Updated: Apr 3
I first came across natural healing and herbal medicine when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She would visit the acupuncturist to help her with nausea & pain from the chemotherapy and to improve her digestive issues. She enjoyed going to acupuncture and continued too until she was not able to anymore. The second time was when my sister Caroline took a course in herbalism with the Gaia school of medicine where she learned about herbs and making herbal medicines as an apprentice. Together they both would provide a lot of subtle hints/knowledge to me to try these holistic approaches for my own daily symptoms that Cystic Fibrosis caused because they thought it could help. It took me awhile to actually, start listening, but when I was ready I began to try different methods and look for new approaches to helping relieve these symptoms of fatigue, chest pain, energy, coughing attacks, stuffy nose, sore muscles and a body that was just physically tired, stressed, and low on Qi.
After beginning to incorporate these holistic approaches into my life, I have seen changes in my body that I didn’t think I could change. Below I have outlined the holistic approaches that I have tried and why I believe they work great for CF.
I have used acupuncture on a monthly basis, weekly if I am recovering from being sick, to help move the stagnant energy (Qi) in my body and organs. Acupuncture places needles along different meridian channels and at different acupuncture points on the body to stimulate the bodies natural healing processes to create homeostasis or balance. Acupuncture can be used for a variety of different concerns from headaches, pain, digestion, mental anxiety or depression problems. In my practice I have found acupuncture to be most helpful in providing stress reduction on the whole physical body. It is a relaxing practice that helps with removing congestion and inflammation in the body while providing a great boost of energy. The tiny needles are placed on certain acupressure points along the meridians to help bring energy and relief to the organs in the body that need the assistance.
My acupuncturist works on boosting my immunity and helping my lungs and digestion move efficiently to eliminate toxins. Most of my needles are placed on the two major lung points, digestion, and spleen points to help in filtering my blood of toxins. She also provides immune boosting herbs that I take daily called Seven Forests: Astragalus 10+. It is a wonderful blend of 10 immune boosting herbs that help the body fight off infection better, which is great for CF individuals as we have immune deficiency problems and can contract illnesses easier.
Another practice that my acupuncturist provides is cupping, which is great to help remove toxins in the body and congestion. This consists of plastic suction cups placed on different acupuncture points on your back that help to pull the toxins out of your body. You might have seen someone with the classic red & purple cupping circles on their back that this practice leaves, but it only lasts a couple days and leaves you feeling fantastic.
As a CF individual, I have found this to be a great detox, but should be done with some caution if considering as a CF patient. I found this practice working better when my body's immunity was strong and not fighting illness. I recommend that if you do decide to try this holistic practice that you consider the condition of your health at the time before trying as it can make detox symptoms worse by causing detoxification sickness where your body could have trouble keeping up with the elimination leaving you feeling weaker or fatigued from the overload of toxins and prolonged colonized bacteria in the organs from CF from being eradicated from the body easily.
To find a local acupuncturist near you please click here to view the American Academy of Medical Acupuncturist website.
Meditation has been known to remove the physical and mental stress we put on the mind and body every day. It allows us to shut down our thoughts for short or long moments to allow our minds to relax, feel our bodies, and recharge to find our inner selves or spirit. It can clear the pathway to visualizing our dreams and realigns us on the correct path or step to take when faced with challenges. It is a great daily practice that a lot of successful people do every day, such as Tim Ferris and Tony Robbins. If these ideas don’t sound like reasons to make this a daily habit than there are a lot of anatomical reasons to practice meditation as well.
According to an article by Forbes magazine, there are studies that show that meditation can change the volume in certain areas of the brain that can help reduce social anxiety, increase concentration and focus, help with addiction and depression. The Heart Math institute also has a lot of study information on the heart-brain connection that shows how meditation can influence the chemistry of your brain just by doing simple heart-brain coherence exercises that help your brain to enter a state of flow or meditative brainwave states. For more information on the Heart- Math institute check out there website here.
This heart-brain coherence practices have been the most enjoyable daily practice that I have added to my life. I try to practice meditation daily for at least 5 minutes or more. In the beginning, it can be hard to sit for 30-45 minutes, but do what works for you and gradually increase the time as you get better and more focused, but even five minutes can change your mood, release oxytocin (feel good hormones) into the body, and change the chemistry of the brain.
If you don’t know anything about meditation I suggest taking a look at your local library to find some books on meditation or chakra healing, there are several. A couple of my favorites are “The Complete Chakra Workshop” by Patricia Mercier or “Meditation Bliss” by David Fontana that provide different exercises and methods to try for your meditation sessions. You may also like to join a group meditation practice that allows for more guidance into the practice and I find the more people you meditate with the easier and deeper you get into meditation, or try sound healing. I believe the energy gets deeper as you are all together sharing in the moment of relaxation and good vibes.
Meditation has helped me to zone in on what I want in life and to be able to create specific goals to work towards those dreams. It has created a sense of awareness in myself that I didn’t realize before. I am more sensitive to the things around me and the emotions that I am feeling. Whenever I feel an emotion it is easier to acknowledge it and work around the issue than to find myself worried, frustrated, and angry which we all know doesn’t help the situation, but makes it worse usually.
I use this breathwork meditation throughout my day as well if I am feeling overwhelmed, I take a five-minute break to breathe and tune into my heart again or if needed to take myself to a tropical island if the stressful day calls for a brief mental getaway. This was very helpful when I worked as a loan officer sales assistant at a local mortgage lender and the days began to be overwhelming and stressful.
Besides meditation, I believe massage and yoga are the other two holistic methods I have found to be god sends to relieving the physical tension, tenderness, and pain in my body from CF. Massage and yoga help to stretch the body, relieve the sore muscles and release the tension in the body, move stagnant energy, and help the entire body relax, detoxify, and rejuvenate.
This holistic approach has helped me tremendously in relieving physical stress, and tension in the body. As a CF individual, we cough daily and sometimes they are violent coughing attacks that can go for several minutes. This causes so much tension in our shoulders, ribs, and neck. It pretty much makes your whole body tired sometimes, but these are the areas I find the tension most in that are very hard to relax along with the hips.
Massage is one practice that I like to treat myself too at least once a month if finances allow to a licensed massage therapist as they know what they are doing. To me, a massage between each rib is heaven! Especially if it involves my favorite Hawaiian Noni menthol lotion- Noni Icy Heat sports formula. You can find it here at Hawaiian Organic Noni LLC.
When you go to a licensed massage therapist, you are getting an individual who has studied and knows the muscles in the body, how to detoxify, and relieve the tension in them. You also don’t have the opportunity for the wrong massage/move to cause more problems like pinched nerves or pulled muscles when going to a licensed therapist. With that said, massage is also expensive and if you are like me it can be low on the financial totem pole of expenses, but massage is very beneficial to the body.
It helps the body to eliminate toxins, relieve built up tension in the body, and releases good relaxing endorphins to the brain that help in reducing stress and providing relaxation to the individual. If you are like me and a monthly massage isn’t always in the budget, but you still want to reap the benefits, you can try these alternatives.
Ask a family member, spouse, or friend to give you a nice relaxing massage for a trade off. You can put on some nice meditative music, light some incense or use some aroma therapy to create a relaxing atmosphere at home. My husband and I take turns giving each other massages all the time, some nights we will just rub each other’s feet after a long day and just chat about how are day was or other things we need to discuss. So if we can’t get a professional one we just incorporate it into our schedule or as part of a date night. It may not be professional or last as long, but this still stimulates the same affects in the body to relieve tension and stress. This can also provide a better way to connect and strengthen a relationship because you are exchanging energies between each other that reflect trust, communication, and care.
Check to see if your health insurance covers massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic care. A lot of health care companies and employers are adding these to their health plans as the demand for these practices increases as the western world develops more and more chronic pain and ever increasing stress from modern life. If it is covered you may only have to pay a small co-pay.
Check to see if there are any local massage schools in your area. Part of a massage therapists curriculum is to have so many hours of hands on practice in order to receive their license. Usually you can get cheaper massage prices for getting a massage from a student massage therapist instead of a fully licensed therapist at a school’s massage clinic. In Hawaii, we have several massage schools and the one closest to me “Hawaii healing arts college and massage professionals” provides an hour massage for $35 bucks for an intern therapist instead of the $65-100 dollars or more price for a licensed therapist massage. Click here to visit their website and set up an online appointment.
Yoga is another wonderful practice that helps in opening the joints and the body to allow blood flow and lymph to move. It stretches the muscles and helps with building strength and flexibility.
For me as a CF person, yoga helps open up the chest area, so breathing becomes easier, stretches the sore muscles out to help reduce the pain and tension from everyday stress. I like to incorporate some yoga into my morning. After I complete my airway clearance treatments, I love to stretch out my body from the night of rest if it’s stiff, to increase blood flow, and wake me and my lungs up.
Now as a individual with CF, a little exercise and movement on some days can cause a lot of coughing with certain movements as the body is trying to clear the congestion out. For me, I have found on bad days I like to just do yoga at home with my own movements and techniques or find a nice online yoga class to follow. On better days, when I feel congestion and coughing will not disrupt the class, I enjoy the social aspect and energy of a group yoga class. Below is a list of links to some of my favorite online yoga classes and if you’re in Hawaii my favorite group yoga class at Aloha Yoga Kula.
https://www.pactster.com/workouts (This site has CF designed workouts)
www.alohayogakula.com (This group class has great live music every 1st Monday of the month)
5. Breathing Exercises- Pranayama:
Pranayama exercises are yogic breathing techniques that have a great impact on our physical health. The goal of pranayama is to provide a formal practice of controlling the breath, which is our “Prana” or vital life force. These breathing exercises can increase energy, reduce stress, boost immunity, and help in regulating our emotions.
This is a practice I am just learning about, but have found this very helpful in clearing my lungs and being able to take deeper breaths which makes it a fantastic CF therapy for helping to exercise the lungs. I have found that these breathing techniques help me to clear more mucus out than I can when I am just doing my nebs and vest. I have also found that it helps in opening my airways and helping me to expand my lungs, such as what would happen if you were running and doing some intense cardio which helps bring more oxygen to the brain and body.
I know there are days when your lungs are too sensitive and weak that even just the daily coughing makes them sore. Just do what you can and listen to your body. If you can’t do a whole practice than do one exercise for like ten minutes. I believe this is still worth the benefits and when your lungs are stronger do a longer practice of different exercises. For me, I count this as one of my airway clearance treatments for the day just as I count aerobic exercise as a treatment for the day. So, when life gets busy and you can’t sit and do 4 vest treatments in a day because you are running around, just do some of these breathing exercises and you will have a good airway clearance treatment on the go. If you have a daily exercise routine as well, then you already have two airway clearance treatments done for the day!
So, whether you just want to add some relaxation to your day or take away some stress and tension in your body, I believe these holistic approaches can help relieve some of the daily symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis and our great practices for any person.
Until next time Aloha and Namaste!