Getting My Body Back into Regulation

In my last blog, I discussed all the dysregulation in my body. This time, I’ll explore what I’m doing to try and get things back in sync. Some of these things are directly from my doctor’s instructions and some are my own additions based on prevailing research.

The first step is to reestablish a sound circadian rhythm. Easier said than done, right? My approach is keeping appropriate morning and evening routines that help my body to understand what time of day it is. While everyone has their favorite routines that work for them, here’s mine:

Morning routines

  • First and foremost, get up at the same time every day. No sleeping in on weekends to mess things up.
  • Bright light, preferably natural, otherwise full spectrum with an emphasis on green/blue wavelengths. Get out of bed, open all the window shades, and look to the rising sun!
  • I moved my UVB exposure sessions to every day for 5 minutes in the morning. This combines light therapy with vitamin D dosing.
  • I use a PEMF system to help with some nerve damage issues (more on that in another blog) and I run higher frequencies (20 to 30 Hz) in the morning to provide more stimulation.
  • I take my daily dose of Synthroid (thyroid hormone) in the morning. Although the medicine is slow acting, it still makes more sense to put anything that may increase my metabolism into my body early in the day.
  • Likewise, I take my daily dose of B12 in the morning.

Evening routines

  • Avoid exposure to bright light and stay away from blue/green wavelengths. I set my iPhone and iPad to Night Shift mode for the evening. When I’m meditating or doing yoga, I use a variable spectrum light set to red or orange.
  • I use lower frequencies (7 to 10 Hz) on the PEMF system, more conducive to relaxation and sleep.
  • Avoid any vigorous exercise in late evening. I do yoga close to bedtime, but that’s it. And when I say yoga, I mean plain, traditional, Hatha yoga for about 20 minutes that involves holding poses for set periods of time. It’s very slow and calming. No hot yoga or power yoga or crazy stuff like that.
  • I use a heart rate variability biofeedback app called “Inner Balance.” I run a five minute session immediately before turning out the light and going to bed. This gets my heart into a more coherent state and should produce better heart rate variability while I sleep. So far, I’ve been sleeping better since doing this.
  • As a close to how I start the day, I always go to bed at the same time. Since there is no “alarm” for bedtime, I have a tolerance window of 5 or 10 minutes and try to stick to it.

While “bookending” your day with morning and evening routines can certainly go a long way toward producing better sleep and circadian rhythms, I still need to worry about what happens in between.

To keep my digestion running more smoothly and my blood sugar more stable, I consume a number of meals throughout the day.

My meals start with breakfast at 6:30 AM. Somewhere around 9:00-9:30 AM, I’m extremely hungry and I have second breakfast. I then eat lunch promptly at 12:00 PM. My lunch is quite a few calories and usually makes me feel full until dinner at about 5:00 PM. Though I eat a decent-sized dinner, I’m often starving again shortly after. I save my last snack of the day for about 6:30-7:00 PM, depending on if, or how long, I exercise. So, that’s five meals spread over roughly twelve hours. I typically wake up starving, or get very hungry shortly after arising, and start the process all over again.

Remember I mentioned the Inner Balance heart rate variability biofeedback device? I use that for five minutes per session two times per day (not including the session right before bed). This is under instruction from my doctor. Hopefully, it will make my heart rhythms look less like someone headed toward heart failure. If anyone sees me with something clipped to my ear and I’m staring intently at my iPhone, now you know what I’m doing.

What can I do to improve on this? In an ideal world, I would get more sunlight exposure throughout the day. That’s not going to happen in an office without a window. The most often cited perfect time to exercise is mid-afternoon. Again, I’m at work all day and have to save my workouts for early evening (I’ve tried mornings for years and hated it – just didn’t work for me). I’d like to try a sunrise simulator alarm clock. Anyone have any other good ideas?

 

Dysregulation

Dysregulation : impairment of a physiological regulatory mechanism (as that governing metabolism, immune response, or organ function) (Merriam-Webster dictionary).

Now that we have my food issue under some control, at least to the extent that I can eat 18 different foods and have some nutritional variety back in my life, my doctor is looking at what else is wrong and how I can heal my body.

One of the critical pieces of information is my 24 hour heart rate variability study performed last Fall. We now have the complete analysis. The summary is that my heart rate variability is very poor during the day (this is bad), my heart rate goes up while I’m sleeping (this is bad), but there is some improvement in heart rate variability while sleeping (this is good). Most likely this is the result of the physical stress of decades of chronic illness, plus the mental stress of dealing with the condition. I’m in a near-PTSD state.

My doctor and I discussed my poor sleep. I have no trouble falling asleep, but I wake up at night and have trouble getting back to sleep. My mind is not racing and I’m not worrying about anything, and I am not tired the next day. She thinks this is a cortisol regulation problem. My cortisol is ramping up at inappropriate times and I feel like I have enough sleep and adequate energy. The reality is that my body is not resting and recovering properly.

Then there’s my weird blood sugar readings. I often have high blood sugar when fasting and then it goes very low after a meal. When I say “low,” I mean I have symptoms of hypoglycemia sometimes mid-morning or before lunch. My actual measurement is typically low 70ish when that happens. And that’s even with a mid-morning second breakfast.

In addition, as discussed in a previous blog, my doctor is treating my marginal thyroid function with medication. I haven’t noticed a difference one way or another since starting Synthroid. The lab tests in a few months will show if that dose is helping or I need a higher dose. 

So, the theme I came away with from my last doctor visit – dysregulation. Between my heart rate, heart rate variability, blood sugar, cortisol, and thyroid hormone, my body is just all sorts of out of whack. There are ways to treat these things, of course. I’ll get to that in my next blog.