It’s Black Friday – the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Health Rising usually does a tongue-in-cheek Black Friday blog to remind readers that HR gets a percentage of every Amazon.com purchase made through HR’s Amazon search box (see the right-hand side of the page.)
This year HR is going straight with ideas for books and tools you can get for yourself (if you have ME/CFS/FM) or others (if you’re a caregiver) that could help with your quality of life and health. From HRV trackers to portable saunas to cooking appliances to meal planning apps, more and more tools are being produced that can allow you to track your health or get better sleep or simply do more with less energy.
Check out some books and tool that might be able to help and please offer your own suggestions.
Books and Films
Lighting Up a Hidden World – by Valerie Free
We always bring light to the world during the holidays. There are lights everywhere – on the boulevards, in the malls, on houses, on Christmas trees – we bring light to the darkness during the holiday. So why not bring some light to the darkness of ME/CFS by getting or sending someone Valerie’s Free’s spectacular “Lighting Up a Hidden World” book on ME/CFS.
Valerie intertwines hers and others’ personal stories with ME/CFS with information on the disease’s history, advocacy, science and treatments in a creative way. Years in the making, there’s never been book like this on ME/CFS before.(Full disclosure – some Health Rising articles are in the book :))
Through the Shadowlands – by Julie Rehmeyer
Light, or the absence of it, is a theme in Julie Rehmeyer’s story of her own emergence from darkness in her journey to understand her chronic illness. An award winning statistical journalist, no less – Julie provides the perfect foil for a journey into the sometimes wacky and much maligned world of mold illness.
Funny, provocative and ultimately hopeful, Julie Rehmeyer’s “Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand” shines a bright light on an illness (and a pathogen) that has existed for too long in the darkness.
A Beginner’s Guide to ME/CFS
If you’re new to this disease or know someone who is new to the disease or if you just want some good advice check out a “Beginner’s Guide to ME/CFS”. Written by a social worker with ME/CFS, the “Beginner’s Guide” is the antidote to misguided advice from doctors who tell ME/CFS patients their solution is to exercise.
One reviewer reported “I would give anything to have had this advice when I was first ill.”. Another called it the “Most interesting, realistic approach to understanding and coping with CFS & ME of many CFS books I have owned, seen and skimmed.”
This little book could save many from much unneeded distress and further health problems.
Wired To Eat – by Robb Wolf
OK, so maybe a diet book is not the best choice for holidays. On the other hand, maybe you could feel a bit better about indulging knowing that you had a book at the ready that will help you recover and align your diet with your personal physiology.
Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You is special because it provides a way for you to determine which foods are good and not good specifically for you. Wired to Eat is on my list of to-do’s for the New Year. Check out Remy’s review of “Wired to Eat” here.
The End Of Alzheimer’s – by Dale Bredesen MD.
So what is a book on Alzheimer’s doing on an ME/CFS and FM book list? Actually,
there are lots of reasons. If ME/CFS is a tough nut to crack, then Alzheimer’s is even worse. Hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of prospective drugs haven’t moved the needle at all on Alzheimer’s. Bredesen asserts that a functional medicine-type approach not only helps with Alzheimer’s but can prevent it and at times cure it. The screwy thing is that his studies suggest he may be right. If that’s true, then it’s really time to look at a functional medicine approach for ME/CFS and FM.
Bredesen lays out his entire program – a broad anti-inflammatory program – in his book. My guess is is that if works for Alzheimer’s, it will help with the cognitive issues and who knows, maybe more, with ME/CFS and fibromyalgia.
So if you have cognitive problems, are worried about dementia and Alzheimer’s and/or just want to learn how a functional medicine approach might be able to help, check this well-written and at times hilarious book out. For the future (dementia runs in my family) and for the present, I plan to give Bredesen’s approach a try.
Check out a review of one of Bredesen’s studies and learn about his general approach:
The Death of Cancer – by Vincent DeVita, MD.
And now a cancer book???? “The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable — and How We Can Get There” is more than a book on cancer. It’s a journey into the dark underbelly of medicine: the prejudices, the misconceptions, the toll that bureaucrats and ignorant doctors have had on patients.
Some of the stories DeVita – former head of the National Cancer Institute – tells are horrifying, but in truth, the Death of Cancer is simply the history of medicine. How bad ideas get so ingrained as to become untouchable. The heroic fights to overcome the prejudices of the medical profession… You know, stuff we’re all familiar with in our own neck of the medical woods.
The Death of Cancer is also a story of hope. Many of the prejudices regarding cancer and cancer treatments are being overcome and DeVita is indeed, hopeful that the Death of Cancer is within our grasp. Still, the book is a warning: if you get cancer – De Vita did and most of us will at some point – nothing can replace having a really good, creative doctor…
Unrest – by Jen Brea
Most of us know Unrest. It’s been reviewed in dozens of media outlets and has made a huge splash for the ME/CFS community. Did you know, though, that Unrest has made it out of theatres and is now available online? That’s right, you can pick it up on Amazon for $14.99 and show it to your family and friends.
If you don’t know the movie, check out the storyline below.
“Jennifer Brea is an active Harvard PhD student about to marry the love of her life when suddenly her body starts failing her. Hoping to shed light on her strange symptoms, Jennifer grabs a camera and films the darkest moments unfolding before her eyes as she is derailed by M.E. (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a mysterious illness some still believe is “all in your head.””
Tools For Better Health
Portable Radiant Infrared Sauna
Infrared saunas use heat and light to relax and detoxify the body, for pain reduction, joint and muscle support, and cardiovascular healing, plus they’re believed to boost the parasympathetic nervous system activity. Given the low heart rate variability readings in FM and ME/CFS, boosting the PNS, or rest and digest system, would be good news indeed.
Infrared saunas are usually very pricey but Radiant’s highly rated BSA6310 PORTABLE INFRARED SAUNA clocks in at only $176 on Amazon. If you want to get your feet wet with infrared saunas, but don’t want to break your bank, the Radiant sauna might be a good start.
A Bed of Nails for Better Sleep
It’s the weirdest idea: lying on hundreds of hard plastic points could help you feel better, even sleep better. Even weirder is the idea that it could help fibromyalgia patients whose bodies are riddled with tender points. One Health Rising Forums member, however, found that they worked like a charm, and a small study featuring healthy people suggested these mats may be able to reduce heart rates during sleep (high in ME/CFS/FM), increase heart rate variability (low in ME/CFS/FM), slow breathing, and possibly improve circulation.
These changes suggest they may be reducing sympathetic nervous system activity (fight and flight) and increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity (rest and digest) – all good things in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
These mats look like torture devices but they’re relatively cheap (just $40 on Amazon.com right now) and the Amazon.com reviews (all 2,132 of them) are excellent.
A Heavy, Heavy Blanket To Lull You Into a Deep Sleep
Dr. Holtorf states that weighted blankets “have been proven to help individuals achieve more restful sleep.” It’s almost as if they drag you into a deeper sleep. They’re surprisingly expensive ($180) but the Amazon reviews are excellent. One person said:
I brought this blanket as a gift for myself, hoping it would help with tired/fatigued muscles, and sleep. I am not disappointed! The blanket feels wonderful as soon as it drapes over you, and I can feel stress and tension instantly release. This, coupled with guided sleep meditations, has greatly improved my quality of sleep – I am able to stay asleep longer with much less midnight awakenings, and easily able to fall back asleep if I do wake up.
The Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is the latest technological innovation in cooking. A pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and warmer, it can even sauté and make cakes. Its 12 programs allow you at the click of a switch to make soup/broth, stew, cake, eggs, sauté, rice, warm, steam or slow cook. If you want a big nutritious meal fas,t you use a nice pressure cooker feature.
In her Thanksgiving post Jennie Spotila said, “I’m grateful for the Instant Pot that made a scrumptious turkey breast in less than an hour with almost no effort on my part.”
When we’re really fatigued, junk food is a dangerous but oh-so-enticing fallback option. The Instant Pot looks like it may be the easiest way to avoid that. The six or eight quart options can make you real food for days. That suggests that the Instant Pot could be a big plus for the struggling cooks among us. The Amazon reviews are excellent.
The Plan To Eat Meal Planner
The Plan to Eat app takes some of the grunt work out of cooking. It allows you to “add and organize recipes, drag those recipes onto a calendar to plan them. Then the software automatically creates your shopping list based on your planned recipes.” All in all it makes for a less stressful, and less energy hogging cooking experience in the kitchen.
Check out Plan to Eat here. (50% Off Black Friday sale is on…)
Infrared Heating Pad
Maybe you’re not ready for an infrared sauna. How about an infrared heating pad? Dr. Holtorf calls the Theresage Infrared Heating Pad “a great way to get the benefits of an infrared sauna without the expense”. He states these heating pads are “very effective at relaxing the body”.
They’re not cheap ($149) but if they can help you relax and detox at the same time they might be worth it.
Heart Rate Variability Monitor
Measuring your heart rate variability (HRV) is a great way to assess how to pace yourself effectively and what activities or even treatments are causing you benefits or harm.
Low HRV is associated with increased sympathetic (fight/flight) nervous system (SNS) activity, and/or decreased parasympathetic (rest/digest) nervous system (PNS) activity, and is associated with chronic inflammatory disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, chronic pain,and ME/CFS and FM.
Karmin’s been explaining the in’s and out’s of HRV testing in a series of blogs for Health Rising. (See “Your Crash in a Graph” and “Surveying the Landscape“. She recommends either the Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor and Fitness Tracker or the Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor for iPhone & Android.
The Sit Anywhere Chair
The Drive Medical Folding Lightweight Cane with Sling Style Seat (how’s that for an enticing name) might just make your life a whole lot easier. It has for a friend of mine with ME/CFS/POTS who takes it anywhere she might need to take a sit break.
With its hollow aluminum frame, this little folding chair weight clocks in at just 2.5 lbs. It can be used as a seat or a cane or as two-handed way to steady yourself when you’re standing. It holds up to 250 lbs.
Plus it’s only $27.75 on Amazon. If you’re often dead on your feet, this little sling chair is a no- brainer.
Get Your Genes Tested! (And Help Out ME/CFS Research)
The 23andME DNA Test – Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Service – 75+ (count them!) Online Reports – is on sale through Nov 27th on Amazon.com for 1/2 price ($99).
Take the test and then send your results to Dr. Klimas’s ME/CFS gene study to help understand ME/CFS. The Klimas project at Nova Southeastern University aims to analyze the genetic data of 10,000 ME/CFS patients in order capture genetic issues that increase the risk for getting ME/CFS.
Nothing like this has been attempted before and it’s not an academic exercise. Identifying the genes at work in ME/CFS could lead to treatments that either block or enhance the activity of those genes, or which manipulate the biological pathways that have been disturbed.
Check out a Health Rising blog on the “Great Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Gene Project” or just go right to the source and sign up here.
The Apple Watch is more than just another elegant device from Apple; it can serve as a fitness tracker (heart rate, heart rate variability, steps, sleep), you can ask it things, get your email, calls, get directions, etc. from it. The Apple Watch may be the most efficient all around wearable ever. I know someone who loves how much information she can get with a flip of her wrist. (Note – one review said you need an iPhone to get full use of the Watch).
Any suggestions for additions to this list?
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Have a happy holidays!