All About Parkinson’s Disease

April is Parkinson’s Disease Month and I wanted to talk to you all briefly about this condition as part of my mandate to highlight “invisible diseases”.

Although there can be some visible signs when you have Parkinson’s Disease, it often starts out very subtle and hard to notice. A tremour in one hand might be the only outward sign in the beginning.

Here is an overview taken from the Mayo Clinic website. Click on the link for the full description on Parkinson’s Disease including Testing, Treatments and Living with Parkinson’s.

Overview

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression. Your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.

Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medications might significantly improve your symptoms. Occasionally, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms.

Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may a rub your thumb and forefinger back-and-forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremor when it’s at rest.
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.
  • Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
  • Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Loss of automatic movements. You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.
  • Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.

When To See A Doctor

See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease — not only to diagnose your condition but also to rule out other causes for your symptoms.

Causes

In Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical messenger in your brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but several factors appear to play a role, including:

  • Your genes. Researchers have identified specific genetic mutations that can cause Parkinson’s disease. But these are uncommon except in rare cases with many family members affected by Parkinson’s disease.However, certain gene variations appear to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease but with a relatively small risk of Parkinson’s disease for each of these genetic markers.
  • Environmental triggers. Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson’s disease, but the risk is relatively small.

Researchers have also noted that many changes occur in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease, although it’s not clear why these changes occur. These changes include:

  • The presence of Lewy bodies. Clumps of specific substances within brain cells are microscopic markers of Parkinson’s disease. These are called Lewy bodies, and researchers believe these Lewy bodies hold an important clue to the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Alpha-synuclein is found within Lewy bodies. Although many substances are found within Lewy bodies, scientists believe an important one is the natural and widespread protein called alpha-synuclein (a-synuclein). It’s found in all Lewy bodies in a clumped form that cells can’t break down. This is currently an important focus among Parkinson’s disease researchers.

Risk factors

Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Age. Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.
  • Heredity. Having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease. However, your risks are still small unless you have many relatives in your family with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than are women.
  • Exposure to toxins. Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may slightly increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Complications

Parkinson’s disease is often accompanied by these additional problems, which may be treatable:

  • Thinking difficulties. You may experience cognitive problems (dementia) and thinking difficulties. These usually occur in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. Such cognitive problems aren’t very responsive to medications.
  • Depression and emotional changes. You may experience depression, sometimes in the very early stages. Receiving treatment for depression can make it easier to handle the other challenges of Parkinson’s disease.You may also experience other emotional changes, such as fear, anxiety or loss of motivation. Doctors may give you medications to treat these symptoms.
  • Swallowing problems. You may develop difficulties with swallowing as your condition progresses. Saliva may accumulate in your mouth due to slowed swallowing, leading to drooling.
  • Chewing and eating problems. Late-stage Parkinson’s disease affects the muscles in your mouth, making chewing difficult. This can lead to choking and poor nutrition.
  • Sleep problems and sleep disorders. People with Parkinson’s disease often have sleep problems, including waking up frequently throughout the night, waking up early or falling asleep during the day.People may also experience rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which involves acting out your dreams. Medications may help your sleep problems.
  • Bladder problems. Parkinson’s disease may cause bladder problems, including being unable to control urine or having difficulty urinating.
  • Constipation. Many people with Parkinson’s disease develop constipation, mainly due to a slower digestive tract.

You may also experience:

  • Blood pressure changes. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded when you stand due to a sudden drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension).
  • Smell dysfunction. You may experience problems with your sense of smell. You may have difficulty identifying certain odors or the difference between odors.
  • Fatigue. Many people with Parkinson’s disease lose energy and experience fatigue, especially later in the day. The cause isn’t always known.
  • Pain. Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience pain, either in specific areas of their bodies or throughout their bodies.
  • Sexual dysfunction. Some people with Parkinson’s disease notice a decrease in sexual desire or performance.

Treatment

There are a number of different drugs that may be utilized in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. The most popular include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa. Levodopa, the most effective Parkinson’s disease medication, is a natural chemical that passes into your brain and is converted to dopamine.
  • Carbidopa-levodopa infusion.
  • Dopamine agonists.
  • MAO B inhibitors.

There is also a surgical option that may prove helpful. This article tells more about it, also from the Mayo Clinic.

For those who are interested in using CBD Oil, this article may prove helpful.

Remember,

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How to Live Life Well with Fibromyalgia

Please enjoy this Guest Post by Dr. Brent Wells

Living life with fibromyalgia comes with its challenges. The pain, fatigue, and brain fog can feel defeating and difficult to deal with. However, just because you are living with this tricky condition, it does not mean you cannot live a wonderful healthy life at the same time. 

While it may take a while to find a combination of things that makes you feel the best and the strongest, you can take solace in the fact you will get there one day! You can live life well with fibromyalgia and in this article, we are going to give you some of the best tips for making that happen. 

There is a wide variety of options to choose from but not everything will work for everyone. Your results and success will vary, so it is important to keep in mind that patience and experimentation is key to finding options that will work best for your body. 

Seek Help from a Medical Professional 

Although it may sound like an obvious thing, you need to make sure you are seeing a doctor or other health care professional to help you manage your fibromyalgia. Whether you are seeking treatment from a conventional doctor, holistic doctor, etc., keeping up with their medications, herbs, supplements, and the like will ensure that your condition is managed properly. 

Untreated fibromyalgia will only get worse over time and leave you feeling sick, in pain, and completely depleted of energy. Therefore, it is key to stick to your treatment regime as defined by your doctor of choice. 

Exercise 

Although exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you feel like you are in so much pain, keeping an exercise routine will actually help manage your pain and other symptoms. Namely, it can be extremely beneficial for managing your fatigue. 

You don’t need to go crazy with exercise though. Simply walking and swimming on a weekly basis is all you need. About 20 to 30 minutes per session 3 days a week is enough to feel the effects. 

Another great way to build your strength is through weight training. Speak with your health care professional about the proper way to go about including this type of exercise into your workout regimen. 

Get Enough Sleep 

As with everyone, getting enough good quality sleep is important to feeling your best on a daily basis. But getting more sleep is even more important for those suffering from fibromyalgia. It can be difficult to sleep well with this condition because of the pain, restless leg syndrome, and the challenges of getting comfortable in bed at night. 

But a few tips will help you sleep better at night. 

If you go to sleep ad wake up at the same time each morning, this establishes a routine for your body. Eventually your body and brain will learn the time frame in which you sleep, and it will make it easier to go to sleep and stay asleep.

You can also take some time to wind down before going to sleep. Take a bath, diffuse some calming essential oils, read a book, or practice a meditation routine before bedtime. These things will help your body and mind relax. 

Eat a Healthy Diet 

Eating a healthy and balanced diet with lots of fruits, veggies, and whole-grain will also keep you feeling healthy and strong. Many patients with fibromyalgia often have low levels of vitamin D, so focusing on foods with higher levels of vitamin D can help as well. 

Interestingly, one study suggests that those who eat a mostly raw vegetarian diet improved their symptoms and felt better overall.

Consider Chiropractic Adjustments 

Seeing a chiropractor is another way you can help manage your pain and improve range of motion, so you can feel your best and live your best life. A study showed that chiropractic intervention helped manage patients pain levels, improved range of motion in the lumbar and cervical regions of the body and helped with leg raises as well. 

By loosening stiff joints and making adjustments to the spine, you can feel much better in no time. Overall, chiropractic care is a good option for Fibromyalgia and a natural and healthy way to give you the best most normal life possible with this condition. 

Try Massage Therapy 

Another great option to try that is a bit less intimidating than going to the chiropractor is to opt for massage therapy. Massage therapy is great because it is soothing, relaxing, and helps ease any pain you may be experiencing. Many chiropractic offices also offer free massage therapy like in my clinic in Anchorage

Studies suggest that massage therapy significantly helps pain, anxiety, and depression in fibromyalgia patients. Much of the time patients feel immediate effects making is an effective and fast option for those who feel like they need some relief as fast as possible. 

In the end, living with fibromyalgia comes with its challenges and ups and downs. But as with most things in life, this is normal and okay. The good news is there are so many things you can do to help improve your symptoms and live your best life even with the frustrating issues associated with this condition. 

Although it may take some time and experimentation, and speaking with your healthcare professional, you are sure to find something that works for you so you can get to feeling your absolute best in no time at all!

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using various services designed to help give you long-lasting relief.

Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.

Let’s Learn about D.I.S.H.

spine_general_DISH_intro01Forestier’s Disease is a rare form of degenerative arthritis. More commonly known as diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), this disease attacks the ligaments of the body and turns them to bone.

The process is caused by the buildup of calcium salts in the ligaments and tendons, creating abnormal new bone growth (ossification). Doctors are unsure what causes this process to occur, but some suspect there is a genetic component. The hardening of the ligaments leads to joint stiffness and eventual loss of mobility.

DISH can occur in any part of the body, but most commonly affects the spine and lower back. Some people have DISH in their neck ligaments, which can make swallowing difficult. Other areas affected include the shoulders, elbows, ribs, knees, feet and ankles.

When it attacks the ligaments of the feet and ankles, DISH results in heel spurs, small sharp growths of bone that appear along the heel. DISH can be progressive. As it worsens, it can cause serious complications.

 

Causes of DISH

  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop DISH than women.
  • Age. DISH is most common in older adults, especially in people older than 50.
  • Diabetes and other conditions. People with type 2 diabetes might be more likely to develop DISH than are those who don’t have diabetes. Other conditions that can raise insulin levels in your body may also increase your risk, including hyperinsulinemia, prediabetes and obesity.
  • Certain medications. Long-term use of medications called retinoids, such as isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Claravis, others), which are used to treat skin conditions such as acne, can increase your risk.

Symptoms of DISH

DISH does not initially produce symptoms. As it progresses, you might experience:

  • pain and stiffness in your joints, especially in the morningSymptoms of DISH
  • loss of motion in your feet, lower back and other affected areas
  • inability to stretch fully
  • pain in your back, knee or heel
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the legs
  • Spinal fractures and increased risk of breaking other affected bones
  • Compressed or pinched nerves (radiculopathy)
  • Compressed spinal cord (myelopathy) which can lead to partial or complete paralysis of the legs and/or arms (paraparesis, tetraparesis)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Hoarse voice or difficulty speaking (dysphonia)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Decreased lung capacity (if DISH affects the ribs)
  • Difficulty breathing possibly due to airway obstruction

You should always consult a doctor if you’re experiencing pain and stiffness or if you have bone spurs.

Complications

In most cases, DISH causes mild discomfort, allowing patients who have it to live with the symptoms through a combination of pain relievers, stretching exercises, other interventions and in rare cases, surgery to remove bone growth.

For others, the disease may continue to progress which can result in a complete loss of mobility in the affected joints. For instance, if you have DISH in your shoulder, it can make it difficult to raise your arm or move it in all its natural positions.

Fractures are a serious complication of DISH because the stiffness of your tendons makes your bones more likely to fracture if you’re injured.

One huge drawback with DISH is that the pain and stiffness can mimic many other conditions, so proper diagnosis and treatment is essential.

Diagnosis and Treatment

DISH Thoracic_spine_AP

An xray shows the skeletal changes of a DISH patient in the Thoracic Spine.

A diagnosis of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) is often suspected by the signs and symptoms a person has. X-rays can confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, a computed tomography (CT scan) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be ordered to rule out other diseases that cause the same symptoms.  All three types of imaging studies may be used to see which other areas of the skeleton are affected by DISH.

There is no cure for DISH, but you can

  • Treat underlying conditions. If you have diabetes or another condition associated with insulin resistance, getting that condition under control will help minimize the symptoms of DISH. Maintaining a healthy weight will also help.
  • Get pain relief. Ask a podiatrist for pain relievers that can treat joint stiffness in your legs, feet, and ankles. Your doctor might prescribe corticosteroid injections for more severe pain.
  • Increase mobility. Gentle stretching exercises can keep your ligaments from becoming overly stiff and brittle. Ask your doctor to recommend a regimen for your joints that will keep them moving. Walking, bicycling, and Aqua exercises are all excellent ways to stay mobile.

My Personal Experience

I was diagnosed with DISH in 2014 after going to the Emergency Room for chest pain. After a number of tests were done, including a CT Scan, the doctor informed me that they had discovered I had DISH in my Thoracic Spine (after ruling out heart problems for the chest pain).

I had always had pain and stiffness in my spine but assumed it was “regular” arthritis, as I have Osteoarthritis throughout my body. Finding out it was something different came as a surprise to me. I discovered that because I have Diabetes Type 2, it was likely a contributing factor. In the years since the diagnosis, I have developed bone spurs in my left ankle, and the DISH has spread to include my Lumbar spine as well as the Thoracic spine. The bone spurs on my spine look more like melted candle wax than actual spurs which is typical for this disease.

I find the stiffness is the most difficult part of having DISH. The sensation is like trying to stretch, but never quite getting enough range of motion, so you’re left feeling “incomplete.” It’s almost like one good “pop” would make things better. I do stretching exercises and use a foam roller to help minimize the stiffness, and I’m conscious of my voice as well. I’ve developed some hoarseness over the years which could indicate that the DISH has affected my cervical spine.

I don’t take any additional medication for DISH with the exception of an occasional muscle relaxant if my back is particularly stiff. By relaxing the muscles around the spine, I get some relief from the stiffness that is part of DISH. I find that my stretching exercises are usually effective enough to bring relief. Heat sometimes helps with the stiffness as well, and a good muscle rub or magnesium rub can make a difference in pain levels as well.

activity-fitness-leisure-374589

Conclusion

If you are experiencing pain and stiffness in the spine or noticing that you are developing bone spurs on your feet (or hands), consult with your doctor and ask about whether DISH could be causing your problems. X-rays and/or other imaging tests can help to determine if there are problems with the ligaments or if there is increased bone growth.

Discovering DISH early can help you get a treatment plan in place to provide relief. Although DISH is considered “rare”, it seems like it’s becoming more predominant than in the past so the sooner you get a diagnosis, the better.

Remember,

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Going to the ER as a Chronic Illness Patient (and how to improve the Situation)

I want to talk about a subject that every person with Chronic Pain is familiar with and probably dreads…

Going to the Emergency Room

There are several reasons why people with Chronic Pain in particular hate going to the ER.  Here are some of the top reasons that have been shared with me over the years.

1. Fear of Being Labelled a Drug Seeker

This is perhaps the top reason most people with Chronic Pain list when it comes to the Emergency Room. Even when you live with a sure diagnosis of a medical condition, if you arrive at the ER in pain for whatever reason, you run the risk of being labelled. This is especially true if you already take narcotic pain medications to treat your condition.

You can present with symptoms entirely unrelated to your chronic illness, but doctors still question you about your reason for being there. If you happen to show up with pain for a reason that’s obvious (a broken bone for example), you still have to deal with some measures of disbelief – it’s happened to more than one person I know. In fact, one friend was asked if she had broken her hand deliberately to get drugs. Scary!

If the reason for your pain isn’t immediately obvious, your risk for being labelled increases and you may even find your treatment to be slower than others around you. Doctors seem to believe that since we already live with Chronic Pain, we can certainly manage “a bit more” without issue. This is a long-held misconception that needs to be addressed in hospitals around the world.

2. Fear of Needing More Pain Medication

You wouldn’t initially think that needing pain medication would be an issue, but when you live with Chronic Pain, you’re probably already taking a drugstore’s worth of medication to manage symptoms and side effects.

Adding more pain medication to our bodies may help in many ways, but we tend to run the risk of more side effects than other people, thus adding to our stress. I happen to be sensitive to Morphine – I have problems breathing, and get severe body twitching, nausea and itching. While all those things can be treated with additional medications, why go through all that when Fentanyl works fine?

The problem with this is when I tell doctors I can’t take morphine and the reasons why, it makes me sound like a drug seeker, saying I would like Fentanyl instead. My requirements are legitimate but it can come out sounding very suspicious. Stressful!!

3. Fear of Being Out of Our Comfort Zone

I hate to go to the Emergency Room and will do everything in my power to prevent it, even living with increased pain, because of the stress of being out of my comfort zone – my home. I know I’m going to be subjected to sounds and lights that are difficult for me to manage in the best of circumstances.

I’m going to have to wait for long periods of time to see anyone, my treatment may be delayed if the doctor has concerns about my use of Opioids for pain management (see above), and my pain levels and stress are going to rise the longer I am there. This is in addition to whatever the reason is that brought me to the ER to begin with. I’m already stressed and these added things just make the whole situation more challenging.

4. Fight or Flight Reaction

If I end up with a doctor who doesn’t believe my pain is legitimate, my adrenaline or “fight or flight” reflex becomes engaged. I suddenly find myself having to defend my original illness, along with dealing with the reason I’m there to start with. I don’t want to get into a fight with a doctor if I DO need pain meds – I want them to help me by recognizing my need is real.

For this reason, if treatment is taking a long time, some people choose to “give up” and just go home to live with more pain. This then backfires when you truly can’t handle the pain on your own, and back you go, like a yo-yo. It reduces your credibility as a patient. Unfortunately, when you are treated badly by the ER doctors, it’s hard to sit by and put up with that. Stress increases again, and with that stress comes more pain…which causes more stress.

It’s a circle of misery that could easily be handled if doctors would stop and listen to us right from the start. Too many times, we’re not given the opportunity to speak up and share what’s going on once they find out we have Chronic Pain. You could have a broken arm with bones sticking through, but as soon as doctors hear “Chronic Pain”, they seem to harbour certain assumptions about you.

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5. Wondering if My Pain IS Legitimate

When you live with Chronic Pain for whatever type of condition, there’s a good chance you’re going to have multiple symptoms of your illness. If that illness is flaring up beyond your control and you go to the Emergency Room for help, you may question yourself on whether you really need to be there.

Sure, you live with pain daily, but is this so urgent that your doctor can’t take care of it in the next day or so? Well, it’s a tough call, but I’ve always believed that if you are in enough pain to consider going to the ER, you should probably GO to the ER!!

Now is not the time to second guess yourself. For example, I once experienced chest and jaw pain that was different from anything I’d felt before. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack, but the pain was unbearable and I knew it wasn’t going to respond to heat packs or ice packs.

It turned out I was having a severe and unusual reaction to a new Diabetes drug I had just started and I was hospitalized for 3 days while a bunch of tests were run, and then to let me rest on IV’s and pain medications. In hindsight, nothing bad would have happened to me if I’d stayed home, except I’d have been in excruciating pain for days. I would have gone to see my Family Doctor asap, but I’d also have put myself in misery for days that I didn’t need to be in pain.

By following my instincts, I received top notch care and was treated legitimately like a person who was in pain and needed help.

Ways to Improve Your Emergency Room Visit

There are several things you can do in advance to help improve your visit to an Emergency Room.

arabian-gulf-80359_640

1. Make Sure You Have a Regular Family Doctor

Even if your ER visit is for something completely unrelated to your Chronic Pain, having a regular Family Physician shows that you are dealing with your health on a regular basis. This helps to legitimize yourself as someone who cares about their overall health and is doing everything they can to help themselves.

What happens if you don’t have a Family Physician? In some countries, finding a Family Doctor is next to impossible. Attending the same Walk-In Clinic or Urgent Care Centre is the next best thing you can do for yourself, along with getting your prescriptions written by the same location.

2. Try to See Your Family Doctor First

If it’s at all possible, try to see your Family Physician before going to the ER. If you can, take a letter from the doctor with you explaining his findings and recommendations. This can help to speed up service in the ER (though it doesn’t always work).

Depending on the circumstances, this shows you’re using the emergency room as your treatment of last resort, as opposed to the primary place you go for pain medication.

3. Get Your Prescriptions Filled by the Same Pharmacy

One way to ensure legitimacy regarding your medications is to have them all filled at the same pharmacy. This allows doctors to do a quick search to make sure you’re not getting multiple prescriptions filled by multiple doctors.

4. Bring a List Of Your Medications with You

At a minimum, try to bring a list of your medications and dosages with you to the ER. If possible, take the actual bottles with you. This goes a long way to showing the ER doctors that you have legitimate health concerns, and that you know what you’re taking and why.

You might want to consider having a letter from your doctor on hand that outlines your Chronic condition and the treatment plan you are under. If you are going to the ER because of a problem relating to your condition, it can help to speed things up for the doctors if they know what’s been done in the past.

5. Co-operate with The ER Personnel

This may seem like common sense, but when we’re in a panic because of pain and/or injury, we tend to forget our normal sensibilities. Try not to become demanding when you get to the Emergency Room. You’re not the only one there and you have no idea what the other patients are going through.

Your pain or injury may very well be serious, but will be triaged appropriately according to the nurses. YOU might not agree with their assessment but without knowing the big picture, it’s impossible for you to say you’re the most critical person to be seen, even if you feel that way.

Work with the ER personnel, stay calm and cooperative and you’ll generally find yourself being treated respectfully by nurses and doctors who genuinely care about your health and well being.

Conversations with Emergency Room Doctors

For an excellent list of ways to communicate with the ER doctors to ensure you get quality care, this article from Practical Pain Management is a great patient resource. It provides you with things you should and shouldn’t say to make your ER visit most effective.

Speak Up!

I do a lot of Patient Advocacy volunteer work and was speaking at a conference full of doctors. I told them of being mistreated as a drug seeker at one Emergency Room I went to when the pain from my Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia was overwhelming me. The doctors there assumed because I was in pain, pain medication is what I was looking for.

I wasn’t seeking pain meds (they wouldn’t have worked) but treatment in another form (I had the protocol written down from a specialist), so it was especially frustrating to not be heard.

One of the doctors at the conference spoke up and told me that on behalf of doctors everywhere, he apologized for that kind of treatment and said that it was unacceptable. He said that all ER personnel need to check themselves at the door before bringing in attitudes like that…his belief is that if someone presents at the ER in pain, they are there because they’re in pain. It’s up to the ER docs to determine if it’s physical or mental and how to best treat the patient, no matter what.

I was so touched by his comments…and I told him that the best thing he and everyone else in that room could do was to believe their patient. Yes, there are going to be drug seekers, but the majority of people who show up at the ER don’t want to be there, but have no choice. Believe them, listen to them and help them. It’s really that simple.

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Let’s Learn About CBD and Cannabis

Today, I’m featuring a guest post by author Bojana Petkovic, Project Manager at Loud Cloud Health

CBD and Cannabis: How They Benefit Our Health and Society 

The good news is that millions of researchers in the field of medicine, pharmacology, and biochemistry put a lot of effort into exploring cannabis and its main cannabinoids. Thanks to research, cannabis and its incredible benefits are quickly gaining momentum. Let’s take a look at some basic facts and stats.

What Makes Cannabis Worth Researching?

Humankind has been familiar with this plant for at least 5,000 years. Throughout history, many people have consumed it as medicine through food and beverages. Some of the most acknowledged effects of cannabis include killing all sorts of pain, helping cancer patients, improving mental health, etc. That is why a growing number of the world’s governments consider decriminalizing or fully legalizing it. 

The plant has an incredible number of complex substances in its buds, fan leaves, and stems. Those substances are called cannabinoids. There are ten most significant ones recognized by modern medicine, two of them being CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). 

Even though the research has been fruitful, scientists believe there is still a lot more to know about cannabis’s benevolent nature. 

What Do We Know About CBD and Cannabis?

First and foremost, we are aware that CBD successfully relieves symptoms such as chronic pain, cramps, and tissue inflammation. Such symptoms are common in diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatism, and numerous other musculoskeletal conditions that typically trouble the senior population. According to the study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, CBD tends to reduce arthritic and back pain, leaving trauma-related pain behind as well.

Types of Pain - Chronic Pain

Mental disorders and illnesses are common for all age groups. The typical symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, dementia, and insomnia. Less common ones include severe psychosis.  

CBD appears remarkably advantageous in this field of medicine. Research by Bonn-Miller suggests the importance of medicinal cannabis to those who have PTSD by helping them sleep and cope with trauma. Another study from 2006 explains that as much as cannabis might instigate a more regular use, depression and psychotic disorders should be treated with it. Less agitation, more sleep, and success in battling constant anxiety are just some reasons why cannabis should be used in different treatments. 

In adults, CBD and cannabis can help cure more severe addictions. Such addictions include heavy opioids, alcohol, and of course, prescription drugs. That may seem paradoxical since cannabis needs to be used in moderation as some forms can cause dependence. Addiction statistics reveal that adequate use of cannabis helped 26% of people who consumed heroin to opt out of it and smoke marijuana instead. Some 40% of alcohol addicts chose to do so as well. Additionally, 66% of prescription drug addicts switched to cannabis for good. 

Word of Warning

Though cannabis sounds like a miracle plant, that doesn’t mean it has no side effects. THC is mainly known for being psychoactive, while CBD can induce nausea, dizziness, or dry mouth. Most of these occur if one consumes too much. Cannabis use disorder is a form of dependence, so it is of ultimate importance to use the plant responsibly, and always consult a doctor if you have a condition.

What Can We Anticipate in the Future?

Thanks to technological advancement, we are about to see the new and incredible benefits of this plant. We should not fail to mention that, through further legalization and decriminalization, a large number of people will have job opportunities within cannabusiness. This industry has no intention to leave its upward trajectory. Au contraire, it will most probably be “the next big thing.”

Infographic URL: https://loudcloudhealth.com/pros-and-cons-of-weed-infographic/

Thanks for reading and remember:

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Interview October – Elisa Austin

Today we meet my final guest for Interview October, the wonderful Elisa Austin. Please join me in welcoming her!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

I am a 50 year old, mother of eight and grandmother. I’m a photographer and writer.

One fascinating fact about me is:

I am still existing. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have underactive thyroid (Hashimoto’s), Fibromyalgia, and IBS

My symptoms/condition began…

The thyroid condition was diagnosed in 1999 because I was just “off” and “dragging.” Fibromyalgia was diagnosed in 2004 although I believe symptoms began earlier.

My diagnosis process was… 

My doctor ruled out most things with blood tests and sent me to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist ruled out RA and by process of elimination Fibromyalgia was diagnosed.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

Knowing there is no cure and I will have to deal with the pain every day for the rest of my life.

A typical day for me involves…

Medication, necessary appointments or activities, and with luck some housework.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

It rotates through warm baths, heating pads, aromatherapy, family, exercise

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

That I’m stronger and more determined than I had originally thought. 

My support system is…

My family and an online group

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

I don’t even know. I no longer make plans or have dreams.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I am more supportive of others

One final thing I want people to know is: 

I refuse to give up.

Interview October – Keiran Potter

It’s time to meet my next guest, the fabulous Keiran Potter! I’m excited about what he has to share!

Keiran Potter

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hello, my name is Keiran Potter, I am 21 years old and I am from the South West of England. I am currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at University and hope to pursue a career as a writer if all goes to plan. But you know what they say, best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

Not sure how fascinating any of my facts are but I am 22 this month and still often get mistaken for a 12 year old at my local shops. Oh and I’m gay, not fascinating but definitely a fact. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

Celiac Disease and Various Mental Health problems but for the sake of this interview I’ll focus on the former

My symptoms/condition began…

The symptoms of Celiac were present for an awful long time before I recognised them as something that could be potentially sinister. The stomach pain, migraines and bleeding had been such a regular thing for me, that it became the norm and I failed to question it for a long time. So I’d say as long as I remember I have had the issue but it wasn’t further explored until May 2018 

My diagnosis process was… 

 I had to have blood tests and several other samples. Celiac Disease can share some symptoms with other serious conditions like intestinal cancers, so my doctor was pretty concerned. Once they came back I got referred to a specialist on a 9 month waiting list. In the interim they told me to research about Celiac Disease and cut out Gluten from my diet. They failed to tell me that by doing this it would also put other aspects of my health at risk. Such as my heart. 

When I was referred I was then asked to eat Gluten again after being gluten-free for 9 months, in order to have an upper endoscopy and biopsy of my intestines. 

So all of my symptoms got more aggressive and I was in constant pain as my body had began healing in the 9 months that I had known about my potential diagnosis 

The first biopsy was inconclusive. I had to wait another 3 months and get another one done. It was quite a hellish experience to be honest but I finally got the 100% confirmation of the disease. Which in many ways was a blessing as I finally had some answers 

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

The constant vigilance and endless fatigue and stomach pain. Even when doing everything you should be doing. Sometimes you have issues for no apparent reason and there is literally no answer to appease your concerns or pain. 

A typical day for me involves…

 A lot of thinking ahead about the risks of everyday living. Such as eating or spending the day out of the house in an unfamiliar place. A lot of time spent on or near a toilet. University, I study English and Creative Writing. Lots of medication but thankfully a lot of laughs 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

 Not really a thing but my support system and the people who help and love me the most. I quite literally would not be alive if it wasn’t for them. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

To value every aspect of your life for what it is. You never know when those simple joys may be taken from you. It has also made me more appreciative of health in general. Our bodies are not as indestructible as we may like to think sometimes  

My support system is…

My Family, my mum specifically. I don’t think I would show up to half of the appointments I have if it wasn’t for her dragging me there by the ear. I’m very grateful for all the help and care she gives me 

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

 Eat some Chinese food and go do something productive and just enjoy the day without the illness. I would take advantage of some of the freedoms that I feel I don’t have as much access too since my illnesses have truly taken a hold on my life

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I think one positive is how you can then use your knowledge of your own body and conditions to educate and help others. There is also a sense of community instantly when you find people who struggle with the same illnesses and experiences. It’s important that all voices are heard, so I’m glad interviews like this amplify the voices of disabled or chronically ill people. 

One final thing I want people to know is:

 Only because a person may not look ill, it doesn’t mean they are not struggling everyday to live their life as normally as possible. Always be kind to everyone you meet as even if you can’t physically see it, that person could be in pain and/ or mental strife. A smile could always brighten up their day 

My links are:

Https://KeiranCrying.com/blog

Instagram.com/keirancrying

7 Conditions That Can Mimic Fibromyalgia (And Getting The Right Diagnosis)

Fibromyalgia is a condition that consists of widespread muscle pain, cognitive failures and fatigue. Because there is no standard blood test or other medical test to identify Fibro, doctors rely on Patient stories and history to make a determination, along with using the “tender point” test.

When you have Fibromyalgia, there are particular tender points that may be inflamed in 18 areas of your body. If you have pain in 11 of these areas, you are considered to have Fibromyalgia.

Tender_points_fibromyalgia_svg.svg

What happens if you are experiencing symptoms of Fibromyalgia but you DON’T have the tender points? It could be that something else is going on in your body that isn’t Fibro but is a different condition all together.

Here are some of the conditions that can mimic Fibro and a brief description of what each of them are:

Conditions

1. Multiple Sclerosis

MS is currently classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). The disease attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin. Myelin is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibres. If damage to myelin is slight, nerve impulses travel with minor interruptions; however, if damage is substantial and if scar tissue replaces the myelin, nerve impulses may be completely disrupted, and the nerve fibres themselves can be damaged.

MS is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it.

2. Lupus

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

The signs and symptoms of lupus that you experience will depend on which body systems are affected by the disease. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss

3. Arthritis

Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints.

Uric acid crystals, which form when there’s too much uric acid in your blood, can cause gout. Infections or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis.

The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

4. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic (lasting greater than six months) pain condition that most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand, or foot) usually after an injury.  CRPS is believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems.

The central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord; the peripheral nervous system involves nerve signaling from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.  CRPS is characterized by prolonged or excessive pain and changes in skin color, temperature, and/or swelling in the affected area.

The key symptom is prolonged severe pain that may be constant.  It has been described as “burning,” “pins and needles” sensation, or as if someone were squeezing the affected limb.  The pain may spread to the entire arm or leg, even though the injury might have only involved a finger or toe. In rare cases, pain can sometimes even travel to the opposite extremity.  There is often increased sensitivity in the affected area, known as allodynia, in which normal contact with the skin is experienced as very painful.

People with CRPS also experience changes in skin temperature, skin color, or swelling of the affected limb.  This is due to abnormal microcirculation caused by damage to the nerves controlling blood flow and temperature.  As a result, an affected arm or leg may feel warmer or cooler compared to the opposite limb.  The skin on the affected limb may change color, becoming blotchy, blue, purple, pale, or red.

Other common features of CRPS include:

  • changes in skin texture on the affected area; it may appear shiny and thin
  • abnormal sweating pattern in the affected area or surrounding areas
  • changes in nail and hair growth patterns
  • stiffness in affected joints
  • problems coordinating muscle movement, with decreased ability to move the affected body part
  • abnormal movement in the affected limb, most often fixed abnormal posture (called dystonia) but also tremors in or jerking of the limb.

5. Depression

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Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both. Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

6. Lymphoma

Lymphoma is cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body. When you have lymphoma, lymphocytes change and grow out of control.

There are two main types of lymphoma:

  • Non-Hodgkin: Most people with lymphoma have this type.
  • Hodgkin

Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma involve different types of lymphocyte cells. Every type of lymphoma grows at a different rate and responds differently to treatment.

Warning signs of lymphoma include:

  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes), often in the neck, armpit, or groin that are painless
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Itching

7. Growing Pains

Growing pains are recurring pain symptoms that are relatively common in children ages 3 to 12. The pains normally appear at night and affect the calf or thigh muscles of both legs. The pain stops on its own before morning. Growing pains are one of the most common causes of recurring pain in children.

Growing pains usually cause an aching or throbbing feeling in the legs. This pain often occurs in the front of the thighs, the calves or behind the knees. Usually both legs hurt. Some children may also experience abdominal pain or headaches during episodes of growing pains. The pain doesn’t occur every day. It comes and goes.

Growing pains often strike in the late afternoon or early evening and disappear by morning. Sometimes the pain awakens a child in the middle of the night.

Consult your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about your child’s leg pain or the pain is:

  • Persistent
  • Still present in the morning
  • Severe enough to interfere with your child’s normal activities
  • Located in the joints
  • Associated with an injury
  • Accompanied by other signs or symptoms, such as swelling, redness, tenderness, fever, limping, rash, loss of appetite, weakness or fatigue

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several conditions that can mimic the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, which is why it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible, to get the proper diagnosis. Don’t let pain linger…if something doesn’t seem right in your body, get it checked out. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

chronic pain and addictions (2)

Chronic Pain And Addictions

I want to talk about a difficult subject today…Chronic Pain and Addictions. When you live with Chronic Pain, you can find yourself spiraling in a dark hole. Sometimes depression becomes as big of a problem as the physical pain you live with, and in a desperate need to feel better, you find yourself turning to your medications too often, or you resort to drinking or eating as a way of filling the gap.

Addiction is easy to fall into, as often, you are not receiving adequate treatment for your pain to begin with. You find yourself taking your medictions sooner than directed, or you take more than recommended and then suddenly, you’re in withdrawal at the end of the month when your prescription has run out.

Instead of abusing your pain medications, you may turn to alcohol to increase the “buzz”, or food may become the drug of your choice. “Anything to dampen the pain” is what you might be thinking, and sometimes, it works. Other times, it feels like nothing can fill the unending gulf of pain you live with and so your depression deepens and you’re left feeling worthless. Thoughts of suicide may plague you but you resist telling others for fear they will see you as weak.

Let’s examine this problems in more detail.

Medications

Opioid abuse is an epidemic in the United States. In 2016, approximately 11.5 million Americans 12 years and older misused opioid pain medications, and 1.8 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain medications. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 persons died from opioid overdoses, with deaths generally increasing as prescription opioid sales increased. In 2012, clinicians wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioids, enough for every U.S. adult.*

Chronic Pain and Addictions

There are a variety of medications that are used in the treatment of Chronic Pain. As you probably know, there is a current push from to cut back on Opioids like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone because of perceived over-prescribing and the number of deaths linked to the mis-use of Opioids. The number of deaths from illegal Fentynal overdoses has increased dramatically, yet the people who actually require the drug for their Chronic Pain are being turned away by their physicians or are having their dosages cut back significantly.

PreGabalin, Gabapentin, and mixed drugs like Tramacet (Tramadol and Acetaminophen) are now being used more frequently, but not always to great benefit. This is one of the reasons the use of illegal Fentynal is increasing – people aren’t getting adequate relief from their doctor-prescribed medications and so they’re looking to the streets for solutions.

Alcohol

Throughout the ages, people have used alcohol to manage their pain. A swig of whiskey after a bullet wound in the old Westerns, or to numb the pain of a teething baby are two minor examples. A study done recently showed that 28% of people with Chronic Pain used alcohol to help control their pain**

Chronic Pain and Addictions

Although alcohol has been shown to reduce pain, it’s a temporary solution and has potential and possible fatal risks. When you drink, you are more likely to abuse your prescription medications, resulting in furthering the sedative effects of both. You also increase the possibility of liver damage or gastric bleeding. Using alcohol as a pain medication often ends up with exceeding the recommended amount that you should drink and overdose of alcohol and/or prescription medications can be fatal.

Other points to note:

  • Withdrawal from chronic alcohol use often increases pain sensitivity which could motivate some people to continue drinking or even increase their drinking to reverse withdrawal-related increases in pain.
  • Prolonged, excessive alcohol exposure generates a painful small fiber peripheral neuropathy, the most common neurologic complication associated with alcoholism.

Food

When a person is unable to control the amount of pain they live with, they may turn to food instead, as a way of finding relief. It doesn’t take away the pain, but satiating yourself gives back the illusion of that control that you’ve lost elsewhere. Anorexia and bingeing/purging become huge risks and lead to further medical problems.

Chronic Pain and Addiction

Anorexia is the elimination of food from the diet, until your calorie intake is grossly under the recommended daily allowance for health. It is a psychological and potentially life-threatening eating disorder.

There are a multitude of health risks involved including mood swings, low blood pressure, heart problems, kidney and liver issues, loss of bone density and the very real possibility of death.

Bingeing and purging causes issues such as gastric problems, dental issues from vomiting and bile wearing at the teeth and gums, dehydration and depression issues. The use of excessive laxatives is hard on your bowels and runs the risk of chronic constipation, resulting in a Catch-22 of needing to use more laxatives to alleviate the constipation.

Excessive Exercise is another form of purging. By engaging in obscene amounts of exercise, you expose yourself to potential damage to your joints from overuse, dehydration, weakness and potential heart issues.

Other Addictions

Other addictions to be careful about including smoking, gambling, shopping and sex although I’m sure you can think of even more. Each of these excessive behaviours can lead to damaging consequences so it’s imporant to be aware of them. When you live with Chronic Pain, you can have an “all or nothing” mentality – you simply want to do anything that will help you focus on something other than hurting.

What Next?

The first step to any of these issues is to accept that you have a problem. Professional help is required to allow you to wean off of the drugs or alcohol, or to start a healthy relationship with food.

Support groups are available both in person and online and are highly recommended. To be with people who have gone through the same experiences as you have can be very comforting.

A Pain Management program may be suggested to help you get to the root of your problems, and to help you find solutions to managing your pain more effectively.

Talk to your family physician to start. Now is the time to be honest about what you’ve been going through and how you’ve been coping (or not coping). Accept that seeing a counsellor on a regular basis may be a requirement for your success. Having a safe place to talk goes a long way in setting goals for yourself and achieving them.

Ask about specific books that may help you understand Chronic Pain more completely. Knowledge is power.

Finally, realize that you are not a bad person. You may have made some bad choices, but recognizing them and changing them is what’s important. We all make mistakes, and even if you think you’re the worst person in the world…you’re not. You have value and worth and are deserving of the best care possible. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

*https://www.aafp.org/afp/2018/0301/p313.html
**https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/PainFactsheet/painFact.htm

chronic pain and addictions

You Know What Omega-3s Are – But What About Omega-6s?

Today I’m featuring an article by Guest Author Nicole Ross Rollender. Her bio is at the bottom of the page. She’s written an excellent post about Omega-3s and Omega-6s and how important they are for our bodies. When you live with Chronic Pain, you know you need to do everything possible to maintain your overall health, and diet can play a part in that. Read on to see what Nicole has to say:

Positivity Quotes

No doubt you’ve gotten the skinny on good fats (hello, omega-3) from your primary care doctor or nutritionist.

You’ve probably heard this before: Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are found in fish oils from salmon, krill, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines, along with oysters and crabs.

Clinical evidence suggests omega-3s like EPA and DHA help reduce risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

You’ll find other omega-3s like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in flaxseed, oils like canola and soybean, and nuts and seeds such as walnuts and sunflower, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Omega 3 and Omega 6 For Your Good Health

Along with omega-3s, omega-6 fatty acids play a vital role in brain function, and our normal growth and development. 

Bottom line: Your body needs fatty acids to function, and they pack some major health benefits.

However, not as many people have heard of omega-6s. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re getting enough (but not too much) of this important fat in your diet.

What Are PUFAs?

Here’s a quick chemistry lesson: Like omega-3, omega-6 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), a fat molecule containing more than one unsaturated carbon bond. For example, oils (like olive oil) that contain polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, but start to turn solid when chilled, according to the American Heart Association.

“Omega-6s are essential for a whole host of things: proper brain function, stimulating hair and skin growth, maintaining bone health, promoting normal growth and development, regulating metabolism, and maintaining a healthy reproductive system,” says Laura Ligos, MBA, RDN, CSSD, a Real Food registered dietitian at Albany, NY-based The Sassy Dietitian & Designed to Fit Nutrition.

PUFAs offer heart-health benefits when you eat them in moderation and use them to replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats in your diet, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are saturated fats in animal-based foods, such as meats, poultry, lard, egg yolks and whole-fat dairy products like butter and cheese. They’re also in cocoa butter, and coconut, palm and other tropical oils used in coffee creamers and other processed foods.

Trans fats, also called hydrogenated and vegetable oils, are in hardened vegetable fats like stick butter – and make their way into crackers, cookies, cakes, candies, snack foods and French fries.

A good rule of thumb is to reduce foods high in saturated and trans fats in your diet. Instead, choose foods that include plenty of PUFAs – but don’t go overboard.

All fats, even good ones, are high in calories – they’re nine calories per gram.

The Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio

Humans evolved on a diet balanced in omega-6 and omega-3 (1:1 ratio) essential fatty acids, according to the journal Nutrients. Today, though, the ratio for many people is a staggering 20:1, contributing to weight gain and other health issues.

“The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 in our bodies should stay between 2:1 and 3:1,” Ligos says. “You’re heading into dangerous territory when your omega-6/omega-3 ratio is greater than 4:1.”

Both a high omega-6/omega-3 ratio and a high omega-6 fatty acid intake contribute to weight gain, whereas a high omega-3 fatty acid intake decreases your risk for weight gain, according to Nutrients.

In addition, when your omega-6/omega-3 ratios are out of balance, you’re at higher risk for cardiac issues, according to the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology

“When there isn’t enough omega-6 in your diet, essential fatty acid deficiency can occur, leading to excessive thirst and skin lesions, as well as more serious issues like stunted growth, skin lesions, a fatty liver, and reproductive issues or failure,” Ligos says.

Conversely, too much omega-6 (and not enough omega-3) can cause inflammatory conditions including heart disease, elevated blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, autoimmune conditions and more, Ligos notes.

Not all omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation though, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Linolenic acid, often found in vegetable oils, is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body. GLA is also found in plant-based oils like evening primrose oil, borage oil and black currant seed oil.

“There’s research to support taking a GLA supplement, an omega-6 fatty acid, to reduce inflammation, much unlike all other omega-6 fatty acids,” Ligos says.

The body converts GLA to DGLA, which fights inflammatory conditions, and having enough other nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3 and B6, promotes that conversion, the University of Maryland Medical Center says.

Where to Get Your Omega-6

The good news is most of us can get the right amount of omega-6 from a healthy diet alone.

“Omega-6 fatty acids are found primarily in vegetable and plant oils, including safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, corn, cottonseed, peanut, sesame, soybean and canola,” Ligos says.

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At one time, researchers believed omega-6 fatty acids metabolized in the body to then inflame and damage artery linings, which could lead to heart disease.

After reviewing the findings, the American Heart Association recommended people eat between 5% and 10% of their daily calories from omega-6 fatty acids.

It’s a good idea to replace saturated fats from foods like meat, butter, cheese and deserts with plant-based foods containing omega-6 fatty acids, including vegetables oils, nuts and seeds is a good first step.

Flaxseed and hempseed oil, nuts, borage oil, evening primrose oil and black currant seed oil, and acai are other healthy sources of omega-6.

About The Author:

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Nicole Rollender is a South New Jersey-based editor and writer. Her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Dr. Oz The Good Life, Woman’s Day and Cosmopolitan. She’s the author of the poetry collection Louder Than Everything You Love. Recently, she was named a Rising Star in FOLIO’s Top Women in Media awards and is a 2017 recipient of a New Jersey Council on the Arts poetry fellowship. Visit her online at www.strandwritingservices.com; on Facebook or Twitter.