If you are here, chances are you have either tried or are about to try to taper off of Cymbalta. You probably already understand that over 40% of Cymbalta users have adverse side effects when trying to taper down. You may have even heard of something called Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome. If you’re still reading, it probably means that you are determined to get off of your medication and want to do so safely without losing your job, relationships, and potentially your life.
Right now over 17,000 men and women just like you are on a forum on Facebook called “Cymbalta Hurts Worse.” I’m just one of the members of that forum. While I do highly recommend joining the group and looking through their incredible resources on the topic, I don’t suggest you linger too long.
While the information is absolutely correct and there is a solid community at Cymbalta Hurts Worse, it can be a scary place for individuals who are looking to taper safely. Many of the members create worrisome posts and though understandable, I don’t think it is useful for you to read all of those posts and here’s the primary reason.
One of the biggest barriers to starting this taper is a primary emotion known as fear. The temptation is to wait until the fear disappears to begin the taper. Sadly, that is not how you make fear disappear. To make fear “disappear” you start tapering despite the fear and learn courage along the way.
When I first became a member of Cymbalta Hurts Worse, I visited the forum multiple times a day and read each and every horror story. You may have guessed that my fear never subsided. Finally, determined to just get on with it, I grabbed all of the essential documents located there and stopped visiting the forum. What I found was that my actual experience with tapering was not as horrifying as I had worked myself up to believe. In fact, though challenging, it was much more straightforward and rewarding than it was actually terrifying. Part of this, I realized was because I had some extra tools and wisdom from my background in herbal medicine, and I’m looking forward to sharing those with you now.
So, I hope you can feel yourself start to breathe a little. This slow taper is possible and entirely worth it for your long-term health.
Okay, so let’s get started. You’re going to safely taper off of Cymbalta. Great!
Steps to Tapering off Cymbalta
Step 1: take an average count of beads.
To do this you will need to grab your pill or pills. If you have a different AM and PM dose you’ll have to do this twice. Now that you have your capsule open one up and dump them onto a dark cloth. The cloth should not be too thick as you don’t want the beads to sink into the fabric and get lost– so no fleece! Also, the cloth shouldn’t be too thin (like satin) as you don’t want the beads to slide. Grab a small crochet hook and slide the beads into groups of 10. Total up the number for that capsule. Reload the capsule. Repeat the same thing on two other different capsules for a total of three.
Mine looked like this:
Add all of your totals together and divide by 3. I came up with 301. That was my average. From there I determined my drop down rate based off of my level of confidence and I decided to go for a 7% drop down rate. Some individuals go as high as 10% while others go as low as one bead at a time. It’s entirely up to you and your comfort level.
To get my total I did some quick math: 301 X .07 = 21.07 I rounded to 21. Then I subtracted 21 from 301 and got 280. That is now your new dose. Say goodbye to milligram doses. Your bead count is your new dose
Step 2: Load Your Capsules
Here’s where people do this wrong- they remove beads from the capsule rather than load beads into new veggie capsules.
In other words, individuals take 27 beads out of a capsule and close it back up. You can’t do that consistently because remember each capsule actually has a slightly different amount to begin with. What you must do is put 280 beads into a new capsule. You can buy the veggie capsules from Amazon.
Many people are looking to simplify this step or are searching for a shortcut. Get into the mindset early that shortcuts are not going to be your ally during this process. In a sense, Cymbalta was the shortcut to begin with and you are now learning how to take the longcut if you will. You’re taking the road less travelled and to quote Robert Frost, that is going to make all the difference.
Now, using a small crochet hook , count out your beads… In this example the number is 280 beads. Keep the beads in multiples of 10 so you don’t get lost. Load 14 capsules (or 2 weeks worth) with 280 beads. If you don’t have time to do all 14 try and get as many done as you can. Many people like to load their capsules every two weeks. I personally became fond of doing this process every morning as part of a morning ritual. This ritual became so quick it only added about 2 minutes to my morning. Decide what works for you.
After two weeks you start the process again with the next number. Make sure you keep track in a book or in your phone. You will forget!
Step 3: Repeat
Now do it again with 280 this time. Multiple this by .07 I got 19. Notice how the number of beads you remove got smaller! That’s because you’re always taking the percentage from the last bead count. Subtract 19 from 280. I got 261. Load 14 capsules with 261 beads and keep going until you’re out of beads.
Do drop off of this medication slowly but surely. Don’t attempt to rush it! Many people say “this is a marathon not a sprint” and they couldn’t be more correct. The only issue I take with that is a lot of those people have never run a marathon. They don’t understand the kind of persistence it takes to complete one. Many individuals find themselves lost in this process because they are either dropping too quickly or are regularly wondering “when this is going to end.” A marathon takes practice, endurance, and the willingness to persevere and remain resilient to the finish line.
So where do herbs and supplements come in?
As you move through your taper you may experience: headaches, confusion, dizziness, nervousness or mild nausea. (If you are getting very nauseous from the beginning, you’re going at too quick of a rate.)
Those adverse symptoms are rather normal but don’t last. Each experience may come on and stick around for a few minutes and then disappear. You need to know that these feelings are simply part of it and it is okay. To help you deal with the taper, herbs and supplements are tremendous allies.
To help you get more bioavailable magnesium, in addition to taking a multi mineral that contains magnesium, and an epsom salt bath, you may want to try a super infusion of stinging nettles. A super infusion is 1 oz of plant for every quart of water. You will want to do this at night. Place an ounce of nettles into a quart jar and pour water over them, seal, and allow the nettles to brew all night. You can do cold or hot water but for nettles I personally prefer hot water. The next day you strain your nettles and drink the quart of tea leisurely throughout the day. Take all day to drink if necessary and do this every other day to start and increase to daily if desired. If you are feeling creative, add nettles to your pesto with some dandelion and arugula. All three of those plants are going to help your body tremendously during this time.
Many individuals complain about GI issues during a Cymbalta taper. As your digestive tract produces 90% of your serotonin it may come as no surprise that when you begin to mess with those serotonin levels, your digestion gets thrown off. Some people report gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and even diagnosis of SIBO and or Candida (AKA as SIFO). To help support your digestion during all of this you will want to:
Juice celery every morning and drink an 8-16 ounce glass on an empty stomach. If you don’t have a juicer you can blend it and strain the juice from the pulp.
Do your best to remove coffee from your diet. If you are thinking “no way, I need this!” Consider why and then make this decision. Coffee can be very irritating to your stomach and nervous system and you can always replace this drink with black tea or green tea. I was in the “no way” category and did it anyway and was grateful I did. Obviously, you decide.
Drink a chamomile, ginger, or cinnamon tea between every meal. A digestive bitters such as this one from Urban Moonshine is great after meals as well.
Only eat 3 meals a day to avoid build up in the intestines. The digestive tract often becomes sluggish and loses motility. If you snack in between meals regularly you may not be giving your digestion enough time to do the clean sweep. While eating try and chew each bite 10-40 times- an ancient ayurvedic principal. This will help you to prevent or at least diminish issues involving your digestion.
Take a daily adaptogen to help you deal with stressors. Cymbalta has a contraindication from nearly every herbal supplement. Regardless, I use schisandra daily as part of my regimine. Be warned! Schisandra is called “the five flavor herb” for a reason and is not something everyone enjoys the taste of. You could try shatavari or reishi. Pick what works for you.
Ashwaganda is a popular adaptogen. This calming adaptogen should not interfere with your use of Cymbalta. That being said many individuals have reported Ashwaganda contraindicated with Cymbalta. For this reason you may want to pick a schisandra, reishi, tulsi, or another balancing or calming adaptogenic herb.
A nervous system tonic that I love is skull cap. Unlike other nervines, skull cap may be taken daily and for longer periods of time. This amazing plant will help to nourish your nervous system and even reduce sensory processing issues that may arise when you start your taper.
For pain relief nothing works quite like medical marijuana, but turmeric powder and a CBD oil like one of these from ENDOCA are great allies if you can’t legally access medical marijuana in your state.
Movement and Mindfulness
On this journey to your last bead, you will feel your emotions start to “come back online.” Some of them will be great to feel again- bliss, orgasms. Others may feel like a bit of a nightmare- rage, deep sadness. Regardless of this, I recommend you first remind yourself that this is a normal part of the process. There is such thing as Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome, after all. It is only natural for you to feel things again. That being said, you are going to want to help your body learn to deal with emotions in a healthy way. I recommend you begin a daily fitness routine that includes weightlifting, high intensity interval training, and time in nature. If you can’t access time in nature, Reishi is able to mimic a walk through the woods and may be a great alternative for those who are city-bound. Reishi also modulates the immune system, supports the lungs, and helps with memory and brain fog. Reishi is best taken as a tea that has been decocted or boiled down for 30 minutes in water. Because the polysaccharides are water-soluble, Reishi works lovely as a daily tea. Warning- Reishi tea is very bitter!
Various types of exercise address various states of mind.
If you are feeling anger and rage, in addition to mindfulness, you will want to add in some weightlifting. Weightlifting is great for states of anxiety as well. If you have ever felt that “out-of-body” anxious feeling of panic, building muscle helps to ground you and bring you back down to your body and remind you that you are in fact in control.
HIIT and Cardio
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is great if you are running out of time and need to get the benefits of a 90 minute workout in just 30 minutes. Cardiovascular exercise for a period of about 90 minutes helps with elevating your mood and changing perspective. If you have ever felt so depressed you could barely motivate yourself, and then suddenly found it within you to go for a walk you will notice a change in perspective. Maybe you’ll realize that you could move around, after all and this single event increases the likelihood to move around again if you are feeling the same way the next day. In essence, you’re training your body to take positive mobile action when your feel immobilized by depression.
Walks in the Woods
When you reconnect with nature and subsequently disconnect from modern-day distractions, you may have guessed that you are increasing your ability to focus, remain calm, and clear brain fog. Brain fog and poor memory are two big complaints from individuals who are taking Cymbalta. When you connect with the intricate life force around you and give your brain natural organic shapes to observe and listen to, you are giving yourself a break from the sympathetic-triggering unnatural stimuli of the modern world and returning yourself to a more natural way of life.
If you are the type of person who makes every excuse for movement under the sun, you are not alone. But exercise is one of the most important things you can do in your day. You simply must make time for exercise. We were never meant to live these sedentary lives. If you’re still not convinced remember that exercise helps you to maintain a healthy weight, gives you a sense of accomplishment, lowers blood sugar, builds muscle, increases bone density and so much more. Make exercise a daily priority and in about 4 weeks, you will start to wonder how you lived without it. It’s that powerful.
Mindfulness is Hip For a Reason
In addition to exercise, add in yoga or a mindfulness practice daily. Even just 10 minutes spent being mindful of your thoughts daily can greatly reduce your stress and anxiety while simultaneously training your brain to take a new path. Our brains’ flexibility is called neuroplasticity. You can learn some engaging and fun mindfulness techniques from this amazing book on stress reduction. Many people like to gamify their meditation practice with apps like Calm or Playne. I say, use what works for you. Personally, I don’t care for apps during my mindfulness practice. I use Yoga With Adriene videos on YouTube and enjoy those along with the mental exercises from the book. Everyone is different, but as you continue on this journey, you will learn how to listen to your mind and body and give it what it needs.
So, in a sense, tapering off of Cymbalta is a great opportunity! It’s an opportunity for your to learn new habits, and retrain your brain and your gut to function in a healthy and sustainable way without the use of this often dangerous medication. You’ll be on a journey to be sure, but this journey may be just what you need to turn your life around and reclaim your health.