Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

Archive for January, 2010

El Polo Diablo

It has been a long several days but I’m finally feeling a bit more normal today.

Last Sunday night we had a big windstorm in the area which felled a tree onto some power lines and knocked out our electricity. It happened just after midnight. All night the wind waged war in the tree tops overhead and we had a very fitful night of sleep.

Monday morning we awoke to find the power still off which is actually a little unusual. We also found only six hard boiled eggs remaining and no other precooked heavy protein sources for meals. Though we are well prepared for going several days without power (as has happened a few times in the past), it was with foods dense in starchy carbohydrates remaining from our past style of eating.

latimesblog 11/10/09
On the prowl for food.

For a Paleo diet, the cupboards were largely bare. And so the hunt began.

Jeremy’s father could bring home something from town after he was off work but he needed to know what to get and where to go. Given that until four months ago I had been a vegetarian for over 12 years and so had never gone to a restaurant and ordered a meat dish in this town… it proved rather difficult to find anything to eat. Add to this difficulty a national holiday leaving half the places we called closed, we were lucky to find one place after two hours of searching.

Or at least we thought we were lucky at the time.

This brings me now to saying how absolutely burned up with frustration that I still am today at what follows. We called one of the local grocery stores that tends to try and be a bit more upscale and I spoke directly to someone in the deli department. I asked her very specifically if their rotisserie roasted chickens had MSG in them. She claimed to go find out, came back and told me they did not.

There is not a doubt in my mind that that bird was covered in tons of MSG and I have paid a steep price for having eaten it.

My goodness, I have never been sensitive to MSG before. I knew we wanted to avoid it based on a number of things I have read over the last year that said it wasn’t a very good thing to ingest if you have chronic illness, hence the hours of calling around looking for food that did not contain it. But it was just a precaution; I had no idea that it would make me this ill if I did eat it.

Less than a hour after eating I began to have my first symptoms. The first two days were the worst. I had difficulty breathing at times and a lot of shortness of breath all other times, a huge amount of exhaustion, nausea, intestinal cramping, my emotions going very haywire, large amount of water retention (also from the added salt at the store), headaches, greatly increased allergy symptoms with my sinuses, really scary stuff going on with my ears, and just in general a strong feeling of my body systems being really messed up.

Why did I react this way to MSG while others can safely eat it? MSG is an excitatory neurotransmitter which means it excites nerves and makes them fire more frequently. It does this in your mouth and your brain first so that your taste buds are triggered to enjoy the food more. Problem is that it doesn’t stop there. In an already overly stimulated nervous system such as mine, it is like adding oxygen and gasoline to a fire barely under control.

The chaos of an overly stimulated nervous system.

Everything goes haywire. Brain chemistry gets wonky, felt like my body was utterly exhausted yet I had done nothing to cause it, and there are studies showing MSG increases histamine by 150%. Histamine is responsible for allergy symptoms amongst having other biological roles.

As time has passed my symptoms have slowly been lessening in severity. The first three days I could not walk to our ‘facilities’ and back without nearly collapsing in a breathless heap on the ground partway back, willpower the only thing that kept my feet under me till I could fall into bed with my heart pounding and dying for air. Luckily that has passed fully. To take its place is a light rash over much of my skin. The gastro-intestinal problems have mostly gone away too. Allergies are still hyperactive but slowly going back to normal as is the myriad of other symptoms.

All of these symptoms (minus maybe the water retention) can be traced back to how MSG allergies/sensitivities present themselves. This could have been prevented were it not for one incompetent worker telling me there was no MSG in the food. Grrrr!!!!

Today I am very happy to say that I am finally starting to feel a lot calmer in mind and body again after a very chaotic week. Jeremy also had some troubles with the food, but not to the same extent as I did though the first two days were also pretty rough on him and he is not fully recovered from it yet either.

Half of week four down and we are very much still eating strict Paleo and gradually feeling a bit better with it. The only bump in the road was that chicken… El Polo Diablo.

El Polo Diablo, my photoshopped image
El Polo Diablo aka “The Devil Chicken”

Lousy Chicken

Today is the first day of week four. Will write more about week three in a day or two when feeling better. Had a long power outage yesterday and ended up with some chicken that has left both Jeremy and I feeling very lousy. It wasn’t spoiled, but seems to have had a lot of nasty stuff added to it to enhance flavor. We only bought it because of not being able to cook at home without power.

Still going strong on the Paleo. Will update more later. Have a fantastic day everyone!

End of Week Two: Awesomeness Comes Forth

Today is day fourteen on the Paleo diet and I woke to this incredible feeling of fabulousness in my life.


But in my excitement I’m getting ahead of myself. Last I wrote things were not going so well due to the toxic solvents that had been wafting through our camp earlier this week.

I had ended my last entry by sharing my hope that tomorrow would be a better day. Each of the two days following that article was just a tiny bit better. Less fatigue and less pain but the brain fog was still thicker than normal again.

Yesterday I had some physical work that needed completing; a daunting task because I knew it would take me a long while. It involved very strong mental focus and physical coordination or I would likely cut myself pretty badly with the knife I was using to prepare the next two weeks worth of chicken before it was frozen.

I am actually physically sore today because of having to use my leg strength to keep the upturned bucket that was my working surface from rocking around. Arms and shoulders are sore today from the effort of cutting only chicken and not myself. I did not even have the energy to stretch my muscles out after finishing the job, all I could do was come back to bed and collapse in exhaustion with a niggling worry at the back of my head that I may have pushed myself too far.

the end of a long day
The end of a long day.

Sometimes when I have done too much, my CFS behaves strangely. Every now and then my body decides to actually start working better instead of doing worse and this time I think I have my new diet to thank for that. Once in a blue moon, I can push myself just a little too hard like yesterday and the following day I wake – energetic. Not completely wasted with fatigue as is much more usual, but full of energy and ready to start working on the next project sorely needing attention.

By no means do I recommend anyone with CFS try pushing themselves in the hope tomorrow they wake feeling energetic, but now and then when I have no choice except to push myself it is a very nice surprise the next day if it happens.

This catches us up to today. I could hardly hold my eyes open last night and went to bed surprisingly early for me. After sleeping five hours very soundly, the rest of the night was much more fitful as I kept waking up with this thought running through my head that my body was finally burning its own energy stores (fat) as it is supposed to now.

What a strange thought to keep running through my head in the early morning.

Along with that thought was an increasing amount of nervous energy I noticed each time I stirred briefly awake. Nervous energy is a great sign for me because for some reason it is where I channel extra energy, should I ever have any, until such time as I can find safe outlets to release it. I’m like an excitable little puppy dog at these times who just needs a long walk to calm back down.

air puppy
This flying puppy and I had a lot in common this morning.

When I say safe here, I mean safe for me because right now I would love to go dust off my 3lb weights and start working out, but experience has taught me that my fragile body would likely pull a muscle or something because its simply not ready for that yet.

Finally at first light I could not contain myself any longer and woke Jeremy up to start our day. I have helped with breakfast, done my daily yoga stretching, drank a very surprising amount of water, and written the rough draft for this article. All that before breakfast and I still feel amazingly awesome.

Another very interesting aspect of this change today is my own mental perception of myself. It has long been my practice to try and see myself how I want to be, healthy and fit, instead of how I currently am, chronically ill and out of shape. I believe it is much healthier to think of where you want to go than the ditch you find yourself currently in.

When I would wake briefly in the early morning today with all that nervous energy and thoughts of my body working properly, I would also have this distinct impression of being in that very same fit and healthy body I have visualized so often. So vivid was this image while I was still mostly asleep that even now I can not shake the feeling of that having been the real me, nor would I want to. It gives me a more solid picture to hold as a destination and one that feels so much more possible now.

ready to go
Looking out upon a future of health and wellness.

The road that leads to better health is a very rough and long trek after all these years of chronic illness. However, this morning I can look upon that road with a great energetic enthusiasm to lace up my boots and continue on towards that mountain’s peak I see in the distance.

Tomorrow was a much better day and will be again, of this I am sure.

WTB: Dolphin Jockey

It has been another three days on Paleo since I last wrote. These have actually been a hard three days, but for some very interesting reasons. I am learning a lot in these last three days, things that I think had always been obscured from me before by a body that ran on carbohydrates for fuel instead of proteins and fats.

Two days ago on day nine, I woke up feeling absolutely great. Had somehow slept for 12 hours straight and were it not for some annoying logging in the distance I likely would have slept another hour or two at least. Was just what I needed. Felt like my body had taken that next step in switching over to what it burnt for fuel and was humming along nicely.

I was feeling energetic and alive. My brain fog was noticeably less and it felt like just out of the corner of my eye I kept catching glances of what it would be like to have no fog at all. That little glimpse you catch of something that is mythical and mysterious but no matter how quick you are to turn and look you always just missed it. But I knew it was there and almost tangible.

As I was thinking of all the things to do that day with my new found energy, fate stepped in and said it wasn’t time yet for feeling this good.

dolphin jockey
Something I was considering doing that morning.

We have a neighbor who isn’t much of a problem for us and our illness, other than a yipping dog some mornings before seven and losing us needed sleep. She doesn’t have a yard and garden that gets weed killer or bug spray applied every few weeks, doesn’t paint her house every year or any number of things that could happen in an average neighborhood.

What we think she does do however, is occasionally toss some sort of solvent she has used into the woods instead of disposing of it properly. Worse yet, we are typically downwind of such activities.

As it so happened, Wednesday morning would be a day this would again occur.

While munching my scrambled eggs with a variety of veggies, I began to smell the dreaded odor. Near as I can describe it, it has always smelled a lot like Simple Green to me, or rather what I remember Simple Green to have smelled like before I steered very clear of such substances. It is cloyingly sweet and sticks to the back of your throat, leaving an odd fake pine and mint taste to the air.

And so in the space of half a hour I went from feeling splendidly on top of the world to being swamped by toxic fumes and a body that felt anything but well. Yesterday and today the fumes have decreased to an almost undetectable level but it will take a few more days at least for my body to recover from the tremendous blow.

Oddly enough, this is where the interesting part comes in.

This new diet is apparently effecting how my body reacts to such chemical exposures. For years it has been running one program of what to do when hit by an overload of something toxic. I am very familiar with how the MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) feels to me at this point – but this time things have been just a bit different.

Near as I can tell, the lack of easy carbohydrates to burn is changing how my body can react. I am hoping this is a very good thing because the stuck groove my body has been operating in these last eight years just isn’t working out for me. It would seem like any change would almost have to be a good change. I never knew just how much what my body did in these situations depended on me supplying some form of easy to burn fuel.

I also never knew just how badly my body starts running at a core level when dealing with a large MCS problem. After feeling how it was humming along that morning just before the fumes started descending upon us, I can feel the huge change that has occurred. It is amazing and very interesting to me to not only feel the symptoms I am used to and feel like periphery items, but to also now pinpoint a few very core things that go wrong as well. Its almost a relief to actually feel something much deeper being wrong than just having a laundry list of things that reduce functionality.

As for having felt like my body finally figured out what the Paleo diet was about and adjusted to burning the proteins/fats instead of carbohydrates… that lasted only about as long as the rest of that great part of the morning did. I’ve been back to feeling like an engine coughing and stalling out these last three days.

However, I have still been sleeping deeper and I think more restfully the last two nights. I am hoping this will be a continued improvement from the diet as I have also read others mentioning sleeping better too.

sleeping puppy
Me sleeping much better the last three nights.

It is very frustrating to go from feeling so very good to feeling completely lousy in such an incredibly short amount of time. There is no way to predict when something outside my controlled environment will push its way in and start going on a rampage. Words really can not describe these feelings of helplessness to the whims of someone else, such as a normally unobtrusive neighbor, and never knowing if you can trust that one moment you feel good as being real or transitory.

It is hard not to rail against the fortunes that let me have an hour long sample of how good I could feel before plunging me into a world of pain, increased fog, greater fatigue, nausea, headache, faintness, volatile emotions, restlessness, and difficulty breathing.

During toxic times like this, I often I find myself repeating “Tomorrow will be a better day.” I do believe it will be so.

The First Week

Today is day eight on a strict Paleo diet. I have noticed that despite some very stressful events yesterday and subsequent lack of sleep last night, I actually feel surprisingly good today.

I had said I wanted to write about my first days on this diet and it seems a great place to start this tale.

Our first day passed pretty easily. It felt good to be eating this way after the splurging of Christmas goodies the week before. It was very deceptive of what was yet to come.

Day two we began to feel the lack of carbohydrates from the oatmeal we have eaten at least once a day for probably the last six years at least. Our bodies were still wanting to primarily burn carbohydrates instead of the proteins and fats we were giving it as its main fuel source. We had decreased our carbohydrate intake from hundreds of grams a day to less than a hundred in the produce we are eating. I’ve seen people estimating it to be around 40-60 grams of carbohydrates a day as veg is mostly fiber, not fuel.

We started having a brain fog roll in like pea soup, body aches, and several other symptoms appeared along with a huge fatigue. It began to feel like life was lived trying to move through a sea of honey, every step pushing against a huge force and dragging at our feet.

Day three was even worse.

Fog in Badlands, By Extreme Intensity
The fog rolls in…

I don’t quite know how we made it through day three; it was certainly discussed that perhaps we needed to at least go back to having that one bowl of oatmeal a day because as things stood we barely were able to get food cooked this day. It is a hard feeling to describe, the sense of fear that comes with having chronic illness to the degree that we do and having a change suddenly make all your symptoms intensify tremendously.

You never know for sure that this will be temporary or not till after it has passed. Life becomes a limbo while waiting and holding strong to the thought that it will get better. With nothing but faith in your body to pull you through, a faith that by now is badly shaken because you wouldn’t be in this spot had your body not massively failed you already… Well, it is a hard place to be.

On day three we found ourselves plunked right down into that limbo world and wondering if we had made a gross error trying this new diet. What got us through were some brief moments, no more than 15 minutes two times a day at most, where we would feel good all of a sudden. Much better than we have at almost any time in the last few years even.

It was these moments I held onto and let pull me through.

We started experimenting with eating a few different things and off a few threads I was reading at a forum with other people on the Paleo diet, we began to add a lot more fat into what we consumed. It was wild, we could eat a small bit of coconut oil, solid at our ambient temperature and very tasty of fresh coconuts, and almost immediately many of our symptoms would start abating. The moment it hit the tongue our bodies would be very clear to us how very much it wanted that oil and within five minutes we would be considerably better.

This started a new chapter in how the diet change was for us.

foggy night
A light in the foggy darkness.

Days four and five saw us increasing the amount of oil we put on everything, starting to have hard boiled eggs handy for a snack with their high protein/fat ratio, and eating a lot more nuts. Adding in some raw broccoli at the same time increased the effectiveness of the other snack foods but alone did next to nothing.

Slowly we were becoming more clear thinking, the pain levels were dropping back down to normal levels and we were no longer moving through honey, weak with fatigue. Our bodies were starting to make the switch to burning the new fuels.

On day six I found again the forum threads where people suggested increasing the protein intake when feeling badly during these first few weeks on the diet. We increased it to what seemed a proper amount after seeing what we had been eating the last four days. Then I broke out the calculator and did the math, with the added eggs at snack our protein was right in the proper range now for this diet.

I think a lot of our trouble with too little protein is that we are not used to eating this much of it and so didn’t understand just how much is needed. It is hard at times to eat enough, I am finding that I tend to become full much quicker while eating than I had before. Where a three quarter bowl of food was right before, now half a bowl is nearly too much. Jeremy is seeing the same thing happen to him too.

Also on day six I started seeing a very noticeable decrease in brain fog, almost down to where I normally am on bad days. But what really surprised me was that my reflexes where suddenly heightened. As foggy as I was, twice in a row I had a clothing item tossed over my shoulder while walking and stopped to look at something, the clothing falling to the very wet and puddled ground. Yet it never touched the ground because quick as lightening my hand would shoot out and pluck it from the air.

ninja cat
My new Ninja-cat reflexes

Small things like this are showing me that I am indeed seeing some positive changes in my body already. I also seem to need less sleep – something almost anyone with CFS can relate to being a very big deal. I seem to function much better on the seven hours I am averaging a night, I simply am too wired to sleep till near midnight at earliest most nights. Usually this sort of wiredness would leave me very anxious, but after the second day I have felt surprisingly calm.

As I said in the beginning, today is day eight. I’m feeling strongly that this diet is a good direction for us and seeing both Jeremy and I improving from our low on day three by about 5-15% each day. I would estimate that we are three quarters back to how we felt before starting this diet and can only wait with a bit of excitement to see what happens when we are one hundred percent back to where we started.

Will we continue to see improvement after that or will we just stay there with little noticeable improvement? I have high hopes that we will see this pendulum swing towards feeling much healthier and more energetic.

More to come on this in the following days…

Me Jane, you Tarzan.

I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to write this blog entry for the last few days. Though I know I will be tiring myself out greatly, I just can’t wait any longer – it is just too exciting!

Today has been day six of what I hope to be a major victory in our search for better health. Over the last month, Jeremy and I have been slowly implementing a massive dietary change. Based on some of the test findings at our last doctor appointment in October, we found out several things that could use changing in what we were eating on a daily basis. Various foods that changed our hormone and vitamin balance, promoted fatigue, spikes in blood sugar with later crashes, and were contributing to Jeremy’s large Candida yeast problem in his gut.

After a lot of research largely on how to cure the Candida outbreak that Jeremy has, my path led me to what is known as the Paleo diet. Long story short, it is the diet our ancient human ancestors used to eat prior to refined grains and legumes being cultivated. Sounds like a fad diet right? True, I was skeptical as well when I first came across it. I had only read further about it because most of it was formed around the same sort of foods of a typical diet to help with Candida problems but sounded a little better balanced for nutrition.

Lascaux, France cave painting
Cave painting at Lascaux, France

Thing is, there is just something about this diet that grabbed the little scientific researcher that still thrives in me and made it take notice. Another long story short, there is lots of solid research to show that grains and legumes have low levels of toxins designed to do various things for the seeds but that are not healthy to be ingested by humans. It is not as much of a concern for an average person, but for me and Jeremy who have very sluggish toxin removal systems as one of our dominant health problems, those minor amounts of toxins just add to the overall body burden.

The basis of this diet is that you eat a phenomenal amount of vegetables and a bit of fruit, about a matching amount of lean animal sourced protein, and then fill in the gaps with healthy oils and fats. Nothing made from grains, dairy, legumes, or potatoes is eaten. It is not one of those protein only diets, the vegetables and fruit are a huge portion of what is eaten in a day and provide ample carbohydrates. Preferably everything is organic produce or range and grass fed animal products.

The general idea is that we evolved burning fats and proteins for fuel instead of starchy carbohydrates like pasta and bread. People who have made the change to the Paleo diet, or some variation thereof which they can do on a regular basis, have reported huge increases in energy and feeling considerably healthier.

Not trusting to anything that might be a fad diet, we have spent the last month slowly trying to ingrate it into our lives with the intention of for sure staying on it till Jeremy’s Candida problem was cleared up and then seeing how we felt after that. But even during this last month when we were only eating about half paleo we were noticing some substantial increases in energy and stamina. Then Christmas came and with it too many goodies to eat. The change in how we felt after a couple of days less paleo and more average western diet was extremely noticeable and we felt awful!

Six days ago we woke up and decided it was the day to begin the Paleo diet 100%, while the Christmas goodies hangover from the carbohydrates was still lurking to help with motivation.

Nat Geo baobob tree
A brighter day on the way.

I will write more tomorrow (hopefully) on what will then have been the first week on this new diet. It is a very interesting process our bodies are going through while relearning how to be more like our caveman ancestors. As this process of adjustment is going on, I have wanted to write about these changes and many of the things we are learning to help ourselves adjust.

I do know one thing for sure and this is where all my excitement is coming from. Over the last six days there have been brief bits of time when suddenly everything just clicked right for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Despite some intense brain fog that has plagued me since day two of this change, during these moments I would feel incredibly better than at almost any other time in the last several years.

It is these moments that have spurred me to write this long article tonight, knowing with a certainty that can’t be explained that these brief moments of improved health will not be the only ones this diet change brings. I want to be able to write about this amazing process as it occurs because it might, just might, prove to be something very huge and beneficial in our lives.