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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Attack of the Colitis Diet- Part Deux

So we ordered pizza.

Now, if you'll remember, pizza has been, for the past several weeks, a huge no-no food for me. What was I thinking? I suppose in retrospect, I was thinking that I had been on antibiotics and that it should have 'cured' my issues. I wanted to test. I wanted to gauge my body's reaction. And dammit, I was tired. I'd just spend five days camping with disgustingly sick children. I had to unpack the car, start the soiled (SOILED=VERY NASTY) laundry. I just needed to shove some food in my face and get on with my evening. 

Well. Haha. Joke's on me. Because I did nothing that night that didn't involved pain medication and curling up into a ball.

My guts loudly and profoundly said: Fuck you, lady.

I am on my daughter's bed, crying, curled into a ball around my stomach, sweating and moaning and cussing and hoping the Vicodin would just kick in already. When I wasn't doing that I was cursing myself for a fool while I sat on the toilet because my bowels just went ahead and decided not to digest, well, anything. Delightful.

Saturday rolled around and I don't think I ate anything other than a handful of chips at my mother in laws and some rice we ordered from the Chinese joint. All seemed well in tummy-land at this point- I just wasn't taking a chance. To add insult to injury, I woke bright and early and practically SKIPPED to the gym to weigh myself because I was sure... sure!!!... that after a week of pretty much eating almost nothing I clearly would have dropped poundage.

Um. Yeah. 1 pound. I weighed in a 199. I was near tears when I left. My damn body has turned on me, I thought. I can't even lose weight as an anorexic.

Sunday morning dawned and I left my house early to get to a 7am family photo shoot. It was a challenging one: extended family, four year old, baby, and three horses+ a sweet black lab. I worked my tail off for two and a half hours and then drove home, dropped my camera bag on the front table, marched myself upstairs, and fell asleep until 1pm.

As soon as I woke up I knew I was screwed. First symptom of The Terrible Illness was excessive sleep. The kids were still randomly falling asleep throughout the day for hours at a time. I was mentally hysterical that I was coming down ill again so soon after getting the colitis under control. I hadn't even begun to eat again.

Monday. Sick. Really sick. Can't get up sick. Tuesday- I realize that in addition to The Horrible Virus I am also developing a raging case of strep. I have been on what are literally gut blowing up antibiotics for well over a week and I've got strep. I've had one of the strongest broad spectrum antibiotics known to man for a week and another really strong one one top of it, half the time intravenously. This is the stuff that they give you when you've got e.coli or have been exposed to anthrax for the love of the goddess!!!! Must be one motherfucking badass strain of strep and all I can think is: 

Are you fucking kidding me!?!?!?!?!?!?

I put myself on the penicillin we have in the house. Strong dose. Best thing for strep out there. Wednesday dawns and one peek down my throat practically sends Jay running for the hills. He's vulnerable to strep and has had it more times than his 10 fingers can count. I have pus pockets on the back of my throat that are so large they are touching my uvula and I've been on penicillin for well over 24 hours. It's getting worse, not better. 

Now I'm mad. I'm all done with this shit. I'm going to heal myself the way I know how (without western medicine) and

So I load my crew up and head over to the Whole Foods in St. Louis. A ten minute conversation with the health specialist there confirms what I already know. I have a sick gut and the antibiotics at this point are going to make everything worse. I purchase one $50 bottle of extremely strong probiotics, two (and should have gotten about 20) glass bottles of organic cranberry kombucha tea, and a large container of coconut milk kefir and get the heck out of dodge. I'm really starting to feel crummy on my drive back home. I stumble in the door, lay down on my bed, and cry like I've lost my soul.

Jay leaves for work somewhere in the 2:30ish hour. I have lost track of time from here and for the rest of the evening. I literally crawl downstairs and lay down on the couch. I'm feverish. I feel icky. I fall into fitful sleep while the kids watch TV. I wake. I'm hot. Like, really really hot. I can feel the heat pulsating off my body with my heartbeat. Time is odd now... sort of stretched out and floaty. It's hard to explain. Jay texts me that he'll be home for his lunch break around 6-ish. Somewhere between five-thirty and six I start praying to the Universe with my heart beats. Let him be home soon. Let him be home soon.

He calls sometime after 6 to say he's on the way home and I think all I could croak out was "help me". I was delirious. I kept having dreams that my spirit was floating up to the top of the solar system. I remember being somewhere between the sun and mercury and communing with The Creator of All Things. Only they weren't like 'dreams' because I was still mostly conscious of what was going on in the room around me. It was very bizarre. And very scary when I would finally drop back into my body. I realized at one point while waiting for him that I had finally achieved the state I try to get into when I meditate. Complete relaxation of body and stillness of mind.

When Jay arrives he feels me, says "you're not that hot", and then forces me to stand, practically carries me into the bathroom, and thrusts me into what he claims was a "lukewarm" shower but which I would describe as "motherfucking ice water". I immediately begin to sob hysterically. My mind starts to wake up a bit. I cry that I'm going to pass out. He helps me sit and runs the tub. I'm still hysterically crying. I remind myself of me in transition during labor. And honestly, that's quite similar to where I was mentally. Totally sunk down in myself, finding the bottom limit of my reserve of energy, pushing myself to go further, actively working to calm myself and going with my body. As the fever broke (which he later revealed was very likely upwards of 105 but he didn't want to scare me further by telling me where I really was) and I came back to myself I understand immediately that my throat is better. My body is relaxed as it hasn't been in weeks. I am starting to heal.

Let me just step outside the story for a moment. I am always, always amazed and humbled by the workings of our bodies. The innate wisdom already located within our cells. I needed that fever. Was it scary? Yes. Was it necessary? Absolutely. It was completely the catalyst for my beginning to heal. It wasn't instant- it has taken me until today, 3 days post 'heating', to get back on my feet but it was from that moment on that I could tell I started to get better. Bacteria don't like heat. They grow best in a normal human body temp. Start to heat that sucker up and you inhibit their growth and they can't multiple as rapidly (or at all). Eventually, get it hot enough, and they start to die. Jay and I have a running, fun debate about fevers in humans. I claim that rarely will a human body heat itself to it's own detriment (save for heat stroke- but my point is that the human BODY isn't heating itself there... it's the outside temp affecting the internal body temp) and he's convinced you'll cook your brain if you leave a 105 fever to do it's thing. It's my opinion that rarely will a fever cause brain damage. I'm sure there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but it doesn't make sense for the body to kill itself to kill off a parasitic invader. In fact, temps can skyrocket to 108 and still maintain basic organ systems. If it happens, and I'm sure it does, it makes sense to me that the bacteria/virus itself "breaks" the internal system to the point where the body will indeed risk sacrificing itself at the chance of killing the invader. 

But I digress.

That fever was bliss. And by Friday morning I was able to get out of my house for the first time in almost a week and take a swim in the salt water pool at my gym (no germs were spread in the making of this outing- salt water kills strep bacteria). I have been on a strict regimen of rotating salt water and unfiltered apple cider vinegar gargles, thrice daily 85 billion, 13 strain bifia based probiotics, 10,000 IU Vit D3 supplementation, and as much fermented foods as I can choke down. Don't get me wrong, it's not been a walk in the park. I felt like complete trash yesterday afternoon after being up all day. I almost gave into the temptation to try the penicillin again because it's certainly a faster way to get these assholes under control. But I committed to cleaning my body the correct way and I've stuck to it. This morning I woke to an almost completely clean throat and a body that's finally, finally healing itself. I learned that I need to be on strong probiotics for at least 8 weeks to give them a chance to completely recolonize my gut and heal my immune system. I also need to vary and rotate the strains I am using to help give them a chance to get a foothold in my system.

Moral of the story gentle reader is this:

Your gut is the place where your immune system is born. Did you know that your immune response begins in your intestines? Did you know that every bite of junk you put in your body compromises that system? And that once the lining of your intestines get sick it's a long, hard road back to re-establishing health? Good bacteria are what you want running the show in there, not things like h.Pylori or group A Streptococcus bacteria, or e. Coli. They blow. 

My goals now are to research the GAPs diet and begin to heal my body further. GAPs goes beyond Paleo and I hear it's challenging. But you know what else is challenging? Trying to run a business, take care of a family, and spend my free time with my loving partner when I'm curled up on a couch crying in pain or high as a kite on Vicodin most of the time or in and out of the hospital. You know what's a bummer? Being on steroids for internal inflammation or having a resistant strain of strep take over your body because it's got such a good foothold. Not being able to go and do the things you want, keep your house neat and clean, shop for food for your family, or work at the career you love because you're too damn sick to get out of your bed, much less leave your home. Those things are hard. Those things suck. Eat bone broth and fermented foods for three months? Not so much in comparison.

So while this blog has always been about health and a little bit about weight loss now it's complete focus is on this journey toward healing my body. 

But just to throw you a bone, I did finally weigh in yesterday morning before I swam and I'm down 7 pounds from my pre-sick weigh-in and 13 pounds total from my high weight. I wore a shirt today I haven't had on in well over a year and got tons of compliments, even from Jay who swears up and down he loves my body no matter what (his comment was sort of a dumb boy moment but I relished it all the same). I have a long, long way to go but I've sure made a hell of a start. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Attack of the Colitis Diet-Part One

It's been a kinda nutty two weeks.

Shortly after my last post in which I expressed concern about what I was observing when I ate grain and how disheartening it was to find that most people thought I was overreacting or crazy, I decided to listen to my body and myself and follow my Paleo diet to the T again. It was the evening of July 4th when it began in earnest. I can't for the life of me remember what I had to eat that day, but I know that grain was not involved. In fact, I ate very little as I wasn't feeling well. I didn't think too much of it and assumed it was just left over from the pizza I'd had a couple days prior. The next morning I felt fine and ate my normal Paleo breakfast of a couple eggs over hard in coconut oil. About 45 minutes later I realized that I was having bouts of intestinal pain. They came and went much like contractions; waves of increasing pain that took all my concentration to get through but once departed I was fine and felt normal. I ticked off likely suspects: gall stones, no (don't have a gallbladder), pancreatic attack, no (those feel different), kidney stones, no (have had those and while the pain was of similar intensity those pains don't come and go they just punch you in the guts and keep punching until you're on the floor writhing in pain). Nothing fit. I wrote it off as the beginnings of a nasty stomach virus and didn't eat the rest of the day. I pretty much hate vomiting more than I do having my face ripped off so I avoid eating when there's a good chance I'll be ill.

By the dawn of day three my stomach was fine and completely flat. Actually I noticed this with some sense of elation. After carrying two full term babies in my body at the same time my tummy is simply not the same beautifully round thing it was before. It's sad and hangs and is the thing I hate most about my body. And the upper portion is usually swollen... only this morning it was noticeably flat. I had kicked around the idea of not eating again this day but as I was clearly better I went ahead and, at 10am, ate my normal eggs for breakfast...... And 45 minutes later realized this was a big mistake. The pain was back. It was more and more intense, sometimes causing me to break out in a horrible sweat. I would curl up on the couch, moaning and twisting in pain. The kids were scared. I posted on Facebook and got several answers that said: "hospital", "appendicitis", etc. When my partner came home from work he suggested, strongly, that I be seen by someone but I held out- assuming again this was passing and I had maybe done some damage to the lining of my intestines by eating grain again. I thought some more about Celiac's disease and considered some research online. I ran though the testing required. I realized how hard it can be to get diagnosed.

By 6 I knew I was going to have to get myself to a doctor. I opted for the ER as at this point I was only getting 30 minutes between attacks of pain and I knew I was going to need big drugs. I left my other half at home with the three littles and drove myself to the hospital (don't panic- it's only five minutes away). I prayed I would get back before another wave hit but the triage nurse warned me they were busy and I knew with unexplained abdominal pain I was going to be low priority. I waited in the lobby for about 30 more minutes, suffering through a painful attack and several trips to the bathroom. I rocked and moaned my way through it, reminding myself all the while of the many laboring women I've attended in my years as doula/birth photographer.

Once I was back, they were very quick to see me. The ER doc ordered a CT and I was given a muscle relaxer. At that point, I was under suspicion for appendicitis and kidney stones. Once back from my CT, when it was clear that my kidneys were not involved, I was given that drug from heaven- morphine- and I was able to rest and relax for the first time in 72 hours.

The CT was inconclusive. I had a swollen appendix but not one that required surgery just yet. I also had a mildly inflamed colon, or large intestine. Now, everyone kept stressing this was 'mild' and I just have to say nearly two weeks later.... I do not EVER want to experience what it would be like to have a severely inflamed one.

I was admitted for IV antibiotics, fluids, and observation. I was to consult with a surgeon in the morning. They kept me comfortable on narcotics and oral rest. Blood was taken and vitals were watched. So long as I did not eat... I experienced no pain.

The following day I met the delightful Dr. Chung who I had fantastic rapport with immediately. He'd reviewed my CT and was not concerned at all about my appendix. He had no other answers for me, however, and left me to wait for a consult with the GI specialist. He was ready to discharge me with pain meds and Zofran for nausea control. I didn't see my GI doc for quite some time and his was a more cautious approach: A gradually increased diet throughout the night and next day and discharge if I was getting better. I was kept on the antibiotics that the ER doc had ordered as a precaution though my GI made it clear he didn't think that was even in the realm of necessary. His diagnosis: I had the virus Isabella had had the previous week, though it was completely different symptomatically. I did not concur with this assumption. I asked about further testing for GI issues and his plan was to wait, see what happened, and discharge me the following day if I tolerated food well, which I did. I went home feeling somewhat better. I rested and geared up for the family vacation that we'd planned months prior. Though I dearly wanted to stay home, I did not want to disappoint my family or my loving partner/kids who'd been looking forward to the trip. I was still wiped out and mostly afraid to eat, but I felt well enough that I got in the car Monday afternoon after shooting a newborn session and we headed down to the Missouri Ozarks.

A week of camping and floating doesn't really mix well with two antibiotics that make one more sensitive to the sunlight than usual. As my GI was clear that he felt they were precautionary and unnecessary, I decided to take the decision into my own hands and stopped taking them on Tuesday, which was the first day we went floating. We had a delightful time. I was worried about my strength but I did okay in the canoe and even kayaked the last two miles with a toddler sitting jump seat on both front and back. I rested well that evening. I ate a normal dinner (was ravenous from the hard physical activity).

We decided to go ahead and float again the following day as well... which is where things began to take a turn for the worse. Almost as soon as we were on the 10 miles of river my daughter Claire, who is four, began to whine that she wanted to go back "home" to grandmas (grandma lives in her camper for much of the year and travels from cool place to cool place). To my complete surprise she curled up in the bottom of my canoe and slept almost the entire day. We got on the river at 10 and pulled off at seven and she was probably up and active for the best part of two hours total. It was hard to tell if she had a fever because we were in the sun so we just tented her with a towel and wide brimmed hat and kept her hydrated. Once back at camp, she went to sleep. I ate well again and fell into a restful sleep.

But Wednesday night is when everything unraveled.

I was awakened later by Benjamin. He was puking. He and Claire were both feverish again. I caught puke twice, and dosed babies in the dark with ibuprofen. I was miserable and wanted to go home but had no idea how to get us all there. If there's anything worse than puking in a tent, it's puking in a car going 80 down the interstate....

A camp day was decided upon the following morning and we played Scrabble and chatted with my brother, sister-in-law, and parents. Benjamin was clearly ill and he slept all day. What to do? Stay or go? It's a mother's prerogative to worry, but I know with my logical brain there isn't really more to be done at home than where we already were and I had the added bonus of helping hands in my mom and sister-in-law. No point in sticking them in the car for three hours. The day wore on and it was hot and sort of miserable. I kept the babies in my mom's camper for most of the day as it's air conditioned. 

That evening, Jay purchased a bottle of blackberry wine for me at the camp store and I decided since I'd been doing so well that a glass would be fine. Shortly after, the bloating was terrible and then the twisting and churning began. Damn it!!! Not again! I'd been eating just fine for two days. I had not been avoiding grains with zero consequences to my stomach. Immediately I realized the antibiotics were not as 'unnecessary' or as 'precautionary' as my GI had suspected. I worked all evening with my mom to prepare a fish fry (a family favorite!) and then when the fish came out of the fryer there was no way I was risking a bite. I was angry, frustrated and in a lot of pain. I took two pain pills and camped out on the air mattress in our tent. Sometime later all THREE children climbed into bed with me. Two of them were very sick. I was vomited on twice by Ben. Claire was delirious in her sleep and kept talking, getting up, and rambling nonsensically. I barely slept and after being doused in vomit I slept sitting up against the air mattress for a couple of hours.  

Friday dawned with happier children who had stopped regurgitating and when on fever reducers acted fairly normally. As for me, I was determined to get the hell out of dodge. I woke with the sun and began packing our things. I'd had enough. Poor Jay kept asking to hang out just a little longer but I'd reached the point of All Done. If you've never been trapped on a half-deflated mattress in the dark in a tent on Vicodin trying to catch puke in a small plastic bowl then I suggest you give it a shot. Fun times, that.

We came home. I felt better. I had started my antibiotics again as that was clearly the missing puzzle piece. I dosed kids again and they curled up on the couch in the AC and fell asleep. I felt well again, just a bit bloated, and I'd been on antibiotics again for about 24 hours. We decided to order in dinner as both of us were completely wiped out.

We ordered pizza.

To be continued.....

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Doubt Rears It's Ugly Head

I suppose had I gone to a doctor who would have actually listened to my symptoms and done more than pat me on my head and send me on my way with a bogus diagnosis of depression and a prescription for therapy, I would get taken more seriously. And moreover, would perhaps stop breaking the rules so much. If some authoritative person had said "You have Celiac/you're allergic/your thyroid is bonkers" and told me 'this is how you need to eat- for life' then I wouldn't feel the need to dip my toes in the water so much.

How much grain can I have? Maybe it's not really linked. Can I have it now? How about now? Will it hurt this time? How about this time? Is the pain related or is it in my head?  

I feel like my toddlers; ever testing the boundaries. When this started, I suppose I was just searching for answers. I was looking for a way to lose weight and feel better. I wasn't expecting to discover how very badly I react to grain. Until I completely eliminated it from my diet and then tried it again I had no idea what a number it was doing on my system. I was looking desperately to fix what was wrong with my body because something was clearly wrong but it never occurred to me how deep the problem might run. Never did I expect I wouldn't be able to cheat, that flour was going to be off limits for life. What do you mean date night can no longer revolve around the soft, pillowy, yeasty goodness at Cicero's Pizzeria? The pain will be intense from about an hour after eating until 3 days later when the intestinal distress tapered off. I am shocked, dismayed, and somewhat in denial about these truths. Worse yet are the people in my life who don't believe me. Their lack of support makes me doubt myself and what I know that I know.

I've learned through so many past experiences to listen to what my body is telling me. Sometimes it's hard to figure out. Sometimes it's a piece of cake. But always, always is the urge to doubt what I know. I had a fantastic doctor when I lived in Texas who believed, like really believed, that his patients were the source of both the problem and the solution. He encouraged me to do my own research and we'd often talk at length about what I'd found and how it applied. And he always stressed that tests can be wrong (and often are wrong) or inconclusive so we have to rely on more than just a lab coat to be sure we're headed in the right direction. Namely symptoms and intuition.

I have a long history of these symptoms. Brittle nails. Headaches. Unexplained stomach pain. Easy weight gain.

Is is Celiac's? Thyroid? Insulin resistance?

Who knows. 

At this point, I just want to feel better and stop doubting the path in front of me. If eating paleo makes me feel better and it isn't hurting anyone then I suppose it matters not if I'm "right". All that matters is that I've had to trim my long and strong nails twice in the last month, my hair looks normal again, and eating grain makes me double over in pain for three days. And I haven't had one debilitating headache this month.

Good-bye sweet pizza. You will be missed.