Fibromyalgia – In Tune With Our Bodies

I’ve been thinking lately of how lucky I am that despite the fact I live with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Invisible Illnesses, I’m actually quite healthy. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I rarely come down with colds, I can’t remember the last time I had a flu or stomach bug or even when I could say I was “sick”. I try to remember to get a flu shot each year because I’m Diabetic, but it didn’t happen last year and so far this year, I haven’t made it to a clinic either. It’s also in my best interest to get one, because since having surgery for severe Gastric Reflux Disease in 2004, I am unable to physically vomit – if I get sick where vomiting becomes an issue, I have to go to the hospital and have a nasal gastric tube placed to remove my stomach contents. Not fun!!

As the old saying goes, aging ain’t for sissies! When you live with Fibromyalgia, you live with all sorts of “side effects”. This diagram displays some of the many “extras” a Fibromite can expect to experience:

FibroSymptomsDiagram

These are all common symptoms and it can be difficult to tell them apart from other illnesses, which makes it extremely important to be aware of your body and to note when something feels “off” or different than what is normal for you. We are generally quite in tune with our own bodies and are quickly able to determine when a new symptom appears that doesn’t fit in with our usual symptoms.

What happens though when you do experience something that you’re unsure of? Your first step should always be to see your Primary Health Care Provider anytime something comes up that is markedly different than your normal. It could be one of Fibromyalgia’s many symptoms, but it’s always better to be safe. I remember one time many years back when I started having severe pain in the lower left quadrant. It happened when I was living in Calgary and I had just finished a volunteer shift at the Calgary Stampede grounds. I’d eaten a corn dog and a few minutes later, was suddenly hit with terrible pain in my lower left side. I could barely walk but managed to make it on to the C-Train (the Lite Rapid Transit) and then called my husband to pick me up at the station to take me to the hospital. It turned out that a cyst that I didn’t know I had on my ovary had burst. I was prepared to put it down to something Fibro related and the only reason I got the proper diagnosis is because the pain was so bad, I went to the ER.

It’s easy to be dismissive of everything we feel and call it Fibro related, so we have to be careful not to fall into this trap. How do you tell the difference between Fibro related pain and something new or different for you? Here is a checklist to use:

  • Familiar or not – have you felt this same symptom before, or does this feel like something “new” to you?
  • Does it last longer than usual? This could potentially be a new situation that needs attention
  • It it more intense than usual? This could be the sign of a new problem
  • Is it in a new part of your body? This is more likely the sign of something new
  • Did it start suddenly or gradually? Gradual pain is more likely to be Fibro related.
  • Does something just feel “off” to you? Trust your instincts!

It’s recommended that everyone go for an annual checkup, but it’s especially important that you and your doctor stay in touch with how you are doing, outside of your Fibromyalgia. Don’t forget about the rest of your health.

Speaking of health, I want to share this new Health Alphabet. It may be helpful in future medical discussions, especially if aging is becoming a concern for you:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 2.31.07 AM

Okay, a little humour never hurts, but when it comes to Fibromyalgia and changing symptoms, you do need to be careful not to overlook something that could have the potential to be serious. Always trust your instincts about how you’re feeling and see your doctor if something just doesn’t seem right. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

There is always hope

Living Well With Fibromyalgia

How do you Live Well with Fibromyalgia? When your body hurts all the time because of this painful condition, it’s hard to remember to do things like exercise and eat well, but these are critical components of staying well. First off, let’s look at what Fibromyalgia is.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain, fatigue, and tender points around the body. It can be hard to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. It can also be hard to treat. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor who has experience treating Fibromyalgia. Medications are available to help alleviate some of the pain you might be experiencing, but there is no cure for the condition and a lot of what makes you feel better will come from the things you do for yourself.

 

symptoms-fibromyalgia-600
And what are those things? To start with, eat a well-balanced diet, make sure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated and try to do some gentle exercise every day.

Diet:

1. Aim for a well-rounded diet

Eating a balanced diet is a good idea for anyone, regardless of whether you have fibromyalgia. That diet should include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, such as chicken or fish. Avoid unhealthy foods, including anything processed or fried, and excessive amounts of saturated fats. Also, limit the amount of salt and sugar in your diet.

2. Eat for energy

Fibromyalgia can make you feel tired and worn out. Eating certain foods can give you more energy. Avoid sweets, which will only give you a quick sugar boost. Your body will burn right through them, and then you’ll crash. Instead, eat foods that will give you more energy to get through your day. Combine protein or fats with carbohydrates to slow down their absorption. Choose fresh, whole foods high in fibre and low in added sugars, such as:

  • almonds, walnuts and other nuts and seeds
  • broccoli
  • beans
  • tofu
  • steel cut oatmeal
  • dark leafy greens
  • avocado
3. Go Vegetarian or Vegan

A few studies have looked at how eating certain diets affect fibromyalgia. There’s evidence from studies done that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, which is high in plant antioxidants, might offer some symptom relief.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Another benefit of eating a healthy diet is that it can help keep your weight under control.  People who had been on a weight loss program had less pain and depression, fewer tender points, and they slept better after taking off a few pounds. Studies suggest that weight loss can be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment.

 

Here are some of the best foods to eat for people with Fibromyalgia:

FOODS HIGH IN ANTIOXIDANTS:

  • Kidney beans
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Artichokes (boiled)
  • Cilantro
  • Berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries)

FOODS HIGH IN AMINO ACIDS:

  • Red meat: lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Poultry: chicken or turkey breast
  • Fish: halibut, tuna or salmon fillet
  • Dairy: non- and low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt
  • Plant-based proteins: quinoa, tofu, soybeans

FOODS CONTAINING COENZYME Q10:

  • Organ meats (heart, liver, kidney)
  • Beef
  • Soy oil
  • Sardines and mackerel 
  • Peanuts

FRUITS WITH LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX:

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Citrus

All of these foods are great for the body whether you have Fibro or not so why not incorporate them into your diet and see the difference they can make. The healthier you are, the better able you are to fight Fibromyalgia or any other auto-immune disorder you might have.

Exercise:

Will exercise make you hurt more? Some muscle soreness is common after exercising in the beginning. But ultimately exercise should relieve fibromyalgia pain, not aggravate it. Try these tips: Start off small and build slowly. Massage or apply heat to sore muscles before exercise and apply cold after.

1. Keep it simple, doing activities such as walking, Aquafit (easy on the joints and muscles), or bicycling (stationary is fine).

2. Use light weights if you can to keep your muscles toned and at the very least, make sure to stretch several times a day.

3. There’s nothing worse for a Fibro body than to sit or lay down all day because your muscles stiffen up even more than usual and it takes even more effort to relax and loosen them. Do some simple stretches 3-4 times a day and work to expand on them as you get stronger.

So there you have it, some simple tips for Diet and Exercise that should help everybody but especially those with Fibromyalgia. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

There Is Always Hope

 

Everybody's Bill Of Rights

Welcome back!
Did you know that as a Patient, you have a Bill of Rights, afforded to you under your Government?  It’s true! There are certain obligations your government has committed to meeting when it comes to your health care and I decided it was a good time to share those with you, as well as to write-up a set of Rights that we have as Patients for our Doctors, Nurses and other Medical Professionals. Are you ready?

Canadian Patients’ Bill of Rights*:

  1. You have the right to be fully informed about one’s medical condition;
  2. You have the right to be advised of the available treatment options;
  3. You have the right to be involved in treatment decisions;
  4. You have the right to information on the qualifications and experience of the health professionals from whom services are received;
  5. You have the right to receive considerate, compassionate and respectful public health services;
  6. You have the right to confidential communications with health professionals;
  7. You have the right to have access to and copies of personal health records and to have them corrected, if necessary;
  8. You have the right to have health records kept confidential and not used for any purpose other than public health services without written consent;
  9. You have the right to designate a person to exercise rights on the patient’s behalf if the patient is not able to do so because of a physical or mental incapacity; and
  10. You have the right to be informed of all rights and responsibilities under the bill and under other laws of Canada or a province with respect to public health services.

American Patients’ Bill of Rights**:

  1. You have the right to receive accurate and easily understood information about your health plan, health care professionals, and health care facilities. If you speak another language, have a physical or mental disability, or just don’t understand something, assistance will be provided so you can make informed health care decisions.
  2. You have the right to a choice of health care providers that is sufficient to provide you with access to appropriate high-quality health care.
  3. If you have severe pain, an injury, or sudden illness that convinces you that your health is in serious jeopardy, you have the right to receive screening and stabilization emergency services whenever and wherever needed, without prior authorization or financial penalty.
  4. You have the right to know all your treatment options and to participate in decisions about your care. Parents, guardians, family members, or other individuals that you designate can represent you if you cannot make your own decisions.
  5. You have a right to considerate, respectful and non-discriminatory care from your doctors, health plan representatives, and other health care providers.
  6. You have the right to talk in confidence with health care providers and to have your health care information protected. You also have the right to review and copy your own medical record and request that your physician amend your record if it is not accurate, relevant, or complete.
  7. You have the right to a fair, fast, and objective review of any compliant you have against your health plan, doctors, hospitals or other health care personnel. This includes complaints about waiting times, operating hours, the conduct of health care personnel, and the adequacy of health care facilities.
* http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/prb0131-e.htm#c.%20%20Patients%E2%80%99%20txt
** https://web.archive.org/web/20050301090705/http://www.consumer.gov/qualityhealth/rights.htm

I’ve not done the Rights for other countries as most of my traffic comes from North America, but I’m sure a simple Google search using your country and “Patient Bill of Rights” would turn up something similar. I think this is good information for all of us to have and it’s all very reasonable.
Now the list for us as Patients:

  1. You have the obligation to treat your doctor and other medical personnel with respect.
  2. Be organized when you go to see your doctor – know the questions you need to ask and understand your doctor is limited to one or two concerns at a time. If you have more than that to talk about, book a double appointment. Don’t be an “oh, by the way” Patient.
  3. If you need refills of your prescriptions, let the office know when you’re making your appointment. This way, they can schedule that into the time you spend with the Doctor.
  4. Bring along a family member or trusted friend to help translate for you if English is not your first language. Don’t let translation issues cause your appointment to run overtime. The same goes for the hearing impaired – bring a sign language interpreter with you if needed.
  5. Find out what the policy is for missed or cancelled appointments with your doctor. Most cancellations given within 24 hours are fine, but if you need to cancel with short notice, you may have to pay for the full cost of the appointment. Every office varies, so know in advance what your obligations are.
  6. Be honest. Tell your doctor if you’re using recreational drugs – it can make a difference in regards to the prescriptions they need to write or tests they need to run.
  7. Speak up if you don’t understand something the doctor says. You have a right to clear and concise information so if you’re not sure of what the doctor is saying, ask for clarification. There’s no sense going home and then having to call the doctor’s office to ask what he meant. Your time in the office is your chance to have everything explained properly. If you feel your doctor is being dismissive of your symptoms, you have the right to ask for a second opinion.

What do you think of the Patient list? Is there anything you think is wrong? Is there anything missing that should be added? Tell me in the comments below.
Remember, we have as much of an obligation to be good Patients as our Doctors and Nurses et al do to be good practitioners of medicine. It’s a two-way street and only by working together will we be able to form a Patient Centred Care Team where those practitioners are working with us in partnership for our best health.
There is always hope.