Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Sin of Gluten-y

Just before New Year's I went back on the gluten-free dairy free (GFCF) diet. I'm making great progress with regaining my health. I have almost no headaches anymore- didn't even get my pain meds refilled last time.

I'm also doing Chi Gong, which is somewhat similar to Tai Chi. It is a healing art, adn you don't need to be strong or young or even flexible to do it.

So when I posted on facebook the other day that I was making a tasty batch of gluten-free dairy-free bread in my bread machine, i got lots of questions about gluten - what is it, why am i not eating it, should they stop eating it, and what's my recipe for bread.

My recipe is to buy a bag of Bob's red mill bread mix (available in many grocery stores in the organic food section or at ), add rice milk instead of milk and olive oil instead of butter, put it in the machine and wait 3 hours for extremely tasty bread. So much easier (and tastier) than when i went gluten free in 1994!

Many people assume I have celiac disease when I mention I'm eating a gluten-free diet. I do not feel obligated to tell them that I have a lupus diagnosis, and I prefer not to mention that diagnosis, esp. since my blood tests now say otherwise. So I just say (because I think words matter),"No I don't have celiac, but i have a history of other autoimmune problems, and this helps prevent a recurrence." It's not that I think I'm cured, I just believe that I am free from disease at this moment and i want to stay that way- and I know I have to be vigilant in order to stay that way. Not just in what I eat, how I manage stress, but also what I say.

But the interesting thing is Celiac is *also* an autoimmune disease! And according to the book "Alternative medicine" (future medicine pub.) 100% of lupus patients have food allergies.

As to why I chose the gluten free/ dairy free diet, it was originally suggested to me by an MD (who is a pretty progressive guy, is into nutrition and chelation therapy and other stuff that other doctors would give him a hard time for). I had a food allergy blood test and i did come up sensitive to wheat- and cheeses and milk. Other practitioners have since brought it up (after I fell off the wagon). I've done it 3 times now, about a year the first and second times, and it really works. My energy returns, my face clears up, my headaches disappear and other symptoms improve as well.

So if you're intrigued and wondering whether you might have a gluten sensitivity, and therefore could improve your health b y eliminating gluten from your diet, here's an article to check out:

and here's Bob's wonderful bread mix:

Carla Ulbrich

The Singing Patient: Author, Speaker, Humorous Songwriter and Entertainer - Carla's book "How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rocky Steps

One of the important parts of recovery is to celebrate every milestone. So even though it was a week after the event, today we celebrated my fabulous blood tests by going to Philly to run the Rocky Steps! I made it- i ran (well, jogged, but i didn't walk!) all 96 steps, not once but *twice*! whew!

It was a beautiful day and we got some pictures and even some video (the video is going to take a little while to retrieve from the cameras onto the computer and compile).
I feel I'm slowing reclaiming all my old superpowers of my youth. I look forward to going back to the steps someday later this year and running them two at a time. Maybe I'll even think of something else I want to do to mark the next milestone in health.

My milestones were much smaller after I had the stroke- I couldn't have dreamed of running stairs. in fact, at one point I was trapped in the house I was staying in because I couldn't get up and down the one stair that led to the outside world. I had people take pictures of me then, because I knew if I didn't, no one who hadn't witnessed it themselves would believe I had ever been so sick. I was so sure I would get well and look and feel good again that people would not believe I was ever so ill.

So back then, I would celebrate my victories like being able to wear shoes again, or seeing improvements in blood tests, or being able to get up and down the one stair and go outside by going swimming in the pool out back, or going to the beach with a friend, or going to the thrift shop (Florida's thrift shops are just amazing), or going to a concert.

I've got a great book I've been enjoying put together by a reporter and a photographer who spent a year interviewing people running the Rocky steps to celebrate various occasions, like recovering from cancer, or getting married:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What I Learned at the Conference

I spent several days in baltimore this past week attending a conference called "Thinking Outside the Box"- about re-designing health care. The conference was a joint project between School for Designing Society and Gesundheit! Institute, which is the brainchild of Patch Adams (remember the movie starring Robin Williams? This is the actual guy.) Yes, I met Patch, yes he's sincere, extremely bright, thoughtful, and well-read, and yes I got to speak directly to him about my questions and concerns. But that is not why I went.

I had a fuzzy agenda as to why I was attending this conference. I do not work in health care- I hang out in health care a lot (as a patient) and am acutely aware of the system's many shortcomings. I think I came because I got tired of pointing out its flaws and I wanted to hear people talk about solutions. Here is what I learned:

- there is plenty of pain to go around. Not only are the patients suffering, the doctors, nurses, and administrators are all suffering from an abusive, oppressive system that sucks the meaning and joy out of their life's calling. The health care providers are just as frustrated as the patients are.

- there is also plenty of creativity to go around, and lots of ideas. there is more than one solution out there. Doctors can leave and start their own practice. We could have community hospitals. (Could my community hijack our nearby hospital and fix it the way the folks at Nettlehorst took over their public school? I wonder! Maybe there's an opportunity to grab one of those abandoned hospitals in New Orleans and build it in the image of a real community hospital.)

-There are things patients can do to improve their own health care experience and to reach through the cloud of insanity and build a relationship with the doctor: do something silly to grab their attention, hug them, ask them how they're doing, bring them cookies, compliment them, or do whatever you would do in order to get anyone to like you, white lab coat or not. Further, instead of assuming everyone is a jerk until proven otherwise, it is just as accurate but more constructive (and compassionate) to say everyone is lonely and hurting until proven otherwise.

-Single-payer health care (universal care provided by the government) would not only be more humane, it would actually be far less expensive than what we have now. It's not an option to just not pay for some people, because we're already paying- only it costs more because they wait until it's a crisis (therefore expensive) to seek treatment.
The humane thing is also the economical thing to do.

-there were so many amazing souls at this gathering that there wasn't time to hear from every one of them. People who care deeply and are passionate about making a difference. It's good to know you're not alone.

-If you're parking in Baltimore, bring lots of quarters. :)