Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Day 128 - Yoga

“Yoga is a system of philosophy that originated in India 5,000 years ago. The Sanskrit word yoga is translated as 'union' between mind, body and spirit.

In the West, the most widely taught form of yoga is Hatha Yoga with classes offering students exercises to stretch and flex the body, develop breath awareness, relaxation and sometimes meditation.

Asanas (yoga postures) strengthen and tone the body and improve the flow of energy - regulating physical systems of the body and breath, and stilling the mind for meditation.

The objective in asana work is not how far you can stretch or contort your body, but to combine stability (stira) with ease/relaxation (sukha). Simple breathing techniques are also taught to develop awareness and relaxation of the breath.

Yoga offers a holistic approach to body, mind and spirit, which can provide us with the ‘tools’ to cope with the challenges of daily life. Yoga can also complement medical science and therapy for specific conditions.”*


Yoga has become a bit too much of a trend in the past few years for my liking, but the health benefits associated with it cannot really be put into question.

My sister has spoken highly about yoga and suggests I give it a go. I can barely reach my knees when my legs are straight, and thought that a yoga class would no doubt be a challenge.

I further realized this in class, when the sixty year old woman next to me was hugging her toes as her left leg casually rested around her neck, whilst I - nearly forty years her junior - was struggling to reach my ankles.

Despite these difficulties, the first lesson proved to be a success. Today I went to the second class, this time taught by a young Indian fellow.

During the unwinding session at the end of the class, we were told to imagine our bodies gently floating upwards, towards the ceiling, and beyond, over the rooftops and towards the sky.

I find it hard as it is to relax and unwind, and the teacher’s strong Delhi accent today made it no easier to take the whole class very seriously. He told us to drift away and defy gravity... “And now you see a green parrot coming towards you” - that did it. I bit my lip and longed for the class to end so I could snigger at myself in the changing rooms.

The yoga classes have therefore been entertaining, and certainly useful. No improvement on the headache front, but at least I know I am doing something healthy for both the body and the mind.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Day 124 - Nightshade Foods

"Potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne, and Tabasco sauce are classified as nightshade foods.
In the diet of Europe and Asia, only one nightshade food was eaten until recent times: the aubergine or eggplant. Then, in the 1600s and 1700s food and drug crops based on nightshades were imported from the Americas and for the past 400 years have penetrated and become ubiquitous in the Western diet. These include tobacco, tomatoes, potatoes and chili peppers.
Nightshades all contain nicotine in some form, although it may be named solanine (potatoes), tomatine (tomatoes), alpha-solanine (aubergine) or solanadine (chillies and capsicums).
A particular group of substances in these foods, called alkaloids, can impact nerve-muscle function and digestive function in animals and humans, and may also be able to compromise joint function.
Plants produce alkaloids as a regular part of their biochemical activity, and these alkaloids are primarily designed to help protect the plants from insects that would otherwise eat them.
It is now apparent that there are groups of people who cannot tolerate nightshades in their diets, wish to avoid them anyway or find that eliminating them helps alleviate a variety of mental, emotional and physical problems."*

I saw the kinesiologist again today. There hasn’t been much improvement since the first appointment. But I know it all takes time.

All I can do is wait (and hope).

The kinesiologist muscle tested me for food intolerances as he believes these may well be a contributing factor to my headache.

He told me to avoid tomatoes, potatoes, and, generally, all nightshade foods. I didn’t know all these foods (including aubergines and chillis) all fell into the same ominous sounding category as they all grow at night (hence the name nightshades), and, very interestingly, they all contain traces of nicotine (tobacco is also a nightshade). Ever had a really strong craving for a cheese and tomato pizza? Or a curry?

I looked back at my food diary that I kept in The Gambia and noticed that I was eating nightshades on a daily basis - with spicy chicken and tomatoes as one of The Gambia’s main dishes, it was hard to steer clear of many nightshade vegetables.

My new task is to continue taking my supplements and to rigorously exclude nightshades from my diet.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Day 122 - Kidneys

“The kidneys are bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located near the middle of the back, just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine.

Every day, a person’s kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to sift out about 2 quarts of waste products and extra water. The wastes and extra water become urine, which flows to the bladder through tubes called ureters. The bladder stores urine until releasing it through urination.

In addition to removing wastes, the kidneys also make red blood cells, regulate blood pressure and maintain calcium in the bones and a normal chemical balance in the body.

Kidney function is now calculated using a blood sample and a formula to find the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). The eGFR corresponds to the percent of kidney function available.

A person’s blood is tested to see how many milligrams of creatinine are in one deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Creatinine levels in the blood can vary, and each laboratory has its own normal range, usually 0.6 to 1.2 mg/dL. A person whose creatinine level is only slightly above this range will probably not feel sick, but the elevation is a sign that the kidneys are not working at full strength.”*


My GFR and creatinine levels were high in the test I did a few days ago (see Day 120 - Celiac Disease). I have therefore had to take another more detailed examination to find out exactly where the problem lies.

This is the first result in four months that has come out as abnormal, and it has certainly raised my hopes that I may finally be getting to the root of my inexplicable headache.

I called the GP again today to get the results of the second kidney test.

Everything was normal. She explained that creatinine values are so variable and can be affected by diet. I may not have drunk enough water or may have eaten something which influenced the results when I took the test the first time round.

Back to square one, yet again.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Day 120 - Celiac Disease

“Celiac disease is caused by an immune reaction to gliadin, a specific protein that is a component of gluten.
Gliadin closely resembles the enzyme tissue transglutaminase which is present in the tissue of the small intestine. When food containing gluten, and thus gliadin, is eaten, the body's immune system whilst attacking the food protein also attacks the tissue of the small intestine due to its tissue transglutaminase content.

This immune response causes an inflammatory reaction that leads to flattening of the villi, the brush-like filaments that line the walls of the small intestine. The villi greatly increase the surface area of the small intestine and therefore increase the absorption of nutrients. The damage caused in celiac disease results in serious problems absorbing nutrients from food.

The grain most associated with celiac disease is wheat. This is due not only to its gluten content but also to the fact that it is a staple in most western nations.

The disease most often effects people of European (especially Northern European) descent. Rates amongst people of African, Japanese, and Chinese descent are much lower. This is thought to be due to a combination of less genetic susceptibility and low wheat diets.”*


I decided to do a celiac test. Just in case.

A friend has had the condition for years and suggested I take a test. Celiac disease manifests itself in different ways, but a general feeling of malaise is common.

Headache can be one of the symptoms, and come to think about it I eat wheat on a regular basis. When I was small, a vega test had confirmed that I was wheat intolerant, and should avoid it where possible.

There is therefore a possibility of having celiac disease.

I went to see my GP last week. This time I only briefly explained my symptom(s) (I pointed out the “headache specialist” and the neurologist’s letters as “proof” in order to avoid the usual spiel), and asked to be put forward for a celiac test.

This morning I got my blood test result: celiac was negative, but the kidney results were abnormal. Finally something!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Day 116 - MRI Scan

“MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a fairly new technique that has been used since the beginning of the 1980s.

The MRI scan uses magnetic and radio waves, meaning that there is no exposure to X-rays or any other damaging forms of radiation.

Radio waves 10,000 to 30,000 times stronger than the magnetic field of the earth are then sent through the body. This affects the body's atoms, forcing the nuclei into a different position. As they move back into place they send out radio waves of their own. The scanner picks up these signals and a computer turns them into a picture. These pictures are based on the location and strength of the incoming signals.

With an MRI scan it is possible to take pictures from almost every angle, whereas a CT scan only shows pictures horizontally. There is no ionizing radiation (X-rays) involved in producing an MRI scan. MRI scans are generally more detailed, too. The difference between normal and abnormal tissue is often clearer on the MRI scan than on the CT scan.”*


A few weeks ago I discovered that the outrageously priced CT scan I did in January was not of my entire head as I has previously thought, rather only - I kid you not - of my nostrils.

I am therefore still concerned about the possibility of having something in my brain that is causing the headache.

I went to hospital today for the MRI scan. I had already had one done, in January, for my bad shoulder so I knew how it worked.

I was asked to change and was given a white gown to put on. A little boy who had been put to sleep was wheeled by and taken to the MRI room. I was told I would be in after him.

I was strapped to the bed and pushed inside the tunnel, a large, cylinder-shaped magnet. As the machine emits a loud banging sound, patients are always supplied with headphones (usually accompanied by soothing music) to occlude the noise.

There was a problem with the headphones, and I was handed a couple of earplugs instead.

The scan lasted for about twenty loud minutes.

As much as I would like something to show up in my tests, in a way I am hoping nothing will show in this MRI, given the pivotal role the brain plays in the human body.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Day 107 - Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

“Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ, TMJD or TMD) affects the temporomandibular joint, an area that includes the hinge jaw joint (the bridge for the lower jaw or mandible) and the temporal bone of the skull located in front of each ear, the muscles surrounding the jaw and the jaw itself.

The most common factor contributing to TMJ is a bite problem affecting the joint itself. Interferences in the structure of individual teeth may force displacement of the lower jaw, leading the muscles to position the joints out of their sockets to force the upper and lower teeth to fit together. Anatomical factors within the joint or surrounding muscles (such as the presence of scar tissue) may also interfere with the bite and cause TMJ disorder.

People with TMJ may experience severe pain and discomfort in the face, jaw joint, neck and shoulders. You may also experience swelling on the side of the face, toothaches, headaches, neck aches, earaches and hearing problems.

The pain and discomfort caused by TMJ disorder may be severe, can be either intermittent or constant and may last for many years.”*


My mother is convinced my headache is related to TMJ. TMJ symptoms are often mistaken for migraine headache, sinus trouble, ear infection, or toothache.

During the dental consultation, the dentist evaluated the possibility of having TMJ through electrical nerve stimulation. She placed some adhesive pads over my jaw joint which transfered data to a computer monitor via a tracking devise. For 45 minutes an electric-shock like pain was produced, stimulating my facial muscles and causing my jaw to jolt.

The hyperactivity of the face and of my jaw muscles was recorded to determine whether or not the jaw is in a strained position.

The entire test lasted a grand three hours. I explained that I do not grind my teeth at night, and do not have difficulty when chewing.

At the end of the consultation, the dentist determined that no structural disorder exists. Despite this, she prescribed a mouth guard to reduce the possible effects of tooth grinding and clenching.

She explained that the appliance would also possibly help improve my bite and the ability for the lower jaw to fall properly into the temporomandibular joint socket.

Following the appointment, it seems evident that my jaw is not causing the problem, but I have nothing to lose by wearing the guard at night. I might as well give it a go.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Day 103 - Kinesiology

"Kinesiology (pronounced kin-easy-ology) primarily uses muscle testing to gather information about the body's physical, chemical and emotional function and identifies any imbalances. In doing so, kinesiology can then aid the body's natural healing process by helping to correct these imbalances.

Kinesiology proposes that each muscle has a connection to an organ and also to energy that flows around the body through pathways (known as meridian channels). If a muscle test highlights an imbalance in the muscle, there could be stresses placed on the related organ and a blockage in the flow of energy. This affects a person's physical and emotional well-being.

American chiropractor George Goodheart is considered the father of kinesiology. In 1964, Goodheart proposed that muscle testing can be therapeutic as well as diagnostic. His 'Applied Kinesiology' used muscle testing methods and also utilised the Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy of meridian channels. Goodheart's kinesiology system uses correctional techniques, massage and nutritional advice to create a holistic therapy."*


The osteopath emailed me the other day, reassuring me that I am “not in the age group for this [fibromyalgia] condition”.

Although it has become apparent that I do not have fibromyalgia, the initial shock of possibly having the illness has really affected me. As a result, I feel hurt and let down by him and am therefore more than happy to move on and go ahead with another treatment.

A very close friend told me that her boyfriend suffered from a persistent headache for over one year when he was only 16. He did innumerable blood tests, scans, and saw doctors who were reputedly amongst the best in the UK. The story sounded familiar.

He eventually managed to fight his headache through kinesiology.

This morning I went to see his kinesiologist, who he zealously recommended.

Once again, I recounted what I have been through in the past few months. I was relieved when I was cut short and asked to lie on the bed.

Just the thought of recounting what I have done or who I have seen due to the headache is exhausting. Furthermore, the story gets longer and more complex as time goes on.

The kinesiologist worked on my back and explained I had two vertebrae out of place. I was surprised the osteopath hadn’t noticed, as a misplaced vertebra - let alone two - is not exactly something easy to overlook.

He then ‘muscle tested’ me, whereby he examined which internal organs were weak, or not functioning properly, by making me exert pressure on my arm or leg muscles.

“Each muscle is related to an internal organ”, he explained to me. “When your arm or leg weakens as I exert pressure on one of your organs, your body is telling me it is weak and needs strengthening. Basically, that part of the body needs help.”

The kinesiologist believes my headaches are somehow related to my gut.

He has suggested taking some supplements to correct and alleviate the headache, including Vitamin C, lactose free probiotics and oil supplements.