Blog SLACKER!!

August 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm (Uncategorized)

OK… So I went to all of the trouble of taping and blogging through my fasting experience, but then I didn’t finish. I left off on the last day! What a slacker. So just to give you an update, I did finish my 14 day fast back in May. I broke my fast with fresh juices at the clinic, which I continued for two days. Then they switched me to raw food, for a day, before I started on steamed veggies and grains again. I lost a total of 23 pounds, 8 or so I gained back within a couple weeks of going home. They recommend that you stay at least half as long as you fasted upon finishing to refeed properly. I ended up going home a couple days early, mostly because my husband was cracking up without me, but also because they were going to make me change rooms and I just had no interest in doing so. My dad happened to be in the area and so I called him to come pick me up.

So I had bloodwork done on the last day of my fast and it came back better than I could have ever expected. I went in anemic, with lots of protein in my urine, and a sed rate of 45 (inflammation marker), and I came out normal, well, almost normal. I had normal blood cell counts, no protein in my urine, and an only slightly elevated sed rate at 26. All of my numbers were better than they had been when I was on 4 medications! Stay tuned to see how I hold up…

Overall, my experience at True North was very good and I would highly recommend it to anyone with or without medical issues who would like to improve their health.

http://www.healthpromoting.com

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Water Fasting Day 13

May 24, 2010 at 6:36 am (Uncategorized)

So, I’m still here. I haven’t eaten for 13 days. I considered breaking my fast yesterday, but a convincing doctor assured me that it would be in my best interest to continue. He said that each day beyond the first week is exponentially valuable, especially for someone with my condition, and since I’ve come this far I should make the most of it. So I am still planning on fasting for 14 days. Tomorrow will be the last day of my fast. I’m feeling better so the time is a little easier to pass, but it still ticks by desperately slowly. I can’t wait to get some food in my body and get my energy back, but I’m especially thrilled to be getting home to my family this week. I’ll have new tests done tomorrow so my next post should have a medical update. Cross your fingers.

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Water Fasting Day 11

May 24, 2010 at 6:25 am (Uncategorized)

Time is dragging slower and slower. I’m and insomniac now, which appears to be typical for fasters, but it makes the day seem even longer still. I am not feeling very well and I am tempted to end my fast early at 12 days. To most people, going without eating for 12 days seems like a long time, but around here, it’s kind of on the short side. I don’t want to wimp out, but I’m anxious to get home to my family.

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Water Fasting Day 7

May 18, 2010 at 4:27 am (Uncategorized)

I can’t believe I’ve made it a week. I can’t believe I have a week to go! The estimate was that I should fast for 14 days. I know that sounds like a long time, but some people here fast for 30, sometimes even 40 days. I think I would go crazy. The craving for food does leave you, but the time definitely does drag on. I had blood drawn today so I’m anxiously awaiting the results, hopefully tomorrow. I hope this is working! When we get those results, I’ll talk to the doc about what he thinks the appropriate length of my fast is (hopefully not longer than 14 days). I’m happy to have the opportunity to do this, thanks to my wonderful and supportive family, but I’m anxious to get home to them. Love you guys.

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Water Fasting Day 5

May 16, 2010 at 4:48 am (Uncategorized)

So I’m up to day five! Can you believe it? It seems so surreal to me. Not much new to report. Feeling pretty good, just really tired most of the time. I have a little bit of insomnia, but easily make up for it with three hour naps during the day. Today was a good day because I got a visit from my wonderful husband and son. You guys are the best! I tear up when I think of you and I can’t wait to get home.

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Water Fasting Day 3

May 14, 2010 at 2:28 am (Lupus, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Day 2 was a little rough, but I feel pretty good today. The best part is, I’ve been completely off my meds for 4 or 5 days now and I have had no lupus symptoms return, knock on wood!

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Water Fasting Day 1

May 13, 2010 at 1:23 am (Lupus, Uncategorized) (, , )

I am staying at True North Water Fasting Facility in Santa Rosa. It is run by chiropractors which, I am well aware, freaks many people out. But the guy who runs this place, Dr. Alan Goldhamer, D.C., is very experienced and highly intelligent. Chiropractors approach healing naturally, not prescription drugs, which I now think should be the primary approach. Dr. Goldhamer started this operation over 25 years ago. They’re still here and have steadily grown, which I think says a lot. Some people come here to water fast. Some just come to eat the healthy foods, recondition their palates, and learn about healthful living.

I’m sure water fasting sounds absolutely ridiculous or unnecessarily extreme to many. It did to me when I first read about it. But I’ve come to understand that it is a vigorous way of cleansing the body and reprogramming the taste buds. I am motivated to do it for my condition. I have read several books, namely Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s, that insist that therapeutic fasting and a whole food plant based diet can have a significant impact on autoimmune disease, even curing it though it is supposedly incurable. I’m not sure I would do it if I weren’t sick. But I am willing to try anything to avoid a life of medications and possibly serious kidney complications down the road.

The facility here is a converted apartment complex. My suite is a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a flat screen TV, a lounge chair, twin beds, a couch, a dining table and, ironically, a kitchen. No one would claim that this place is in anyway fancy or luxurious, but it is certainly comfortable and clean. One apartment has been converted into a dining room, with food served in a buffet (I did eat the day of my arrival). It consists of a cold salad bar with fruit, two hot dishes like soup or rice, and a couple of plain steamed vegetables. The only condiments are water based salad dressings, vinegar, lemon wedges, raw seeds, and no-salt seasoning. The food is colorful and fresh with lots of variety, but it is plain, as no oil or salt is used in the preparation. The adjoining apartment is the kitchen, and there is a dedicated chef who prepares all of the meals. There is also a multi-purpose room that includes a kitchen, which is used for cooking and exercise demos.

Upon my arrival, I was shown about the complex by the resident naturopath (I think the interns usually do it, but she was busy). He went over my medical history and explained how things work here. I also met with the MD and had a urine analysis and blood tests done. Because I prepared by changing my diet before I came, I was allowed to start my fast on my second day. I have been eating a vegan diet for 6 months, and I ate a very clean, low oil and low salt diet of mostly fruits and vegetables the week before I came.

Today was not so bad. I was hungry when I thought about food, but it seemed more mental than physical. I’ve started a video diary to describe my experience. Sorry I’m blinking a lot… I think I was a little nervous ­čÖé

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Self-Education

May 12, 2010 at 4:03 am (Lupus, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

After reading “The Lupus Recovery Diet”, I continued my self-education by reading “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, “Fasting and Eating for Health” and “Eat to Live” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., “The McDougall Program” by Dr. John McDougall, M.D., and “The Pleasure Trap”, by Douglas Lisle, Ph.D. and Alan Goldhamer, D.C. All of these books told me that serious dietary changes could affect autoimmune disease in a significant way. The consensus was that the optimum diet for people with autoimmune disease, is the same diet that is capable of stopping and reversing other serious conditions like diabetes and heart disease. I figured that if all of these smart people believed it, and even had scientific evidence to back it up, it was worth a try. After all, what could it hurt?

So in November of 2009, I became a vegan. I stopped eating all animal products and tried to cut out almost all processed foods. I knew that I should eliminate sugar, salt and oil as well, but that came about more gradually. It’s very hard to eat only plain whole plant food, when you’re used to eating a standard American diet, and you’re surrounded by people who are eating a standard American diet. I was also still cooking for my family and watching TV, which you you start to notice when you’re not eating it, is inundated with advertisements for tragically unhealthy food. After a few months, I also cut out gluten (mainly wheat products) because I learned that it could be causing some of my problems.

I did well on this diet. I felt better, though it was usually hard to tell whether it was from my meds or my new habits. I stopped drinking caffeine, which was a big change, and cut out alcohol completely. I gradually reduced the processed foods I ate, as well as added salt, sugar and oil. I lost at least 15 pounds from the time of my diagnosis until now. But I always felt I needed to do more. The more I learned about my medications, the more I wanted to stop taking them. Plaquenil can cause permanent retinal damage!! Nobody could minimize the seriousness of that. I only had to read a couple of blogs of women my age having hip replacements because of bone necrosis causes by prednisone before I knew I wanted to get off that too. And while I’m grateful for the effectiveness and relatively minimal side effects of Cellcept, I wanted to get off that too, particularly because I want to have a baby and you can’t get pregnant on it because it causes birth defects.

So, on to the next step… WATER FASTING! (Water fasting should only be done under qualified medical supervision).

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Lupus Nephritis

May 12, 2010 at 3:43 am (Lupus, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Five years ago, I was a young mother finishing my teaching credential when I developed debilitating joint pain. My mom suffered from serious autoimmune illness all my life, so I figured it was something along those lines. I did some research and figured that I probably had rheumatoid arthritis. I went to my family doctor and he ran some blood tests. I came back positive for ANA – antinuclear antibodies – which usually indicates lupus. I went to see a rheumatologist, and even though I was negative for the rheumatoid factor (some people with RA are), he diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis. He prescribed Plaquenil (an anti-malarial), assuring me it was safe, and sent me on my way. I did well with the Plaquenil for a couple of years, but my joint pain gradually came back.

Over the last couple of years I started suffering from low-grade fevers and swollen glands in addition to my joint pain. I was taking large amounts of ibuprofen to compensate for my pain. I was a new teacher at the time and a single mom, and life was pretty hectic. The summer of 2009 was a big one. Within four months, I got laid-off, got married, turned 30, and started law school. At the time of my wedding, I started to notice itchy, red, rashy spots on my neck and ears. My symptoms were steadily getting worse, but I just pushed through. I was eating a terrible diet, high in fat, with too much caffeine, animal products, and alcohol. I had no idea what was going on, though, looking back, I should have.
A couple of months into law school, I was really dragging and I developed a low back ache. I went to my GP thinking it was a urinary tract infection that had gotten to my kidneys. I had protein and red blood cells in my urine, so I was prescribed antibiotics, and sent home. A week later I felt no better. I went back, and when my urine was retested, I had massive amounts of protein. I was sent to a rheumatologist on suspicion of lupus nephritis. When I walked into my rheumatologist’s office, he took about 30 seconds to say, conclusively, that I had lupus and that it was very serious. I guess in one way I am lucky, many people suffer for many years without a diagnosis. I certainly didn’t feel lucky. In that moment, all of my fears came true and I felt as though my entire world came crashing down around me. My blood tests showed anemia (low blood cell counts), inflammation (elevated SED rate), and several types of auto-antibodies, including anti-DNA antibodies, which means my bone marrow was being affected and not producing enough blood cells, I had a high level of inflammation, and my immune system was making antibodies that were attacking my own cells. I was so sick that day, I couldn’t have possibly driven myself to the doctor. The anxiety and depression that accompanied my illness made daily life especially hard. I am very lucky to have a wonderful and supportive husband who was with me through it all.

So my next appointment was with the nephrologist, a kidney specialist. He did not inspire a great deal of confidence. He seemed very uncertain of what was to come, or perhaps unwilling to share. He said that I needed a kidney biopsy. It would be performed in the hospital in a cat scan machine by sticking a big needle into my back. It sounded scary, but it was actually not bad at all. They do the biopsy to determine that the kidney problem is indeed caused by lupus, and to what degree it is affecting the organ. Turns out I had class III glomerulonephritis, but the doctors said that while there was lots of inflammation, there didn’t appear to be any damage at that point. So they put me on a high dose of prednisone, 60 mg, and an immunosupressant drug used for organ transplant patients called Cellcept.

The few months after my diagnosis were the worse. I had serious anxiety, which I had never experienced before, and some nights I would go to bed weeping, convinced I would die in my sleep. High dose prednisone is a miserable experience. While my rashes and joint paint went away, I would wake up at 3 am wide awake, unable to go back to sleep and I was very edgy. I bruised very easily and had an extremely dry mouth. I drank water all the time and had to pee constantly. My cheeks were red and I broke out all over my face. I started to grow hair where I never had any before, mostly on my cheeks. Prednisone certainly causes a myriad of side effects, but the worst is undoubtedly the moon face. My face blew up to a very unattractive size and I was embarrassed to go out in public. Seeing myself in pictures was torture!

The cellcept was started at a dose of 1500 mg a day, gradually increased to 3 g per day over the next few months. I tolerated it well, but was always daunted by the lengthy list of possible side effects, which include cancer among many other serious conditions. I was fortunate that I wasn’t faced with taking cytoxan, a chemotherapeutic agent, that is commonly used for lupus nephritis, because of this new drug. Cytoxan causes cancer and infertility, and having just gotten married, I was very much hoping to have another baby.

So over the next couple of months, the doc gradually reduced the prednisone, and increased the cellcept. I felt ok, had an unnatural amount of energy because of the prednisone, but at times I was crippled by the anxiety and depression that was probably induced by both the illness and the meds, in combination with the bleak outlook for this disease. My rheumatologist is great guy, who is highly respected and has been working in this specialty for several decades. He advised that my husband and I read “The Lupus Book” by Daniel Wallace. I did, cover and cover, and while I think information is extremely valuable, I now think that reading THAT book at THAT time was a mistake. It was easily the most depressing read I’ve ever read. It went through, chapter by chapter, all of the possible complications of lupus, with WAY too many statistics, the most notable of which was that 50% of lupus nephritis patients end up on dialysis within 10 years!!! Yikes. Needless to say, that did not help my anxiety and depression.

Fortunately, that was not the only book I read. I also picked up “The Lupus Recovery Diet”, by Jill Harrington. Jill was diagnosed with lupus more than 12 years ago, and she was disheartened as I was by the prospect of suppressing symptoms with toxic drugs, never addressing the cause of the illness. She educated herself on the importance of diet and made some dramatic changes, becoming a vegetarian. She improved, but she realized that she had to do more, and she discovered True North, a fasting and nutritional therapy center in Santa Rosa, California. She did a 7 day fast followed by an immaculate diet, and she has been lupus free for 12 years. It took me 6 months of reading and research to come to the conclusion that I needed to try this also. I became a vegan as soon as I read Jill’s book, figuring that even if I didn’t help with the lupus, it would help prevent weight gain and a lot of other serious side effects of the medications. So I planned a trip to visit True North in May of 2010.

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