Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's been a year

Since I went gluten free, low fructose, lactose free, casein free, etc etc. It's been an interesting journey, and one that is now a part of the rest of my life. So it's time to move on...

fare well dear blog.. ciao!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Horses can have Metabolic Syndrome Too

It’s funny how the world collides in on itself, when you go looking hard enough. Or else it’s just self- projection, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Alongside my no gluten no wheat no lactose low sugars journey this year, I have also been studying the latest in horse management, including, of course, nutrition. This has bee further sparked by ongoing intermittent lameness in my mare, and obvious insulin resistance/cushings symptoms in my loaner schoolmaster gelding.

Whilst on the surface, the two horses are very different, and have very different issues, I believe they are actually marks on a spectrum of insulin resistance, with Moonie being obvious to the point of clinical, thanks in part to his age, and Maz being at the opposite end of the spectrum, with her symptoms so vague and very specific (abscesses).

Both animals are good doers, and don’t need mountains of feed to keep condition on, and sometimes need restrictions on their dietary intakes. Moonie has classic insulin resistant fat deposits over his body and neck, Maz is simply in very good condition. Moonie doesn’t have feet issues, although his feet are not in prime condition with flat soles and contracted heels due to a lifetime of shoeing. Maz has been barefoot all her life, apart from a 2month period just after breaking in, when she had front shoes only.

One of the prime “symptoms”/repercussions of insulin resistance is laminitis or founder, where the bonds between the laminae (layers of horn) in the hoof, and the hoof and the horse,  are destroyed, usually by an overproduction of MMP, a remodelling enzyme. This enzyme is overproduced as a direct outcome of leaky gut, cause by over ingestion of sugars, fructans and starches, or non-structural carbohydrates. This is of course an oversimplified explanation. Sounding familiar???

Traditionally, this overload of carbs was thought to occur on lush spring pastures, and from a horse raiding the grain bin in the feed shed. Whilst this is often the case, the situation is far more complex than that.  And when one gets one’s brain around the complexity, it follows that most surburban and semi-rurally kept horses in Australia (ie in high density situations) have some grade of insulin resistance and therefore are quietly experiencing undiagnosed levels of hoof wall damage that is called laminitis.

Most recreational horses are kept in paddocks of less than acre, and are hand fed, supplemented by improved pasture (think of improved pasture as fortified white bread. It’s great for growing meat and milk, compromised for growing healthy, living beings). Hand feeding consists of prepackaged, cooked (yes, cooked) grains and other feeds, fortified with vitamins and minerals, and sold by a number of feedmills, nicely packaged like bags of dog kibble. Each brand has its own special mix of nutrients, so no two brands are quite the same. This makes it difficult to compare prices, and results, because the ingredients are not quite the same. This bagged feed is mixed with chaff, and supplemented with hay (often from specialised farms, so heavily beefed up in the sugars department thanks to superphosphates and other fertilizers).

It’s the equivalent of packaged processed foods and take aways for humans, with the same result: metabolic syndromes and diseases.

My mare is the first horse I raised fully on a premixed, cooked (extruded) grain based feed, plus chaff and hay. She had her first abscess within 6 weeks of arriving at my place, as a yearling. I’d never encountered an abscess before, and now, 9 years later, I’ve seen so many, if the mare was to have fractured a leg, or blown a tendon, I’d fob it off as an abscess. This year I have changed the way her feet are trimmed, to a barefoot style that allows the hoof to function correctly, which then facilitates better blood flow through the hoof capsule. She’s had more abscesses continuously since doing this. But now I am not so sure we are dealing with traditional abscesses.

Abscesses are, I believe, on the same continuum as laminitis. An abscess is an inflammatory reaction to necrotic tissue or introduced pathogens. Laminitis is inflammation of the same hoof area, but more extreme. I am convinced they are absolutely related. Once I released this, I also realised I had to stop looking at abscesses like pimples: painful and problematic but that’s about it. Now I think of them as a warning bell, a bit like IBS, acne and unexplained joint pain and muscle fatigue in humans. Something is going wrong inside, metabolically. It’s time for my ponies to go paleo!

Further reading on laminitis and metabolic syndrome here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

So so soy

from here
I am not a fan of soy or soy products. I will ingest them occasionally (ok, my pumpkin and carrot muffins have a little bit of soy flour in them....) but I prefer to avoid soy as much as possible. People look at me like I am mad when I say this, and then their curiosity is piked as to why. Mainly I don't like the taste, soy protein powder doesn't mix well, soy screws with your hormones and prevents the uptake of particular minerals.

This list is pretty comprehensive. I worry about vegetarians and vegans who use soy heavily in their daily diets. Some more considerations on soy here, here and some commentary that also includes the benefits of soy.

from here

Monday, August 23, 2010

You've changed...

Over the last three or so months, I have been slowly changing my pantry, my breakfast bowl contents, my snacks, doing A LOT of research on gastric health, gluten, leaky gut, etcetcetc. I am finally settling into a gluten free, dairy free eating life with success. It's a mindset, an attitude as much as anything, and I am now pretty comfortable with it. So comfortable it's lost its novelty and just IS.

So now, I realise my scopes are just under a month away, and Doc will be needing to SEE something.. After 3-4 months gluten free, there is likely to be less to see than there was (if there was anything to see). So, to make it worth both our whiles, I am looking, yes working to put gluten back on the menu. It's a struggle. Mentality it's repugnant to me, physically I just don't want to. I feel like I did as a 5 year old, refusing to eat her fish for dinner, and being forced to sit at the table til my father came home, fish in front of me, congealing coldly into its flakey fishiness,  on the plate as the hours went by. Fortunately my father rescued me that time, but he won't this time.

I am actually finding this internal struggle interesting, and heartening. It means my mental training on what to eat, and what not to eat has worked. It means my palate has changed and wheat-based goods taste a little.. weird, bland, doughy. I used to LOVE sourdough. Admittedly the loaf we bought on the weekend was not World's Best, but it would have been quite ok in the old days. To be honest, I didn't really enjoy it so much, definitely not as much as I had anticipated. I had some toasted with Rose's marmalade. What made an impression was the jam, because I realised as I ate it, I've not had jam for over 3 months either. I'd actually forgotten that jam existed, and hadn't noticed it "missing".

So it was a bit of shock to realise what kind of eating patterns revolved around bread etc (for instance) for me. I stop wheat bread (and gluten free for that matter), and along with it jam. A bit like a cigarette and a glass of alcohol for some. It was an acknowledgment of  how far I moved on from what I used to eat,a nd yet not that far at all I look at a menu now and start crossing potential items off because of some ingredient or other. Do I feel sad or regretful about that? Not really. In other ways the foods I eat have not changed. My lunches are the same, dinner is the same, but I am aware now of what ingredients are used in particular products, what are potential "hazards" and what are safe options. And now I have to go back. It's not something I am fond of doing.... I like to keep the momentum forward.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Careful, your concern over the health of your GI tract may just be a little mental. Never mind that you may actually be working on a solution to health problems that western medicine cannot address, let alone define.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Antipathic to Allopathic

Yesterday Nancyboy commented that he felt I had lost some self-confidence, in small ways only, but still, it was there. My reply was: I have no guts.

I've always had an open mind regarding health matters, bodies as systems and how one approaches those systems. So when I had my first visit (I can't call it a consult, because it wasn't) with the GI specialist last week, was I left speechless (because I wasn't allowed to speak, really) and stewed up a bit of frustration and anger which took me a day or so to be able to articulate in a meaningful way.

I made the comment in my cycling blog  that the GI specialist was so allopathic, I think you could encapsulate him and take him as an antibiotic. He was dry, officious, short, too busy to engage in conversation. An alarm bell started when he noted from my GP's referral letter that I "was an elite athlete' with a questioning tone asking "why the hell should I care??" I corrected him, saying I AM an elite athlete, masters level. His reply was slow and a little mocking: Soooooooo you compete internationally do you? My short stern YES, left him a dead end and he went elsewhere, writing on forms, tossing them across the desk, in my vague direction, with a bunch of instructions as to what he was going to do (to me), and what he wanted me to do( so that he could do what he needed to do [to me]). No discussion, no conversation, no chance for questions (although I snuck one in, which was summarily dismissed with short shrift).

As Christopher Hitchens puts it "You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water." Although he is talking as a cancer patient, the words resonated for me, because that's exactly how I felt walking out the door of the man's office, and continued to do so until I was able to shed the attached emotion, and understand the interaction that had occurred.

I had been deftly situated as a patient, and allowed myself to be so positioned (that's the role we play), with my defences down and little time to rally up against the infrastructure of conversation and consultation that the GI specialist has professionally encapsulated (insulated) himself with. He immediately positioned me within his realm of expertise: a surgeon uses a scalpel to solve a problem, a dentist a drill. Sure he needs to have a physical look at my insides before he can make a diagnosis, but he had already judged me, preconditioned by his post graduate degrees, and years sitting behind that desk, and behind a embowelled camera. The meeting was about him, not me.

So I am now a patient, well almost. I have a few more weeks of self-driven control and empowerment before I lose myself to the strictures and structures of the hospital system. And this is what I dislike immensely about the allopathic systems in which our society predominantly practices health care. Health is deeply embedded in empowerment, self-determination, a sense of personal control and efficacy. The western health system strips people of that, to facilitate their compliance in processes and procedures that are invasive, and somewhat horrific if one thinks about it too hard. I have a couple of GPs I use when the need arises, and they talk with their clients holistically. It makes a difference, and I believe it actively facilitates quicker recoveries simply because of the sense of self worth and value such engagement bestows upon those seeking assistance with their health issues.

So, like a good little girl, I have complied so far with the specialist's requests: I've booked appointments, arranged payments for each part of the processes I now need to go through, before I get to see him again, post scopes. But at that next consultation, I will be demanding that I do get my consultation, because at the very least, I want value for my very expensive 10 minutes worth of his time.

Fruit me!

So I am eating fruit again. Without issue. So far. Am pretty happy about that. Seven weeks without fruit is a killer! I'm booked in for some hydrogen tests in a few weeks, and to be honest, I don't really think fructose from fruit is an issue for me.So I am back experimenting with fruit. It's great to have some more options in the diet again.

I can tell you, when I bit into that strawberry (a huge mother of thing) it was the best thing I hadn't eaten in nearly two months. I've limited my intake of fruit over the last few days since that strawberry. I've had some more strawberries, some blueberries and some banana yesterday. Taking it slowly just in case, but frankly, stopping the probiotics last week was radical compared to eating a strawberry!

On the other hand, I have found whey protein powder taken daily is not a Good Thing TM. So I am trialling pea protein powder, because I refuse to take soy (1. tastes awful 2. doesn't mix well and 3. it's soy = screws with your endocrine system). I've tried it with my morning veg juice, and with rice milk. Neither makes it tastes any better; it tastes awful, like soy on steriods. But, this morning, it wasn't so bad after a couple of days without it. Maybe I am adjusting. 

A bit like the 1/3 of a regular muffin I had yesterday at ACMI. It tasted pretty bad. If I am going to make myself "sick" by eating something on the "off list" I want it to at least taste pretty good, if not bloody good. This was a waste of wheat intake. But on the other hand, it was good because it made me feel not so bad about my GF/dairy free diet. I'm not missing that much, although Nancyboy put his foot down* when I nearly ordered baked cheesecake on Saturday. Oops! :-)


* Actually he didn't. He did say he thought it was a really BAD!!! idea and that I shouldn't. Nancy has big feet.....