First aid kit – homeopathic side

I’d like to eschew certain arguments altogether. This is not about dissing or justifying one approach over others. Every one of us has to figure out what works for our own individual selves. Anybody who feels they have the right or duty to argue otherwise, please read the last 3 paragraphs first. Thank you!

My homeopathic first aid kit

I used to keep just Arnica montana and Symphytum officinale around. As an old trauma nurse & athletic over-doer, dealing with sprains, bruises, and occasional bone bruises & minor fractures was the main point, and these two remedies are outstanding.

Then Zicam became over-the-counter shortly after Oscillococcinum hit the market during flu season, followed a year or two later by the blend Cold Calm, and winters got a lot less snurgee. So that was another win. It was interesting to finally care whether a virus came on fast or slow, because until then, it didn’t matter, because I was in for 10 to 14 days of aching yukiness either way. (Generally speaking, if it hits fast, it’s flu; if it comes on over a day or three, it’s a cold.)

It was good to be young! And healthier! XD

The current cabinet

Now I’ve got a lot more to deal with, including lower and fewer possibilities for meds, herbs, and food. Homeopathics are taking up more of my “treatment options” space as other things fall away and conventional therapeutics have less to do for me.

Here’s my current lineup:

Pain

Body pain: Arnica, 6c or 30c, or both starting with 30c and going down.

Bone pain*: still evolving this solution. Currently isolating effects of Symphytum o.(absolutely brilliant for previous fractures and bone aches in early CRPS) vs. Bryonia (commonly used for my type of bone pain) vs. Calcarea flourica (helped with aching bones 15 years ago, on occasions when Symphytum wasn’t helpful.)

Muscle cramps and spasms: Magnesium phosphorica, known as Mag phos by its many fans, 6c for pre-spasm tension or sudden onset, 30c for deeper or more persistent cramping.

Labeled as a remedy for menstrual cramps, I have found it to be outstanding for my skeletal muscles and intestinal muscles as well — as long as:

  • My serum magnesium is ok (I supplement with chelated magnesium twice a week, since my body plows through this electrolyte at a consistent rate);
  • My other electrolytes are ok, including calcium, and my vitamin D is high enough to regulate the calcium properly;
  • My hydration is adequate. If I can’t experience thirst normally, I blink and feel for discomfort in my eyelids, or pinch up the skin on the back of my hand and give it 1/10 of a second to return to flat. (I need to stay in the upper level of hydration for the sale of my brain & spine — as well as my kidneys, which work hard to deal with my meds.)

Note of caution: Muscle spasms are not necessarily a simple fix. Start with the simple thing and work out what your underlying tendencies are: dehydration is usually easy to sort out, and you’ll know if it helps within a day; magnesium/calcium/electrolyte levels need a simple blood test to discover; once you’ve got good info to work from, you’ll know if your next step is supplementation, medication, homeopathy, or a call to your doctor.

So, please, start with getting good objective info so you know what your particular system is likely to need when your muscles cramp. There is definitely such a thing as too much dietary magnesium, so throwing magnesium chelates at spasms can make things considerably worse if that’s not the underlying problem!

G.I.

Colic & abdominal cramps: Mag phos for the win! See above.

Constipation: As I’ve recently been reminded… first, call your pharmacist, and ask about your med side effects. Sigh, so easy to do, so hard to remember to do.

Homeopathically, Sepia and Alumina took turns being helpful, but didn’t complete the turnaround I needed.

In the end, getting off a key med, while also minimizing histamine release in my gut, while also supporting digestion with a prescribed suite of digestive enzymes and some Chinese herbs, while also eating tapioca with nothing in it but a bit of coconut sugar nearly every darned day for 6 weeks… turned that intransigent problem right around. Plus, Mag phos for the abdominal cramps.

This is a 5-star example of a multi-front approach: med revision, diet revision, toxicity reduction, and a combination of supportive measures: prescription, dietary, herbal, and homeopathic.

Life, at this end, isn’t simple. Simple solutions often aren’t enough. That’s why I value the “multi-factor” approach: nothing works that well in isolation, so I often wind up getting everything possible to head in the desired direction.

Brain

“Heated” brain feeling & stormy sensory sensitivity: still best with herbal concentrated lemon balm, which is effective & reasonable. Good homeopathic fallbacks (for me) are Silicea or Kali phosphorica, depending on accompanying feeling of irritability (Silicea) or dullness (Kali phos.).

*Bone pain treatment note: The bone pain started up as Savella cleared my system. My bowels got back into gear over the same span of time. This week, I trialled a small dose (12.5 mg twice daily) of Savella to see what it did; in 2 days, the bone pain decreased by ~80% — and my bowels shut down at the same time, leaving me with the poor sleep, delayed recovery, body pain, and joint pain that comes with the inflammatory bloom that produces.

I might give it one more shot, but honestly, there was no other change involved and I hate torturing myself.

I’ve learned what it’s like to survive without a working gut,  and it’s too hard. The knock-on effects of pain, fog, and allergic activity is brutal.

So, my current personal project is to figure out another way to manage bone pain. It’s just awful, but a stalled gut is still worse.

Diet and nutrition has brought me a very long way forward, but at the moment, there’s not much more it can do. I’ve had a squeaky clean diet for years, but now it’s so carefully tuned it could probably hit high C. This may change, and if I have to do something else, I’ll figure it out when the time comes.

Pharmaceuticals have come a long, long way, especially these amazing mixed-SNRI neurotransmitter supporters. However, between my genetic tweaks affecting med assimilation and the natural effects of biochemistry, there isn’t an obvious way forward here, now that Savella has washed out for me.

Herbs are so built into my life that it’s a specific mental effort to think what else I could try here. Given that herbs A. Require frequent dosing and B. Do have side effects and I’m exhausted with side effects right now, that currently there’s nothing herbal I know of that I’m willing to try.

Homeopathics have a history of being more predictable, consistent, reliable, and safer for me than herbs and pharmaceuticals (though I owe my life to pharmaceuticals and am not dissing them, just facing another tough reality). There are several possibilities to explore, so that’s where the next step leads me.

Onward!

Felix the Cat with bag of tricks and scientist

Last 3 paragraphs

My own approach is absolutely comprehensive — pharmaceutical, nutritional, dietetic, physical, psychological, mental, herbal, artistic, behavioral, and energetic techniques all play a part, and there’s peer-reviewed science behind over 90% of what I do. Every single intervention gets tested on me — and assessed for benefit and drawbacks — before being incorporated, and gets retested at least yearly.

I’m a diligent empiricist; as I’m responsible for exactly 1 clinical case, that is the most rational approach. Empirical science is the only method of scientific inquiry which consistently considers the individual case.

Sarcastic Sister adds:

Anyone who sincerely & totally refutes the value of homeopathic remedies is welcome to borrow my body for a week or two & see what works for themselves; I’d be happy to borrow theirs while they figure it out.

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Getting re-humanized by phenylalanine

After breaking my own heart just before the holidays, and then lots of traveling and the sheer delight of swimming in the ocean of love I felt with my kin (lucky me!), and then coming back in once piece, and then a bumpy recovery period… my dopamine was pooped.

How do I know that? Simple. I lost touch with the usually easy-flowing sense of love for my nearest and dearest. I was not quite as interested in grabbing good moments to have some fun; I was drawn to sitting around, disaffected and lethargic. My mind was a bit fuzzy. It was pretty much impossible to control my impulses to buy things I didn’t need, but felt a need for right at the moment.

Dopamine (among other things) is used to make decisions, control impulses, get interested in things, be motivated, and feel the pull of love or other desires.

I experimented years ago with precursors to neurotransmitters, because I was having a hard time convincing doctors that addressing the neurochemical impact of the disease might lessen the neurological effects of the disease.

Line drawing of brain, including medulla, sliced near the middle so the lacunae are visible.

 

I know, crazy stuff. Such a weirdo.

mirror_neuron

I’m taking an SNRI which mostly does a good job, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t want to crank up the meds as my first line of action. Meds are problematic, especially for me, so I keep them as a second or third line option, starting with less toxic options first.

I’ve learned that the meds need something to work on. Selective reuptake inhibitors basically affect the molecules that already exist; they can’t make new molecules of serotonin, or norepinephrine, or whatever; they can only push the ones that already exist to work harder.

I like to make sure my reuptake inhibitors have something to work on, rather than just squeezing the last of the juice out of what few molecules are there. I still trust my body to make the neurotransmitters if they have the raw materials, so I listen to my cravings and supplement accordingly, giving them the raw materials to make more neurotransmitters.

Craving starch and fat and sugar is a good indicator that I need more serotonin, so I add 5-HTP to give myself a solid, measured dose of serotonin precursor. Craving sugar and having protein quench the urge, is usually a good hint that I need more dopamine, so I take some nice clean d,l phenylalanine.

Wide-eyed kitten staring at a roast chicken on table in front of its face

(Your mileage may vary, of course, but it turned out there was good, straightforward science behind these two simple self-checks.)

These are only two out of dozens of neurotransmitters, but they interrelate and often morph into each other sooner or later. So far, I’ve had good results with focusing on these two as the lynchpins of my neurochemical management.

Here’s a metaphor that parallels the relationship between neurotransmitter meds and neurotransmitter precursors. You can crank up the volume all you want, but if there’s nothing in the CD/MP3 player, most of what you’ll get is just noise. Precursors are the music media. Meds can be the volume control.

I stopped taking d,l phenylalanine a couple months ago because I was doing great and really wanted to reduce the number of capsules I have to choke down. For awhile, I thought things were fine, but I’m not sure they actually were… I made some very silly decisions.

Phenylalanine, found in processed (smoked or dried) meats and well-aged cheese, as well as in certain artificially-sweetened drinks, is a key precursor for the dopamine/norepinephrine set of neurotransmitters. It has been found to suppress pain at the spinal root, too. It’s used by some vets to help advanced arthritic pain in dogs.

Line drawing of spine in a human frame.
The spinal root comes out between the vertebrae. Most pain nerves in the body lead to a spinal root, and the spinal root goes into the spinal cord. The spinal cord is part of your central nervous system and goes straight to your brain. This explains a lot about CRPS, and other things.

My early experiments, when my neuro situation was getting bad, showed that 4 packets a day of that phenylalanine-rich artificial sweetener helped my mood and my pain noticeably. This persuaded my (slightly bemused) doctor to try me on SNRIs. Once I got onto the right SNRI, I’m happy to say I could get off the crazy chemical-sweetener version of the molecule. Suddenly the artificial sweetener stopped tasting good!

Anyway, to make a long story short (“Too late!”), I keep d,l phenylalanine on hand in case I need it for pain or brain. I started taking it a few days ago, in the morning, and I’m finally starting — starting! — to feel more human again. I started at a low-moderate dose, and gave it a few days to work its way in before reassessing.

I understand that many people shy away from these precursor supplements because medical conservatives don’t trust their patients to pay attention and notice what makes things better or what makes things worse. That’s often reasonable… when I was working as a nurse, 90% of my patients probably couldn’t tell if their feet were on fire without looking first. Most people are really dissociated from our bodies.

Moreover, pain patients have every reason to be! When you spend most of your time in some degree of agony, it takes nerve, practice, and stubbornness to check in on yourself and make note of what you find, in order to screen out or screen in things that might be harming and helping. I have to say, I have found it well worth the effort, overall.

Also, surprisingly, it makes the pain less oppressive to look it straight in the eye once in awhile and say, “I see you. I see exactly what, and where, you are. You don’t fool me. You are not my life. You are not my body or brain. You’re just something that gets in the way, and I can usually work around you to some degree.”

Now, here is the “caveat” part.

It is possible to over-crank your meds by cranking up the precursors; it is possible to generate too much serotonin or too much dopamine by taking too much in the way of purified precursors, and your meds will keep squeezing the most out of that excess. So yes, you need to be careful and pay attention if you’re going to try this. Don’t jump in blindly. Take some time to study up.

This is where your own research and self-awareness becomes pivotal. What will that look like? How will you handle it?

My first experience of serotonin syndrome came from an iatrogenic overdose of an SSRI. That was bad. But hey, I sure know what it feels like now! I back off on the precursor or med when I feel the slightest drift that way.

Personally, I normally cut back on the meds first, because they contribute more to the fogginess and confusion that makes life so sucky sometimes. This is how I handle it, because I am comfortable doing things like filing or nipping a bit off my pills to cut the dose down, and I know my body well enough to notice the effects.

Using these supplements appropriately — with all this awareness and empirical experiments on myself and so forth — has reduced the side effects from my meds while giving me much better pain control and a much pleasanter quality of life. That’s a huge benefit. Huge. Definitely worth the effort.

If you’re interested in doing this… be sure to research the possibilities; understand what the sources, benefits, and drawbacks can be; and learn to track your symptoms. When you feel comfortable trusting your mind to your knowledge and record-keeping skills, then experiment carefully to see what works for you.

I’m not going to patronize my readers by telling them not to take responsibility for their bodies and their knowledge base, but I’ll gladly remind you — as I’ve recently reminded myself — to keep paying attention. Whatever mistakes you make are as much yours to deal with, as your successes are yours to celebrate. I wish you all success.

Naturally, it’s a good idea to start small and work up until you notice an effect. These things rarely work instantly, so give it a few days in your system until you bump the dose up.

Just as with meds, go with M.E.D.: Minimum Effective Dose.

If you don’t know your body pretty well, it can be hard to figure out what deficiency or excess you’re dealing with. Most online definitions of these syndromes or toxicities discuss the extreme and life-threatening levels of toxicity, which are not helpful to those of us who are working out our supplementation and medication levels.

When I had serotonin syndrome, I simply didn’t care if I had anything to eat or if my laundry — or my body — got washed. Nothing mattered. The peace was outstanding, but the situation was not compatible with long-term survival. I didn’t have tachycardia, myoclonus, or tremors, and I only noticed my reactions were twitchy when my doctor did the knee-hammer thing.

This non-disastrous level of reaction matters, because this is where we have the chance to tune our levels and make our lives better instead of worse.

I took years to get to know my body’s reactions, knowing the time would pass anyway and I might as well be wiser for it. So I learned to be mindful and careful, pay attention to myself and my body’s signals, and do my homework on the foods and nutritional supplements I wanted to try. Everything has to make sense to me before I try it.

I don’t much care if a bunch of overpaid idiots agree. I care what works for me.

Currently, I’m on 500 mg a day and am noticing an improvement, although it’s a rather slow one. I now have a theory that my body can cache something in the chain between phenylalanine and dopamine, and the important thing to do is not to let that cache get too depleted. Once I’m back up to par, I may not need it all the time, but I need it often enough to keep my “backstock” up to par. Progress!

I’m going to go from once daily to twice daily on this phenylalanine, and once I get back to a tolerable baseline, go back down to once daily and stick to that at least through the winter. Then I’ll reassess, yet again, as I normally do every 6 months or so, and consider going down to every other day or so.

One thing you’ll discover in your research is why I use the d,l form of phenylalanine. Go on, check it out 🙂

Re-assessing meds and supplements a couple of times a year is just part of life now. Things change and I want to keep up! I can usually find an intelligent pharmacist to talk things over with, and those decades of tracking what happens to my body and mind serve me well when it’s time to fiddle my supplements, so I can take as little as possible for the best effect.

It would be all too easy to take dozens of supplements, because this set of diseases wears so hard on the body’s systems, from the intracellular organelles to the organs themselves — not to mention the nerves and circulation connecting it all. But that has its own pitfalls, in addition to the staggering expense. I stick to what works for me, and try to stay current on the theory of other things so I can give meaningful suggestions when people ask. Other people’s bodies are different from mine, and what works for one may be no good to another; we all have to be our own, not mad scientists, but sane ones… an interesting challenge at the best of times.

Wishing you the best of the new year. I hope it’s good to you.

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