Friday, September 25, 2015

Wheat is the culprit

Last November I cut grains, sugar, dairy and caffeine out of my diet. That means that on most days of the week I didn't indulge in any of those things, but periodically I had each of them in turn as the craving hit me. Still, my sugar, grain, caffeine and dairy consumption has been very small for ten months now and I've noticed big differences in my energy, mood, menstrual cramps and weight. (Making these dietary changes has not been easy and has required large amounts of acupuncture, meditation, EFT, hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis and crying.)

But in September I decided to try a different experiment. On September 1st, I cut wheat out 100%. I had noticed that indulging in cookies caused me an arthritic kind of pain the next day, so I made the decision. I stopped letting myself have the occasional sandwich or burger with the bun. If I had a sugar craving, I had to satisfy it with gluten-free chocolate or pudding or ice cream (and I don't love those things). I started reading food labels and avoiding wheat-derived ingredients such as hydrolyzed protein, emulsifiers and caramel coloring. I stopped treating myself with breaded items like fish sticks and chicken patties. I cut wheat in all its forms just to see what it would be like.

To avoid feeling deprived and cranky, I allowed myself to start eating cheese again and organic, plain, whole-fat yogurt. So September has been the month of adding back some dairy, but cutting ALL wheat, 100%, no exceptions.

Results? My stomach feels so much better! All digestive pain has stopped. For years I thought I was lactose intolerant because eating dairy products always caused a stomach ache. So I carefully carried a lactose digestive aid on me at all times and took those pills whenever I had some cheese or ice cream. But the stomach aches still happened. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Now I know my problem wasn't the dairy; it was the wheat products I always ate with the dairy. It wasn't the ice cream; it was the cone. It wasn't the cream cheese; it was the bagel. It wasn't the cheese topping; it was the pizza crust!

Things make so much more sense to me now. My morning yogurt hasn't caused me discomfort because I don't have it with toast or other wheaty foods. Wheat was my problem. (And sugar, of course. Always sugar.)

My chiropractor confirms that wheat is extremely inflammatory, and inflammation causes all sorts of problems, only one of which is joint pain. So I'm done with wheat. In my newfound knowledge, I now walk by bakeries, fast food joints, sandwich places and pretty much any restaurant and think, "You're selling inflammation! And you're selling inflammation! And you! And you!" I'm full of horror at the amount of wheat Americans eat all day long: breakfast bars/cereals/pastries, pasta, sandwiches, cookies, fried everything, tortillas, wraps -- even the dusted seasoning on restaurant french fries. Some restaurants even add pancake batter to their scrambled eggs. My imagination fills with images of surging blood sugar and insulin levels as people nibble their way towards pre-diabetes. It feels endemic and never-ending. We're all surrounded by wheat. I want to cry out a Charleton Heston-like warning to the world, "Wheat is inflammation!"

I'm sure I'll calm down soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sick of summer

I've had enough of this Chicago warmth. I want the cicadas and crickets to shut up, the humidity to go away and the clouds to roll in. It's so BRIGHT all the time...come on, we're at the end of September now. I need darkness and it's time for autumn

Monday, September 21, 2015

"I don't consider myself elderly."

I was at a party on Saturday, talking with a group of women who were all over the age of 50. One of them had recently recovered from a terrible bout of food poisoning. It had taken her the entire summer to regain her full health because of complications. She looked about 65 or older, and she warned us to be careful of what we eat. At one point she mentioned that food poisoning can be especially serious for small children and the elderly, but included this statement, "I don't consider myself elderly."

I hope my surprise didn't show because she said it with complete earnestness. This elderly woman seriously didn't consider herself elderly. I understand that people don't like to think of themselves as old when it comes to appearance, activity, fullness of life and how others see them. No one wants to be old and decrepit. But this woman was speaking clinically about the effects of food poisoning on people of different ages. In strictly medical terms, she did count as elderly, and her horrible experience with food poisoning supported that. And yet this 65-year-old (or older) woman said to us, "I don't consider myself elderly."

I was barely able to pay attention after that. I kept wanting to ask her, "If you don't consider yourself elderly, what age do you consider elderly?" To my credit, I held my tongue and didn't say anything, but I couldn't get it out of my head. It reminded me of how elderly Baby Boomers are in danger of taking health risks because they don't think they qualify as elderly. Even Generation X doesn't seem to realize that we're middle aged as a recent story showed. It said that bicycle riding has increased, with the biggest surge in males over the age of 45. Of course, the article didn't use words like "middle aged" and "elderly" because these have (foolishly) become bad words in the U.S, but it reported that Gen Xers and Boomers are suffering more accidents and even deaths because we're riding as if we're still 25 years old.

This is the problem I'm talking about: if we stay in denial about our age, we are at risk of doing things that our bodies can't handle as well as they used to. It's stupid. The Baby Boomers' villification of age and their vanity about wanting to be young has become a public health hazard. I know how old I am and I don't have a problem with it. I don't color my gray hair, I'll tell anyone my age, I actually use the term "middle-aged" to refer to myself (gasp) and I look forward to my next birthday when I'll be 50. As I age, it's getting harder to hold my tongue when fellow oldsters exhibit denial about their seniority. I tend to upset my peers when I refer to myself as middle-aged because it forces them to consider if they fit into that category (they do). This is one way in which becoming an old woman will be fun. I'll get to help my peers face the not-so-terrible reality of age-ing. Why do people think it has to be so bad?

Yup, this is a good crop of gray hair.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dreaming of failure

One of the most annoying recurring themes of my dreams is being back in school. Sometimes I'm back in high school or graduate school, but most often I'm back in college. It makes me suspect I have a secret terror of being a student again.

This occured to me again tonight when I was watching a movie in which a teacher gives a student extra homework. A feeling of dread came over me. For a second a felt afraid of a huge homework assignment that there was no hope of finishing.

Maybe it's an indication of how afraid I've always been of being overwhelmed by life and having others demand too much of me. Also, when I was a student I used to be terrified of losing control of my studies and flunking a subject. In my waking life, those old fears are mostly behind me. I'm moving forward with my new business and feel confident that it's where I belong. This work feels right to me and I'm very excited about it. But at night I dream that I've fallen behind in classwork and am in danger of failing a course, or that I can't find a book for an assignment no matter how hard I look in the library. 

These dreams disappoint me because I like to think of myself as having a healthy view of failure, which is "So what?" I've failed at so many things in life and I expect I'll fail at several more, and so be it. I don't feel bad in front of others about things that didn't work out (such as my marriage), but these dreams haunt me and make me wonder what insecurities might be working under the surface of my consciousness.

Whatever these dreams indicate about my confidence, one result of having them is that whenever someone tells me she's going to graduate school, I gaze at her in carefully masked horror. Or maybe it's not so masked, especially if I blurt out, "Don't do it." I wish I could convince my deep, down, subconscious mind that there's nothing to be afraid of: I'm never going to be a student again. The time in my life when I was absolutely terrified of failing is over. Now I'm just slightly worried about failing.

Suicide Prevention Day

By the way: last week I celebrated National Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th by not wishing I were dead.

Monday, September 07, 2015

National Suicide Prevention Week

This is National Suicide Prevention Week and Sept. 10th is National Suicide Prevention Day. I'm actually ambivalent about suicide prevention (I feel equally strongly both ways). I believe people have the natural right to decide when they die, but I'm also sensitive to how irrevocable successful suicide is. There's no realizing it was a mistake and undoing it as you can, for instance, with marriage. But I think if someone is in so much pain that the only way he/she can see to end it is to kill himself or herself, then that's their prerogative. In a way, I'm pro-death because for many people life really does have too much misery and suffering. It's not worth it.

But here's the form of suicide prevention I support: if the prevention takes the form of treating someone for their suicidal ideation before they start to act on it. If suicide prevention isn't just grabbing someone before they jump off the bridge, but actually eases someone's suffering, then I'm all for it.

Are you unable to fathom how anyone could be so stupid and selfish as to kill himself or herself? Does suicide look like the most dumbass act you can imagine? Read this post I wrote last year that might give you some insight: Bipolar disorder, depression unhinge you from reality.

During National Suicide Prevention Week, I'd also like to link a poem about a woman who takes a different approach to preventing suicide. It's called "Blueberry Battle Scars," and after reading it I reflected on this: by choosing to not have children, I -- with my heritable mental illness --  saved someone the pain of having to be born.

The Ber Months

This is my favorite time of year: the months that end in "ber." My favorite month of all is December (because of Christmas), but I also love the autumn months that lead up to that. These days I'm in rapture because I made it through another summer, soon the hot weather will end and now all my favorite months lie ahead of us!

Yes, it sounds odd to some people that an atheist would love Christmas so much, but so it is. I guess I can love Christmas because I don't have a problem with religion or Jesus or any of it. Even though I don't believe in a god, that doesn't mean I think no one should. I call it the milk rationale. If I drink milk, I get a stomach ache, but just because milk doesn't work for me, doesn't mean I try to talk others out of drinking it. Believing in a god causes me more damage than good, so I leave it alone, but if it works for you, that's great.

I don't think the American Christmas has much to do with religion anyway. It originally had its roots in merchandising. The United States didn't actually recognize December 25th as a holiday until the 1800s and when it did, it was centered on products and commerce. And so it has been ever since, but Christmas is commercialism with magic to it, and a damn good party, so I dive into it every year.

Because I love Christmas so much, it's always a let down when December ends and we have to return to the non-ber months, but my consolation is that at least I still have January and February. I like January and February because I'm a cold weather person and I relish every snowfall, every gray day and every dip in temperature below 40 F (4 C). I like being able to pull out my big, down jacket, which I call my "tundra coat," and bundle up in scarves and gloves. Cold weather is my kind of weather.

Unfortunately, Chicago is still caught in the throes of summer today. It's 89 F out there (32 C) and I'm not happy with it. I'm holed up in my apartment with the air conditioner on, wearing little clothing, drinking lots of water with ice and hoping it cools off by Wednesday, which is the next day I absolutely have to leave my home. But that's okay. Let the sun sizzle. No matter what the temperature is, it's still September and Christmas is on the way!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

My new business!

I am very excited to announce the name of my new business that helps recent immigrants adjust to life in the U.S: Welcome Dialogue. Click on the name to see my brand new website that just went live last night! (Can you tell how excited I am?)

I work with educated professionals who have recently moved to Chicago and who want to improve their English, succeed in their workplace, become familiar with American social behaviors, and generally figure out this strange new culture. In short, I want to reduce loneliness and increase success. I have decades of experience in several industries and know American workplace culture. I can teach social skills and help newcomers make friends, find community and build bonds beyond their families and others who speak their native language. And, of course, with ESL teaching experience, I can help them improve their English and reduce their accent.

Businesses benefit from hiring me if they have people from different cultures who have challenges that are affecting productivity. I learn a company's processes, protocols and expectations, and train their English learners in communication best practices. Whether those learners need grammar lessons or a better understanding of appropriate business interactions, I work closely with management to reach improve communication and productivity.

Please share my new website, Welcome Dialogue, with Chicago business owners who have any kind of culture clash among their employees, as well as with individuals you know who are from another country and are struggling to feel at home in their new American life. Thank you! (I'm so excited. I'm passionate about clear communication, building community, reducing social isolation and, of course, grammar.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

September is PCOS Awareness Month

PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome and increasing numbers of women are being diagnosed with it. It's a hormonal imbalance that can cause problems with periods and make it hard to get pregnant. The most obvious symptoms are acne, weight gain, increased hair on the face, chest, belly or back, less hair on the head, irregular periods (maybe no periods) and depression. Many women develop multiple cysts on their ovaries, hence the name, but that isn't always the case.

September is PCOS Awareness Month and I want to support all the women who live with PCOS, which is a long-term challenge. There is a correlation between PCOS and insulin resistance, and the biggest risk factor is genetic, but no one knows what really causes PCOS.

I'm not impressed by the information I've found online about treating PCOS. It seems that doctors tell women with PCOS to lose weight, stop smoking and eat better, ignoring that weight gain is one of the symptoms of PCOS. A hormonal imbalance, which PCOS is, can cause huge cravings and energy problems that drive people to eat junk food and smoke. For the "treatment" of PCOS to include losing weight and stopping smoking is similar to this "treatment" for cancer: "Please go home and stop your white blood cell count from falling, decrease the growth of your tumors and increase your energy. Once you do those things, you'll feel much better."

Having dealt with the symptoms of my own hormonal imbalance, I feel for those who struggle with PCOS. I wish them all doctors who truly understand the roots of hormonal imbalance and who have a high level of empathy.

OPKS = ovulation predictor kits