It only matters what works for you.

Archive for April, 2013

The much maligned crutch.

When did the poor crutch get such a bad reputation?

“You’re just using that as a crutch” has become a phrase just laden with value judgement and negativity.

I had a discussion about adrenal fatigue with my last wrong-doctor. I was already on treatment for adrenal fatigue and he told me that mainstream endocrinology doesn’t really treat adrenal fatigue, because that’s just a crutch and the real approach is to heal the behaviors causing the fatigue.

The more I’ve thought about that conversation, the more it both ticks me off and confuses me. If I had a broken leg, I feel certain that part of the treatment would be a pair of crutches and instructions to stay off it for a while.

Why doesn’t that treatment concept apply to stressed adrenals? Why, if the data show that my adrenals are not performing up to snuff, would the treatment not include a ‘crutch’, that is, a physiologic dose of the hormones that my body should be making but isn’t, so that my poor adrenals can rest? Instead, I’m supposed to hop around on one leg hoping I can do it carefully enough not to fall and break my other leg? That doesn’t really sound like an effective plan to me.

I’m pretty sure that crutches got a bad rap because some people continue to use them long after they are really needed. Some crutches are more comfortable than others, say that beer that takes the edge off a bad day after work.

Why is it, though, that the assumption is automatically that most people will abuse the crutch and cling to it, instead of using it while it is needed, then letting it go once you’re ready to stand on your two feet again? A friend of mine recently lost a child. Beyond heartbreaking, and there are no words sufficient to offer comfort for something like that, although we tried. Part of her immediate coping strategy was an over indulgence in comfort food and I believe a generous, although not excessive, portion of wine. That helped her make it through the first few months of bereavement. A few weeks ago she announced some major dietary improvements that she’d wanted to make for quite a long time. So she’s not only laid down her crutch, but she’s moving past that behavior to something considerably healthier than where she was before.

I think we don’t give ourselves and each other enough credit. We don’t want to be weak. We don’t want to need to lean on things. (Even though that is a natural and healthy way to deal with things.) So when we do need some help, I think we should cut ourselves some slack and embrace what ever crutch helps us make it through the crisis. Believe that you’ll stand strong again just as soon as you can.

And Western Medicine? Please rethink your approach to treating people. A little support now can prevent a major crash later.

Lessons of beauty.

Today I read an amazing and insightful article from a friend about how being fat set her free to be the person she wanted to be rather than the person she felt she should be.

Society has taught us that how we look is the most important thing. There was this interesting campaign from Dove recently, followed by this even more interesting response to it. I wrote this blog about supermodel Cameron Russel’s excellent TED on winning the genetic lottery and how it has changed her life. No matter how we fight it, that is our current reality.

It reminded me of an insightful lesson that another friend and I shared from opposite sides of the picture.

This friend is smart and fun and beautiful. I am also smart and fun. Whether I would describe myself as beautiful depends on the day. Conditioning runs deep, and that is the message that we found.

This is what my friend and I discussed, while waiting for a metro train.

Nothing I will ever do will be quite good enough, because I am not pretty. (Lets face it, personal preferences aside, Society has decided that in 2013, fat isn’t pretty. You can argue all you want. That is reality.)

My friend has the same problem from the other side.

Nothing she ever does will be as important as the way she looks.

It was really special for both of us to have someone to share the horrible truth with, and it was extremely enlightening to share our dismay, our fatigue, our distress, at the current situation.

What we didn’t know, couldn’t find, is how on earth can we change this?

I’m not even surprised

I’m not even surprised to find out that I’m part of the 12.5 percent of people who needs a diet that doesn’t suit the needs of most people and isn’t currently fashionable.

I wrote about Rudolf Wiley’s BioBalance recently. You see, my aunt, the one who told me about the book and who still follows the guidelines after all this time, came to visit. We went out to dinner, with one of her coworkers, and it was great to have lots of time to talk with other nutrition geeks. Coconut oil, gluten free, paleo, all kinds of food talk was had, and for me, that’s fun. My aunt reminded me about her diet methods, and that reminded me that I had a copy of both Wiley’s books and maybe this was the time I should pull them out and read them. Which I did.

I did my own caffeine test and it doesn’t quite make me insane, but it does make me jittery and weird. So not quite all acid, but definitely not alkaline.

My local grocery carries a variety I haven’t had access to before in other places. I can reliably get lamb, bison, and duck breast at any time. This winter I started eating those very regularly, along with the chicken breast that has been the staple of my diet…pretty much since you could get decent quality frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts. Since I did the caffeine test I haven’t eaten chicken at all. I don’t miss it, and I’ve been much more satisfied with my meals.

My diet now is mostly from the acid list, with just a little from the other. A little orange juice with my spirulina mostly seems to be enough from the other list. Wiley talks just a little about women who are cyclic between acid, alkaline, or mixed within their personal cycle. That doesn’t seem to be my case, but I’m relatively certain I’ll trend towards more alkaline, maybe 2 or 3-1 rather than 4-1 as it gets hot this summer. We shall see.

It is very interesting to me that about a week before I changed things around, I started being very reluctant to go make my green drinks. Why now and not any point in the last 6 months that I’ve been making them every other day I can’t say. But it is interesting. I wonder if it had to do with starting them at the end of a long summer and stopping them at the end of a long winter? There is no way to know.

As always, this one rat study continues to be about how I feel and what works rather than instructions I got from somewhere.

Where’s the paddle now?

As in, our kids are going up that creek without a paddle.

It’s time for another Ted Talk.

Today is Anna Lappe talking about how the junk food industry is marketing to our kids, and I am horrified.

When I was a kid, fast food was a treat I ate when I was out with one of my aunts for a fun day. It was a pizza when we headed up to the mountains for a day out. It wasn’t part of our every day life.

Neither was junk food. Ice cream sodas were made with a 2 liter bottle of soda and a container of ice cream to celebrate pay day during the summer. Potato chips were served at parties. Sugar cereal, like CocoPuffs, were for dessert, not breakfast.

I learned to cook. My mom taught me, my dad taught me. My aunts taught me. The first thing I remember learning to do in the kitchen ‘by myself’ was to bake chocolate chip cookies, under the strict supervision of my aunts.

Not too long ago I met a young woman in her 20s who was bemoaning the amount of space in her apartment wasted by the kitchen. Because all she really wanted was room for her microwave, coffee maker, and dishwasher. The stove was useless to her. Then she told me her story of the time she tried to bake muffins from scratch. And by scratch what she really meant was a box mix to which she had to add an egg. I can not tell you how horrified I was. I have since met other people who are actually incapable of making a meal out of food. How does this happen?

I think the junk food industry is part of how this happens. They have made themselves so desirable to kids that they don’t really want to eat anything else. They have made themselves so ubiquitous and so fast and easy that it’s harder and harder for parents to say no after a long hard day. And they’ve cheapened the quality of their so-called food that it almost seems a bargain compare to shopping and cooking.

Not that a lot of cooking is better, what with prepared meals and instant this and that.

Junk food, besides being easy and cheap, is addictive. Sugar and trans fats and msg and all manner of non-food flavor enhancers make it tasty in a way that goes straight to your brain.  I know from personal experience that anything highly refined is going to hit your brain like a drug and put you in an altered, sleepy state, and when it goes away, you’re going to be cranky and looking for your next fix. Another sugary soda. A Snickers, because the ads say that it will fix you right up. Fat gets the most bad press, but I think the sugar and highly refined and processed flavors are more to blame. I just don’t think there is enough research for research’s sake done on it. Everyone has an agenda these days.

Even me. My agenda is to encourage people to say “how did that happen, and how can I fix it”, whether it be health or apparently training our kids to salivate every time someone sends them a text message.

The 75%.

Once upon a time there was a friend of the family who was kind of a mess. Lots of trouble, lots of problems. Then one day someone recommended a book, and that straightened things right out and kept them straight. The end. Now this is a 3rd hand story so I can’t remember if the person who recommended the book was a priest, a counselor, or a parole officer, but it was that kind of situation, it could have been any of them.

No, the book was not the bible. It was BioBalance, by Rudolf Wiley. This friend of the family told one of my aunts about it. She tried it and changed her life very quickly and she’s been a big proponent ever since. It was written in the 80s. Sometime in the 90s I borrowed her copy and read it. It seemed too complicated at the time. I was a college student, I forgive myself.

I have to say that as an editor, what this book really, really needed was a good editor. It isn’t all that well written and it’s really missing some details that should be in there, but what’s important is his research. He drew blood on thousands of people and checked the ph levels and how they reacted to certain foods. Your body will go to very dramatic lengths to keep your ph in an extremely tight range. Most lab tests only give you a value to a single decimal place. He took the ph out to a second decimal place and found some very interesting results.

In summary, 75% of the population (or 60% of menstruating women) need to eat according to the current trendy guidelines. Lower fat, lighter meats and fishes, tons of  green veggies. Not too many refined carbs. This is very alkalizing for the body and that’s what a healthy body wants is to be alkaline.

Then there is that last 25%. Of them, about half need to eat the complete opposite. Well, not complete, but heavy red meats and a much more limited variety of veggies. Because while every body wants to be alkaline, for some people high purine foods have the opposite affect, in the body they are alkalininzing. Which makes sense if you consider body types like Eskimo who live in places where the lighter foods don’t even exist. The other half of that 25% need a balance between the 2, somewhere between 2-1 and 4-1 in favor of the acidic choices.

Cold weather makes things tend towards the more acidic diet, and hot weather more alkaline. Some women will cycle between different needs depending on the menstrual cycle.

Wiley provides a fairly extensive food list for each type and includes some of the more common supplements divided by type as well.

In his first book he recommends going out and getting special blood tests done so you can get the ph tested out to that second decimal place. In his second book he offers a much more universally available approach.

Caffeine.

Apparently that 75% is the reason that Starbucks is a bazillion dollar business. For the alkaline types caffeine perks them up, makes them feel good, and it can even be relaxing to some of them who like to drink it before bed. Since it’s 75% of the population, coffee is ubiquitous. Every office, most homes, everyone offers it. Most everyone.

For the acid 12% caffeine makes you nuts. Jittery, temperamental, and just generally off.

The mixed 12% I think is the reason for decaf. They’re ok with one cup, or some decaf, but too much caffeine and they’re back to jittery and off kilter.

So he recommends trying a cup of coffee to see which type you are. Of course, if you’re already a coffee drinker, then you know you’re part of that 75%.

I am not a coffee drinker. So I had to run some tests. Watch for that discussion in my next blog.

I find his research fascinating, especially where it contradicts current food fashions. Because our society is all about recommendations for the majority, but in any study there are always people who don’t react with the majority.

Which is pretty much how this blog got started after all…

Happiness is.

I’ve always been a pretty happy person. Smile is my default expression. I like to appreciate the little things, like a sunny day or a silly cat. I like to be silly with my friends, and especially with my husband.

Then for a very long time, that wasn’t…quite me. Smile wasn’t always the default, I had to remember. My default emotion was ‘meh’. Not happy, not sad. And then for a while when life got really crazy, not horribly depressed was  the best I could do. In the last 6 months I’ve been working very hard to get away from depressed back up to ‘meh’. Something neutral where at least I could get things done and plan and look forward. I tried a lot of supplements and various dietary things, green juice, adjusted my otc hormone supplements a little, and I thought I was doing pretty good and would be ok once winter was finally done.

Then this morning I woke up…happy. Cheerful. Ready to be silly with my husband, bouncing on the bed, or maybe even tickling!!!

And then I realized that I was me again.

And I was horrified to realize how far from ‘me’ I’d been, and  for how very, very long. But then I went back to being happy, just because horrified couldn’t hold my attention because happy just felt so wonderful.

How did this happen? I don’t know.

It could be some recent diet changes I made, that will be the subject of my next blog.

It could be because the days are finally longer and it’s been sunny and spring is really and truly finally here.

It could be because along with T3 Armor thyroid provides T2 and T1 and they hardly even know the functions of those 2 hormones, but I found some vague references that T1 controls some brain functions and T2 controls your energy levels. And maybe my levels of those have been horrifically low, only we can’t say for certain because they don’t even test for them.

I have no idea which thing it might be, or if it is the combination of all of them. I’ll take it, whatever the trigger.

If I feel this much better now, I can’t wait to see what happens when I pick up my testosterone script tomorrow.

I’m just so very, very glad that once more happiness is.

It doesn’t really have to do anything for me right now. Just be there.

5th time’s the charm.

I am pleased to announce that I finally have my new doctor. It only took hours of research, months of waiting between appointments, and 5 interviews. Oh, and an hour’s drive each way. But I’ll take the drive because I found someone who will LISTEN, who does not believe that the TSH test is the only one of importance, and she did not treat me as an idiot. Who knew all that, plus taking my insurance, would all be so hard to find.

Maybe it helps that my new doc is actually a nurse practitioner. I’m fine with that. It may even be a plus. It was very empowering to be able to walk in with recent blood work that showed some useful stuff. Unlike the recent wrong doctor, who thought my T3 was too high and my TSH normal, she thought my T3 was entirely too low considering the dosage I was already taking, and my T4 too low. So she has switched me to Armor thyroid, which is the natural full thyroid, not just the synthetic T4 that many docs prescribe.

She took on look at my testosterone test and said “I see, you don’t have any!” She asked me if I was open to supplementing that and only the fact that I was up on the table kept me from jumping up and down yelling YES YES YES!!! (My number was so low that they didn’t give me a number, it’s just <3, which I think means our measurement tools don’t go down that low…)

Most importantly though, I felt that she actually listened. I feel that she really knows what she’s doing with the hormonal adjustments, and I feel that she is really and truly interested in working with me towards health.

Only in the last few minutes of my appointment did she ask me if I were interested in weight loss. I think this is also an excellent sigh. Too many docs focus on that as the problem rather than as a symptom. I gave her a synopsis of my history which boils down to, if you’ve lost 100 lbs and keep it off, but are completely unable to lose past that given any number of different attempts, then it isn’t the food that is the problem. I’m very hopeful that getting my testosterone levels into positive numbers will enable me to get back to the gym regularly (without exhausting me to the point where I can’t function afterwards). Once I can work out again, we’ll see what happens.

The moral of today’s story is, there are excellent, helpful practitioners out there. But you’re going to have to kiss a lot of frogs to find one.