Health Update

For several months my pain has been manageable. Nothing has been out of control as far as swelling and I’m used to my other aches and pains. But lately, something has been creeping in. Testing just revealed that I am battling a parasite. To say I’m freaked out is a huge understatement. A parasite was discovered last year. I dropped raw milk out of paranoia and followed an herbal protocol that did the trick. I looked at my notes and it happened around this same time last year. Certain parasites can come back each year despite treatment and there are close to a 1,000 that can infest the human body. I play in dirt (compost) when I garden, wipe a kid’s behind everyday, clean a little box for two cats, handle raw meat, vegetables from my garden, farmer’s markets and the grocery store, I eat at restaurants, and I am a freak about washing hands. I could try to figure out where this critter came from and go crazy cleaning and generally freaking out. Or I could do what I am supposed to to get rid of it (going herbal route) and support my body the best way I can. I knew something was amiss though due to pain all over rapidly increasing over the past couple weeks. My boxing gloves are on.

A recent visit with my rheumatologist to go over current lab work revealed MCV and MCH still just above normal. My doctor said that since they are not too high above normal, despite being up there for years, and because the additional blood work he had done came back normal, he is not worried.

blood work 2014

He and I got to chatting and I said that sometimes I wonder what in the world I will feel like when I am sixty if my body is doing this kind of stuff at forty. He responded with a sympathetic “yes…” that trailed off. It was not what I was looking for. I wanted to hear hope. I wanted to hear, “Oh, you’ll be fine!” accompanied with a smile. Honestly, I wanted to hear it even if he didn’t think it was true. Is that bad? I have hope. I fight hard against seeing this as a downward spiral even though people all around me are getting worse. But on the other hand, I do appreciate my doctor’s honesty. No mention was made of my antibiotic protocol (now one year and four months into it), so I am continuing with it. I am scheduled to see my doctor and have blood work done again three months from my last appointment.

Another flaky, red patch has come about as well, and this time in a more prominent spot. Lovely.

psoriatic skin

Current state of my toes and nails affected by psoriatic arthritis. Thank God for nail polish.

psoriatic feet

Shoes I am getting rid of this week thanks to psoriatic arthritis. Can we please have a moment of silence to mourn.

high heels

I can still smile about it all and sport a pair of Naot heels when I want to. Thank God.

mirror

When I was at my chiropractor’s office yesterday, my four boys were waiting in an area outside the room. One was drawing, one had his eyes closed, and two were on electronic devices. I was sitting on the table in the room with my doctor with my back to the door that was open. I hadn’t noticed my four year old come in and sit down. I had just told my doctor when asked how I was doing that I was experiencing increased pain, blah, blah, blah.

And then I felt a little hand on my back rub up and down a couple times. I turned around to see my little guy. He looked at me and said, “your back hurts?” Oh, it broke my heart. I wanted to take my words back. I am attempting to make the best of the situation by embracing the fact that hardships help teach compassion. My little guy does not have touch at the top of his love language list, so it means all the more to me that he came over and put his hand on me out of compassion.

I find comfort in my pursuit to demonstrate joy to my children despite an uncooperative body.  Because dwelling on what a drag it is to deal with pain and be hyper conscious about food and products is not going to help produce fruit in anyone. Does anyone else struggle with how our children process what it means to have a parent that is not fully well?

Beware the Purple Potion

A few days after our Thanksgiving gathering and exposure to sickness my youngest son looked like this:

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A few more days and he looked like this:

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both eyes red

and after a couple weeks of misery that included goopey eyes that itched and burned,

his eyes look like this:

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and just days before Christmas,

his cough finally relented and he looked like this:

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Playing the part of Joseph

I’m so happy to be on the other side of this battle. I nourished and supported his little body and environment in every way that I knew how.  To see him still become so ill was really hard–especially because I work hard to nourish him and keep him healthy. I tried to see it as a positive, as an opportunity for his developing immune system to go to battle and come out stronger as a result. I told him to tell his body to fight and stay strong at heart.

To add to this, my husband also became very sick. Husband has been like man of steel. Seriously, the man never gets sick any more. For several years now, he has taken the vitamins I recommend, given up a lot of garbage (stuff you can’t really call food), and he eats what I cook from scratch. Since we’ve been married, his cholesterol levels have come down and returned to normal, he gave up the inhaler he has always used, he went from being lactose intolerant to being able to consume dairy without unpleasant side effects, and he stopped getting the nasty, blow a lung coughing kind of colds that he always got when we were dating. The man sounded like a barking seal reliably each year. But he hasn’t sounded like that or come down with anything like that in years.

As a result, he got really used to feeling good. I know because of how he reacted to becoming sick. He was not happy about the situation and everyone in the house knew it. It was rough-for both of us. His cough was unrelenting and his patience for it was slim. He consulted with a friend of his who is a doctor and this is one of the items that was recommended to him to help him get through the nighttime coughing:

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My husband went to the store and purchased this. I warned him beforehand it would be a bottle of poison, but he trusted the medical professional. He did not look at the label in the store and brought his purchase home. In addition to the sleep aid there are chemical preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup in the mix. This is the solution when people are ill?

I’m not going to lie, it irritated me that my husband purchased and considered using a product like this after everything he has learned. Is it that worth it? My body reacts to the stuff in this purple formula like it is poison and you still want to chug it? And it definitely irritates me that this is what a well respected doctor has been taught to recommend. I told husband to consider having a glass of wine before bed instead and pointed out that his purple bottle of chemicals has 10% alcohol in it. He doesn’t drink, so I figured it wouldn’t be too tough to “knock him out” so he could sleep.

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I’ve mentioned that Red No. 40 is banned in Europe. Enough said. High fructose corn syrup suppresses the immune system and promotes inflammation among other things. According to the Cosmetics Database Polyoxyl 40 Stearate (listed as PEG – 40 Stearate) is a moderate to high hazard ingredient. It mentions cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ toxicity, and irritation concerns, and has been found to cause tumor formation at moderate doses in rabbits. (poor rabbits…) Sodium benzoate has the ability to deprive the cells of oxygen, break down the immune system and cause cancer. And saccharin showed up on a blood test of mine as antagonistic to my body, as did the colors. And did you catch the ingredient “flavor”? What in the world is flavor? What chemical concoction might that be? And shouldn’t it be required to be listed?

What is all of this doing in something people take when they are not feeling well and need some sleep? Why is a bottle of this even legal?

It was frustrating to see my little guy and husband get so sick despite my best efforts and back flips to get them well. But thankfully, I never felt a twinge of anything. I ramped up my own immune boosting protocol and ate lots of live food in the process because I was playing with snot and getting coughed and sneezed on by my little guy–and big guy–and hoped for the best! Christmas definitely came a little early for me in the way of wellness.

My response to my son and husband getting very ill was not so desirable to my husband. I went commando in my attempts to get them better. My husband already thinks I’m an extremist when it comes to eating well and taking care of my family food wise. (I beg to differ.) You can imagine my response to all this sickness. I was probably not the most compassionate wife to my husband during this display of sickness. Because I work hard at wellness, I have no tolerance for whining, complaining and laying around if you are not doing everything you can to be well. I realized how deep I have to dig lately to be compassionate to others when they are not feeling well if they are not being proactive, eating wisely and moving their bodies. Just being honest. The same goes for myself if I choose to indulge from time to time. If I feel like junk as a result, I have no one to blame but myself and try not to mope around and complain about it.

I would in my defense like to say that I threw the book at my husband in my efforts to get him well. I ramped up his vitamin C, D and zinc. I gave him fresh, live food,

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I made soups with vegetables and homemade stock, I had humidifiers and simmering pots of essential oils going, I tried to get him to neti pot his nose and clean it out, I suggested he get some fresh air, sunshine on his skin and encouraged him to walk barefoot on the earth. I knew the barefoot part wouldn’t happen, but the walk did. :) I made him teas and homemade cough syrups that had everything from apple cider vinegar to thyme and honey, I kept the four kids occupied so he could rest for hours at a time, I encouraged him to get his spine adjusted (noticeable improvement in health after), and I showed him love and support (I promise, I did).

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After three weeks his cough finally subsided just in time for Christmas. He and I are getting to sleep through the night again and I am praising Jesus!

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I share all of this so you may be mindful of what is in those colorful bottles of cough syrup, sleep aids, etc. We have to be our own health advocates because unfortunately, the shelves are lined with bottles of toxic concoctions and well meaning doctors are not always recommending what is truly in our best interest.

Praying this finds you feeling well and staying well in the new year!

Sometimes, You Have to Ask

I saw my rheumatologist for a three month follow-up recently. Incidentally, the day before my 40th birthday. Do I know how to get a party started or what?! While I was sitting in the waiting room, two well-dressed ladies came in and asked the receptionist if it would be possible to see my doctor. They were clearly drug representatives packing freebies. I had already been waiting forty-five minutes at this point, as had the gentleman a few seats away from me. I couldn’t help but think–I hope you are seeing the doctor after me!

Within five minutes, they were called to come back. I said to the gentleman near me, “I wish we were called that quickly.” He agreed and we began to talk. It was nice to swap personal health facts and experiences with someone else that has dealt with wacky pain and inflammation. It was nice because he “get’s it” and because we both had compassion for what the other has endured. He wasn’t much older than me, drives a truck for Walmart, had a knee require surgery, soon after bodily joint pain and stiffness entered the scene and now for the past few years he has been on methotrexate and a biologic that he self injects, and has had a second knee surgery. The drugs are not getting the job done and he lives in pain.

I told him my body really let go after my fourth c-section, but because I was nursing, I researched alternative approaches. Shared with him the importance of looking at what you eat. He was surprised to hear that eliminating certain foods or chemicals can help take a load off your system. He had never heard that sugar was inflammatory. (Not only that–it’s like crack, people! Try to give it up for a month and tell me how you do. :) ) I told him that I have done two different approaches with antibiotics. The first I said was nine months long, tough at the outset, progress was very gradual but awesome, and following it, I was drug-free and functioned quite well for a year and a half. Praise God. Now I have begun a second protocol and have been at it for a year, things are much better now than a year ago. He had never heard of the approach. I told him to check out the Road Back website. He was very interested and hopefully encouraged by the fact that I had experienced positive results. He was there to see my doctor after me. When I saw my doctor, I let him know his next patient might have questions. :)

Here are my current lab results from 10/2013 if you are interested:

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Not bad, eh? Except for that MCV number. My doctor said that meant enlarged red blood cells. “Which could mean what?” I asked. He said, “Could be thyroid, but we’ve checked that and you’re fine, alcohol is not a problem for you, labs show liver and kidney look good, could be your B12 or folate levels…let’s get that checked today and I will have the nurse call you with the results.”

Here’s a tip for anyone coming up on a birthday. Don’t consult with Dr. Google regarding anything about your health until waaaayyyy after your birthday! Note to self. I couldn’t help myself and looked for information about enlarged red blood cells. I’m not going to even write about some of the things I read about. I remember seeing the MCV number high a long time ago on my lab results in addition to MCH, but I recall my doctor not seeming concerned. I dug through my copies of blood work going back three years. The number has been up there for the past three years for both MCV and MCH. Interesting to me that it has my doctors attention now.

Lab results from three years ago (10/2010):

lab results 10/2013

In looking at my lab results from my primary care doctor, I discovered that my B12 and folate levels looked good two years ago when they were checked and I have supplemented with a multi-vitamin daily since then and have maintained a healthy, whole-foods diet. I’m guessing my levels will still be fine.

My doctor originally told me that he would keep me on minocycline for up to a year. I’ve passed the one year anniversary and was pleased that he didn’t mention taking me off and told me to schedule a follow-up three months from now. I am going to continue the minocycline indefinitely for now, as well as the sulfasalazine. I realized I wouldn’t see my doctor until the new year (hopefully won’t have to before!) and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year before going next door for more blood work.

Just for kicks, I did an online search today for information about long-term antibiotic therapy and this came up on page one of my search hits from Doctor Oz:

http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/jacob-teitelbaum-md/antibiotics-helpful-rheumatoid-arthritis

Go Doctor Oz and thank you for spreading the word!

And this:

http://recoveringarthritics.blogspot.com/2009/11/three-recovering-arthritics.html

She might as well be me talking!

I also searched the list of abstracts presented recently at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in San Diego in hopes that this treatment is being investigated further. Unfortunately, not really. To me, it’s heart breaking. I found numerous studies involving biologic drugs, however. I found the following chart in one of the abstracts. The chart displays the average copay for drugs used for RA under Medicare–which is $250-$650 for a biologic. Plain crazy. I scrolled down and found minocycline–$7. So, what are the chances of pharmaceutical companies funding research studying long-term antibiotic protocols and their role in certain autoimmune diseases? I’m thinking next to none because they stand nothing to gain! Sad.

Table.   Coverage for Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs in U.S. Medicare Part D Plans.

Drug

 

Plans covering drug

(%)

 

Plans covering drug without prior authorization

(%)

 

Plans Charging Percent

Co-insurance

(%)

 

Mean

Co-insurance

(%)

 

Average Copay

Mean (SD)

($)

 

Biologic
Abatacept

54

 

4

 

100

 

30.1

 

601 (22)

 

Adalimumab

100

 

7

 

100

 

30.0

 

583 (12)

 

Anakinra

40

 

4

 

100

 

29.9

 

517 (19)

 

Certolizumab

59

 

1

 

100

 

29.6

 

650 (16)

 

Etanercept

100

 

7

 

100

 

30.0

 

547 (11)

 

Golimumab

42

 

1

 

100

 

29.6

 

580 (17)

 

Infliximab

100

 

7

 

100

 

30.0

 

255 (5)

 

Rituximab

100

 

8

 

87

 

29.5

 

611 (25)

 

Tocilizumab

40

 

1

 

99

 

29.7

 

335 (14)

 

.
At least 1 biologic DMARD

100

 

9

 

87

 

30.3

 

275*

 

.
Non-biologic
Azathioprine

100

 

34

 

10

 

18.1

 

7 (1)

 

Cuprimine

60

 

60

 

59

 

30.6

 

83 (6)

 

Cyclophosphamide

94

 

2

 

20

 

27.4

 

32 (3)

 

Cyclosporine

100

 

12

 

22

 

25.1

 

34 (2)

 

Hydroxychloroquine

100

 

100

 

10

 

18.1

 

5 (1)

 

Leflunomide

100

 

100

 

13

 

19.3

 

11 (1)

 

Methotrexate

100

 

85

 

13

 

19.8

 

5 (1)

 

Minocycline

100

 

94

 

10

 

18.1

 

7 (1)

 

Sulfasalazine

100

 

100

 

10

 

18.1

 

5 (1)

 

.
At least 1 non-biologic DMARD

100

 

100

 

11

 

18.2

 

4*

 

.*mean copay of least expensive drug covered

Here are studies discussing the use of minocycline for rheumatoid arthritis from pub med:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14528503

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10047718

The following is taken from:

British Journal of Pharmacology © 2013 The British Pharmacological Society.

Minocycline is a second-generation, semi-synthetic tetracycline that has been in therapeutic use for over 30 years because of its antibiotic properties against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. It is mainly used in the treatment of acne vulgaris and some sexually transmitted diseases. Recently, it has been reported that tetracyclines can exert a variety of biological actions that are independent of their anti-microbial activity, including anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic activities, and inhibition of proteolysis, angiogenesis and tumour metastasis. These findings specifically concern to minocycline as it has recently been found to have multiple non-antibiotic biological effects that are beneficial in experimental models of various diseases with an inflammatory basis, including dermatitis, periodontitis, atherosclerosis and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Of note, minocycline has also emerged as the most effective tetracycline derivative at providing neuroprotection. This effect has been confirmed in experimental models of ischaemia, traumatic brain injury and neuropathic pain, and of several neurodegenerative conditions including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury. Moreover, other pre-clinical studies have shown its ability to inhibit malignant cell growth and activation and replication of human immunodeficiency virus, and to prevent bone resorption. Considering the above-mentioned findings, this review will cover the most important topics in the pharmacology of minocycline to date, supporting its evaluation as a new therapeutic approach for many of the diseases described herein.”

Found this on minocycline and ovarian cancer:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23593315

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of information out there that our doctors are not telling us about. I’ve never had a medical doctor talk to me about what I eat and it’s role in disease. I’ve never had a medical doctor talk to me about the importance of managing stress and it’s impact on my body. And antibiotics as a treatment option are not being offered as readily as biologics, if even at all. Take the patient I spoke with in the waiting room for example. We have the same rheumatologist and he has never heard of antibiotics as a possibility. And he has been dealing with wonky joint pain and inflammation for a few years now. Antibiotics have certainly not been the end all be all for me. And they come with their own scary list of side effects. But my journey with them has changed my life for the better and it’s important to me to share that in the hopes it could help someone else.

Stay Free, People!

I get a daily devotional in my e-mail inbox from Max Lucado. Here was today’s:

“In 1965 Howard Rutledge parachuted into North Vietnam and spent the next several years in a prison in Hanoi, locked in a filthy cell breathing stale, rotten air trying to keep his sanity. Few of us will ever face the conditions of a POW camp.

Yet, to one degree or another, we all spend time behind bars. After half-a-century of marriage, my friend’s wife began to lose her memory.  A young mother called, just diagnosed with Lupus. Why would God permit such imprisonment?  To what purpose?  Jeremiah 30:24 promises, “The Lord will not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the intents of His mind.”

This season in which you find yourself may puzzle you, but it doesn’t bewilder God.  He will use it for His purpose. Please be reminded…You will get through this!”

I read this and thought, “I don’t want to be behind bars!” This sense of self imprisonment could apply to anyone at any time in their life. What stood out to me was lupus (i.e. autoimmune disease), behind bars, and God. Let us not put ourselves behind bars at any point in time because of our physical battles. Lord, please….

I can’t help but feel sometimes that we are hand selected in a good way to carry certain burdens. It has certainly impacted every little corner of my life to be faced with the loss of my health. It is important to me to try to keep it in perspective. I can’t personally do that without God.

I pray this finds everyone free today!

Diary Update

If there is even a single soul following my second adventure with an antibiotic protocol, I apologize for not updating my AP diary 2 in the past six months. When crazy pain rolled in during month two, I unfortunately avoided my diary like the plague. Updating it was the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day because thinking about the state of my body only sucked the joy right out of me. And once you let something go, it’s all too easy to continue on that path.

I am now seven months into my second go with this approach and updated my diary May 16 if you want to know more. Things have unfortunately taken a turn for the worse in the past few weeks and I finally made myself write it all down. I have a follow-up appointment with my rheumatologist next week.

May you be blessed today!

 

No More Yummy Easter Bunny

A few things. First off, I freaked out last night when I discovered a YouTube video containing a commercial at the bottom of my latest post. AAAKK!!! I have since learned that WordPress has chosen to place ads on your blog unless you give them $30 a year. I am now faced with the decision of whether I want ads that advertise Lord only knows what representing me on my blog, or cough up $30. I had no intention of ever advertising on this blog. I also had no intention of ever paying money to maintain this blog. Decisions. Until then, please know that I am not happy about the ads recently thrown up on my blog. :(

Secondly, when did Easter in America become about poisoning our children and glorifying a bunny? When my children were gifted candy recently by someone other than me, I cringed because of what they were going to consume in the name of Easter and our risen King.

Say hello to the infamous peep. I ate them as a kid and they were delicious. Now I know what is in them and the joy is gone.

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They look sweet and innocent enough until you flip the package over. One might even think, “Gluten free–they must be OK.” And how could anything made in a city named Bethlehem be bad?

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But I think the ingredients speak for themselves, don’t they? Please tell me they do. Please tell me that you understand the dangers of corn syrup and synthetic dyes and chemical preservatives? Please.

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I realized something else about the Easter candy as I was photographing it. I noticed that there was no mention of Easter. The box just said, “Happy”. That’s it. What happened to Happy Easter? Merry Christmas has gone to the wayside for Happy Holidays. Have we lost Easter too?

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I dare you to read the ingredients. But please know first that he was “Proudly made in the U.S.A. since 1948″.

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Maybe it should read, “Recklessly causing unexplained, incurable disease and allergy triggers since 1948″. Just saying.

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Do I need to get into the horrors of hydrogenated vegetable oil? Do I? I am not even going to get into the highlighted words right now. But I wanted to point out something on the label that I have never seen before: “U.S. Certified Colors”. Guess how many colors in this bunny? Six. Gag. And it says U.S. Certified because some are banned in other countries (that acknowledge the dangers). Banned, people!

This is Red #40:

disodium 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalenesulfonate (source)

Still yummy? You might also know it as petroleum. Yuck. Ignorance was sweet bliss. But knowledge is power, right?

Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, have been proven to be tainted with cancer-causing contaminants and cause a host of physical and behavioral problems. (source)

Personally, after spending over $400 dollars on a blood test that my insurance wouldn’t pay for, I’ve learned that out of the handful of things my immune system does not like–dyes make the list–red and yellow specifically. You think I don’t want to keep it out of my children like a crazy lady now? It kills me that they have access to it at school. But it doesn’t matter. Because it is everywhere in our society and we are giving it as gifts at all of the holidays. It’s not easy to decide whether or not to allow my children to have it in limited quantities or not at all. And it’s a losing battle in this day and age.

My hope is that one day the bells will go off and the plug will be pulled and the people in charge will shake things up for the sake of our health. In the meantime, I pray that mommies and daddies and young and old will become aware and more vigilant about keeping dangerous toxins out of their diets.

The Beauty After the Storm

Easter was memorable yesterday in a powerful way for me. I lay down on the floor in my three-year old’s room to take a nap with him and promptly passed out. Both he and I were at some point shaken awake from our sleep. I felt the floor shaking under me and loud rumblings echoing outside in what seemed like the endless sound of thunder. It was amazing. Both he and I talked about it for some time later into the day. My fourteen year old pointed out that it was pretty awesome to have felt a storm shake the house on Easter because of what we believe.

Matthew 27:50-54:

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the hold city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

This is the sunset that followed Easter evening. It made me giddy. What a gift it was.

I pray everyone had a beautiful Easter and knows how loved and adored you are by a God that said He would die for our sins and did, and said He would come back to life and ascend into heaven and did. He also said if we trust Him we get to spend eternity with Him in heaven. And if the sunsets on earth look like this, can you imagine the ones in heaven?

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My Life in the Before and After

I love watching design shows. Love. Can’t get enough. I really love seeing a room transformed into something that brings the homeowners joy and functions well for them. I’m having the time of my life making our own house a home. It is something that gives me great pleasure (thank you very much, disease, you can’t take that away). It is good medicine to love your surroundings or at least feel at peace in them, if you ask me.

 And who doesn’t love a good before and after?

Unfortunately, with these crummy autoimmune diseases spawning all over the place, the before and afters aren’t always so pretty. I gathered a few disease related before and afters of my own to share. Sorry, have to show the toes again. If I am willing to once again throw my nasty toes up on the internet, you know there is love involved. I get more Google search hits for things toe related than anything else.

BEFORE

(Pre-antibiotic protocol)

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AFTER

(Five months into the protocol)

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BEFORE

neck

AFTER (Five weeks later)

(Large number of people praying for me, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, limited activity)

second MRI

BEFORE

(Pre-disease)

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AFTER

(The closest I can get to a sexy heel these days without my feet screaming, “Mercy!”)

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BEFORE

(My diet pre-disease consisted of artificial colors, artificial flavors, sugar, dairy, grains)

M&Mgroup

AFTER

(Post-disease I avoid all of the above as often as possible because it can make you sick!)

BEFORE

(View from my back porch and fog that causes me crazy pain)

IMG_1200 AFTER

(Relief…)

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What brings me joy amidst having a ridiculous disease.

BEFORE

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AFTER

(I still want to paint the ceiling. My neck doesn’t though.) :)

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And just for fun, because I have no shame now that you’ve seen my ugly feet. :)

BEFORE

IMG_1052

AFTER

(Someone at the mall did my make-up in this photo and I can not seem to reproduce the same look for the life of me. Darn those toxic, but beautifying products that I chose not to purchase!)

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Praying this finds all of you feeling the best you possibly can in the after!

Is Your Food Making You Sick?

The following article summarizes so well the dangers our modern U.S. food system poses to our health. When I think about the amount of children and adults on medications for various ailments, attention deficit disorders, auto-immune diseases in babies and children, tables at school for children with allergies, I think about the role our food plays in our health.

Copied from Dr. Mercola:

“More than 3,000 food additives — preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients — are added to foods in the United States.

While each of these substances are legal to use in the US, whether or not they are safe for long-term consumption — by themselves or in combination — is a different story altogether. Many have been deemed too harmful to use in other countries.

When you consider that about 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes toward processed foods loaded with these additives, it’s no wonder most people are carrying a hefty toxic load that can wreak havoc on their health.

A list of ingredients that are banned across the globe but still allowed for use in America recently made the news. The list is featured in the new book, Rich Food, Poor Food, authored by nutritionist Mira Calton and her husband Jayson.

The banned ingredients include various food dyes, the fat substitute Olestra, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate (aka brominanted flour), Azodicarbonamide, BHA, BHT, rBGH, rBST, and arsenic.

Seeing that the overall health of Americans is so much lower than other industrialized countries, you can’t help but wonder whether toxic ingredients such as these might play a role in our unhealthy conditions.

Meanwhile, Russia has announced that it plans to extend a ban on U.S. beef, pork and turkey imports coming into effect this month, due to the feed additive ractopamine in the meats. Ractopamine is a growth stimulant banned in several countries, including Russia.

Processed Foods Depend on Additives

When foods are processed, not only are valuable nutrients lost and fibers removed, but the textures and natural variation and flavors are also lost. After processing, what’s left behind is a bland, uninteresting “pseudo-food” that most people wouldn’t want to eat.

So at this point, food manufacturers must add back in the nutrients, flavor, color and texture to processed foods in order to make them palatable, and this is why they become loaded with food additives.

Most commonly, additives are included to slow spoilage, prevent fats and oils from going rancid, prevent fruits from turning brown, fortify or enrich the food with synthetic vitamins and minerals to replace the natural ones that were lost during processing, and improve taste, texture and appearance. When reading product packages, here are some of the most common food additives1 to watch out for:

  • Preservatives: sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, potassium sorbate, BHA, BHT, TBHQ
  • Sweeteners and artificial sweeteners: fructose, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K)
  • Artificial colors: FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red Nos. 3 and 40, FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, Orange B, Citrus Red No. 2
  • Artificial flavors
  • Flavor enhancers: monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract

Top Offenders to Avoid

According to the Caltons, the following 13 additives are the worst of the more than 150 individual ingredients they investigated during their six-year long journey, which took them through 100 different countries.2

Ingredient Found in Health Hazards
Coloring agents: blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, and yellow 6 Cake, candy, macaroni and cheese, medicines, sport drinks, soda, pet food, and cheese Most artificial colors are made from coal tar, which is a carcinogen
Olestra (aka Olean) Fat-free potato chips Depletion of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids. Side effects include oily anal leakage
Brominated vegetable oil (aka BVO) Sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas Competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, which can lead to hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, and cancer. The main ingredient, bromine, is a poisonous, corrosive chemical, linked to  major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia, and hearing loss
Potassium bromate (aka brominated flour) Rolls, wraps, flatbread, bread crumbs, and bagel chips See bromine above. Associated with kidney and nervous system disorders,  gastrointestinal discomfort
Azodicarbonamide Breads, frozen dinners, boxed pasta mixes, and packaged baked goods Linked to asthma
BHA and BHT Cereal, nut mixes, gum, butter, meat, dehydrated potatoes, and beer BHA may be a human carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent. BHT can cause organ system toxicity
Synthetic hormones: rBGH and rBST Milk and dairy products Linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers
Arsenic Poultry EPA classifies inorganic arsenic as a “human carcinogen”

What’s With the Double-Standards?

The food industry has already formulated safer, better products for other countries, in which these and other harmful ingredients are banned. So why do they insist on selling inferior versions in America? For clear examples, take a look at a recent article on 100DaysOfRealFood.com.3 In it, Vani Hari shows the ingredient labels of several common foods sold in the US and the UK, such as Betty Crocker’s Red Velvet cake mix, McDonald’s French fries, and Pizza Hut’s garlic cheese bread. Amazingly, while these foods can be created using a bare minimum of additives in the UK (and sometimes none), in the US, they’re absolutely LOADED with chemicals.

“The food industry does not want us to pay attention to the ingredients nor do they care about the negative effects from eating them. They certainly don’t care about the astronomical medical bills that are a direct result of us eating the inferior food they are creating,” Vani Hari writes.

“…We as a collective nation must stop this trajectory of sickness and rising health care costs, by understanding the ingredients we are putting into our bodies. We must challenge the U.S. food industry to discontinue the use of banned ingredients that are not allowed elsewhere in the world. We deserve to have the same quality food without potential toxins.”

Russia Issues Long-Term Ban on US Meat

In related “questionable food” news, Russia recently banned US meat supplies after discovering it contains ractopamine—a beta agonist drug that increases protein synthesis, thereby making the animal more muscular. This reduces the fat content of the meat. As reported by Pravda,4 Russia is the fourth largest importer of US meats, purchasing about $500 million-worth of beef and pork annually.

Effective February 11, Russia will no longer allow US meat imports, stating the ban “is likely to last for a long time.”5 All meat suppliers wishing to sell their meat and meat products to Russia must certify their meat as ractopamine-free—a condition the US has so far refused to comply with.

The drug is banned for use in 160 countries, including China and Russia, but allowed in 24 countries, including Canada and the United States. While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers ractopamine safe and doesn’t test for it, Russia’s chief health inspector, Gennady Onishchenko, claims there are “serious questions” about the safety of the drug. He previously told the New York Times:6

“For instance, use of ractopamine is accompanied by a reduction in body mass, suppression of reproductive function, increase of mastitis in dairy herds, which leads to a steep decline in the quality and safety of milk.”

Ractopamine is also known to affect the human cardiovascular system, and may cause food poisoning, according to Pravda.7 It’s also thought to be responsible for hyperactivity, muscle breakdown, and can increase death and disability in livestock. While other drugs require a clearance period of around two weeks to help ensure the compounds are flushed from the meat prior to slaughter (and therefore reduce residues leftover for human consumption), there is no clearance period for ractopamine.

In fact, livestock growers intentionally use the drug in the last days before slaughter in order to increase its effectiveness. According to veterinarian Michael W. Fox, as much as 20 percent of ractopamine remains in the meat you buy from the supermarket. Despite potential health risks, the drug is used in 45 percent of US pigs, 30 percent of ration-fed cattle, and an unknown percentage of turkeys.

What’s the Simplest Way to Avoid Harmful Food Additives?

Ditch processed foods entirely. (If you live in Europe you may have more options than Americans, as you may be able to find some processed foods that do not contain any synthetic additives.) About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is spent on processed foods, so there is massive room for improvement in this area for most people.

Swapping your processed food diet for one that focuses on fresh whole foods may seem like a radical idea, but it’s a necessity if you value your health. And when you put the history of food into perspective, it’s actually the processed foods that are “radical” and “new.” People have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented.

If you want to eat healthy, I suggest you follow the 1950s (and before) model and spend quality time in the kitchen preparing high-quality meals for yourself and your family. If you rely on processed inexpensive foods, you exchange convenience for long-term health problems and mounting medical bills.”