Thursday, 27 August 2009

Day 249 - Parasites

“Parasites are organisms that obtain nourishment and shelter from other organisms. In this association, the parasite derives all the benefits, whereas the host may either be unaffected or suffer harmful consequences, with the development of a parasitic disease.

The parasites responsible for these diseases are called obligate if they can live only in association with a host and facultative if they can live either in a host or independently. Furthermore, the parasites vary widely in size and complexity, from relatively simple unicellular protozoans (eg, amebae) to more complex multicellular organisms (eg, worms, flukes).

Parasitic diseases are distributed worldwide, with a higher prevalence in developing countries, especially in areas with inadequate sanitation. Some of these diseases are restricted to tropical and subtropical regions. Parasitic diseases represent one of the most common types of human infection throughout the world and are still the cause of much human morbidity and mortality.

With the growth of global travel there has been a huge increase in the number of tropical infectious diseases diagnosed in the northern hemisphere. 35% of asymptomatic people returning from travel had parasitic infections (ref: Whitty et al 2000).”*


Given that most alternative therapies have pointed to a problem in the gut/liver, the possibility of there being a parasite still very much exists for me, despite the results of the tropical diseases tests I did in Senegal back in February.

Last week I went to the Tropical Diseases Hospital in London; the doctor was delightful - not your typical doctor who gives you a supercilious look as soon as you ask questions and try and further inquire as to what he is doing. This doctor took the time to explain things to me, expounding upon the various kinds of tropical diseases and parasites that exist, which made all the difference.

Curiously, one of the most common tropical diseases that people are afflicted with is schistosomiasis, where worms grow inside the blood vessels and produce eggs. The most common occurrence of schistosomiasis among travellers is acquired when swimming in Lake Malawi.

According to the doctor, neurological symptoms are usually accompanied by lumps - given that I do not have any, it seems unlikely that I am afflicted by a tropical disease. Having said that, the possibility cannot be ruled out because, as the doctor explained, there are numerous other undetected tropical diseases whose symptoms are not yet certain.

I was given three testers and asked to hand in some samples over three days (pots, spatulas, paper trays.. will spare the details). I am now awaiting the results.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Day 244 - Headache Types

Photograph: Nick Veasy/Getty Images
“We all know what it's like to have a headache. They can turn the best of occasions into a form of torture. Four out of five people get tension headaches. One in seven experience migraines. Headaches cost the economy around £1.5bn a year through lost work days.

Trouble is, while some causes of headaches are obvious – such as when you've had too many glasses of wine the night before – others are more tricky to call. And how can you tell what's serious and what isn't? A good starting point is knowing what type of headache you have.”*


As I write this post, I feel like my head is going to split. This morning I came across the Organization for the Understanding of Cluster Headache (OUCH), who I contacted for more information on hemicrania continua and New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH). It was the first time I have spoken to someone who has heard about these conditions.

The above extract was taken from an article in the Guardian that I recently read. Headaches, therefore, seem to be the most ‘popular’ form of pain, despite the fact that so little is known about them. Vast amounts of research continue to be conducted in this field, but little remains known as to the causes, and indeed how best to cure, these headaches.

What I find curious is that almost all webpages (including that of this article) that talk about headaches categorize these into tension headaches, cluster headaches and migraines. They do not mention any other forms of headache, despite telling us that ‘a good starting point is knowing what type of headache you have’. How can we, if no one tells us about the other types of headache? Some would argue that these conditions are subdivisions of cluster, tension and migraine headaches, but little - if anything, even under the subdivision of these headaches - is mentioned about the lesser known types of headaches such as hemicrania continua and NDPH.

It surely is no coincidence I didn’t come across hemicrania continua or NDPH, because I have spent hours on the internet reading and researching about different types of headache, and indeed even speaking to neurologists about them, both of whom failed to even mention the two conditions!

Although there is not much known about hemicrania continua and NDPH, why are these hardly ever mentioned, in particular on some neurologists’ webpages and in other comprehensive medical journals? Is it because science is nearly embarrassed, should we say, by the little that is known about these two conditions? Would it not help if scientists, and indeed the media, gave them more coverage so that more people can learn about these, thus possibly be diagnosed with them which would, in its turn, enable more studies to be conducted on these conditions?

Friday, 14 August 2009

Day 236 - Agnus Castus

“Agnus castus has been used for thousands of years for its beneficial effect on the female hormonal system. Modern research has confirmed this use, the seeds being used to restore balanced functioning to the female reproductive system.

The berries of this plant have a range of medicinal actions but possibly the most important is its ability to rectify hormonal imbalances caused by an excess of oestrogen and an insufficiency of progesterone. It acts upon the pituitary gland, reducing the production of certain hormones and increasing the production of others, shifting the balance in favour of the gestagens.

Thus it has a wide application of uses in malfunctions of the feminine reproductive system. Some caution is advised since excessive doses can cause a nervous disorder known as formication, which manifests as a sensation of insects crawling over the skin.”*


Whoever has been stabbing that voodoo doll felt some pity and compassion not only on my birthday itself but also during the week thereafter. The headache was once again at its best, and the timing could not have been any better. Unfortunately, though, it only lasted for less than a week. It has since been up and down, fluctuating between 1/10 to 7/10.

A lot of people have asked me how I cope with having a constant headache - I never really know what to answer because what other options are there but to cope?

The last time I went to see the kinesiologist it appeared that my body had an excess of oestrogen; I have now also started taking agnus castus, a tincture which reduces the production of certain hormones in the body.

Interestingly, some studies claim that the agnus castus berries are considered to be an aphrodisiac, though other reports say that they are anaphrodisiac. The reason for this apparent contradiction is that the berries have a regulating effect on the body and so are likely to increase sexual activity in those who are not very active in this area whilst reducing it in those who are very active.

Although I have not got rid of my headache, I have definitely seen a number of changes over the past few months. There have been times when the headache has been 1/10 which has never happened before. I am hoping this improvement will continue to manifest itself more tangibly until the pain is annihilated in its entirety.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Day 227 - New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH)

“In the last few years, New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH) has been recognized as a distinct primary headache syndrome. Primary headache disorders are those for which there is no underlying secondary cause that can be identified.

It is characterized by continuous daily head pain, varying in intensity, and sometimes accompanied by some migrainous symptoms. NDPH is unique, however, in that many patients can tell you the exact date when their headache began.

The diagnostic criteria of NDPH are as follows:

A. Headache for more than 3 months fulfilling criteria B–D
B. Headache is daily and unremitting from onset or from less than 3 days from onset
C. At least two of the following pain characteristics:
1. bilateral location
2. pressing/tightening (non-pulsating) quality
3. mild or moderate intensity
4. not aggravated by routine physical activity such as walking or climbing stairs
D. Both of the following:
1. no more than one of photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), phonophobia (increased sensitivity to sound) or mild nausea
2. neither moderate or severe nausea nor vomiting
E. Not attributed to another disorder

Headache may be unremitting from the moment of onset or very rapidly build up to continuous and unremitting pain. Such onset or rapid development must be clearly recalled and unambiguously described by the patient.

Many doctors consider NDPH to be the most treatment refractory (not responsive to treatment) of headache disorders. Unfortunately, NDPH can be very disabling because it often does not respond to preventive or abortive medications.”*


It’s my birthday today. Back in February, when my headache was in its early stages, I once thought to myself ‘I wonder what I will be doing on my birthday - by then I will surely know what has caused the headache’.

So in a way I have been looking forward to this day, not because it is my birthday as such, but because for the past few months I have convinced myself that by August I would definitely know where the problem lies.

When reading about Hemicrania Continua, I also came across another condition called New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH) which also appears to be similar to what I have.

In 2002, the largest study of New Daily Persistent Headache to date was conducted, based on 56 patients from the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia. For me, the most interesting point from the study was that 82% of patients were able to pinpoint the exact day their headache started.

Given that I remember the exact date of the onset of the headache, and that the symptoms described above are also frightfully similar to what I have, this is certainly also another condition I need to look into. What I appear to be inflicted with is a mixture between Hemicrania Continua and NDPH.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Day 223 - Toxins

"We live in a world where we are surrounded by chemicals and toxins that affect our health and environment. Toxins can come in many forms such as smoke, biological agents, chemicals and radiation. Toxins are also produced by all the cells in the body.
Our bodies must be able to detoxify, or neutralize, toxins from the external environment as well as those produced within our own bodies. This process takes place mostly in the liver, and consists of two phases.

In Phase I toxins are activated, which means that they are altered in such a way that carrier molecules (Phase II) are able to transport them out of the body. A handy analogy is the bagging of our trash (Phase I), so that the garbage man can pick it up and cart it away (Phase II).

Phase I is accomplished by a family of enzymes called "cytochrome P450", and Phase II takes place via a number of important mechanisms. Both Phase I and Phase II of detoxification must function adequately so that toxins are able to be neutralized, and the two phases must be in balance with each other so that the activated compounds from Phase I cannot accumulate in the body and cause damage.”*

*Liver Test Result Factsheet

Since my reiki attunement on Wednesday I have been feeling a lot better. During the two weeks prior to the attunement, my headache was causing me much pain again, but since my session it seems to have decreased in intensity.

I finally managed to get detailed results of my liver test. It appears that Phase I is normal, and none of the Phase II pathways are underfunctioning. However, the test showed that some imbalance exists between the two phase pathways, therefore implying imbalanced detoxification in the body. The activated compounds coming out of Phase I are potentially toxic and may accumulate, leading to illness.

The nutritionist said that with nutritional support these kinds of imbalances are usually correctable. She advised continuing with the supplements the kinesiologist gave me, and also recommended looking at Porphyra-Zyme-1, which I will test with the kinesiologist at my next appointment on Monday. Having read up on this, I am not too clear as to why she suggested it given that it seems to be a homeopathic formula for metal detox...

The liver imbalance most definitely needs to be corrected, whether it is directly causing my headache or not.