Monday, April 25, 2011

What, Me? Gluten-Free??

Last year in the spring, I experienced a sudden bout of severe vertigo that sent me to the hospital. The hospital filled me with fluids, ran no tests, sent me home with 3 prescriptions and told me to see an ENT. I do not particularly care for going to doctors, so I pretended the entire, very expensive experience didn't happen. That worked fine for me until about 5 months later when I experienced the same thing. This time requiring an ambulance to take me from the bathroom floor to the hospital. Again, same treatment when I arrived, fluids, drugs and "see ya."  However, this time, my husband agreed with the emergency room doctor and I was to see an ENT right away.

So I did. In the interim, while I waited for my appointment(2 months later), I felt like I was constantly in a brain fog. It was almost like I was on Benedryl. I felt like I was about to slip into another dizzy spell almost every day. When I finally got to see the specialist, he determined that my hearing was fine and so was my balance. The next, most-likely-to-cause-vertigo diagnosis was Meniere's Disease. While my hearing was fine, he explained, I could be experiencing loss and not know it. The test only showed hearing levels that day and didn't show if I was losing some quality yet. So, we scheduled the test, which was going to be 3 months more when all was said and done.

In the meantime, I was still in my fog. My options were the prescriptions they gave me, which treated the symptoms or take matters into my own hands. About that time, my daughter was experiencing back pain after certain meals and wanted to go on a Common Foods Elimination Diet. I decided to do the same, suspecting that rather than some disease causing my dizziness, it might be a food intolerance. We started the diet together and all my symptoms went away about 2 weeks into it. Was I surprised? No, not really. More like annoyed. Did this mean I was going to be allergic to something I liked? Was I seriously going to be inconvenienced by yet another food allergy in our house? Meals were already a bit of a challenge, so I truly wasn't cherishing the idea of having to custom cook for myself too. I love to cook, don't get me wrong, but at the realization of this possible diagnosis, I had a *really* bad attitude.

We determined after our 6 week parlay with nothing interesting in our diets, that my middle child was truly lactose intolerant. So we switched her to coconut milk products. This I could deal with. My son, whom I have written about before, cannot eat standard dairy fare either. So I have learned to work with this type of challenge before. Once we determined that one allergy for my daughter, we both did what is the worst move you can make when on that diet. We stopped testing foods and just started eating normally. So all that detoxifying we did was undone in a few days and I was experiencing brain fog again. Pretty stupid on my part. I know better. But I was so tired of my limited diet and having solved the problem with my daughter, I was no longer motivated to continue for me.

My testing came and went and lo and behold, I did not have Meneire's. So I told the doctor about my diet. He didn't scoff at it. He said it sounded similar to what a person with migraines would do to prevent migraines. He recommended that I see a neurologist about possible inner ear migraines. I dutifully set up my appointment (2 more months away) and sat back and analyzed the situation. I have been to neurologists several times. After gobs of tests, nothing has ever been shown to be wrong. I have been prescribed medicines and sent on my merry way. The medicines don't get taken, the problem resolves itself and I am thankful for good insurance. However, this time, I don't have good insurance. I have what one would consider major medical. A hefty 10K deductible that I had NO intention of meeting(although the two hospital visits had me well on my way the previous year). So after tossing the idea around for a while, I cancelled the appointment and set off on a new and much more interesting path; Alternative medicine.

I found a Natural Doctor(ND) in my area and went to see her a few months ago. She started me off on a detoxification diet. She suspects that my Adrenal glands are exhausted and after my detox, which was quite different from the elimination diet I had been on, all my symptoms were once again gone and I felt a lot better. Just recently, per her instruction, I started having some lab tests done. Blood work and various other tests to see how my body is functioning. I don't have the results yet, but let me tell you what I have been doing. My diet has been very limited. I am adding one new food every few days and watching for any symptoms that might arise. I am almost to where my Common Foods Elimination Diet left me. My ND told me to avoid gluten, dairy, sugar and caffeine. Good thing I already gave up caffeine, because giving that up too would have sent me over the edge!  In addition to my new food guidelines, she gave me a book called The Anti-inflammation diet which has tons of new recipes that I can try, using the foods that I have added back in. One of the foods it says to avoid is gluten, which I have been doing. However, they suggested that a little Spelt now and then is okay. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat that has far less gluten and the book stated that it was okay to have. I had avoided it up until that point, but since the book said it was okay...

Anyway, when I was at my local Earth Fare, I saw Spelt tortillas. Now I love tortillas. I love wraps, burritos, chimichangas and anything else that gives me an excuse to use a tortilla. So, I decided to try them. The gluten free wraps sitting next to them were hard and the spelt tortillas were soft... I like soft. I don't like tortillas that crack when you roll them up. So... I did it. I got them.  I went home and immediately made myself an awesome wrap with spinach and pesto and carrot sticks and romaine and goat cheese and I gobbled it down; very happy with my new discovery. The tortilla was yummy and was almost as good as the ones I make for my family. Two hours later, my body was not so happy. I discovered that Spelt is not okay for me. Dizziness. NOOOOOO!!!! I cried inside. Not gluten, not that!! Its okay when it might be a problem food, but I don't want to ban it from my life. Not when I fix everything for my family with it. The chocolate cake on the counter after Easter was hard enough to avoid due to my ND's ban on sugar, but the idea of NEVER having it? What about pancakes and bread and spaghetti macaroni and cheese...Oh the agony... what's a girl to do?

After my little rant(not little really), I decided I could handle this. I immediately pulled out all my alternative flours that I used to survive the diets I had been on and started to experiment. I know I can make a cake with that stuff, I know I can. I will figure out bread too, and tortillas. I am up for the challenge...right after my fog-headedness goes away and I can think again...

I will return to my ND in a week or so, after she gets all the test results back. Hopefully they will show what is going on with my body and she will be able to recommend some dietary changes, aside from staying gluten-free, that I can make to feel better. In the meantime I will research recipes and continue to add the other foods that I haven't had yet and muster up the gumption to have a good attitude about being...gasp....gluten-free.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Alternative Health Care...a thing of the past?

If you have used a midwife to have your children, seen a Naturopath for what ails you or visited any other non-traditional doctor for your health, you will want to watch what is coming down the pike in North Carolina.

Senate Bill 31, which clarifies the penalties for the "unauthorized practice of medicine," will basically criminalizes the practice of unlicensed forms of medicine, which includes the work of many naturopaths, homeopaths, herbalists, aromatherapists, and even some midwives in the state. It states that anyone who practices medicine or surgery without having been first "licensed and registered to do so" will be guilty of a Class I felony. While the bill is intended to keep quacks from practicing in our state, but it also prevents people that cannot get a license to practice in our state because what they do hasn't been "approved" as a method that can be licensed. Class I felonies in NC are the least severe kinds of felonies, but SB 31 will essentially make those who practice alternative medicine without an official, state-sanctioned license and permit, criminals of the likes of sexual predators and cross burners. Doesn't seem right, does it? If we choose to see a person trained in a particular area of expertise such as herbs or homeopathic medicine so that we can avoid traditional medicines, they will now penalize the person that offers that expertise. Its already difficult enough to get insurance to cover methods that do work for people, so we pay full price for that. But now they are going to outlaw the practice too. Soon we won't have anyone to choose because why would a person want to offer their expertise if they will be slapped with a felony charge for doing so?!
You can read a shortened version of the bill by clicking here.

Whether or not you live in NC, this bill is setting a precedent of intolerance for natural and alternative medicine, so it is important to oppose it regardless of whether or you live in North Carolina or not. The NC House is set to debate and vote for final approval on SB 31 at 7:00 pm EST tonight, April 4th.

You can reach the NC House to oppose the bill by calling (919) 733-7928.

You can reach Governor Bev Perdue's Washington DC office to oppose the bill by calling (202) 624-5833.

If you decide to call, please remember to respectfully express your thoughts. Ranting and raging is not going to help. Clearly state your opposition to SB 31 because it is taking away our health care choices and our health freedoms because it penalizes people who practice alternative medicine.