Monday, March 25, 2013

My War on Germs: Step 1

A probiotic capsule
Over the years, I have noticed that my digestive tract is one of the weakest points of my body. I have gotten food poisoning more times than I could count, and I seem to get more than my share of stomach viruses each year. Over the years, I have heard different theories from various doctors, including perhaps it is just the way I was born or it is from all the antibiotics I had to take over the years. Regardless, my doctors often recommended I eat yogurt daily or even take a probiotic supplement to try to get my digestive tract in proper balance.

I love yogurt, but it isn’t one of those things I can tolerate eating every single day. Plus, one of my doctors pointed out that realistically people may have to eat at least 3 yogurt servings a day to start seeing a noticeable difference from the live cultures. I don’t know about you, but that is far more yogurt than I am able to consume each day!

Since I am a strong believer of trying to get what our bodies need from our food first, I tried my best to eat some yogurt every day. I didn’t succeed all the time, but I was definitely eating a lot more yogurt. Still, I found myself sick far too often. If the live cultures were helping, I just wasn’t getting enough.

So here I am with my first box of Align probiotic supplements, and I’m going to give it a shot. I ordered an 8-week supply since it was cheaper per capsule than the 4-week supply. Although I’m hopeful that this product will be a baby step toward a healthier me, I know there’s a chance that it may not work out for me. But hey, I’ve wasted a lot more money on cold medicines over the last few years. And with no risk besides a little gas and disappointment, why wouldn’t I give it a try?

This is only the beginning of my war on germs, so stop by occasionally to see what else I might try to defeat these annoying little invaders. And just as a precaution, if you are taking any medications or have any health issues, please talk with your doctor or pharmacist before trying Align or any other supplement.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fibromyalgia Survival Tools: Laptops

As a freelance writer, I can spend hours upon hours at my computer writing and engaging in social media. My writing is currently my only source of income. It is my life and a part of who I am, too.

Nevertheless, as any of you with chronic pain can attest, the body often can’t keep up with everything else. In fact, as I was sitting at my desk writing tonight, I was overwhelmed by a sudden and painful muscle spasm in my lower back. And immediately, I had to get out of my chair and lie down.

This could have easily put a damper on my inspiration and might have brought my writing to an abrupt halt. As a fibro veteran, though, I just switched to lounge mode. I broke out my heating pad and laptop (both of which I keep readily available by my bedside), plopped (well, more like crawled) into bed, and continued from where I left off with my laptop.

Ultimately, laptops are one of the inventions I thank God regularly for. I really can’t imagine my life without my laptop. With the hand cramps I get now while writing and my inability to handle sitting in a chair for too long, I might have given up on my writing long ago. But my laptop gives me much more freedom and flexibility to deal with my unpredictable fibromyalgia.

At one time, I thought that fibromyalgia would be a death sentence--an end to my quality of life and the termination of my dreams. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Having fibrmyalgia can be difficult, but it doesn’t HAVE to stop your life. Never give up. Find ways around your medical condition. Never stop growing and evolving. Ultimately, if the desire is strong enough inside of you, you WILL find a way!

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Tortoise-and-Hare Life

While I was cleaning today, I found some unfinished projects…some things that I should have finished years ago. And I get so incredibly frustrated. Life is full of so many responsibilities and opportunities that it can be a blur. And when you have a chronic medical condition, like fibromyalgia, life can speed by at an even faster pace.

As a little girl, I was really fond of Aesop’s fables. I especially loved The Tortoise and the Hare. Besides the fact that I always wanted a pet turtle, I could easily relate to the tortoise. I wasn’t ever a really fast runner. It seemed like my friends usually left me in their dust. So, the idea of a slow creature beating its speedy competitor really appealed to me. Each time I read that fable I imagined that I was the tortoise and enjoyed every minute of my victory!

Now that I am an adult, though, I’m guilty of wanting to be more like the hare. Instead of creeping along at tortoise speed, I want to be zipping along at lightening fast speed. I get so tired of feeling like the world is constantly racing past me. I want to have boundless energy at my disposal, but unlike the arrogant, lazy hare, I want to seize the day--every day.

Still, I wonder if I would appreciate life and the little things as much as I do now if I were a hare instead of a tortoise. If I were normal without my fibromyalgia holding me back, I might be so busy running here, there, and everywhere that I might not notice the subtle side of life.

Before my major flare up, my daily schedule was so full that I had little to no time to do a lot of the things I enjoy doing. I was so stressed and exhausted that I didn’t even write, something that I can’t stop doing without affecting every other part of me. Yes, I had very good reasons to be so busy (single motherhood, college, etc.), but during those years, I always felt off somehow.

Although I despise my fibromyalgia, I must admit that it has helped to remind me what really matters in life. I was so busy pushing through today to get to the future that I completely forgot the importance of appreciating the here and now. Yes, hard work and goals are important. But we shouldn’t allow the future rob us of today. The future isn’t even guaranteed, and today is gone in the blink of an eye. If we spend all our time looking at the horizon, we miss out on all the wonderful sights and experiences along the way. Perhaps being a tortoise in life DOES have it’s advantages, even though we tortoises don’t usually win the race…

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Battle of the Bloat: Margarine

Photo Credit: Roberto Verzo
The longer I live the more I realize how important it is to listen to our bodies.  Our bodies were designed to tell us when something is wrong, when it requires rest or nourishment, and when we have reached our limits.  However, so many people have learned to simply ignore the signs and signals that our bodies communicate so feel.  We continue on with our busy lives until suddenly this communication becomes so loud it CAN’T be ignored and starts interfering with our lives.

Obviously, it is much more logical and useful to train ourselves to perceive the subtle signs than to wait until our bodies are screaming at us.  Yet, it isn’t always easy to know where to start.  My doctor explained to me that fibro suffers have to make many lifestyle changes if they want to better the quality of their lives.  Any number of things could be causing symptoms or making them worse.

One of these critical areas is diet.  Although research hasn’t pinpointed any foods that are specifically detrimental to those with fibromyalgia, many doctors believe that diet can affect fibro symptoms.  "A lot of people with fibromyalgia have sensitivities to particular foods, but it varies from person to person," Liptan tells WebMD. "They might be sensitive to MSG, certain preservatives, eggs, gluten, dairy, or other common allergens."

As such, paying attention to our bodies' reactions to various foods can help us weed out foods that may be making our symptoms worse or even causing additional symptoms.

Noticing that I get much more bloated and gassy now since my major fibro flare started 4 years ago, I decided it was time to pay closer attention to my body and the foods I was eating.  In time, I started noticing a link between margarine and my bloating.

I was raised on margarine and taught that it was much healthier than butter.  As such, I just adopted this dietary habit without much thought as an adult.  Of course, I wasn't a huge fan of margarine and liked butter a WHOLE lot better.  But I reasoned that sometimes we have to compromise for the sake of the greater good.  Little did I know that this choice, which I hoped would spare me from my parents' heart disease and high cholesterol), was actually causing me discomfort and stomach cramps.

As I started to pay more attention to my eating habits, I noticed that on days when I ate margarine, I had considerably more gas and bloating and sometimes even stomach cramps.  Of course, since I try to get the most nutrients out of my diet, what I eat can vary greatly from day to day.  Consequently, I couldn’t say conclusively that margarine was the actual culprit.  To explore my theory further, I decided to stage a little experiment.  For a whole month, I would avoid margarine and only use butter.

By the end of that month, I realized that my stomach had been telling me all along that it didn’t like margarine.  In fact, it had been telling me within minutes of consuming this food, but I just didn’t notice.  A lot of my margarine usage was when I ate eggs and toast for breakfast.  Each time I ate eggs and toast I got this blah feeling in my stomach, and I had always assumed that it was because my stomach hadn’t been ready for such a big or rich meal.  But guess what happened when I continued to eat eggs and toast but with butter?  That’s right!  I didn’t get that feeling at all…and still don’t over 2 months later.

Some people with fibromyalgia may have no ill effects from margarine, but I know it is one food I should avoid.  Since my switch to butter, my gas and bloating has lessened some.  No, it isn’t completely gone, but that is one less food causing me additional symptoms and taking away from my quality of life.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Kids Made Me a Fibro Warrior

My son at the park

Dealing with a chronic illness can be one of the most difficult journeys in life.  It can leave us feeling hopeless, discouraged, defeated, and shattered.  Deciding how to plan for the rest of your life can seem impossible.  Day-to-day life can be so chaotic and unpredictable on its own.  So sometimes, we are left wondering how we can push on indefinitely.

Ultimately, it’s critical to not focus on our illness too directly.  Yes, we need to familiarize ourselves with our condition because knowledge is the best medicine in the fight against our health issues.  However, too much focus will only consume us and rob us of all the positives in our lives.  Instead, we must find the inspiration and motivation to never quit fighting from the blessings in our lives.

One of my biggest sources of positivity and strength when my life seems to be falling in on me is my kids.  When I feel like a failure they remind me that I’m a wonderful mother.  When loneliness and grief over the life I’ve lost threatens to take over they always seem to there with a hug, kiss, or smile when I need it the most.  When I feel like I’m too tired to press on anymore they give me purpose and determination once more.

Seeing the love in their eyes and watching them try to be just like me, I can clearly see that they look up to me and think I’m invincible.  Little do they know that they are the main reason why I am a fibromyalgia warrior.  They are the heart of my daily battles with my own body.  And they keep me bouncing back, rearing and ready to give it a try another day.

I have other people and things that strengthen me as well (i.e., my fiancĂ©, my faith in God, my creativity), but my children were the ones that originally made it clear that I could never, EVER accept defeat.  I was a single mother at the time, so I knew that my children’s wellbeing depended on me and me alone.  No matter how bad I felt I promised myself that I would never let them down or quit being there for them!

Where do you find your motivation and inspiration to continue your daily struggle with chronic illness?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spreading My Fibro Story

I just started writing for a new site called  As my first article, I submitted a piece about the top 3 things I feel everyone with fibromyalgia should not live without.  I am hoping by spreading the word about fibromyalgia on more sites, understanding will grow and more people will receive the proper support they deserve.  If you are new to fibromyalgia, have a loved one suffering from this difficult condition, or are simply curious, stop on over and read a little more about my story and my take on coping with fibromyalgia:

Top 3 Fibromyalgia Essentials
Submitted by ARDollak on March 08th, 2013
Category: Health

The National Fibromyalgia Association(1) explains that fibromyalgia “is characterized by chronic widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and often psychological distress.” As a fibromyalgia sufferer, I personally know how difficult and frustrating this chronic condition can be. It can turn your entire life upside down, leaving you feeling lost, hopeless, and alone. It affects your relationships, your work life, and even the simplest of chores. You can go from a completely happy and active individual to someone who can’t even make it out of bed on the worst of days. Because fibromyalgia is a difficult syndrome to treat, there are 3 things that are vital for those with fibromyalgia.
Continue reading here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My War on Germs

Empty antibiotic bottle

I don’t know anyone who enjoys being sick.  Sore throats, fevers, achiness, stomachaches, headaches, and a general blah feeling—they are all a pain in the neck, and at the first sign of illness, we scramble to find someway to alleviate our symptoms and get through it all faster!  We just don’t have the time or the desire to deal with even the slightest of colds.

Unfortunately, dealing with a chronic health issue (such as fibromyalgia) just complicates things.  I don’t know about you, but I know that my little sicknesses tend to not be so little anymore now that I have fibro.  I also tend to get sick more often now, and the illnesses last longer.  It is as though my body is so worn out from dealing with my chronic condition that it doesn’t have necessary resources to kill germs immediately.

On top of this, I have also discovered that being sick often causes an increase in my fibromyalgia symptoms.  I become a stumbling, miserable zombie whenever I get sick now.  In fact, I was out of commission for over a week recently because I was sick on top of a fibro flare.  I was so incredibly thankful when I finally took the last of my antibiotics and woke up feeling much more myself a couple days later!

Frankly, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!  I have enough on my plate with my fibromyalgia before adding viruses and bacteria into the equation.  As such, I’ve decided that it’s time to take action and find ways to lessen my chances of catching something.  I know it’s easier said than done, but I certainly abhor getting sick, and if I can I avoid even a minute of illness, I’m game!

Over the next week or so, I’m going to research ways to build my immune system and tips for generally staying healthy.  This last bacterial infection was so awful that I’m officially declaring war on any and every germ lurking in vicinity.  I’m finished playing fair.  It’s time to turn another page that will help lead to a happier and healthier me.

Please check back later throughout the month.  I will be sharing some of the research and tips here, so you can join me as well.  Here’s to good health and less sick days!