Information by Richard Podell, MD – clinical professor at New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical. Dr. Podell specializes in CFS, Fibromyalgia, stress-related disorders and clinical nutrition. For more information on Dr. Podell, you can visit his site here.
According to Dr. Podell, people with any type of chronic illness develop a set of self-defeating vicious cycles that conventional medical approaches often overlook. Dr. Podell’s priority lies in reversing these cycles to help promote healing.
The eight vicious cycles Dr. Podell refers to are:
– Non-restorative sleep – CFS and FM patients suffer from disrupted sleep and poor sleep quality. Not getting enough sleep worsens physical and mental stamina. Click here to read Dr. Podell’s lecture on improving sleep quality.
To improve sleep quality, Dr. Podell recommends behavioral training, herbs and medicines, and nutritional supplements.
Disordered breathing rhythms – Dr. Podell says that more than half of his CFS & FM patients develop a disordered pattern of breathing. They take very small rapid breaths using the small muscles of their chest instead of slow, deep breathing with the large muscles of the abdomen. These changes are subtle and most people who “hyperventilate” in this manner don’t realize that their breathing pattern is out-of-synch.
Dr. Podell teaches patients how to restore their breathing to normal and he says this can be accomplished in just 2 – 3 sessions.
– Deconditioning – Inactivity often leads to lack of physical fitness. CFS & FM patients are often too exhausted and in too much pain to exercise. If they push themselves, they feel worse. With lack of activity, the person’s fitness fades leading to increased risk of illness, etc.
Dr. Podell promotes physical activity in just the right amounts, not too much and not too little, and he says within a few months symptoms improve.
– Magnesium loss in the urine – Both physical pain and mental distress cause magnesium loss through the urine. Low magnesium, in turn, turns up pain volume and also heightens vulnerability to stress. This brings about further magnesium loss.
To treat magnesium deficiencies, Dr. Podell offers a specialized test of magnesium status and they agressively replace any deficiencies.
– Hormonal imbalances – Both physical and mental distress trigger the release of hormones such as cortisol that promote tissue breakdown. At the same time, distress depresses the output of hormones that promote growth (e.g., DHEA growth hormone). Thyroid and sex-hormones may also be affected. These hormonal disturbances undermine healing, which then leads to further hormone disruption.
For hormonal imbalances, Dr. Podell tests hormone levels and then considers the pros and cons of supplementing the hormones.
– Blood sugar instability – All of the above cycles have a poor effect on the body’s blood sugar and insulin system. Blood sugar tends to rise higher after eating carbohydrates, and then falls rapidly lower, which is the “hypoglycemic” reaction. The falling blood sugar causes hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge. You can read more on this topic by clicking here.
Dr. Podell treats blood sugar instability with the traditional anti-hypoglycemia diet plus other treatment.
– Mind and body tension – People who don’t feel well have more tension and increased tension. The increased muscle tension causes even more pain and stiffness. The mental tension creates anxiety feelings and feeling loss of control. Together these just continue to worsen the illnesses.
Dr. Podell teaches practical relaxtion skills to reduce mind and body tension.
– Losing perspective and losing hope – Chronically ill people tend to lose hope and small setbacks can seem like major catastrophies. They also have anger which further suppresses the immune system. Often times chronically ill patients lose hope and give up even trying.
Dr. Podell uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a brief educational technique that teaches you how to “reframe” practical problems so that you deal with them more effectively.
Dr. Podell’s strategy is to reverse these cycles one by one, fixing one before moving on to the next. He says this strengthens the body’s natural ability to heal.