It only matters what works for you.

Archive for June, 2013

And we’re waiting…

Sometimes I think the hardest part of having health problems isn’t the actually feeling bad part. That’s very draining, but you learn to deal with it and it becomes an unpleasant constant.  What is really hard is the waiting.

I spent a lot of time waiting until I could find someone who would diagnose and treat me. Then I waited to see how the treatment would work. There was more waiting after I moved to find the right new doctor who was more interested in health and well being than test numbers.

With every doctor’s visit and blood test and medication change there is a hope that this time maybe things will be changing and feeling better might be just around the corner.

Sometimes it is, but often I find that no, that was another tiny but inconclusive step. Or sometimes it is a step backwards.

Right now I’m waiting for my body to recover from the corn starch in one of the medicines I hoped would make me better but made me worse instead. I forgot for a minute that I have to check everything, all the time, and I got caught. Something new. Not just body aches and an unhappy gut, but this time the inflammation caused tendonitis in my elbows of all things, usually only a problem for tennis players, which you might guess I am not.

I see very clearly why modern medicine has become so focused on the quick fix. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I really, really want one. Cold medicines that mask all symptoms, a pill for every headache, it just lets you get on with your life. There isn’t a whole lot of discussion of possible side effects. That advil is hard on your kidneys and disrupts your potassium balance. That not resting your body when it feels ill stresses your immune system that is already fighting to keep up. There is almost no attention given to what might have caused the problem in the first place.

I’m not really going anywhere in particular with this today. I was just sitting at my computer, planning my day around sore elbows and wondering how much energy I’ll have to get things done and thought I’d share some thoughts.

I’ve learned a lot about patience. I learned resourcefulness. I’ve learned tenacity. I’m not quite sure why I need quite so much of all those traits. I’m sure they’re all very valuable and will serve me well.

But some days, many days, I’d trade it all to feel joyful and energetic and strong.

I hope I’m on the right path to that, even though I seem to be taking the scenic route.

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What a tangled web.

I recently wrote about Estrogen Dominance. You probably guessed that I had a personal reason to research it. Of course I did.

What brought this up? Recently my wonderful new doctor put me on a dhea supplement because my blood levels are so low as to be almost off the scale. Adding some certainly seems to be a reasonable approach. Right up until my hair starts falling out by the handful. Always a bad sign. So I go to one of my favorite patient based sites and start asking questions about dhea. There I find that dhea is know, in people with severe adrenal fatigue, to convert directly to estrogen, causing estrogen dominance in many people. I don’t know why it does that, but now at least I know it does.

Let me be clear, I’m not blaming my doctor. She is not an endocrinologist (because they have decided that adrenal fatigue isn’t really a problem they treat) nor is she a specialist of any kind. She’s a wonderful nurse practitioner with an open mind. I’m pretty sure when I take her a print out of some research, she’ll read it and be better informed for the next person.

It’s all SO COMPLICATED. I could wish I could find an expert in all this stuff, but I don’t think it’s sexy enough to be a specialty. Here’s how I think it went. First you have a food sensitivity that causes inflammation and damages your gut. The inflammation causes your adrenals to work overtime keeping things in balance. The first signs of adrenal fatigue should be hypoglycemia, but everyone ignores that and puts you on a low fat diet, guaranteed to make you worse. Meanwhile the damage to your gut is letting all kinds of proteins and things into your blood stream, where they definitely don’t belong. After a while your adrenals can’t keep up. Your body is so busy fighting inflammation that it can’t also get you the right amount of cortisol to uptake the T3 your body is making. Since you have a lot of random T3 running around loose in your blood, your body decides that you have too much and starts making higher and higher percentages of Reverse T3. So your metabolism slows down, you gain weight, your body temperature drops. But your thyroid is actually doing the job it is supposed to be doing, so the TSH test says you’re fine and they put you back on a diet.

Mean while all that stuff that is getting through the leaky walls of your gut are clogging up your liver as it tries to keep your blood supply clean. So now your liver is getting over worked. Fortunately your liver is a complete workaholic and it also regenerates. But since it is very busy, it isn’t clearing out all the excess estrogen in your blood. Your gut normally clears a bunch of it out, but it’s damaged from the original food sensitivity so it doesn’t move things along promptly and your system has too much time to scavenge for useful things, so it grabs out all that extra estrogen that you don’t need. In case that wasn’t enough, your fat cells now also make extra estrogen. I don’t know why, I think it has to do with nature protecting post-menopausal women but I haven’t really researched it.

So now you’re trapped in this endless cycle of low thyroid, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, high estrogen, low everything else. And you’re fat, fatigued, and malnourished. Welcome to my world.

But it isn’t only my world. There are a lot of women (and men) who are trapped in this endless cycle that western medicine isn’t helping us with.

I’ve been wondering a lot lately what is causing so very many people to fall into this trap in the first place. Why the incredible increase in food sensitivities and thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue.

I’m pretty sure it’s the food we’re eating, but that’s a conspiracy theory for another day.

How did you know that?

If you have a non-standard health problem, you really need to refine your research skills. There is an endless supply of information out there, but you have to a) know how to find it, and b) learn to sort good information from bad information. It’s not easy. I was very lucky that in college I found a hobby that encouraged me to learn good research skills for a completely unrelated field (medieval history, if you’re curious) and that has helped me immeasurably in my health research.

The internet is a great and wonderful thing. You probably already knew that. To me, the ability to share and compile information quickly and easily is one of the best things we’ve gotten from it. When I was learning to research it was books and paper card catalogs and microfiche. Google has changed everything about how we treat information and it puts a lot more power into the hands of people who learn to find and use that information.

If you have an under diagnosed/treated disease like celiac or PCOS or thyroid or anything else, another thing you can do is find the patient run information sites. These are sites run by people who have the very problem you do and they have absolutely devoted themselves to learning everything they can about their particular problem, because they found that western medicine either couldn’t or wouldn’t help them. Stop The Thyroid Madness is the one for thyroid issues, whether you are untreated or under treated. They have links to research, for doctors, for blood tests, and for everything they’ve been able to identify as a related issue, like adrenal fatigue.

That’s just the one for thyroid.  No matter what your personal health issue is, I’m sure there is a patient based site where you can find really great information that your doctor may or may not even know. Many of these sites will also have blogs you  can follow, and groups on Facebook where you can ask questions of others who have your issues to see how they dealt with them, or to share your experience with someone newly diagnosed. I’m finding these resources to be invaluable, not only for knowledge, but for emotional support. It feels good to know there are other people who share your frustration, your excitement at a new treatment, or who just know what your daily life looks like through the stress of whatever your issue is.

Of course, the available research isn’t always what it should be, and the results don’t always look at the real problem.

I recently had a discussion with a good friend. She has a very scientific and analytical mind, both by nature and by training. We were discussing health research. She is inclined to always believe the scientific findings. I don’t have a problem with that, I like research and empirical results myself. But I did take some time to put forth the idea that for some food and health issues, they’re doing the research wrong. She seemed very surprised that you couldn’t count on a group of people to display the same results in the same time frame with regards to a single stimulus. Western research methods depend on this. My sensitivity reaction to strawberries, for example. I’m almost always going to present some kind of hayfever reaction to a stimulus. In the case of strawberries, in 6-12 hours I’m going to have watery eyes and start sneezing a lot. A friend of mine will come down with a fever and joint aches in 3-4 hours. Someone else will break out in hives in 30 minutes. Our science doesn’t really know what to do with this.

Another major issue is that many of the subtle issues have similar presentations, so it can be very difficult to track down which particular issue a patient is having. Chinese and traditional medical approaches do better with these things because they focus on whole body wellness and related systems model, rather than an ‘attack the symptom’ approach.

I think what I learned is that it’s no surprise that western medicine has so much trouble with these subtle issues. Western medicine, and US society in general, isn’t really set up for the level of subtlety that you need to trace some of these problems.

Which is another benefit to the patient based sites. If enough people come together with a similar presentation, maybe we can start driving the research, instead of being silent victims of it.

Sugar is evil.

I thought a lot about various titles for this post, but it all comes down to, sugar is evil.

Sugar is the dark side. It is quicker, easier, more seductive. And downright yummy. Unfortunately, it also suppresses our immune system, is one of the top 7 most sensitivity inducing foods, and it makes us fat.

A little, now and then, probably doesn’t hurt too much. Almost no one disagrees that too much sugar is bad.

Oh but too much sugar is so, so easy.

For the purpose of today’s blog I’m going to use ‘sugar’ as an umbrella term. Refined white, organic brown, high fructose corn syrup, agave… for today, file them all under sugar.

Anyone who has spent more than an afternoon with a child knows that too much sugar makes kids wild. Rev’s them right up. Their bodily systems are still working optimally and they recognize that they have WAY too much fast burning fuel, so we’d better get up and run around like something insane to burn it all off. Oh wait, they can’t run it off because they’re in school. So they fidget and twitch and don’t pay attention.

Oh wait. The ‘research’ is showing that ADHD isn’t affected by sugar. I think the research is being paid for by the sugar lobby because the studies I read in my quick survey are pretty badly designed. Every other day, and comparing sugar to artificial sweeteners? We’re in such a ‘quick fix’ culture that the idea that you may need to change a food for more than 24 hours to see a change doesn’t fit the current model.

So what happens to the adults? Who’s systems are no longer functioning optimally? Besides gaining weight. And falling into a snooze in the late morning after the caffeine that was offsetting your sugar rush wears out? Adult ADHD? Irritability? Catching every single cold that traipses through the office?

I’m thinking depression. I’ve discovered that sugar makes me crazy.

I was 100% completely off sugar for several years. Then I started to slip. Then I’d take a planned ‘vacation’. Now I’m not off sugar at all, although I try to keep it under strict control until I’m ready to clean it back out all the way. So I’ve had time to pay close attention to how sugar affects me.

As I said, it makes me crazy. If I’m eating sugar I’m much more likely to get snippy and/or pick fights with my beloved husband. Sometimes with reason, and sometimes not so much, but normally I’m not inclined to make my point by picking a fight. I’m a communications professional, I have other tools I prefer to conflict with a side of head games.

I’m much more likely to over react to things that annoy me. The difference between a sign and a round of tears.

And recently, I determined that my tendency towards incessant worry? That’s sugar too. Not worrying about real, timely problems. I’m talking about the endless hamster wheel of solving problems that aren’t problems yet (and probably won’t ever be.)

As always, this is just a one-rat study and might not apply to anyone else. But what if it does? What if the increasing problems with depression and road rage and high divorce rates and all manner of other social issues are all traceable to the food we’re eating? Too much sugar, food low in actual nutrition, everything made from things processed out of other things?

What would that mean? How would that affect your choices?

If you ignore it…

Does that mean it doesn’t exist?

Sometimes the things that mainstream medicine is choosing to ignore really baffle me. Today’s discussion is about estrogen dominance.

In women, estrogen should be opposed by progesterone, in men by testosterone. Theoretically, we should only have what our body makes, but in the modern world estrogens get to us from a lot of other places like parabens and phalates and the hormones given to our meat animals. Then a low fiber diet and all the horrible things we do that reduce liver function to less than optimal encourage that excess to stay in our bodies rather than be flushed out.

Excess estrogen encourages weight gain, slows down the metabolism, disrupts thyroid function, decreases libido, and causes fuzzy thinking.
Yeah, I’m thinking most of the US may have a problem with this…

It is also known to contribute strongly to the risk of breast cancer.

So how is it that this isn’t an issue that mainstream doctors are looking at? Why is it always the weight that is the issue, rather than the many, many things that can cause weight gain that have very little to do with calories? That’s an excellent question. Any other questions? Because I have no idea.