Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My routine as of 09/18/2013

I said I would post this last week, sorry for it being late!   I've had people ask what I'm doing to help with my liver and overall health and I decided to write a post about it.

What I do is always evolving.  With new information everyday, I always see room for improvement.  And the fact is, I'm trying to fix something that's broken, so it's kind of trial and error for me.  Prevention is the key!!! This is why I try so hard with my daughter to prevent her from getting to this damaged point.  She's very susceptible to my diseases and to Celiac (see previous posts), so I'm really trying to teach her young what's safe for our bodies....

For now, I can say what I've been doing, but I worked up to these things.  I began with research.  I had a skin autoimmune disease (lichen sclerosis).  The ONLY thing my doctor told me to do was use this steroid ointment that in fact caused as many problems as it supposedly helped.  So I was searching for another way to actually HELP.  Then I was suddenly diagnosed with Stage 2 Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC)- another auto immune disease, this time of the liver.  And I was also having other skin issues- turns out to be Eczema (suspected to also be AI).  All these combined along with major fatigue, I was feeling lost and out of control.  Not controlling your own body down right stinks and I felt like it was falling apart around me.

But I took my health into my own hands.  Many of the 'mainstream' doctors just prescribe a pill that doesn't actually fix anything.  Just lessens symptoms, but may cause other problems - but there's a pill for that as well...And so it goes.  But read my earlier posts on this blog and you will find link after link to studies that show it doesn't have to be this way.  There are doctors out there of both western and eastern medicine that agree that pills are not the answer.  Even highly esteemed graduates of top ivy league universities with an MD know that pills are not the answer.  It's not just a 'hippy' thing anymore.  It's becoming more and more mainstream, I would guess it won't be long before this way of life is not just for those 'radical' people.

Sadly, even once the information reaches the masses, there are, and will, still be people that poo-poo it.  "It's not scientific because it's not a pill, a man-made chemical.  There's no way that NATURE can possibly fix this, or prevent it.  There's no way that eating 'heart healthy' grains is bad for you! It's just not possible that my family doctor doesn't know what's best for me.  It's ridiculous to think that INCURABLE diseases are cured with a healthy lifestyle!  It just doesn't make any sense, and that way of life is too restrictive for me.  I want to be able to eat pizza, Eggo Waffles and Chips Ahoy cookies!  Just make a pill that fixes it so I can have my cake and eat it too."

It doesn't work like that.  That old saying 'You are what you eat' is so true.  If you put junk, chemicals and poison into your body- you will pay the price eventually.  Maybe you won't get liver disease or celiac.  Maybe instead it will slowly hit you over time and you will have dementia in your old age.  Or maybe it will hit you as lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes or any of the other nearly 200 AI diseases out there.  There are studies that have shown major improvement and even CURING of these diseases.  I've talked to a girl here in my city that CURED herself of lupus after years of suffering by making lifestyle changes similar to what I do. It can be done, but it does take commitment.  This is the sticking point for many.  People have flat out told me they'd rather eat how they want and just pay the price later.  And if that's how you feel, then so be it, but make that choice with complete and full information and DO NOT force your choices on another person.  People partially don't change their lifestyle due to way it would 'appear' or the way people might talk about them and their extremist way.  Those people make me sick.  Choosing to eat healthfully is a good thing, no matter what.  Influencing your children to eat healthfully is a good thing, no matter what.

So what am I doing exactly?  And is it helping?

First, I think it is helping A LOT.  I am not so tired anymore and I am busier and more active than I've ever been.  I'm happier than I've been in so many years.  My outlook is positive and I believe I will be the healthiest I've ever been in the next couple of years- despite liver disease.  (And yes, even depression, anger issues and all sorts of mood issues have a strong link to your diet).  My liver tests are much better than they were and even my skin conditions RARELY have flare ups now.  Life is definitely better.  I virtually KNOW that I will not leave my daughter at a young age.  I am not worried that I cannot actively participate in life.  I know that I am a healthy and active mother and partner and I will continue this way for as long as I make it happen.  The key is to keep working hard on this.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them"
----Albert Einstein

My Routine:
Every morning I make a green drink.  It comes out to about 24oz or so.  I blend some combination of the following (all organic):
Big handful of baby spinach or baby kale
aloe vera (juice or freshly cut inner leaf)
whole lime (skin and all!)
frozen berries or peaches (something frozen)
Alcohol Free Milk Thistle extract (very important for the liver)
fresh cilantro or parsley

I also eat an apple nearly everyday- very good for the liver.

I eat A LOT of salad (much of the same veggies in the drink)- sometimes even 2 in a day in addition to the drink.  Squeeze an orange for 'dressing' and get some extra vitamin C.  Fresh fruit and vegetables have to be the primary focus of the meals.  What I've read is that many times AI diseases trigger or are aggravated by vitamin or mineral deficiency- so this is where all the whole, raw foods come into play.

Favorite salad right now:
Baby spinach
uncured prosciutto
orange slices and some squeezed for 'dressing'

sometimes add one or two:
dried cranberries
alfalfa sprouts
carrot shreds

Also, for veggies I cook, they are still very crisp.  Fresh asparagus just to the point of turning bright green is still very crunchy and the taste has developed.  Same for fresh broccoli or green beans.  Over cooked veggies lose so much nutrition.  Also, I don't steam or boil- all the vitamins are lost in the water.  I have waterless cooking pots (really any pot with a tight fitting lid will work).  Heat on low, no seasonings needed or oils or anything.  Just cook till color develops.  Try not to check too often, as natural moisture escapes every time the lid is opened.

I try to be sure my meat and eggs are pasture raised, wild caught, grass-fed: whatever is appropriate for that species.  Corn fed, factory farmed meat is not healthy.  It goes back to 'you are what you eat'- if the animals are eating poorly, so will their meat and eggs provide poor nutrition.

Of course, it's not about being perfect.  Most people stick with an 80/20 rule.  I am probably more like 90/10- While I'm 100% no grains, I do have sugar and other not completely healthy options sometimes...I do make occasional fun treats for my daughter (all grain free of course, but not necessarily super healthy- still healthier than the packaged junk tho!).  Having no fun will lead to wanting of the 'bad' stuff....Can't have that! You can eat healthy and still have a treat that is reasonably within limits.  We do go out to eat sometimes, just try to minimize the damage with good choices.

We absolutely eat no grains.  We limit potatoes, but do have a sweet potato occasionally and very rarely gold/yellow potatoes.  We limit refined sugar. No sodas.  VERY LIMITED juices.  Very limited soy.  We eat some legumes, but not all that much (though we do have peanut butter fairly regularly). Limited dairy (though my daughter tends to have cheese and milk).

I have been told it's too expensive to eat like this, but it's really not.  I get very few items in the inner aisles of the grocery store.  Not buying all those bags and boxes of "food", really opens up the budget for more fresh, whole foods.  Which is what most of my basket ends up being.

Of course food is only 1 aspect of health.  We also need to build a strong body.  So I do some hard workouts every week- like kickboxing, weightlifting, etc.  I also do pilates or yoga regularly to help with flexibility and building the core.  Running is great cardio that I incorporate on a regular basis.  But also, I find places to work in a few minutes here and there.  I bring extra shoes (I normally wear high heels at work) so I can get up and run the stairs a few times throughout the day.  I work on the 4th floor, so this can add up.  Also, our parking garage is 6 stories- that's 12 flights of stairs each way.  I try to do that 3 times a week, 3 trips each time (36 up and 36 down).  It only takes a few minutes each time, but it definitely seems to make a difference on my cardio performance.  Stairs are like jumping rope- you get a lot of bang for your buck time wise, but it requires less coordination!

I know it seems counter-intuitive, but forcing yourself to get up and exercise INCREASES your energy.  AI diseases are so good at zapping our energy, finding ways to increase it is so important.  And when you feel better, it is easier to keep going.  Objects in motion tend to stay in motion...

I also take a lot of vitamins.  My liver doctor helped to work out the doses; PBC especially makes it hard to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K), so those need to be taken in larger doses.  I also take a lot of Vitamin C and B vitamins.  Additionally PBC puts me at risk of osteoporosis, so I take a lot of calcium.  Lastly, I take Alpha Lipoic Acid, slowly increasing over time.  ALA has actually cured AI liver disease in previous studies!  And I'm also taking Urso...For now.  I will continue to take it until I can have a solid history of my liver being healthy.  I'm only 1.5 years into this PBC journey, so it will take more time.  The good thing is that I only take it about 75% of the time now and already I have some hair regrowth! And my liver numbers continue to improve.

I'm a single mom of a 4 yr old, going to grad school, working full time, have an active social life and I have 3 AI diseases; yet I feel better than I have in years.  I really, really believe so many people could control or cure their chronic illnesses if they just had the right information and then put it to use.  It makes me so sad when I see people suffering and taking pill after pill and not getting any better.  I'm not against medicine, there are definitely times it's needed (especially for acute situations), but chronic diseases are not cured with a pill.  If they were, they wouldn't be chronic. They are managed, some better than others, but no pill will cure a chronic illness.

I hope I've helped those that have asked for my info.  Of course, I'm just one person and I'm not a doctor.  Talk to your doctor.  Get second and third opinions.  Go to alternative medicine doctors.  Read all the studies.  Take what I say with a grain of salt, make an informed choice that's right for you.  I can only just say what's working for me.  If you want more details, please message or comment.  I'll be happy to share!