Joint Inflammation

Mother Nature

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By a certain age, one hopes to have developed an ability to discern fact from fiction and the charlatans from the true healers. But as the years creep up we can become less certain about some things and more open-minded to alternatives. Sometimes, trial and error works best.

We live in a strange time. It was not long ago, when personal grooming was confined to the privacy of one’s home. Nowadays just about everything is on display and as a result, this blog post, I fear, will fit right in.

Gentlemen, you may wish to exit to a more masculine site at this time, however, if you live with a woman (or more than one) or know of someone going through some health challenges, this post may provide you with some ideas to ponder and suggestions to offer.

To all readers: I don’t promise any answers, but rather hope to provide questions as fuel for your own research. To be clear, this post is not meant to provide any medical advice, rather I am sharing information that proved to be useful for my particular situation. I am not connected in any way with any of the sources I cite.

I have wanted to share this information for some time, but have felt a little uncertain as how to broach the subject. Today, I received a comment from a concerned forty-four year old woman. She sounds a lot like me from a few years back; with joint inflammation and she’s blood type O. She has worked with an Osteopath and sees an RMT, so she is proactive in her self care. She said she will start exploring eating for her blood type to see if that reduces her joint inflammation.

Before reading on, you might view my blog post called Motivation for some background here. In it I describe how after having two pregnancies and nursing, my body’s chemistry was off which led to complications including a depleted immune system and joint inflammation. There are some things I didn’t get into, for two reasons: 1) I was already going into too much detail, which I thought would have heads spinning and 2) it just felt too personal so early in my blogging.

It’s time to talk about our hormones. Do you recall the book I have referenced called “Younger Next Year“? In it, Dr. Henry Lodge suggests that by age thirty the ageing process begins. Yes, thirty! At thirty I was more concerned with conceiving my first child. The thought of ageing was not on my radar at all. Ageing was something I’d deal with when I got there. News flash, I’m there…most of you reading this are there and some are well into it. What about those not registering on the radar? Read on and pack this information into your back pocket, it may prove to be useful later.

Like most women, I would visit an aesthetician from time to time. I found myself at the office of a reputable dermatologist, and was the new client of a fifty year old aesthetician named Janice; a woman with a wealth of information and experience. Naturally, we got to talking about everything from exercise to health and hormones. I described for her some of the challenges I had been facing and because she had been there she picked up on some key points. She suggested the name of a book that I might consider reading: Estrogen’s Storm Season, by Dr. Jerilynn Prior.

I ordered the book immediately and read it within two days. And so began my journey.

Let’s back up for a moment. At thirty-three years of age, our second child was born. (I nursed both babies until they were 16 months and 19 months respectively). By thirty-five years of age I started having ‘hot flushes’. Are you kidding me? At thirty-five?! It must be something else, right? I mentioned it to my doctor, but the consensus was that I was too young. My eyesight was changing too. Suddenly I was having difficulty reading my computer screen. I started having skin crawling sensations (the feeling that a loose hair or small insect was crawling on my skin). Normally a deep sleeper, I started experiencing night sweats which contributed to restless sleep. Daytime chills which were my version of day time hot flushes. Mood swings. Excessive amounts of discharge. Joint pain. Menstrual flooding. Oh, and let’s not forget about reaching the age when sneezing or laughing becomes a concern…hmmm. All these symptoms suggest high levels of Estrogen production, which is typical during peri-menopause.

Mind you, all these symptoms didn’t happen all at once. They crept up gradually, overlapping sometimes, coming and going. I felt like I was barely hanging on, trying to focus on caring for my young family and – seriously – trying to navigate this storm that was welling up inside me.

So, in an effort to help myself, I would visit my doctor – often. I felt like a hypochondriac. There were these real things going on with me that we couldn’t do anything about…yet, I presented like a healthy person. My eyes were clear, my blood pressure was normal and my blood work came back in the normal range. Except I had this mysterious joint inflammation that would come and go and my menstrual cycle had gradually changed. My cycle had always been 28 days. Over time it had dwindled down to between fifteen and twenty days. That’s just too frequent.

I tried to keep a record of when my joint pain would flare up and for how long it would last. It seemed to happen occasionally just prior to my cycle, so linking it with my cycle and shift in hormone levels felt like a reasonable place to start. Finally, my doctor suggested I try going on the pill to regulate my hormones and menstrual cycle as an experiment to see if it were my hormones which were causing my joint pain.

I did three cycles of the pill without a break, which meant no menstrual cycle for that time frame. The result: no joint pain – were we on to something? But sometimes I would go for a few months without pain, so I wasn’t convinced that I was on the right track. Besides the usual side effects from the pill, I wasn’t interested in taking the pill until I reached menopause, which was their recommendation.

This is where, Estrogen’s Storm Season comes in. Dr. Jerilynn Prior, suggests that during peri-menopause we tend to naturally have higher levels of Estrogen which contributes to the above mentioned symptoms. So for me, by taking the pill, which is loaded with more estrogen and only a very minute amount of progesterone, I was adding to my problem. I didn’t need more Estrogen, apparently, I was producing more than I needed.

“Regarding OHT (Ovarian Hormone Therapy), Dr. Prior has never advocated the wide use of hormones as an ongoing “replacement” for menopause. She does not think menopause is a medical condition that should be “fixed”, but is instead a normal stage of life.

According to Dr. Prior, there are only three main reasons to recommend OHT:

  1. if a woman is experiencing early menopause (<45 with hot flushes and for sure < 40)
  2. hot flushes are interfering with sleep and
  3. for prevention of osteoporosis. For hot flushes progesterone is equally effective as estrogen.”

“…We have used the word ‘menopause’ to mean everything that’s changing in midlife women, as well as to indicate the final menstrual flow. Now days, “menopause” is used specifically to mean that a year has passed since your final menstrual flow. ‘Perimenopause’…means the years of change before menopause.”

-from Dr. Jerilynn Prior’s website: CEMCOR to view her explanation of the Phases of Peri-menopause through to Menopause click here.

After a lot of back and forth with mainstream doctors, I discussed this situation with the M.D. I go to who consults in Homeopathy. He uses Electrodermal Testing to aid with diagnosis. Though all the doctors I spoke with were familiar with Dr. Prior’s theories, my mainstream doctors were still unwavering that Estrogen was the right course of action. My ‘Homeopathic Consultant’ agreed with her theories but felt that I didn’t need the high doses of progesterone which she recommends. The Electrodermal Test confirmed I would benefit from a specified dose. Over time, with chart taking (on my part) and paying close attention to my body, I was able to fine tune the levels with my ‘consultant’.

I printed copies of the Peri-menopausal charts/diaries from Dr. Jerilynn Prior’s CEMCOR website and kept strict record of everything for four months before I made any changes to my diet or started bio-identical progesterone. I kept track of my hot flushes, restless sleeps, even my morning temperature! Everything. How much and what type of exercise / activity I did each day, if I experienced any constipation, levels of mucous secretion, interest in sex, appetite, etc. I added my own lines for mood swings, clumsiness, chocolate and the list of vitamins/ minerals or homeopathic remedies I was taking. You can view and print a blank template of the chart/ diary here (and the instructions for use, here). I highly recommend that every woman do this especially if you have health issues creeping in. I wish I had been given a chart like this when I was a teen, it sure would have helped to navigate and bring more awareness to the natural fluctuations which would allow for more preparation (read: emotional preparation). I wonder why doctors don’t automatically offer this kind of self-help guidance? I know I will present the adolescent chart/diary to my daughter when the time is right for her.

A lot of women I talk with tell me that they are lucky because in their family lineage the women don’t develop these problems. Truly lucky. But I do wonder, for women in previous generations seemed to be much more discrete.


View of Mountains in Zion National Park, Utah,...

What motivates me is very different from what inspires me.

I mentioned in an earlier post how I had been unwell for a few years.  Here’s the breakdown.

After the birth of our kids I was very sleep deprived, going non-stop during the day and what seemed like non-stop in the night; not so uncommon for new mothers.  I seemed to pick up any cold or flu with which the kids came into contact.  It felt like I was sick and tired all the time.  Once the kids were two and four, they woke less frequently throughout the night and I was starting to sleep more and get fewer colds.  I started back to a regular yoga practice and was feeling much better.  Until, one joint at a time started to become inflamed for what seemed like a few months only to get better and move on to another joint.  It was very peculiar, worrisome and exhausting.  I spent a lot of time researching, visiting doctors, physiotherapists and traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners.  Anyone, really, who might be able to figure out what was going on.

Long story short, I visited the Arthritis Society who suggested I had Palindromic Rheumatism, a type of rheumatism, which ‘comes and goes’.  What?!!

I was thirty-six at the time.  I researched again.  I tried eliminating certain foods from my diet, based on the studies done on arthritis and rheumatism.

There were months where I felt completely fine, to periods where my hands were so sore I couldn’t tie my kids’ shoelaces or put a fitted sheet on the mattress without difficulty and pain.  Other times I would walk around with what felt like a fractured foot or hand.  This was shocking to me.  I was too young for this and could only imagine how much worse it would get with time.  As a physically active person my future looked bleak.  I blamed myself, wondering if all the years I had spent doing sport or working out (sometimes in the extreme) had caught up with me and it was pay back time.

Not long after these episodes started, I went for a long-weekend getaway with my mother-in-law to Hawaii.  I took in a lot of sun, relaxation and fit in some runs.  Sadly, I came home with a cough that lasted nine months.  I had x-rays, pulmonary function tests, you name it, but the doctors couldn’t find anything amiss.  For this entire period not only had I lost any desire to exercise, but I was physically unable to do any except for some light walking.  This was not me.

After about seven months and what felt like a broken rib from all the coughing, I finally took my friends’ advice and went to see her MD who consulted in Homeopathic Medicine.  After two months of homeopathic remedies, my cough was losing momentum and by the four-month mark there was no cough to be heard.  Who knows, maybe the cough had run its course?  Maybe it was the homeopathic remedies?  I don’t know, no one really knows.  But whatever it was that stopped me from coughing, I am grateful.

Now back to the inflamed aching joints.  It seemed like my whole body chemistry was off, which is not uncommon after pregnancy. My ferritin (iron) levels tested low so I started taking a daily Iron Citrate supplement. My thyroid test result at 10.8 was in the low-normal range.  Normal range is from 10 – 20.  But I was feeling far from normal. What if my normal should be closer to 20?  My homeopath recommended a low dose of Iodine.  After two months my free T4 test result had gone up to 12.6 – my eyelashes were growing back and I was running on real energy, not on my adrenals.  About a month before I started the Iodine, I also started to “Eat Right For Your Type”.  I was ready to try anything (natural!) that would help.  I don’t like taking medication and so working with food as medicine appealed to me.

I tried eating for my blood type in 1999, a few years after Dr. Peter D’Adamo’s book was published but since my husband and I rarely cooked at home it was overwhelming to follow the program while going to restaurants.  So we both gave up.  Fast forward to the present.  Five months ago I decided I would give it a real effort.  I had been eating a lot of foods recommended in the media as super-foods but my joints were telling me differently.  I’d reference “Eat for Your Type” and low and behold all those super-foods were on my avoid list.  Yikes!  So I eliminated them and my joint pain went away.

As a stay at home mom I am always grocery shopping and in the kitchen so the timing was perfect.  I focused on eating the foods that are in the Beneficial list, which react to the body like medicine and I avoid the foods from the Avoid list, which are dramatically defined as a poison to one’s system.  The end result?  My joint pain is mostly gone.  I can tell which foods trigger a bout of pain.  It’s all very fascinating.  But this was my experiment.  So far it is working for me.  It may be less convenient to follow a regimented program like this but I’ve got to tell you, it’s way less inconvenient than the debilitating joint pain I was living with.  Being pain free is what motivates me.

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

-Alan Cohen

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”

-Alan Cohen, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.