Sunday, December 1, 2019

Much to be Thankful For

It's been four years last week since I escaped moved from Denver and ten years ago this month that I started this blog. I have much to be thankful for:


  • My health is a lot better than it was last year. My digestion, energy, palpitations, and mood are better, even if I feel like I still have a ways to go.
  • A nice Thanksgiving meal with good company. My meetup group went to Bob Evans and we talked about Day of the Dead, health care, the economy, and I don't remember what else. I was bad--I had eggs benedict with biscuits since I don't like Thanksgiving fare--but felt fine. I'm not going to make a habit of getting glutened, though. I haven't forgotten how sick I was ten years ago, and how much a gluten-free diet helped. 
  • I live in Indiana, where I can get lab tests without a permission slip from a doctor.
  • I live in Indiana, where raising a vegetable garden is easy.
  • I live in Indiana, where so many beautiful plants grow so well that I'm having a hard time planning my shade garden. (But I miss the lilacs, roses and California poppies I grew in Denver.) I'm going for a Piet Oudolf look, but for under the maple tree

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

L. Reuteri Yogurt Recipe from Coconut Milk

Equipment (pick one):

  1. Pot-style yogurt maker
  2. Cup-style yogurt maker + heating pad and insulated container if you don't have enough cups for the recipe (see #4 below)
  3. Sous vide stick and pot
  4. Heating pad and insulated container (e.g., camping cooler, insulated grocery bag)
Note that your yogurt maker must let you set the temperature at 97 degrees F (36C) for 36 hours. I use this one (a cup-style yogurt maker). Since the yogurt takes a long time to ferment, and I don't like to go without while I'm making a new batch, I make a few extra cups in an insulated container. My heating pad does the job at the medium setting in an insulated grocery bag at room temperature. (My insulated grocery bag is just a paper grocery bag with a bubble wrap liner.) I use 8 oz plastic freezing cups, available where canning and freezing supplies are sold.

Ingredients
3 T powdered plain gelatin
1/2 c water (cold or room temperature)
4 cans regular coconut milk (13.5 oz each)
6 T coconut flour*
5 T garbanzo bean flour*
Starter (EITHER a few spoonfuls of L. reuteri yogurt from a previous batch OR 5 L. reuteri tablets**, placed in a plastic bag and hammered into powder)

Directions

Put the water in a large pot and sprinkle the gelatin on it. Stir; mix thoroughly. Heat the gelatin mixture on medium heat until it's dissolved. Remove from heat and add coconut milk, flour and starter. Use beaters to mix thoroughly.

Use your yogurt maker according to the directions. Set it to 97F (36C) for 36 hours. If using a heating pad, set it on medium heat.

  • If using a cup-style yogurt maker, place the lids on the cups, but don't snap them shut. The yogurt expands and will pop off the lids. 
  • If using a heating pad, place the heating pad in the bottom of the container, put the yogurt in cups or jars in a plastic bag so they don't spill on the heating pad, then lower them into the container. Close the container.


Make yogurt in a bag.
After 36 hours, mix or shake the yogurt to homogenize it. Refrigerate. Needs 24 hours to thicken. The initial batch from tablets will be a little gritty; subsequent batches will be smooth.

*Others use potato starch; I haven't tried it with this recipe.
**L. reuteri tablets are available from BioGaia: https://www.biogaia.com/product/biogaia-gastrus/

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Need Surgery on a Budget? The Free Market is Here to Help

Keith Smith, the founder of and an anesthesiologist at the Oklahoma Surgery Center, was recently on EconTalk, a podcast from the Library of Economics and Liberty at Stanford University. The Oklahoma Surgery Center is unusual in that they don't deal with insurance companies, they do post all-inclusive prices on their web site, and they typically charge far less for the same procedures compared to regular hospitals. Time magazine interviewed a patient who had total knee replacement done there for $19,000. The average price in the US is $57,000. The actual cost to the hospital? At one, it turned out to be $10,550.

Dr. Smith and host Russ Roberts discuss the surgery center and the US health care system in this mind-blowing episode.

Sources:
"Keith Smith on Free Market Health Care." Keith Smith and Russ Roberts, EconTalk, November 18, 2019. https://www.econtalk.org/keith-smith-on-free-market-health-care/
"What Happens when Doctors Only Take Cash." Haley Sweetland Edwards, Time, January 26, 2017. https://time.com/4649914/why-the-doctor-takes-only-cash/
"Understanding Knee Replacement Costs: What's on the Bill?" Samuel Greengard, Healthline, October 23, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/health/total-knee-replacement-surgery/understanding-costs#1
"What Does a Knee Replacement Cost? The Stunning Story from One Hospital." Yuval Rosenberg, The Fiscal Times, August 22, 2018. https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2018/08/22/What-Does-Knee-Replacement-Really-Cost-Stunning-Story-How-One-Hospital-Figured-It-Out


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Good News, Bad News

First, the good news: I'm well enough to exercise. I made it though a 15-minute workout I couldn't get through the last time I tried. The heart palpitations are going away and I don't feel out of breath and exhausted with every little bit of exertion. It's been almost a year since I started another go at getting my health back, and I've come a long way. I've put on about ten pounds (unintentionally) and I'm hoping that adding muscle will increase my metabolism.

Now, the bad news. This has not been cheap. It hasn't been ruinous, but my health insurance hasn't covered anything. I can't even use my HSA (health savings account) to pay for my lab tests or thyroid or adrenal medicine. (But I could use it to pay for prescription sunglasses!) So I have over $900 in my HSA that I can realistically only use for sunglasses or an emergency. I'm stuck making more contributions to it for almost another year, since we just made our benefit elections at work.

At least I can get lab tests and over-the-counter medications here in freewheelin' Indiana. The inmates of several states need a doctor's permission slip (or a trip to another state) to get a lab test. It's just one more reason to love it here.

Door Prairie, LaPorte, Indiana. Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid: Still Fiddling with my Medications

DIYing my adrenal fatigue and low thyroid has been a challenge. At least I'm over the brain fog and can read and think more clearly.

After my ears got dry and itchy again--which seems to be a symptom of low thyroid for me--I upped my thyroid dose again. I also lowered my adrenal cortex dose since I was gaining weight, even with the increased NDT (natural desiccated thyroid medicine) and decreased carb intake. The cortisol (an adrenal hormone) will make you gain weight if you take too much.

I hope this is the last time I need to up my NDT, since my current dose costs $80 per month. I can't even pay for it with my HSA (health savings account, a pre-tax deal in the US). At least the adrenal cortex is cheap, and hydrocortisone is $5 a tube.

The adrenal cortex, which I take in the morning at at noon, started turning me into a morning person. I was up at six doing dishes, vacuuming the house, and packing a lunch. I was tired around 10 PM. Since backing off a little, I'm back to being a night owl: writing late at night and looking at a sink full of dirty dishes.

I'm no longer wiped out on Saturdays. Today I added to the shade garden in my yard by busting up some sod by the maple tree, scattering some seeds, sprinkling the area with organic garden soil and vermiculite and covering it with a thick layer of leaves. It'll have to do. I already have plans to plant two hell strips in prairie plants next year, which will take more seed trays and lights than I now have. (The area between the sidewalk and street is called a tree garden here in Indianapolis, but I prefer hell strip, coined by fellow Coloradan Lauren Springer.) It's going to involve some 400 plants, mulch, and all the old bed sheets I can scrounge from my neighbors. Unlike landscape fabric, the sheets will keep out weeds and eventually decompose. (Hat tip to Bernadette Banner for the idea of reusing old fabric.)

I wouldn't say I'm bursting with energy, though. I still tire easily and don't feel ready to start an exercise program.

I'm no longer in la-la land. I've been downloading podcasts and listening to them in my new stereo on the way to work, something I hadn't done in months. I think my fine motor skills are better, too--I'm no longer mistyping passwords at work so often, and I can play songs on the recorder that gave me trouble before.

And I no longer have bronchitis. I am finally, completely, over it. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Podcast with Stop the Thyroid Madness Author Janie Bowthorpe

Elle Russ from Mark's Daily Apple chats with Janie Bowthorpe about thyroid treatment. Bowthorpe suffered for 20 years on Syncrap Synthroid (T4 only) with symptoms that nearly made her apply for disability, all while being told by numerous doctors that it wasn't her thyroid. Through her Yahoo group, she and other thyroid patients figured out better treatments for optimal health.

Bowthorpe discusses the difficulty in finding a non-obstructionist doctor, the need to educate yourself about the thyroid instead of relying on your doctor to solve your problems, and some of the issues with various thyroid treatments.

Podcast here.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Taking Adrenal Cortex Supplements: My Results. Yet Another Reason to Avoid Statins.

I've been taking various adrenal hormones for the past few weeks with mixed results. Overall, it's been positive: they seem to have helped me get over a three-month-long case of bronchitis and I have more energy. Using a dab of hydrocortisone at bedtime has prevented me from grinding my teeth at night. On the downside, the adrenal glandular (containing adrenaline) gives me palpitations if I take too much of it. I've been getting too hot and cold (mostly too hot). Too much hydrocortisone made me puffy and gave me a slight case of acne. Taking adrenal cortex after midday gives me acid reflux and keeps me up at night. (I'm writing this at 4:30 AM.)

Your adrenal hormones help with healing, controlling blood sugar, controlling inflammation, and dealing with stress. They make some of your sex hormones.

Why is adrenal fatigue apparently becoming more common? Your adrenal hormones are made of cholesterol--including LDL, the "bad" cholesterol. Salt is also important for proper adrenal function. What's the dietary advice been for fifty years? Avoid salt, red meat (full of cholesterol) and fat (which Mother Nature packages with cholesterol in animal foods). What's been one of the most popular drugs of our lifetime? Statins. A common side effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs is aches and pains. If lowering cholesterol or restricting your salt reduces your cortisol (a hormone that helps with healing and inflammation), it's a no-brainer that that would lead to inflammation and pain. It might also explain how statins lead to diabetes in some people: remember that your adrenal hormones help control blood sugar.

My cholesterol was up 80 points last spring--over 200. I think my body was doing its best to make adrenal hormones (and thyroid hormones). Or maybe it was up because cholesterol wasn't being converted to those hormones. In either case, I hadn't started a fatty meat fest. I'd been on one for years and my cholesterol stayed fairly low.

Speaking of thyroid hormones, low-fat diets and statin drugs could also account for the rise in thyroid problems: your thyroid hormones are also made of cholesterol. Along with heart disease, diabetes, overweight, acid reflux, and mental health problems, I think we can add thyroid and adrenal problems to the list of disasters that low-fat diets and/or statins have caused.

Sources:
Stop the Thyroid Madness, Updated Revised Edition by Janie A. Bowthorpe, MED.
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson, ND, DC, Ph.D.
Safe Uses of Cortisol by William McK. Jefferies, MD, FACP