It only matters what works for you.

Asthma and dairy products

Originally posted in 2009 when I gave up dairy products and stopped having asthma symptoms.

 

This week I made a new friend. She’s an older woman and while we were chatting a number of things she said sounded like *classic* asthma symptoms. I’m not a doctor, but I have owned a set of asthmatic lungs my whole life. Her husband is even a respiratory therapist, and yet she’s just been dealing with it with no medical support.

This meeting caused me to reflect on how far I’ve come from Advair and Singulair and Clarinex and regular use of my rescue inhaler to…nothing.

That’s right, I said nothing. Life long problematic asthma to perfect control at age 35 with no drugs. I think I’ve used my rescue inhaler 3 times in 3 years, always cold related.

How did I do this? I gave up dairy products. You’re probably horrified. I’ll tell you that cheese used to be my all time favorite food, with ice cream a close second. But I’ll tell you a secret. Breathing is better than cheese.

Several years ago I was on a food related discussion forum and came across a small group talking about how going dairy free had practically ‘cured’ their asthma. My ears perked up; I payed strict attention because I was in the throws of one of my chronic bouts of bronchitis, reading forums because I was too sick and oxygen compromised to do anything more productive. I thought about it. I thought it couldn’t possibly be true. I thought I could never live without cheese. Dairy product are so healthy and nutritious!

But I was pretty desperate. The forum group suggested just 2 weeks would be enough to know if it was helping. Well, I can do almost anything for 2 weeks. So I went cheese free for 2 weeks.

4 years later, I’m still cheese free.

During those 2 weeks I went on a camping trip. I’d taken all my meds in the morning, filled my pockets up with tissues, and stuck an extra dose of allergy meds in my pocket because the usual dose never cut it during a day of fun, sun, and pollen, grass, and tree allergens. Round about supper time I sneezed and grabbed a tissue. And realized it was the first one I’d used all day. Only another allergy sufferer will understand how huge that was! (Seriously, did you know its possible to breathe through of both nostrils at the same time? I’d thought that was a myth!)

I never went back to cheese. I suddenly had better control over asthma than I’d had in years from that one simple change. It took me most of the next year to wean myself off dairy completely. I was very unwilling to give up cream, Indian food, creme brulee, and my beloved ice cream. But the longer stretches I could make myself hold out, the worse I felt when I fell off the wagon. I noticed digestive upsets I thought were ‘normal’. I noticed how much more allergy trouble I had for the next 2 days after I ate dairy. I finally manged to get myself completely off. And a few short months later I was also off all of my medications. (Those have to be weaned off slowly, preferably with medical supervision. Don’t just leap off willy-nilly!)

No more regular attacks. No more chronic bronchial infections. I’ve gone from 3-4 infections per year, to 3-4 years clear. No more trouble with exercised induced wheezing. No trouble camping and hiking. No trouble with indoor swimming pools. Only the very, very rare issue if I go warm to cold to warm again quickly, and not always then. No more regular heavy duty prescription allergy meds. I can take an OTC homeopathic as needed that gives me the relief I need on very bad allergen days.

No more spending $350/month on regular medications!

I just spent some time with google and am a little horrified at how many articles are out there saying that there is no reason for asthmatics to avoid dairy, that milk doesn’t increase mucus production. I can’t say for certain if it does or not, but I don’t think that’s the problem.  As I said, I’m not a doctor, but I think its a food related intolerance to milk protein, casein, that puts our bodies in a state where we’re more sensitive to allergic triggers. Interspersed with the official medical stance are anecdotal tales from other asthma sufferers though, and so many people have found relief this way!

If you or someone you care for has trouble with asthma, I strongly urge you to just try dairy free for 2 weeks. If it doesn’t help, you’ve lost nothing. If it does help, think what you’ve gained!

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I wrote this post in 2012 when my most beloved companion of 19 years had to be helped across the Rainbow Bridge. I have occasionally shared it with friends to offer some tiny bit of comfort when they are in the same situation. I’m just moving it to my active blog.

 

 

Yesterday was a horrible, horrible day. I had to say goodbye to my best friend, a tiny little grey cat.

Tesh has been my constant companion for just shy of 19 years. She slept in my bed under the covers. We’ve traveled together. I hardly know how to eat a piece of chicken without tearing bits off for her. Spoiled rotten and the Empress of my universe just barely begins to cover it.

Euthanasia is a very difficult decision. When is it time? Do we have the right? How long should we wait? We are strongly conditioned against death in our western society. I’m not sure why. Death is a guaranteed part of life. It’s sad, but so is wasting away and living in pain. Surely we don’t want that for our loved ones. Why do we drag things out for them? Make them stay with us? When, with love, we should want something better for them.

Here’s what I learned yesterday. We’re thinking about it the wrong way.

A year ago I learned Tesh had developed kidney disease. We started some medication. A few months ago the progression warranted sub cutaneous fluids and another pill. Then my darling, who has always been exempt from the laws of gravity, stopped being able to jump on the bed. Then it was hard to get to my chair. She lost interest in food.

Then I started thinking maybe she’d pass in her sleep so I wouldn’t have to make a hard decision.

That was a big mistake. If you are starting to hope they’ll pass in their sleep? Its time to start thinking about helping them along. Because there comes a time when they turn the corner between living longer and dying slowly.

I was so conditioned against ‘taking a life’ and so afraid of my own grief that I was looking at assisted passing all wrong. I wasn’t taking anything. I was giving my darling the very last gift I could give her. I held her in my arms. I comforted her during her injection and I cuddled her just as I always had until her little spirit was free. Free from pain. Free from the prison of a body that held her back from all the things she’d always loved.

And I realized that I’d given myself a gift too. I’d had every possible second with her. If she had passed ‘naturally’ she might have been in pain. She might have been scared. She might have been alone. I might have missed those last precious moments. Instead, I was there. There was no fear. No pain. Just the trust that has always been between us, that I would take care of things and everything would be ok for her. She passed easily from her comfortable place on my chest, where she’s spent countless hours, to whatever comes next for those we love.

For me, there is only the knowledge that, as I always have, I did my very best for her. I did not fail her in her last days and minutes. A small comfort with the loss of her loving presence, but since she was going to be lost to me anyway, every little bit makes a difference. Sorrow, but not one moment of regret.

Am I really doing this?

If you read this post, or really any of my posts, you’ll know I have a lifetime of Issues about dieting, weight loss, and body image. Emotionally, I would rather stay fat than ever face another diet again, ever. Too much trauma. Too many horrible experiences. Too many unintentional physical consequences like seriously messing up my adrenals.

20171028_190212And then my beloved says “I want us to do this together, I need your support.”

And there you are, signing up for Weight Watchers.

We signed up for the six months that would be necessary if either of us wanted to be considered for weight loss surgery. No decisions have been made about that. I don’t think he’ll need it.

We signed up over the weekend so we could check out the specifics. How many points? (plenty) How comprehensive is the database? (Very, even a lot of my specialty foods are in there.) We had already planned to eat two places we enjoy that we won’t be frequenting for a while.

Beloved, who adores data, immediately became obsessive about checking points, entering points, figuring out possible meal combinations, and has in general come in under his points every day. Even the day we had pizza. This surprises me not at all.

I have had several panic attacks. I have had crying fits. I had a dream of my body asking me to please, please, not take her food away again. I’ve been a complete mess.

Let me be clear, my behavior in no way reflects the reality of the WW system. I have ample points. They focus on whole foods and there is absolutely no reason to ever be hungry. There is real flexibility and there is no reason not to indulge in favorite foods on a reasonable basis. Beloved researched very carefully before we got started to make sure it would work with my various food allergies, and without any kinds of frankenfood, which we both avoid. It’s not them. It’s me.

It’s been a week now. In between my fits, I’ve kept track of most of my points, made some very simple changes to a few things, and haven’t been hungry. Or deprived. If my brain and my poor tortured Inner Dieter can catch up to the reality, I can probably make this work and properly support the love of my life.

Whether or not it will make any difference in my weight is a whole other kettle of traumatized fish.

More from the cardiologist

My husband had his two year follow up from the cardiologist the other day. The good news is, he looks great. She’s very pleased. The better news is, he also had a stress test (which he utterly failed 2 years ago before his quadrupal bypass) and he passed with flying colors.

The best news is, he’s finally off the beta blocker, which slows down his heart rate and is known to cause weight gain. The doctor is sure that isn’t his weight loss problem. Really, she’s sure. I think she just doesn’t like that as an answer. Because the last time she cut his dose his slow weight creep stopped, and it has been slowly, painfully inching down, even though his meals (which I procure, so I am certain) haven’t changed a bit.

The bad news is, he got another lecture on being fat and what a risk factor it is for future problems. I am very, very glad he takes his health seriously, but I don’t really love to hear doctors pushing weight loss surgery. There was a conversation about whether or not our insurance really will cover it, despite categorically stating that it doesn’t, but we’ve put that aside for the moment.

Because as a fat woman, you can be certain that 1) I have looked into the surgery and 2) I have friends who have had it. More research will be done, but one thing that seems to be standard is, in order to have the surgery, you must have been in a standardized weight loss program of some sort for 6 months before you  can be approved. And if that is the case, we might as well start there and see if he ever even needs to consider surgery. Which, off beta blockers, I think he won’t need.

And that is how we joined Weight Watchers.

 

I originally posted this in 2016 in a different blog, but I’m consolidating. The menu has shifted since I wrote this, but their commitment to being allergy-safe has not. Every order containing an allergy special order is delivered by a manager on a square plate, so you can be sure they were paying attention.

If you go, my favorite menu item is the g/f General Tso’s cauliflower, served with a ginger aioli. I’ve gone there just so I can have that. Delicious.

 

This past weekend for a small celebration we went to the new Burton’s Grill in Alexandria. It just went in by my Wegman’s, my new favorite grocery store. Better than Whole Foods.

My husband had heard about it; specifically that they are famous for having a gluten free menu. But it’s more than that. They are focused on catering to food allergies in general.

The restaurant is generally nice, and I have to say their chairs are more comfortable than many, having a wider padded seat, for those of us who don’t prefer booths. The space was open and airy and the Alexandria location has a great patio and easy parking.

Normally when you check the gluten free menu, it’s about a half page of the things that are already gluten free but that the kitchen will take special care with. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that. But sometimes its sad to look at a lovely long list of foods that the others at your table are going to order that aren’t available for you. Not at Burton’s. There are only a handful of items on the ‘regular’ menu that aren’t also on the gluten free menu. The menu is relatively simple, but with a good variety and a nice modern twist on classic dishes.

They have an extensive and fun looking drinks menu. We avoided alcohol, having indulged in Bahama Mama’s the night before over Tex-Mex, but there were still some fun options. He had the pomegranate iced tea which was very  nice, fully flavored without being too sweet. I had a huckleberry-lime rickey, perfect for such a beautiful warm day and I can see those being very popular as we move into the hot weather.

My husband ordered one of the few non-gluten free items, the Burton’s Imperial. This is a crab stuffed, breaded filet of fish, on that particular day it was cod. The fish was cooked perfectly, the breading wasn’t over done, and the seasoning was great. He’d started with the crab bisque, which *is* on the g/f menu, showing that they are making a serious effort, because bisques are often thickened with a little flour. It was apparently excellent, Mike is eager to order it again in the future.

I had the steak frites, a classic flatiron steak served with french fries, something I learned to love living in France. This had a fresh chimmichurri  on top to liven it up, but I don’t think it was needed. The fries were fresh, the steak had a lovely flavor and was both perfectly cooked and also nicely presented.

Dessert is another place I think they excelled. The key lime pie, one of Mike’s favorites, isn’t gluten free but it was reportedly excellent. There was also a g/f chocolate-espresso mousse and a g/f berry compote cheesecake. But where they really hit the home run is there was also a non-dairy gluten free dessert. That never happens. It was a chia seed pudding with fresh fruit. Definitely not something you see every day and suitable for both those with dairy allergies and vegans. I’m really impressed.

I also want to mention that beyond the menu, our server was lovely and took the ordering process very seriously. She had a datapad of some sort and made extensive notes on my multiple requests so nothing was garbled or lost in translation. Each item was prepared correctly and not only do all special allergy-related dishes get put on square plates for special over site, they are then hand delivered by a manager so they can see that everything was done according to the needs of the customer.

I’m very excited to see Burton’s Grill claiming the allergy friendly space, and I certainly plan to do my part in making them a success.

 

Time for more

One thing that everyone with unrelenting health issues knows is, it’s exhausting. Constantly struggling to manage better, trying new treatment options, diets, supplements, exercises… There’s always something, and it’s both tiring and tiresome.

Yes, I get completely bored with my own issues.

Which is why I haven’t posted here since January. I was tired. I was uninterested. I’ve written other things, but not what I usually cover. That’s no way to run a blog, so I’ll be expanding my subject. It’s still the same old rat, we’re just expanding the study.

Which way is care?

I wrote this some months ago and held it back because it felt too raw, but now it is January and the season of dieting, so it’s time to post it.

On a private forum with women I care dearly for, there have recently been a number of posts about how they are once again getting back on the strict diet wagon in the endless pursuit of a size they like better.

My next thought was that I, too, should get back on the diet bandwagon because there is no question that my life would be easier if I were lighter.

And right after that thought, my stomach clenched. And I was overcome with a very visceral feeling of fear. And it was all I could do not to cry.

This is crazy.

I have spent over half my life depriving myself of food. Punishing myself for being fat. Eating what I ‘should’ even when I really, sincerely, would rather never eat again than have another bite of kale.

Just the passing thought of another strict diet was panic inducing. I can’t. I feel frantic, and sick about the idea. My body is enacting a flight response. It is clear to me that my body and mind find the idea traumatizing.

Even worse than that are the voices ringing through my mind as I type this. The kind ones say I shouldn’t give up on myself. The firm ones tell me no pain no gain and if I just try <insert preferred method> that it will be easy and I’m sure to see results.

The last results I got were burnt out adrenals and a thyroid crisis.

There are even uglier voices in my head too. Quitter. Loser. Fat lazy slob.

At what point does something you do for yourself become something you do to yourself?

Why is cutting bad, but starving yourself good? Why are recreational drugs bad, but damaging your brain chemistry via food is encouraged?

I think about the best eating plan to follow and I feel despair. Another long procession of food that I don’t want. Forcing myself to eat, and yet still so hungry.

Does saying no make me weak? or Strong? Is it self love, or self hate?

If it were a job I hated that much, people who love me would tell me to do everything possible to find another job.

If it were a relationship with a person that caused me such fear and anguish, people who love me would tell me that it’s a bad relationship and that I should remove myself.

Somehow because it is food and fat, the rules are different.

But after a lifetime of self torture, I’m ready to try living a new way, where I might treat myself with love and respect and ignore the voices that tell me I must fit into a mold that is too small for me.

So no more kale for me.