Thursday, March 29, 2012

Being Irish not only means St. Paddy's day....

I went for my IV last night.  Except after an hour of drinking water, heating bags and 6 needle pokes, no IV.  3 people could not find a single useable vein.  Which begs the question of how on earth I'm going to manage this @#$@$$%^** autoimmune disease if I can't get the IV?!

I've been told before that my fair, fair skin hair and eyes go along with having teeny tiny deep veins.  Blood draws and IVs have always been *problematic*.  By that I mean a complete pain in the arse.

Through conversation yesterday with the lovely NDs (who were VERY stressed out by my veins) I found out something else.  Those of Irish descent, especially women with my fair complexion have extremely high incidences of autoimmune disease, and gluten-sensitivities.  The rate of celiac is much higher than in the population of those of other descent.  And so is Hashimoto's.  Hashimoto's thyroiditis rates are very high in Irish colleens with reddish hair and peaches and cream skin. So not only did I inherit St. Paddy's day, a wicked temper and a love for Harp beer and Celtic music, I inherited this tendency toward autoimmune issues.  Which frankly today feel like autoimmune disasters.

My ultra dry skin was mentioned several times, and I was queried as to how much water I drink.  I drink enough water to waterlog a human of much larger proportions than I.  It was suggested that I eliminate coffee, black tea and green tea from my diet.  I admit, I cried in the car on the way home.  It wasn't pretty.  And my hubs listened to me rant and cry and snuffle (bluetooth is a blessing and a curse!) about how I can't ever have my favourite cookies again, pizza and Harp or Starbucks.  He pointed out that 1. I drink Harp maybe 3 times a year, 2. I rarely eat cookies because I'm always trying to lose weight, 3. And eliminating caffeine was something I knew I should do anyway.  I ended the conversation.  How dare he point out the obvious when I was in full-on pity party mode!  :)

So there you have it.  I am tapering coffee (because it would be unfair to those around me to experience the withdrawal with me), and wondering what it would be like to be of say...Egyptian descent.  Well, not really, I generally like my fair complexion and realistically, every ethnicity has some inherited health issue, right?  I'm working on getting over the pity party, and moving on.  Gluten, dairy and soon caffeine free.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gluten and inflammation

Gluten causes inflammation in the body.  And as I've recently discovered, can cause not only celiac but other autoimmune disorders as well.  Often autoimmune diseases are linked to celiac.  I have also found some research that indicates that gluten-free diets improve the symptoms of some forms of arthritis.  Really an autoimmune disease is just your immune system in wacko overdrive, and attacking your body.  Which causes inflammation, joint pain, thyroid issues, bowel and gut issues, brain fog and a myriad of other things.

Blood tests for various conditions will not necessarily reveal that it is gluten that is the cause.  However they may uncover antibodies that are way over normal limits, indicating an autoimmune disorder.  Depending on the antibody, it can demonstrate different types of autoimmune disorders.  Mine is directly attacking my thyroid.

Often the mainstream medical community either doesn't test for the presence of antibodies, or doesn't buy into the link between gluten and autoimmune disease.  Equally as often, there is no mainstream medical treatment until the part of the body being attacked is completely destroyed.

Does that mean there is no causal link?  Absolutely not.  Naturopathic doctors (and a few MDs) believe there is and treat the patient by asking them to eliminate gluten and perhaps giving some alternative treatments.  That's where the IVC I'm getting at the ND's comes in.  It is meant to settle my immune system down, which will decrease the antibodies and I will feel better.  And so will my thyroid. 

I was asked this week some questions about gluten sensitivity and blood tests.  My food intolerance/allergy test didn't reveal a huge gluten issue.  And that's sometimes normal.  It's not always a blood test that will tell the tale.  But my full thyroid panel showed the hugely out of whack antibody levels, and Tara (the ND) has had great success with patients by removing gluten from the diet.

Anyone can do the elimination diet, in which all gluten is removed from the diet.  Symptoms may take awhile to improve, since it will take time for the inflammation to settle down.  A great book that I love that is a great resource for dietary changes is The Hormone Diet, by Dr. Natasha -it's not only about weight loss, but about being healthy--(  Another book is Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis ( I've read them both, and frankly I can't believe I didn't connect some of my own dots sooner, so to speak.

Another resource that I can say I've used is the website for the Naturopathic clinic where I am a patient  Tara is a published author, and one smart gluten-free cookie!  There is a wealth of information, and the blog is great.

Do a google search about gluten and be amazed by the plethora of sites that come up.  Add natural therapy or naturopath and do a boolean search, and just as many again will come up.

I don't know if gluten-free is the answer for everyone, but I know it has made a huge difference in many people's health and management of autoimmune conditions.  Even something as simple as seasonal allergies is an autoimmune response and could potentially be helped by eliminating gluten.

If you wish to give going gluten-free a try, keep in mind that it will take a month or two to see a difference in how you feel.  Wheat, spelt, rye, barley and almost all packaged foods are a source of gluten.  Oatmeal and other gluten-free grains can be cross-contaminated and contain gluten, so read labels!  So many things contain gluten that we would never suspect.  Examples--bbq sauce, Chinese food, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, canned soups, soya sauce...the list is very long.  Beer and vodka contain gluten.  But it's easy to find alternatives to gluten containing products.  The health food store, many grocery stores carry gluten-free products.  Grains like brown rice and quinoa are gluten-free.  There are many gluten-free flours that can be combined to make baked goods.  Gluten-free baking is very different--it's gluten that makes dough elastic.  Recipes can be adapted and played with until a desirable product is achieved.  And there are lots of great recipes on the 'net and in cookbooks.

Good luck on whatever health journey you're on.  May your answers come easily!

Monday, March 19, 2012

gluten--my nemesis

I got the results of my blood test today.  Turns out my thyroid is working fine.  BUT, and it's a big but, I have an autoimmune condition that is attacking and destroying it.  Which has likely been going on for a big part of my life, but doesn't show up on the usual blood tests an MD will do.  And it's a wonder that I function as well as I do.  The likely root cause--gluten.  Although my food sensitivity test doesn't reveal a gluten insensitivity, that's not unusual.  It's a different reaction.  And it's fairly common. 

The good news is that I can eliminate gluten, have Vitamin C IVs to heal my immune system.  If I don't respond to that treatment, I will have heavy metal toxicity testing.  It's fantastic news in that either way, I will get better.

Even better news?!  I can stop beating myself up that I struggle with my weight and energy.  It's not my fault.  And because I take good care of myself and work hard to be fit and have a healthy weight, things are not as bad as they could be.  With treatment I will get to a healthy weight, my nails will be better, my hair will get thicker and stop shedding excessively.  I will feel great!

It amazes me how nasty gluten can be to our bodies.  I have talked before about eliminating gluten, but have never really totally eliminated it.  I probably don't eat as much as some other people, but from now on I won't be eating it at all.  For reals.

I also found out that my iron has dropped drastically over the past year.  I am supposed to eat red meat again.  At least until my iron levels are back to a normal amount.  And of  course lots of spinach, broccoli, and other iron containing things.  I can't imagine eating meat.  Not chicken?!  That is going to be very strange for me, and likely rather difficult.  But necessary since iron supplements do not agree with me.  At all.

I'm heartened that things will get better, and ready to do battle.  Gluten is my nemesis.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happiness is....

Happiness is a week of beautiful warm weather and sunshine.  A day spent wandering through Ikea, getting decorating ideas and picking up a few odds and ends.  Including new bookshelves for the bedroom (finally, enough storage for our favourite books!), and a new duvet cover.  At the mall (not a big fan of malls, but needed a few things) a new bright pink shirt for work, and a really nice dark denim jean jacket!  For the record, I still love my Hollywood Era, silver studded *vintage* 1986 jean jacket, but my children will not let me wear it publicly.  It's hanging in my closet and I wear it at every opporunity.  Usually to 80s themed parties.  And honestly, why wouldn't I wear a jacket from grade 11 that still fits me???  However, silver studs aside, the new jacket is going to look super for work, with a skirt or nice capris. 

Sidetracked....yesterday was a big dose of happiness.  And I guess because the new duvet cover doesn't have that special worn in spot yet, I woke up this morning with a warm, purring kitty snuggled up to my body.  Alistair Cookie the kitty usually sleeps beside my feet.  It was a nice treat having him curled up where I could reach him to pet him.  And purring no less.

I also picked up a couple of cheapy polar fleece throws for the livingroom and family room.  Same as my lime green ones, so I can put the brown wintery ones away.  I don't often change things up for the seasons, but a punch of red does my heart good!  And red towels for the downstairs powder room.  Red and lime green sounds like a bizarre combination (and I guess it is!), but it works so well with my chocolate brown leather furniture and oak hardwood.  I think I should find some red potted tulips or gerber daisies to put on the diningroom table too.

I`m planning to paint my antique desk (Aunt Go-go is likely rolling in her grave!), and trying to decide on a colour.  I saw an amazing bright yellow makeover piece on another blog (no idea which one now), but yellow wouldn`t look great with our Wilmington Tan walls.  Hubs doesn`t want red, lime green would be a bit much.  If you have any ideas, let me know.  I can`t envision it in my minds eye.

While at Ikea, hubs also convinced me about a new tv shelving unit deal he wants when he finally gets the big flatscreen television I`ve been putting off for years.  Same line as the  new shelves in our room, and alot cheaper than the built-ins I want.  But it will require some saving of $$ and I still haven`t totally capitulated on the tv issue.  Because basketball games will be awesome to watch is not the the incentive I need to give in on something that is a luxury item we don`t actually need.  We have a perfectly fine television that still works.  The other issue a new tv would entail is, what do we do with the perfectly fine wall unit we inherited from my grandmother?  No, it's not a style I would go out and buy, but it cost alot of money in the day, and works fine for the tv we have now.  I guess hang on to it until we finish our basement, or pass it on to Jess for her place. 

As I write, I'm filled with happiness again, coffee in a beautiful cup I got for Mother's Day years ago (yellow with a handpainted rooster, from Spain), Chase the wonderdog curled up on the couch next to me, Jasmine the fluffy orange *ancient* kitty watching me from the chair on the other side of me and the luxury of time.  Dropped Jackson off at work, Seamus and hubs still sleeping, Jess safe and sound at university.

Another source of happiness?  Jess got hired at Honda for the summer again, a great job making way more $$ than any other job in the area, and we're going to look at a house with her tomorrow for next year at school.  Extra bonus?  Honda means she is going to ride with her Dad, and I won't be without my car for the summer!  It means much more freedom for summer, and she will have enough $$ for school.  She is determined to do it on her own, and Honda means she likely can.

The birds are chirping outside, the spring peepers were singing last night--happiness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

spring weight loss?

So I've been working to lose the *ahem* "few" pounds I've gained over the winter.  I've been feeling a little draggy, not just myself lately.  Today I went to visit my naturopath and expressed my concerns to her.  And low and behold there are some actual possible reasons for my relative funk.  Blood pressure? Elevated.  Enough to be of some concern.  Thyroid & iron?  Being tested, but the likely reason for my lack of energy and weight gain.  Wacko menstrual cycle?  Need progesterone.  The beauty of going to an ND as my primary care physician?  Tests ordered today, and appointment next Monday to discuss the results.  In addition, I was booked for a 1/2 hour appointment (hello?  NEVER had an appt that long with an MD!), but spent a full 45 minutes with her.  She wants to hear about my whole body/emotions/life so that she can get my whole reality and make evaluations based on all of the information.  And she trusts me to know myself, and to be the best judge of what I need. 

Having said that, I am blessed in that I have a wonderful career with excellent benefits that enable me to afford to visit her, and pay for my assorted tests and treatments.  It would be amazing for everyone, regardless of financial means, to have the choice to access this comprehensive and full care.  Wouldn't it be nice to live in a society that valued preventative care, not just acute care once one's health is deteriorated beyond the scope of average care?

Okay, so it's not all in my head.  There are physical reasons for how I've been feeling.  Validation is a powerful thing.  And I have an immediate appointment to get the results of my tests and to plan the actions to heal what needs to be healed.

To aid in the spring weight loss efforts, I have been running and walking alot.  My trusty walking partner has been enjoying it too. 

Chase the wonderdog looking very serious

She's pooped and quite happy to curl up and sleep on the couch. I think she even smiled a bit when I left for a big part of the day today--it meant she could veg out and not think about more exercise :)  And an added benefit?  She's losing some winter pudge too.  Being an only doggy means not much wild play to wear off calories.  Chasing the cats just isn't the same. 

Speaking of wonderdogs and spring, the melting snow has uncovered, well, poop.  Lots of it.  Tomorrow the organic waste bin, a rake and I have a date in the backyard.  Spring is always so much fun!

Monday, March 12, 2012


It sure feels like spring around here.  Beautiful sunshine yesterday convinced me to take the dog for another long walk after I had already gone for a run.  After a long walk the day before.  Preceded by a full day of downhill skiing, and snowshoeing the day before that.  I now have very sore shins.  It's muscular, nothing epsom salt baths and Traumeel won't fix up.  But--really?!  How do I get myself into these scrapes?  Overdoing it.

Speaking of overdoing it, I'm really curious how a relatively clean and well cared for home gets so flippin' DIRTY?  Not just the usual messiness to be tidied, but dirty?  Grime in every corner.  I spent the morning making a big dent in that grime.  On the main floor of the house.  Plus loads of laundry in between.  My windows are sparkling (the ones I can reach from the outside) and all of them got a good cleaning on the inside.  As did the powder room.  The furniture has been moved and the dust bunnies have been banished.  I may tackle the basement tomorrow.  May.  I`ll play it by ear and see how it goes.  But there`s nothing quite like a sparkly clean house.  Maybe I`ll wash the kitchen cupboards and do some organizing instead.

March Break just screams spring cleaning at me.  Especially when the temperature rises and the sun shines.  I`m counting on more of the beautiful sunshine from yesterday to return.  What`s spring without sunshine?

I do realize that Ontario is probably going to get at least one more good blast of old Man Winter.  But I'm enjoying the spring temperatures while they last.  And I did see a robin yesterday.  I will be truly convinced when I see a red-winged blackbird.  I think they are the true harbinger of spring.

I am enjoying the luxury of time off of school, and trying to remember to nurture myself.  The next couple of months are going to be crazy busy.  Resting now is what will get me through.

What are you doing this March Break?

Friday, March 9, 2012

some days

It is a weary day.  Yesterday were electives at school, and a good deal of my students and myself were downhill skiing.  Tired teachers and tired students.  It was a wonderful day....

But this morning at school I found out that the baby brother of one of my students died.  He was strangled trying to get out of a makeshift crib.  This same family had the next child older almost killed by being run over by a skidsteer loader last summer.  That child spent months in Sick Kids hospital.  The baby who died yesterday was born while his brother recovered in the hospital.  It makes me absolutely heartsick. 

My grief for this family is mixed with anger.  How can they not take care of their children and ensure their safety?  Another older brother lost his lower leg in a haymower accident when he was a little guy.  How is it that children become almost expendable?  Instead of treating them as precious and worthy of utmost care, their lives are squandered.  The horror experienced by that baby as he slowly strangled to death, all alone.  It would not have been an easy/quick end to a too short life.

There are too many "accidents" in this community.  Too many children seriously injured.  Fathers losing limbs in farming accidents.  Children dying in preventable accidents.  When will it stop?  Has there been an investigation into these accidents of little ones?

And how does this affect the other children in the family?  The grief that will be silenced and held within the self-isolated community.  It appalls me.  I grieve for the family, the children and the community.  But I feel that there needs to be accountability.  Children are to be treasured and protected, not left to accident and injury.

I know I need to get past the feelings of anger, and do whatever I can to support the children that are at school who will be dealing with this.  It makes me feel ill.  And incredibly saddened that I would not be welcomed at the funeral for this baby.

It is a somber end to the week preceding our holiday.  Sadly, many in this community will not be having a fun vacation.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The importance of skin care

As I have written before, I had melanoma when my kiddos were much younger.  It scared the bejeepers out of me, as well it should.  I've always worn sunscreen, and it was a wonderful lesson that sometimes that's just not enough.  So, every 6 months *religiously* I visit my dermatologist who asks me to strip naked and puts on his crazy magnifying glasses and peers over every square inch of my skin.  I got over the embarrassment of standing arse nekkid in front of this man a long time ago.  Which is a good thing!  Well, I went for my appointment this past Friday.  And had some precancerous cells burned off my nose.  They were well disguised as dry skin, which I had been overmoisturizing for a couple of months.  He doesn't use the "c" word with me, 'cause I often get teary eyed when it comes up.  But you know that when he performs a procedure that is covered by OHIP, that's why.  So I have a nice little spot on my nose that looks scalded, and he assures me will heal up just fine.  But more importantly, it can't develop into anything scary.

I cannot stress the importance of good quality sunscreen enough to people.  My kids hate wearing it, and it causes alot of fights.  You know the kind--me holding down a 180 lb boy and madly rubbing sunscreen on any exposed  skin I can reach :)  Oh, he wiggles, but I'm a strong (willed) mama.  But I digress...without large amounts of sunscreen, I'm sure I would have had more than one melanoma episode, and many more "spots" burned off my skin.  And my kiddos and siblings have a much higher risk factor, having had a 1st degree relative with a history of melanoma.

As my dermatologist says, I have lovely fair skin.  The kind that will always need to be checked.  Thank you to my Scottish and Irish ancestors who bequeathed me fair, fair skin, freckles, fair hair and green eyes.  I am a poster child for skin cancer risk.  Interestingly, my siblings both have dark hair, and although fair, tan much more easily than I.  Just lucky I guess. 

Anyone can get skin cancer.  Even those with darker skin.  So please wear sunscreen and get your doctor to check you head to toe for sun damage.  It's a common misconception that melanoma begins with a mole.  Well, yes it can, however mine had nothing to do with a mole.  I have freckles instead of moles.  It can start anywhere.  And it is the most lethal form of cancer.  Early detection is crucial.

There's also basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers.  They don't spread or metatasize as quickly or easily, but they need to be taken care of too.

There you have it.  My public service announcement for the day.  Wear sunscreen, get checked.  It's quite simple really.  And wear a hat.  I forgot to mention that one.