June 7, 2011

moving towards health

in an effort to embrace health and vitality or to take charge of my own health, i am making some changes. some uncomfortable, but easy to make changes. it's all about mental attitude, really.

i have been saying FOR YEARS that i had to try a gluten-free diet or that i needed to be gluten-free. five or six years ago i was actually convinced that i had celiac or crohn's disease but tests came back negative and when they did i breathed a sigh of relief because i love bread. like love in a way you don't even understand. also, my family relies heavily on the ease and yummy goodness that is pasta. in all varieties. we eat pasta and tomato sauces multiple times a week. i gave rice pasta a try back then and wasn't impressed. i tried various GF breads and they all made me want to cry. when the tests came back negative i didn't bother to ask which of the many tests were for celiac. when i was finally given a diagnosis i let it go and didn't pursue anything else further.

i was told that i had the least severe form of IBD possible, known as ulcerative proctitis. i should have been celebrating since it wasn't "severe" (even though it was responsible for my anemia). it didn't increase my risk of colon cancer. and the best part? my doctor said that it wasn't at all related to my diet. yipee!

the truth, though? i hate the way it sounds. proctitis. it sounds so disgusting. i could say the word colon outloud before i could openly admit to people that i had proctitis. i told an OB/GYN once, before she gave me my yearly girly bits exam, and she raised her eyebrow at me and said, "are you sure? i thought only men could get proctitis?" which brings me to another thing i hate: one of the pamphlets the gastro doctor gave me said that there is no known cause for ulcerative proctitis but that it has been linked to anal sex. just the very association pissed me off. not that i'm against it, whatever floats your boat, but i've never been a buttsex gal and i'm looking at this pamphlet, scratching my head, like, really? the medical profession cannot look at this (or any other IBD issue) as a holistic problem, likely caused by genetic and environmental factors? they cannot suggest that yes, it probably does have something to do with diet and stress? but buttsex??? they can say that it's been related to buttsex because a few homosexual men have had similar ulcerations? wow.

now when i said that the best part was when the gastro doc told me that it wasn't diet-related i was being as sarcastic as possible. it's a problem in my gut. i understand that some auto-immune disorders attack certain cells but there has got to be a reason that those particular cells get inflamed or whatever. i didn't go to medical school but not for one second did i believe that it wasn't related to or couldn't be healed by dietary changes. i took his stupid prescription for steroids and left. now, while i didn't believe him or any of the literature on the topic, i did so selectively and used it to my advantage. i didn't make too many changes in my diet. i cut out dairy but probably not long enough to see any difference. i tested the gluten-free waters by sticking my toes in. when it wasn't comfortable i went back to my carb-junkie lifestyle. i stopped drinking coffee and switched to tea but always went back to coffee after a few weeks. i can't say that i took a really active approach.

so. here i am five years later. i've had a few periods of "remission" but the longest one only lasted six months. i can't say that any of the things i'd given up or limited in my diet had anything to do with anything but here i am five years later, eating mostly like crap and gaining weight. perhaps vanity has been a larger motivator but almost overnight i've got a completely different outlook on my overall health, not just one problem, like my digestive issue.

within the last five months i started drinking too much coffee. like, as in, that's all that would sustain me until lunch time. then i'd feel like crap by 4pm and have a 4th or 5th cup. the only dairy i was consuming on a consistent basis was half-and-half or cow's milk in my coffee but when consuming several large mugs full (and i like it milky), it was a bit much. we don't use soy milk around here, artificial creamers creep me out, and almond milk (our milk of choice) just doesn't mix well with coffee no matter what it says on the carton. someone recommended coconut creamer and i've yet to go get some but i did buy a big carton of coconut milk and have been using that lately. it's tolerable. it's better than almond milk, anyway. so. i've reduced my coffee intake by at least half and since i no longer buy cow's milk, the only dairy i consume is the occasional bit of cheese. i trudge through the late afternoon and evenings, truly exhausted, but i know this is part caffeine withdrawal.

today is day four of gluten-free living. on day two i caved at 8pm and took a bite of a chocolate chip cookie that bean brought home from work. last night i nibbled some of sprout's bean burrito on a flour tortilla. i know that if there really is a gluten sensitivity it will take 2-3 weeks for it to leave my system so i didn't feel like i was creating a major setback by cheating. in all honesty, bean burritos are mighty tasty on corn tortillas and there is still a lot that i love that i can still eat, even if soft, chewy breads, warm semolina pastas, and common bakery goods are off limits. even if there is no sensitivity, the pay-off will be weight loss. i tried this last month, too. i caved after day one but i realized something wonderful. limiting carbs decreased my cravings for sweets. big time! now i'm looking at being GF as a completely positive thing. i will no longer be tempted by fast food. i will no longer indulge with a big ol' cookie or scone when i order coffee or whatever at my favorite book store. i will be "forced" to make healthier snacking choices, if the word "forced" can be used in a positive way.

eventually i may re-introduce gluten-based stuff to my system in a more balanced way. instead of binging on wheaty carbs and sweets ALL the time, i can possibly eat them in moderation. this gives me hope, but i'm not clinging to it. this recent mental shift has allowed me to embrace GF living without feeling like i'm missing out. i want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread like you wouldn't believe but the gluten-free bread i bought is a decent substitute if i toast it first. i'll live.

i haven't much written about exactly what is going on with my body, because, like i said, i don't even like the word. the details and specifics are also difficult to talk about openly but on a superficial level i think i have to come to terms (literally) and stop hiding from it. i am not my diagnosis but i don't for one second believe that i have to deal with it for the rest of my life, that nothing i do will change it for the better or worse, and that i just so happened to be afflicted by it for no reason whatsoever. i'm not all in touch with the philosophy that we consciously or unconsciously bring about every experience in our lives, but i believe it enough and it seems like western medicine contradicts more positive and inspiring philosophies. people have problems and doctors can prescribe pills and surgeries and more pills and every ailment under the sun can apparently be alleviated if we just ignore the side-effects because guess what? they have pills for those, too. i know, i know, it's long been noted that western medicine fails to look at the person and not the diagnosis. i'm no stranger to the "crazy conspiracy" that big pharma not only flourishes financially on the over-use of prescription medication but that it might serve a larger, more sinister purpose to keep most americans on some sort of drug (but ideally, multiple sorts of drugs) from anti-depressants, sleep aids, digestive aids, cholesterol and heart medications, etc., because then we can keep on being greedy, thoughtless consumers, living to work, and working to entertain ourselves through any number of unhealthy means. we can remain inactive and eat whatever we want as long as we take these 12 prescribed pills, so say our doctors.

i really did not sit down expecting to go here today. i was simply going to share some of my health changes because the last time i made huge changes in my diet i lost 30+ pounds. this is the start of another similar journey since i've gotten way off track and those pounds are creeping back.

this journey is unfolding as it will, but i'm ordering this book: your body believes every word you say, not only to deal with my ongoing digestive issues (see? there i go again. avoiding the word) but also to deal with the pain of an unbalanced pelvic region in a more gentle and forgiving way. one of my facebook friends recently posted something about the golden rule. well, not specifically, but that's how i interpreted it. what it boils down to is how simple it is to say that we want to treat others the way we want to be treated. in reality, it's easier said than done, but even if we execute it perfectly, do we treat ourselves with the same kindness? when i'm in pain or my body isn't working like i think it should, i curse it. i call it names. i'm not very nice to myself. not gentle or forgiving at all. i'm not angry with myself, either, but you'd think so by the way i sometimes verbally and silently respond.

in addition to changing what i put into my body, i'm also changing my outlook and self-inflicted negativities. this has already involved some exploration of the attitudes and beliefs passed on to me since childhood and it's going to be an exciting journey. i can feel it!


  1. Beautiful.. Only place to go from here is: GROWTH! It is amazing when a womyn shifts her perspective (on basically anything self-centric), it is magical what happens from that seed. KUDOS!

  2. I can relate - it took me several years of denial and procrastination to get active about my own gut health. I too test negative for celiac but I'm clearly gluten-intolerant. One change I've made that has helped heal my gut has been to have bone broth frequently - I can't do it all the time, but having it on an empty stomach as breakfast for a few weeks at a time really helps. It is so healing to the gut lining. I can eat wheat foods once a week or so now, as long as I don't overdo it. I wish you success in your healing and congrats on your new mindset too, I know it's hard to achieve!


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