Posts Tagged With: health

2 years (ish) later

LoveOkay, I’m a few weeks late with this post.  Okay, almost a month.  :)  But I did celebrate two years (!!!) of being medication free on August 13, despite my lack of pomp, circumstance or blog post about it. It’s a little surreal to think that it has been two years. And simultaneously, it seems like much longer. Especially if I think if it in terms of alcohol! It helps that I’ve been pregnant for all of 2014, granted…still, I don’t remember the last time I was even buzzed, let alone drunk! Strange. I guess my 30s will be defined by different types of headlines than my 20s. I am okay with that.

It has been interesting comparing Year 2 of living drug-free versus Year 1. The first part of any new adventure is filled with hope and motivation and dreams and pie-in-the-sky expectations. After that wore off, in Year 2, I had to M A I N T A I N. Long-term maintenance can be much more challenging than the initial cold turkey decision. It has been for me in a few ways. First and foremost, I started feeling better! This was a blessing and a curse. And as my dad would say, my lifestyle changes were working so well that I stopped doing them. I started putting different things into my diet, in the spirit of “seeing what works for my body”. In reality, it just tastes good to eat a bagel with cream cheese occasionally. I am human after all. As I was feeling better, I lost that direct feedback loop of “eat crap or get stressed out –> have blood in poop”. I didn’t have the blood anymore and consequently, I had to find new ways to remind myself that it’s not a good idea to freak out at small things out of my control or eat random processed sugar at all hours of the day. Of course, after a few days/weeks of poor decision making, the blood would make a comeback anyway, so, good job colon? At least it’s consistent and I know what I’m dealing with. Having strategies to combat the colitis has been hugely helpful during this second year.

Socially, the long-term maintenance has been way easier than the first year. People adapted so easily to my strict eating habits that when I began deviating from them after awhile, they were kind of confused. Especially after I got pregnant and my colitis was SUPER AMAZING. Gotta love the upside of hormones. I was eating whatever I wanted with no repercussions at all. Now that the pregnancy is almost at an end (is it Sept 19 yet??), I am noticing the return of traces of blood, small changes in my acne, slight shifts in my hair, etc. I love observing it and figuring out how to return my body back to balance. It’s like a crazy Jenga game.

I think the hardest part of long-term maintenance is the most obvious: staying committed. It’s like being an addict. You have to take it one decision, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. You have to be okay with yourself when you deviate from the plan. Be nice to yourself and try not to develop an eating disorder.  :)  It’s all a little overwhelming sometimes, which means sometimes you take a break. Relax and eat a cookie and don’t judge it. But don’t eat the whole box either. Work in a little spinach and kale more often. Such a dance.

Speaking of being an addict, I was cleaning a few months ago, and it was stunning how I had hidden the drugs that were maintaining my colitis in various rooms of our house. I didn’t even realize it. I felt like an alcoholic discovering bottles they hid for themselves. I found a bottle of Asacol in the back of the third drawer of my bathroom. I found another half bottle faaaaaaar in the back underneath the sink. I still had three weeks worth of medicated enemas in my closet, just in case. Even though I had long since given up the habit of mesalamine, there it was, lurking everywhere. I knew I had the enemas as insurance in case things got really bad, really quickly and I needed it. However, I had been holding on for such a long time that they expired! The pills were all still good, but why did I have them? I hadn’t taken them in years. As I threw out the final bottle and box of enemas, I started crying. It was much harder than I thought it would be. At the same time, it was incredibly liberating. I knew I was doing right by my body, nevertheless, the finality set in during that moment. Saying I was done taking the drugs was one thing. Stopping the 9 pills a day regimen was another thing. Physically eliminating the option was apparently a whole new thing. Luckily, my incomparable supportive husband was there to give me hugs and tell me I was doing the right thing. He’s incredible. Not sure what I would do without him, but I’m pretty sure it would involve me shooting drugs in my butt through enemas. HAHA! That’s ridiculously gross! But true. Weird.

At any rate, the house is now officially 100% mesalamine free! It only took almost 10 years to get there! It is an interesting, frustrating, exhilarating, educational path, and I’m grateful everyday I’m on it. Plus, since it is a chronic disease, I may as well embrace the journey because it’s not going anywhere! As the name of the blog implies, I feel that I’ve been given UC as a life assignment and the only way I know how to deal with that assignment is through love. Love of self, love of patience, love of mistakes, love of others, love of balance within my body and life, love of food, love of yoga! It’s all very exciting. Thanks to all for the support and hopefully Year 3 will be even better than the last! I’ll have at least one more family member to share it with soon.  :)  LOVE!

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

In the spirit of love, here’s one of my favorite love songs ever. It captures the emotion of love in such a heartbreaking and accurate way. Makes me cry most of the time when I hear it. I like the studio version best:

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Categories: Colitis, Healing, Love, Patient History, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s in a diagnosis?

hello-my-name-is-001

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Someone smart said that once.

I have been struggling with this concept for a few years now, however in the past few weeks it has come up repeatedly for me.  A diagnosis is the first thing we ask about and want to know things are going wrong.  I did this the other night with a situation that a friend is going through with their sister.  Before I could help it, I found myself asking, “Does anyone know the diagnosis?”  In essence I’m saying, what’s wrong with her and what’s it called?  As if having a name is going to solve all the problems of the world.  That’s obviously not how it is, although it sounds very appealing.  Fortunately or unfortunately, even with a specific diagnosis, we must reexamine our entire life when something is that pervasive and life-changing (like ulcerative colitis or bipolar or diabetes or whatever) to dive beyond the symptoms and figure out what is really going on.

This blog post has been extremely difficult for me to write.  I think it’s because I see both sides of the argument very clearly, and I haven’t decided which side I want to take.  Accordingly, I’m going to break it down as if I’m writing both sides of an opinion piece.  We’ll see if I come to any conclusions….

PRO-DIAGNOSIS

Naming the Game: it’s the way to go!

When I was first struggling with my ulcerative colitis, it was a scary and tenuous time in my life.  I mean, I was 22 years old, no real history of illness, and now there was blood in the toilet at the wrong time of the month.  It was weird.  Especially considering my entrenchment in western medicine at the time, I was desperate for a diagnosis.  Just tell me what’s wrong with me so I can take a pill or have surgery and be done with it.  I heard about a case study once of a woman who was going to the doctor’s office every year afraid of cancer, despite being very healthy.  When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42, she reported feeling relieved.  She had spent such a long time agonizing over the possibility of cancer that once she had a category to put herself in, she felt as if she had a place to belong.  And I think that is the most powerful part of someone slapping a label on you.  Humans are categorizing creatures and it makes us feel good to have a spot to neatly classify things.  “Oh, you have XYZ disease.  Don’t worry.  We have XYZ intervention/medication and that will be fine.  Here’s a group of people to talk to with the same problem.”  By having a doctor tell me I have UC, I was given a starting point.  I could join the IBD support groups and google relevant interventions and feel good that I was part of a select cohort who could understand my pain.

In spite of a common diagnosis though, my UC looks incredibly different from all of the other UC patients that I’ve met over the years.  In fact, from the anecdotal perspective that I’ve experienced thus far, no two patients seem to express UC the same way.  Some have to go to the bathroom 20 times a day.  Some go 2-3 days without pooping.  Some eat meat and bread like it’s going out of style.  Others can only find relief in vegetables and fruits.  Some have tons of blood in their stool, some have none at all.  Some have crazy gas pains and acid reflux, others have never experienced such symptoms.

Which leads me to…..

CON-DIAGNOSIS

Name, schname: what’s the flipping point??!

The importance given to a diagnosis is downright dangerous at times, whether it be for a physical or mental illness. Many people find themselves over-identifying with their disease.  Extremists may even use it as an excuse to do or not do things.  At this point of my life/illness/balance though, I don’t think there is a single diagnosis that I could personally receive that would make me change how I treat it.  Now, this may be a bit unfair given all the work I’ve done over the last 9+ years wrestling with a diagnosis.  If I were going through this process without an initial diagnosis, would I be able to attack it in the same way from the beginning?  It’s cute for me to sit here with 20/20 hindsight and say, “Well going forward, I know this is what I would do” because I’ve already been through it.  And maybe we all have to go through it to figure out what works best for our body.  However I am hopeful that even if I had an undiagnosable disease at this point of my life, I would have solid steps and interventions to make my body the best version it could be.

I prefer to think of a diagnosis as a conversation starter.  “Hey you have schizophrenia?  Great, here’s an area to begin, only know that this isn’t the end all/be all for the rest of your life.”  Even something simple like a common cold is extremely vague and unique to the person.  There are medical and homeopathic remedies that work for one person that will never work for another.  Basically the diagnosis is nice and all, but doesn’t answer the true questions or do the real work of finding a cause and treating that.

A few years ago, The Soloist, with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. was released in theatres and it wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it deeply moved me.  In 2009 when it came out, I was in a bad place with my colitis and was extremely unclear about what I was going to do next.  None of the medication was working anymore and I was feeling stuck.  The main character (Jamie Foxx) has fairly severe mental illness and it was very hard on his family and those around him who wanted to help him.  In one scene, there is a group counseling session and a character remarks:

I mean, it’s tired. It’s like they can’t find the medication that’s right for me, you know?”

Whew.  I started crying just by her saying that!  haha.  I’m emotional.  Still, it is SO FRUSTRATING despite having a “diagnosis” that doctors can’t seem to help you.  They have a honest motive, yet medicating a chronic illness is so…..ineffective.  It’s hard on the patient and the doctor.

The best scene though was when Robert Downey, Jr. was talking to the man running the support group.  He still was learning about Jamie Foxx’s condition and desperately wanting to help the only way he knew how.  Here is their exchange (I can’t find it on youtube.  It is about 47 minutes in to the movie if you own it or rent it.)

Robert Downey, Jr, talking about Jamie Foxx: What does he have, schizophrenia?

Group Leader: I don’t know.

Well, we should hook him up with psychiatric services and find out, right?

Yeah…I don’t get too hung up on diagnosis.

What do you mean?

What do I mean?

But how do you help someone if you don’t know what they have?

Look at these people. Every one of them’s been diagnosed more than you can imagine. And as far as I can tell, it hasn’t done them any good.

But he needs medication, right?

I’ll tell you one thing he doesn’t need: one more person telling him he needs medication.

This scene made a lot of sense to me on many levels. To be fair, it comes out of an exasperated situation where people are at the end of their rope.  Would the group leader have the same opinion if all them had never been given a diagnosis or talked to a professional at some point?  Probably not.  I guess at the end of the day, the diagnosis is important only as much as it can help you.  As long as you (or your practitioners and healing helpers) aren’t falling on your disease like a crutch, then it can be productive.  Writing things off simply because of a disease title…well I can’t seem to wrap my head around that one.

I’d love to hear your opinion!  Either here in the comments or in an email or in person next time I see you!  I am fascinated by this right now and want more input as my opinion forms….and then of course I’ll change my opinion 50 times after that.  :)

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

The Beatles!  Maybe you’ve heard of them?  I’ve been listening to them a lot this week.  They have so many ridiculously amazing songs; it’s hard to pick one to talk about.  I’ll pick a cover actually.  The best cover of Let It Be (in my opinionated opinion, of course) was from the movie Across The Universe.  In the movie, they took Beatles songs and made a musical with only a small amount of dialog which was interesting.  The intention and creativity behind the song choices was very well done despite the movie itself being kind of slow.

On the DVD extras, they show behind-the-scenes footage of the supremely talented woman chosen to sing Let It Be.  This is not on the youtube clip, but the director had asked the woman to simply think about the 1967 riots in Detroit and the meaning of the lyrics as she was singing.  Those riots raged for 5 days and included the National Guard, army, tanks and machine guns.  The riots left behind 43 dead, 1,189 injured, 7,200 arrests and over 2,000 buildings destroyed.  It is devastating to think about.

Wow, I must be my father’s daughter, bringing it to war culture out of nowhere!  Nevertheless it gives you a little context for this clip.  Those darn Beatles sure know how to write a moving song.

 

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Diagnosis, Healing, Patient History | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Too Much of a Good Thing: whole grains vs refined vs flour

2014

Happy New Year!  2014?!  I can now say “that was 20 years ago” or at least “that was 15 years ago” very easily….it’s strange but fun at the same time.

Quick updates before we get to the topic at hand.  First, I had wonderful holidays; I love my family/friends and it was really nice to get spend time with most of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Some are just too darn far away but still felt the love from far away.  We also hosted and attended a lot of super fun parties.  December is one of my favorite months.

In terms of a health update, I am doing pretty well overall.  Emotionally I am getting better about my body image, about how I perceive the food I am eating, why I’m eating it, etc. which is a huge part.  But I do still have the physical damage of UC that I’m trying to heal through food, yoga and love, and not through medication.  It becomes challenging because what I eat often affects those around me…..you know, since they are around me while I’m eating.  I still struggle with keeping the majority of my diet whole, plant-based foods throughout the day, and throughout the entire preparation (i.e. no added sugars, butter, excessive oil, etc).  If I am preparing it, it is obviously much easier to control, but time management issues take us to restaurants more frequently than I’d like to admit.  Plus with the holidays there is a TON of eating out and eating at other people’s houses.  Which is fun, just not as fun for my bloody poop and burny butthole feeling.  :)  This all resulted in a mild but consistent flare during pretty much the whole November/December season.  I had a few blood-free movements but most of them had a least a little bit of blood, some a lot.  It is what it is and as I keep telling myself, it is still WAY better than when I was on medication.  I had a GI appt yesterday morning and he doesn’t see a need to have a colonoscopy this year after all.  He said if I wanted to, he could do a flexible sigmoidoscopy (much more mild procedure) but I think I’m good right now.  I can feel where my body is at and overall I’m happy.  I know what I need to do to stay healthy, it’s about sticking with it!

Onto the topic at hand.  Too much of a good thing.  I was/am very confused about “processed foods.”  Everyone in the current research says they are bad.  I know first hand that if I eat mostly processed foods, then I feel like crap.  Processed foods are hard to process!  Or is it that they are too easy?  There seems to me, two different kinds of processed.  Commercially processed and at-home processed.  Granted, I don’t have time to take whole wheat berries and pound them into flour, but if I did, would it still be “bad” for me?  If I get a smoothie at Jamba Juice, it’s going to be orange juice from concentrate and fruits picked out of season, frozen and shipped across the world, blended with yogurt.  But if I make a smoothie at home, then it’s organic fruit, small amount of fresh fruit juice and vegetables.  Inherently, blending isn’t “bad”, in fact most would agree that blended food is much easier to digest than whole foods (see: baby food vs adult food).  If you follow that logic even more, why would it be bad to take every food, mash it up into tiny little pieces and then eat it?  You are saving your body hours of time!  Some people actually do that, and with fruits and vegetables, maybe it’s not a bad plan.  It also leads to one of the arguments for juicing: your digestive system doesn’t have to work hardly at all, and it is a BOOM! effect of vitamins and minerals.  Ahhh, but then you are taking out the fiber.  Which is where we get into commercially processed foods.

wheatI’m going to be focusing on grains here, because it’s what confuses me the most and is my Achilles’ heel.  I love anything baked in an oven.  Especially sweet things out of an oven.  Bread, muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, even pretzels (although I tend to crave sweet over salty), oh and did I mention bread?  When I do any cleanses or strict food diets for a long period of time, bread is always the #1 thing that I crave.  Why is that?  The answer is probably an entire blog post on its own, and it probably involves emotional eating, but all of the things I mentioned are flour based products.  How is it we make flour?  We pound down whole grains into powder.  But much more than just pounding is going on here (that’s what she said)….

facts_seed

In whole grains, there are three main parts of the seed that we harvest and eat (these seeds are also known as kernels, groats or berries): bran, germ and endosperm.  By buying whole wheat berries and then grabbing a meat tenderizer and smashing the hell out of them in your kitchen, you are doing more than simply getting a little aggression out (although that could be a good mental health exercise to focus your anger).  You are breaking down the outer layer or bran of the grain.  The fiber is all spread out and pre-broken down on your kitchen counter.  All of the sudden, that grain is magically now digested faster.  The body doesn’t have to worry about breaking down the hard exterior that held the grain together.  It will be processed much faster and more efficiently.  A good thing?  Maybe?  Question mark?

So you continue your demonic demonstration of power and continue to beat those poor wheat berries until there is nothing left but a fine powder or flour.  It’s not that different, right?  The nutrients are still there.  And yet if you were to eat a spoonful of that flour, it would have a radically different digestive journey than a spoonful of the original material.  Although eating a raw spoonful of either substance would be questionable behavior.

Whatever you do with it, if you leave that flour out too long, it will start to decompose, much like any food that is even halfway decent for you.  The oils and fats in the germ oxidize and become rancid.  In the 1800s, humans figured out they could merely take out the parts that would go bad!  Industrial milling started to filter out the germ and bran, leaving the endosperm by itself, sad and lonely.  The endosperm can last on a shelf (or in your freezer) for a loooong time.  Viola!  Crisis averted.

Unfortunately, there are a ton of awesome nutrients in the bran and germ that you lose in the endosperm-only flour.  They try to mechanically add a few of the vitamins back in (hello enriched and fortified products), but I think common sense would tell you that an isolated chemical nutrient isn’t going to be as welcome in the body as the real thing.  Perhaps even more relevant, the ratios are all off and they don’t even bother putting back in most of the vitamins.  It’s like anything (a beautiful piece of music, a great football team, really delicious pesto): the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

And finally, back to fiber.  Fiber makes things metabolize slower, makes you fuller longer and protects against insulin resistance.  Buuuuut, most of the fiber is in the germ and the bran which was just milled out!  Oops.  Without it, metabolism becomes lightning quick, triggers an insulin response and a dramatic drop in glucose…followed of course by a surge of hunger.  Hunger surges crave quick fixes.  Your body is craving the nutrients, not the donuts.  But unfortunately, what’s a quick fix to trick the body into thinking it’s happy?  More refined carbs, more sugar, more distilled and concentrated foods that would be more appropriate for an astronaut.  But we’re not astronauts.  Well most of us anyway.  It becomes too much of a good thing.  We process the flour like juice, it’s instant.  Except with vegetable juice it’s a boost of vitamins and nutrients.  With flour, it’s a boost of starch and basically acts as sugar.  Even the whole-grain flours that purport to have all the germ and bran in there still have the fiber all spread out, just like your now ruined kitchen counter.

At this point, for me, it comes down to preparation.  How do we humans typically prepare whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa)?  Boil it in water for awhile, maybe throw some spices or vegetables or even meat in there.  Then we eat it!  How do we humans typically prepare flour?  You’re not going to take flour and sprinkle it over your broccoli.  Flour is gross on its own.  It must be cooked, baked, fried, something.  And usually that “something” is going to be an even harder food to digest.  We combine it with sugar and dairy, oil and eggs.

What’s my bottom line here?  Like seemingly everything else, if you are going to eat flour-based foods, eat them in moderation.  Make those foods the minority on your plate and pair them with a bunch of veggies!  For example, we made pasta last night.  Pasta is obviously, flour based.  But we made it with 6 cups of spinach, a bunch of artichoke hearts and a pistachio-lemon “pesto” (pistachios, lemon juice, olive oil and shallots).  I felt great afterward, no bloating or hunger spikes or weird cravings.  Important to note that I made the meal with my wonderful husband, we played games and took our time through the whole thing.  I have to always keep in mind, to digest peacefully, the ritual of the meal may be just as significant as the meal itself.

Continued happy and peaceful eating to you!

Editor’s Note: I am not an expert on this stuff, but I did learn a ton by writing this post.  Hope you got something out of it too.  I encourage you to do your own research and see what resonates with you!  Please correct me if I said anything wrong on here, I want to be as accurate as possible, as I am still learning myself!  I heavily leaned on the work of the interwebs (yes, even wikipedia), this great write-up, and my awesome new book I got from Deb for Christmas: Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health.  That recipe from last night was our first try from the book and it was amazing!

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

I haven’t been into too much new music lately.  JJ Grey & Mofro have fun background funky music that I’ve been throwing on Spotify.  Or for yoga, I’ve been listening to playing a lot of Bonobo in my classes.   Other than that, oldies but goodies!  I am looking forward to the Bruno Mars halftime show at the Super Bowl.  Oh, and we went to a Reel Big Fish show last weekend.  Despite having only one original member left, they brought the house down with their still true-to-roots ska energy.  The number of teenagers there was unbelievable too!  I was a teenager when that stuff was popular.  I think the sole radio hit they had was Sell Out, but we listen to Beer after every softball victory.  Here’s both, dance your heart out!

Categories: Colitis, Food and Diet | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Your diet confuses me”

confused

I get this a lot.  Or variations on the theme:  “I don’t understand what you’re eating right now.” “Are you allowed to eat that?”  “Can you eat _______?”  Well, in theory, I could eat tinfoil and wash it down with bacon grease.  It’s just not a good idea for me at this point.  I got this “your diet confuses me” from my well-intentioned friend Jeff recently.  To be honest, your diet confuses me, Jeff.  haha.  Not really, yours is very straightforward: rare steak, cheddar cheese, Ritz, ranch dressing, Coke and dark beer.   Done.  Oh and Bombay Sapphire, of course.  :)

I think what confuses most people about my “diet” or what I eat is that it is not entirely consistent.  I change it a lot.  I cheat quite a bit now that I’m healthier and my colon is feeling better.  My food choices depend on the day at this point.  But in the end, my main goal is simply to eat a lot of vegetables.  It’s funny how the old, stereotypical message of “eat your vegetables” turns out to be my basic truth!  I would venture to say that we all need to be eating a stupid amount of vegetables.  And fruits of course.  But the green stuff just is going to help you.  Period.  The slick part is that the more green stuff you’re eating (and I don’t mean the apple flavored sour candy), then the less of the other stuff you’re eating.

I happened upon this article titled, “blah blah blah, recycled information that I’ve read 1000 times on mindbodygreen.com, etc., etc.”  Oh I’m sorry, my mistake, it was called Don’t Overthink Your Diet, Just Eat More Plants.  And here I am, super hypocritical, retyping the same message.  But you absolutely can’t hear it enough.  It’s like in teaching where you will say a concept 100 times and the student is not getting it.  But then a guest speaker comes in and says the exact same thing and the student’s like “hey, I wish someone would have told me that earlier!”  And then the teacher wants to punch themselves in the face…..but they are also happy the the student finally got it.  So I feel like if it gets mentioned enough, then at least one new person will get it every time.

At the hippie place in OB where I buy my tea for my kombucha, I was talking to the tea guy about food and eating this and that, and he gave me an example I definitely relate to.  He said he loves and drinks tea because it’s the opposite of nachos.  My reaction was of course, laughter.  Then: “What?  What does that even mean?” “Well, nachos taste amazing.  Sometimes, you really enjoy eating them.  Then later on?  You feel like absolute crap.  Your stomach hurts, you have to run to the bathroom.  But with tea…maybe it sometimes it’s delicious or sometimes it tastes like crap when you are drinking it.  But my goodness.  You feel amazing later on.”  That’s how I want my food to make me feel.  Like a million bucks.  It’s what I have to keep reminding myself of when I want to reach for that extra piece of bread or the free cheesecake that’s on the dinner table at the fancy event I went to tonight!  Hypothetically speaking.  (I ate the cheesecake, by the way.  And felt like crap later on.)

The other side of confusion is helping those who want to eat better but aren’t exactly sure how.  I am pretty good at knowing my body at this point, what’s going to make it feel good and not.  I call my diet “Food That Doesn’t Make Me Feel Like Crap.”  This handle on what’s good/what’s bad does not mean it’s super easy to stick to, but at least I have a little bit of that awareness.  Many people don’t, which is fine, but the lack of knowledge definitely can make picking out what to eat for meals and snacks a challenge.  Keep it simple, as mentioned before: don’t stress over it and eat more vegetables, as close to how you found them in the ground as possible.  I find that when I’m having a stretch of days like today where I’m feeling….not great….then I take stock of what I’ve been eating and it turns out to be mostly non-vegetable.  It’s a continual practice of bringing those foods back in, again and again.  Staying creative and making it interesting helps a lot.

Here’s to green foods and happy tummies.  Now if I could just kick that craving for dark chocolate….

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

This is tough because I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff recently, nothing too new to report here.  I will say that it is the 30th anniversary of Thriller coming up in December.  I was only….1.83 years old when the video came out, which means I didn’t appreciate it right away, but I love it.  I use it often when I’m teaching College Success courses because it’s around this time of year that they learn about note taking.  I make them practice taking notes with the Thriller video!  I learned today that it was the first real music video ever aired by MTV.  Talk about setting a high standard.  Geez.  That thing is epic.  So basically, I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson today.  Truthfully, this was all set off because John Mayer covered a slow, bluesy version of “Off the Wall” when we saw the show last week.  It was great and that song has been in my head ever since!  Enjoy.

Off_the_wall

Categories: Colitis, Food and Diet, Outside viewpoints | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Good news, everyone!

And I actually have good news, not like when Professor Farnsworth says it.  One quick caveat: this will be one of the more graphic and/or gross blog entries, so if you’re not into a lot of specific details and photos of my colon, you will want to skip this post.

After 3.5 days of colon cleansing in preparation for the colonoscopy on Monday afternoon, the procedure went off without a hitch and although my butt was very sore, the doctor reported that I have ulcerative colitis!  haha.  Seriously though, the inflammation is classified as moderate and goes up about 30cm.  No cancer, no weird polyps, no fistulas or anything crazy.  Just inflammation, bleeding, and of course, lots of tiny little ulcers.  This is phenomenal news for a few reasons.  First, did I mention no cancer or anything crazy?  Also, yes, 30cm may seem like a lot.  It’s about a foot of ulcerated colon.  But your colon is just about five feet long, so I’m going with the fact that 80% of my colon is in fact, healthy and functioning well.  It’s just that last little bit of the digestive system that we are dealing with.  Also, I confirmed yesterday with my last GI that previously, I was at 50cm of inflammation.  That’s fifty.  As in, 20 MORE centimeters than was measured on Monday.  As in, I have successfully reduced my “disease” by 40%.  Which is freaking crazy to me.

I just googled “20 centimeters” to see if I could figure out comparable things that are also 20 centimeters (it’s 7.87 inches if that helps you conceptualize it).  One of the top hits is a “2005 Spanish film about a narcoleptic transsexual woman’s life as she works to get the surgery to fix her “20 centímetros” problem.”  HA!  I did not see that coming!  I’m going to brainstorm and come up with other family-friendly things that are 20cm so I can say “I’ve healed about as much as this size 4 women’s shoe!”  Or something less weird.

IMG_2015Here’s my hospital ID tag, and of course a shout-out to UCSD Health System which has been really great, esp compared to my last GI dept, which I’m realizing more and more didn’t exactly fit me, at all.  As for the ID tag, I haven’t had one of these on…ever?  I don’t remember having one.  The only other time I did anything close to this was for my wisdom teeth removal in high school and I don’t think I had one then.  The entire colonoscopy experience was kind of surreal.  I had oxygen going in my nose, a blood pressure cuff on the whole time, a white plastic clip thing on my pointer finger, an IV, those weird sensors on my chest….as my friend Kirsten put it, the whole set-up makes you feel sick even if you’re not actually “sick”.  It was strange.  There was no general anesthesia, I was put into “twilight sleep” which was a combo of a nice sleepytime drug and a heavy pain killer.  I was pretty darn out of it, but still could remember quite a bit.  I was on my left side, and it kind of felt like someone had their hands around my waist and their fingers were digging hard into my stomach repeatedly.  Apparently when they got to the end of the colon, they tried to get through to the beginning part of the small intestine, but it was super difficult to navigate so they gave it the old college try (his words) but then figured it wasn’t worth the discomfort that I would go through since there was no sign of inflammation at that point anyway.  That part was unquestionably uncomfortable.  It wasn’t painful per se (probably because I was heavily sedated), but it definitely was not a fun experience.

After it was done, they called Jon right away, gave him results and he drove me home (thank you husband!).  I don’t remember much over the next few hours except that I got to eat again finally!  Yay!  As the universe would have it, there was a colitis support group meeting scheduled for that night at 6:30pm so although I was still kind of out of it, I strongly wanted to go because the speaker was a integrative nurse practitioner who has had UC for 20+ years and who also works with UC patients.  She uses medication as a last resort and was off meds for a few years herself at different parts of her life.  It was great to get new ideas and hear her interpretations of my results.  Most interestingly, she showed me on my body where the disease approximately goes (up to about my left hip bone).  I’m really glad I went so that I could share my super-recent experience and also the alternative prep that I did.  I’ll be writing a detailed explanation of what I did to prep instead of the prescribed laxative in the next blog post.

So here are the results in all their glory.  First a legend of the colon and where the pictures were taken:

Colon legend pic

Basically from the most healthy to the least healthy pics: 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 1, 10.  I’ll just show a few here, but you can see the healthier colon looks more like a sausage or something in texture and granularity.  The medium part where it starts to get bad (pic 8) is starting to get smoother, almost more homogenized looking.  Then in pic 9, you can start to see a few ulcers and in pics 1 and 10 you get a very clear look at them.  The last time I saw my colon, it was like the worst part of pic 10, but everywhere.  It looks much calmer now, which makes me so happy.  The search for balance is obviously not even close to over, but I’m getting there, piece by piece.  And this improvement was a huge boost of energy for me to keep going in the direction I have been!

Colon shot 7

Colon shot 8

Colon shot 10

All in all, the experience was an interesting one.  Not positive or negative.  Just interesting.  I’m not exactly looking forward to my next one in a few years, but at least I can say that I know what I’m getting in to.  Due to the ever changing nature of disease, I’m supposed to have a colonoscopy every two years now, or every year depending on your doctor and the severity of the disease.  For me, the fear and nervousness that I had was mostly surrounding the effectiveness of my prep.  Now that I’ve gone through the whole thing once, it will make the next 30 a lot easier.  :)

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

I’ve been listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis all day.  While I must admit that I do love Thrift Shop, the rest of the album is markedly different…and really amazing.  I am super impressed.

Macklemore

Categories: Colitis, Healing, Patient History | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Balance

Awhile ago, Jon asked me what this term balance was all about because I’ve been throwing the word around like beads at a Mardi Gras parade (with less flashing).  My hippie friends and I are often saying things like: “My doshas are not in balance” or “I need to work on being more balanced” or “Get that balance out of your pocket!”…..okay the last one doesn’t make sense, but what is this elusive balance that we are trying to achieve?

I’ve come to realize that no matter what you eat, or how you eat it, there are going to be toxins in life that need to be addressed.  Disease cannot be managed by medicine alone.  These toxins come in not just through your food, but through your thought patterns and emotional choices.  Don’t get me wrong, food is wildly important in health.  It clears out the excessive toxins so your body can work on the real crap (pun intended).  Food is my medicine, thank you Hippocrates, and it is much preferred to 9 pills a day or steroids for me.  But it’s not the whole picture.  This pyramid seems a closer for nutritional guidelines:

primary food pyramid3

I think it’s missing a component on sleep and also fun.  I also think vegetables should be a larger section with fewer grains, definitely fewer proteins, and maybe even less fruit.  Veggies are pretty important.  At any rate, what this pyramid does show is that there has to be a balance between ALL of these areas in your life.  Without that balance, you can eat as much organic broccoli as you want….if your outer red circle is toxic crap, you will feel like toxic crap.  And for relationships, this applies hugely to the relationship with yourself as well as others.

I didn’t realize it, but somewhere along the way, I was fighting my inner wisdom and had sort of misaligned my relationship with self.  I was at war with my self-acceptance, my natural beauty, and now I have this “disease” that is literally eating up my colon with its own acids.  Great.  It left me with many feelings of shame, guilt, anger, imbalance, confusion and discouragement.  The strange part is that throughout this whole process, I was and am a super happy person.  I love my life and my family and friends.  But it is so hard for me to allow myself to feel true, unadulterated joy.  I often stop myself from being 100% vulnerable or 100% free.  I get damn close!  But still I stop at 98%.  That’s my move!  I stop short.  Why??  I feel….undeserving for some reason.  I struggle with the concept that I am special and that I have a right to a good life because I don’t want to come off as an entitled jerk.  What makes me different from the person who is outside, right now as I type this, without a home, without someone to take of them, shivering cold and hungry?  I am a human, same as them.  To me, my joy and amazing life is somehow a smack in their face.

I also have never enjoyed the idea that I am not in control.  Of anything.  And everything.  :)  So when situations occur where I am not in control of my body or my surroundings, I become very anxious.  Toxically anxious.  I don’t want to go to a place where I have to surrender everything.  This was a completely foreign concept for me when I was first introduced to it.  Surrender?  Give in?  Never!!??!  I am an amazonian woman warrior and I can do ANYTHING.  Give me something.  I will dominate it.  Giving in felt like giving up and I had not once opened myself up to having an experience where I had to give in and surrender.  I refused to show any weakness.

This may seem like a jump, but I’ll bring it back together.  :)  My therapist had me do an exercise the other day where I had to invite different feelings into my body, including love, guilt and joy.  Inviting love and joy into your body is one thing, that was awesome.  :)  Inviting guilt??!  I have tried for so so long to push guilt out of my body that it was a strange guest.  But it was immensely powerful to do it.  I made a few realizations with the exercise:

1–I am really good at breathing now!  I am very effective at breathing into areas, thoughts….being breathed by them is wonderful as well.  And through yoga and ujjayi breathing, I can bring these emotions in and out of my body relatively easily.  So I have that going for me.  Which is nice.

2–There’s only so many parts of your body and consequently, only so many parts of your body where you can experience emotions.  As luck would have it, love and guilt were both felt for me in my gut.  Shocker.

3–Emotions and feelings can only last so long.  Some longer than others, definitely, but they are not with you forever.  Reminding myself of that and experiencing it physically was very eye-opening.  I tried to hold on to each feeling as long as I could but eventually it just went away, no matter how hard I tried.  I feel empowered by this knowledge and it has helped me in the practice of non-attachment (aparigraha or vairagya in hippie Sanskrit yogi terms).

The fun part is that I am in the middle of this process and that I am living life!  I’m going through this seemingly tough time working my way through an “incurable” illness. (I put incurable in quotes because I refuse to believe it, despite the Mayo clinic’s warning.)  But in the meantime, I am becoming a more whole, assertive, loving version of myself.  I think I’ve been pretty darn excellent in how I treat other people in my life.  I’m trying to allow myself the opportunity to apply that same kindness to me.  I am allowed to be me and to be happy.  I know that my purpose in life is to help others.  I’ve known that for a long time.  What I didn’t fully understand is something I’d heard a million times, I just didn’t absorb and accept it: in order to truly and effectively help others, I have to accept myself.  Which means having moments of pure, unadulterated joy.  Having moments of complete, utter sadness.  Knowing that giving in and giving up are two completely different concepts.  Realizing that I am unique and special, and that is okay.  Just like this poster.

you are unique

None of this makes me “better” than the person who is homeless in the streets, it just makes me different.  (sidenote: I know nothing about this anonymous street person or their journey….why was I feeling bad about them when they could be having a completely normal or even great day?)

That “thing” that seemed out of reach just a few weeks ago when I wrote the post on my patient history is coming into focus and I am happy about that.  I am striving to set myself up for success by being honest with myself and doing what is right so I can function at an optimal level.  It is only from a place of love and acceptance that I can fully help others.  It’s the patience part that is hard now.  :)

Well.  That was a load off.  I’m going to go process now.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

I was having an urge for baked goods (my kryptonite) so I made some muffins last night that turned out to be delicious!  I did use a 3/4 cup of flour (ahh!) but they were still super clean and tasty.  Not super sweet which was what I was going for, so you can add honey once you are eating them if you want.  Here’s the recipe if you want to try them out:

Carrot-banana-walnut-raisin Muffins adapted from the “Coffee & Quinoa” blog

Ingredients

¾ cup flour of your choice (almond or 100% whole wheat would be my suggestion)
¾ cup ground flaxseed
¾ cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp clove
2 ripe to overripe bananas
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup applesauce
2 medium-sized carrots, grated
½ cup walnuts (I just smashed them with my hands, you don’t want them too small)
some raisins to taste…..I didn’t measure them!

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, oats, flaxseed meal, baking soda and spices).

In another bowl, mash the bananas (with a fork is fine). Add the pumpkin, maple syrup and applesauce and stir until combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. I added in a little bit of water here, not much.  Gently mix in the grated carrots, walnuts and raisins.

Place muffin cups in tin and fill 90% of the way full with batter. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm.  Tasty!

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Love, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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