June 22, 2015

The Health Chronicles, Vol. 2...Apparently You ARE What You Eat

I know, I know.  You already know this.  I did, too. I've read it a million times and all the research to go along with it, but it was so easy to fall off that damn wagon.  I mean, really, who doesn't love all those things that are oh-so-tasty?  Fresh doughnuts dripping with sugary glaze?  Fresh pasta with creamy, cheesy sauce?  Homemade ice cream on top of chunky chocolate brownies dripping with caramel sauce straight outta the sauce pan?  S'more?! I see you drooling.

I've learned a lot in the last month.  Mostly I've learned that there are some slow doctors out there.  No disrespect intended, but I could have incubated a baby before some doctors are able to get me an appointment.  Because of this, I've had plenty of time to read up on inflammation.  Lots of time...which is good because there is lots to read...apparently anyone can write a book. Who knew?

One thing that keeps showing up is how much inflammation is related to diet.  I had an intuitive (don't laugh; a nearby metropolis employed him for murder cases!) tell me to stay away from all white foods.  I laughed, but I'd bet he's the one laughing now. Apparently white flour, white sugar, white potatoes, etc. are my kryptonite. Shocker.

When I got home from our family vacation last month, I told the man lucky enough to be married to me that I had to make some changes.  I also told him they likely wouldn't be cheap, but anything was worth a try to make me feel better.  Off I went to the grocery store with no list but a promise to give it an honest effort. That meant organic as much as possible, little sugar except from fruits, no gluten, and no dairy.  Let me break that down for you:  all gluten free pastas, breads, crackers, cookies...no cheese...no milk...no ice cream...no sour cream...

Plants.  And meats.  Plants and meats. Meats and plants.

I've found several amazing substitutes since that first trip.  Almond milk ice cream is amazing.  I am in love with almond/coconut milk.  One of my favorite dinners is salmon with a tablespoon of pure maple syrup, sauteed napa cabbage and mushrooms, and organic rice. A new family rule established by my oldest is we try one new food each week.  Some are huge fails, but others have been tolerable and a few might be repeats!  (Psst!  Anybody know how to cook yellow beets?!)

Here's the big, important part:  Within three days of changing my eating habits, I was headache free with only a few episodes of the burning sensation I was having.  Don't get me wrong, there have been a few moments where I've ached a bit, but I've not had an "oh, hell, I've gotta take to the bed" headache.  Prior to vacation, where I started eating better because, hello, fresh seafood, I was spending about two hours each day in bed with headaches in addition to sleeping 8-10 hours each night.  With all that beauty sleep, I should've been Mrs. America.

I'm not healed.  Forty years of eating (mostly) crappy, inflammatory foods can't be undone overnight.  I still have a long way to go, and I know there are bound to be days where I'm not 100%.  I still need to see my doctors and have bloodwork done. What  I do know at this point is that this is having a positive impact on my life.  I rarely have any acid reflux anymore, and I'm tasting natural flavors again.  Although there is chocolate ice cream in the fridge, I opted for fresh Mt. Rainier cherries.  That's Mt. Everest big, people.

As each day goes by, it gets easier.  It takes more time...Dear Lord, does it ever. This is not even in the ballpark of convenient.  I never would have survived 120 years ago if my family had to depend on me to prepare the meals each day!  There are nights I cook for just myself because the rest of the family just wants some tacos or something, and that's okay.  I'm finding little nuggets of yumminess, like The Piping Gourmet's gluten-free, dairy-free Whoopie Pies. (Seriously, I fight my kids for these.)  Rudi's multi-grain bread is gluten free and quite divine with an egg over easy.  There are plenty of ways I can make this work, and I will because I never want to go back to where I was.  That place was, quite frankly, a little bit too close to what I would envision Hell to be like. I'm no saint, but I envision my real estate in the hereafter to be a little more climate controlled...then again, I might be too optimistic.

Feel free to share any food hacks, comments, or recipes!

June 7, 2015

The Health Chronicles, Volume 1...My ANA is Rocky Mountain High

*Sigh*  Where to start...  I've thought about this post for a long time, and I'm still not real sure where it'll end up, but I guess this is where it starts.  I've typed about 10 lines and erased (deleted, I suppose, in this age of technology) them all.

My goal with these posts (it won't fit into one) is to share a little about what I'm experiencing in hopes that either (a) someone else knows what the hell I'm talking about, and/or (b) someone else might be relieved to know you're not going crazy (I can't promise that, but...).

Here we go.

For about, oh, all my life, I've not felt good.  As a little kid we had to complete a 600 yard walk/run.  I couldn't really run it at all, but I'd try to keep up with all those speedy little bastards in my class.  It usually ended up with me sucking wind while finishing it up in a slow walk.  All those other kids were back in the cold AC by the time I was done, and I know my gym teacher cursed my name every year.  I was plenty active, but running kicked my ass.

I believe I was probably the only kid in Trigonometry that needed an extra chair to prop up my swollen, purple knees.  While I wish I had some super athletic story to share (winning basket, sliding in homebase), my amazing maneuver was simply walking to class.  I went on a date once with a boy to a dance place for teens, and I could only sit.  *sigh*

Through my 20's and 30's, I went around and around to doctors.  All I could describe was that I didn't feel well.  My bloodwork always looked good, and I had nothing that could be "seen" by anyone.  The best description I had was that I felt like I had a bell jar over my head.  Imagine the look I got as I described this..."Well, have you read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar?  That's how I feel, like I'm an insect trapped inside and the rest of the world is out there."  I feel disconnected from everything...

Essentially, I feel like my body is flipping me the bird every.single.day.

In my early 30's I learned I was allergic to milk.  I love milk.  In all forms.  Ice cream. Whole milk. Cheese. Yogurt. Sauces. Coffee Creamer.  Me and milk?  We good.  My allergy didn't take an epi-pen kind of approach, so I just kept on consuming it.  I learned that soft cheeses and whole milk kinda messed with me, so I avoided those, but I still kept on.  I'm beginning to wonder if I have kept my immune system in overdrive for so long fighting the allergy that it's just had enough?

I also have the amazing luck of having polycystic ovarian syndrome.  This is endometriosis's sort-of cousin.  Recently while having an transvaginal ultrasound (the tech and I are VERYCLOSE after this procedure.), I got to see what polycystic ovaries look like.  The answer?  Swiss cheese.  Those bitches hurt, too.  One burst a few months ago, and it was what I expect I would feel if I were being stabbed by a long, rusty blade in the lower abdomen.  

PCOS screws with your hormones, and not in a good way.  I guess there's really no good way to screw with one's hormones, but...  I've always struggled with my weight, and the only time I've been able to lose weight has been right after being pregnant, when my hormones are as close to normal as they will ever be. I've been lucky in that infertility has not plagued me as it does a lot of women with PCOS.  Still, it's a pain in my arse.

So here I am....According to my ANA test, which measures inflammation in the body, I have very high inflammation right now.  I've changed my diet completely.  No milk.  Let me repeat that:  No milk.  None.  I'm sure there are trace amounts sneaking in, but to my knowledge there is no lovely, delicious milk entering my very pissed-off body.

That is where I am at today.  Of course there's more to how I know my ANA is high, and I'll let you in on that in the next post (did I mention this business makes me super lazy and fatigued?).  On a high note, I managed to vacuum the living room today! Doesn't everybody get excited about that?  No?  Oh.  

January 24, 2015

Grecian Eyes, Niagara Falls, and a Doctor's Office...

There are some stories that I find hysterically funny, and (yet) when I tell them to others all I hear is crickets.  My sense of humor is just sometimes at odds with others and other times it's just really poor taste.  I know this because sometimes my closest friends on the planet call me an asshole.  No subtle read-between-the-lines there!

This one, however, is funny.  Funnier because it happened to me.

In all honesty I had forgotten about this until one of coworkers was telling me about her doctor's appointment.  It triggered my memory and I told her the story.  There might have been an emergency run to the bathroom to avoid the laughing-too-hard-I-pee syndrome.  Maybe.

Several years ago, before my amazing doctor passed away, I had a funky mole on my upper arm, so he sent me to a dermatologist to have it checked out.  I was a touch nervous because my grandfather had to deal with skin cancer when I was younger.  Because of this, I got the full treatment.  Let me share...

As I walked into the office, I was greeted by a full room of people.  I checked in and parked myself into one of the few chairs close to the entry.  I'm weird about walking across a waiting room full of people I don't know.  This gave me a premium view of the receptionists' office.  Receptionists are like secretaries in that if you really want to know the vibe of an office, secretly watch them.  They are the true gatekeepers of all important knowledge in any business.

photo: wallpaper2020.com
While I'm doing recon on the receptionist, a gentleman in a white coat walks behind them...Obviously a doctor or PA.  He is lovely.  No, I mean LOVELY! Olive skin, dark hair, eyes that look like the Grecian coast has been bottled inside them.  As I'm reflecting on his godliness, it hits me that I am a new patient.  A NEW PATIENT.  This means I have no doctor or PA.  Oh. My. God. He could be...no, no, no.  I decide at this time that God does not hate me enough to make this happen. After all, I'm being responsible and taking care of my health.  This responsibility demands absolutely no cute doctors doing my inspection.  Right?

No. No, it does not.  

As I'm now sitting in my little (very white, sterile, COLD) room, in walks the Grecian God of Eyes.  Of course he does.  I am in a thin paper gown sitting on an exam table/chair thingy covered in thin paper.  Sigh.

After introductions, I realize this man is quite nice.  Which should be comforting, but I'd prefer he be an asshole like me so that I could hate him a little instead of being in awe of those damn eyes of his.  We start with conversation about why I'm here, blah, blah, blah.  Then the games begin.

The arm part is easy enough.  That's already sticking out of the gown.  Then we move to legs, toes, hands.  Again, easy.  Then he says the words I never expected:  "I need you to stand and take off your gown."  Oh. My. God.

When he initially walked into the room, I began to perspire a bit.  Not like I'd been running from zombies or anything, but enough that I could feel the warmth on my back.  I had sort of forgotten about it because arms, hands, legs, and toes are easy.  Removal of gown?  Not easy.

photo:  freepik.com
I'm sure I would have been a little, um, sweaty regardless of the person performing this glorious inspection, but I immediately developed more than a little glistening of perspiration at this point.  I've never been to Niagara Falls, but I would wager I was within range of daily output in less than 60 seconds.  You can't stop that kinda sweat.  Not perspiration, full-on sweat.

And so I stood.  I stood up to remove the paper gown to stand there in a freezing (yet not enough to stop the waterfall of sweat), sterile, florescent-lit room with Grecian God and two nurses, to bare myself in my obviously-not-chosen-with-care underwear in the sake of my health.

That moment.

When I planted my feet on the floor and began to rise, I realized the sweat was actually acting as a glue between myself and the paper on the table.  And it came with me.

Firmly planted between the cheeks.  Not the cheeks on my face.


I'm not sure if it was embarrassment or relief when I finally heard the paper RIP away from my body and fall back against the table.  I'm sure the heat coming from my face would've powered several electrical grids for days.  So there I stood...no gown, yet still decorated with lovely bits of paper.  

Ain't nothing you can do with that mess.

So, as my friend/coworker that I dearly love and admire tells me her story of being embarrassed by being pretty-much-naked in front of others (she's tall, blonde, and appears a decade younger than her years, mind you.), I say to her, "At least your ass cheeks didn't kidnap the paper by force of sweat in front of the Grecian God of dermatology."

You're welcome.