Monday, January 19, 2009

The Dow Jones Energy Level Average, or How to Tell If I’m Making Progress

I’m reminded of my erratic energy levels as I watch the Dow climb up 600 points one day and plunge down 800 the next. It is one of the more challenging aspects of my existence, one that sets up expectations only to plunge me into disappointments. It’s the roller coaster of CFS, as jaggedly spiked as the current Dow Jones Industrial Average.

This past Thursday and Sunday I felt great, almost normal at times. I accomplished a lot and went to sleep content, hoping for a new trend. Alas, the next morning, I could barely get out of bed.

“I overdid it,” I said to myself, always thinking I have some control over the pattern. It’s nice to believe I have control. For if the world is predictable, if my behavior can affect my energy levels, then I have POWER OVER THIS ILLNESS!

But a voice of doubt pops into my head. What did I actually overdo?

I usually wait to eat until I’m hungry, and almost every day the hunger arrives at predicable times, about noon and 6:00pm. If it’s earlier, I take a snack. Can I help it if, yesterday, the signal for lunch didn’t arrive until 2 pm? ... that I didn’t even think about dinner until 7:30 pm when I finished an engaging project, and then didn’t feel the least bit hungry, so I took some time to do hatha yoga before eating? Should I have forced myself to stop and eat at the regular times, perhaps even setting an alarm? I don’t know the answer. I get in bed about the same time every night, but some nights I’m asleep in 10 minutes and others I’m waiting for 2-3 hours before The Sandman arrives. And I don’t always feel worse after one of those insomniac adventures.

The post-Thursday crash arose on the first day I had my new hydroxy B-12. Rich told me to expect some detox. I considered whether the tight sinuses and slight feeling of getting a cold could be detox, but decided against that theory because I remembered I had the exact same symptoms many times this summer. Every time I did a little bit of aerobic exercise, like a 3 mile bike ride, or a 15 minute walk, I'd feel as though I were getting a cold the next two days. So I gave up walking and biking and had some stability in my life.

I cleared up the new, incipient colds by resting and drinking lots of hot tea, putting eucalyptus oil in a hot bath, and taking a combination of tinctures of echinacea, horseradish, and myrrh. Today, the post Sunday crash, brings with it another symptom — an enlarged tongue. And that’s what reminded me of a few simple, accurate ways to monitor whether energy average is improving or not, because I can't tell from day to day.

1. Low body temperature. I’m indebted to for this one. My oral temperature averages low, usually 97.8, which is a sign that the body isn’t making enough ATP to function at a normal body temperature. [nb: it can also be a sign of low thyroid or low adrenal function. See more details at] At the lower body temperature, everything slows down in the cell, including phagocytosis (the ability of white blood cells to capture and destroy viruses) and finicky enzyme reactions that affect methylation and metabolism. Yesterday, my temperature was a whopping 98.2! It was delightful. A heat wave. Today it is down again, 97.2 all morning and early afternoon, up to 97.8 after my nap. I started monitoring 3 days ago, and will compare with records I kept in the spring of 2008. If I see the average getting higher, and the peaks and valleys less erratic, I’ll know I’m starting to heal — even if I don’t feel consistently good every day.

2. Tongue appearance. Traditional Chinese medicine looks at the tongue as an indicator of what is going on in the body. When it swells, it gets too large for the mouth and teethmarks appear around the edges. My tongue is enormous today, a swollen muscle, as if sprained (and not from talking too much! for I was alone all day). Yesterday it was closer to normal. I was admiring how nice it looked.

A groove down the center of the tongue also indicates how the body is doing. As the body heals, the length and the depth of the split reduce. My acupuncturist used to look at my tongue and say "Getting better. Split not so deep."

To be a little less subjective, I decided to measure the split by placing a card over my tongue and marking the beginning and end. Then I hold it up to a ruler: about ½ inch. The tongue changes rapidly, but I’m going to look at it regularly to see if the crack gets shorter over time. (By the say, Dr. Chi has a short book, with pictures of tongues, talking about the meaning of other signs, such as coating and color, which can be ordered through Chi Research.)

3. Fingernails. The same Dr. Chi teaches about fingernails. When I met him at an ANMA conference in 2003, he noticed I had lost the moons in all but my thumbnails. Now I’ve regained them in the index and middle fingers, although they’re not very big or very white. But at least I know, despite this relapse, that my body is functioning better than it did in 2003. Something good to kindle the flame of hope.

Hunger calls; it’s almost 6. Next time I’ll post Rich’s analysis of my case as some people on the Yahoo Yasko group suggested. Be well.

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