Thursday, December 17, 2015

Something is wrong

As I mentioned in my last post, shortly after my Christmas party last Saturday, I "fell ill".  I use quotes because it wasn't so much coming down with a virus or something as it was a flare-up of an ongoing condition that I have been trying to come to terms with.  Essentially, later on Saturday evening and well into Sunday, I became so dizzy and lethargic that I could barely move.  I stayed in bed all day Sunday and slept for most of it.  I did manage to get up and go into work on Monday, although I was pretty "foggy" for most of the day and as the week has progressed, I have continued to improve.  There is still a certain amount of "fogginess" present as it very rarely recedes completely any more.

For many years, I have been struggling with allergies, asthma and various skin problems, starting with eczema as a child, progressing to psoraisis and now lichen planus.

When I was in my early thirties, I was infected with a pathogenic strain of E. coli through "dirty dining" before the introduction of the DineSafe inspection program. Although it wasn't fatal, it was definitely painful and apparently rare enough that there were only two practitioners in Canada at the time who were licensed to prescribe the antibiotic required to treat it. Fortunately one of them was right here in Toronto, so I was able to receive treatment quite quickly.

The upshot of the infection and subsequent treatment was that my digestive system was effectively wiped clean and I was told that I would experience digestive troubles for the remainder of my life. Not liking the sound of that and being used to eating and drinking whatever I liked, I chose to ignore what I was told and continue on as I was.

Over time I started experiencing periods of a sort of dreamy detachment whereby I would suddenly feel like I was in a dream instead of living in reality. I could still function and interact with the world, but none of it felt real. I don't know how to better describe these episodes. I wasn't exactly dizzy, although I would experience a bit of vertigo if I was moving during one of these episodes, however it would dissipate the moment I sat down.

As years went by, these episodes became longer in duration and more frequent and unfortunately, my doctor dismissed them for many years until she finally relented and decided that it was some sort of allergic reaction, and since my eczema had morphed into both psoriasis and lichen planus, she sent me off to both an allergist and a dermatologist. Both specialists were very good at treating the various symptoms I presented. My breathing is now under control and I have some great topical treatments for my skin as well as medication to treat my allergic reactions when they occur.

The problem is I feel that these are all just treating symptoms and not the root cause and my "brain fog" episodes are more extensive than ever! I decided to start researching on my own to see if I could find out more information about "brain fog" and what could possibly be causing it.

To make a long story shorter, everything seems to point to the digestive system, specifically something called the "Leaky Gut Syndrome". Essentially, it is the lining of the intestines becoming damaged through infection, poor diet, stress, etc., allowing food that is not completely digested and broken down into recognizable nutrients to pass through into the bloodstream, causing the immune system to attack the incompletely digested food particles as foreign objects, creating all sorts of bodily reactions (including eczema, psoriasis and brain fog).

Although the Wikipedia entry in the above link doesn't give much credence to Leaky Gut, further reading, specifically "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and "The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet" by Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett have convinced me to try at least some of the prescribed foods.

I am convinced that after my E. coli treatment, I never gave my digestive tract time to fully heal and re-colonize with healthy bacteria and I have been slowly damaging it further ever since. It makes sense to me that the worsening symptoms I have been experiencing over the years are caused, at their root, by my immune system over-reacting and essentially attacking food as it would a disease. And since my immune system has been compromised by a damaged digestive system, why not try to fix the problem at its source and allow my intestines to heal?

To that end, I am taking December 24 through January 10 off work and after Christmas, I plan to start the GAPS Introduction Diet and see what happens. I figure it's best to stay close to home, at least to start with! To track my progress, I am starting another blog, A Digestive Diary, to act solely as a daily log of my weight and how I am feeling through each stage of the diet. If you are interested in the GAPS diet and want to see how one person is faring on it, please feel free to follow along.  I will make the new blog public and set up a link to it from here once I actually start the diet. If it ends up not working for me or I feel too badly on it, I will stop, resume eating a balanced diet and continue my research for answers.

But, I have great hope that it will achieve, if not a cure, then at least a significant improvement.  One of the things the GAPS diet relies on are probiotic foods, especially lacto-fermented ones as well as live-culture yogourt and kefir.  Happily, I have been planning on getting into lacto-fermentation and the making of my own live-culture yogourt and kefir has been intriguing me for some time now.  So, now I have a real reason to get busy with it.

My plan is to document what I am doing here on this blog and use A Digestive Diary strictly to chart my progress.  For the first little while, I am sure I will be posting a lot of GAPS-related items as I go about getting things set up and organized, but I am hoping that once I establish a routine, I will return to posting other things, such as winemaking, gardening and canning.

Thanks for sticking with me and wish me luck on this crazy journey!  In the meantime, life goes on and I have a freezer full of meals to carry me through to after Christmas.  Watch for upcoming posts on making and canning chicken and beef stock as well as making sauerkraut.


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