I’ve had a lot of requests for the pie recipe from my birthday and so here goes! I found it online at a forum posting here , but then we modified it as we went along. The main changes are no honey (our sweet potatoes are sweet enough) and baking dishes used.
It is paleo friendly, gluten free, and dairy free recipe for dessert, side dish, or an after workout snack!
Paleo Sweet Potato Pie:
– Sweet Potatoes (equal parts potato to milk, adjust as needed)
– 1 can Coconut Milk (I used full fat)
– 2 Eggs
– Spices (we used cinnamon and cloves, anything used for pumpkin pie would work for this)
* Often times yams are called sweet potatoes – I don’t know how those would work as we used actual Japanese Sweet Potatoes grown locally. Canned sweet potatoes are also an option.
Wash and dry the potatoes, then toss them naked and unpoked into a 375F oven to bake. We don’t use foil, just a cookie sheet on the rack below for drips. Start checking them after 1 hour, they should be soft to squeeze like with russet potatoes. Ours took about 1.5 hours to cook due to size.
After potatoes have cooled, remove the skin and mash them. The skin can be eaten or saved for cooking with later. Unlike russet or other potatoes, these are not part of the nightshade family and so are safe to eat.
We never measured the sweet potato volume, just added milk until the consistency seemed right. If you’ve made a few pumpkin pies, you’ll know the type of consistency to aim for. Otherwise I’d suggest aiming for equal parts potato to milk as the original recipe called for one can of sweet potato to each can of milk.
Add two eggs per can of milk, we doubled the recipe so had 2 cans of milk and 4 eggs.
Add spices to taste. Traditionally used spices would include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice – and never forget the love!
We do not have a pie pan, but instead split the mix between two small rectangle baking dishes. Seemed to cook up just the same as it would have with a pie pan. The original recipe called for oiling the dish and coating it with your choice of flour (they used almond flour), but this proved unnecessary for our pies. Plus we lacked a paleo friendly flour.
In a preheated oven, cook the pie at 425F for 15 minutes then lower temperature to 350F.
Cook another 35-45 minutes. Ours were ready at 40 minutes.
They were good warm, but also very tasty cold! Enjoy!
What does a month in Maui look like? All of these pictures are from today, exactly one month since we landed here.
What is Healing? I have pondered this question many times.
Recently, I have begun to see signs of deep physical healing at long last, but why? What has changed?
I now sleep 12-15 hours a day. That’s a 10-12 hour night and one or two naps during the day. Until last November, I could sleep no more than 9 hours a night and never napped. How can this be good?
As well, I have seen signs my digestive system is healing. The same amount of digestive enzymes I took two months ago is now too strong. I have reduced them by 25%. This means for the first time in 10 years my body is producing more stomach acid instead of less. Until you’ve suffered from long term digestive problems it is hard to understand how large of an impact quality digestion (or lack of it) can have on your entire health. This is actually an impressive improvement for me.
But what does digestion have to do with me sleeping over half the day away?
There are a lot of mumbo jumbo scientific words I could toss around right now to describe what essentially comes down to a simple concept. Inside each one of us is an ‘on/off’ switch. It toggles between the flight/fight response and being restful/calm. This is part of the autonomic nervous system.
In CFS and MCS, evidence shows that some of the cause behind these conditions is likely the flight/fight response being stuck turned on. This means the body is always ready for a lion to try and eat you so it only worries about keeping you alive another day, not what will happen after that. To do this, it supercharges some systems – like making you run faster, but this has a price. It has to take away from other systems – like digestion and immune functions, because they won’t matter if the lion eats you.
In other words – sleeping more and digesting better means my ‘on/off’ switch isn’t stuck on flight/fight anymore. It means my body is finally able to put energy toward healing instead of running away.
But why has this happened now? What is so different today compared to the last 10 years?
I think this question has a few answers. There is the obvious one – I’m taking herbs and vitamin supplements that have been slowly tailored to my specific needs and it took 10 years to figure those needs out. We are also spending a considerably larger sum of money on those supplements now compared to when we were trying to build our house and pinching pennies from every place we could.
But that answer is boring. The intriguing answer is much harder to define because it isn’t a pill that is popped or anything which can be seen with the eye. Nor is it the excellent diet we’ve been eating since going paleo. Though paleo is making good progress in lowering systemic body inflammation, providing materials for building muscles, strengthening joints and ligaments, and it just plain tastes better!
No, I think the main answer lies in the emotional and spiritual healing I have been discovering for almost a year and a half. I have been practicing EFT, reiki, qigong, meditation, and learning to listen with my heart as well as my head for guidance. Gradually, these techniques have been re-balancing my turbulent body, mind, and spiritual energies.
I’ve been releasing trapped emotional energy by letting go of old fears; learning to fully let go of painful past events and forgive those who caused them, including myself; and in general finding an inner calmness I have rarely known before now. It is a lot like time travel, change the right thing in the past and the ripples have an impact on the future. Although I can not go back in time and change what happened, I can change how my body reacts to those memories. Over time this is positively changing how I react to similar events when they occur.
Stagnant body energy is balanced through meditation and movements which directs my body’s yin and yang energy into healing pathways. This energy flows through each of us and everything around us – plants, trees, earth, sky…
Basically, I’m learning to harness the power of the Force!
I suspect this is the key to my flight/fight response beginning to turn off at last, thus allowing physical healing. No matter how many pills I took to support and heal my body, it could do little good if my body’s own healing systems had been turned off by a wonky ‘on/off’ switch.
As I find an ever deepening sense of peace in life, my body is waking from its shadowy slumber into the new day of better health.
What is healing? I still am not fully sure, but I do know there is no simple answer. The human body and mind are a mysterious place, no less grand than the mysteries of the Universe itself.
Some have a path we are meant to follow. I think great sickness and tragedy has led me to mine and though it sounds odd, I am grateful.
With the holidays upon us, seemed a good time to share our recipe for Paleo Pancakes. These are a bit different than many similar recipes online as we designed them to be high density protein with a good dose of veggies – basically, a balanced paleo meal for times without the ability to cook. Turned out, they are tasty anytime!
Better yet – they taste a bit like cookies!
They are a sugar free, gluten free, organic, ready to go meal.
I’m sure the hemp powder we use can be substituted for other nut flours, we just needed the big protein gains during cold times without cooking.
Paleo Cookie Pancakes:
1 cup mashed squash
1/2 cup hemp powder
1/2 cup walnut flour
1/2 cup coconut milk
Lots of cinnamon (to taste)
1 tbl ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Mix the hemp and walnut flour with the coconut milk. Mix in the mashed squash. Add eggs and mix well. Add spices or substitute for pumpkin pie spice.
It should have the consistency of thick pancake batter. Can add a few chopped nuts or berries to the batter for texture and bursts of flavor.
Scoop 1/4 cup of mixture onto a hot skillet or griddle, use plenty of butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking. Cook on a low heat, they burn a little easier than other pancakes.
Flip each pancake when the bottom side firms up, like normal pancakes. Cook some more until done!
These tend to be thin, but fluffy due to the egg content. Two pancakes each makes a filling meal for us. I did not write down how many the recipe makes, but its around 9-12 cakes.
We usually eat these plain, but for special occasions (like birthdays) we’ll put a little vanilla ice cream on top. Wow they are good!
It would be easy to substitute many of the ingredients. The squash helps balance the acidic nut flours, helps provide carbohydrates, and keeps the pancakes moist. Bananas, pumpkin, yams, etc would all work well in its place. There are different types of nut flours, you can experiment with finding the one that suits your taste buds the most.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
I had intended to post back here more frequently, but my health has been up and down, especially the last few weeks.
We have gotten our winter preparations well under way. October saw us finish changing out the leaky tarps over our tent – a project encompassing two years while letting the new tarps off gas. There has been a great deal of catching up on other small projects around camp. Mostly projects that were unable to be done during our steep decline in health over the last year.
October also saw the end to my six month long sinus infection. It took a combination of antibiotic and antifungal treatment simultaneously, along with a few other additions to help with sinus drainage. I saw an initial surge in energy after I was done with treatment, but this has ebbed somewhat as other influences have sapped my reserves.
A majority of our state medical coverage is ending on December 31st this year. This has changed some of our plans for winter prep as we have had to fit in dental appointments while we still can. The good news is that cavities I had a few years ago have healed themselves. For more information on remineralizing your teeth, a good start would be an article by Stephan Guyenet at Whole Health Source called, “Reversing Tooth Decay.”
Our main struggle right now is with different viruses making homes in us. It feels like each week sees us with a new cold or flu bug. This could be a good thing if it is caused by our bodies waking up to the viruses it is host for. Or it could be a bad thing as our immune system is too weak to fight any of them off. Only time will tell the story.
I do have to wonder how much of our slump the last several weeks was caused by too much birthday fun. With both mine and Jeremy’s birthday’s falling less than two weeks apart, it can get particularly festive around here. It could be that too much ice cream lead to another Candida yeast overgrowth in our guts. Having cut all sugars for three weeks is helping lower many of the symptoms I would attribute to this possibility.
The weather has suddenly shifted from a warm Indian summer into a cold Fall. At its coldest point last night, it was the same temperature as you would find in your refrigerator. Come December, we will be living in your freezer – next to the ice cream perhaps!
I am looking forwards to the colder weather, because it will kill off the molds that have been plaguing me since spring. On the other hand, it also brings smoke from chimneys and wood stoves that is aggravating our asthma and making breathing more difficult at times.
It is a rollercoaster time for us right now, each up comes with a down shortly after. I am thankful to have any up swings at all, as this was not happening most of the last year. With some luck and a good amount of hope, we will see next year bringing more ups than downs again.
Yesterday was this year’s trip to see our MCS/CFS specialist who’s office is about two hours away. (For last year’s trip see Back from the Wizard) The weather couldn’t have been better as it was one of our warmer days and lots of sunshine. A good day for a road trip!
A month ago Jeremy and I had our usual 10 vials of blood drawn each. It was a bit rougher trip than normal as we had forgotten to fast prior to the blood draw and opted to go home and wait another six hours before heading back in for the draw.
That day was a highlight of the blood sugar improvements we have seen since starting a paleo diet as eight hours total without a meal was rough, but very doable. A year ago this would not have even been considered possible.
Yesterday we received the results of those blood tests, covered our next stage of treatment, addressed my still lingering sinus infection, and tweaked a few things with our current treatment.
This is a very long, detailed post. Listed below is the quick version and all test results are at Test Results – Jeremy and Test Results – Lisa (or just go to top of my blog page for the tabs). Last year’s test results will be added there too for anyone who wants to compare them to this year.
Quick list of all changes:
– New antibiotic for sinus infection (possibly some acetylcysteine to nebulize too).
– Increase our b12, methylfolate, and milk thistle (detox herb).
– Start supplementing Vitamin K2.
– Keep Vitamin D the same for next six months and then retest.
– Take MTHF test.
– Jeremy increases his testosterone 50-100% and taurine.
– I begin supplementing thyroid, glycine, arginine, and methionine.
With a good amount of luck and hope, we should be seeing some improvements in our health soon. I only wish there was more to follow up with on Jeremy right now, but possibly time will shine more light on what needs healing for him too.
First thing we talked about, my recurring sinus infection. A couple weeks ago I noticed it coming back and restarted the same antibiotic as treatment. After two weeks, it briefly saw some improvement but is beginning to slowly worsen again. I will be starting a different antibiotic (also nebulized) early next week when it arrives in the mail from a compounding pharmacy in California. It should be noted that the first course of antibiotic treatment likely would have fully taken care of the sinus infection but some misread instructions led to it not being used properly. I suspect this new antibiotic will work very well.
We discussed how the treatments outlined at our last office visit had gone. He had suggested last October that we try a product to help promote detoxing but it had proved to strong even at 1/20th of a dose. Because of this, we are going to be trying an increase in an herb that has been helping us to detox instead.
Last year the plan had been to try the detox product and if it did not help much, then we would do a test panel which would help pinpoint where we are having trouble detoxing. However after looking over the current supplements we are using and our lifestyle (high avoidance of toxic triggers and really good diet) we all agreed that running such a panel would not likely require us to change much with our healing program even were it to be very informative.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love my doctor – him being ok with not running a test that would be out of pocket costs for us simply because he recognizes it would only give information but not change our treatment program is another big reason he’s such a great physician. I have not heard of very many doctors who are open enough to the needs of the patient to recognize saving money as one of those big needs.
We will be running an insurance covered test of our MTHF process to see if it is working properly. This is the process by which methylfolate is used in the body for many important functions and if it is wonky can cause detox problems as well as a host of other symptoms. Meanwhile, we will slowly begin to increase our methylfolate supplementation.
Hydroxocobalamin shots (B12)
Starting with our b12 shot yesterday, we will be increasing each one by 50% – from 10,000 mcg each shot up to 15,000. I think I noticed a very large difference with the increase last night. A lot of energy after our trip instead of being totally wrung out as expected. It will take a few shots to see how well this works, but I suspect it is a very good change.
One new blood test this time was to check our osteocalcin levels, aka Vitamin K. With the amount of Vitamin D we are supplementing with it is important to have enough Vitamin K to help ensure calcium is utilized properly in the body and not deposited in muscle or other tissues. Good catch by Dr. Buscher with this test as our results show we both are in need of supplementing Vitamin K. This was a little surprising actually as there should be ample K in our diet due to the amount of greens we eat which is why most doctors would not have bothered to test it. I tested below minimum and Jeremy right at minimum levels.
We retested our Vitamin D levels again this year. They have both come up by a large amount to land us in the mid-normal range instead of the very low (Jeremy) to below minimum (me) that they tested at last year. Even so, we will still be on our current dosage of Vitamin D until they raise up into the range Dr. Buscher has found to be more optimal. This will be retested in six months as it is entering a more fine tuning area of supplementing.
Another test of our hormones this year showed some positive improvements for both of us. Jeremy is still too low on testosterone but he did see a 30% increase in levels. He will be having his supplemental testosterone raised to help further. Its a sticky situation to take supplemental testosterone as its one of those things you will be on the rest of your life once you start it. I did bring this up as a concern with increasing his dosage, but we all agreed that with how low his is, the time for options to raise it without medication have passed.
I saw positive improvement for my progesterone levels which had been fairly low last year. Though I’m now mid-range and could conceivably cease supplementing with progesterone drops, I’ll be continuing on them as there is still signs that they are needed.
As a side note – though we have been supplementing with hormones for the last 11 months, I also think our diet change has contributed to the improvements. Certainly removing phytoestrogens from the diet (soy) would be of tremendous help when trying to rebalance hormones.
Thyroid and DHEA
Next up is our thyroid and DHEA panels. Jeremy saw little or no change with both of these, however for me they both decreased over the last year. While last year there was the option of not addressing the thyroid because it was in the low normal range, this year it was pretty much only a question of what I would be supplementing it with. I had dropped another 27 points this year which lands me at 247. The reference range is 230-420 and very often people experience symptoms of low thyroid (hypothyroidism) when in the low normal range. I’d say I am now low, low normal.
When I was 15, I became ill and the doctor could not find the cause. After a specialist ran a lot of tests (enough blood drawn as to make me nearly pass out), he decided to take a chance and treat me for hypothyroidism despite me being in the low normal range. It worked almost immediately. A few years later I was able to cease thyroid medication but always kept in mind that I’m one of those who can have devastating symptoms as a low normal.
Last year I tried supplementing with Synthroid to see if it helped some of my symptoms but it had a huge, not good reaction in me. This year I will be trying the natural thyroid supplement, Armour, as it has recently come back on the market. It has a lot of negative reviews for it with the new formulation, but I have read many are able to crush it and add a bit of sugar/honey to make it fully absorbable again, thereby alleviating the problems with the new formulation.
My lowering of DHEA will be addressed after we tackle the thyroid and anything that arises from trying to address it.
Amino Acids Profile
Lastly I’ll cover our biggest new test of the year – an amino acid profile that was all out of pocket expense. We will see what happens by treating the things shown low on this profile, but I already feel the money was well spent.
This is the first time in 9 years of illness that Jeremy and I had significantly different test results. Granted my lowering thyroid does fall into this category as well, but it is not as dramatic a difference as what we saw on the amino acid profile.
It has been a nightmare to try and convince new doctors or officials we have had to deal with, that two people can both have CFS/MCS and similar test results. The amount of skepticism and outright disbelief that we are ill but instead just faking has been enormous. To finally have differencing test results, while meaning only one of us is good, it still brings much satisfaction to my heart to be able to point to something being different.
It is also interesting from the perspective of wondering – what finally changed after nine years to give us different results? Maybe we simply weren’t looking in the right places all that time…
This last profile measured the quantity of amino acids in our blood at a fasted state. It is absolutely amazing the impact amino acids have in bodily processes. Many amino acids can be made by the body or its organisms (bacteria in our gut), but some we can only obtain through outside sources – namely food.
The paleo diet helps with this because meat is a very good source for these essential aminos which we only get through food. Having low amino acids can be a sign of poor digestion, poor diet, or areas where the body is having trouble converting from one thing to another.
Jeremy and I tested nearly opposite each other on almost this entire test. As I said, this is the first time we have ever showed almost any difference, let alone such a dramatic difference in a test.
To go over each test thoroughly would be far too much information to add to this already long post, but there is now a tab of all the test results for anyone who wants to see more detail.
In a nutshell, Jeremy has some unbalanced ratios of some of his aminos but the general levels of everything except taurine are pretty good. Oddly, taurine is the only amino acid we were currently supplementing which makes it a little surprising to find his levels low.
On the other hand, my levels of almost everything were very low. This is also surprising given how much protein I eat every day. It is likely part of the problem has to do with poor digestion or absorption from my intestines, as well as problems detoxing. The MTHF panel we are doing next should help provide some answers to some of my low amino levels.
Of note, my “Urea Cycle and Ammonia Detoxification” (numbers 31-36 on test results) are all pretty much bottomed out. This could certainly be cause for some of my continual brain fog along with some other symptoms. Dr. Buscher wanted to see the results of the MTHF panel before treating this area due to the influence an imbalanced methylfolate process could have on this detox system.
To sum up this test, Jeremy will be increasing his taurine supplementation. I will begin supplementing with glycine, arginine, and methionine to start and more can be added later. Dr. Buscher will be researching what impact our imbalanced ratios of aminios are having on us and if they need to be treated, I think our test results threw him a bit of a curve ball on this aspect, especially Jeremy’s. Lastly, we will reevaluate these tests again in light of the findings of the MTHF panel we will be doing sometime soon.
Lots of changes and lots of places treatment can lead. We never brought up XMRV (soon possibly renamed to HGRV) or Dr. Buscher’s impressions of its potential to be a key role in CFS. As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done in stabilizing some key body systems before we can even consider looking into what for now are still experimental therapies.
My life has been led by far too much fear.
If you had asked me ten years ago while I was still healthy, I would have been very sure that fear played little role in the direction life was taking.
I would have been wrong.
Over the last several months I have been thinking about fear’s role in my life. Its not just the fear I felt every time I stepped out into the darkness at night alone the last eight years, but also the fear that has unknowingly held me back from jumping in and living life instead of life living me.
I see fear in my choice to stop following veterinary medicine after a negative experience while observing a surgery on a large dog in my 2nd year of college.
There was a great deal of hidden fear that caused me to be content with stoner friends who rarely did anything but sit around and have a good time.
In fact, an amazing amount of my life decisions have been chosen based on an unknown fear of failure. Much easier to set expectations of myself lower so that I can be the superstar I want to perceive instead of merely being average at something I put a lot of effort into.
I have done a lot of really great and brave things in life, but there was so much more I would have done had fear not gotten in my way. I wish I had known this years ago, before illness took away huge chunks of my ability to live and follow my dreams.
After becoming ill, my fear took on a whole new dimension as there was suddenly a tremendous amount of things to be afraid of. Overnight I had to become hyper vigilant of toxic exposures which could severely impact my quickly diminishing health.
These could be found hiding in plain sight on any stranger I passed on the street, in any building I entered, any street I walked down, a shift in the breeze, a box in the mail, and many other places. Perfumes, fabric softener, car exhaust, fresh paint, solvents, pesticides… so many things and more to be wary of.
Suddenly everything I knew about being safe in the world was turned completely upside down and every where I turned was another dangerous situation that had to be avoided or minimized at all costs.
My world had become a battlefield in a hostile and foreign land.
Even at home I was not necessarily safe. Living in a tent with nylon walls does not offer much protection against anything. I found myself fearing mountain lions, bears, trees falling on our tent in a wind storm, heavy snow storms, power outages, people not respecting our privacy and strolling into camp at their leisure, shifts in wind bringing toxic fumes from neighbors into our tent, neighbor dogs rooting through our stuff, and raccoons doing the same. Worse yet was all of the above, but in the dark where I could not see it coming.
This fear had made me unable to leave the comfort of our lighted tent at night without Jeremy nearby, even for a simple trip to our ‘facilities’ because it meant being completely enclosed in the dark with nothing but my flashlight to see by. I used to go backpacking alone overnight and now I could not even tolerate 1 minute in the dark by myself without a panic attack overwhelming me.
Then a few months ago something began to change.
At first it changed so slowly I didn’t even see a difference until last month. I was up at our refrigerator area (about 70 ft from the tent) and using my sinus medication. It takes about 20 minutes for the whole process and it was quickly getting dark. Oddly, this hardly bothered me at all. I stayed the whole time and then calmly walked back to the tent. First time in eight years I have been able to do anything like this.
Over the last few weeks I have even gotten to the point where I have wanted a little quiet “me time” some evenings. I walk up to the chair we have by the fridge, have a seat, and just relax for a while – after dark. Critters rustling around in the bushes, breeze making strange noises in the trees – none of it freaks me out anymore.
When I do get spooked a bit, it is a pretty simple matter to calm my mind and body back down to a place where I can continue to enjoy the time spent alone, in the dark with only my flashlight. I have actually turned it off a couple of times. Only briefly off, but I still had the courage to do it.
I am seeing this same shift away from fear in many aspects of my life and how I look at situations. Such as making a very important and empowering choice to stop fighting my situation and working with it instead.
To fully explain what brought about this change would take at least one more article, very possibly more. In summary, I have been utilizing alternative mind/body healing practices for nearly a year, specifically EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Reiki. It is these practices to which I attribute many of these massive changes.
I have not spoken of these things here in my blog because of my fear that at even merely mentioning I am finding healing in alternative means, it would damage my credibility and the degree my chronic illness is taken seriously.
Having one’s integrity and mental soundness questioned goes hand in hand with a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was reticent to add to that by opening the door for further skepticism with alternative therapies. It appears that in writing this article, I am again seeing the same shift from a fear led life to one I lead on my own.
Too much of my life has been governed by fear. That chapter is now closing and it is time for me to write the next chapter in my own words.
As some of you already know, I’m a big fan of Robb Wolf.
He’s a very smart guy who knows TONS about eating paleo, making it your lifestyle, and it often seems just about everything else. The blurb on his site says this about him:
“Robb Wolf is a former research biochemist specializing in lipid metabolism. His CV includes research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and graduate work with Prof. Loren Cordain of Colorado State University, author of The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Robb is a co-founder of the CrossFit NorCal (the 4th CrossFit Affiliate), a review editor for the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, and a co-founder of The Performance Menu.”
A few months ago I ran across his blog and the weekly podcast he had recently begun. I was quickly a fan and tuned in each week to hear him answer 5-8 questions from listeners. The questions seem to vary considerably, but its about a 50/50 split between stuff on reaching fitness goals and things involving chronic health problems.
The information in his podcast could easily fill a book and I have learned a tremendous amount from him. Its impressive how passionate he is about helping people and it shows in the detail he gives each question. Nobody is paying him for this, he willingly shares his knowledge for free – something not many people would do.
A few weeks ago I finally figured out a few questions of my own and posted them on his site. This week he answered them! Here is the link to the podcast:
The Paleolithic Solution Episode 29
And below are the questions I asked. He answers mine first in the podcast so just start at the beginning. The previous podcasts can be downloaded still and are very much worth the time to listen to if you have chronic health concerns, are interested in gym performance, or would like to know more about paleo eating. I hope you all enjoy!
Long time listener, first time caller. 🙂 Nine years ago, mine and my partner’s health plummeted after some prolonged solvent exposure coming over from the neighboring apartment and compounded by a black mold infestation in our apartment. Our health steadily declined for the first several years but in the last three we seem to have leveled off at about 25% functional capacity. It has left us nearly fully housebound, bedridden about 8-10 of our waking hours a day and completely knackered. In my never ending search to find a way back to health for us, we swapped to a strict Paleo lifestyle just over three months ago and have seen a small improvement. We are in our early 30’s, have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and Fibromyalgia. Our allergies are crazy bad to most chemicals which has left us homeless in a tent for the last eight years.
I had a couple of questions about leaky gut, supplement inactive ingredients, and the Now Super Enzymes.
1. I have no doubt our gut is leaky as a sieve and we have been taking aloe, slippery elm, and marshmallow for six months to try and aid this. We use lots of organic coconut oil with our cooking and about a month ago started taking copious amounts of Kirkland fish oil (13.5g/day, we both weigh ~170 and are working up the amount). Two weeks ago we removed all eggs and nuts, have been dairy free since going Paleo. We haven’t been able to afford grass fed meat yet, but do buy hormone and antibiotic free. Any ideals on how long a bad leaky gut problem can take to heal and/or experience greatly reduced inflammation? Anything else that you know of which we could try to do to help speed this up?
2. We have been taking Source Natural’s Pancreatin 8x enzymes for six months and I recently picked up a bottle of the Now Super Enzymes to give them a whirl as they have the HCl the other ones lack. At 2 caps per meal I had a bit of a bad aftertaste which I suspect was the HCl as it reminded me much of smells from chem lab years ago, but no heat. Tried 3 caps for two meals but though there was no heat, it produced a surprising amount of burping, a general sour feeling in my stomach and later my gut, and even more of a bad aftertaste. Any thoughts? Too little, too much?
3. Lastly, our doctor has us on many, many supplements to help with the lack of nutrients our body had been absorbing from our very poor diet. I’m a bit concerned the added ‘inert’ ingredients in the capsules might be tossing a wrench in us trying to remedy the leaky gut. Are there some non-obvious things I should watch out for on the ingredient list?
Thank you very much for all the time and effort both you and Andy put into these podcasts. I have learned an incredible amount of information and feel very strongly that you have already helped my partner and I make healing progress we might otherwise have been much slower to achieve. Also, I attended Butte College for couple years at one point in my travels so hearing you and Andy chatting about Chico always feels like a little piece of home.
Have a beautiful day, Lisa/Sundog :)”
I had very vivid dreams last night of driving to town and going grocery shopping. For most people this surely would have been a pretty mundane dream and rather boring even. For me, its usually the nearest I come to living normally again because most things like this are beyond me at this time.
But apparently they weren’t beyond me today! What an exciting and wondrous day we have had.
It all started with a good night’s sleep – the first in at least a week. We both slept in well this morning and were pleased to see the first warm day without some rain in weeks. Shortly before we got going on breakfast and everything else that begins our day, Ron (Jeremy’s dad) called to see if we needed anything from town.
While Jeremy was chatting away with him on the phone it just suddenly occurred to me that it would be a lot of fun to go in to town with Ron for some fresh produce. I mentioned it to Jeremy who immediately liked the idea and he asked Ron about it because we’d have to keep the trip short and he had plans for several errands.
In one of those moments that makes me really thankful for how cool Ron is about helping us out, Ron spontaneously changed his plans and in less than half a hour we were all piled in his car and off to town!
It was a beautiful day, warm with a lot of sunshine. We went first to the Farmer’s Market where we turned in some paperwork for purchasing a CSA share at a local farm. This is a program many small farms offer of letting you buy a membership that will provide one box of produce a week throughout the summer of all the fresh stuff they are growing. It supports the local farmers, in this case an organic farm, while also letting us diversify our veggies. I was very pleased to see that the produce stocked at the booth was the best looking stuff compared to several other small farms with stands at the market.
Next we popped over to one of Ron’s favorite burrito joints, a new place that has opened in town. Remembering to go with tacos instead of burritos because of corn vs. flour tortillas with wheat/gluten, we got our food to go. It was the first restaurant we had gone into since Jeremy’s mom took us to lunch on the way home from a long distance drive to see a neurologist in 2003. Seven years went by with an amazing amount of speed.
Steak tacos with extra veggies instead of cheese
The trip to the restaurant highlights how odd life has become. It was loud with voices all around me as many people enjoyed their lunches. I found I no longer posses the automatic noise filtering I never knew I had, as it was very hard to focus just on Ron’s speaking – all the voices in the background were just as much in my attention as his was. The air felt very stale and the acoustics of a high ceiling were a bit disorienting.
Even the trip to use their ladies room was strange to me. They share a hallway with a next door cantina and its down this hallway that I found the bathroom. As soon as I stepped into the hallway I was surrounded by familiar smells from just about every bar I’d ever been in and memories of times past flooded in. I found it interesting these odors were comforting and inviting even though usually when suddenly surrounded by strong scents I react with anxiety and concern for my health.
Another thing I’ll share just because of its unusualness. That was the first toilet I had the chance to use since last October. Think about it next time you are using one yourself – months have passed for me without one. Its been seven years since I have used one more than a half dozen times in any give year. As odd as that must seem to you, it was just as odd to me today in using one. This was a first for me as in the past its always still felt normal. Perhaps its the length of time passing or just me having accepted my current state of life more, but it was definitely odd for me.
We made one last stop on the way home – our normal grocery store where Ron buys for us the majority of our organic produce. It was a bit surrealistic there because it was the same store I used to shop at while going to college and working, but it had been heavily remodeled a few years ago and this was my first trip in since. Nothing was recognizable as the old store after I walked through the front doors. The sights and smells were very strange to me as well.
All the soda, candy, chips and just plain junk that I was so used to seeing around me before, it now stood out to me as very odd things to consume. I have eaten quality food for many years. Since going paleo there hasn’t even been anything processed as we cook everything from scratch. None of the brightly colored boxes and giant logos looked like anything editable to me. While in the aisle at the checkout counter I innocently sighed a bit and was revolted by the sweet and cloying taste to the air from all the candy, gum, and mints next to me.
So many things today are so foreign to me now. When I do go into town and am active in normal pursuits there instead of only seeing a doctor, it feels like a different country. Some days a different planet even. I don’t feel entirely the same as everyone around me, in fact I feel fairly different. They all belong to a culture that is not mine now.
I am now part of a tribe of people spread all around the world who share in my hardships and joys, our one joining feature being a deep understanding of living with chronic illness. We are all very different from each other – even our seasons can be completely different with me just going into summer and them going into winter. Yet I feel distinctly more a part of the tribe that has formed on the internet of my fellow chronics than I feel while walking the streets of a town I’ve lived in for most of the last 11 years.
It has been a very interesting day for me and there is only one last thing to share. Today really showed me just how much improvement Jeremy and I have seen since going paleo and starting the b12 shots. We reacted much less to all the stimulus around us regardless of if it was loud sounds (live band at the farmer’s market), crowds of people, scents, perfumes, and lots of walking on cement (normally just on dirt paths in camp). We even had a chance to see improvements in how our bodies handled us skipping breakfast and only grabbing a small, quick snack before leaving. Being active without breakfast would usually have our blood sugar plummeting quickly, but today we did well despite the lack of food until 2 pm.
I am pleased with today and how my body handled it. Its been years since we spontaneously went to town just to have a good time. This speaks volumes for the mental changes taking place along with the physical ones. I deeply believe that part of getting well is mentally wanting to be well and being willing to accept change. It pleases me to see a trip like today because its a very real symbol of how ready we are for change to come to our lives.
I look forwards to taking more trips like today’s as the summer comes upon us!
Have I mentioned that I love my doctor?
I had an appointment with Dr. Buscher this morning, by phone because of the great difficulty in personally seeing him. It was time to check-in with him as to our last six months and go over what testing Jeremy and I should have before seeing him in person this summer.
It was exciting to have a lot to tell him about and the whole appointment helped put the last six months into perspective for me. The last two months have left me feeling pretty lousy at times because of all the allergy and sinus troubles, along with Jeremy’s candida treatments causing a lot of MCS troubles for both of us.
Talking to Dr. Buscher today helped me to see that we have been incredibly busy on improving our health these last six months and that we have actually seen a lot of improvements from it all.
It can be difficult at times to set aside a few months of feeling worse and realize that there have been a lot of abnormal circumstances, one after another, which has been greatly influencing our health. Having Dr. Buscher ask a few key questions along the way helped to remind me that prior to all this odd stuff going on for us, we really were seeing substantial improvements.
Our MCS reactions had been getting noticeably less and our energy had been improving. I was feeling much less brain fog, enough such that I was looking forwards to having our car fixed and renewing my driver’s license.
Most people do not know this, but I had even begun trying to find us housing that would be safe for us and on our budget. I had one very possible lead with a man who owned an organic farm and wanted to talk with me about some housing he could offer.
Then allergy season hit weeks early, my health dropped quickly and we had to go right back into survival mode because there was no other option. Driving, moving indoors, or anything of that nature had again been pulled out of our reach.
Remembering the improvements we had made, albeit briefly, helps to renew my faith that we are on the right path and doing the right things. We just need time to recover from all that has happened these last two months and then I have little doubt that we will be seeing big improvements once again.
As for my doctor appointment this morning, Dr. Buscher sounded enthusiastic about the changes we have made on our own since last seeing him – the largest having gone paleo. He approved of the tweaks I have made/will make on my own to our supplements – our increased fish oil, beginning some iodine, changing up the type of magnesium we take, calcium, and doing our vitamin b12 shots every three days instead of 1-2x’s a week.
He also gave me the reassurance I needed to hear that my thinking had been sound in not supplementing with thyroid medication after we had a large reaction to it the first day we tried it and instead waiting to see how our thyroid changed on its own after we got our diet and supplements changed up.
We will be retesting our levels of vitamin D, hormones, thyroid, and a new one – vitamin K. Jeremy and I will also be finishing up with an amino acid panel from last year. I’m curious to see how some of these numbers have changed with all that has been improved upon since last October.
Dr. Buscher is a wonderful doctor who is incredibly supportive. He really cares for his patients. This is very obvious in the questions he asks and the excitement he shares when hearing of improvements. Most people who have CFS, MCS, FM, PTSD or other odd illnesses know how rare it is to find a doctor who is supportive, caring, and knowledgeable. I am incredibly lucky to have found one and always enjoy my appointments with him.
The last week has been a rough one around here for us. Jeremy started his anti-candida medicine and so has been feeling very foggy, tired, and easily run down from the die-off reaction. Today will be his first day at the full strength dose. The course of treatment lasts for three months but hopefully a week or two from now he won’t hardly notice any ill effects from taking it once the initial die-off finishes at this strength.
I’ve been having trouble with him taking the medicine. Odd as it sounds, it seems to be triggering MCS problems for me – likely from the toxins he’s expelling when he breathes. I do better when we are not in the tent together. Even with the windows and door open 24/7 there isn’t enough air exchange to clear out what he puts out.
On top of all this, we had some solvents from the neighbors roll through briefly a few days ago though thankfully nothing as strong as they normally do. All in all, a hard MCS week.
I was a sad puppy this week.
All of which seems to have left me in a real funk of a mood. The last few days I have felt like I haven’t the energy to be anything but down, happy is just more than I could muster. Its been very frustrating because I’ve done so well the last several months. Then last night we hit on exactly what I need to feel a whole lot better.
Yes, the food of gods is exactly what I needed to pick me back up again, albeit a temporary effect of a few hours. We mixed some organic cacao powder (chocolate comes from cacao beans) with a good amount of heated coconut milk for a very delicious cup of hot chocolate. The coconut milk sweetens the otherwise bitter cacao powder and also provides a lovely rich and creamy texture.
Cacao fruit on the cacao tree.
Chocolate is well known for its mood enhancing properties. It alters brain chemistry through boosting serotonin levels, and low serotonin is something I’ve come to learn over the years is the cause for many of my funks. Getting a boost in this area certainly has a very positive effect and seems to help get my chemistry out of the rut it finds and back in line much sooner than if left on its own.
The coconut milk while providing a good base for the cacao powder, also helps to serve in boosting mood by providing an influx of fat and some natural sugars. These give my brain some extra power to run off because it seems one drawback I’m finding to this lower carb paleo approach is that when plagued with MCS I tend to need more carbohydrates to burn than otherwise is the case.
Inside of a cacao fruit pod- the beans where chocolate comes from.
I’ve boosted my carb intake today with extra veggies and will likely have another cup of hot cocoa later. Feeling so much better already, just needed some easy fuel.
I have been coming to the conclusion that the detox pathway that uses glucose to help turn toxins to harmless substances passed out of the body, often times when it is stressed (like with Jeremy’s toxin expelling from candida die-off) I tend to have troubles if I do not up my carbohydrates. It burns too much of my easier fuel, which apparently this time was stuff I’ve been needing to keep my brain chemistry inline. Life gets much better if I simply eat more of the right stuff.
My friend Grant summed it up well this afternoon upon hearing of my chocolate loving improvements when he said it was fuel for happiness! I also like to think of it as ‘better living through chemistry’ but that’s me just showing my true nerdy roots.
Bag of cacao beans and fruit pod.
Tuesday will be exactly four months since we made the switch to a Paleo lifestyle.
I can still hardly believe how much meat we consume each week because I have never in my life been a huge meat eater. The previous 12.5 years of vegetarianism, over a third of my life and nearly all of my adult years, has been thoroughly tossed out the window in favor of meat, meat, and meat! Combined with this is the greatly increased fat intake which is just as huge of a change from how I ate all those years.
Its really no wonder that it takes a body time to make such massive shifts in how it processes food. I think it is safe to say that our health is playing a key role in how we adapt to this new lifestyle. Provides some answers for why we have more ups and downs, even now four months in, than others who are healthy and make the change.
Overall impression of having shifted our diet this dramatically?
I think the long term benefits will be stellar. We are already seeing small improvements that are a little hard to define, largely because our memory has become so poor as to make any sort of quantitative analysis extremely difficult for minor changes. But in our world any improvement is a vast step forward after having been stalled out at such a low level of health these last several years. These improvements feel more solid and less likely to give us the house of cards effect we had last summer – one very bad thing causing us to crash and loose two years of improvements.
My pseudoscience guess is that the changes in us are slow because of how far down our health has fallen. I distinctly feel like my nutrition is greatly improved and my body feels calmer because of this. It just feels more ‘happy’ eating this way and I have the distinct impression that much healing is occurring behind the scenes and waiting to make a spectacular debut someday.
This has been a very life changing event for us and one which I am still awed by our ability to make it work so well from a tent, two burner hot plate, and a small refrigerator/freezer.
I can not speak highly enough of giving this diet a try if anyone has major health problems. As with us, the benefits might be slow in coming but in the long term will provide a huge increase to quality of life. It will likely seem daunting at first thought (I know it was for us!) but we started one step at a time and never gave up.
This change was six months in the making for us and most of that time was spent feeling very overwhelmed with the knowledge that we had to change our diet but not knowing in what way. I am incredibly grateful for Jeremy’s hard work and willingness to try something new.
It feels like a bit of forever since I last wrote here. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me during this slow time. There have been so many comforting and encouraging thoughts sent our way, thank you.
I am very happy to be able to say that allergy season has mostly ended for the year! We are planning a small celebration for sometime this weekend to mark its passing.
This year the allergy month was easier than it has been for the last few years. Though there is no way to know all the factors that contributed to it being less intensive, I am very thankful for the lack of sleepless nights and pain that until now had been my curse.
Now the morning air fills with the sweet aroma of huckleberry flowers in bloom, the sound of bees making up for the lost winter months of gathering, and a warmth has entered the woods as the sunshine is briefly allowed in prior to the maple trees leafing out. This is certainly one of my favorite times of year and it always comes with a happy energy filling my soul with the awakening of a new year full of hope.
I find myself a little torn each sunny day as I want only to go play in my garden yet there is so much needing to be done in camp that has been waiting several months. We have had a very tiring road since last summer’s crash which left us with the lowest our health has been so far. A lot gets left to the side to be done at a later date when life turns to mere survival.
Survival is where we have been for many months now. Through the paleo diet and the tweaking of our supplements by our talented doctor, I think we are beginning to pull out of survival mode and starting to find life again.
My body feels frail after this long road but I can tell that with the extra nutrition of the paleo diet I am slowly regaining muscle strength. It feels good to pick up an object and not feel weakness but strength. Still though, I must be ever mindful of not overdoing life in my enthusiasm to catch up the months passed and still leave enough to rejoice in the spring weather.
I will talk more about our progress in a paleo lifestyle very soon. We are at the end of three months this week and the beginning of a lifetime.
I don’t seem to be the only one noticing a very early spring around here. My springtime nemesis, the red alder tree, has begun a very early pollination cycle.
Every spring, usually around late March to early April, each mature Alder tree begins to ripen their hundreds of pollinating structures known as catkins. The catkins produce an amazing abundance of pollen each spring. Within a few weeks from now the tent tarps will have turned yellow from the pollen accumulating between rains.
Unripe red alder catkin I found this morning on our main path.
Since becoming ill nearly nine full years ago, I began to develop an acute allergy to the Alder pollen and it has grown in intensity each subsequent year.
At this point it turns a lovely spring day into a hellish nightmare.
My eyes will become too swollen and light sensitive to see from but water and itch like mad, sneezes so loud they echo back from the trees in the small valley below our tent and go on for usually 7-10 in a row but have been known to last 30 minutes straight, sinuses that somehow never run out of snot, ears which become very tender and painful from the backed up sinus pressure, raw throat and chest due to the power of each sneeze, and heavy sleep deprivation because the severity of these symptoms prevent all but 4-6 hours of sleep at most each night instead of the 9-10 my body requires.
Over the years we have developed wartime strategies for getting through the 4-6 weeks of this Alder induced nightmare. Last year it was not as severe because of a few newly implemented weapons we found to add to my arsenal of allergy calming remedies. Though the difference was small, last year was finally a tolerable miserableness instead of something that pushed the boundaries of my sanity.
Today I feel like Xena, armed and ready to battle Alder the Red who lurks above our tent.
My nemesis has started to wage an early war this year, several weeks earlier than most years, and it has caught me unawares. Luckily I am quick and have already begun my preparations for hunkering down and riding out the storm for the next month and a half or so. I think this will be another tolerable spring. I also have a bit of hope that somehow it will be easier even than last year.
This last week has seen some remarkable improvements in energy, endurance, and strength from the Paleo diet started seven weeks ago. I am hoping these improvements lead to me being better able to fight a winning battle in this ongoing war. The last four mornings have consistently seen me feeling physically better and generally even more upbeat than normal. Despite the allergies that pounced on me when I woke this morning, right now I feel surprisingly good!
I shall focus my mind on the garden I will begin to plant as soon as the pollen levels drop enough to allow me outside. Even though our tent windows are open (but have screens down), it does provide a small buffer from the raw windblown pollen lurking to strike the moment I leave for water, facilities or any other reason.
My posts will likely be more infrequent and hopefully being doped up on antihistamines and sleep deprivation will not adversely affect what I do write to more than a somewhat humorous extent. Don’t blame me if my jokes are not funny, if you were as sleep deprived as I am soon to become I am confidant you would find me funny too!
Time has flown by these last couple of weeks. Today marks the start of week six and we are still going very strong. Other than El Polo Diablo, we have stuck 100% to strict Paleo – zero grains, sugars (refined or otherwise), potatoes, and legumes. We only ever drink water so it has been very easy to also skip all coffee/caffeine and alcohol.
This last week both Jeremy and I have begun to feel small, noticeable improvements occurring in us. As our bodies are adapting more and more to this new way of life our meals are keeping us satiated longer. The afternoon snack we seemed to have needed every day, we have skipped more often than not this week. We are looking forwards to seeing our food bill going back down again as time progresses.
In the last three days we have both been having small bursts of increased energy and ability to get things done. Finally starting to very slowly get caught back up on the things we had to let go around camp, we were really knocked down by El Polo Diablo and then an ankle injury Jeremy suffered last week.
I was amazed today to realize just how much I have been able to do these last several days around camp. Such as doing many tasks that would normally be Jeremy’s but which his injured ankle has prevented. Small things like making the short hike to our refrigerator several times a day have been easy this week where as the trip would make me feel like collapsing only two weeks ago.
Day by day our bodies are silently healing. Just as the first hints of an early spring are coming to life all around me, so too is are the beginnings of an awakening of my body and its ability to regain functionality in life.
I watch the tiny maple seeds that have begun sprouting from the soil and can not help but be awed at the massive accomplishment of life the fully grown, towering maples have achieved around me. From quiet and humble beginnings these maple trees have sought but one thing here under the thick canopy of leaves, to grow tall and strong so that they may one day reach their leafy boughs fully into the sunlight that lures them ever upwards.
I have lived too long under the gloom of this illness. The time has come for me to sprout out of my protective shell and take a chance at growing too. For it is only through walking into the unknown that I will one day find myself standing high atop a distant peak with the wind whipping through my hair and the sunlight a golden glow upon my upturned face.
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.
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 aka “The Devil Chicken”
Today is day fourteen on the Paleo diet and I woke to this incredible feeling of fabulousness in my life.
I feel FANTASTIC!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.