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Brain Stress Results in Vicious Cycle

Discussion in 'Latest ME/CFS Research' started by JanisB, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. JanisB

    JanisB Senior Member

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    This article from the NY Times talks about studies in which high stress over time rewires the brain to lose executive function and shift to repetitive actions. It got me thinking that maybe part of the dementia we experience in ME-CFS could be due to the disrupted allostasis of so many of our body systems (immune, endocrine, digestion, nervous, cardiovascular) which create physiological stress in a brain that doesn't distinguish between the effects of physical and mental/emotional stress.

    The good news is that the brain can recover when the stressors are removed.

    The bad news is that it is hard to get allostasis working again in all these areas.

    Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/science/18angier.html?th&emc=th

    and below the text of the article:
  2. Cort

    Cort Phoenix Rising Founder

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    Several things in this article rang true to me. I really do think I'm in a kind of neural rut. I don't know how I got there or what is causing it but short of some kind of miraculous intervention (Freddd's B-12, Mike's Neural Therapy?) the only way I can see to get out of that rut is to build new neural connections by using different techniques.

    Ashok's Gupta's theory that the fear centers of the brain are "on" all the time really fits for me - so I'm engaged in trying to turn them off and at the same time turn on a better neural pattern - one that doesn't overreact to all mannner of things. I know that I'm doing this -I can feel it - it's very slow and I may never turn it off completely and I am continuing to improve.

    My big question is what happens if I can turn that hyper arousal off all the way? Will I be well or will I just feel a whole lot better? I really don't know. :confused:

    Thanks for the article.
  3. JanisB

    JanisB Senior Member

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    I think it is possible to tune down the amygdala hyper response somewhat, because we have control over our thoughts (although it doesn't always seem that way!) Thoughts often lead instantaneously to feelings, which then circulate in the body as peptides and neuropeptides, having a physical effect on nerves and other tissues.

    But William James (that 19th century English scientist) was also right when he made the argument that feelings in the body create thoughts, and so sometimes, the way to calm things down is through the body chemistry.

    This is where I think protocols come in, like B-12 (Freddd) or acupuncture and neural therapy (Mike's doc). In ME-CFS, the body is in a valid hyper state because it senses the threat to its survival from the lack of crucial nutrients like amino acids, B12, etc. and/or the excess of toxins.

    I have found, for example, that when my dysautonomia is acting up, if I stay upright for one extra minute I will go into a state of tremendous hyperarousal. But if I catch it and lie upside down, letting lots of blood flow into my face and neck, letting the legs drain, the nervous system calms down. The feeling of fear and stress goes away completely.

    Indian scriptures talk of yogis who learn to melt a circle of snow, walk on hot coals, and slow their heart beat and breath to a point where they seem dead. This can be done with the mind. But I wonder if it can be done in a body that is basically unhealthy, where the nerve potentials are all screwed up, and allostasis is not functioning.

    My own experience: I've been doing Siddha yoga meditation for 15 years (and previously did Transcendental meditation for over a decade). I've found that in the periods that I've been most healthy, I go into meditation fairly easily, go to a deep place, and feel my whole body shift into an awesome, light-filled expansive state. But when I crash, which has happened in 2000 and 2007, I can barely meditate. My mind is all over the place, and I'm lucky if I get a few moments of calm. I haven't lost the skill I developed earlier. I've lost the willful control of the nervous system.

    Janis
  4. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Interesting stuff, Janis.

    I was just a few minutes ago working on an article about psychoneuroimmunology. I know that's not the main thrust of your post, but ... there it was sitting here, very similar to what I was just writing about.

    Sounds like you're on a good track. You may not be where you want to be right now, but it sounds like you've got a fair idea as to some of the things that will help get you there.
  5. JanisB

    JanisB Senior Member

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    And I was just reading your blog! Nice work.

    I'm curious to know -- since you say you have gotten (or are getting better) -- what worked for you? Are you at 90% or higher? What are your persistent symptoms?

    Janis
  6. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Janis,

    Well, today and the last few days are NOT good indicators of my improved health in recent months. I have had some regression in symptoms recently.

    I chalk it up to carby diet from food bank of late, and to being much busier online than I have been in years. I still need to readjust the old balancing act fairly frequently. I have been falling into old habits of just going when I should be resting because I like what I'm doing. But it has been wearing on me lately. That and the fact that I have some really good new things happening that occasionally is scaring the daylights out of me. :D Not used to some of this stuff. Though I will GET used to it. :)

    Main things that worked for me have been, low carb diet, a tincture with main ingredients reishi, maitake and shitake mushrooms, astragalus, ginseng, licorice and some other ingredients I can't remember right now ... omega 3 oil, esp. for joint and muscle pain and I think also for mental confusion (helps the messaging system work right), vit. D(3), acupuncture once a month, pacing, lots of rest, positive self-talk,... also probably helped, dry skin brushing, liquid chlorophyll, ... going as green as I could manage, eg. vinegar instead of dryer sheets, no SLS in shampoos etc.

    May be other highlights not coming to me right now, I have been really foggy off and on today. Had a Reiki treatment this morning and went really messed up for the first few hours (had started messed up before the treatment also) to very clear over the later part of the day ... a little burnt out right now, my son and daughter-in-law were here for a visit and while I enjoyed them, after a certain number of hours I do wilt ...

    If I was going to guess what percent I'd be hovering around these days ... it's hard to say until I know again what 100 % is like, it's been so long!

    Within my little "normal" envelope, I feel like maybe a 75%. But that's working from home, doing little shopping trips to familiar places in my own town mostly. To step outside that ... I couldn't work part-time even in a pokey store that does hardly any business, even if I could sit down most of, say, a 3 hr shift. Couldn't do that more than twice a week and probably would crash in a short time.

    Went to our kids' new place recently. Husband drove the hour long trip into the city (no longer a familiar trip for me) and by the time we got there I was toast, bounced back a bit for the evening and felt falling down drunk on the trip home. Had to recover for a day or so after.

    So ... really nowhere near a "real" robust life yet. But, within the confines I am mostly clearheaded, don't have the vibrating and swirling seasick sensations most of the time. Am coherent, without vertigo most of the time. Don't need 2 hr naps morning, noon and evening any more. Have an hour kicking back in an afternoon and I am good to go.

    This all sounds really disjointed to me, as I try to give you what information I can. Hope it doesn't read as disjointed as it wrote. :)

    Let me know if I didn't actually answer your question, ok? :)
  7. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Just re-read your post, and then mine.

    Persistent symptoms are some vertigo, which is disorienting and is related to the brain fog that I will get when overtired or stressed.

    Parasthesia, the weird physical sensations (otherwise known in some corners as the body stone :)).

    Have to go low carb or old symptoms will return, though I have more leeway there than I used to have.

    Some joint and muscle pain though mostly it just makes me feel old and creaky when it hits. Exception -- my right shoulder, arm and hand are prone to tendinitis and edema when overused. And also stress will bring on burning pain in my lower right arm and elbow. As stress eases, so does the pain.

    I am crap with numbers still, but not as bad as before. Short term memory still sucks but again ... not as bad. Sometimes it is even ... good.

    That's probably the lot.
  8. JanisB

    JanisB Senior Member

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    Sounds a lot like where I'm at, but I can't exercise yet. I did a little weight lifting yesterday. Emphasis on a little -- 10 reps on 6 machines, took about 10 minutes. Last night I slept 11 1/2 hours!

    Anyway, hang in there and keep improving. It's so hard to trim the fat when we get going. After years of deprivation, we become energy hogs... And often being cautious doesn't seem to reap enormous results, while being incautious reaps havoc.

    So much for philosophizing. Wrote back because I got a call from a woman who read my story "48 hours" on the ME-CFSKnowledge.org site and is doing the guaifenesin, and reminded me that Dr. St Amand usually finds that people can tolerate more carbs after a 2 month period of strict adherence to his diet (which is awfully close to Richie Shoemaker's diet, and Patricia Kane's diet). Have you ever tried any of those to see if you can get your body to become more carb tolerant?

    I'm doing okay in that department, e.g. no more hypoglycemic need to eat NOW, but limit the starch.

    Janis
  9. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Janis,

    I'm not familiar with those particular diets, but do know that after 7 yrs of mostly avoiding starchy carbs, while it seems that I can now have the occasional cheat, if it is too often I will have the same old symptoms reappear.

    But I do have a weakness for pizza if it's in front of me ... :D
  10. bettine

    bettine

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    Hi Janis,
    you wrote:


    I was so amazed when I read this. I have been ill for 17 years, and I know exactly what you mean by the hyperarousal, but I have NEVER NEVER thought of lying upside down and let the blood flow back to my head. Next time it happens, I will certainly try it out. Because once I enter the hyper arousal state, it takes hours (up to 24 hours I guess) to calm down, and I feel so very, very ill.

    So thanks a lot for the tip!

    @ Jody: Your wrote about the low carb diet. I am more and more experimenting with the low carb. I already did a fairly low carb diet because I want to loose weight, but sometimes I do the wrong thing and eat cake or bread, and it makes me very foggy in my head, even the next day. So I am beginning to think it is a really important issue to stay on low carb, and even increase it. (sorry, have a very vague head right now, so difficult to express myself)(and I didn't eat bread or cake :rolleyes:)

    So many things to be learned on this forum :)

    take care,

    bettine
  11. Jody

    Jody Senior Member

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    Bettine,

    Definitely worth a try going further low carb if you've been finding it makes a difference.

    I get fog in the head from things like bread. It's very common, yet you don't read much about this. I'm glad you came across something that may make a big difference for you. I hope it does. :)

    And isn't it great to be someplace where there are things to be learned that may make a difference? I love this place. :D

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