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Trying Out Supplements & Drugs: How to Best Gauge Whether They Are Having a Positive Effect

Discussion in 'General Treatment' started by Hip, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    @Chieftain asked me the following question, and I thought it might be best to start a thread in order to answer it.
    Firstly, for testing supplements and drugs, I find it absolutely invaluable to keep an ongoing diary (daily journal) on my computer in which I write down every drug or supplement I take on each day. In this diary, I also write my observations regarding any interesting changes in ME/CFS symptoms (symptoms improving or worsening, or new symptoms appearing). My diary system is explained in this post.

    Secondly, an important part of my testing system is planned starting and stopping of the medication or regimen under test. This is because I find you only really notice the benefits of a medication when you first start it (because that's when the benefits first appear, and you notice the change), and when you stop taking it (because that's when the improvements will tend to vanish again, and you notice the change). See this post for more details.

    The third part of my testing system is finding and making use of natural objective measures of health level: this means finding reliable objective measures of your symptom levels (what you are capable of doing today), rather than your subjective assessment of your symptoms (how you feel today). This idea is explained in this post and this post.

    Note that a related thread is this one: How to best gauge levels of brain fog & fatigue
    flitza and Chieftain like this.
  2. Chieftain


    Thank you for starting this thread, I think it could be a useful meta-topic to cover when taking measures to improve one's health.

    You mentioned that you track OBJECTIVE measures, but I'm sure you also would agree with the notion that how you feel SUBJECTIVELY matters as well.

    1) Do you track subjective measures as well? What kind of system/scale/phrasing do you use for that?

    2) This is useful for supplements and drugs, yes. But have you tracked how you've felt in different locations throughout the world? (referring to the "locations effect") Do you tend to feel (subjectively) and/or perform (objectively) better in certain types of places, e.g. the beach, or mountains?
  3. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    How you feel subjectively is of course invaluable in working out if a treatment is effective or not, or if it is making you worse. But generally such subjective evaluations are only good across a timescale of a few days, not really for longer periods (that is what I find, at least).

    For example, if I take a new supplement or drug medication, and within hours (or on the next day) I notice that I feel worse, with say increased brain fog, increased anxiety and increased sound sensitivity, then I will suspect the medication may have been the cause of this. And if a get same results when I try the same medication again some days later, it helps confirm it.

    However, when you take a medication that provides a slow but steady improvement in some ME/CFS symptoms, you may not become aware of this improvement. Every day you may feel very slightly better than the previous day, but the change is so subtle that you do not notice it. In these circumstances, subjective feelings are probably not going to help you realize that your medication is slowly bringing improvements.

    However, say after say 6 months on this medication, you may suddenly notice that whereas half a year ago, you needed 12 hours sleep every night, plus a couple of hours of napping during the day, now you realize you are only sleeping for 8 hours a night, and now you rarely seem to need to take a nap during the day at all.

    So in this way, you realize that your ME/CFS has improved by the objective measure of the amount of sleep you require.

    You could not really use a subjective measure in this situation, because it is hard to remember how you felt last week, let alone how you felt six months ago.

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