Category: food

Not Done Yet

It was four years ago now that I contacted an old friend from high school and asked her for some help. I was struggling with seizures, depression, fatigue, and just general poor health. I was also at my highest weight of my life, tipping the scales at 217lbs. I was tired of my epilepsy medication which seemed to be causing more damage through side effects than helping and I was just tired. I needed some support. I needed a guide to help me reassess my approach to food. Kelly had studied nursing after high school and become a nurse practitioner working in wholistic medicine. She seemed my best chance. I sent her a note and set up an appointment.

It took a great deal of commitment just to make that appointment. Like many wholistic healthcare providers, the company that Kelly was working with at the time didn’t work with my health insurance and cost was significant for my small income. But, as it is with so many illnesses and addictions, there comes a time when we hit bottom and have no other choices. I had to do something and this was it.

After some allergy testing we removed a few foods from my diet and my life began to change. The foods removed for me were avocado, kidney beans, green pepper, black pepper, potato, pineapple, cane sugar, buckwheat, and olives. None were major allergies. All were irritants to my system.

Over the next six months I would lose nearly 50lbs regain energy and start a new adventure in my life that would both cause me great pain and give me some tools to keep healing. That adventure was leaving my work at Toxic Taters (a small nonprofit fighting pesticide abuse in Minnesota) for the University of Minnesota Morris and the Center for Small Towns.

The Center for Small Towns (CST) was a lonely place for me. I loved my students. They were great. There were some wonderful faculty and staff on campus and in the community who I’ll always count as friends. But, it was clear from the beginning that I didn’t fit in on campus. The prairie wasn’t wasn’t my home and neither was my workplace and it hurt.

Thankfully, Kelly’s guidance had given me a foundation to stand on during my three years in Morris. I didn’t stay 100% true to the dietary advice, but I’d made the big changes that I needed. I could now tell the difference when I ate well or I didn’t.

It’s easy to sink into bad habits and over the past four years between the struggles of having spent three years in a place that I didn’t belong, dealing with broken bones, surgeries, getting laid off in the middle of a pandemic, switching jobs, and moving among other things, I have sometimes resorted to my old frenemy junk food. I’ve gained back about 22 of those 50lbs that I lost. But, I’m not done and I’m getting back on track once again. I am happy to be back in my home state of Wisconsin. I’ve recommitted myself to eating what’s good for me and exercising in ways that I enjoy to build my health.

Right now that means that I’ve just restarted running, not fast or far, but my dog and I are running just a bit to start our morning walk. I’m also spending 15 or 20 minutes a day to workout with my resistance bands and later in the day 20 minutes or so doing yoga. Each day I’m watching what I eat, making sure that it’s mostly fruits and vegetables and that I’m avoiding processed foods and cane sugar. I’m just starting to see my weight go back down. I am confident that I’ll reach my goal weight, probably in the next six months or so. More importantly I will continue to meet my goal of maintaining my health and happiness for the long term.

I am thankful to Kelly for helping me out four years ago and hopeful that my experiences can provide something for others moving forward. It’s an up and down road, but we are all moving forward.

Better than Pizza Ranch Day

I didn’t go to Pizza Ranch today. Some days that’s a victory. Today was one of those days. There wasn’t anything wrong with today. It was actually a fine day, beautiful weather, laid back schedule with enough to keep me busy but not more than that. Still, this morning I found myself craving some bad for me food.

A few years ago, with the help of an old high school friend who now practices wholistic medicine, I made some major dietary changes and lost about fifty pounds. It was a strict diet that removed nine foods that appeared to be allergens for me. After a few years my gut had the time to heal and I was able to reincorporate some of the foods successfully. A few I still can’t eat without side effects. Unfortunately, these are the ones that are most addictive for me as it typically true for anyone dealing with addictive behavior. We are drawn to the things that are most harmful to us for that moment of good feeling. For me, from that list of nine allergens, I still can’t eat cane sugar or white potatoes without feeling it in my body. It comes in stomach aches, exhaustion or “sugar coma”, bloating, and just fatigue and feeling negative. It’s something that I know and something that I feel almost immediately after eating too much sugary stuff or too many fries or other potato products. Yet, sometimes the craving gets me.

The other issue that I have often questioned though it’s never been diagnosed as an allergy is dairy. There is a quite a bit of literature out there about how humans aren’t meant to eat dairy and how our body’s aren’t made to process it. I pretty much gave up drinking milk several years ago. I don’t really remember when. That wasn’t a big issue for me. Milk was good when I was growing up and we got it straight out of the bulk tank, the kind of milk that you shake to distribute the cream. That milk was good. I’m quite indifferent to pasteurized milk from the store, so I’ve never missed it. The challenge for me is cheese. Cheddar, mozzarella, pepperjack, string cheese, cheese curds, pamessan, cream cheese, the list goes on. For many years it wasn’t unusual for me to have cheese three or more times a day. In recent years I’ve cut that a bit, but I’m still a cheese junkie. I can admit it.

Reading a great deal about epilepsy in my own search to control my own seizures I keep coming across articles suggesting the possible connection between dairy intolerance and epileptic seizures. After seeing these stories for years, I’m biting the bullet and seeing if cutting my dairy consumption further might control my seizures. So, going the stove today to cook up a chicken breast and some veggies and making myself a couple of chicken wraps instead of going to Pizza Ranch was a victory that I can be proud of. I probably won’t cut out all dairy. I am, for now, not buying any cheese made with cow’s milk for consumption at home. I may have it as a treat when I go out. I will still use butter. I’m giving up yogurt made with cow’s milk too. Ice cream is already something that is best for me to avoid because of the high sugar content.

Each day, each action is valuable. I hope that others out there who read this piece might join me in doing whatever piece is right for you, making that one change in your diet that will make you healthier. We are all on a journey. Five or six years ago I was drinking pop every day and eating fast food at least five or six times a week and not eating all that much better when I cooked at home. Now, I cook almost all my meals at home with fresh organic fruits and vegetables. I use very few processed foods and drink mostly water. I feel so much better, happier, healthier. I sometimes wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t made those changes? My epilepsy was diagnosed about eight years ago now. It’s coming under control. If I hadn’t changed my diet, would I have been able to keep my seizures down? Would they have kept getting worse? I’ll never know the answer to that, but I am glad to have done what I’ve done and look forward to continuing to get healthier.

Which Comes First, the Brain or the Gut?

Which comes first, the brain or the gut? It’s a valuable and confusing question in my health journey these days. I wish I knew the answer.

I made another trip to Mayo last week to meet with Dr. Cascino to discuss my epilepsy journey. We agreed that we’re not happy with the results that I’m getting from my medication and that, with my history of negative reactions to medications, it’s time to look at other options.

So, while I’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to detox to clean up my gut and recover from my latest recurrence of DRESS Syndrome a few months back, I now find myself getting ready to go back to Mayo for more tests and the possibility of a whole new plan to address my epilepsy, maybe including brain surgery.

I don’t quite know what to do with my diet right now. I’ve mostly been sticking to it. I figure that it’s a good thing to give my gut and, by extension, my whole body all the support that I can. But on the flip side I find myself thinking, why not wait until I know what’s going on with my plan of care? I think for the moment I am just going from moment to moment and maybe it’s giving me a chance to learn.

Today, I had a bagel with cream cheese. Shortly after, I noticed the bloating and heaviness in my gut. I don’t know if it was the dairy or the grain or maybe some other ingredient, but I strongly suspect that my body wasn’t impressed by the bagel though I’ll admit it tasted really good. Eating a little something like that on occasion right now probably isn’t all bad if I’m writing about it and learning from it, discovering what I can and can’t eat and feel good. The trick is to maintain a diet that is vast majority fruits and vegetables.

I did notice today, before my bagel discretion, that I am finally starting to regain my energy again. I’m walking more, starting to do yoga a bit again, practicing my guitar a bit more, and napping a little less. I’m slowly coming back to normal. I am hopeful that I can overcome DRESS and that with the help and guidance of my Mayo team I can become seizure free too. It’s exciting to imagine what that might be like to regain even just a bit of my former self. I’ll never be a decade younger, but there is some hope that my mind will work a bit better again. I guess we’ll see. Life remains an adventure.

The Next Step

I made it through the detox. It may have helped that I think I had a seizure last week. It left me exhausted and without any appetite. That made it much easier to limit what I was eating. For several days I had nothing but berries with coconut milk and maple syrup for some meals and black beans and cauliflower rice for others. By the end of a ten day detox I’d lost about nine pounds. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. It’s okay that I lost the weight, but it was a lot faster and harder on my body than I wanted. I was tempted to stop and not do the AIP, but it seems a waste to not at least give it a try. So, the plan at this point is to move forward with the AIP for the upcoming month to see what happens.

I’m not going to be too strict. I’m focusing on the big picture pieces; keeping out dairy, eggs, grains, nightshades, etc. I’m not going to put energy limiting my fruits. The goal is just to give my gut a break. I am hoping that I’ll rebuild my vegetable habits. I am hoping that rebuilding my vegetable consumption habits and giving my gut a break will help me get back to feeling healthy.

Over the next month I hope to pay attention to my body and just see what happens to me.

Day 7 of Detox

It’s day seven of detox and day two of being sick. Two days in a row of barely eating must have some plusses for detoxing, right?

It’s been berries and coconut milk for some meals and cauliflower or cauliflower and beans for others if I have anything at all. Tonight I went wild and had some sweet potato chips that I baked the other day.

I am writing this just to keep my place, so I can look back and know what happened with my detox.

Detox: The Halfway Point

Yesterday, I had plenty of energy. I did a lot of stuff. Today, I slept in. I’m usually out of bed somewhere between 6 and 7am. Today, I woke up a few times, but just went back to sleep. I didn’t get up until almost 9am. I didn’t get much of a nap today, just laid down for a bit and listened to a meditation. I don’t think I fell asleep at all. Now, at 7:30 I am exhausted.

I didn’t do much today. I could feel a slight tired ache in my muscles. Doing yoga this afternoon reinvigorated me for a while, but it was definitely a lower energy day than yesterday. Still, a lot better than just a few weeks ago so I am happy. Plus, I expected that there would some down days. I know my body is going through a lot. Just in the last five days I’ve lost 4 pounds. It will take some energy to find balance and it’s important that I allow myself rest.

Buddy and I spent a little time at the dog park this morning. We took a walk this evening. This afternoon I tidied up the room that I’ve been using as my yoga studio (sounds much classier than spare bedroom, doesn’t it?). The tidied up space really makes for a much more grounded practice. Otherwise, all I did today was laundry, guitar practice, and a few little kitchen projects. I grated some cauliflower so I’ll have “rice” ready for the next day or two. And, I made sweet potato chips so I have something to snack on.

Beyond that I sat and relaxed watching videos and reading about AIP. I’m getting ready now for the switch in a few days. It’s confusing. I was looking at recipes and there seems to be some inconsistency on what can be eaten. Maybe that’s because of the process of elimination and reincorporation. Some people may be at a stage where they are eating seeds and others aren’t. The individual really has to decide what recipes fit their version of AIP. As I’m just getting into it, that means a lot asking myself “Is this on the list of things I can eat or not?”

I am glad to say that my longing for cheese from day one seems to have melted away. Today though I wanted something sugary. It probably didn’t help looking at AIP desserts. I’ve been totally sugar free (besides the sugars in the fruits and vegetables I am eating) for the past five days. Today, I’ll admit I added about teaspoon of maple syrup to a bowl of mixed berries and coconut milk. It was delicious! Sometimes it’s important to decide what healthy indulgences are okay. I figure a teaspoon of maple syrup on occassion is just fine.

I hope you are finding your healthy indulgences and taking good care of yourself today.

Day 4 of Detox

Saturdays can be really nice. Today was one of those days. A couple hours at the dog park some of which I got to spend reading while Buddy wandered about reading the pee-mails that other dogs had left and just enjoying himself. We spent some time training. I need to learn some new tricks. Buddy is a smart dog and at almost two years old he’s already gone through my limited arsenal of dog entertainment. I’d love to see what he is capable of. We wrapped up with Buddy getting some energetic play with a couple other dogs. At home we made more dog treats, which brought Buddy great joy. I also practiced yoga, did a little cooking (another veggie bake with carrots, garbanzo beans, zucchini, broccoli, green onions, portabella mushrooms, grapeseed oil, and a mix of spices), practiced guitar, finished up my assignments for my integrative health class, went for a walk, and just relaxed.

As I look at the list, it seems like I did quite a lot today especially as I’ll probably still be awake for another 3 hours or so doing stuff. That’s amazing to me. Just a few weeks ago I barely had the energy to move. I took a nap today for about a half hour. Two or three weeks ago, I was napping about two hours a day and barely getting out of bed.

Again, I can’t say that just a few days of detox has brought me back to life. I was getting better before the detox started, but I think it’s helping.

Reflections on the 3rd Day of Detox

There wasn’t much remarkable in today’s meals beyond the great joy of having cherries for dessert tonight so I will skip regaling the world with the details of my menu. I suspect that I will know tomorrow whether or not I went overboard with the cherries for dessert, but they were really tasty.

The detox continues to go smoothly. I credit this to already having a largely clean diet. I remember it being much more difficult four years ago when I removed the nine foods that appeared on my list of allergies when I was tested. At that time, I was eating a lot of processed foods and just fast food. I still have some foods that I can’t eat right now tucked away, but they will either be given to my students and friends, tossed, or made into treats for my dog, Buddy. He was quite impressed with the homemade cheesy dog biscuits that he got last night. I was impressed too. I was able to grate a cup of frozen cheddar without a huge craving to eat some myself. It helped that I had frozen it making it somewhat less accessible.

Today, I spent some time studying the autoimmune protocol further and deciding on my grocery list for the remainder of this stage of detoxing. Right now, I’m just doing a basic detox. I have seven days remaining. After that I plan to start AIP. I realized today, as I looked at the foods lists, that’s when things may get challenging. I looked at what I’ve been eating over the past few days and found amongst my foods; onions, tomatoes, eggplant, and beans. All of these aren’t allowed on the AIP and all of these, except eggplant, are regular parts of my diet. I guess the next seven days are my time to prepare and create a plan. I think I will need one along with some creative thinking on new eating. I am thankful that there is a growing collection of resources to work with and lots of recipes. I look forward to the challenge.

Be well and take good care.

Detox Day 2

I may say something totally different in a few days, but right now detox is actually kind of tasty. The morning started much like yesterday, with a smoothie. This morning it was just raspberry, carrot and spinach. A simple, healthy, and tasty way to start … Continue reading Detox Day 2