Archive for the ‘diet’ Tag

The Medical Response to my Autoimmune disease   Leave a comment

This blog was recently published on The Mighty website.


The main cause of the current medical response to my autoimmune disease, which is not exactly the fault of the medical professionals who are working with me, is that there is still so much we don’t know. There are factors at play in the bodies of many people with autoimmune disease that haven’t been discovered yet.

What I would like, aside from feeling better, is an acknowledgment of this fact.

When you have been in the treatment process long enough, sometimes that is all you can expect, and all you want. I have received this kind of treatment at times, and my wish is that every patient would receive this kind of care. When I find this kind of respect, I stay with that doctor.

However, most of the time, the medical response that I’ve received over the past twenty years is some variation of this: “Your lab work is fine. Therefore, you are fine.” There is rarely awareness that lab values don’t tell the whole story.

The medical response to my autoimmune disease and the symptoms that go along with it often depends on where I am in my relationship with the current doctor. At first, the physician is attentive, involved and above all, confident that she can fix my problem and get me feeling better.

As the months or years go by, she is still concerned, but what happens eventually? Once the professional has tried every treatment she knows to fix the problem, that’s when my problem changes. Then I don’t have the problem, because she has fixed it for me. Now, if I’m depressed, fatigued, anxious and not sleeping well, it’s because I am a mother of three children, and we all know that having children just makes you tired.

The medical response has included five or six special diets and several medication and supplement protocols intended to eliminate the root causes of my autoimmune disease. I don’t deny that there are systems in my body which are not working optimally; in fact I have no doubt of it. Unfortunately, what has been tried has not been enough to resolve the problem.

What is hard is working in a months-long process of fully implementing the diet, the supplements, the tests, the lifestyle choices and the medications, only to find that the side effects of the process cause me to feel worse than before.  Once I get off the regimen, I am right back where I started. Thankfully, most of the time, although not all of the time, the side effects go away once I stop the protocol or regimen or diet.  I am out the money I spent, of course.

So, the medical response to my autoimmune disease, while well-intentioned and logically backed, does not actually fully fix my problem.

I know that the treatments and regimens I have tried have helped many other people. I agree with the research my doctor and I review when we make choices about the next thing to try. I know that eating Paleo is good for you and most people feel great off grains. I don’t, even when I’m off grains and sugars for months. There must be other factors at play that are causing the treatments I’ve tried to not work. But no doctor or lab tests have ever been able to pin them down.

It’s discouraging.

The net effect of the usual response adds to the struggle instead of taking away from it, because if the doctor has done all he can, there must be something wrong with me. If the diet didn’t help me, I must not have tried hard enough. I should have kept adding more supplements. Perhaps I was not fully compliant with the diet. Maybe I just needed to relax.

In this journey, respectful treatment goes a long way. I saw an ophthalmologist twice, after seeing my regular optometrist for repeated eye redness that started after I had a bad winter virus, the kind that causes headaches, fever and light sensitivity. Between the two of them we had tried antibacterial eye drops, antiviral eye drops, steroid drops, tea tree wipes and plain eye wipes. One of them said that eyelash mites were the problem; the other said they weren’t.

I went to the ophthalmologist to follow up. When it came down to it, he told me he could refer me to another specialist, but that in his opinion, the redness was an autoimmune inflammation that could not be fixed. He did not know why. And he did not have any other ideas.

That is what I needed to know: not other ideas that weren’t really related, not excuses for why the treatments weren’t effective, not fairy tales about how if I just tried one more prescription, it would be fixed.

There’s not much satisfaction in not getting better. But there is a sort of joy that comes from being treated with honesty and respect.

Posted September 10, 2018 by swanatbagend in health

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Should you Give up Eating Lean Red Meat?   Leave a comment

A recent study from Purdue and the University of Texas shows that eating lean red meat as part of an otherwise healthy Mediterranean diet does not have major health risks.  An article by Amby Burfoot of the Washington Post stated that the study evaluated risks of consuming red meat, which, as anyone who’s into nutrition knows, has been on the outs for a while when compared to healthy oils, plant-based diets, and chicken and fish.

The diet followed 41 adults who were overweight.  Along with the Mediterranean diet, at different periods in the study the individuals ate either 200 or 500 grams red meat per week.  The diets were the same in calorie value and balances of carbs, protein and fats in order to make sure that the amount of red meat consumed was the only variable.

Not only did the red meat not cause any negative effects to the levels of high-density lipoproteins, triglycerides, insulin or glucose, which is interesting enough, the study noted that greater weight loss occurred during the 500 gram red meat phase of the diet than during the 200 gram phase.  That’s right, greater weight loss with more red meat.

Not only that, during the 500 gram red meat phase, the study participants experienced a greater lowering of “harmful high-density lipoproteins.”  I haven’t looked the study up on PubMed to see if any other significant findings came out of it, so I’m obviously not qualified to evaluate the overall effect of red meat on one’s diet, but the point is–the Post couldn’t list one negative thing about eating red meat.

However, the title of the article was “You might not have to give up (lean) red meat,” and the final sentence stated, “It appears, modest amounts of lean, unprocessed red meat don’t appear to have major health risks.”

Why can’t the author say that eating red meat caused something good to happen?

Maybe it’s because we all know that red meat is bad for you.

So we can’t admit that it might be good for you.

If you haven’t already decided to disregard every fleeting dietary recommendation issued by the nutrition gurus, now might be a good time to start making your own common sense decisions about what to eat.

Posted August 29, 2018 by swanatbagend in diet

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What is Cooking For?   1 comment

I’ve been forced to examine this question over the past months as I have been doing the GAPS introduction diet.  The diet’s aim is to heal the digestive tract and it requires you to prepare basic foods from scratch, including yogurt, clarified butter, salted and toasted nuts, and many others.

At the same time, while my family has been doing most of their own cooking, since they are not following the GAPS intro diet, I have been managing the schedule of what they are eating as well, shopping for their food in addition to mine, and supervising the cooking and preparation to some extent.

And of course, all four of us have been dealing with the mounds of dirty dishes that are created by cooking meat stock and making three meals a day (times two!) from scratch.

I have realized that I have internalized the advertising and ideas in our culture, even though in general I fight to resist that.

I personally think that cooking should be pleasant and enjoyable.  Food should be nutritious and appetizing.  But honestly, looking at flyers from the grocery,  TV commercials, and product packaging, it’s not hard to conclude that really, the main thing you need to know about food preparation is that it should be convenient.

Recently, I got an email from Kroger advertising their Clicklist service, which is apparently now improved so that you can place your order online and then pick it up within hours, instead of having to wait until the next day.  The email conveys the view that not only should you not have to cook, you shouldn’t even have to shop.  All you have to do is place your order online, and then relax while store employees get it ready.  You drive up to Kroger and they load it straight into your car!  All this is normal, right?  This is what you deserve.  This is how things should be.

Procuring food and preparing it should be convenient–because you can’t afford to waste your valuable time actually cooking real food.

That seems to be the message.  But I wonder if this view is not realistic.  Or perhaps it’s one of those ideas which allow you to get the consequences of your choices.  I doubt that any advertising is going to tell you what those might be.

What is it that we are doing that is so important that we can’t raise, purchase or prepare nutritious fresh vegetables and fruits, locally raised meats, eggs, bread?  So pressing that we can’t cook these foods ourselves, but we must outsource almost all of the preparation of what we intake to sustain our bodies and our lives to large companies who don’t even know us?

I’m not saying that you are a moral failure if you don’t cook every meal from scratch.   I believe in outsourcing any food preparation that doesn’t drive my cost too high and that doesn’t require me to feed myself or my family ingredients that will cause us mental or physical health problems (substances marketed as “food” that do cause mental and physical health problems abound, but that is another blog post).  Also I like to cook and many other people don’t.  So if you don’t like to cook, that’s fine.

What I object to is our culture’s view that cooking is a waste of time.

When did other responsibilities become more important that sustaining and nourishing our bodies?

What is so important about our activity that we cannot utilize real foods to heal our illnesses?

When did our lives become so full that there is no time to prepare a meal and eat it together?

Why is convenience more important than just about every other quality of food that you could mention?

Cooking is not an obstacle keeping you from a better life.

Posted January 21, 2017 by swanatbagend in diet, food

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Supplements that Have Helped A Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder   Leave a comment

I write this post in the hopes it will be helpful to another family and another child.

I have several children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum.

We’ve had the opportunity to utilize the wisdom of a biomedical doctor, and that added to my own research and all the supplements and therapies I’ve tried, has been helpful.  I sometimes wished that there had been a way, however, to get a personalized recipe, in advance, of which supplements and therapies would be the most effective, and just try those!  It would have been great to avoid cost, time and misery on things that didn’t work.  However, life doesn’t give its secrets away in advance, does it?

So, because I have seen an immense change in my nine-year old over the past two plus years of treatment, I would like to mention some things I think are most  helpful.

First, let me give you a profile: My nine-year old is incredibly creative and intelligent, very sensitive, highly irritable, very grouchy and sometimes difficult to get along with. He tends to have a chip on his shoulder and to find it difficult to forgive and natural to hold a grudge.  (OK, I admit it, the negative portions of this description can also by applied to myself; guess he comes by it naturally.)

Disclaimer: what I suggest here won’t permanently solve your problems.  But, it’s still worth sharing, as I can definitely say I can’t imagine the child’s life now without these several supplements.

First, diet is important.  Unfortunately I don’t know which diet will be most  helpful to your child.  We were gluten and casein free for 15 months and did not see definite changes.  When we went back on gluten we didn’t see changes either, so we aren’t still eating that way.  Eating MSG free and avoiding food coloring and corn syrup, on the other hand, has made a  huge difference in decreasing irritability and hyperactivity, so he has a better place to start from.  My other commonsense thought is cook from scratch as much as possible because of all the additives in prepared and processed food.

Then, supplements.

Fish oil: We use two kinds, both are Nordic Naturals brands.  I know, these products are expensive.  However, they are good for so many systems in the body, I think they are worth paying for.  We use the children’s strawberry flavored DHA soft gels, actually a double dose.  Also, we use Nordic Naturals’ Ultimate Omega  lemon flavored liquid.  Within a week or so of starting that, my son became markedly less irritable and more agreeable.  Again, taking down the internal stress or whatever it is he’s living with every day, helps him cope with the other daily challenges of life, whether they be academic, emotional, or social.

Magnesium: We use Source Naturals magnesium citrate.  It comes in capsules and I put it in applesauce with the other capsule contents and mix in.  Again less irritability,  better able to sleep, less stress, etc.

Lithium orotate: This little capsule is a mood stabilizer, and I guess a lot of people are deficient in it, as many are in magnesium, because it has certainly helped in that area.  We buy Complementary Prescriptions brand from

Vitamin E can be helpful too, but not in too high of a dose.

GABA: Another calmer.  We have been happy with Solgar brand.  My son’s occupational therapist noted that he was calmer and more focused after starting this, and she asked us what we had changed.  High five for GABA.

I wish I could give you the laundry list of all the other supplements we have tried.  Believe me, there have been many, probably 3 or 4 times the amount listed here that we are still using.  He is very sensitive to any change and to any new supplement or medication.  For example, we tried Nasonex for his congestion and found after two months that it literally made him depressed.  Quick change there.  Other allergy medications have unfortunate side effects as well.  So, I keep a record of what we are taking, and anything we change.  Also, when we change something, if at all possible, I change nothing else for at least three weeks.  It can be that long or longer before a side effect appears.

If you have a child on the spectrum, ideally, I’d suggest finding a biomedical doctor.  If that is not possible, do your own homework.  Just keep in mind all people are different, so you may get different results with your child.

But here is a place to start if your child is anything like mine.


Posted October 17, 2014 by swanatbagend in mental health, parenting

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