Category Archives: Health Issues

Your Thyroid Problem and Your Breast Cancer Risk, Part II

Certain common thyroid conditions put women at a higher risk for breast cancer, yet this isn’t common knowledge to even medical professionals.

Why Isn’t It Common Knowledge That Certain Thyroid Diseases Are Associated with Higher Breast Cancer Risk?

The research available on a thyroid disease and breast cancer connection is very, very conflicting, depending on the thyroid disease state and the study being looked at. One study says there are Martians, and other studies say there are not. (Joke.)

How can medical research be so murky? It is frustrating, but I think there are some reasons for it:

One. There is not a direct causal effect between thyroid disease and breast cancer. Having thyroid disease does not cause breast cancer. It’s just that there’s something medical researchers and clinicians haven’t pinpointed with unanimous certainty leading to faulty issues in both organs. Flooding in the basement doesn’t cause my leaky roof; the rain does. (Yes, iodine advocates, I agree. It could be in part a deficit of iodine and its associated necessary co-factors.)

Two. Another problem leading to “research conclusion confusion” in this matter, I believe, is how thyroid disease is diagnosed. About everyone can agree on a TSH (an initial screening thyroid function test), but after that, it starts becoming no-man’s-land about what should be ordered next.

In general, there is an over reliance on TSH, and less monitoring of other thyroid tests, especially thyroid antibodies. Sometimes patients are simply given the diagnosis of “Your-TSH-is-too-high-here-take-this-Synthroid” and little else, if anything, is checked–sometimes not even the thyroid gland itself! I was floored when a newly suspected thyroid patient (a friend) told me the doctor didn’t even feel her thyroid! Another friend, who I sent to go see her doctor for a new goiter (and symptoms of hypothyroidism), was given a good bill of health with no recommendation for close follow-up or any inquiry into her diet; her TSH was normal and so was her ultrasound.

So in the studies, I have to wonder what it means when they say Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism, or hyperthyroidism. How uniform are the patients in reality? How were all the patients diagnosed? Because so much data was pooled from so many studies for some of the bigger research analysis, it’s hard to say.

Three. Different doctors use different terminology. For example, Hashimoto’s disease can be called 1) Hashimoto’s 2) hypothyroidism or 3) chronic autoimmune thyroiditis (or chronic thyroiditis, autoimmune thyroiditis). Hashimoto’s IS a type of hypothyroidism, but not all hypothyroidism IS Hashimoto’s. However, some doctors will diagnose someone with Hashimoto’s without ordering antibody tests or even imaging. I think some studies aren’t able to tease out how different doctors label thyroid disease differently.

Four. Thyroid fluctuation can also confound statistics. A diseased thyroid will often fluctuate in its function for years, sometimes overproducing thyroid hormone, other times under producing thyroid hormone, and other times managing to make just the right amount of thyroid hormone. Eventually, after years, it may arrive at its final diseased balance. If a patient is monitored at one particular time, they may look completely normal based on TSH. The natural progression of thyroid disease is one of relapsing and remitting changes, sometimes high, sometimes low, and sometimes normal, and I believe this will affect research findings.

Okay. So now that you see reasons why the studies may be so contradictory, let’s look at different thyroid disease states and their breast cancer risk.

The following information may not make sense to you unless you have thyroid disease. Sometimes, even people who have thyroid disease don’t know their specific diagnosis, and this might sound complex even to them. I encourage you, if you have thyroid disease, to know specifically what you’ve been diagnosed with and how that diagnosis was arrived at (TSH, T3/T4 values, imaging, antibody tests, etc.).

Graves’ disease patients seem to consistently show up with higher breast cancer rates. (1, 2, 3)

Hyperthyroidism, not necessarily classified as Graves’ disease, has been shown to have a higher risk of breast cancer. (4)

A patient who has TSHR antibodies (usually diagnostic for Graves’ disease) has an increased risk for breast cancer. (2)

TPO antibodies and thyroglobulin antibodies, commonly found in autoimmune thyroid disorders (Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease), have been found in some studies to be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, but in other studies the antibodies were shown to have no relationship, or even an improvement, in the rate of breast cancer.

  • TPO Antibodies:
    • In some studies, TPO antibodies seem to be associated with less risk of breast cancer. (5)
    • Other studies indicate a higher risk of breast cancer with TPO antibodies. (6, 7)
  • Thyroglobulin antibodies:
    • May suggest, but not statistically significant, an increased breast cancer risk. (2)
    • Do show an increased risk for breast cancer. (6, 7)

Nodular goiter and diffuse, non-toxic goiter are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer incidence. (8, 9)

Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism  (Hashimoto’s usually causes hypothyroidism) patients can take their pick, as there have been reports with no significance in the rate of breast cancer (10), a decreased risk of breast cancer (4), or an increased risk of breast cancer (11).

Conclusion:

Okay. I’m reaching my word and reader attention span limit, but I want to tell thyroid patients that this knowledge should not mean fear. Do not be afraid.

This knowledge means vigilance—lovingly tend to your body with good sleep habits, stress management, nurturing connections with friends and family, activity outside in the fresh air, and whole, real food choices rich in vegetables and fruits, and food sources rich in what both the breast and thyroid need.

This knowledge means to talk to your doctor about self-breast exams and mammograms. It means to learn the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, like skin changes and/or nipple discharge. Mammograms and self-exams should probably be more assertive than in a patient with no breast cancer risk factors, especially now as the mammogram guidelines suggest starting later and doing fewer mammograms (which I’m not adverse to that idea necessarily either, but not in patients at known higher risk).

I suggest you know the specific type of thyroid disease you have and whether or not you have antibodies. Doctors think it’s overkill to check antibodies, but if you take in a study that I’ve listed showing an increase in breast cancer with these antibodies, I think a reasonable doctor working with a reasonable patient would order them. I also think that knowing whether or not you’re consuming adequate iodine and iodine co-factors is important. Doctors aren’t well educated on iodine, other than, “Don’t,” and so finding someone who has read some of the newer stuff on iodine insufficiency, women, and breast disease is challenging.

No fear. No anxiety. Awareness. Uncontrolled anxiety does a woman no good. Sure, a little anxiety motivates us. But too much paralyzes us.

The last thyroid and breast post I did discussed thyroid cancer, so if you’re interested, go back and check that one out. Let me know typos, citation issues, or anything else pertinent to the accuracy of this post. Lastly, my blog is not professional advice. Use the citations I list to help you understand your disease better and to help you discuss your own case with your healthcare team better.

The Homeschooling Doctor logoStrength and joy to you all!

Terri

 

 

 

Citations:

1. Johnson RH,  Chien FL, Bleyer A. Incidence of Breast Cancer With Distant Involvement Among Women in the United States, 1976 to 2009. JAMA. 2013;309(8):800-805; doi:10.1001/jama.2013.776. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=165625

2. Thyroid-Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer. Medscape Web Site. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/845605. Published June 1, 2015.

3. Nielson SM et al. The Breast-Thyroid Connection Link: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. February 2016 25; 231. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0833. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/25/2/231.abstract

4. Sogaard M et al. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism and breast cancer risk: a nationwide cohort study. Eur J Endocrinol. 2016 Apr;174(4):409-14. doi: 10.1530/EJE-15-0989. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26863886

5. Itoh K and Maruchi N. Breast Cancer in Patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. The Lancet. Volume 306, Issue 7945, 6, December 1975, Pages 1119-1121. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673675910065

6. Turken O, Narin Y, Demirbas S, eta al. Breast Cancer in Association With Thyroid Disorders. Breast Cancer Res. 2003;5(5). https://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/bcr609

6.http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2016/01/28/peds.2015-1226.full.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8772562

Gluten-Sensitivity Validation and More Discouraging News about Obesity

I’ve wanted to make time to share two articles with you from the last week or so. One on the brain and obesity and one about gluten sensitivity.

The first, and I’m going to summarize brutally, indicates that middle-aged obese people have smaller brains.

Now let me fill in a few details. The journal Neurobiology of Aging posted the article  “Obesity associated with increased brain-age from mid-life,” reporting that when middle-aged, obese study participants were compared to middle-aged, normal weight study participants, the obese patients had more brain atrophy. (Atrophy means shrinking or wasting.) When matched according to white matter volume, obese patients’ brains appeared the size of patients ten years older.

Make sense? Basically, obesity for some reason predicted that a middle-aged person would have a smaller brain, about the size of someone ten years older. (Brains naturally atrophy as we age.) An obese patient’s 50-year-old brain would look 60 years old.

(What is obesity? If you don’t know your BMI, I suggest you calculate it so that you are not lying to yourself about the state of your weight. Obese people tend to just call themselves overweight. And morbidly obese people tend to just classify themselves as obese. Here is a BMI calculator.)

Please focus on changing your eating for forever—not on temporary weight loss. The article (and other articles reporting on it) really focuses on the weight. I DO believe that weight is important—BUT more in light of the reflection that food choices are not being matched for the individual person. You can lose weight eating only green beans from a can and shrink your belly. But I don’t think that’s the best deal to protect your brain!

Eat real. Don’t eat anything processed. If the weight is still stubborn, eat real, unprocessed AND make it PLAIN. Protect the brain. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Your kids are worth it. Obesity kills your life slowly. Painfully.

Next article up is about gluten-sensitivity.

Do you feel bashful saying you’re gluten-sensitive? I mean, it’s not like you’re terribly allergic and going to die. Or celiac and really killing your organs by eating wheat. You just, well, you just don’t feel good after eating that bread. And your mom gets a little frustrated with you at family gatherings, having nothing to thicken the gravy with! Can’t she use a little bit?!? That wouldn’t hurt you, would it?

The journal Gut ran a research article titled “Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease.”

That’s a long title. I’ll explain the article really briefly:

Definite lab abnormalities were found in those who reported gluten sensitivity, and the changes were NOT the same as those found in celiac disease. Gluten sensitive patients had lab markers suggestive of systemic immune activation and a compromised intestinal epithelial barrier integrity. (Specifically, they had increased levels of soluble CD14, increased lipopolysaccharide-binding protein, increased antibodies to microbial flagellin, and elevated fatty acid-binding protein 2.)

Specific symptoms they looked at for inclusion in their study were bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, memory problems, thinking problems, or numbness and tingling of your arms and/or legs. They felt these were the most common symptoms associated with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

After six months of a gluten-free diet, the non-celiac gluten sensitive patients felt better and their labs returned to normal.

The discussion of the article is very interesting, worth a read if you are up to the terminology being thrown around.

I’m one of those people who hates to be a nuisance, but when I eat gluten, I get side effects. So I went gluten-free four years ago (and ate real, whole foods and watched out for other food sensitivities). Being a medical doctor by training, it was really hard for me when the medical field really shamed the idea of gluten sensitivity. Suddenly I was personally pitted against everything and everybody I believed to be true and right professionally. The last four years have been QUITE the eye opener professionally.

So it’s good to see validation.

I really, really encourage you to eat whole, real food. No strange added ingredients. Grains as fresh and whole as you can if you do them. Oils and fats as unprocessed and as close to the source as you can get them. Skip white sugar unless you’ve decided it’s a really special day.

The Homeschooling Doctor logoYou are worth feeling good.

Terri

 

Give Your Kid a Brain Edge

Vertumnus_årstidernas_gud_målad_av_Guiseppe_Arcimboldo_1591_-_Skoklosters_slott_-_91503.tif

Want to give your kid a brain up? I know we think about waistlines and cavities when we think about junk food, but we really need to be giving thought to THE BRAIN!

A brain is a precious thing to waste, but indeed as parents, we are doing just that with our dangerous eating and feeding habits. The food a child eats nourishes his or her gut bacteria (or doesn’t). Then, by-products and interactions of the child’s own gut bacteria feeds forward to interact with the function and development of his or her brain.

Stomach. Brain. Connected.

Fiber Helps the Brain

Research supports that high fiber foods– and I ALWAYS suggest that any nutrient (including fiber) be eaten in NATURAL, WHOLE food forms (cook ’em, saute ’em, roast ’em, bake ’em, eat ’em raw—-don’t care–just eat them)– contribute to children’s “cognitive control.”

Cognitive control? Sounds spooky. What the heck is cognitive control? Some sort of mind straight-jacket?

Ha! NO!!! It’s simply a scientific way to say: the ability to adapt to a situation and make good decisions, to execute better behavior in it, and the ability to perform a task well.

Can anyone say, “Make a bed!” or “Put away the silverware!” or “Do your math homework!” or even “Hold still!”? All those, and so much more, require a person’s cognitive control. His or her ability to complete a task properly, to reason it out, to put a brake on talking and moving when talking and moving aren’t appropriate in the moment.

According to a study in The Journal of Nutrition, “Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children“, dietary fiber may play a role in cognitive control among children. The children in this study, ages 7-9, who ate more total dietary fiber, insoluble fiber, and pectin performed better on the selected performance task in the study. (The performance task wasn’t making a bed but I think it should have been…)

A big, bad, sad 90% of American children do not get even close to the recommended fiber intake set (ranging for about 20 grams to 38 grams, depending on the age and sex)! AND the sources that most people turn to for fiber (breakfast cereal laden with sugar) is a sickening poor fiber food source for the gut bacteria.

[I also disagree with the use of bread for fiber, unless the bread is honest and pure. I’m sitting here looking at the bread label in my parents’ home and this is what I see: enriched unbleached flour (refined flour), high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, monoglycerides, sweet dairy whey, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, calcium propionate, natural and artificial flavor, calcium sulfate, citric acid, ascorbic acid, soy lecithin, and so on.

This is NOT bread. I do not know what exactly this is. But it is NOT bread. I have made plenty of bread in my life, and I did so with about five or less ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. If I got fancy, I added eggs, milk, and butter or olive oil. You must seek out the ingredient list and not rely on the large print on the front that ways, “Whole grain bread!”]

Where to get “Fiber”

What do I suggest instead? Real, whole food rich in plant matter (Always keeping in mind what is tolerated by an individual. I know many people don’t tolerate nuts or legumes or certain vegetables. But there IS something a person can tolerate. Find it.). Good examples:

  • Greens and lettuces
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Apples, oranges, blueberries, cherries, grapes (all fruits higher in pectin)
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and hard squashes
  • Nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Avocados
  • Peas, beans, lentils
  • Real, honest, pure whole grains: pure oatmeal, pure quinoa, pure wheat
  • Dried fruits: raisins, figs, apricots

Not a Matter of Your Parenting

When we feed kids diets low in lots of vegetables, fruits, and fresh produce, it’s not just a matter of “good mom”, “bad-mom.” It has nothing to do with you, mom! We’re talking about your kids. I am not here to define your parenthood by your nutritional choices.

But please know when kids don’t eat plant matter as close to the way it is found in nature, they miss out on all these complex fibers that scientists are realizing now affect us by affecting our gut bacteria. And the gut bacteria affect the development of the brain.

When your kid fusses and you want to throw in the towel and let him eat macaroni and cheese every day, realize the role you are playing in the complete development of your child’s brain, at a time when really, what goes in their mouth is mostly up to you and the groceries you bring home.

Persist, mother. Persist, father. A secure child is a child who knows that their parents will never give up on them. Your persistence and devotion is your greatest asset! Don’t stop just because of some pouting.

Be creative. Be firm. Be funny. Be loving. Be stubborn. Give rewards. Withhold rewards.

Do what it takes with love and compassion to get them there.

Your child’s gut microbiome is overwhelmingly tied to the health and function of his or her brain. Don’t give up on vegetables and fruits.

The brain of your child is at stake.

Good luck! Questions always welcomed.

Terri

 

Citation:

Kahn, Raine, et al. Journal of Nutrition. Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children.  January 1, 2015 vol. 145 no. 1 143-149: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/145/1/143

Image from Wikipedia: Giuseppe Arcimboldo [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Society’s Selective Silence on Education

“Colleges now, including all the major ones—Stanford and Yale and Harvard—are actively seeking kids who were homeschooled or unschooled or who had an alternative type of education because what’s different about those kids is that they’re still interested in learning… In fact, I read a statistic that… and I may have the numbers slightly off here, but I think Stanford’s admission rate for homeschooled kids is 26 percent as opposed to 6 percent for traditionally schooled applicants…” (Jeremy Stuart in an interview with Chris Kresser)

I was shocked and excited to see that Chris Kresser, a well-respected alternative health (integrative health) guru, ran a blog segment on homeschooling. Unfortunately, I cringed at the paucity of usual comments from his typically active readers.

Sixteen meager comments. Sixteen. Compare that to the 111 comments on his organic meat article! Everybody wants to talk organic and glyphosate and gluten. But darn. Kids’ futures and alternative education. Near dead silence!

What really counts? I mean, I’m a real-food, watch-for-food-intolerance believer, but what does it mean when kids don’t learn to read or get bullied in school? When parents are beginning to feel like school is an elephant on their families’ chests?

What does it mean when Chris Kresser’s responsive readers will leave 200 comments on proton pump inhibitors and only 16 on alternative education? (When there are only 26 comments on a distraction and mindfulness article. . .)

I heard a great story once. I was at a conference, and I attended a teen panel of unschoolers. These were all kids who had never been to traditional school. Many of them had never actually set foot in a school. There was one young man there, and he had enrolled to a university to study astrophysics. . .

And someone said to him, “Obviously you’re interested in astrophysics.” That wasn’t the question. The question was, “Why would you enroll yourself in a college when you’ve never set foot in a school? What’s that like, and how did you manage to get in?” And he said, “Well, I realized that the only way to really study it to the degree that I wanted was at this particular institution, and so I applied, and when I applied, I realized I didn’t really know any math.” He said, “I went to my parents, and I was kind of upset. ‘Well, how come you never taught me any math?’ And they said, ‘Well, you weren’t interested.’” And he said, “Well, I need it now,” and they said, “Well, you know what to do.”

So he went to the library, and he got grade one math, then grade two, grade three, grade four, and so on. So He spent three months just reading math books, and in three months he took the necessary examination to enter the college and got 92 percent on the test. (Jeremy Stuart in an interview by Chris Kresser)

Do go and check out Chris Kresser’s interview of homeschooling filmmaker Jeremy Stuart. If you can make time, leave a comment! (Even if it’s just to say, “Hey, interesting!”)

Blogs are live productions. You comment. Blogger responds generally in some way (perhaps not right away–but over time they get back to it).

I’d LOVE to see more people exposed to the idea that education doesn’t have to come in a box! That one-size (one school, one curriculum, one teacher) doesn’t fit all! Maybe if we comment, generate questions, and create discussion, maybe Chris Kresser will remember and do another piece like this in the future.

If you homeschool, you may have fun  reading (or watching) this interview. If you don’t homeschool, and school isn’t going so well for your children, maybe you’d want to consider homeschooling. He calls it “unschooling,” but I’m of the opinion that anyone who chooses to teach their children outside of the classic halls of education is “unschooling” to one degree or another. The interview covers:

  • How did public schooling come about? (It’s only been around about 150 years.)
  • What was the purpose of public school?
  • Student (and parent) “burn-out” and how homeschooling can avoid that
  • How our modern education is “banging its head against a wall”
  • Discussion of Finland’s education system
  • Misconceptions about homeschooling and unschooling
  • How colleges are coming to view homeschoolers
  • What kinds of things homeschoolers can learn
  • And so much more!

Unschooling as a Cure for “Industrialized Education”–with Jeremy Stuart

Check it out! You learned once. Or didn’t learn. How did that happen? How could it have been better? Don’t be selectively silent. More standards don’t brighter kids make! I’ve watched my own kids learn and the differences among simply three kids is ASTOUNDING.

These schoolkids of today will be running your nursing home.

Speak.

Terri

 

Eleven Reasons THAT Won’t Work For You

Xiao_er_lun_-_Confucius_and_childrenIt’s so easy to let jealousy torment you when your husband loses 30 pounds eating very low carb (while sneaking in Snicker bars)–and you only lose 5 and swear it makes you manic. Why does it work this way?

It’s so easy to cry and wallow in yourself when you try everything for your multiple sclerosis (MS) and nothing seems to make it budge–well, not like it did for Terry Wahls, who changed her diet and lifestyle and went from a zero-gravity recline wheelchair to riding a bike. What does she have that you don’t?

And how about these people with cancer? The people who go to Mexico and get coffee enemas? Why does one come back glowing and cured and the other one we remember with love and frustration, saying, “Tsk, tsk. She wouldn’t take chemotherapy and look what happened to her. Goes to show. . . ”

I could go on and on. He dropped gluten and his arthritis went away. She started coconut oil and frankincense for her dementia and now she recognizes her family again. He gave up dairy, started some aloe, and his constipation is gone for good. Going raw, vegan cured her chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Dropping all grains and all dairy and all sugar and starting physiologic folate helped his autism. Fish oil cured her depression.

Can I stop? Do you get the idea? Is this you?

Shocker. Spoil alert.

Stop reading if you’re completely sold on a new diet or have just spent big money on a new supplement because I have some bad news.

It may not work for you. (Gasp. Shocker.)

But I have some good news too! It MAY work!

Today I want to help you understand maybe why you’re not getting better doing the good things you’re doing. Why each person’s health plan (diet, supplement, exercise, sleep, etc.) must be tailored individually. It sounds overwhelming to think you actually have to formulate your own health plan, that it’s not written out there for you in some book, but isn’t that really the journey of our whole life? Finding out what makes us tick? What brings us peace? Coming to terms with our limitations and expanding our strengths?

“I Don’t Have MS, Terri.”

Medical doctors group symptoms and tests together to arrive at a diagnosis. A label. A name. The name helps us to know what to expect for a patient’s outcome. What we’ve tried before that has helped or not helped.

Dementia. Psoriasis. Ulcerative colitis. Multiple sclerosis. Migraines. Crohn’s Disease. These are labels. They are necessary labels! For example, we know that the group of people who have ulcerative colitis symptoms and tests will need monitored for colon cancer, and that many celiac patients can be symptom-free following gluten-free diets. Having a label helps!

But there are tough cases. Cases which don’t fit, and sadly, they’re more common than medical doctors want to admit or even know about. These patients doctor shop, so often a doctor isn’t given the chance to even know that refractory cases are as rampant as they are. There are diagnoses that don’t have good treatments, like irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.

These patients, these refractory cases, are like a nebulous cloud which floats around looking for answers. Why can’t they get their answers?

I have a friend (actually I have many friends with MS, sad to say) with classic multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and diagnostic tests. She repeatedly tells me, “Terri, I don’t have MS. I’ve never believed I have MS.”

You’d think as a medical doctor, I’d laugh my head off silly.

Maybe you, as a vociferous alternative health proponent are thinking, “She must not be doing it right. She needs to do this [insert your desired diet or supplement]. She needs to try harder. She needs to try longer. . .”

Now, my friend is a little frustrated. She has had MS for years, and sometimes it’s better. Sometimes it’s worse. She has tried nearly everything.

What I want you to think about for people–is the possibility that our labels group similar health cases together which may stem from different causes. And when that is the case, when the underlying cause of presentations which LOOK the same is NOT the same, a person can bang her head into a wall (this is one of my favorite images because I’m so prone to doing this if I’m not careful) wondering, “Why not me? Why can’t I? Why did it work for her?” Except in a highly motivated individual who says, “I’m moving on. I can do this. That failure taught me something,” this can be counterproductive and harmful.

One Leukemia: 11 Diseases

And now I get to the crux of my post. When I was in medical school, I learned about acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). I learned it as ONE disease entity. ONE (a bad disease entity at that). New research shows that this AML that I learned about as one disease, is actually 11 diseases, with 11 different causes–which show up looking the same! This helped explain why some people responded so well to treatment and some people tragically did not. We weren’t treating ONE disease, we were treating ELEVEN!

See: Genomic Classification and Prognosis in Acute Myeloid Leukemia

I think that most of our clinically diagnosed diseases will ultimately be found to be caused and/or impacted in different ways. Until that day that you know exactly what the cause of your illness is–your obesity, your thyroid problem, your irritable bowel, your IBD, your arthritis, your insomnia, your depression, your constipation, your MS, and so on–until that day, you’re just going to have to take a flat-out comprehensive approach to have the best outcome.

So…

  • Should you eat low carb?
  • Should you eat high fat?
  • Should you eat dairy?
  • Should you eat meat?
  • Should you eat grains?
  • Should you take calcium?
  • Should you supplement with CoQ?
  • Should you take iodine?

And so on and so forth. Whether you should or shouldn’t may depend on your genes, how they are expressed, your gut microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses), and how your environment (sun, exercise, sleep, diet, daily doses of inadvertent toxins) interacts with those.

There is no ONE diet. There is no ONE lifestyle. In fact, there’s probably no one dementia. No one MS. No one IBS. There may be 11.  So find a platform which resonates with you. Try it. Be willing to modify it. Don’t abandon what works. Keep what works and build your plan. Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Start with absolutely real food if you have a problem you really need to tackle. And move forward, tweaking as your body tells you.

(And, of course, seek medical advice and always be safe.)

Terri

Photo credit: By An unknown Chinese artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How About Some True Preventative Health Knowledge?

Agar_plate_with_coloniesEvery time I get back to reading scientific studies on gut bacteria, I just get so inspired to eat whole, fresh foods (cook them if you want to!) and to pass that enthusiasm on to you.

In our guts, we have tons of bacteria (don’t blame them completely for the scale readings, though 🙂 . . .) which help us digest our food, make wonderful chemicals which help our blood sugar and mood, and which keep infections from crossing from the gut to our blood.  Plus so much more.  Tending these bacteria properly is TRUE PREVENTATIVE HEALTH.

We Don’t Deserve These Guys

What they do–it is absolutely astounding.  ASTOUNDING.  And what’s amazing is that our bodies and our bacteria hang onto our health for as long as they can for us despite the abuse we bombard them with.  Like a co-dependent spouse.  And I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough chocolate chips, white bread, and vegetable oil in my life to not deserve these poor little critters.

These bacteria really, really, really like plant matter.  Vegetables and fruits.  They like tubers too, like potatoes and sweet potatoes.  They even seem to like whole grains–NOT ground up, processed, and refined flours.

Unstick The Stuck Pin

So, fill yourself up on these plant products.  And if you can’t tolerate them, find a few you can tolerate.  Work on your health some (stress, relationships, sleep, wise supplementation, food sensitivities, sugar load, physical activity, getting some outside time, and making better all-around food choices). Then try to introduce some more!

Promise yourself you won’t stay stuck in life.  Unstick your stuck!  Promise yourself you’ll make the choices to eat more whole, real food (cut how you want, cooked how you want, combined how you like!).  We all have different styles–some dive in with all their heart.  Some move slowly and steadily.  But move to that place you want to be.

No one else will do it for you.

Personify Those Bacteria!

Sometimes, when I’ve been derailed from eating how I feel best, I think something really goofy. As I’m going to the cupboard or fridge, I start thinking about those super beneficial gut bacteria striving to be healthy off of what I eat–thereby keeping me healthy too!  Working SO hard, just struggling to get by.  The grind.

“Ah, I think.  I love those little guys.  They try to be so good to me.”  (Personification at its finest.)  And I ask myself, “Would my helpful little crew like this peanut butter with those chocolate chips?  That gluten-free bread?  Or would they prefer this peanut butter with that apple?”  Apple it is in this moment, then.

I can do this.  One better choice at a time–and I get back to my groove.

You can too.

Have a great day (a great weekend!), and I’m plugging along on a new butyrate post for those who like that kind of stuff.

Terri

PS:  I know not all of you have the luxury of being able to eat all the healthy foods due to various intolerances, but for all you can do, don’t stay stuck.

Are You a Head Case?

Once, my high school softball coach called me a  “head case,”  which kind of hurt my feelings.  Hard stop.  Pull up short.  Take a quick 15 second life review.  In no way, shape, or form did any decision of my utterly responsible, conscientious, sixteen year-old life seem to deserve this condemnation.  Coach, I’m a head case?  How could you declare this?

Sure!  I wear my heart on my sleeve probably unlike anyone else you know–on happy days as well as sad days.  (As well as mad days.  I’ve always proclaimed that this openness keeps me from becoming a head case.)

Sure!  I was the starting pitcher and some days I pitched strikes–and other days I didn’t. (Okay.  Some batters I pitched strikes to and others I didn’t.)

Sure.  Okay.  Maybe sometimes my head did get in the way of my already horrible pitching.  But, dang, coach.  I wasn’t a good pitcher, and I didn’t want to be the pitcher if I wasn’t a good pitcher.

The pitcher’s circle.  Who put me there?  I didn’t ask to be there.  And what a place to be.  All eyes on you.  Throw strikes consistently from inside a circle drawn in the sand.  Everybody else standing or sitting and watching…

And judging you to be a head case.

Strike three!  Success.  Ball four.  Take first base.  Failure.

Head Case and Health

I’ve been thinking about this head case stuff as it plays a role in health.  Back when I played softball, I could never tell if it was going to be a good pitching day or a bad pitching day.  (Poor Coach.  Poor team.  Poor Terri.)  Just couldn’t tell.  Despite being perfectly capable of pitching strikes, something unconsciously interfered with my ability to do so many times over.  Trust me.  I didn’t like standing in that circle walking batter after batter after batter.  I wanted to pitch strikes!  So, I’ve been thinking about Coach’s words from so long ago and chewing on the idea of “head case” (and also “psychosomatic” and “in your head”).

I’ve come up with a temporary, evolving idea for “head case” (and “psychosomatic” and “in your head”) which I think will apply to health matters too:

Head Case, Psychosomatic, and In Your Head:  The conscious brain cannot undo the activities of the unconscious brain no matter how hard it tries.

No matter how hard I tried consciously, I just couldn’t throw strikes.  Now the thought has been (and was) ever-present that overall, I was simply a bad pitcher.  Period.

But then why, some days and innings, could I be a “good” bad pitcher?  And other days and innings a “bad” bad pitcher?  Why can a headache calm down when you lie down?  Why does rheumatoid arthritis sometimes have good days and bad days?  Why does a Morton’s neuroma sometimes hurt and sometimes not?  Why can’t the brain always modulate success?

Am I a Head Case?

Fast forward.  No matter how hard I try, I haven’t been able to budge my food sensitivities and gut issues and strange stuff keeps popping up like joint effusions.  (I’ve been evaluated by doctors and tests, and so should you be.)  I don’t like suffering body and brain aches and pains.  I don’t like to run kids around with a headache.  I don’t like restrictive diets. I don’t like the taste of my magnesium supplement I have to take.  I don’t like wondering if today will be a good day or a bad day for my head because I ate eggs and nuts yesterday.  I’m stuck.  Despite eating right.  Despite trying certain supplements.  Despite gratitude journals.  Despite yoga.  Despite prayer.

Am I a head case again?  Do we all have a case of head case?  Do we all have symptoms where our awesome, magnificent, all-powerful, all-knowing cerebral cortex (the conscious brain) cannot override unconscious activities that lie deeper in the brain no matter how hard it tries, short circuiting health and normal function?

I’m not sure.  I’ve been super impressed with the significance of food in health.  Definitely my family’s experimentation with real food tweaked for food intolerances has been highly successful.  But what about using the untapped power of the murky brain (unconscious or subconscious) that lies under the brain that I call me (the conscious) to control health?  The part that controls my heart rate.  My sweating.  My gut motility.  My blushing.  My sleep.  The part that responds to and generates fear and anger.  The part that has deep, primal memory that I’m not consciously privy to–that honestly, maybe I don’t really even want any part of.

Can a person gain health by exploring their mind?  By trying to recognize “thoughts” that you don’t really think?  By appreciating how many times a day you squash yourself down when you didn’t even realize it?  By trying to intercept subconscious thoughts and remodel them and nurture them for good, thus allowing the biochemistry and circuitry of the brain to actually change?

“La, la, la, la, la–I’m not liiisssst-uh-ning…”

I know what you’re thinking, “No.  My pain is real!  My symptoms are real!  These are not in my head.  I’ve got tests and X-rays and MRIs.  I’ve tracked everything.  It’s all objective.  I see you’re headed for whack-o.  This is your final leap.  I’m going to stop reading now, thank you very much, Terri.  Appreciated the brewer’s yeast, iodine, and butyrate posts you wrote–but I’m not going where you’re going anymore.”

Well, I’m impressed you made it this far.  I hear you!  I have many, many memories of working-up patients with headaches and stomach pains and joint pains and finding nothing!  Nothing!  The patients would feel so disappointed because they KNEW something was wrong!  Something HAD to be wrong!  This couldn’t just be an “in my head” issue.  But everything was saying, “There’s nothing wrong.”

Because I saw this particular, discouraging clinical situation often enough, I had a standard spiel for it.  It went like this:

“Hey.  Look at me.  It’ll be okay.  You’re okay!  We know there’s nothing BAD there that’s going to kill you.  That’s important!  That’s good!  It’s not cancer!  I know you have pain!  It’s real!  This doesn’t mean something won’t turn up eventually, so you have to watch out for us!  Anything new or different, you get right back in here because that may be the clue we need to figure this thing out.”

Honestly, not much ever turned up.  So I have never been surprised when my own tests come back inconclusive.  Colonoscopy for severe, unrelenting constipation–negative.  Specific antibodies for celiac and rheumatoid arthritis–negative.  Blood tests for premature menopause–negative.  Lymes–negative.

Following a strict food plan with some basic supplements has kept me decently controlled from whatever it is.  It’s a tight diet though, and I want to share, if I can, good, healthy foods with my daughters, husband, mom, sisters, and friends.  Perhaps I should just let food go, and I will if I have to, but if I can move forward from this place, I’d like to.

So mind-body digging it is.  I’ve got some posts (about four) typed up about what I am learning and what I think about this mind-body disco.  They’re not scientific posts.  But if I have success, I’m going to be thrilled to dig up the research like I did for food and some supplements and eventually get them posted here.

Stay in the circle, pitch after pitch after pitch.  It’ll be okay.

Terri