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Fainting

What and Why?

All your blood vessels are capable of expanding widely when they need to, by relaxation of the muscles that are wrapped round them like elastic bandages. If they all chose to open up at once, their total capacity would exceed the volume of your blood many times over: your blood pressure would collapse, because no blood would get back to your heart to keep it primed.

That does not usually happen because your nervous system keeps the emphasis of your circulation on the tissues where the work is. That varies smoothly throughout the day, from restfully digesting your last meal to vigorous muscular exertion. The only part of you that always needs blood is your brain, whose ground floor houses the control centre which regulates the distribution of your blood everywhere else.

This arrangement is not proof against upset. Any shock or stress severe enough to disrupt your brain routine will leave your circulation unattended for a few seconds, which is quite enough for valves along your blood vessels to relax indiscriminantely. When this happens a large fraction of your blood can quickly gravitate to your legs, leaving you with insufficient to pump uphill to your head or elsewhere. So the blood drains from your face, your vision goes grey and all the control functions of your brain go haywire — you sweat, feel giddy, and may be sick. Finally you lose consciousness altogether and slump to the ground. You may have a brief fit while you are unconscious, if other parts of your brain are similarly affected. However unless you injure yourself in falling, no permanent or serious harm is likely to be done.

This whole fainting sequence may only take a few seconds, but it does usually give you some warning. If you are prone to faints you may recognize circumstances that generally bring one on. If they tend to follow a meal by several hours and come on gradually, you may be hypoglycaemic and should explore that possibility.

The underlying cause is usually far more prosaic. Standing still for a long time, especially in the heat or in stuffy and airless atmospheres, will eventually wear most people down. Any pain will cause fainting if severe enough. Painful periods are particularly liable to affect you if your loss is heavy, so that you have to cope with anaemia as well. Prolonged tiredness, excessive exposure to the cold, or going without meals often cause people to faint under day-to-day pressures that would not normally affect them. Teenagers during their adolescent growth spurt have less stable circulation, and pregnant women are in some postures liable to trapping of a large part of their blood supply in their legs, if their babies weigh heavily on their leg veins.

Medical investigation usually reveals nothing abnormal and suggests no useful preventative action. But there are several valuable clues you can follow through for yourself. In particular, since sluggish nervous reflexes account for the mechanism of fainting, anything that improves these will reduce your liability to faint.

What can I do?

Advice to maintain and maximise your health

1. Eat well: ‘Eat breakfast for yourself, share your lunch with a friend, give your supper to an enemy’. If your bigger meals come early in the day you have ready fuel for all your activities. Missing out breakfast is a great mistake, for teenagers especially: tiredness from sleeping too little and too late heightens any apprehension you feel about the forthcoming day, and destroys your appetite. In adults this more often goes with eating and drinking too much and too late at night, which you may be using as a way to relax after a long tense day.

2. Diet and supplementation: Besides sufficient unrefined energy food in a generally healthy diet, you need plenty of the Vitamin B group, Vitamin C (at least 250mg food-state daily) and nutrient minerals. Nine Brewer’s Yeast tablets daily are enough if you are reasonably well, but a food-state Vitamin B Complex is better for the first month if you are not: be guided by how well you recall your dreams each morning. Egg nog or Honey Cider Vinegar recipe provides the minerals cheaply, reinforced for a few weeks with the food-state multimineral formula.

3. Tone yourself up generally by brushing your skin vigorously all over first thing each morning, or finish a hot shower with thirty seconds of cool or cold water and rub yourself dry vigorously instead.

4. Practice good breathing several times each day, preferably in fresh air out of doors. Exercise regularly to become reasonably fit. Get enough sleep, starting well before midnight.

5. Meanwhile three homoeopathic remedies for fainting are worth trying:

  • Arsenicum album 3 while you remain debilitated;
  • Moschus 3 or Ignatia 3 if you are well but are the nervous or excitable type, inclined to worry.

All can be taken every four hours for a few days at a time, when you feel the need.

6. A pot pourri of Lavender, or massage with its essential oil, helps to reduce a fainting tendency and is a useful restorative after attacks. Peppermint tea reinforces this, especially if used instead of your customary stimulants.

7. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Reflexology understand instability of your nerves and circulation better than conventional doctors do. Consultation with a local practitioner of either may prove very rewarding.

8. When you feel faint loosen clothing round your neck, suck hard against your closed throat to get blood into your chest, and lean well forward. If necessary lie down in good time, with your legs up on a chair. When the moment has passed get upright again in gradual stages, so as not to risk a recurrence.

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