Tag Archive | PCOS

Choices, Changes

Over the last few years, I have moved from a Paleo type of diet to Vegan and back again several times. This blog had ‘From Paleo to Vegan in one easy midlife crisis’ as its subtitle at one stage.

The truth is, though, that it hasn’t been ‘one easy midlife crisis’ at all of course, it’s been more like a car with a faulty starter motor, so I lurch from one obsession to the next, and never quite seem to get anywhere.

Every year, it seems, I try to go vegan again.

Even going back to being properly vegetarian seems to be a challenge this time. But I will keep trying.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t know either. I know.

I’ve had to block several over-zealous vegans who insist on sending me graphic pictures of animals being brutalised.

I know.
I really don’t want to see it.
I really don’t want to eat it.

So why do I keep falling off the vegan ‘wagon’? Why is it so difficult to stay vegan?

I have personally justified it with regard to my own specific health issues, most particularly PCOS which comes along with insulin insensitivity which means that, contrary to the oft-repeated mantra of ill-informed vegans that “carbs are not the problem”, they really can be a serious, even potentially life-threatening problem for people who can’t tolerate them.

Not all carbs are equal, and not all fats are equal, but that discussion is for another post. Suffice to say, though, that even allowing for the insulin insensitivity issue, it’s no real barrier to veganism. Low, or at least lower carb veganism is possible, it’s just more of a challenge.

On an unrelated note, I’m finding it a little bit difficult to stay ‘Christian’, or at least keep up the ‘respectable’ middle class mainstream image version of Christianity that is sometimes confused with authentic Christianity.

I’ve actually been exploring paganism – firstly for general cultural literacy (I had so many misconceptions) and secondly because it is something that has fascinated me for years. I will post again with more details about that exploration and what I’ve found, what I’ve been able to love and embrace, and what I’ve had to reject and draw the line at.

To me (and what was communicated to me by my Dad – what he saw in the Bible and in Christianity), the core of the faith is clearly love, peace, joy, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and more love.

Matthew 12v7

But sadly it doesn’t seem to be what is commonly offered by the church. Certainly individual believers embody those principles and exude a genuine spirituality. But the church as a whole seems characterised by the very opposite: intolerance, unkindness, judgmentalism.

Why should this be?

In fact, these things are not unrelated at all.

Veganism is supposed to be about compassion, kindness, love for all creatures. And most of the vegans I have met in person do indeed embody the compassion they espouse. But veganism as a whole has without doubt been brought into disrepute by some of its most vocal members.

I completely understand the anger that vegans feel about people blithely and ignorantly allowing animals to be brutalised and killed just so we can have a certain taste and texture on our plate.

We have no excuse.

But those tastes and textures continue to persuade us to ignore what we know, to carry on along the path of least resistance.

But the anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some vegans continues to drive people away.

The anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some Christians continues to drive people away.

(Do you see what I did there?)

I think I know what the essential problem with Christianity is. It is the over-riding emphasis (at least in Western Christianity) on ‘right belief’ over and above ‘right living’ and ‘right feeling’. It is entirely possible to be a Christian in good standing with the church who claims all the ‘right beliefs’ and have absolutely no change of heart, absolutely no true spiritual experience whatsoever. But as long as the beliefs are in line with the doctrines your denomination emphasises, there is no reason to question the heart or the spirit. It is entirely possible to carry hatred in your heart while claiming to follow the God who is Love.

I think the same thing can be true of veganism.

As long as you maintain a vegan diet, and you are able to feel self-satisfied in that, there is no reason to question yourself, search inwardly, become more compassionate.

But I think I’ve said before that there is no ‘upper limit’ for compassion, kindness, love. All of us can always move forward, become kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more loving.

In the Bible, a ‘righteous’ man is defined not as the one who never falls, never makes a mistake but rather the man who ‘falls seven times and gets up again’. Proverbs 24:16

This year is probably the first time in maybe 15 years when I haven’t really managed to celebrate Passover/ Easter, count the Omer/ Eastertide or keep Pentecost/ Shavuot (the fact that they are all out of sync this year hasn’t helped). There’s a little voice in my head that wants to condemn me, make me feel guilty and miserable. But I’m not listening to it.

I’m not as observant as I’d like to be right now, but it is what it is – this is the season I’m in, and there’s not much I can do about it. The traditional Passover concludes “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This too shall pass, and perhaps next year I will be where I want to be with my religious observance.

I’m not going to kick myself either about repeatedly failing to be faithful to veganism. Honestly, I may never reach 100% total veganism for ever. But that’s ok. I’m moving towards it, I’ll keep trying.

And actually, as much as I can understand the wish that the whole world go 100% vegan today, every little helps. Small steps save lives.

If I fall down again, I’ll just get up again.

Don’t be discouraged.

Do whatever you can and know that it’s good, and don’t let anybody condemn you because you’re ‘not good enough’, ‘not vegan enough’, ‘not Christian enough’, or whatever.

It’s a cliche, but learning to love and accept and forgive yourself is the first and crucial step towards spiritual growth. And it’s probably the hardest.

But it’s never a wasted effort.

Don’t give up. 🙂

From my heart to yours. xx

 

Budget Healthcare

I know that we are supremely blessed out of all the world to have a publicly funded healthcare system. I am extremely grateful for it. In the case of my son, it saved his life… but only after almost taking it through misdiagnosis and negligence (see the page above on Type 1 Diabetes).

I don’t know whether it is the same across the board or whether my family and I have been particularly unlucky with bad and lazy doctors, but I could recount a catalogue of poor care and misdiagnosis. In fact, I think I will (indulge me):

  • When I was 12, I was knocked off my bike in a hit and run incident, causing a head injury and concussion (and actually who knows what else, as despite a litany of symptoms after this I have had no follow-up?) There was no room on the children’s ward, so I was placed in a single room off the men’s geriatric ward. I was allowed no visitors except at the ward’s very limited visiting times. I didn’t even receive nursing from the children’s ward. So to put it mildly, a horrible experience all round. (Incidentally, the police never investigated the hit and run either, so some guy who probably thought he killed a child – he didn’t stop to check – was just left to carry on with his life without so much as a caution.)
  • When I was 17, I went to the doctor reporting abdominal pain and a year of missed periods. This doctor had already missed my brother’s Crohn’s for more than ten years so I had armed myself with information. I suggested that I thought I might have ovarian cysts, so she sent me for a scan which confirmed my diagnosis, but I was told they were best left alone. I was diagnosed with Poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) but not told. I did not find out about this diagnosis until another doctor happened to find it in my notes 25 years later, despite having multiple miscarriages in the intervening period.
  • When I was 22, I had a debilitating throat infection with swollen glands which kept me off work for more than two weeks. The doctor refused to visit me. When I finally was well enough to go and see her, she told me it was ‘probably’ glandular fever but refused to write me a sick note for work. (Incidentally, I don’t think this was the first incidence of this illness, and I suspect it goes back to early childhood.) I remember getting in a lot of trouble for that!
  • In 2003 right after the birth of my fourth child, I seemed to have a recurrence of this illness which absolutely knocked me down with widespread pain, digestive troubles, and a host of other unexplained and apparently neurological symptoms. I can’t be sure whether or not it was the same thing or something different, as I was never tested for EBV (The Epstein-Barr Virus, which is the virus responsible for both glandular fever and tonsilitis.) I went to the doctor multiple times, only to be told that I was depressed! (what?!) Later, this bizarre misdiagnosis changed to indigestion (what?!) and IBS caused by stress (what?!) Lastly, she suggested Chronic Fatigue  (which seems quite bizarre to me as I never once mentioned fatigue as one of my core symptoms although it was present, it always seemed to me to be a secondary result of the illness, as is depression) but then told me she didn’t believe in it anyway and refused to diagnose it!! (what?!) Finally, after 13 years and several different opinions from different doctors, I finally got a diagnosis of so-called ‘ME/CFS’. A step in the right direction perhaps but not much help, and really on no basis at all.

Jackie commented yesterday on one of my previous posts on ME, drawing my attention  to some articles explaining the very fundamental differences between ME and CFS, and I will share them below. As I am sure I have mentioned before, the NHS has ignored the WHO’s determination that ME is a neurological illness, and instead has chosen – under the direction of a group of now largely discredited psychiatrists who like to believe that it is an imagined illness – to use their own ‘NICE’ guidelines which conflate ME with ‘Chronic Fatigue’.

CFS and ME Comparison Chart

CFS is Always a Misdiagnosis

ME v CFS – They’re Not the Same!

Reading through these important articles (and I recommend the Hummingbird Foundation as one of the few places where you will find reliable information about ME – see my health links to the right), I am struck by how easy it would have been to have sent me for a brain scan when I first got ill. Either it would have shown something and I could have received a correct diagnosis immediately, or it would have been clear that it wasn’t ME and further investigation needed to be undertaken to determine the true cause of the illness.

But the NHS does not routinely offer brain scans to people who present with ME-like symptoms. (In fact, I am still pushing for a scan relating to my head injury more than 30 years later because I strongly suspect pituitary damage, but I might as well be banging that head up against a big brick wall!)

To save a bit of money, the NHS lumps genuine ME together with unexplained CFS and recommends only a treatment which can severely damage people with genuine ME (although this may be alright for people with chronic fatigue that isn’t ME), with no regard whatsoever to the years of suffering and lives wasted. The same is true of people with clear Thyroid conversion issues, but whose TSH appears normal. (More to say on that another time.)

ME/ CFS/ Fibromyalgia (which may or may not be the same illness) used to be diagnosed by a process of exclusion. But when I went to the Rheumatologist and received the dubious new diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, he told me that this is no longer the policy in the NHS, but rather, a (mis)diagnosis is offered on the basis of what it ‘appears to be’. This is truly scandalous. So I was not tested for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s or Lupus, despite having an overwhelming list of symptoms that would warrant such testing.

When I went last week to my first meeting of the local Fibromyalgia support group, I was surprised to find a large number with multiple diagnoses including three with MS, and lo! When I looked up co-morbidities of Myalgia Encephalomyelitis, MS was listed as commonly occurring together with ME. But this is important – if you were once diagnosed with CFS but then later received a diagnosis of MS, CFS was a false diagnosis because the nature of CFS is unexplained fatigue – if it goes on to be explained, it ceases to be CFS. But if you had a diagnosis of ME and then later received a diagnosis of MS, they could be legitimately occurring together.

But this can only be determined by proper testing, which is not generally available on the NHS. The only choices available to an NHS patient are to fight and battle and shout and scream in the hope of getting the help you need (and risk getting labeled as a trouble-maker, or worse) or to get private testing done. Most people of course do not have that option open to them.

When my Dad was rushed into hospital by ambulance with heart failure, the front-line care appeared absolutely top-notch. We were all very impressed. But after being bullied into having an operation that he wasn’t strong enough to survive (for what nefarious reason I cannot determine), and having had a stroke on the table which caused a severe personality change, depression and emotional lability which made his last year hell, he was never offered any kind of aftercare. Physiotherapy was not even suggested until the week before he died, when of course it was far too late. Front-line care may be impressive, but the reality for the day-to-day care of living with chronic illness can only be described as poor in the extreme.

I don’t knock the NHS because I hate it. I love it, and I want it to continue and to improve, and I can only think that it has been mismanaged the way that it has for the express purpose of dismantling it and selling it off. I wish I knew what could be done to reverse the trend. But I think that patients can and must speak up when they receive poor care and demand better.

Fob-off Diagnosis (again)

About a month ago I decided to move GP surgeries to the other one in town, because after three years of being told – without any adequate process of exclusion – that I have ME/cfs with Fibromyalgia (although I have never seen a rheumatologist to confirm that diagnosis) and that nothing could be done for me, I had decided that enough was enough.

The first GP I saw at the new surgery seemed very young and inexperienced, and in fact he had never heard of one of my diagnoses – PCOS – (Poly-cystic Ovary Sydrome), although it is a very common condition, and he actually had to look it up on his little screen!

I discussed with him that ME is an illness that should only ever be diagnosed through a process of exclusion and I believed that had not taken place. I suggested a number of things I wanted testing, including pernicious anaemia and hashimoto’s thyroiditis, both of which run in the family. He stated that “everybody thinks it’s thyroid, and it never is”, which did not inspire me with confidence at all.

The next GP I saw was a very popular lady, and for good reason. I have never encountered such a friendly, compassionate doctor who was so willing to co-operate. She immediately referred me to Neurology to rule out MS and to check for possible pituitary damage after a head injury some years ago, and to Rheumatology to rule out Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogren’s, and with the promise of more referrals to come. Sadly, this wonderful doctor went on maternity leave the next week, so I will not see her again for a year or more.

Today I saw a third GP, who I assume was a locum filling in for the maternity leave. I had prepared a very thorough and detailed letter explaining my case and some of the things I wanted testing and why. This GP read the letter and immediately picked it apart dismissively, becoming increasingly rude and patronising, telling me that I shouldn’t be resistant to the ME & Fibro diagnosis, and that I appeared to be “angry for some reason”. It felt as though I had gone back ten years. I left her office in tears.

I am actually too exhausted from crying to go into detail about what she said and how upset and angry I am. But I can tell you that I feel more desperate than I have ever felt.

The previous blood tests for TSH (computer) says “no” so without an intelligent operator, I am faced with a brick wall. She actually said to me “some conditions can’t be helped“.

How is that possibly acceptable?

And I really just don’t know where to turn.

Trim Healthy Mama?

A few years ago the Trim Healthy Mama diet was recommended to me, so I read the book, and looked at the recipes, but found it too complicated and of questionable scientific basis, and so I never actually tried it.

But the recommendations keep coming, and I see that the diet has become enormously popular in the US, and has a growing following in the UK. I joined the UK THM group on facebook, which is friendly and helpful. (The main American group is enormous and far too high volume for me to keep up with).

One of the things that I find attractive, and one of the reasons it has been recommended to me again and again is that THM is good for keeping your blood sugar levels balanced – something that’s important for everybody, but especially those with a tendency toward insulin sensitivity, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes (and that of course includes women with PCOS who are susceptible to all those things due to the nature of the endocrine disruption that PCOS causes).

So I am investigating Trim Healthy Mama again. I think my book is with most of our other books in storage, which is frustrating. I have no idea when we’ll be in a position to retrieve them. But there is plenty of information on the web, including the facebook groups, if you want to follow the diet without getting the book, or before buying the book, if you decide to.

You might like to start with these:

http://gwens-nest.com/trim-healthy-mama-quick-start-guide/

http://workingathomeschool.com/2014/03/30/freeprintables31daysofthmmeals

The diet is based on the idea of separating carbs and fats, separating your meals, at least three hours apart, into S (for satisfying) meals which include good fats and only very low amounts of carbs, and E (for energising) meals which are based on limited amounts of good carbs and low fat. It is quite an appealing idea. There are also FP (Fuel Pull) meals which limit carbs and fats, and Crossovers. I never did discover what Crossovers are.

But I am not sold on the idea that 3 hours is sufficient for your body to switch from one primary fuel to another. I remember Atkins saying that, since our bodies are used to a carb-based primary fuel, it can take several days before ketosis – fat-burning – starts to kick in.

Another thing that I found in my notebook from when I read the book is a question about a quote the authors made concerning insulin: “Glucagon helps to halt insulin’s stimulation of fat synthesis” Does it?

I’m not sure the way insulin etc is described is quite correct. As I understand it, glucagon is a hormone that tells the liver to dump stored glucose (glycogen) into the blood, which would seem to be the opposite of what they’re saying, which again makes me feel that the authors don’t really know what they’re talking about. But then I’m no expert, despite dealing with Type 1 diabetes for the past three years.

Perhaps somebody more expert in the way of body chemistry can confirm?

On the negative side of THM is their recommendation of what are commonly called ‘frankenfoods’, allegedly natural but really not at all healthy and really rather fake food, processed ingredients such as de-fatted peanut flour, glucomannan, stevia and a bunch of other things.

Here are a couple of articles which question THM:

http://stevenandersonfamily.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/my-review-of-trim-healthy-mama-thm-good.html (the authors of THM are part of the Above Rubies network which is part of the Quiver-Full movement, so I am surprised that they would be promoting stevia if it is really abortifacient but its implication in infertility and miscarriage is something that concerns me.)

http://www.nourishingherbalist.com/4-reasons-why-im-not-a-trim-healthy-mama/

The claim that THM isn’t another fad seems a little bit nonsensical. And also, from a vegetarian point of view, I remember when one of the authors was promoting the raw vegan diet – I still have her book (and video)! There is no obvious accommodation for vegetarians or vegans in this new diet, it is very much meat-based.

So, read the articles, weigh it all up and decide for yourself. I’d be interested to hear from anybody who has tried it and loved it, or tried it and hated it 🙂

Veganism for Klingons

I had a little thrill yesterday, to discover that one of my favourite Star Trek people, Michael Dorn (@akaWorf) is a vegan, and we exchanged a couple of tweets last night. I have been thinking for a while about wanting to go vegan, and I think this might just be my catalyst.

You all know, anyway, that I’m basically a (Celtic) Klingon married to a Vulcan, right? 🙂 I do love my Vulcan, but if Michael Dorn said the word, I’d be off in a shot! Sorry, honey! ;-P

I have been vegetarian on and off for maybe 20 years, but probably more off than on while I was bringing up my children.

For now I would describe myself as a flexitarian, pescitarian. That is basically what I have been for the last few years. I eat fish occasionally (tuna and salmon mainly) but not meat, and I try to lean towards mostly vegan or vegetarian meals.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure I could commit to being a vegan permanently, although I would like to. I have tried to go vegan several times – I have made three concerted efforts:

– In 2009 I went on a raw vegan diet, and stayed on it for about ten weeks. While I kept to it, I felt pretty amazingly good, but I found it too much of a challenge to keep to, in terms of time and expense. (I seemed to spend all day in the kitchen and was constantly hungry.)

– In 2012, I tried to go vegan again – starting with the Vegan Society’s Vegan Challenge, to go vegan for 30 days, and kept to it for just over three months…. But I got really ill that time, more about that later.

– And then, this year, I tried to go vegan for lent, but failed about halfway through. Main reason for failure: chocolates on Mothering Sunday! To be fair though, I had a *lot* going on this lent, what with being evicted and all, so I definitely indulged in a spot of comfort eating.

I suspect that I might have had more success if I had been more prepared in terms of having a good stock full of vegan foods in the cupboard, and since the rest of the family are meat-eating, milk-guzzling, egg-lovers, maybe I need a separate space for my food and their food.

Here’s the health issue though: I got very ill in 2012, and almost ended up in hospital with digestive problems and suspected Crohn’s / Ulcerative Colitis (both of which run in the family).

I believe that it was due to re-introducing wholewheat / granary bread and soya into my diet after not having them for years. I’m obviously sensitive to them.

I suspected for a while that it might be a gluten sensitivity, but with experimentation, I have discovered that I can tolerate small amounts of bread and pasta (although for some odd reason, potatoes seem to be a problem, which is so unfair because I love them).

My quandary really is that, if I have to go easy on wheat, potatoes and soya, will I find enough to eat as a vegan (that won’t make me fat!)?

What was that?!

Yes, you read it right. Because I have PCOS, my body doesn’t respond well to carbs. I’m currently overweight, and would *love* to lose weight by going vegan, but believe it or not, when I went vegan in 2012, I put on a lot of weight! It seems counter-intuitive, but there it is.

If I need to keep off the carbs altogether, what could I actually eat? Would I be back to the raw food?

I’m not sure what to do, how to go about it, or how to ensure I don’t get ill again.

But I think I am going to try. I want to try. So any advice, websites, recommendations, tips, recipes or food ideas you have that might help me, let me know!

Not Vegan Anymore?

I’ve never heard of Alexandra Jamieson before today, so I don’t know how important or influential she is, but this article was drawn to my attention as somebody with vegan sympathies.

http://alexandrajamieson.com/im-not-vegan-anymore/

Let me say at the outset that I’m not actually quite vegan – I eat free-range eggs and even fish occasionally, so technically I’m not even vegetarian, you might call me flexitarian. I don’t drink milk if I can avoid it, but I have cheese rarely. I aim for vegan as much as possible.

But I have been vegetarian on and off for the last 20 or so years, and I was fully vegan for a few months last year. I even considered writing a book to convince Christians to become vegan.

I had two reasons to become reason. One was my own health, which if you’ve been reading for a while you will know is not good, and has been for over ten years. I have an as yet unspecified illness which is currently called ‘ME/cfs’. In short, my health is pretty dire. I am overweight and in constant pain. So I hoped that going fully vegetarian and then fully vegan would help.

It didn’t.

In fact quite the reverse happened. I put on even more weight and got even sicker, and my cholesterol was raised from the year before when I tried paleo.

I found that although I’m not coeliac, I can’t tolerate much wheat, so adding wheat and fake meats into my diet exasperated my IBS to the extent that my GP started to be convinced that it was in fact IBD or Crohns. My brother has Crohns so it was a real worry. But I found that as long as I scaled back the wheat and the fake meats, my bowels behave themselves for the most part.

I was actually much healthier on a paleo / primal diet. All the science that I have read on carbs and cereals convinces me that a cereal / carb-based (as opposed to plant-based) vegan diet is potentially very detrimental to health, especially if you have metabolic difficulties with carbs, as people with PCOS and other endocrine disorders do.

My second reason though was conviction that, regardless of my health, it is essentially wrong to take the life of an animal, and further, to take the produce of an animal who is kept in cruel and inhuman captivity.

I admit I don’t have the same strength of conviction when it comes to fish as I do for mammals, but I have no doubt that the methods required for mass rearing and slaughtering even of fish are quite different than those required for small scale rearing.

I have always, since I was a pre-teen, thought that it was cowardly of a person to eat an animal if that person was not willing to do the actual killing themselves. I know I wouldn’t be. Could I kill a fish? Perhaps. (I’m not sure, perhaps not. Probably not, thinking about it. If I saw a fish suffocating and struggling I would probably have to throw it back.) A cow? A pig? A chicken? Never.

Hypocrisy and cowardice are things which I abhor. So I try to limit my own. OK so it is currently limited to fish-eating. I have at least stopped eating my favourite prawn sandwiches (my non-kosher guilty secret) after discovering the slavery scandal linked to supermarket prawn supplies.

But Alexandra Jamieson’s article disturbs me. Relativism, looking for ‘your truth’ as opposed to ‘my truth’ is so convenient! It becomes possible to justify almost anything that way. But there is an objective truth here, that animals are abused on an, unthinkable, indescribable scale.

And this is the problem with health-based veganism.

If you are a vegan for health reasons, without the moral conviction, it is doubtful that you will stay vegan. Being vegan is hard. It’s awkward. It’s difficult. It can make you a social pariah, and eating in restaurants is a challenge, and it may not reap the health rewards you are seeking.

But if you look into the reality of the way animals are treated, if you spend time with animals and realise they have feelings, that they feel fear and pain, and suffer when they die and when they are held in captivity, producing milk in painfully inappropriate amounts, if you know that it is the right thing to do, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding as a vegan.