Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year, New Balance

The onset of this year had me focusing on my health.
Having dealt with several illnesses last year,
I'm attempting to unravel the mystery of what's been going on in my system.

The major issue was that the skin on my fingers began itching, swelling, and literally peeling .
The inflammation was so bad that it was difficult to do much of anything with my hands.
It was painful and fairly debilitating.
I won't even show you the worst pictures, but here's what they looked like a few months back.

My initial thought was that it was from the antibacterial liquid I would sometimes use in the van,
when soap and water wasn't available.  But it was only used a few times a month, if that.
Then I thought maybe it was some developed allergy to something I was eating.
We eat real, scratch food and nothing with preservatives, dyes or artificial anything,
so it was a stretch to think food was a factor, but I wasn't sure what else it could be.
Chemicals were ruled out immediately, because I make my own cleaning products
out of everyday items like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.
Our garden is organic, so nothing to worry about there. 
It became clear to me that the problem was systemic
and it would take some digging to figure it all out.

Now, this part of our conversation is a little personal,
but if it'll help someone out there feel better, I'm all for sharing.
I thought about my general health in the past few years and it has been pretty good.
I eat well, exercise daily, rest when I need to and have an optimistic attitude about life.
One thing that did change in the last year was my potty time.
I used to be as regular as the clock.
Every day, about 1/2 hour after rising, I'd be doing my business,
and I mean, I was in and outta there in 20 seconds flat.
Then I realized, over the last year that changed.
Sometimes I'd go a whole day or two without going.
Lest you think this is too much information, 
let me assure you that it's key to the story.

When I thought back, I'd been prescribed antibiotics several times over the last year,
both for my skin issue and for two bouts of sinusitis.
It was all making sense to me now.
I know from personal experience how antibiotics can screw up your immune system.
My Lil' Guy is the perfect example.
One reason for his autism, is the overuse of antibiotics when he was younger.
His gut never recovered from the barrage of meds that killed off all the good guys.
We're still working on correcting the balance.  It's an ongoing battle.

"Antibiotics are particularly harmful to the gut flora. Recent studies have shown that antibiotic use causes a profound and rapid loss of diversity and a shift in the composition of the gut flora. This diversity is not recovered after antibiotic use without intervention."

Now, I rarely have stomach problems, as long as I stay on the straight and narrow with my diet.  
But these new symptoms really threw me because they pretty much stopped me cold.
I guess God knew that it had to change my life for me to pay attention.
My swollen fingers interfered with my gardening, so I finally sat up and took notice.  
No one messes with my garden time!
But, here's the thing-

"You don’t have to have gut symptoms to have a leaky gut. Leaky gut can manifest as skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, heart failure, autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid (Hashimoto’s) or joints (rheumatoid arthritis), mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, depression and more."

Because I've lived this for 8 years with my son,
I know it to be true.
If you ask most parents with kids on the spectrum,
they'll tell you the same thing.

Little did I know that learning all I have about the gut-brain connection would help me down the road.
And in helping myself, I can help others.
Here's a fabulous article on the subject.

I'm starting my third week off flour, sugar and chocolate.
It hasn't been easy.  I really miss semolina pasta.
And between you and me, I think I'll be reintroducing dark chocolate 
into my diet in another week or so.

I used the gut healing broth for 2 weeks
and am still eating very cleanly.
I began taking a probiotic a week ago, 
as well as caprylic acid
to aid in the healing of my gut flora.
I still have things I want to try to make things better.
But, look at my fingers now.

I'm making progress.
It hasn't been easy giving up these foods, even though it's a temporary measure.  
I've never had to diet before and my skirt is off to those who have to limit foods to maintain their weight.
I wasn't used to being hungry.
It was a challenge, and I'm pretty jazzed that I've been able to do it this long.
It also helped me realize just how addicted I am to carbs.
So, even if my hands remain healthy when I reintroduce some of my favorite foods 
(read pasta, bread, sweets),
I will be sure to be vigilant in the amount of these foods I allow myself 
and remember to add extra fiber to my diet whenever I can.
The balance is vital to my overall health.

This morning I have my annual checkup.
I'll be asking for particular tests to see if my hunches are right.
I'll let you know how it goes.

For more on leaky gut, read this
The journey began here.