Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Supplements To Counter Ill Health

My migraines had reached a level of frenzied frequency last month and constant travel, stress of various kinds, disruption in food and sleep did not help.  It was a time I was on pain killers half the month and finally I felt that enough was enough.  My migraines are triggered by hormonal changes in relative levels of estrogen and progesterone (I have figured this out on my own), so they are triggered repetitively each month.  Several women I know say they experience these (Asian women have lower levels of estrogen, and are therefore more susceptible to migraines apparently) and menopause is the solution, something I don't agree with in principle!!  Apart from this, who wants to wait that long??

Migraine sufferers know that there is no universal solution, each one has to work his (or her) way through the condition and hope for the best.  Circumstances, lifestyle and temperaments dictate choices.  For me, the first choice is always nutrition (perhaps having been brought up with a mother who was a nutritionist), and I began a search for information on diet and migraines.

Of course, there are the usual trigger foods that one has to avoid, but there are also a lot of supplements which seem to help some people.  The internet is a vast (albeit slightly biased) source of information, and internet delivery services make many things accessible to us which were not earlier.  This helped me choose my nutritional supplements.

About two weeks ago, I began to add supplements to my diet.  Magnesium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin D and vitamin E.  Also a highly purified extract of feverfew, which is the only known western herb which can be safely taken for migraine relief.

Around the same time, I began to take my son to the swimming pool evryday, where he and I splash around for 45 minutes.  Exercise always helps migraines, and I find swimming and running in combination with yoga to be ideal (if one has the time, which I don't right now!).

Most treatments are said to take effect in 2 to 3 months, but I have already noticed a decrease in intensity (and more recently perhaps in frequency as well).  I have also noticed an increase in energy, both physical and mental.  I am also sleeping a little better.  Long term control will require optimising safe combinations but this is a positive beginning.  In a short while, I hope to return to my yoga and also to get some acupuncture treatment, which has always helped me.  And I will take it from there.

The role of specific nutritional supplements in reinforcing good health and in relieving even drastic symptoms has long been discussed.  Linus Pauling's theories on the role of vitamin C in curing heart disease and cancer continues to be debated and there are innumerable such examples and other studies in progress.

A recent very interesting scientific study (published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences in March 28, 2017) showed that giving mothers who had recently given birth certain selected protein components (tyrosine, tryptophan) and blueberry juice and extract (rich in anti-oxidants) helped greatly in reducing the depression that often arises after delivery.  This depression is triggered by the sharp decline in (100 fold of) estrogen and (50 fold of) progesterone hormones and an equally sharp rise in other molecules that increase oxidation.  The activity of many molecules that ultimately contribute to this postpartum depression can apparently be lowered just by taking a small set of nutritional supplements.  I looked up the kinds of foods that tryptophan and tyrosine are normally present in and I could see that a traditional Indian diet (specially vegetarian) prescribed currently for new mothers will not contain high levels of any of these molecules.  It's probably time to reassess our nutritional needs based on some of this emerging evidence especially because postpartum depression is far from being on the decline (and given modern lifestyles, it may well be on the rise, I don't know).

Finally, I quote from an old book that belonged to my mother, a book I have always enjoyed dwelling upon."Anatomy Of An Illness as Perceived by The Patient', by Norman Cousins (who managed his crippling illness on his own when conventional medicine had no solutions to offer)-

"Pain Is Not The Enemy-

We know very little about pain and what we don't know makes it hurt all the more.  Indeed no form of illiteracy in the United States is so widespread or costly as the ignorance about pain - what it is, what causes it, how to deal with it without panic.

...Of all forms of pain, none is more important for the individual to understand than the 'threshold' variety.  Almost everyone has a telltale ache that is triggered whenever tension or fatigue reaches a certain point.  It can take the form of a migraine type headache or a squeezing pain deep in the abdomen or cramps or pain in the lower back or even pain in the joints.  The individual who has learned how to make the correlation between such threshold pains and their cause doesn't panic when they occur, he or she does something about relieving the stress and tension.  Then if the pain persists despite the absence of apparent cause, the individual will telephone the doctor.

If ignorance about pain is widespread, ignorance about the way pain killing drugs work is even more so.  What is not generally understood is that many of the vaunted pain-killing drugs conceal the pain without correcting the underlying condition.  They deaden the mechanism in the body that alerts the brain to the fact that something may be wrong.  The body can pay a high price for suppression of pain without regard to its basic cause."

We are far from understanding basic causes and effects that happen in our bodies, but my recent experiences have made me more open to taking supplements in terms of nutrition and alternate medicine, even though I don't completely understand how they work, as long as I seem to feel stronger and more balanced from within.


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