Monday, March 5, 2012

Staycation, The China Study, Celebrity Diabetes

Champ - Frisky in the snow. Still doing awesome 1.5 years after mast cell cancer

I am enjoying the first few days of vacation. My last post was about stress, and it was appropriate. I have just finished a couple of huge projects at work and had the wits about me this time to schedule some vacation after things wound down. I have been enjoying several books and down time with the pups. I probably have not been as good as I should be about working out, so I'm going to try a few of the drop in classes available in my neighborhood in Seattle. Zumba is a great cardio work out, and I may try a Pilates class as well. Yoga was my go to when I had less energy and was not feeling well, but unless I'm engrossed in a book or trying to garden, I don't sit still well and tend to fidget.

For the first time in several years, my health hasn't exploded as a result of a stressful project. One of the VPs at work commented on how happy she was that I'm doing so much better than the past. She and others had been watching to see what kind of toll the project would take and were all really pleased that, while I looked exhausted and had some break through symptoms, I didn't spiral or lose 20 pounds. That's usually one of the first signs that I'm going into a large flare-up - dramatic weight loss. I lost about 5 pounds during the last couple weeks of the project, but it required very long hours and work over the weekends, so that isn't too surprising. I missed a week of being in the gym and my neck seized up for a day, but I was able to get into the chiropractor and get a couple massages, and that worked wonders. After we deployed the new CRM, I was able to get right back in the gym for an hour a day.

What was different this time? I took some time to think about it and I truly believe diet and exercise played a huge role here. I had some break through symptoms - stomach pain, spinal pain, and fatigue. These were more evident when the project was really ramping up and I didn't make it down to the gym. If I made it down to the gym mid-day, I didn't get spinal pain later on. If I missed working out, my neck was stiff without fail. It was a weird feeling, like my head was too heavy for my neck to carry. I stuck to a 90% raw vegan diet, and the amount of cooked I did eat was strictly vegetable based. I stayed away from grains of any kind, including quinoa or rice, and just loaded up on leafy greens, fruits, and other vegetables.

A couple months ago, I picked up The China Study for the first time. People had been telling me to read the book, but I just never took the time. I wish I had picked that book up a lot sooner. I don't know how people with extreme health issues could read that book and not want to make some lifestyle changes.

T. Colin Campbell dedicated much of his life to researching the effects of diet on many chronic diseases that plague Americans and other richer societies. He was involved in a 20 year study in China, documenting several aspects of diet, environmental exposures, and taking blood, tissue, and urine samples to measure different values like cholesterol, fiber intake, and blood glucose levels and their correlation to different diseases. It was a rare opportunity to study a fairly consistent genetic population to determine why certain diseases were more prevalent in specific areas of the country. Health issues tended to cluster in certain populations, and while other regions may have similar toxin exposure, they may have different levels of disease. The diseases were more active in populations that had higher animal protein consumption and lower plant and fiber consumption, even when all other factors were fairly constant.

Lance and Annie - promoting an active lifestyle

The book does a phenomenal job of explaining how diet plays a role in many prevalent diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, auto-immune, and several other ailments that plague us. The book is based on scores of research studies, including the most comprehensive epidemiology study that been done to date, the China-Cornell-Oxford Project. It explains that we are not doomed by genetics. It is very empowering to read a thorough explanation of why we have more control over our health than perhaps we'd like to admit. While genetics may determine which diseases we are more prone to, we can largely control disease activity through diet and positive lifestyle choices. It was discouraging to read his synopsis of auto-immune and how it is really not completely possible to reverse it by diet alone, but we may be able to minimize, if not put the disease into remission. I have witnessed that myself to a large extent through strict diet and an exercise regimen that works for me as an individual.

I have met many people in my life who have learned of a disease or allergies and chosen to ignore them because they felt it was simpler than addressing them head on. This always makes me very sad. Celiac, as an example, is a very dangerous disease to ignore. Continuing to eat gluten causes the immune system to break off the villi that are instrumental in nutrient absorption in our intestines. This leads to death by starvation! I don't think doctors emphasize enough how dangerous it is to continue eating gluten as a Celiac, and I think many of them do this because of the number of people they have watched ignore their advice and carry on doing irreparable damage to their intestines rather than hoist up their shorts and throw a little effort into meal planning. If they see people doing this day in and day out instead of heeding their advice, I can understand why they become discouraged, but I think it should still be emphasized for the one or two people who would rather spend additional hours a week prepping food and feel well rather than walk life through a bloated, uncomfortable fog. This day and age, we have numerous options out there that are gluten free and convenient, so the excuses really need to stop.

I also wish celebrities like Paula Deen realize that they are role models and could set a wonderful example by doing some research and making life style changes. I would much rather watch her go through a personal transformation and preach to us about the pleasures of healthful food that also tastes great rather than how to make a pound of steak per person with tomato puff pastries and canned peas soaked in a stick of butter. After being on a plant based diet for years, my tastes have changed to the point of feeling overwhelmed and queasy when I walk by a hot dog stand or the cheese section in the grocery store (your tastes change - I gravitate toward clean, whole foods and can't stand anything that is overly pungent). Every time I have the Food Network on in the background and Paula Dean's show comes on, I feel sad and have to flip the channel. It is her choice. but it is simply not true that she is only hurting herself. People look to her as an example and she personifies Southern Hospitality and Living. I am certainly not blaming her for coming from the region of our country that is most plagued by Diabetes, but does anyone stop to think that the epidemic might be because of the soul food that is high in cholesterol and low in fiber?

"A can of peas and a stick of butter?! WHAAAAA???"

Most of us know people who have been stricken with Diabetes, and it is a scary, ugly disease that often leads to amputations, blindness, kidney disease, and other horrible complications. The factor with the highest correlation to diabetes is increased fat intake. Even low-carb, high fat diets have been correlated to increases in diabetes. Several doctors have had great success reversing the effects of diabetes (type 1 and 2!) through a plant-based low fat diet, even to the point of reducing insulin requirements by over 50%. Now, why would you plan to forge ahead with medication only, continuing to eat the foods that damaged your body in the first place, only to slow progression instead of trying to turn it around? Well...maybe you want to stick the lifestyle you know. Or maybe you have a pharmaceutical endorsement deal... Nice, Paula Deen. Very Nice.

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