Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What Helped?

If I have to think about TR's journey with colitis I would have a very hard time pinpointing exactly what it was that helped him the most.

When he started taking steroids in the summer of '10 the specialist he saw was convinced that the steroids alone would not be able to put him into 'remission'.  Rather the hope of the steroids was that it would help to reduce the inflammation and enable a less strong drug (but with less side effects of steroids which can only be used short term or you get seriously addicted to them!) to be able to control this disease.  She told us that food would not make a difference and that his colitis was in very very bad shape.  In fact she gave us very little hope at all.  He would be on drugs the rest of his life.  If we were lucky the steroids would help pave the way for another drug.

In the beginning of the steroids it was great.   He felt better than he had in a very long time.  But it didn't take very long and his pain was back.  I think it was about halfway through the treatment (I think it was about 8 weeks altogether).  That's when the new diet began and while it has not been smooth sailing all the way through I would say it worked!

In the beginning of our new diet (you can read about the foods we didn't eat here) we were very careful.  No pop.  As little sugar as we could handle - I don't think I even made homemade sweets for a very long time.  If I made a dessert or snack I used honey.  We switched to natural foods like butter and pure maple syrup.  I made homemade ice cream for a treat sweetened with honey.  We used honey to sweeten our tea and coffee.  I bought natural cane sugar and experimented with different kinds.  We used very little of this sugar but if I did use sugar for something this is what we used.  We tried very hard to limit canned goods (I think we only used canned tomatoes or homemade canned goods). We avoided most vegetables from the store (for pesticide exposure) and tried to use as much from the garden as possible.  I could go on but I will some it up with this: we ate whole foods, greatly limited any processed food, made it ourselves.  We bought meat from local farmers.

If we went visiting TR would notice almost right away.  He tried to eat the best food that was available and sometimes I brought our own food - but he would still often leave in pain.  Or be in pain the next day.  So we didn't eat away from home very much.  TR's job wasn't very stable back then and he started looking for a different job.  I remember thinking as we approached every ad with the thinking of what he would eat.  All jobs that would take him out of town were not possible.  We didn't stay for potlucks at the Church.  Picnics were very hard to do spontaneously as I had to prepare all the food we were bringing.  No more hotdogs and smores for us.  No more quickly stopping in at the grocery store on our way out.

But we were thankful and we're still thankful.  He could have been on drugs.  He could have been suffering severely.  But he wasn't.  And he was getting stronger.

On top of the food changes he also added vitamins and supplements.  The main ones that he always had were alfafa, vitamin D.  He has experimented with a multivitamin but the taste of it was so awful that he just couldn't swallow it.  Here is a post I wrote on how he takes pills.  For a while he would notice it immediately if he didn't take his pills.  After a while the reaction slowed down so that if he forgot for a few days he wouldn't feel it for a week or so and then it would hit him.

What about now?  Now we eat out.  (by out I mean out of our house :)  We go visiting and he can eat their food without too much problems.  The other week we actually bought (natural) hotdogs for an impromptu picnic!  He hasn't taken his alfafa in weeks and he hasn't noticed.

He still struggles.  Fatigue is his biggest enemy right now.  But how he is now is so different than how it was a couple of years ago.  He is stronger.  His body doesn't fight against him as hard as it used to.  We're still looking for some more answers and ways we can improve the health of all of us.  But it isn't as all consuming as it was back then.   And we are thankful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This Culture We Live In

I wish many times that my children did not have to grow up in this culture.  There are many reasons for this but for the purpose of this post I will just give one reason today.

The Food.

Or rather, the imposter's sitting on the grocery shelf that look like food but really . . . they're not.

I was reading about margarine this morning.  And let me tell you how thankful I was that it was butter on my toast!  But I grew up on margarine.  Butter was for special occasions like Sunday Faspa or to use in Christmas baking.  For one it is expensive and my parents didn't have a lot of money.  But it's also very normal.  Almost all my friends grew up on margarine.  When we got married I bought margarine.  Now I buy butter, but when we first switched over it was incredibly hard to buy butter.  It is expensive.  It hurts the wallet.  Does it really make a difference?

But I bought it and now it's normal and the thought of margarine is repulsive.  But in the beginning I really had to fight against the culture's ingraining to my thinking.

And I find it that way with every switch I make.  And when I go visiting people have foods that I remember eating and enjoying.  Foods that make me question, 'maybe I can eat it just this once?'  And sometimes I do.  I don't like being rude about things, but I'll often try to eat the healthier stuff that's there but sometimes it is just plain hard to refuse it because I used to love it.

Other times it is actually quite easy to not eat something I used to love.  Certain patterns have been changed in my mind now and I find it easy to say no.  I used to love new years cookies.  LOVE.  After we changed our diet I could hardly imagine the new year without them.  So my Mom made me some and I ate them and I loved them.  This last year my sister made some and brought them over and the smell of them was repulsive and I couldn't imagine eating it.  What changed?  I changed.  I used to love Pepsi.  Drank it every day or almost every day.  After I stopped drinking pop I craved it.  When TR would open one I would want one too.  Now most pop is disgusting to me and I don't want it.  I have one sip and I'm done.  Occasionally I can drink a ginger ale but mostly I don't even want fizz anymore. 

Okay so what am I trying to say?  I guess it boils down to this.  If you are struggling with your diet and wishing that you ate healthier.  If you read my posts about our diet and feel bad that you still have so much in yours that I've taken out - I really want to encourage you to relax.  Take it one step at a time.  Make changes.  Sometimes even make hard changes.  But don't beat yourself up about it.  I understand how hard it is to change when all your life you've eaten this way.  It's hard.  It hurts the wallet.  Sometimes you crave the things you don't want to eat anymore.  That's okay.  I'm here to say it gets easier.  And it takes time.  We've been making changes for over 2 years and there's still things in our diet that I'd like to see replaced.  I find it's been a work in progress for me.  Some people are able to make complete changes right away.  But for us it's been progress.  So relax.  And then make a change.  Just one change.  You can do it!!!  See how it feels.  And who knows?  Before you know it it might become easier.  And you might be feeling better.  And you might not mind that it costs more.  (I'll try to do a post on the cost it's been for us soon :)  But please don't feel that we're perfect or that we have this healthy eating thing down pat.  We don't.  We're still learning and changing.

For my kids I hope that they will grow up to love healthy food.  That they will have good memories of eating healthy food.  That they won't grow up craving bad foods for special occasions.  I hope that they will grow up to like fermented foods and that the taste won't be disgusting and hard to swallow like it is for me.  That it will be normal and good to do fasts and cleanses and that they will read labels and be aware of the way food is processed.  Mostly I hope that they will be healthy and strong despite this country and culture we call home.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Results and Raspberries

While we have been waiting for a local naturalpath doctor to come home from vacation TR went in and got some blood work done.  He had quite a few tests done on his blood and last week (or was it 2 weeks ago? . . . ) he went in for the results.  And they all came back normal.  The only thing that showed up was a slight dairy allergy - which we weren't surprised about at all.  He didn't show any signs of being allergic to wheat.  So now we just keep waiting and see if the naturapath can find anything, although I am a little suspicious that his problem might be in the gluten free flour mix I was using . . . I hope not!  But it is quite possible.  Until then I haven't been using the gluten free flours for anything that TR will be eating unless I know he's had it before without a reaction.  For example: he reacted to the cookies so no cookies, but the gluten free brownies were fine, so I've still made those.

We picked raspberries again yesterday and it might be the last time.  I have to say it would be nice to have a break from picking but it has been such a huge blessing!  We have so much in the freezer, I've dehydrated some, I've made some fruit leather, I've canned some juice, I've fermented some (more about the fermenting in another post :)  I am so thankful that my Mom has so many bushes and so little use for them herself :)  And I am also very thankful that my kids have been doing so well when I go out there.  My Mom has often been working when we've been there and the kids have just entertained themselves.  Fresh berries, grown local and organic  - for free!  We absolutely love raspberries and now we can enjoy them all winter long too.

Today I am really hoping to make sauerkraut! I bought 2 big cabbages from the farmers market and I think today is the day :)  My Mom gave me a stone crock used for fermenting vegetables that was my Grandma's and I am so excited to use it! I don't like sauerkraut to be quite honest.  But that's besides the point!  It is healthy and if I make myself eat it maybe I will grow to like it?  I didn't grow up eating sour or fermented foods and I really have to say that I can hardly even swallow yogurt.  BUT maybe I can learn to like it.  I hope!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

You are what you eat (& digest!)

Why did changing our diet 2 years ago make such a big difference?

A few years ago I honestly didn't give too much thought to what we were eating.  A very good friend of mine who loves me very much loves to tease me about my misconceptions about food and how crazy she thought I was consuming so much sugar after my first 2 babies were born :)  But God is so good and He has slowly been teaching me and helping me overcome my misconceptions.

I used to think that disease and what we eat were unrelated.  Of course I realized that smoking or second hand smoke could cause cancer.  That obesity could cause diabetes and heart problems.  But what I didn't think was that what I was eating would hurt me.

Since that time I've learned that I was wrong.  Very very wrong.  I was astonished to go through  my cupboards and read the labels.  I was astonished to go grocery shopping and bypass all my old foods.  That first shopping trip I left the kids behind and took my time.  I read all the labels.  Skip. Skip. Skip. Skip.  most everything I used to buy went back on the shelf.  But I was happy to find that there were some good alternatives and now I know exactly what to buy and it takes a "normal" amount of time.  By normal I mean how long it takes any Mom!  My kids are learning that not all food is equal.  Chloe often says "we buy this because it's organic."  Haha!  But I also hear a lot of "can we buy ____?" and it's usually something that I don't want them to eat but marketers make look very attractive.  And then I have to say "I'm sorry but that 's not healthy, they use a lot of chemicals to make that."

So why exactly is all this food bad for us?  Why can't we just eat it in moderation?

The research out there is getting more and more extensive and I really don't want to go into it too much because then I would want to make sure that all my facts are straight and have a source to back it all up - but I will give you the basics of my understanding.

Life begins in the intestines.  What we eat goes to our stomach.  If we don't chew properly or use enough saliva when we're eating our stomachs have a harder time breaking it down.  The more we enjoy our food the more easily our body digests it.  (cool huh?!) Eating fast is harder on our system, eating slowly is easier.  The real work begins in the intestines and if our intestines are not working properly our whole body suffers.  A lot of people with an inflammatory bowel disease are nutrient deficient because their body can't absorb what they're eating.  You can eat all the right foods but if your body can't absorb them, all those nutrients just end up in the toilet.  Another thing that needs to happen is the elimination of wastes.  Our liver is very important for getting rid of toxins - and so is our  . . . you know . . . bowel movements.  Overloading our bodies with toxins and harmful substances makes it harder for our body to eliminate them and they end up building up in our system.  Most foods in our culture are hard on our bodies for various reasons which is perhaps another post.

Chewing is just one way that we break our food down.  There is a host of helpers within our body and without them our body just can't function properly.  Most disease comes when we're mistreating our body and feeding it junk.  Ever looked at the label of what you're eating?  Ever looked those things up?  It can be pretty scary.  Artificial flavour.  What exactly is that?  It could be a multiple number of things but you can bet you can't grow it in your garden!  Do you remember my post on the pineapple juice?  Here is an excerpt:

The pineapple juice was the blue menu choice. 40% less sugar. Right there my flags went up. The pineapple juice we usually buy is 100% pineapple juice not from concentrate. How do they reduce the sugar from that? So I read the label. Pineapple juice (not from concentrate), water, fruit pectin (contains maltodextrin, corn syrup solids) citric acid, potassium citrate, natural flavour, malic acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) turmeric (colour) sucralose (15mg per serving), caramel colouring. 

Okay how natural is that?  Does our body really need all these things?  Do you know that MSG can be labeled as natural flavour ?  I think we all know by now how harmful MSG is to our body.  And that is just one ingredient on the list.  What about the corn syrup solids?  What does that do to our body?  How does our body get rid of all these non-foods we're putting into it?

The truth is - it doesn't.

And it hurts.  Our body suffers.

And we often think it's normal.

Do you get headaches?  Do you have aches and pains?  Do you have gas and bloating?  Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel anxious?  Depressed?

Could it be that what you're eating is hurting you? 

Yes!  It could be absolutely true!  I am learning more and more how serious it is to feed our body properly and what exactly that looks like.  I am guessing that I will probably be learning about this my whole life.  When I'm 60 I'll probably look back and say "wow, I can't believe we used to eat that!" about what we're eating right now.  But that's okay - it would be impossible for me to eat perfectly right now.

Sometimes I get very frustrated and overwhelmed.  But I will leave you with that which is my constant reassurance.

This is not my home.

This is not my home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  :):):):)

Heaven is my home and when it is my turn, when my house is ready, my body will be perfect.  I won't be looking at labels.  I won't be questioning ingredients, how it was processed, what soil it was grown in, how long it was in transport, all the fuel emissions that were emitted as it was being transported and what that's doing to my breastmilk that I feed my baby (which is another post altogether!).  And for that I praise God!  This trial is temporary.  I'm going to do all I can to learn about how to feed my family as healthily as I can.  I'm going to do all I can to keep TR's colitis in check while we're here on this earth.  But when it gets me down I am thankful that one day this struggle will be over and our bodies will be perfect.  And the food we eat will be perfect.  Thank you Jesus!

p.s. I realized that it's been a while since I've done a lot of research on the additives to food and so hopefully soon I'll be taking the time to research it again.  Look for more posts coming up on that soon :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Diagnosis

I realized recently that I've never actually posted the story of how colitis entered our lives!  So here it is, nearly 3 years later :)

Our second child was born in March 2009.  Right smack dab in the middle of "busy season" for TR.  Usually the winter months are much busier for him and this year wasn't too bad but by March it had picked up for sure!  I remember thinking that a planned induction would be nice just so I could guarantee that he would be there :)

What I didn't notice was that TR was not doing well.  Not at all.

I was complaining of pregnancy problems not even realizing what was happening to him.  And it still fills me with grief that I didn't really notice.  All I saw was that my back hurt, my sciatic nerve was making my life miserable and the baby never let me sleep.  I didn't notice that TR was losing weight, he was in pain and the bathroom was becoming all too familiar with him.

When Ben was born TR was there, thankfully, but not for long.  We came home from the hospital less than 24 hours after he was born and TR stayed long enough to help me get him in the house and then he was gone again.

It was easy for me to think that all this working was the reason TR wasn't feeling well, the reason he was losing weight.  But then summer came and things didn't change.  I thought maybe he just wasn't eating well (if you know us you know the things he liked to take with him to work :)  I tried to convince him to stop eating so many sweets and so much pop - but mostly I was just concerned about getting some more sleep and wishing he'd have more energy to help out with the kids.  He would come home and crash.  He was always tired.  I wondered why he couldn't help out more.

Thankfully TR knew something wasn't right and went in to find out what was going on in his body.  I think that maybe it was in June or so that he initially went it.  I think it might have even been several appointments - my memory of this is a little fuzzy (I was getting up for 2 kids okay :) When the doctor took a bunch of blood and ordered stool samples I started to take notice.  Was he really sick?  Could it be that something was really going wrong here?  When they ordered the colonoscopy I stopped being blind.  Thankfully I still wasn't super worried here (I say thankfully because if I had been it wouldn't have helped and I probably would have been doing a ton of research which honestly until you have a diagnosis can be very scary).  After all I'd never even heard of colitis and we were still young.  Whatever it was had to be minor and easy to fix.

In November 2009 we headed to our nearest city for the test, taking 9 month old Ben with us.  TR had to do a fast and drink some nasty stuff to clean out his system.  I remember thinking how thankful I was that TR was so capable, so easygoing about it.  It hardly seemed to phase him.  And he said that once the initial hunger wore off he felt better than he had in a long time.  After he was diagnosed it actually made sense why the fast helped.

I hated that feeling of watching him walk away for the procedure.  It felt a little scary and out of control.  Ben was so cute and did so well, even though I refused to let him crawl around on the hospital floor :)  He charmed another patient who was waiting for her turn and really made her day.  She just couldn't get enough of him and I remember feeling thankful that I had brought him with, if only to brighten this unwell woman's day.

After TR was done he was really out of it.  I asked him questions and he answered them, but later he couldn't remember talking to me or even what he had said!  It was so weird but the doctor said that was normal.  The paper the doctor gave me said "no cancer" scribbled beneath a bunch of other words and that's when it hit me.

This could have been serious.

In fact, when he was talking to us later he said it was most likely Ulcerative Colitis and I actually felt relief.  I knew what cancer was and that was bad.  I'd never heard of UC before so how bad could it be?

After we came home and did some research I realized just how bad it could be.  And according to the doctor TR had it bad.  His whole colon was inflamed.  From the rectum to the entire large intestine.

So that was how he was diagnosed.  They sent us home with prescriptions and a lifelong sentence to be tied to them.   It was heartbreaking watching the man I love try to take pills when the smallest pill can choke him (due to his narrow throat).  It was heartbreaking to know that his body was fighting against him and we knew of nothing that could stop it or slow it down.

But the story doesn't end there!  We have an amazing Father who gave us a great gift and for that I am thankful beyond words.  Less than a year later we had changed our diet and TR has now been prescription drug free for 2 years!!!!!  He still has ups and downs and the downs are hard, but we are learning how to care for his body and I have great hope that one day his energy levels will be soaring again!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cream Substitute

I think I mentioned in a previous post how TR has been unable to have cream lately.  At first when he told me it was bothering him I was a little worried how it would work to take something else out of our diet - but it has actually been just fine.  The kids and I have been eating it still but we hardly go through any cream now which saves some $ :)  Here is how TR has been substituting:
  • Instead of cream on his cereal he's been having applesauce.  
  • I make ice cream out of coconut milk
  • He had fresh raspberries with coconut milk 
That last one had me concerned for a bit.  When I came home with fresh raspberries and knew he wouldn't be able to enjoy them with cream and sugar like we always do (and wait for with great anticipation) I was sad.  But then I remembered the coconut milk and he loved it!  I am so thankful that we have access to so many kinds of food :)
  My girls picking raspberries at Nana's

Friday, August 3, 2012


I don't know how many of you readers have experienced the frustrations of food sensitives, lately we've been experiencing them far more than usual.
TR has always been sensitive to dairy.  For a while he could have whipping cream but not milk or cheese.  Organic cheese seemed to be okay and raw milk was okay.  But then he started getting a reaction from whipping cream.  And the cheese was starting to bother him.  He's had reaction to butterscotch chips (the worst reaction he's had until lately), walnuts and hazelnuts.
Then the really strange reactions came.
He reacted to pan fried chicken and rice.
He reacted to pizza made with soy cheese and toppings he'd had before.
He reacted to fresh chocolate chip cookies.
What kind of reaction?  His throat feels tight, like he's choking.  His chest hurts and feels like it's closing in.  It's hard to breathe.
After a few hours it has gone away and he's fine.  But in the midst of it . . . not so pleasant. It makes him tired.  It makes him very afraid to eat.
We just can't figure out what it is that's setting it off.  All the ingredients that I used were ones he has had before in a different meal before with no problems.

What is going on?

A naturopath I spoke to suggested that it could be a combination.  He's okay with food A and B separately but not together. So he went in and got a bunch of blood work done and when this naturopath is finished vacation then he will be going to see her with the hopes that something will show up and we can figure this out.  It's not a whole lot of fun when you're afraid that something you used to eat might now make you hurt.   I'm so thankful that although these reactions have been hard, he hasn't had to have prescription drugs or any other medical intervention.   It could've been worse and we are thankful.