What a Day!

A different kind of Christmas tree this year, a stowaway, shopping for ankle weights, a really sore back and a Celiac-y me won what? Where did this all start?

Uh, maybe yesterday when I starting thinking about getting a Norfolk Pine, or some small something that we could decorate for Christmas, instead of the whole big tree.  I stopped in at a locally owned nursery to see what they had, with plans to ask hubby what he would like to do. The nursery had Norfolk Pines, and when I asked, hubby said he was all for something small. He works retail and he’s tired.

Today I was lifting a box. I did it like the guy in the drawing of how not to do it. You know, the one with the big X over the stick figure who is leaning out too far. What happened when I did that is all the muscles in my lower back that I overworked two days ago while pulling weeds went all wonky on me and got super tight. They were mostly better yesterday, but not anymore.

When hubby got off work today we went to a different nursery to see if they had more than Norfolk Pines because I’d had second thoughts about getting one of those. If I could keep the thing alive it would get too big for the room. We found a Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow shrub and got it. I am really excited about that because I’ve wanted one for a long time. When we are finished using it as a Christmas tree/shrub, it will go outside. This will involve moving a bunch of stuff in the front yard, like moving furniture, but a lot more work with shovels and such. I’ve been wanting to do that anyway.

After we got the plant we went to look at ankle weights. I got a book at Goodwill a few weeks ago, “Strong Women Stay Young,” and I need some ankle weights so I can do the exercises. I’m doing my best in that department – trying to be strong and sort of young. I used to hit the floor running in the morning. Now I try to hit the floor without a splat. So, here we are going into the store and I can barely stand up straight and I’m walking like I’m 99 years old on account of my misadventure with the box, but I’m going to look at weights. Really felt weird to be in such shape while shopping for exercise equipment.

Now, for the thing I won. There was a food drive yesterday and I contributed. A lady at the collection table told me to fill out a coupon for a raffle. This was after I’d been to the plant nursery. I saw a Norfolk Pine among the prizes. I thought I might win that and we could use it for our Christmas tree. I had a feeling I was going to win something. I did and it wasn’t the Pine.

I got a phone call today and was told that I won a bakery tray from the bakery at the grocery store where the food drive was held. I thought, “I can’t eat that and don’t want it in my house because I’m so sensitive gluten” but what I said was, “Oh! Thank you!” and I immediately began to think of who I could give it to. I decided my son and his girlfriend (who is also a friend of mine) could eat it and she could keep it at her house. So, tonight she and I went to pick it up.

Guess what? My photo as a raffle winner – taken while holding the (beautiful, delicious I’m sure!) bakery tray – will be on TV because one of the local stations was doing the food drive along with the Southeast Texas Food Bank. I was laughing. I had to tell the lady at the store who gave me my prize and took my photo that all my friends know I can’t eat gluten and here I’ll be on TV holding a bakery tray.

Oh! I almost forgot. The stowaway. He was a brown lizard and he was on the plant that we bought. I was taking the tag off and looking at the shrub when saw him clinging to a limb, and I’m sure hoping that I wouldn’t see him. I caught him and was going to put him outside when I noticed markings that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on a lizard. I wanted to look him up so I decided to put him in a pickle jar while I looked up lizards online. He made a leap for freedom and I tried to catch him but the cat got him first.

Well, I reckon this is enough living for a day. G’night, good folks. I’m going to hobble off to bed now.

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Talking With A Dietitian

Because of my skinniness and gluten intolerance, I saw a dietitian today. If you are gluten intolerant, I highly recommend seeing a nutritionist or a dietitian. One thing I’m so happy about is that I wasn’t told not to eat anything that I’m already eating! Too many ‘nos’ make me crazy and I’ve had enough of those lately. So, I got advice to add more meat so I can build muscle, to do some weight-bearing exercise every couple of days, to try dairy again (and hopefully I won’t get a rash from it), and to make sure I’m getting enough complex carbohydrates. Some days I have gotten enough carbs, and some days I haven’t. I am also supposed to weigh myself once a week, then email or call her in a couple of weeks, and let her know what the scales have shown. She expects me to have gained a pound in the next two weeks. She wants to keep it slow so what is gained will be muscle because I need that more than I need fat right now. I’ll also be getting my thyroid checked in a couple of weeks. She and I aren’t so sure that’s not messed up, too.

My dietitian (I like her advice, so I’m claiming her as my dietitian!) has a daughter who has Celiac, so she knows about this stuff, not just from the textbooks, but from a bit of experience. I’ve got to tell you, I was thrilled to see how much she knows.  She also has the knowledge to deal with Candidiasis, and when I talked about the skin problems and such that I’ve had, she understood what to do about carbs so that I’ll get enough of the right kinds to feed myself and I won’t be feeding yeast.

She wanted to make sure that I know about more than just what I need to do to gain weight, so we talked about gluten intolerance, too. There is a lot to know about hidden sources of gluten, and for the sake of getting the info out, here are a few things to be aware of:

If you eat a meal at a family get-together, or a club or church activity, and some dishes have gluten in them, make sure you go first in line. If someone mixes up the spoons between dishes, the gluten-free foods will be contaminated. Also, if someone picks up a roll or a slice of bread and lets it pass over a pot of veggies, or some other gluten-free food, and crumbs drop in the pot, it’s contaminated.

Don’t lick envelopes! The glue on them is made from wheat.

Check your medications and supplements for hidden gluten. You have to make sure that any starches they may contain come from corn and not wheat. Make sure your pharmacist knows you have to avoid gluten. One good website for checking over the counter, as well as prescription medicine, is Gluten Free Drugs. My doctor and nurse practitioner use this site and so do I.

Also, I get email from Jane Anderson at About.com. She writes a lot of good articles concerning gluten intolerance issues.

Cecelia’s Marketplace has a great little book which lists tens of thousands of gluten-free products. I take it everywhere I go!

Not only food, but also personal care products such as shampoo and makeup need to be checked to make sure they are gluten-free. Yes, it probably has to come in contact with your digestive system to cause a problem, but if you put lotion on your skin that has something in it, say, vitamin E that is derived from wheat, and you touch your skin and then touch your lips, you can be glutened.

OH…make sure there is no gluten on their lips before you kiss your sweetie. If you eat a gluten-free sandwich, and your sweetie has a sandwich made with bread that has gluten, and you kiss after eating, you will be glutened. I was getting my grandson out of his high chair once and I started kissing his sweet little cheeks, then realized he had cereal all over his face. Yikes! I washed my mouth off really quickly.

The only other advice I’m going to give is, again, see a dietitian or a nutritionist if you are gluten intolerant, plus one more thing. My dietitian told me, and I’m passing this on because it applies to anyone with gluten intolerance, not to let it bother you if people think you are neurotic about avoiding gluten. She said things just aren’t real to some people unless they have experienced it for themselves. Y’all take care.

From Tears to Joy

A while back I wrote about how upsetting it has been to be losing weight to the point of looking like a contestant on Survivor at the end of the contest. I’m getting used to being skinny. I seem to have leveled out at just a hair or two above 100 pounds. I guess that will be fine. Like I said, I’m getting used to it.

The other things that are happening are fantabulous. (I had to use my special made up word that I use for the very best things.) My hair is growing back. For years it had been getting thinner, especially last year. The lady who was cutting it even told me I sure was “losing a lot of hair.” I now have new hair that is about this long!

My eyebrows have also gotten thicker. I was talking to my nurse practitioner about these things today after I showed her my thumbnail. For the past few years my right thumbnail has had weird squiggly lines on it. They looked like wrinkles and covered half the nail. It was growing out from the nail bed like that. I knew it was something medical when I first noticed it, but I didn’t know what and I never said anything to anybody about it. Last week I noticed that it’s beginning to look like a normal nail. There is a small area with fewer squiggles and then it gets smooth. My nurse practitioner said it was squiggly because I had a deficiency of something when I was eating gluten and didn’t know I shouldn’t be. That’s also why my hair was falling out and my eyebrows had thinned out.

She said our bodies take the nutrients to our important (to keep us alive important) body organs and the skin, hair and nails get what’s left. They are also the fastest to recover, so it doesn’t hurt them to do without like it would other parts of us. Other things can recover, too. It just takes longer.

Another cool thing, and this is the one that put me over the top here and has me writing when I would normally be asleep because it’s after midnight, is this. I’ve had trouble keeping up with my flower beds and garden the past few years. I wondered why that was, because when we home schooled our sons it all looked much better, and I was a lot busier then than I am now. When I thought about it I remembered that I worked in the yard in the evening back then. I haven’t been able to do that the past few years because I couldn’t bend at all after I ate. A doctor told me years and years ago that I probably had a hiatal hernia and so I just thought that was why I got to where I couldn’t bend. I figured it bothered me more as I was getting older.

Well, yesterday evening after supper, I picked up my clippers and went outside to just walk around and piddle a bit with clipping small things and maybe dead-heading a few flowers. I noticed I could bend and it didn’t cause any problems. Now, I wouldn’t go outside after supper and stand on my head in the flower beds, but I can do a little bit of yard work. So, today I went out and cut some small branches that were broken during a thunderstorm this afternoon. I also dug out part of the ditch that needed it and took the dirt to the side yard and filled in holes that an armadillo dug.

It’s so much more comfortable outside in the evening. Mornings are more humid, and by the time the dew is dry and you can do something out there, it’s getting plumb hot. So, as long as I don’t stand on my head in a flower bed, I can now work in my yard at the end of the day. And that, dear readers, is a great time to do something that is so pleasant and relaxing.

ADDENDUM (June 8, 2012): I was so excited that I didn’t make it clear the reason I can work in the yard after supper is that I’m not having stomach problems caused from gluten any more! I’m still excited.

SECOND ADDENDUM (January 13, 2014): Sorry to keep adding to this post, but things just aren’t totally resolved, I don’t think. I still weigh barely over 100 pounds and I eat more than my husband. In years past, if I’d eaten like I am now I’d put on some weight. The hair on my legs went away again, then came back, then went away. The hair on my arms turned a funny color and some of it broke off last year. Reflux became a problem again. Osteopenia is now osteoporosis and it’s worsened over the past year. I’ve done all I can to take good care of myself. I’m active and my nutrition is great. I’m wondering if there is a problem with my endocrine system and plan to ask the doctor that I’ll see for the bone situation soon. I may have more than a gluten problem, which wouldn’t be unusual. None of what I post on here is medical advice for anyone in any way, other than to say that if you are having problems that seem strange to you, try to find a doctor who can deal with it. Don’t try to fix it on your own and don’t give up. Friends tell me there is an answer. We just have to keep looking.

Learning to Live Gluten-Free

What? Acid in my throat again? This is the second night in a row. I just got out of bed after lying there for an hour wondering why? What did I eat? Was it three days of spicy food? Maybe the first day when I ate at the Mexican restaurant that has the great HOT sauce to dip chips in wasn’t too much, but that followed by two days of chili was too much? Maybe it wasn’t the spice, but it was too much dairy? Could dairy be a problem, too? I had a lot of cheese at the restaurant and ice cream last night, but not much dairy the day in between. It could be that since it was really cold night before last and I was sliding down off the wedge that I sleep on so I could get way under the cover, that I was lying too flat and that is why I had acid that night, and then last night it was a different problem. Like…too much chocolate? I have been eating a little bit of a Hershey bar sometimes and that hasn’t bothered me, but last night I had birthday cake and it was chocolate. It was gluten-free and gluten is what started this whole investigation. (Only I didn’t know at first that gluten was a problem. I thought the whole gluten-free thing was a fad. Unless, of course, one has Celiac Disease.) And the corn chips that I had with my chili were two different brands, but the first one is processed on machinery that also processes wheat. The second brand has been tested below a certain level of gluten, but not totally gluten-free. Can I really be that sensitive? Gee, I hope not. Could it be tomatoes? I hope not, but it has to be something. Maybe only if they are cooked tomatoes because the pico de gallo and the HOT – wonderfully HOT! – sauce didn’t bother me.  How many possibilities have I come up with so far? Too many. See how complicated this can be? I’ll have to play detective with my food diary to figure this out.

I know one thing. I sure have enjoyed the nights of sleep without acid and whatever caused this will have to go. “Without acid” started after I stopped eating gluten. Until now, anyway. And it may be that if tomatoes are bothering me now, they won’t after my system has had more time to recuperate from exposure to gluten. I’ve also enjoyed not being bloated and feeling much better in general. People are even telling me that I look like I feel better.

Up until now, my life has been defined as the Days BC and the Days AC – Before Christ and After Christ. Now, I may be adding the Days BG and AG – Before and After Gluten. Well, there’s no “may” to it. I don’t want to feel like I used to feel.

I quit eating gluten at my doctor’s suggestion. In September when I saw him my whole digestive system felt like it had been to a rock concert. You know how when you go to a concert and the music is loud and you’re right up front at the stage and then when it’s over your whole brain feels like it’s pulsating from sound waves that are still reverberating around in there? A few years ago, I had two sons in bands together and I spent quite a bit of time having fun with loud music. Lots of reverberating afterwards. The head gets over it pretty soon. My digestive system was miserable. My doctor suggested that I try a really good probiotic with lots of different bacteria in one capsule and digestive enzymes. He said if that didn’t work after a couple of weeks to try cutting out dairy. If two weeks of not eating dairy foods didn’t help, then cut out gluten. The only time I could tell that the enzymes helped was when I ate something like pancakes or a big ol’ donut. So, I started with eliminating gluten. I’m still taking the enzymes and probiotic until I get everything figured out. Then I’ll see about cutting back on some of that.

So, what do I think of all this gluten-free eating? And what does my husband think? I’ll start with him; he’s pretty cool. He has liked the pasta and the pancakes and the cornbread. He liked the cake, too. He told my parents that everything I’ve fixed that has been gluten-free has been “delicious.” This morning he told me that it’s probably a good idea for everyone to avoid gluten since it can cause so many problems for so many people. Well, I think it’s great and wonderful that he’s so easy to work with here, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say everyone should avoid it. He might decide he’ll avoid it, except for beer. He likes beer. It’s a good thing I’ve never liked beer; that is about the only thing I haven’t been able to find a substitute for.

So, how has this changed my grocery shopping so far? To tell you that, I’ll tell you how I was shopping to begin with. I have a list to take to the store. It’s a master list. I’ve listed vegetables broken down into categories of green leafy, root, cruciferous and others. On my list, I also have fruit, nuts and seeds, grains and beans. I start in the produce department, checking what is in season and on sale, where it came from and what goes well with what and put meals together as I shop. I was only buying a few packaged foods like oatmeal, pancake mix, lunch meat (icky, I know – my husband eats it), bread, nut butters, canned soup, tofu. Most of what we eat is fresh produce and dried beans and grains. We eat pasta every few weeks. Rarely, I buy boudain or tamales. More rarely than those things, any other meat. It’s hard for me to say “never.” About the only dairy I was eating before I started having so much acid at night, was a little bit of milk in my coffee and butter in oatmeal or on pancakes. I did increase dairy though when I stopped eating cooked food for supper and started eating fresh fruit with some cheese, nuts, or peanut or almond butter. I was trying to get through a night without waking up with my throat burning. Nothing was helping with the bloating or the general sluggishness that my system was having. I’m not drinking coffee or tea, except herbal tea, more than once a week now.

Canned soup had to go. No biggie. Oatmeal in the US isn’t safe from wheat contamination. I miss oatmeal and plan to try it in a few months after my system has had time rest. (Europe and Canada are way ahead of us on this. I plan to write about some of that later.) Our couscous and pancake mix had to go. I had gone from being able to eat a stack of four small pancakes in May to only two pancakes by September and they sat in my stomach like a rock until I started taking digestive enzymes. The enzymes helped, but they weren’t fixing the problem.

The only time I’ve really felt lost is at breakfast. No barley cereal, no oatmeal, no French toast, no rye toast with almond butter and sliced apple or banana. We’re better off not eating a lot of eggs, because of my husband’s cholesterol. I’d like to have toast sometimes. I’m thankful for gluten-free pancake options. I’ve ordered Better Batter flour so I can make bread and do a bit of holiday baking. I picked up a small magazine, “Gluten-Free Recipes”, at the grocery store the other day because it has two recipes for flour blends that can be made up in bulk, one for breads and the other is all-purpose. So, I have some exploring to do. In the meantime, I’ve found some good websites with recipes. I LOVE the cornbread recipe that Nicole has on “Gluten-Free on a Shoestring”! Like a lot of folks, I live on a shoestring and once my Better Batter flour gets here I’ll be able to make pancakes with it and it won’t cost as much as the mix. I was desperate when I bought the mix. Oh, and pizza. I’d like to have pizza sometimes.

That reminds me of something else that I was thinking about when I woke up with acid in my throat. I’ve thought of this often over the years. It is just a question that I ask myself about different aspects of life. In this situation, I’m asking, “Do I live to eat, or do I eat to live? Am I a servant of food, or is food my servant?” I really enjoy food. I was cooking eggs and boudain for breakfast the other day and I thought, “I can have boudain and chocolate! What else do I need?” But, really. Am I remembering that this life and its goodies are temporary and what I have to look forward to is going to be better? Do I hold onto things here lightly? Really? Even favorite foods?

ADDENDUM (January 2, 2012): I kept seeing things about gluten-free beer here and there, so I thought for those of you who are interested, here’s a link to a website with reviews of gluten-free beers: Switch2GlutenFree This site is written by a man named Mike. The “About Mike” page is pretty interesting; this looks like a good place for a guy, especially, to do a little reading. Ladies aren’t the only ones writing about living gluten-free and I imagine a few guys might like to read another fellow’s writing.