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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recent Findings

Recently I've been going through a lot of different changes (good and bad) in my life. And of course, for me, change means stress! Stress has always had the primary effect of making me sick. Whether it's general malaise or, if it's a high level of stress, I completely lose my appetite and have to kick start my system with rice for a day. Unfortunately I've had pretty high levels lately. I ended up doing an unintentional experiment of not taking my vitamins for a week. I quickly found out 2 things this does to me. A) my IBS goes hay-wire. I don't know if it's the combo of pills, or the fact that I take Aloe Vera, but my daily regimen definitely helps to keep my IBS under control. And B) my moods were awful! Aside from the regular stress emotions, I just felt down and out. I hadn't felt that bad since before taking my "cocktail" daily. I still have some pretty big stressors at the moment, but I hope that by keeping up with my pills I can help keep the bodily effects to a minimum.

Aside from my unintentional experiment, I'll share some products I've started using recently! One of my favorite things is finding stuff I can either put on or in my body :)

First, I absolutely love that walmart labels their generics GF. I also found out that King Soopers does this.

GF Chex is amazing! Especially the Honey Nut variety. (I really want them to make Kix GF too).

Microwave popcorn is my weakness. Especially the super buttery stuff. Orville Redenbacher is my fav.

Delimex tamalles with plain yogurt instead of sour cream...amazing!

I have tried multiple GF beers, but they all make me feel bloated and gross. But I found that hard ciders are a wonderful alternative! Woodchuck and Ace Perry cider and my favorites.

I have always had issues with acne. With my recent cosmetic/personal care item switch I had to find all new products to use. I found out that Proactive is GF. Even though it's a bit more expensive, at least it doesn't clog my pores (though it does tend to dry out my skin, I'm still adjusting to it).

Suave is awesome! Their salon line works amazingly well, and is priced great! I had been using Giovanni from Whole Foods for a while, but it's just so darn expensive! And I have a lot of hair, so I went through it way too fast. Suave is a much better option for me (and their body wash isn't bad either).

Burt's Bees is my favorite lip balm hands down. Always has been, always will be.

Afterglow cosmetics are great! They're a little high priced, but they are very high quality and don't have all the stuff in them that can cause acne like other cosmetics. I use their concealer, powder foundation and finishing powder, bronzing powder, eye liner and mascara. My only issue is that their mascara isn't water proof so I have to watch my under eye area so I don't turn into a raccoon throughout the day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Post-biopsy: the year of many changes

After I had the biopsy done I once again went back to doing things on my own. I was still having ups and downs, which I couldn't really figure out other than ups and downs with my stress level. When things would get too bad I would end up eating plain white rice for a couple days until I could get things evened out again. Those days are probably some of the worst I can remember. Feeling so nauseated and gross that just the thought of putting something into my mouth and eating made me want to barf. Thankfully those days were spread out pretty well, so it was maybe every few months I would get to feeling that bad.

Throughout the year I had a lot of changes. I moved out of my parent's house, found a new doctor (she was average, didn't give me much additional info), moved again, kinda sorta dated someone, changed jobs. It was a full year for sure. I was still having my ups and downs physically, but I was also starting to notice some serious mood swings. One week I would be super happy and cheerful and then the next I'd be depressed and just want to sleep all day and do nothing. I was also coming to terms with the fact that I have anxiety issues when it comes to situations I can't control.

When I changed jobs I ended up getting a recommendation to a new doctor who was an osteopath and practice integrative medicine. I personally really like the idea of integrative medicine. I think that eastern medicine has a lot to offer, even though it tends to sound a bit hokey. So I gave her a shot. On my first visit she did a bunch of lab work, something I've always appreciated because of all the risks and complications associated with Celiacs. She ended up finding that I had some vitamin deficiencies and put me on multiple different supplements. She also put me on glutamine (a precursor to GABA, a neurotransmitter that can affect moods). Once I got better about taking my vitamins regularly I really started to see a big difference. Mostly in my moods and energy level. I still get a little PMS, but it isn't nearly as bad as it used to be mood wise. I've also felt like I've had more energy. The new doc also had me get a bone density scan, another test I felt someone should have recommended a long time ago but never did. Everything came back pretty normal, but I do have a tiny bit of bone loss in my spine.

Well, we're finally up to date on my journey! I take a handful of pills every morning and night, but it helps so much I could care less. I eat as well as I can, though frequency of eating could be better for sure. My moods are much improved, my digestive state has been pretty steading (with a few minor bumps though), and overall I'm just feeling more balanced. Oh! I almost forgot, I get accupuncture too. I actually really like it. It's relaxing and I think it really does help you to be more balanced.

Monday, March 8, 2010


About a month or so into the cleanse I ended up traveling for a week. Traveling and being on such a strict cleanse was not a very good plan, but things were already set so I tried to stick with it as much as I could. Amusingly, the straw that broke the camel's back for me was coffee. Part of the cleanse was getting all stimulants out. I love coffee. I consider Starbucks to be one of my vices.

After another visit with the chiropractor I decided to just go back to doing things on my own. I tried to add in a couple supplements he had suggested, and some I had found doing research. But unfortunately I was still having major ups and downs. For about a month I'd feel great, and then I'd go into a slump and start getting constipated and feeling gross, and I couldn't find anything that would stop that from happening. (As a side note, if you're looking for a natural laxative, Senna tea is the best. I usually mix dried senna, peppermint and ginger and make tea with a little honey. Soothes and gets things moving).

During all this time I had been attending college to get my bachelor's degree. At the end of 2008 I was set to graduate (the cleanse happened in the summer of 2008). Towards the end of the year I was starting to prepare to move out of my parent's house, which meant not being under their insurance anymore. I still really wanted to get the biopsy done, even though I had been GF for a year, I wanted to give a gastroenterologist one more try. I did some research and found an osteopathic gastro doctor. I made and appointment, and he was one of the first doctors to actually be helpful! It was like a breath of fresh air. Now of course the only real management tool he could give me was to not eat gluten, but he did prescribe me a medication for my IBS (which ended up causing problems, but that's for another post). He also was willing to do the biopsy without making me do a gluten challenge. Something that I was not going to do. There was no way I was going to make myself sick again around the end of my last semester, let alone ever.

The day came for the biopsy, fasting was involved of course, but that was fine since I don't normally eat breakfast. A bad habit, I know. I was prepped and given the medications, which worked amazingly fast and amazingly well. Woke up afterwards, recovered, and went home. Of course, I got pictures too, which I posted on my facebook to gross out all my friends :).

When the doctor told me the results, he said that there was still a slight amount of damage, and I had a confirmed diagnosis of Celaic Disease. This may sound odd, but I was so glad he said that! I didn't want to have to deal with doctors not being willing to treat me for Celiacs because I hadn't done the biopsy. Also, I love learning medical stuff about myself, partly because I love science and medicine, and partly because I feel like I'm a medical anomoly and I want to know everything that is wrong with me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Cleanse

Oh the Cleanse. This was the most intense dieting thing I've ever done, and hopefully ever will do. The chiropractor I saw had written this plan himself, and it was intense. The first week was pretty much a fast. I had to drink 2 liters of water a day and 5 protein shakes spread out (about every 3 hours). The protein shakes were meant to make sure I still got vitamins and other essential daily nutrients. The first day or two went alright, my digestive system adjusted to not having solid food in it, and aside from my crap looking like slightly more concentrated protein shakes (and burning like none other) my stomach was quite content to be empty. But there were 2 big hurdles that I ran into the first week. The first one was the worst, I started having heart palpitations. Now this had also happened a year or so before when I had tried birth control pills to control my PMS symptoms, but just because it had happened before didn't mean it didn't freak me out. I called him right away slightly panicky and tried to figure out why I still trusted this guy. He tried to calm me down as best he could, and told me to take large amounts of magnesium. I did heed his advice and the palpitations subsided (I've actually had this problem more recently, and have found daily magnesium supplements to be quite important for me). The second hurdle I encountered during that first week was feeling myself go slightly insane from not having solid food for multiple days. I finally had my mom cook me a sweet potato so I could eat tiny pieces of it and have something solid in my mouth (I do have a slight oral fixation). That was probably the best sweet potato I've ever eaten.

The following weeks of the cleanse consisted of re-introducing foods into my diet; pretty much trying to reset my digestive system. Unfortunately about a month into this cleanse I ended up going to a camp as a counselor and "cheated" the entire time. I was mostly concerned about not eating gluten, than sticking to a cleanse that had gone on too long for my own sanity. I did have a couple more rechecks with him, but once I realized I just couldn't stick with it, and that he was a little bit too alternative for me, I decided to just go it alone once again.

As a side note; cleanses are very tricky things to do. I don't think that a safe cleanse will ever ask you to stop eating for an extended amount of time like that. The most recent cleanse I did was just some herbal pills that I took morning and evening (made me smell like one big herb, that's for sure). There are cleanses out there that tell you to drink only green tea and lemon juice for a certain number of days, or to drink their "tonic" and nothing else for __ days. I had a friend try to lose weight fast by not eating and increasing caffeine, and he ended up in the hospital. Cleanses sound like a good idea, like something we need to do because of the way they are marketed. But honestly, you don't. Your body will take care of things itself. We crap to get rid of toxins, we urinate to get rid of toxins, and when we get sick we're getting rid of toxins and "invaders." Our bodies, as long as they are healthy and fed properly, are more than able to take care of themselves.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The crazy Chiropractor

A few months after GI doc #1 I was still having quite a few problems. After talking with my Celiac friend I decided to go see her doctor, who was actually a chiropractor that did muscle testing.

As a side note, muscle testing is probably one of the weirdest things I've done so far. The patient lays down on a table and holds one arm vertical. The practitioner then holds a vial of whatever substance they are testing (gluten, corn, vegetables, etc.) over the patient's body and the pulls the patient's arm down. The patient is supposed to resist the pulling, and based on how well they resist the practitioner can tell what foods are bad for them and which ones they can tolerate. Also, the patient is not consciously aware of what is in the vial until afterward, which is key to the testing. I told you, it's weird. I've never had so many vials involved in my health care until I started looking more into alternative medicine.

I went for my initial appointment and after the muscle testing was told that I am intolerant to gluten, corn, dairy, and MSG. He also told me that MSG is found in everyday foods like broccoli. The weirdest part about the testing was that when he held the "bad" things over me, I couldn't resist his pushing on my arm, even if he tried twice. After the muscle testing he then put me on a very intense full body cleanse.

If you aren't familiar with cleanses, their purpose is to rid the body of toxins that build up in the body through environmental exposure. You can be exposed either by inhaling, ingesting, or absorbing these toxins through the skin. Now our bodies are designed to be able to filter out these toxins all the time, and they shouldn't build up. Of course build ups do still happen occasionally, like with heavy metal toxicity; but these types of things aren't common unless you are exposed to extremely high amounts (such as eating fish every day, or having high levels in your home). Although I do occasionally do cleanses, I'm not convinced of their necessity or validity.

Next time: The cleanse

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gastroenterologist #1

The first gastroenterologist I went to see was probably in his 50s. This was my first sign that this appointment probably wasn't going to go very well. I know I should judge people based on age, but when it comes to doctors I've found a few things about their credentials and time practicing that can seriously affect the way they see Celiac Disease. One thing you have to understand about Celiacs is that only in the recent past has it come to light A) how common it is, and B) how much the symptoms can vary from person to person.

Since I had been told to consult with a GI doc, I didn't really have any specific questions for him. So, when I went into the appointment he asked why I was there, so I told him pretty much that I had gotten the blood test a few months before and had gone gluten free and needed to see where to go from there. He told me he didn't think I had it because I didn't have the typical symptoms (diarrhea, malnourishment, etc.), and if I wanted to have the endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis (the diagnosis that he pretty much rejected, even though my antibody levels were so high), that I needed to do a gluten "challenge" for about 3 weeks before the scope. I wasn't about to make myself sick again, so I decided against that.

All in all, appointment with Dr. #1 was the worst $50 and 15 minutes of my life. I got nothing out of it except the impression that he thought I was an idiot and he had better things to do with my time. So I decided to just do things on my own and continue being GF, since my impression of doctors so far was that they suck when it comes to long term treatment and managment of Celiacs.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The results

I was driving to work a few days after my appointment with the allergist when my phone rang. I remember exactly where I was when he said, "I got your blood test results back, and surprisingly they were positive." I didn't understand all of the implications that would have until later; and I'm still realizing some of them now. Unfortunately he didn't give me much else to go on except that I had a high TTG antibody result. (TTG stands for tissue transglutaminase, antibodies to this enzyme are specific to Celiac Disease, but this test isn't 100% accurate). I found out later that my antibody levels were almost 200, where anything above 30 is considered a strong positive.

That night I went out with my best friend for a "last meal" of sorts. We went to a place that specialized in crepes. I remember that I did get sick from the meal, and that it wasn't my favorite meal ever, but I was still grateful for the support of my friend. The next day turned into a whirlwind of trying to sort out what I could and couldn't eat. Thankfully I had a Celiac friend who was willing to help and took me grocery shopping later on.

One of the things that has made getting a "gold standard" diagnosis was that the doctor who told me my results failed to mention that I needed to follow up with a gastroenterologist for a biopsy before starting the GF diet, so that my diagnosis could be confirmed. Speaking with my Celiac friend I found out that not everyone has that test done, but I eventually decided that I wanted to be sure so I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist about 3 months after going GF.

As a side note, I have made a few observations about myself during this whole ordeal. The first is actually an observation that my brother made while I was detoxing from gluten (took about a week after starting the GF diet for this to subside). I was at my brother's apartment for some reason or another, and I farted in front of him (we're family, and I have the sense of humor of an 8 year old boy, so farting is quite hilarious to me). About 3 seconds later my brother exclaims, "That smells like brimstone!" That was definitely one of the most descriptive responses I've ever gotten to farting in front of someone. I told this story to a guy friend of mine once and he was actually jealous of my farting power.
The second observation I've made is that I'm pretty sure I subconsciously knew that gluten was what was making me sick when I was a kid. I hated eating all things gluten centered; hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, pizza, spaghetti, cake (I only liked the frosting), even pastries. Now that I've gone GF I have occasional cravings for these foods, especially pizza and sandwiches for some reason. Thankfully I have found some amazing pizza places around the Denver area that have GF options, and some good bread to make sandwiches with.

Next time: gastroenterologist #1