Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Never give up, never surrender.

As most of my friends know, I've been on a journey to regain my health for over a decade after having my body damaged greatly by Lyme disease. This journey has led me all over the place, trying everything that seemed even remotely feasible. When you are in pain 24/7, crippled up and unable to take care of daily needs, parsing out energy for tasks and choosing the one or two things you'll be able to accomplish in a day, like dishes or grocery shopping, vacuuming or laundry, cooking a meal or cleaning the house, you reach for any tool that might help. I've been so disabled that I've had to have strangers help me put on my socks in an airport! I've had to ask my husband to help put my hair in a ponytail, or put earrings on me, because I couldn't reach my own head, my elbows were so locked and rigid. I had a number of corrective surgeries and got back on my feet, found some amazing healthcare practitioners and improved to the point that I could go back to work, but was still far from well.  After I started my life over on the east coast, sans spousal unit, I began to dig even deeper and make alternate choices. I found myself drawn to health and human services, something I would never have dreamed of previously. I went back to school and gained access to knowledge that set off in me a desire to dig even deeper. I began pulling the threads that I'd teased free a few years before with years of exhaustive blood tests and genetic testing. I read, researched, studied and learned an incredible amount, in bits and pieces over the last two years and have little by little implemented habits, supplements and changes that have improved my life dramatically. It's required that I step outside the norms that most of us consider comfortable, and it's not always easy. Some of it is downright off the grid, but if I get to wake up feeling the way I do right now, this very moment, I'll take off grid actions any day.

I have a number of genetic issues, some were present before the Lyme, some activated post Lyme, inflammation being one of my worst enemies. Thyroid disease was pretty much forgone for me, and the methylation and neurotransmitter dysregulation ties into that. I am dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin challenged.  The dopamine problem, which is fairly significant for me, puts me at high risk for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and along with some of the other issues, for significant risk of cancer. All of these conditions play out across my family over and over. The doctor used the words "probable more than possible," when talking about my risk level. Scary, right? Factor in the knowledge that I'm on my own, with no one to care for or advocate for me should I end up disabled, and it's unacceptable to my highly independent mind. I work in a group home that provides care to individuals with severe disability, some of whom have Alzheimer's. And while we provide excellent care for our charges, whom we are very attached to, I KNOW this industry, and what it means to be stuck in a nursing facility and what level of care I'm likely to receive as a lone old lady unable to manage her own care. Nope. No thank you.

So I decided to try to figure it out and front load my chances. I mean, I've got good habits in place already. I never smoked, haven't been able to drink alcohol for years, get enough sleep, and had better than average eating habits. The standard American diet hasn't been my gig for years. I read everything I could get my hands on as far as treatment of or mitigating possibilities for dopamine deficiency illness. I discovered neuroprotective supplements, nootropics and racetams. I wrote a 30 page report just for myself, listing all the substances, their derivations, functions in the body, optimal dosage and timing. I set about testing 3/4 of them over the course of 5 months now and can say with certainty that they have made notable changes in my cognition, focus, learning and memory retention. I did make the Dean's list last year... Some of these have been in use since the 1940's, have a clear and proven track record for absolute legit treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. They're all synthesized from plants or vitamins, but altered in such a way that they become supercharged, and cross the bbb. Others are edgy, fringe options, and are more experimental. I figure, what the heck. If I'm already sliding, and believe me, I was sliding, I'm willing to go pretty far off the path to put on the brakes for that. I haven't gone so far as to buy the injectable stuff, even tho it has clinically proven results. The mildly edgy stuff has worked a treat! So, I have a veritable chem lab, bottles and bags of powders, potions, choline and chemistry, scales and a self written instruction manual culled from months of biochem research. Turns out, I looooove chemistry and research. I'm not just an artist after all!

And while that helped my head function much better, my focus improved and I found I could power thru even  the dreaded healthcare statistics chapters, I still had physical issues. Over the winter, as dad began to decline, I experienced depression, and gained weight. His death hit me hard, and if I'm honest, I'm still mourning him. Quite a bit. I don't think that hole in my life will ever heal, honestly. I'll just have to remain wounded. I looked at photos of myself from his funeral and loathed what I saw. I'm not one for status quo, so this spring, I decided to fix it. Make the outside match the inside. I went back to research and something kept popping up over and over. I'd seen it in researching the Alzheimer's, and it was recommended as a treatment for that and Parkinson's, cancer, epilepsy, diabetes and ADHD over and over. The high fat, low carb diet known as the ketogenic style of eating. I decided to go for it. Why not. I read everything I could, starting with the typical "bro-science" websites, gym bro's who used diet and supplements to hack their bodies into athletic super machines. They led me to more scientific websites and the silicon valley bio-hackers who are naturally inclined to push the boundaries of body and brain. (for the record, this is also where I got a lot of info on the noots. The sili valley boys are hella into substance play in search of that limitless pill) These guys are big on real science, and I soon found myself neurotransmitter deep in the real research and reading and listening to biochemists and doctors who have made this general subject their life and professional specialty. And, I found, the science in support of the protocol was there. For people with neuro disease, inflammation issues, insulin resistance, hypo or hyper glycemia, gut issues, cytokine issues, metabolic disorders... this was not just a fad, but a legitimate treatment plan. And I have manifestations of all of those issues.

I spent the first two weeks easing into it. I won't lie, it wasn't easy and I made some errors, but got on track pretty well by week three. And got keto flu. Not pleasant. But, I'd read about it, knew it was likely, and rode it out. Fortunately, I had the ability to rest a lot that week. I kept researching and learning about ways to tweak so that I truly got into ketosis and what I needed to do to not feel like crap while I adjusted. Pro tip- LOT'S of fluid filled with electrolyte drops. Salvation in a bottle. I made mistakes with too much artificial sweetener, and too much cheese. Too much everything, actually. I got a dietary log called Chron-O-meter and a scale and learned that my "eyeballing" was way off! I don't need to use the scale as much now, but still use it often when I'm being super strict or learning a new food weight. I definitely use the Chron-O a LOT. If you don't log or track, especially at first, you will likely fail. We are notoriously bad at understanding quantity, and logging everything ensures compliance. I'm a tad OCD about data, and when you make a meal, you have to log each single ingredient. I happen to have the patience for that, surprisingly. Shrug. I added intermittent fasting into the mix on the recommendations of the science and after listening to Dr. Jason Fung https://www.dietdoctor.com/intermittent-fasting/questions-and-answers, and Dr. Dom D'agostino http://tim.blog/2015/11/03/dominic-dagostino/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=feed
I won't go into that, but have posted links. I love IF, it has really enhanced the healing process. It's not for everyone, but would help most people. It's not something most are mentally able to consider, so...whatever. It works wonders for me.

I am 7.5 weeks into keto, 5 weeks strict, 4 weeks with IF added in and here's what I've noticed:

My brain is sharp. Sharper than it's been for years. I have a clarity that allows me to stay motivated, on task and come up with solution much quicker than before. I do NOT have brain fog. The only time I feel impaired in any way is if I go too off track, like eat gluten (I'm celiac, so it's quite negative) I just plain get things done. And come up with life hacks I never did before.

I need a lot less sleep yet have much more energy. I can get explosive workouts in a fasted state on just 6 hours of sleep.

I can workout almost at pre-Lyme levels. I used to be VERY strong. I'm seeing big gains in muscle, strength and stamina. I have control of my body, I can move almost normally, I can walk normally up and down stairs 90% of the time now.

I'm melting. Seriously. The fat is slowly, steadily just melting. I lay down yesterday and noticed that my ribs were clearly sticking up and my stomach was in a concave arc downward! I'm down almost two clothing sizes. I've lost some chins. Looks like I'm keeping my bubble butt tho, thank goodness. Don't nobody want a white girl booty!!!

I'm not nearly as hungry, I don't need to eat as often, and when I do, I don't feel bloated or bogged down, I don't want to nap, in fact, I rarely nap at all now, I don't need to. My energy is stable and consistent. On any given day, I eat as follows: 70-90 grams of protein-25 grams of carbs-113 grams of fat. Notice the fat is the highest category. Yep. I eat whole natural food over the fake keto or low carb stuff, I just think that's the better way to go. It takes most ppl a while to transition into the mindset of eating real food, we're so inundated with processed, lab made food. Eschew that crap and you WILL see improvements. I no longer have hypoglycemic episodes. None. After years of serious struggle with this, even to finding myself waking up on the floor after passing out, nothing.

My hormones have boosted and I have no menopause symptoms. My body temp has risen as well. Lets just say, if I "did" have a man in my life, I suspect he would be very happy with the changes...

My post meal blood sugar is 99. I was edging toward pre-diabetes. That's gone.

Did I mention that I'm not as fat??? I can buy clothes in non fat lady stores. Yes!!!!

I have focus, my attention span is much better. I can read and absorb material much better. I'm currently reading 4 books, only one is fiction. I'm retaining information better.

Most importantly, I feel like a conqueror. I'm naturally an independant, somewhat aggressive alpha type person,  and where illness and constant pain had dampened me down to something I didn't like at all, I'm now back to my usual "ready to rumble" nature. I like feeling this way. I like it very very much.

I am having my lab work done this week, and am curious to see if I've corrected the flagged issues from the last few labs. We'll see what the chemistry shows, now and in 6 months. I can tell you from physical observation tho, the positive changes are huge, and I couldn't be happier.  Don't ever accept limitations, always believe that you can surmount them. Never give up, never surrender!!!

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