Acupuncture and arthritis

Arthritis is extremely common and not fun. To break the word down, itis means inflammation, arth comes from the Greek word, arthron, meaning joint. A joint is where two bones articulate. So we have inflammation in the joints. And pain, because inflammation causes pain.
Acupuncture can help. It can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. It does need ongoing treatment, because the arthritis itself, as far as I so far know, is ongoing. We seem to be able to improve it but not remove it altogether.
I’m investigating arthritis at the moment because I now have it myself and it’s challenging. I am developing lumps on my finger joints which I do not like and I would like them to go away. But however common arthritis is, it is not simple.
There’s plenty of information and advice on the Web. 8.75 million people in the UK have sought help and advice on osteoarthritis and about 400,000 people, also in the UK, have rheumatoid arthritis.
The first stop is always diet, for arthritis as for everything else, since we are what we eat. This is an interesting website: http://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Stone_Age_Diet_-_this_is_a_diet_which_we_all_should_follow#Four_white_devils
I do eat meat although I was vegetarian for seven years several years ago and I understand the arguments for not eating meat. The way the majority of animals are raised for consumption now is horrific and I go out of my way to buy meat from an animal that has been properly and compassionately raised, and has spent most of its time outside, eating grass.
I don’t quite follow the Stone Age diet but I have very little grain and avoid the solanaceae, the deadly nightshade family, which are all slightly poisonous. These are potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, including paprika, chilli and cayenne. Goji berries and ashwaganda (an Indian herb used as an adaptogen)are also from the solanaceae family, and even blueberries, although I’m not sure about this and neither are the sources I have checked: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/link-between-nightshades-chronic-pain-and-inflammation They are all best avoided if you have arthritis or other inflammation-related health issues. Have a look at this article too: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/nightshades/ He says that blueberries do not contain solanine. I eat them rather a lot but I think I will give them a miss for a while.
I’ve read several articles on the Web and several books, the latest being The New Arthritis Cure by Bruce Fife, who has also written books about coconut oil, which naturally enough features in the arthritis book.
So now I have a long list of things to do, like oil-pulling (see Bruce Fife’s books) and exercise, which I do anyway, usually walking and yoga, (did you know that bouncing on a rebounder exercises every joint in the body, even in the fingers?) foods to avoid, like nightshades, chocolate, processed foods and sugar (I don’t have these anyway. Well, a bit of chocolate.)
However, none of these books or articles has mentioned oxalates, the salt form of oxalic acid, as in, for instance, spinach. I found out about these when I started avoiding grains. I personally think humans have not evolved to eat grasses and grains are cultivated grasses. I feel better without them but the pain in my fingers got worse because I had to find other things to eat than grains and one thing I started eating was a loaf made with ground almonds and flax seed. It was delicious but each slice probably had at least twenty almonds in it and if I had more than one slice, which I usually did, I had consumed a lot of almonds.
I discovered that almonds, and, in fact, most nuts and many vegetables are very high in oxalates, spinach extraordinarily so, which are microscopic stones with very sharp edges that lodge in damaged tissue. Here is another article, again from the Weston Price Foundation, on oxalates, which is very enlightening. They are more often associated with kidney stones but very relevant to any painful and inflamed tissues, including arthritis: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-role-of-oxalates-in-autism-and-chronic-disorders/

What I have realised, in the course of several years now studying the relationship of food and diet to health or ill-health, is that every food has a downside. Nothing is simple and completely benign. Grains, for instance, contain anti-nutrients that prevent some minerals from being absorbed and they are not easily processed at all by humans until they themselves have been processed, for example by fermentation. There is also the example of the deadly nightshade family that I have already mentioned. Meat, until fairly recently, had to be hunted and captured, no mean feat, I imagine. I think this is because every living thing on the planet gets eaten by some other living thing and so each species has evolved a defence system to try to prevent itself from being eaten. Being at the top of the food chain humans have no predators but we kill each other anyway, for power rather than hunger. But that’s another subject.

However, in the meantime, because all of the above takes time to implement and to take effect, I have had good results using acupuncture for arthritis: see my blog, Acupuncture Miracle No.1.

Ants and bees – a metaphor

This is an email I received today and I’m putting it on the blog because I like it and what it has to say to all of us. It’s by Madyson Taylor and comes from the Daily Om:

“We can learn a lot from watching ants and bees living in community and working for the greater good.

When we see ants and bees out in the world, we often see just one, but this belies the reality of their situation. More than any other species, ants and bees function as parts of a whole. They cannot and do not survive as individuals; they survive as members of a group, and the group’s survival is the implicit goal of each individual’s life. There is no concept of life outside the group, so even to use the word individual is somewhat misleading. Often, humans, on the other hand, strongly value individuality and often negatively associate ants and bees with a lack of independence. And yet, if we look closer at these amazing creatures, we can learn valuable lessons about how much we can achieve when we band together with others to work for a higher purpose.

Most ants and bees have highly specified roles within their communities, some of which are biologically dictated, and they work within the confines of their roles without complaint, never wishing to be something other than what they are. In this way, they symbolize self-knowledge and humility. They also display selfless service as they work for the common good. In many ways, they are like the individual cells of one body, living and dying as necessary to preserve the integrity of the whole body, not to protect themselves as individuals. In this way, ants personify the ability to see beyond one’s small self to one’s place within the greater whole, and the ability to serve this whole selflessly.

Ants and bees can inspire us to fully own what we have to offer and to put it to use in the pursuit of a goal that will benefit all of humanity, whether it be raising consciousness about the environment, feeding the hungry, or raising a happy child. Each one of us has certain talents we were born with, as well as skills we have acquired. When we apply these gifts, knowing that we are one part of a greater organism working to better the whole world, we honour and implement the wisdom of ants and bees.”

Acupuncture miracle No.1

This lady came to me with rheumatoid arthritis, diagnosed two months previously. One year previous to that diagnosis she had a hysterectomy. She was told by doctors that she needed to have this done, due to long term endometriosis and the possibility of a growth at the back of the womb being cancerous. She said her periods had always been “horrendous”. She was put on the contraceptive pill to regulate them. It is likely that the pill contained oestrogen but she couldn’t remember which one it was. Many women are oestrogen dominant rather than deficient and it is possible that the pill caused more problems than it solved. Endometriosis is usually caused by an excess of oestrogen. It was probably very long term – impossible to say when it started; it’s often not diagnosed for years – and she started having “procedures” i.e. operations to remove endometrial tissue ten years previous to the hysterectomy. But the endometrial tissue kept on coming and so she had several procedures. Her energy levels were “dreadful” and her emotional state low. She had a stressful job with a lot of responsibility, working for her father’s company. So we started treatment. I always ask people what kind of weather they like and about their own body temperature – are they hot, cool, irritated by wind etc. She said she had been cold all her life. Her brother remembers that when she was born, in August, he (then aged 4) was standing by a radiator, which was on. She was wrapped in a blanket and he was holding her, while their father took photographs. He said he remembers being “so hot”! She said she comes to life and has energy when the sun shines and it’s warm. She said also that she told the doctors that she felt her period problems were due to her poor circulation, because she was cold. When liquids are warm they are thin. As they become cooler they thicken, for instance ice-cream. When water freezes it goes solid. We are roughly 70% water, depending on age and levels of hydration. It makes sense that when we are cold we feel heavier and more solid and we don’t have the energy we do when we are warm enough. Enough is the operative word. When things are cold they coagulate, thicken and harden, inside bodies as well as outside in the environment. Cold weather is the time of year for hibernation and a lack of activity. The doctors didn’t listen. They thought she was being silly. But we know our own bodies best and she was probably right. So I warmed her up, slowly, with needles in particular points and with moxa, which is a dried herb compressed into a cigar shape, which you light at one end, like a cigarette, and then direct the smoke and the heat it produces onto areas on the body. It’s often used on the lower back or the abdomen to heat the core of the body and increase energy. It has taken a while and she is lucky in that she can afford to come every week, but she has improved dramatically. When she last saw the consultant he remarked that she looked like a different person. The pain and inflammation from the rheumatoid arthritis is much, much less. She is still on medication but the consultant says that if she continues to improve and can hold her current level of wellbeing he is happy to look at that possibility. It is not up to me to advise on her medication since I did not put her on it. Now she is warm when everybody else is warm, when it is normal to be warm. When it’s cold she feels the cold like everyone else but she no longer wears gloves to type on the computer, in an office everyone else complains is too hot. She can wear shoes rather than sheepskin boots. This is huge. This is what acupuncture has been able to do for her. I know of no other form of medicine that could do this. This is miracle number 1. (I would like to point out that this is obviously anonymous but I do have the person’s permission to write about her.)

Anxiety – a view

It’s now 19 months since my partner died. I’ve been spending more time with women, particularly older women. This is not surprising since I am one myself. (There’s a difference between old and older – I wouldn’t put myself in the “old” category until I’ve reached 90, if I do. I’m not sure that I want to.)
So this is a quite a big change. My partner was several years younger than me, in his late 40’s, so through him I came into contact with other, mostly younger, men. He worked and I work so our days were structured around work. Many of the women I know now, as I have met several new people and made new friends, for which I am grateful, no longer work, and their husbands are also retired. I have discovered this is an entirely different group of people with an entirely different way of spending their time.
And this is new to me. Of course, I have known most of my friends for a while so it’s only partly that there are people in my life who no longer work and their way of life is not new to them. But for me it’s like a window on to life for the older woman, and especially those who no longer work to earn.
Anxiety creeps in.
Sometimes the husbands, if they are around, contribute to the anxiety – they might have failing health; they might just be irritating or there are other problems which somehow don’t get dealt with – but often it’s just a kind of existential anxiety. And when we meet we talk about the things that make us anxious, and that we wish we could do something about, but mostly can’t.
For one friend it’s the anxiety engendered by suddenly finding herself on her own when her husband died, and she would prefer that he hadn’t. I entirely understand how she feels. It feels as if, finding ourselves on our own, without a partner and the children having long gone, anxiety presents itself at the back door, knocking, and giving so many reasons why it should be let in. I feel this. And sometimes it slips in when we are looking the other way. Somehow the door is left open and when I turn round there it is, challenging, and rationalising its presence.
I also, of course, know several women of my age and older, who do work, either full or part time, and some of these are on their own, without partners / husbands. Do they have anxiety? Well, yes. Women of all ages have anxiety. We seem to specialise in it in a way that men do not. It seems to be part of modern life. But when you’re younger you still have so many roles that you are playing and that take up a lot of time and energy and so anxiety often sits in the background, whittling away at energy levels, causing difficulties with sleeping, digestive disturbances etc, but you get on and do the things that you have to do, because they have to be done.
But this is not the particular manner of anxiety that I am currently looking at, close up so to speak.
I think that for me, there are two things going on. One is to do with loss. The loss of a partner leads to other losses. Where there were two people sharing their lives now there is one. One person is suddenly living alone who previously was not. No-one to talk to, watch television with, go for a walk with, have breakfast with, cuddle and make love with. Now there’s just one person. This can lead to a huge loss of confidence and a loss of identity. Who am I now? Thus comes the anxiety.
The other is, what to do about it? What do I do now? And how do I get it right? Because now I’m closer to the end of my life than the beginning.
I think I have to go back to the drawing board. When something or someone goes out of your life it leaves a gap, which has to be filled. And, for me at least, it has to be purposeful and fulfilling. It’s not enough to fill my time by entertaining myself from here to the next corner, and then the one after that. I think that eventually that will lead to more anxiety, not less.
A drawing board is empty until you put something on it. I found a quote on the Internet a few days ago, “ Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”
So here goes.
I think the answer, or one contender, is in being creative – writing, painting, decorating, making baskets, knitting, sewing, whatever. Something that comes from within, not without. As long as we are looking to be filled by things that come from without then we are likely, to some extent, to become dependent on them. Even family and friends, wonderful as they can be, come from without and really, they are the icing on the cake. It’s the cake itself that is my life. Cake without icing is do-able – not fun, but do-able, and there’s always some icing. But icing without cake is not do-able. Sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever. It’s a poison and extremely addictive. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to fall into that anxiety trap and forget that I’ve always got cake.

What now?

I haven’t written since January. That’s a long time for a blog. What’s happening now?

Next Monday it will be a year and three months since my partner left the planet. I miss him really, awfully much but at least I am not spinning  around in quite such a painful place any more. I don’t think you ever get over a really big loss but you start to get used to it and you carry on living, because you have to. I still have to eat, sleep, shop, cook, wash, earn money etc. These things become reference points and become significant because if you want to stay alive then you simply have to do them.

When I first began to think, coming of age at 60 (it did feel like that!), what shall I do with the rest of my life, I did not anticipate asking and looking for answers, as I am, from the particular perspective that I now have. And it changes things.

A few months ago I sat with a friend, also recently bereaved, in Nero’s in Worthing. We looked onto the street and noticed the people walking by. All ages, all shapes and sizes, some walking purposefully and quickly – maybe running an errand or buying lunch – some just walking and wandering – maybe killing some time or giving themselves some time off. We wondered how many other people, how many other women, are asking themselves – what shall I do now? As we ourselves were.

What do you do, where do you go, who do you talk to, when life suddenly serves up a major change? Or when it serves up several major changes all at once, since one can lead to another and frequently does. My friend has just moved to Devon, where her son lives. Okay, so that’s not the other side of the world but it’s still a big move that she hadn’t planned on making on her own. She and her husband were considering it. She did it alone. That made it major. Her major change was the loss of him.

We thought of starting a group, along these lines, for women to come to. A group whose focus would be that question – what now? I have sometimes felt that I am holding my life in my hands, like a living thing, demanding attention and feeling kind of “hot”, like holding a hot coal. What to do with it when there are no easy answers and it’s difficult and challenging and something seems to want or need change but nothing does change?

It’s not only major changes that force us to look at our lives and pay more attention.  Sometimes it’s just the feeling that there could be more to life than there appears to be and we feel restlessness, boredom, nervousness cranking up. Entertaining ourselves from here to the next corner is not enough. We want more out of life or maybe want to put more into it; the two tend to be related.

So now I’m starting this group, with another friend. We are putting ideas and leaflets together to put ourselves out there. If you are reading this and you are interested in joining us, call me.

 

Back to being 60

I was feeling a kind of pull, at 60. Some of it was to do with how I look and how I dress, how I present myself to the world. I was starting to ask myself, is it okay for me to wear this or that, to do this or that with my hair, my face, my feet? How do I want to look now? Do I have to make adjustments, for my age? Can I still trust myself to know what is okay, for me, including the age I now am and the direction in which I am heading, age-wise? Can I use my intuition and do and wear what I feel drawn to? I don’t want to dress like my children but neither do I want to dress like my grandparents, if they were still alive. And it’s not so much about looking younger; it’s more about empowering myself at any age.  I am an individual, independent in my thinking, doing and being, and part of that is the way I present myself to the world, and to myself in the mirror. This is part of self-care, for me, because it gives me pleasure and makes me feel good.

The pull I felt was challenging me, making me question this. I thought as it was doing this for me it must also be challenging all women “of a certain age”, pulling us towards that pigeon-hole, that category. And at 50, or 60, or 70 can we say how much care we give ourselves; how much are we able to love ourselves, in a doing manner, on a daily basis. How much do we give in to the pull to not care so much, to not pay so much attention, to scale down the pleasure and the fun; the feminine fun of clothes, shoes, hair, face creams and all of that stuff that can be so much fun. Look at how our grand-daughters, if we have them, love to dress up and put on our lipstick, eye-shadow, nail varnish. Do we give to ourselves the nurture, support, availability and actual caring that we have given and still give, unequivocally, to our children and grandchildren, if we have them.  Does it matter to us? Are we worth it?

Some questions to get started

What do you do when you’re sixty? Or forty or fifty, or seventy? Where do you go with your life? How do you decide what direction to take? What are your choices, now?

Is this (for me) a mid-life crisis, rather later than most? A spiritual dilemma?  A family breakdown, when you no longer hold the family together and they no longer hold you together? What is this empty place in which I find myself and in which I am losing myself?

This can come at any time I think. Age has some relevance but it’s not all about age. A life crisis can come at any age. At thirty – what shall I do now? No husband, no children, but feeling the need and desire for both. At forty, with small children, alone or with a partner, with money problems, social pressures to conform, to be the person other people expect; saying “yes” when you want to say “no”, just sometimes. At fifty, children gone, possibly husband gone too, possibly not; identity problems within a relationship: “who am I now”? “where am I going now”?

Or at sixty, where I arrived four years ago.

Are you an independent woman? Am I an independent woman? What does it mean to be an independent woman? What is independence? Is it just the opposite of dependence? I have been thinking about this, before I was able to start the blog. What does independence mean for me; what difference does it make to my life?

Independence is usually fought for and hard won and then safe-guarded; witness what is happening in the so-called Arab Spring right now. The Egyptian people are having to fight again to have some measure of independence and freedom of choice in their government and some control over their lives, but they are in a different situation now than when the riots first began. And Syria is currently the scene of a tragedy that beggars belief. So it happens in steps. We don’t wake up one day and declare ourselves to be independent and therefore we are.

Independence, for me, means freedom of thought, of opinions; independence of being. Independent women have a sense of their own identity, even though it might sometimes wobble.