It only matters what works for you.

Archive for May, 2013

Part of the whole

Dr. Lissa Rankin, who I am learning to adore, writes about ‘Mind over Medicine’. Actually, that’s the title of her new book, which is on my kindle waiting to get to the top of my reading queue.

One of her major points is that your life won’t be healthy if your head isn’t healthy. Do you hate your job? Is your spouse unsupportive? Is there something horrible happening in your life? All these things contribute hugely to how well your body can fight off the stresses of every day life and invading germs and diseases.

I’m a long time fan of Stop The Thyroid Madness (STTM) which is a site devoted to giving patients with thyroid issues better information than their doctors likely have so those who are suffering undertreated thyroid can fight for better treatment. It’s by patients for patients and talks about a lot of things that mainstream medicine is ignoring, like adrenal issues. They are my go-to for information I need about anything thyroid related. Recently I got myself added to some of their facebook groups. I had some questions, and I’ve been able to answer questions for others, just as it should be.

I’m past being shocked at how poorly doctors treat thyroid patients. I’ve been there plenty myself. What completely shocks me is how badly people who are suffering the endless exhaustion and illness and weight gain of untreated thyroid are being treated by their own families!!!

Really, I’m appalled. I think it must be very much like regular thin people who are perfectly certain that if you are fat you could fix everything easily if you just ate a little better and worked out some. They have no frame of reference and don’t understand how hopeless you can feel when nothing ever makes anything better. If you don’t have a thyroid issue maybe you just can’t understand the difference between ‘a little tired’ and ‘breathing is taking everything I have today’. If you don’t have adrenal issues, you have not idea how completely unable to manage you secretly feel all the time and how little you are able to deal with unpleasant surprises.

But how can you treat your loved ones as if they are delude and slacking? Can’t they see how horrible they feel and how much effort just managing daily life takes? Why would you decide that a doctor knows better than your life partner how he or she is actually feeling?

I just want to go on record and say that my family is phenomenal. They haven’t always understood what was going on with me, and they haven’t always gone about helping me in an actually helpful way, but they did always want to help to the best of their ability, and when I understand what I need, they are always willing to help me get it. My beloved especially limits what he eats, where he eats, and how and where we travel because that’s what I need, and he always wants me to have whatever that is.

If you don’t have¬† that in your life, please, please, find it. It makes all the difference.

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The one about organic fruit.

In my last post about what you’re willing to invest I was going to reference a post about organic fruit. That’s this one.

Last summer I did a taste test here at home. I bought organic grapes at the health food store and I bought regular grapes at the grocery. I ate some and thought I could really tell the difference. Then I gave my husband some in a blind test and he could absolutely tell. We both thought the commercial grapes were fairly tasteless and a little chemically-bitter compared to the organic ones.

In the course of our discussion my husband also noted that he’d wondered why the bananas at home tasted so much better than the ones at work. Those must be organic too, right? Yes, our bananas are organic.

Then recently I read about a study conducted by a 16 year old student  who used fruit flies to test the difference between organic and non organic produce.

The 16-year-old looked at the rates of stress, fertility and longevity of the flies and noticed that all fared better on the organic potatoes and bananas that they were fed.

Of course one study is not conclusive and fruit flies are not human, but it was nice to see science reinforce what my body had already told me. The fewer the chemicals, the better the soil, the better the food is for your body. Is commercial produce *bad* for you? I have no idea. I just feel better when I eat organic. So when I can, I do. When I can’t, I can tell the difference.

What are you willing to invest?

I had my second appointment with my new doctor today and I remain enamored. She listened, agreed with the changes I wanted in my meds (prescription cortisol instead of the otc stuff I’ve been taking and an increase in my natural dessicated thyroid), and was pleasant and attentive. She did not harp on my weight but was very happy that I’d been feeling well enough to start (slowly) back at the gym.

A local friend of mine is still looking for her ‘right’ doctor and I have passed on the contact information. After my appointment I sent her a note saying I still liked the doctor, but FYI the office tends to run slow, so bring a book.

It made me think about what I have been willing to invest in getting better. In another time and place I might have complained about waiting 45 minutes past my appointment time. In general I’m not fond of an hour’s drive to get much of anywhere that isn’t vacation oriented. The fact that the best way to get where I need to be is a toll road is also not a deterrent.

In general, I have to say I’m pretty damn invested. I’ve changed my diet many times. When I find a change that makes a difference, I stick with it. Like going dairy free to fix my asthma and allergies. It’s annoying some times to work around, but I never really think about it. If something contains more dairy than mashed potatoes, it’s off my food plan. My grocery budget is a little insane because I insist in eating food made of…food. No McDonald’s, no cheap chains, very few processed foods, and I buy organic fruits and veggies. (I was going to reference the article I wrote on organic fruit, but I see I haven”t actually written it yet, so I guess that’s coming…) I spend a lot of time preparing food and cooking, and eating, a quickie lunch of a microwaved meal doesn’t happen.

I’m good with all that. They are choices I’ve made with my eyes open for reasons I’ve given a lot of thought. Just as I’ve decided that in order to get the right care I’m willing to invest 2 hours of drive time, toll fees, and what ever time it takes in the actual office.

Feeling better makes it all worth it to me.

How about you? Have you thought about what it’s worth to you?

 

Back to conditioning again.

Last spring I asked this question:

My question is, why are we always so inclined to believe that we are at fault? That we aren’t trying hard enough, doing enough, believing enough. Why are we so mean to ourselves and always inclined to believe we’re slackers first, and fight back later, if ever? How did we get conditioned to behave this way.

It seems that I am here asking it again.

I haven’t been making the progress in my life, particularly in my business, that I’d like. I have house projects I’d like to be getting on top of, I have business ideas that I want to put out there and see what they can be, I still haven’t built as much of a social circle as I’d like. I haven’t really had the energy for it.

I’ve been trying very hard not to beat myself up about it. I’ve been doing what I feel that I can, not missing networking events, setting a certain lists of tasks to be done each day or week. I usually manage something I can live with. But there has been a lingering sense of disappointment in myself that I’m not as excited and busy as I think I could be.

Which brings me back to the question, why is my first thought that I’m a slacker, rather than any of the many other possibilities? Why am I willing to believe that I’m a slacker, when it’s patently obvious in many aspects of my life that I am NOT?

I got more test results from my latest doctor. The one I really like.

My vitamin D levels are low. Not dangerously so, but low vitamin D is definitely associated with both depression and inflammatory conditions.

My testosterone levels, as I already reported, were so low as to come in at <3, when 8 is the lowest the scale goes. Testosterone in women “…gives us motivation, assertiveness, a sense of power, feeling of well being and enhanced sex drive.”

The other one I just got back is DHEA. Which is 6.6 where 340 is the ideal range. Basically, another non-existent hormone. DHEA is another adrenal hormone which “…provides vitality and energy, sharpens the mind, and helps maintain normal sleep patterns.”

And this is all on top of the underactive thyroid, which is now being treated.

Why is it that I never had any of these tests before? Oh, because they test your TSH, decide that it is ‘normal’ and then decide you are either depressed or eating badly. I’m pretty sure it’s only my endless searching for the ‘right’ doctor has kept me off anti-depressants. As I suspected, it isn’t my brain that has the problem!

So the next time I have a stray thought about things I think I should be getting done (have I written about should-ing? I really…must) I’m going to try to stop and remind myself that, really, given the state of my hormones, it’s a miracle that I’m getting anything done at all.

Which brings me back to my original question. Why is it that the first thought is that I’m not up to snuff. Who taught me that? Why is that the default?

What is your default statement? Is it positive or negative? If it’s negative, are you working to overwrite it?

Let’s talk D.

Vitamin D that is.

When I was a kid, we learned that Vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Now we know that just about every type of tissue in your body has receptors for Vitamin D. Which isn’t so much a vitamin as a hormone with many, many jobs.

Like all steroid hormones, vitamin D is involved in making hundreds of enzymes and proteins, which are crucial for preserving health and preventing disease. It has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone. It has anti-inflammatory effects and bolsters the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity. This is why vitamin D deficiency has been linked with so many of the diseases of modern society. Because of its vast array of benefits, maintaining optimal levels of D is essential for your health

Vitamin D is so important to our bodies that Mother Nature figured out how we could make our own while we were going about our daily business of hunting and gathering. Under ideal conditions the human body can make 20,000 IU in just 30 minutes! (Valid for Caucasians, differing pigment levels change that time requirement.) With that kind of potential I’m not sure what made researchers set the RDA at a measly 600 IU, but more recent research sets the minimum guidelines at somewhere between 2000 and 8000 per day.

How much exactly you need depends. Your age, your weight, your skin pigmentation, and your personal biochemistry will all effect what you require. If you are older, your kidneys may not convert D as well as they used to. If you are overweight, your body will shuttle D to your fat cells for storage, so it can be hard to keep up with an efficient storage system.

Personally, I’m all for making it naturally, but in our modern world it’s more complicated than you’d think. For one thing, it’s currently frowned upon to run around naked. Vitamin D production requires sun on bare skin. It also matters a lot where you live. There are some complicated factors that basically say if you live north of DC then you can’t possibly get the right kind of sun for Vit. D production from September to March. You also don’t make D if you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen.

Now I’m very fair skinned. My mother and some of her sisters are natural red heads. I used to burn almost instantly. That changed when my nutrition got better. I’m not sure what caused the shift but I can now be in the sun a reasonable amount of time without burning to a crisp. I used to never leave the house without sunscreen and a hat. Ok, I still keep my silly sun hat in the car so I don’t get caught without. The point is, for years I never went out bare skinned into the sun.

These days, whenever there *is* sun around here, I throw caution to the wind and get naked (ok, take off my shirt and hike up my skirt) outdoors (behind my 8 foot privacy fence) to get the maximum skin exposure I possibly can.

See, I got a call from my doctors office and despite having taken 5k IU of good Vitamin D3 with food most of the winter, my D3 levels are STILL low. So I’ve upped my supplement levels per her instructions and have put ‘getting sun when there is sun’ at the very top of my to-do list.

That impacts my schedule a lot less than you’d think. The number of rainy, hazy, or overcast days here is depressing. (Ha ha, that isn’t just a vitamin D joke).

Have you had your vitamin D levels checked? We’re so worried about the possibility of skin cancer we’re neglecting all the amazing things the vitamin D is supposed to be getting done.

As always, look for a balance.

Longer, or better?

Does it ever seem to you that medical marketing has us so focused on living longer that we forget to live better?

One of my best friends ever is watching her elderly father die, slowly. He can no longer remember a list of things longer than 2. His entertainment is a stack of books that is rotated but never changed. He’s perfectly content to watch the same tv shows over and over. He doesn’t have Alzheimers, he’s just not really in there any more. Old happens.

This has caused my friend to reevaluate her priorities, and has given me a lot to think about. Living *longer* does not appeal to my friend, and I have to say, I think I agree. Because I’m not sure her dad is still living, he just hasn’t stopped breathing yet.

We can get so caught up in all the things that are cancer risk factors and heart disease risk factors and on and on and on, there are so many scary things that can happen to us we can spend all our time avoiding risk factors but forgetting to live life. Do things that are fun. Get dirty. Eat the pie now and then.

If you’ve read this blog I think you can see I’m certainly an advocate for the pursuit of health. But I will say that the things I’ve been working so hard on aren’t about necessarily living longer. For me, I want to live better.

I don’t eat food that makes me feel bad. On the other hand, I’ve eaten a lot of food that I don’t like in the name of ‘health’ and I think maybe I’m going to stop that. I’ve gone back to the gym because I like to be stronger and move more easily. I don’t walk around my neighborhood in the muggy heat just because it’s good for me, I hate it. I’m actively seeking out movement I enjoy.

Our culture here in the US seems to be pretty polarized. Everything is about extremes. One extreme I see very clearly is the people who do whatever they want and eat whatever they want and damn the consequences. And on the other side I see people who are *only* about the consequences, but never about today.

I want to live my life more focused on enjoying every minute. Eat for health, but choose food I love. Move lots, but make it fun. Save for the future, but don’t skimp.

Who’s with me?