Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Are My Intestines So Lazy?


Back in June 2013, I had an abnormal test result. The test revealed that I did not digest my food properly. Believe it or not, I was not scheduled to see my doctor again until September. In between the test results and the upcoming appointment, I went on a very specific diet to determine what foods I could and could not eat. Read more about that here: (  I also did extensive research on what specifically I could be diagnosed with. I would love to say that I was totally prepared for what my doctor would tell me but I wasn't. Nothing prepares you for bad news. NO amount of reading, researching, constant self soothing, incessant talking to loved ones or Xanax can make the not-so-great news coming out of my doctor's mouth bearable.

 I finally got to see my doctor in the second week of September. He repeated what I had already known about my test result...that it was abnormal. I had really, really hoped that he would have said that it would be a temporary issue although in my heart I knew he wouldn't. After seventeen years of stomach problems the truth was in the test. My diagnosis was dysautonomia.

 Your autonomic nervous system is made up of nerves that control those “automatic” things you need to do to survive. A few of those necessary things include blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, and digestion of your food. Autonomic dysfunction or dysautonomia refers to problems with this autonomic nervous system.

I have several problems with my autonomic nervous system. The one with the most serious complications is gastroparesis and it involves the digestion of food. Gastroparesis is a condition in which the muscles in your stomach don't function normally. Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through your digestive tract. But with gastroparesis, the muscles in the wall of your stomach work poorly or not at all. This prevents your stomach from emptying properly. Gastroparesis can interfere with digestion, cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, problems with blood sugar levels and nutrition. I also have autoimmune reactions to certain foods and chemicals in certain foods which can cause severe migraines and flu like systems that can last for days.
There is no cure for gastroparesis. Making changes to my diet may help me cope with gastroparesis signs and symptoms, but that's not always enough. Gastroparesis medications may offer some relief, but some can cause serious side effects (permanent involuntary muscular contractions and abnormal postures, heart problems and spontaneous lactation)...I will pass on those meds, thank you very much. My doctor  recommended that I do not even attempt to take any of the drugs because of the high risk of side effects.
 So what's a girl with gastroparesis supposed to do?
  1. Find out what my body will allow me to eat. Currently, I do not eat: wheat, barley, oats, rye, shellfish, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), any dairy or eggs. What do I eat...that's a whole other blog post.
  2. Take supplements that help me digest my food, heal my gut tissue, boost my immune system and relieve the autoimmune symptoms.
  3. Plenty of sleep
  4. Reduce stress level
  5. Try not to freak out about having a non-curable condition (see # 4)
I am trying to stay positive but it is extremely difficult. I just want to cry and pout. Maybe just brood like my pet chickens do. I want to stay in bed for days. I want to scream "not fair" like a pissed off toddler. I want to get drunk on margaritas. I want to run away from all of it. Fight or flight...Fight or flight...Fight or flight.

Life is Short. Eat dessert first! (if you make it for me make sure it's gluten free, dairy free and egg free) ...and never, ever let anyone steal your dreams especially an incurable dysfunctional autonomic nervous system!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Two Weeks of Sorta Kinda Paleo

June, 2013

As I mentioned in my blog post (In Search Of Answers June 2013), I had to go on a very strict elimination diet. I was following what is considered a Paleo diet (meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts). What? Wait a minute...roots and tubers? Never in my life had I consider that some of the food I was already eating was considered roots and/or tubers. Both words did not sound remotely appetizing. I did some research (that means Google) and little did I know that yams, potatoes and sweet potatoes are tubers. Carrots, beets and turnips are root vegetables. Now I go up to perfect strangers and ask them when was the last time they ate a root or a tuber (not really but that would be hilarious to see what answers I would get).
As luck would have it the beginning of this food elimination diet happened to coincide with a road trip. I started on the diet on a Wednesday and the following Sunday I had to drive my son to his college orientation...a four hour drive away. After dropping him off, I was then driving into the mountains to stay for two days. The house is forty-five minutes away from ANY food store.

I'm used to "going without". I have been going without eating a lot of different things (anything containing gluten, shellfish & nightshades). Now I had to find foods that were also free of eggs, dairy AND could go on the road with me. This meant an emergency trip to Whole Foods. After about two hours of label reading and $100 later, I had one bag of food to take with me. I hadn't had a chance to really study the Paleo way of eating so I just had to go with what I could find. I was really happy that I had a Whole Foods in my area because there is no way I could have gotten enough to eat from Food Lion. I had bags of dried fruit, bags of nuts, raw nut & fruit bars, plantain chips, fruit leather (tastes better than in sounds) and raw coconut macaroons. I bought some fresh fruit to get me through the days before the trip (apples, grapes, bananas & oranges).

We left on a Sunday and headed north into the WORST traffic I have ever been in. A trip that was supposed to take four hours took almost seven. I preceded to eat everything I had bought at Whole Foods during those seven hours. At some point we stopped at an Arbies so that my son could eat lunch. Guess what I ate from Arbies...a "naked" baked butter, no sour cream, no cheese...NOTHING! Off their entire menu, a freaking potato was the only thing that wouldn't poison me. This diet was not getting off to a great start but I was determined to stick with it. We arrived at the hotel and I was so hungry, I could have eaten the delicate floral patterned comforter. We ended up in the hotel restaurant and the only thing I could eat from their entire menu was a "naked" bun, no cheese. I did ask if they could add some mushrooms and onions but had to explain in my best Spanish (that means numbers 1-6 and please & thank you) thank I would crap in my pants or barf on the table if anything got cross contaminated. They must have gotten the message from me pointing back and forth from my mouth to my ass because I had no embarrassing reactions.

I was able to make it through the two days at the mountain house by finding an awesome grocery store and stocking up with more gluten free, shellfish free, nightshade free, dairy free and egg free food. The biggest challenge with this diet was that most everything I could eat had to be prepared in some way. I had plenty of "snacks" that I didn't have to do anything to (just reach my hand into the bag) but lunch & dinner was a whole other story. The following week and a half before I could start introducing certain grains (rice, corn & soy) back into my diet I TRIED to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, fish and lots of nuts...more nuts that I have ever eaten in my life. Nuts became my constant companion. I was still working over seventy hours a week so preparing and cooking meals was extremely difficult.

 I had became obsessed with hummus and carrots during the two week elimination diet. The Paleo diet does not allow hummus (chickpeas = hummus and chickpeas are legumes not nuts) but as I stated before, I was trying the diet (Paleo) to determine further food allergies. Since I had been eating hummus without experiencing any funky reactions, I decided that I would keep it in my diet. I realized too late that I was a cheater...thankfully in this case there was no need for a divorce.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Six Letter Dirty Word

Most dirty words are four letters but I beg to differ. The dirty word in my house (actually just between my husband and me) is six letters...H-U-M-M-U-S. The mere mention of that word now makes me tense up. Let me set the record straight, I LOVE HUMMUS. Unfortunately, my husband does not love HUMMUS. We ended up having one of the worst arguments over it. It started with a question my husband asked me as we were lying in bed watching "House Hunters" or "Love It or List It" (I can't remember which). Here is my version:

Husband: How long ago did you eat hummus?

Wife: Why?

Husband: Because I can smell's coming out of your pores.

Wife: You know perfectly well that HUMMUS is one of the few foods that I can actually eat. You have told me at least twice before that you can smell the HUMMUS wafting out of my pores. I try not to eat it if you are going to be around but I was starving earlier in the day and you weren't here. I thought it was safe. (blood pressure and pitch of my voice raised <on a scale of 1-10> to a 5)

Husband: So it was earlier in the day that you ate HUMMUS?
(this is when I realized that my husband was trying to calculate how much longer he was going to have to smell my stinking HUMMUS pores...blood pressure and pitch was now at 8)

Wife: You don't get it do you? (blood pressure and pitch was now an 11+) You have no fu*king idea what it's like to be me. You don't know what it's like to only be able to eat like ten things without becoming ill. You sit there and stuff your face with whatever the hell you want and never think twice about me.

Husband: Let me just say to you that I will NEVER, EVER mention that six letter word me on that!

Wife: WHAT??? That's all you have to say to me...that you won't ask me if I ate HUMMUS? This is so much more than that and you know it!

Husband: Whoa...wait a minute...this isn't just about me saying that you reek for days after you eat HUMMUS?

This argument is when I knew I needed to start my "Food Allergy Extraordinaire" blog again. It really wasn't about the hummus. It was about feeling alone inside of my own head. If you don't have a chronic illness then you have no idea what it is like dealing with a body that is not cooperating. You have no idea what it is like to feel "less than" or "damaged". My husband is a pretty healthy guy. He can eat whatever he wants. We have been married nineteen years and as much as I know he loves me, even he doesn't really know what its like to be me.

I have been trying for the last three months to get back on here but I kept thinking that I needed to start from the very beginning of my trip down "the chronic illness from hell" road. This would mean going back over 17 years when I first got extremely ill. When I was down to eighty-five pounds and so sick I had to sleep sitting on the couch with my knees to my chin (think of a sitting fetal position) for months. I will get to all of that in future posts but for now I just need to write about what I have been through. Sometimes it helps to let it all out. Maybe my journey will sound familiar and you learn something that helps you. Maybe you have been through some of the same things and you can help me. In any case, I glad your here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Seventeen Year Stomach Ache and The Search For Answer

Please note that I started this blog back in June 2013 but was unable to finish writing and publish this blog post until now...October 2013. Most of you know that many, many things have changed since June of this year and I am now trying to catch you up on what has been going on. I am sick and this is my personal blog about the road to my physical, spiritual and emotional recovery. I am opening my heart to you. Letting you into my "heartspace" means that I will be showing you my vulnerable side. I am willing to share my life with you because my hope is to help others. If anything I write/post/blog about helps you or someone you know, it will be so very worth it. I hope you choose to walk beside me as I walk into the arena.

"Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don't exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be--a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation--with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly." -passage from Brene Brown's new book, Daring Greatly.

 Join me as I choice a life of daring greatly.
 June 2013

I don't even know where to begin. There is so much history. I have not felt good in over seventeen years. It has always been my stomach...always. Twelve years ago I started eating gluten free. Three years ago I stopped eating shellfish. Six months ago I stopped eating nightshades (potato, tomato, eggplant & peppers). Now I must stop eating dairy, eggs and all grains. I already do not eat wheat, barley, oats and rye. Now I have cut out corn, rice, soy etc. I will be eating what is considered Paleo (Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts). Why on earth would I do this to myself? It is the last piece of the puzzle in terms of figuring out what foods I am eating that are still making me so sick. I am trying the elimination diet where you cut out the major allergens. It takes a couple of weeks (at least two) to clean out your system.

I am starting this Paleo/Elimination diet because of an abnormal test result. I had to go through a test were I drink a small amount of radioactive water and then my stomach is scanned for forty-five minutes. A normal stomach will empty half the water into the intestines in thirty minutes. I never thought in a million years that the test would come back abnormal. All the other tests I have had came back normal (endoscopy, colonoscopy & blood work). I would explain to people that after I would seemed to just sit in my stomach until I would start to feel toxic. It turns out, that is exactly what was happening to me. My stomach does not digest solids and liquids properly. There are NOT a lot of options to fix my problem. The medical approach is a DRUG I take forever, a feeding tube or a stomach pacemaker. The holistic approach is a VERY SPECIFIC diet, nutritional supplements and cutting out as much stress in your life as possible. I am choosing the holistic approach which will require me to change A LOT of things in my life. I don't feel like I have a choice right now. I don't want to keep living a life of not feeling good.

So...what is Paleo? Some people call it a cult and other people call it "a diet". There is a very large group of people who consider it a "lifestyle" that goes beyond food. You can google the term Paleo and find out WAY MORE information than I want to personally write about in this post. Here is a link to one of the top experts on Paleo lifestyle. I originally learned about Paleo from a gluten free forum. People kept posting about how crazy the Paleo crowd was. Not only were they very harsh to non-Paleo's but would even turn on there fellow Paleo devotees. There was lots of talk about what food is considered true Paleo ( green beans?) and at what degree of a loser you are if you cheat and actually eat a potato. Getting past all of the controversy, what I did notice (that was very positive) from my research is that Paleo = gluten free. I didn't start on the Paleo diet when I first read about it but I kept it in the back of my brain.

I found out about the abnormal test result around noon on June 19th. I walked out of the hospital with the results in my hand and immediately immersed myself in the very restrictive diet. The next step was to get the appropriate foods into my fridge and pantry. So that meant I needed to stock up on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts & seeds and healthy fats. I have to avoid eating dairy, all grains, processed foods & sugars, legumes, starches and alcohol. The Paleo diet allows you to eat eggs but since I am trying this diet to determine what additional food allergies I have, I am cutting those out too. I have to avoid all the items listed above along with all the other foods I have already cut out.

Let me just say that I am used to only being able to eat certain things but this elimination diet takes my already limited menu to a whole new (restrictive) level. I have learned to live without being able to eat so many different foods in the last twelve years. Somethings are easy to give up while others...not so much. Now I have to give up one of my FAVORITE things in the whole world...CHEESE! Alas, I will morn the death of smoked Gouda, fresh mozzarella, crumbly Mexican cheese and even Kraft "cheese food" slices. It's a sad day in my refrigerator.