Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release. Joni Mitchell

Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release. Joni Mitchell

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dariy-free and Gluten-free for the Holidays

Given my dietary restrictions, I was not looking forward to the holiday season this year. Because of systemic inflammation, one doctor told me not to eat dairy or gluten, both inflammatory foods. And because of systemic candida, another doctor told me not to eat yeast - both baker's yeast in breads and brewer's yeast in beer and wine (who knew wine had yeast in it?). I mean, what's Thanksgiving without stuffing, Christmas/Hanukkah without cookies or New Year's Eve without champagne? I didn't even want to go to any holiday parties and have to pass on all the goodies. Then while I was shopping at my local health food store, Debra's Natural Gourmet, I saw a cookbook called Gluten-Free and Vegan Holidays: Celebrating the Year with Simple, Satisfying Recipes and Menus by Jennifer Katzinger. I decided that  I'd have to make and bring my own goodies so that I could partake in the bounty of the holidays and not feel deprived.

For Thanksgiving I made Katzinger's Apple Tart using almond meal and teff flour for the crust and coconut milk in the apple filling. I served it ala mode with coconut milk ice cream while everyone else dined on spice cake, pumpkin pie and my daughter's pumpkin bread pudding with homemade rum-infused whipped cream. The tart wasn't too bad, although the crust was very crumbly and the filling was not sweet enough for my taste with no added sugar. It was hard to sit at the table with everyone else raving about the pumpkin bread pudding - one of my favorite desserts. However, I surely didn't starve! To accommodate my needs, the hosts put aside the potatoes and squash before adding butter and milk and made the gravy with corn starch. I substituted quinoa for the stuffing, which was tasty with the gravy on top. And of course, the turkey!

I thought about skipping my writer's critique group annual holiday party with every kind of conceivable holiday cookies and baked goods, but I think I'll bring a few of the gluten-free vegan cookies in Katzinger's cookbook. She even includes a latke recipe for Hanukkah and a matzoh ball recipe for Passover. The trick is to feel included in the abundance of the holidays while still eating in a way that will keep me healthy.

If any of you have a favorite gluten-free, dairy-free holiday recipe, please share it with us!
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beat the Blues: 10 Ways to Happy

Insomnia smileyImage via WikipediaPeople with fibromyalgia are susceptible to mood disorders, like depression and anxiety, and I'm no exception. I've been dealing with sleep disturbances and anxiety for the last few weeks. I've been waking up every night between 4:30 and 5:30 am. As soon as I realize I'm awake, I get a flush of anxiety and I can't get back to sleep. I've been working with my therapist to figure out the source of my anxiety, which pops up in my dreams and makes it difficult to sleep. Or it could be too much T3 (thyroid hormone) that I'm taking for Thyroid Hormone Resistance Syndrome, so I'm stepping down the T3 to see if my symptoms abate.

Anyway, given my current state of mind, I was intrigued when I saw a link called 10 Ways to Have a Happier Life. Dr. Andrew Weil, Founder and Director of The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, wrote a book called Spontaneous Happiness about ways that can help people achieve and maintain happy lives. He says that "happy" does not mean "endless bliss" but "a state of contentment and serenity" from which someone can still have emotional highs and lows, but be able to easily return to a pleasant state of mind. I found it very interesting that I was already practicing all of the first five points in part one and most of the last five in part two.
The anti-inflammatory food pyramid

The first five suggestions include:  
  • exercise
  • anti-inflammatory diet
  • fish oil and vitamin D
  • anti-depression supplements
  • breathing exercises
All are great methods for anyone with fibromyalgia. Exercise is key, especially low impact exercises like water aerobics and walking. Dr. Weil says, "For treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, activities of moderate intensity, like brisk walking, are more successful than very vigorous activity." Systemic inflammation is a problem in FM, so following an anti-inflammatory diet is helpful. My doctor told me to avoid dairy and gluten, which are both inflammatory. Dr. Weil provides an anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Of course, fish oil helps with inflammation and most people are deficient in Vitamin D, so that helps, too. I use SAM-e, a naturally-occurring molecule found throughout the body, as an anti-depression supplement. SAM-e really helps elevate mood. I could feel a difference almost immediately once I started using it. According to Dr. Weil "the usual dosage is 400 to 1,600 milligrams a day, taken on an empty stomach.  Take lower doses (under 800 milligrams) once a day, a half hour before the morning meal; split higher doses, taking the second a half hour before lunch." Also, breathing exercises are key to calming down the revved up autonomic nervous system found in FM patients. We're always in the "flight or fight" mode, even when there is no danger present. Breathing exercises, such as alternate nostril breathing, help keep us calm.

The last five suggestions include: 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • laughter
  • limiting media exposure
  • forgiveness
  • practicing gratitude
Dr. Don Goldenburg, a specialist in fibromyalgia, highly recommended CBT as a way of dealing with the various symptoms of FM. CBT is based on the concept that our thoughts affect how we feel. Personally, I have been working to transform negative thought patterns into positive thoughts and affirmations to help me feel better, and it works to a certain extent. We all know that laughter is the best medicine! Dr. Weil suggests laughter yoga which combines "Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing." That includes both laughter and breathing exercises. As for limiting media exposure, I stopped watching the news long ago. I would get too depressed and upset and decided it just wasn't worth it. I don't have a smart phone and I'm pretty bad about checking Facebook, too. Dr. Weil suggests replacing virtual media time with face to face interactions with other human beings. Forgiveness can be a difficult process and something that I'm working on in my life. Dr. Weil says forgiveness can be cultivated and cites The Stanford Forgiveness Project. Practicing gratitude can also be cultivated. I used to keep a gratitude journal, writing down 5 things I was grateful for each day, but I've fallen out of the practice. Maybe it's time to start it up again:
  • I'm grateful that I feel much better than I did six months ago
  • I'm grateful that my son will be coming home from college for Thanksgiving
  • I'm grateful that the power is on and I can type up this post
  • I'm grateful to be writing the holiday gift guide for my local paper
  • I'm grateful that no one was hurt in the fender bender I had in a parking lot

What are you grateful for?

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Rothfeld Center VS The Marino Center

Photo of the boxing portion of a Chess-Boxing ...Image via WikipediaIn one corner, a small private practice for integrative medicine and in the other corner, a large group practice for integrative health. Both are heavyweights in holistic treatment, but which one will be the winner? I'm being treated by doctors at both centers and after three or four rounds, so far, no knock-outs, but certainly some good punches.

Actually, I've been meaning to post this article for some time, but life has intervened. Which is a good thing because it means I'm feeling good enough to have a life! My time is not just about going to the doctor or the acupuncturist or the physical therapist anymore. I'm writing for my local paper, going to my daughter's cheer leading competitions, visiting my son at college and going to my first college football game - tailgating and all. And of course, Mother Nature threw us a curve ball with a freak October snowstorm that knocked out our power for several days. I didn't realize how much we depend on electricity until I didn't have it - lights, heat, TV, computer, internet, phone - and in some cases even flushing the toilet! It was certainly a lesson in gratitude and I'm grateful that the power is back on so I can write and post this article.

I was reading through a sleep journal I kept last winter and I realized how far I've come. I was waking every few hours all night every night; my hot flashes were explosive; I was depressed and anxious; I was bone-tired fatigued and everything hurt. My neurotransmitters were barely registering and my adrenals were flat-lined. I was a mess! But I have to give much of the credit to The Rothfeld Center for getting me back to some semblance of a normal life. They have been treating me aggressively since last spring and I feel like it's finally paying off. I had to wait five months to get into see the doctor at The Marino Center, so I feel like the more recent treatment at The Marino Center has been ancillary to the treatments I've been receiving at The Rothfeld Center.

Now, a direct comparison between the approaches of The Rothfeld Center and The Marino Center:

When I first went to The Rothfeld Center, I went through a battery of tests, including blood tests, spit tests, vision/neuro-toxin tests, heavy-metal tests and DNA tests. Then once those results came back, I had more blood tests to get more specific results. I must say that the labs screwed up my blood tests more than once causing me to go back for more blood draws, which was annoying and painful. Based on all that information, Dr. Rothfeld told me that I have toxins in my body and neuro-toxins in my brain. It could have been from mold or some other toxin. Also, because of my DNA, I'm extremely vulnerable to toxins and it's harder for my body to get rid of the toxins once I have them. He also diagnosed me with insulin resistance and thryroid resistance syndrome. In addition, my neurotransmitters and adrenals were shot.

When I finally got into see the doctor at The Marino Center he was surprised that his top go-to tests for fibromyalgia had never been performed on me. I was surprised, too, given the battery of tests I had just undergone at The Rothfeld Center. I had a blood draw at the office to determine food sensitivities to 180 different foods and I took home a stool test to look for yeast in the gut. I won't go into details about the stool test but it wasn't pretty! I was glad I took both tests because they showed problems that weren't uncovered at The Rothfeld Center. The stool test showed that I had both good bacteria and bad bacteria in my gut. It also showed that I had candida, or yeast, in my gut, too.

infusion bagsImage via WikipediaEven before my test results came back at The Rothfeld Center, Dr. Rothfeld put me on magnesium-IV therapy, his go-to treatment for fibromyalgia.Once my results came back, he started me on a no-starch diet for the insulin resistance, which means no grains or starchy vegetables. Then he put me on a detoxification program, including a cleanse and a protocol of medications and supplements. He also put me on several supplements to boost my neurotransmitters and support my adrenal system. For the thyroid resistance syndrome, I'm following Wilson's T3 Protocol, using T3 supplementation to boost my metabolism.

Once I got my stool test results back at The Marino Center, Dr. Bordiuk was able to target my treatment. The lab had tested my sample with various anti-boitics on the bacteria and anti-fungals for the yeast so we could see which ones actually worked. I was on the anti-biotic/anti-fungal protocol for two to three weeks. I haven't noticed a huge improvement in my symptoms, but perhaps my symptoms would have been worse had I not treated the bacteria and yeast in my gut. As for the food sensitivities, Dr. Bordiuk told me to follow the 4-Day Rotation Diet. Foods without any "stars" are fine to consume. Foods with one star can be eaten every four days. For instance, if I eat blueberries or pinto beans on Monday, I can't eat them again until Friday. Foods with two or three stars must be avoided for four months. Then I can try them again one at a time. If I have a reaction, I have to continue to avoid that food. If I don't have a reaction, I can eat that food using the 4-day rotation.

I've noticed a very different approach to appointments between the two centers. At The Rothfeld Center, appointments almost always run late. However, the doctors always spend a good amount of time with me and answer all my questions. I never feel rushed. On the other hand, I have to schedule three or four hours out of my day every time I go there.

At The Marino Center, appointments run close to on-time. I've waited up to 15 minutes but usually no longer than that. But appointments are booked every half an hour and if I'm late my appointment gets squeezed. Even when I'm on time, half an hour seems rushed and I don't always have time to get all my questions answered. On the other hand, I'm in and out of there within an hour and I have the rest of the day to live my life.

Results: Fibromyalgia is a tricky condition to treat. It's hard to tell which treatments I've received at either center have helped or not. I've seen several doctors at The Marino Center over the years with varying success. This is the first time I've tried going to The Rothfeld Center and so far, I think their approach is helping overall, but it's hard to pinpoint the results of specific treatments. In either case, I'm glad to have several reputable medical professionals to help me manage this life-altering condition. Now I have more than one resource to turn to when the going gets rough!