we're distracted by our phones, we're distracted by a worry that a week from now will mean nothing. And later we will think to ourselves, "what a silly thing to have been so consumed with that I wasn't savoring the time with the people around me."
I think back even to my high-school/teenage years. And I think back to what my biggest worries were, or things that I had arguments with my parents over. I think about the things that I was upset about, the fights I had with my friends, or the worries I would stew over. And I laugh about them now; I laugh about them because they are so insignificant in hindsight. Yet I also look at how much of my precious time they took up, and how much anxiety, stress and unneeded worry they created. And most importantly I look at how many missed moments they took because I wasn't able to be present.
All of these things; all of these worries, all of the depressing news stories, and all of these non-issues.. they feel so big in the moment. They feels so consuming that nothing else can co-exist with it. Joy doesn't feel like it's welcome in the room when all of these worries are there. But at the same time, in this fast paced world, when does it ever stop? If you don't sit down and carve out time to detach from it you will just be pulled into the next cycle and the next cycle until you find yourself full of anxiety and low on real joyful memories. Because there will always be a worry that feels bigger then you, there will always be heartbreaking news, famine, wars, people fighting. It will always exist. In this world when you turn on the tv or pick up your phone the worry is everywhere. It's in your face, on your feeds, and consuming your mind.
I think back to family vacations when I was a little girl, before cell phones existed and before TV's were in every room. Back in those days if you wanted the news you had to buy a newspaper, so when you were on vacation you got essentially no news and didn't talk to any friends. Those might have been the last pure occasions when I was truly present in a moment. I remember buying disposable cameras to take photos on, and buying souvenirs to remind me of all the memories I made. I wasn't taking photos with the thought of "I wonder how this will look on social media," and I wasn't buying souveniers to fit any kind of image. My life was carefree, my joy was genuine, and I was 100% present in each moment. I remember those times vividly, and I miss it often.
And just like I can't capture that perfect sunset in a photo, I will never be able to fully feel how I did in those moments long ago. The memories help, but it's not the same. So this is a reminder that you have to live now, while you can.
If you take what I just said about worry and you swap that word out for anything - symptoms, struggles, heartbreak - then you'll see that it can be all consuming. And it's often so consuming that it takes away from your current moment. Trust me I know, because there are times when I have no choice but to research and read about my ailments for hours on end to help myself. There are times when I am in a flare and struggling so much that all I can do is read about remedies or things I can try to ease the pain. Other times I have pill alarms and reminders barking at me, or I am stressed that I forgot to take a med on time. But, the tricky part of this is that yes there are moments where I must focus on these worries, and then there are other moments when I don't need to but I still do. Because I get stuck in default worry mode, and if I don't manually turn it off it will run on a loop for eternity. I will worry about things long after they are out of my hands, or I will fret about something I can't change. Sometimes even after I've read everything I can read on a health topic I will still re-read some articles for fear that I missed a piece of useful info.
And so what I've been trying to do is carve out time for when I really do need to focus on the so called worries around me. I devote time to researching what I need and allowing myself to feel what I need to feel; be it sadness, anger or grief. And then when I don't have to, during times when it isn't absolutely necessary to be stuck in that mode, I forcefully put myself in a state where I am present. It's a time where I put my phone down and just enjoy the world around me. And if that means sitting in my bed and doing a puzzle while I listen to a podcast then I want to be fully present in every aspect of it. If that means baking and chatting with my mom, then I want to savor every sight, sound, smell & feeling. Because these are all moments I will never get back, and I don't want to only be halfway present while my mind is miles away worrying about something I can't change or fix. My whole life could go by like that and I would look back and wonder where it went. That thought scares me. I want to treasure my life and the people around me more, even if this world is moving more towards getting us to spend endless time on our phones. I won't buy into that, because it only brings anxiety in its' wake.
You cannot get moments back. Just like you can't recreate a sunset in a photo, you can't ever go back in time and live it again. This is your one chance, your one shot to savor the people and beauty around you. Even if you are ill (especially if you are ill), each day can feel so consuming and difficult to get through. So if you don't stop to be present for the good, no matter how small, then so much of your life will pass in sorrow. And one day I promise you will look back and think, "wow, I could have enjoyed this person in my life more had I not been so distracted and consumed, where did the time go?" It will break your heart all the more in retrospect.
Be here, now.
Tis the season to be stumped by what to get your friends & family, while frantically trying to come up with good ideas. Does this sound like you? If so, have no fear! I have my new Christmas gift guide ready for 2018 (see 2015 here & 2017 here), and it's chalk full of ideas to get loved ones, or to request for yourself. Perhaps you have a loved one fighting a chronic illness but you don't know what they might need, and if so you are in the right place! All of these gifts are tailored to be unique & useful gifts for those with chronic illnesses, and most are gifts that people often don't think to buy for themselves.
Each year I am working to improve my Gift Guide to make it more user friendly. Below you will find my main Gift Guide, and below that you will see some clickable galleries for $25 and under gifts & $10 and under gifts. I hope you enjoy!
The Clapper Handsfree Light Switch ($18) - Ohh the convenience of clap on/off lights, they make like much easier for those who are drained of energy. In fact you can use this outlet to plug in just about anything, and it operates by the sound of claps. Your TV, lights, fan, etc can all be operated by this & it's a gift that your recipient likely wouldn't think to get themselves. It makes an awesome gift for pretty much anyone, and the price point is also very affordable.
Roku Express Streaming Stick ($29) - Each year streaming sticks get better and better. This Roku Express sticks only needs WiFi, plugs into any TV and boom you're ready to stream 500,000+ movies & TV episodes. This little guy is so easy to take anywhere & is great to have on hand for hospital admissions, out of town Doctor's appointments (can plug into hotel TV's), or when going to visit family. It makes a great gift because absolutely any TV can become a Smart TV with Netflix, Hulu, CW, Youtube & more right at your fingertips. One of the most fun things that Roku offers is an App Store that lets you download games which you can play with a group. Family feud family game night? Check!
Smart Thermostat ($135) - This is a bit pricier, but it's also the ultimate in convenience. I can tell you first hand that sometimes I will be burning up and within 15 minutes I am freezing cold. This isn't uncommon with chronic illness (temperature disregulation), and getting up each time to change the thermostat is a chore. in fact, sometimes it's also physically impossible to get to. For those who have mobility aids (walkers, wheelchairs), it's even more tasking. Having a Wi-Fi thermostat which lets you control it from your smart phone (or Alexa/Google Home), is a game changer. Trust me, the recipient in your life will be extremely grateful. This same concept comes in more expensive options (The Nest), and cheaper options (Thinp), but I like this mid-range priced option.
EMF-Free Ionic Toothbrush System ($22) - I found out about this toothbrush from a friend so I decided to give it a try, and WOW. I had an electric toothbrush for the last 5 years, but I never turned it on. The reason being it was way too intense for my liking. The vibration felt like it was vibrating in my skull, and I hated that. I kept it because the interchangeable brush heads appealed to me, and it felt a little more sturdy than your typical toothbrush. But, I knew I wasn't getting the full plaque busting potential from it. This is where the Ionic Toothbrush comes into play. And what is an Ionic Toothbrush you might ask? Well, it's a toothbrush that uses ions to attract plaque from your teeth, thus giving you an insanely clean feeling. It doesn't vibrate but rather it emits ions which get activated through the bristles when they get wet. It's EMF-Free, silent, has interchangeable brush heads & makes teeth feel squeaky clean. Seriously, my teeth have never felt more clean in my life (except maybe after a professional cleaning). It makes your teeth actually repel plaque & removes up to 48% more plaque than just brushing alone. I can attest to it's greatness, and it makes a great gift for anyone avoiding EMF's while wanting a bright shiny smile. I personally use this toothbrush with the "Heal Thy Mouth" cleaning system from Ora Wellness, which is an all natural tooth powder & oil combo that rebuilds enamel & heals swollen gums.
Dodow Sleep Aid Device ($59) - Oh insomnia, it's such a constant in the lives of so many. You can be tired all day, but as soon as night comes around sleep seems to elude you. The Dodow sleep aid is rather new on the market and has rave reviews all across the board. It's a simple little device that helps you fall asleep by beaming a soothing blue light on your ceiling which pulses. It gives you something to focus on so your brain doesn't wander and you begin to breathe along to the pulse. This slow breathing puts your body into a parasympathetic tone by activating your baroreflex stimulation. The baroflex is triggered by baroreceptors on your aorta & carted arteries, and when you slow down your breathing to the optimal 6 breaths per minute you stimulate it which in turn relaxes you. The device has an 8 and 20 minute session, and automatically turns off when it's finished. Studies have shown that breathing on your own isn't sufficient because the brain naturally starts to wander and becomes distracted. The pulsing blue light gives your brain the needed stimulation to watch and you'll be lulled to sleep in no time! If you know someone struggling with insomnia, or someone who just needs to take some time to relax, then this is the perfect gift!
Portable Puzzleboard & Jigsaw Puzzle ($29+) - Being stuck in bed with a chronic illness is the pits. Sometimes you're stuck there because of pain, sometimes its fatigue, sometimes it's because standing is too difficult, and often its a combination of all of these things. The one thing everyone craves during those times is a distraction. It's why games, movies, etc are so crucial, because otherwise you'll go crazy from the pain. Jigsaw puzzles make an incredible distraction because they stimulate the brain, but most people don't think to do them because they involve a table top. A moveable puzzle board solves all of those problems in one. You can use it to work on a jigsaw puzzle in bed, then move it to a table when you want. You can take it back and forth depending on how you feel on any given day, and it folds up to hold all of your pieces securely. It's also a gift which most people wouldn't think to get themselves, and might not even know exists. Gifting them with a Portable Puzzleboard & a Christmas-themed Jigsaw Puzzle makes a lovely and festive gift.
Programmable Coffee/Tea Maker ($89) - Is there anything better than waking up to a pot of coffee or tea already waiting on you? The correct answer is no, there is nothing sweeter. This programmable coffee maker does it all. You can brew a whole carafe or cup, and it works with ground coffee/loose tea or a K-cup. And best of all you can set a timer before bed and wake up to warm coffee or tea which stays warm as long as you need it. This is the kind of luxury that you never knew you needed in your life until someone gets it for you and then you can't decide how you ever lived without it. Getting out of bed is tough with a chronic illness, whether you have somewhere to be or not. The comfort of a warm tea waiting on you (especially if the smell wafts into your room), is the ticket to the start of a great day. I used to rig the system by placing a candle warmer by my bed, and my lovely parents brought me a tea which I kept warm until I got up. I can confirm that while that worked well it's also possible to make your tea way wayyyy to strong if you oversleep. A machine which does the perfect brewing for you and simply keeps it warm is 10/10 the very best choice.
Etsy Gift Card ($25+) - While this might seem random, hear me out. Etsy is not only an amazing place to buy crafts, homemade gifts & decor, it turns out it's also an amazing place to find bakers and bakeries. My current diet is gluten free & vegan, and I'm always on the hunt for bakeries who are willing to work with me on some substitutions for my allergies. Etsy is perfect for that, because the sellers are almost always willing to work with you to tweak their ingredients to your needs, and are very easily to reach via a quick message. There are a TON of Gluten free & Vegan treats, as well as specialty bakers who make Paleo, AIP, and Keto desserts. There's something for everyone! I have found countless bakeries on Etsy, including some who made Fudge, Vegan Rice Krispy treats, and more recently I found a donut shop that had the most delightful mini donuts. Trust me, if you know someone who is on a limited diet with allergies they are probably also too sick and too tired to bake for themselves, so this will make an amazing gift.
Trendy Medical ID Bracelet ($25+) - I am a huge advocate of everyone with a chronic illness owning a Medical ID Bracelet. Do you have medicine reactions, allergies, or a condition which is vital for an EMT or Doctor to know in an Emergency? If so, having a Medical ID can quite literally save your life when you can't speak for yourself. However, I also understand that most Medical ID's on the market are not cute, and so people don't want to wear them. I went to school for fashion, I am very understanding of how unappealing tacky jewelry is. But have no fear, there is a solution! My favorite Medical ID company is Lauren's Hope because they are a family created business with an in house jeweler who designs the most stunning pieces. They are gorgeous while still showing the Medical ID tag which EMT's and Physicians can spot. These ID's have vital information on it such as any medical reactions, conditions, and who to call in an Emergency. These bracelets (or necklaces) are available for Men, Women, and Kids & are so well made. I own 2 bracelets as well as a purse tassel myself, and have my eye on a few more. These make a great gift for anyone who likely wouldn't spend the money to buy it for themselves but could benefit from the safety of owning one.
Instant Pot ($79) - If you've heard the hooplah over Instant Pot's and you're wondering if it lives up the hype, I am here to give you a resounding yes. If you're new to Instant Pot's then let me sum it up by saying it's easily the best kitchen appliance ever created. In essence it is a pressure cooker, but in reality its much more than that. You dump your ingredients into this magical pot, close the lid, turn it on to cook and then rest/nap/hang out until it finishes and your meal is ready to go. It is not like a crock pot, because an Instant Pot uses pressure to cook and therefore speeds cooking times up tenfold. For example you can cook an entire pot of pasta in 4 minutes. FOUR. Chicken? 7-8 mins. Not to mention the flavor you get from the pressure cooking will make you think you marinated the chicken for hours beforehand. Another bonus? All the smell stays in one place, so if you are sensitive to cooking smells taking over the house (like I am), then it keeps all the smell inside this pot. The real highlight though is just how easy it is to make food with it, and what a life saver it is for low energy. I myself have easily made honey garlic chicken and felt like such a chef. It took me at most 10 mins of prep and made enough for leftovers. There are thousands of recipes on Pinterest for Instant Pot ideas, and even a few cookbooks on the market as well. This is a gift that would improve the life of someone who doesn't always have the energy to cook, and it will revolutionize their kitchen.
Weighted Blanket ($90-$200 ) - By now you're probably tired of reading this list, so I am going to keep this one short and sweet. Weighted Blankets are blankets which have a weight to them (10-20lbs), and work by applying deep pressure to the body which releases serotonin and other neurotransmitters that promote a sense of relaxation. Weighted Blankets are used for children with ADHD by calming their sympathetic nervous system down, and thus calming down their overstimulation. It is also used to help anxiety, insomnia, and more. I can't possibly recommend my blanket more highly, it has greatly improved my life. I will say that these blankets do come in various price points and if you are wondering what the difference is between the cheaper vs pricier varieties, it typically comes down to a few factors. The pricier ones use Organic Cotton and other materials which are softer, are personally hand stitched, have higher quality beads and better weight distribution. The price also varies depending on which weight you choose (15lbs is the most common). With that being said, any Weighted Blanket is worlds better than no blanket for someone who is suffering with symptoms.
$25 And Under
$10 And Under
The holidays are lovely, but they can also be incredibly difficult for many people. And I don’t just mean the people we commonly think of & hold gift drives for such as those in the hospital, the seniors, or low income families. I’m talking about those who are often forgotten in the mix, the people who are spending their Christmas or Hanukkah in the psych ward/mental facility.
This was brought to my attention last year, and honestly before that moment it never occurred to me that there were people in psych wards during the holidays feeling utterly alone. It was so obvious yet it never crossed my mind. Then I started thinking about how terrible it would feel to be alone during the holidays in a place where you are forgotten because the stigma of mental illness is so pervasive. People often think to send cards to the children’s ward, the ICU, and other parts of the hospital, but those who are in the mental hospital get skipped right over.
When I called my local center to inquire about what gifts they allow, the HR director couldn’t grasp what I was asking. He was befuddled by the idea of someone bringing gifts for the patients and laughed it off. He didn’t treat my request seriously and he wasn’t grateful in the slightest when the gifts were delivered. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t want or need gratitude, but when the HR director treated it like a joke (questioning why I would do such a thing) it spoke volumes about what he and many others think about people who find themselves in such a center. As if these people are less than, or undeserving. As if they don’t matter.
What many people don’t realize is that mental illness isn’t a choice. The people in these facilities often had terrible things happen in their lives which led them to where they are. So why are they often forgotten? Stigma. And while I couldn't personally change that fact there was one thing I knew I could do, and that was to make sure they weren’t forgotten.
In the end I wrapped up about 20 packages (the number of patients there), with a small gift & a card reminding them they are loved and not forgotten. But truthfully, even a simple card would have worked, because this wasn’t about a dollar amount but rather a gesture.
If you are reading this & you feel called to reach out to your local facility, please know that anything you do will make a huge impact. You don’t need oodles of money to make a difference. Whether it’s a handmade card, a pair of socks, a crossword puzzle book, a deck of cards, or a fuzzy pen, it will make their Christmas or Hanukkah special. Most wards have quite a small resident count, but if it’s larger you might want to enlist the help of a friend to tackle it together.
My tips are:
I also want to say that I commend and cherish all the holiday initiatives which provide love to people in need during the holidays. My family & I participate in other endeavors with our local women’s shelter, the elderly & making cards for children in hospital. They ALL matter, and they all make an impact. The purpose of this post is to highlight those who might otherwise be forgotten, because I had overlooked them myself for so many years.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” - John 15:12
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