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eat the pain away?

nearly twenty years ago, an emergency room doctor took a look at the crushing muscle tension i was experiencing [they were clenched enough that a doctor at my regular clinic couldn't get a reflex reaction on my left side and thought i might be having a stroke] and told me she believed that i had fibromyalgia. a couple of weeks later, i went to see a family doctor that a coworker had recommended to me. when i told him what the other doctor had said, he snapped that i was being ridiculous, because, if i'd had fibromyalgia, "i wouldn't be able to move". after i moved to toronto, i got a new family doctor and told her what the other doctors had said. she said that she couldn't be sure, but it was better just to deal with any symptoms i had one at a time. then i came back to montreal and got a new family doctor, who didn't really buy into the whole idea of fibromyalgia and said there was no way to do any definitive test anyway. that doctor passed away, and my dossier passed to his successor, who seemed to agree with the original doctor that i probably had fibromyalgia, but didn't know what to do with that information. [medications like lyrica and neurontin, which show the greatest promise in combating fibromyalgia, are known to aggravate depression and suicidal ideation, and mental health is a bigger problem area for me than the physical pain, as bad as that is.] somewhere in there, a naturopath told me that fibromyalgia didn't exist, or was probably very rare, and that symptoms were more often indicative of vitamin, mineral and other imbalances. [although, in that case, it should affect men and women in equal measure, which it absolutely does not.]

so, after all of these medical opinions, i've still never had a clear-cut diagnosis, and i still find myself in considerable pain every single day. the constant stress in the muscles of my neck, shoulders and upper back has actually affected the shape of my body, with one side being visibly bulkier than the other. i have been prescribed a lot of medications to deal with this, none of which have worked. [my doctor even agreed to give neurontin and lyrica a try, but the former did nothing while the latter worked a few weeks and then abruptly stopped.] the latest prescription was an industrial-strength muscle relaxant, which seems to do nothing but knock me out for hours.

so, the doctor-patient dance is one that i've done with multiple partners for nearly two decades, and the pain in question is something that i've had for even longer. i've given up hope of any help from the medical community and have spent a lot of time reading about what fibromyalgia is and how to control it. [i still waffle on saying i have it or not, although i lean towards yes.] as with all medical conditions, the information that's available is often contradictory and a lot of it has no scientific backing to it whatsoever. there is also a lot of debate over where certain things fall in the cause-effect chain: is lowered co-q10 a symptom of having fibromyalgia or are low levels the origin point that sets the rest of the dominoes in motion? are hyperactive nerves at the root of the problem? or are the nerves just getting really shitty instructions because the pain measurement areas of the brain are seeing too much blood flow action? or maybe the problem is actually driven by the skin?

the one thing that is clear is that inflammation is a really important factor. people with fibromyalgia have high levels of inflammatory substances in their blood and cerebrospinal fluid. now, doctors can't be sure whether the inflammation is a symptom or a cause, but they are sure that, if you get the inflammation under control, the common features of fibromyalgia- pain, weakness, confusion, exhaustion, skin conditions, even cardiac problems- are reduced when inflammatory substances in the body are reduced. [you needed medical journals to tell you that? pfft. -ed.]

a few nights back, i cooked up about half of a large slab of salmon that dom's parents gave us. the next day, i was surprised to find that i felt better than i had in weeks, if not longer. salmon, and oily fish in general [tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel] are one of the best sources of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids*. so when i cooked up the other half of the salmon, i decided to pay closer attention to my reaction. yup, another day of feeling better. since then, i've taken steps to increase the number of anti-inflammatory foods i've eaten while limiting things like processed sugars and white starches that can cause inflammation. then i wrenched my neck, possibly from having a cat sleep on my head... that's thrown a wrench in the whole "am i reducing inflammation?" thing, but i have noticed that i've had more energy than i've had for months and possibly longer, and that my mood has been pretty positive. [unfortunately, that's something i have to monitor, since my other conditions mean that "happy" can get "too happy" relatively quickly.]

of course, these things aren't necessarily related to the shift in eating patterns. it should take longer than this to feel the effects of a shift in diet, so my body could just be playing tricks. but on the chance that these things are related, i've decided to continue the experiment. this isn't an original idea by any means, since anti-inflammatory eating is thought to be a rising trend. but, it isn't something i've tried to implement as a regimen in the past. [and although there's no official recommendation about reduced inflammation and multiple sclerosis, i'm hopeful it might help with dom's symptoms at the same time.]

there are different opinions on the very best foods for fighting inflammation, but things like sour cherries, berries, cruciferous vegetables and, of course, oily fish, are consistently ranked near the top. so, as a starting point, i'm increasing those and decreasing other things.

that's my very long-winded announcement for the day, and my way of saying that i'll be trying to give [shorter] periodic updates on what the effects are. 

if you've had interesting experiences with other diets, please feel free to share them!

*there are legitimate concerns about mercury levels in certain oily fish, however, the smaller ones, particularly sardines, don't have the problems of their larger cousins like tuna. even something as big as a salmon is safer

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