Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Healing, and a resolution

Hello wonderful people!

I am in the process of transforming this blog from a place to announce menus into, well, a blog. I'll be posting recipes, kitchen adventures, and a little about my health journey. Hopefully, my experiences can help others along their journeys too!

As some of you know, I haven't been in the best of health lately. As part of my healing, I have made a resolution: I will choose to be near a body of water almost every day. Walking to work at CeL, I am fortunate to cross the Charles. Walking to JP, I go via the Pond. I always feel better when I spend time in the woods and/or near some water. I'm also noticing that I feel better when I don't work all day, every day. I didn't work yesterday. I rested, I napped, I went for a walk, and it was amazing. Some people only work five days a week, and only eight hours at a stretch! Sounds crazy - I'll have to look into that.  ;)

Today, I only had a few hours of work to do. When I was done, I had the opportunity to go to Wellesley and walk around Lake Waban. I haven't been there for years. It was awesome. Here's a crooked picture I took with my phone:

On the right, you can see Galen Stone Tower. That's where the carillon is. In front of it, the Clapp Library is mostly obscured by trees. On the left, you see the Tower Court dorm complex, including Severance Hall where I lived during my first year.

I had almost forgotten how many rhododendrons there are on and near the campus. So very many! Some things have changed on campus, but that is not one of them.

Something that has changed for me this year is my digestion. I have always gone through periods when digestion was easier and periods when it was more difficult. Since July, I have been experiencing consistently very difficult digestion, and it has affected every area of my life.

I've gone through lots of tests. I'm tired of tests. Last week I swallowed a camera. It took pictures of my esophagus, stomach, and small intestine over a period of nearly eight hours. Crazy! Maybe there will be results to discuss tomorrow.

The next round is lactulose breath testing. What does that mean? I have to fast overnight (no water or anything) then tomorrow I will go in and drink a solution of lactulose in water. Lactulose is a disaccharide (double sugar) made of fructose and galactose. I will drink the solution, then hang out in the doctor's office. At regular intervals, I will breathe into a device that will measure hydrogen and/or methane in my breath. This will tell us if there are too many bacteria in my small intestine. The bacteria should mostly be in the large intestine, not the small intestine. If they're hanging out in the small intestine, that would explain the excessive tummy bloat and some other symptoms. It would also mean that there's something we can do to treat this and then I can start feeling better!

So far, things that seem to help include:

Vitamin D
Pantothenic acid
Drinking homemade broth
Taking a day or two off from work
Increasing and diversifying my protein intake
Diversifying sources of fat
Simple meals - Not combining too much starch into protein meals, and not too much protein or fat in meals that contain fruit or other sweets

Things that cause trouble:

Grains, other than occasionally a little white rice (some are worse than others)
Beans, and all legumes (some cause anaphylaxis, and others cause other symptoms)
Too many seeds
Too many nuts
Too many onions at once
Too little protein or fat
Combining protein and fat with fruit or sweets in the same meal
Eating too often. I get really bloated if I eat again within a couple hours after eating a prior meal or snack.

I can't figure out all the factors yet, because I still get bloated after most meals, even some that should be easier to digest.

And here is the hard part, where I have to tell you that I am no longer eating a vegan diet.

I was vegan for two years. There were so many things I loved about it, but here's the thing: I'm allergic to most legumes, highly sensitive to the rest, and I can't digest grains or pseudograins anymore. I've been dealing with chronic inflammation and other issues, and I basically ran out of protein sources. I tracked my diet, and discovered I rarely consumed more than 30 or 40 grams of protein a day. That's just not enough. I had almost no significant sources of lysine, or of a few other essential amino acids. I stopped being able to digest flaxseed, so I had very limited sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. I was worn out and feeling brittle. I was experiencing wild weight fluctuations, completely unrelated to calorie intake. I had muscle tears that weren't healing. I was consistently getting inadequate pantothenic acid. Pantothenic acid insufficiency is not something Western doctors even test for, because normal diets are very rich in it. It's very plentiful in egg yolks, grains, all animal foods, and legumes. It's also plentiful in avocados, which may explain why I craved them so much! But woman can not live on avocado alone.

So I'm again eating a careful omnivorous diet.

It has been a challenging journey to get here; I am sorry if it offends anyone.

Some aspects of my health have been improved by starting to eat fish. Some aspects have greatly improved by including eggs, especially the B-vitamin-rich yolks. I get the eggs from our friends at Stillman Family Farms. I have been out to their farms, and I have met the animals. I know that they are treated humanely and live happy lives. The chickens scratch outdoors. The lambs and calves grow up in pastures with their mothers. They're not fattened up with hormones or antibiotics. If you're going to eat animal products, it is so important to know how the animals are treated.

So that's what's up here in Craftyland. I hope you are all doing well! I hope to be doing well soon too.


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