How I Love my Liver (Pt 1)

  For the past seventeen years, I have struggled with a chronic disease (chronic Lyme disease).  In that time I have researched, read and discussed many elements relating to good health. These include but are not limited to diet, adrenals, hormones, and keeping the colon, intestines and liver in good working order.

As early as age 15, I began researching all the functions that fall under the liver’s list of must-do’s.  Even so, I continually come across individuals in this country who believe that the liver (and other major organs) do not need detoxing. It astounds me, especially considering that these people are often incredibly smart OR belong to the medical society.

In the following posts I will discuss not only what our livers do for us and ways we can keep them healthy, but will be providing links for YOU to do your own research. Don’t just believe me! It stands to reason that if I, who have been studying this issue for fifteen years, still have to argue the basics with medical personnel, then YOU will also come across many people who believe that detoxing the liver is completely unnecessary. Learn more for yourself so that you can be confident when talking about this issue.

Please remember: I am not a licensed health professional. Anything I share is based on research and personal education, so please read more for yourself and talk to your doctor about these subjects.

  Right, let’s answer some basic questions:

Where is the liver in the human body?

The liver sits in the upper right portion of the abdomen. It is above the stomach and below the diaphragm. Reddish-brown in color, it is the largest solid organ in the body.

What does the liver actually do?

Textbooks often cite around 500 functions of our liver, including bile production, creating blood-clotting coagulants, fat metabolization, carbohydrate metabolization, storing both vitamins and minerals, filtering the blood, metabolizing proteins, producing albumin, and breaking down any chemicals (such as prescription drugs).

Basically, your liver is responsible for processing EVERYTHING you eat or drink and either repackages it for your body to use in other areas, or eliminates it.

How much does the liver weigh?

The liver weighs in around three pounds.

Can you function without your liver?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. There is a possibility of donating part of your liver to another person and functioning without full use of your liver, but if your liver is already compromised, there could be serious side effects.

 

Some incredible information so far, readers! Your liver, the largest solid organ in your body, is responsible for everything you eat, drink, and put into your body. Who wouldn’t want to make sure their liver is functioning at as high a level as possible?

  Now comes the tricky part. Many elements can compromise your liver, but do they apply to you?

What hurts my liver?

As already established, the liver processes everything we eat, drink and put into our bodies (including supplements and prescription drugs). Therefore the very BASIC answer to this question is, eat well, drink responsibly, and be aware of what prescriptions you take.

 

But what does it mean to eat well and drink responsibly?

Let’s take a look at some items that typical humans eat and drink on a regular basis:

 

Sugar

Refined sugar comes from a sugar cane, but when it is refined it is stripped off all its natural componants and has been defined by some as a “drug” in your body. Refined sugar can:

  • Increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, hormonal imbalance and contribute to candida which is a yeast overgrowth in the body. It is highly addictive and because it is stripped of its natural componants, is difficult to break down in your body, leading to a blood sugar imbalance

Refined sugar is basically empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever. Here are some more articles to check out:

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-disturbing-reasons-why-sugar-is-bad/

https://wellnessmama.com/15/harmful-effects-of-sugar/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/441681-the-effect-of-refined-sugar-on-the-body/

ITEMS HIGH IN SUGAR

Cereals/canned and packaged fruit/pudding and pudding cups/snack cakes and pies/muffin mixes and prepared muffins/barbecue sauce/specialty coffees and teas

pies

WHITE FLOUR

White flour is wheat flour that has been stripped of bran and germ, and then bleached with a chemical component (often chlorine oxide) to give it a lighter color. Refined white flour is highly processed during which time most of the organic nutrients, such as vitamin E, vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, and iron, are almost completely stripped.  During the growing process the wheat is sprayed with pesticides.  Essentially, white flour has little to no nutritional value and is a festation of pesticides and bleach. Despite this, it is extremely common in everyday eating habits!

White flour leads to:

  • Obesity, heart disease, allergies and asthma, diabetes, gluten intolerance, health issues related to vitamin deficiencies, gut inflammation, other chronic diseases

http://www.rachelhjones.com/508/5-ways-white-flour-is-harmful-to-you

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/30/we-have-known-bread-has-been-bad-for-your-health-for-over-a-century.aspx

ITEMS HIGH IN WHITE FLOUR

Bread/Pastries/Pasta/Pizza/Cereals

pizza

 

 

To be honest, readers, hundreds of blog posts could be dedicated to discussing the evils of common food ingredients such as sugar and white flour. There simply isn’t enough room to go into more specific detail, which is why I provided links for you to do your own research.

 This concludes Part 1, but stay tuned for the next post which will contain information on things you can do to make and keep your liver healthy!

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Exercise & Lyme

Having dealt with chronic Lyme disease for 17 years, I know the ins and outs of this illness.

For the most part, I know what my body can handle. However, despite my intimate knowledge and understanding of this disease, I still hear the following words rather regularly: “If you would just exercise…”

exhausted-person-image

It is true, exercise has been like a fountain of youth for many people. And I’m certainly not disagreeing with the effectiveness of engaging in consistent exercise. However, people rarely try to see the issue from my point of view: when in pain (excruciating pain), dealing with headaches (at least five per day and often a migraine on top of those five), suffering from tummy issues (despite a healthy diet and supplementation), and moaning from achy joints and muscles…exercise is NOT a good idea.

exhausted-animal-image

Those symptoms described above also accurately describe my daily life for the majority of the past 17 years. Only recently have I begun to think that maybe, just maybe, I could get serious about exercise.

By “get serious” I mean do more than walk when I can, or take the stairs at a store when I can. I mean join a group, learn the rules, commit to doing some form of exercise several times per week.

In fact, I can prove I’m serious. In October, I joined a yoga class. I was able to do one class, then I experienced a chronic infection that lasted for 8 weeks…basically, imagine the worst flu that you have ever had, then keep that in your mind for eight weeks. There was no way I was going back to yoga while feeling like complete and utter s***.

Now, I think I may be ready to try again. I have been recovered from the chronic infection for two months, and have been able to increase my hours at work while dealing with a sick dog, so I think my body might be ready for a change.

Now dear readers, is the part where I need your help!

I am considering many options: yoga? Pilates? Swimming lessons? Physical therapy? Gym? What, oh what, would be best for my body?

cat-excercising

If you have been chronically ill and have also tried exercising, I would love to know your story and get your feedback on how exercising has gone for you! 

 

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Lyme and the Little Things

  After 16 years of chronic Lyme disease, I’ve learned a few things.
 
  Such as appreciating the little things in life.

  Many people take life for granted and never notice the beauty of the world around them.

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Raindrops

Ever felt a raindrop on your cheek? I used to think rain was a nuisance but after I got ill, I realized how healing it was to let that raindrop slowly roll down my skin.

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Dandelion

  Ever see a dandelion? Some view them as weeds, but I see wishes. I pick a dandelion, make a silent wish and then gently blow away the seeds.

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Beautiful water fountain

  When people pass a fountain, they often think of how beautiful the water looks. I always take out my purse and throw in a penny for good luck; it’s a simple tradition that makes me smile afterwards.

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  Chronically ill women often cannot wear high heels. Whenever I am able to, I say a silent “thank you” to the goddess of shoes and make sure to swish my hips more than usual when I walk. Many women take it for granted that they can slip on whatever shoes they wish, at any chosen time.

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Fresh basil

  When cooking with fresh ingredients, I often take a moment to just bury my nose in them and enjoy the smell. For example, I had a bag of fresh basil leaves today and after retrieving it from the fridge, I held the leaves up to my nose for a moment. You can’t beat that “right-from-the-garden” freshness, yet how many people take a moment to enjoy it?

  If I wasn’t chronically ill, I would probably be rushing through the rat-race of life, focusing on success, power and wealth. I’d take high heels for granted, think basil leaves were dirty and wonder why the neighbors weren’t spraying their yards for weeds.

  How much I would miss!
 

 

Sickness Sucks

  Being chronically ill is a pain in and of itself.
  Each day is different from the last and even though I’m a pro at this (I’ve been fighting 16 years), some days just suck.
  Really suck.

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  The feeling of being completely overwhelmed, even by the simplest of tasks, is unendurable at times.

  Many people have said to me over the years, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I’d like to amend that statement: “God will let you sink under the waves at times. He will allow a storm so ferocious you cannot keep your head above water. It’s during those storms when you become the strongest swimmer, but because of the water crashing around you, it will feel as if you are getting nowhere.”

  Do you ever sink at times, despite swimming your hardest? How do you deal with those stormy days?

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  So far I’ve been battling by using supplements such as chamomile (to calm anxiety), magnesium (again for anxiety, and muscle tension), green tea (to boost my immune system), apple cider vinegar drinks (read up on those), funny tv shows, cuddling with my fur-baby, and the all-important rest.
  These help, but I still have a storm raging on.

How It All Began…

lyme disease awareness ribbon

  Every day this month, I will be blogging about my fight with Lyme disease and the various aspects of how it has affected my life.  For today’s entry I would like to take you back to the beginning – to a time sixteen years ago, when I first became ill.

 

  Several months after I turned thirteen years old, I began getting headaches. At first they would come and go, but then they increased to the point where I was never without a headache. I would wake up with one, I would go to sleep with one, they never ended.

  At the time my family was residing in Europe. My father was in the Air Force, so my first doctor was military.  He prescribed the max dose of Ibuprofen, to no avail; he then admitted this was beyond him and I should seek help elsewhere.  Finding an English-speaking doctor in Europe was hard enough, let alone one who truly cared and was willing to help.

  Two years later my family moved back to the States.  The list of doctors I tried got longer and longer but many of them told me that my symptoms were “all in my head,” that I would “grow out of it,” or use various other excuses when they couldn’t figure out what was going on.  During this time I was keeping up with high school (and making high grades) while also pursuing my future as a concert pianist by taking pre-college classes and practicing piano at least six hours a day.  For every day except Sunday, I was waking up before 6am to accomplish all my daily chores and responsibilities.  Unfortunately, my symptoms had widened to include intense gut issues, sleeplessness and depression. 

  At age 16, three years after I first became ill, my world came tumbling down.  Now in the higher levels of math in high school, I was forgetting even basic concepts and having to re-do problems up to ten times, continually driving me to tears.  When I sat down at the piano, I would forget what I was playing after a few minutes and become very confused, especially considering I had always played by ear (meaning, once I heard a song I could play it perfectly and instantly memorize it).  Sleeplessness had reached a new level; if I got 3-4 hours of sleep at night, I was very lucky. Muscle and joint pain was so intense that just accomplishing daily tasks robbed me of every ounce of energy I possessed.

  The depression was the worst. Every day, I would nearly black out multiple times because of panic attacks. There seemed no reason to live and yet, because of the intense religious circumstances surrounding my family, I could not talk to anyone about my depression.  Finally, my body broke and I had to drop out of high school, quit pre-college classes and stop playing piano. I became bedridden from the mysterious illness that was sucking the life out of me. 

   Between the ages of 16-18, while bedridden, I attempted suicide three times.

To be Continued…

Dreams

  day-dreaming pic april 2016Some days I feel on top of the world.

  Some days I feel like ending it all.

  That is the nature of chronic illness; you never know what a new day will bring.  Since I have been chronically ill for over sixteen years, I am a professional at navigating the ups and downs of life.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

 

It is important to keep the bigger picture in mind when going through these ups and downs.  A bad day does not make a bad life.  The worst hour only last sixty minutes.  The caterpillar will become a butterfly. To incorporate these ideas into daily life, many suggest to a struggling individual that they write out positives in their lives or write encouraging statements and place those written words around their home.  Personally, my counselors over the years have suggested having a “dream list,” or as many others call it, a bucket list.

 

I took their advice.  At age seventeen, a few years after I became ill, I wrote my first bucket list.  Ninety percent of that list has been checked off.  However, recently I made a list that includes my dreams for the next five to ten years, instead of listing more things I want to accomplish before death.  This was incredibly uplifting to me because the dreams I listed are, keeping my health at the forefront of my mind, ones that I feel are attainable.  Also, this list gives me a challenge without being too overwhelming.

 

After consideration, I decided it was better not to list my dream list for my readers because that opens up my life for comparison to yours.  If you are struggling with chronic illness, your life is your own and must be lived according to your own standards.  If you feel the need to compare your life with others you will most assuredly be disappointed, because no other human being in the world knows or deals with your exact struggles.

 

However, for fun, there are a few activities many people secretly wish to accomplish that are enjoyable and rewarding, not to mention fun – and for the purpose of encouraging you all to reach for the stars while enjoying life and sticking to your limits, I have included a few ideas. Read through it and see if perhaps one or two items are goals you would enjoy setting for yourself.

 

– Read through a popular book series

  Examples: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Anne of Green Gables, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Hunger Games

–  Learn a specific dance

  Examples: Thriller by Michael Jackson, All the Single Ladies by Beyonce, Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) by Silento

– Collect favorite DVD’s

  Examples: for those times when streaming isn’t an option, collect five DVD’s that you have watched more than five times but still find enjoyable

– Try a New Hair Color

  Examples: blue, pink, purple…and if you aren’t ready for a full head of blue hair, try streaking in the color

–  Color

  Examples: there are free coloring sheets for adults available online now. Get some crayons or colored pencils and have fun

– Tattoo It Up

  Examples: when sick, doing a real tattoo can be dangerous to your health, so for practice, go out and buy temporary tattoos and see what style you like

–  Snap That Camera

  Examples: take your phone or camera with you whenever you travel out of the house and snap pictures of whatever catches your eye.  If using your phone, download a fun, free app that allows you to enhance/change the pictures

–  Create Your Dream Music List

  Examples: on your MP3 player, download songs that both uplift you, make you dance, and remind you of the good things in life.  For me, a combination of Meghan Trainor, Adele and contemporary classical music is just about perfect

–  Design a T-Shirt

  Examples: for a reasonable price, you can create your own t-shirt.  Think up a slogan/saying that brings a smile to your face, or print off a favorite picture of a pet or loved one

–  Re-Design your Home

  Examples: on paper, re-design your favorite room and include paint colors, specific furniture pieces and artwork.  It’s free, so go crazy; install that sound system or put in that double oven

–  Scrap It

  Examples: we all take pictures on our phones but rarely put them into a scrapbook anymore.  It’s cheap and easy to print your pictures online and have them sent to you, and finding cheap papers, stencils and stickers to design pages is fairly easy to do. If scrapbooking is too overwhelming, design greeting cards and send them off to friends or family who could use some extra encouragement

–  Library Time

  Examples: need to get out of the house but require someplace quiet and local? Your library has more to offer than you realize.  Not only can you browse books on health and healing but autobiographies, fiction literature, movies and books on tape or CD abound

–  Design Jewelry

  Examples: this one took me a bit to figure out but a helpful fellow customer at Michael’s taught me the basic workings of necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Getting coupons for Michaels or finding sales at Hobby Lobby isn’t too hard, so next time you see a good deal on jewelry supplies, go and check it out

–  Create A Vase

  Examples: one of my favorite ways to light up a room or subtly change décor, buying a simple glass vase is easy and cheap.  Then, have fun deciding what to put into it: some put in fake fruit, others buy a mixture of synthetic flowers, while others collect sand or buy colored glass.  If you like this idea, go the extra mile and create a vase for every season of the year

Merry Christmas 2015

  Merry Christmas 2015 to all my friends, family, and any others who have taken a few minutes out of their busy holiday schedules to read this!

  Amazing how quickly a year passes.  As I sat with my counselor the other day, we marveled at how 365 days could come and go.  Those days have been filled with struggles and triumphs, disappointment and joy, tears and laughter.  As we come to the end of this year, I would like to reflect on what 2015 meant to me and what I wish from this holiday season.

  At the end of 2014, I was at an extremely low point in my life.  My health had deteriorated to such a degree that simply surviving was all I was managing.  However, in October of 2014 I had been to see a new doctor and by Christmas I was on a new treatment program.  It certainly wasn’t providing instant gratification, but after fifteen years of being chronically ill, no sudden miracles or cures existed and I knew I was in it for the long-haul. 

  In February of 2015, my sister and I enjoyed a small vacation.  Although I was wracked by four migraines within the five days we were away, it was still an enjoyable time and a chance to see four different walls for a short period of time.  By July of 2015, my health had taken a clear turn for the better.  After sticking to the strict new protocol set up by my new doctor for 8-9 months, my joint and muscle pain had greatly deteriorated, my energy levels were improved, my cognitive function was better and my emotional state was better than it had been for quite a while.  Although I still struggled with constant headaches, sleep issues, pain and brain function, I was greatly encouraged.

  Of course, with Lyme disease, things can turn around quickly.  Because of the detoxification my body had experienced over the past months I began to experience new symptoms that drove me back to the couch and my mind, back to despair.  For these past few months of 2015, life hasn’t been a bed of roses.  As always, I am continuing to try new medications, supplements and treatment plans, and my doctors are alongside me in this battle. 

   My counselor recently asked me what I wanted from Christmas.  The question puzzled me; Christmas isn’t about getting, but about giving.  However, it made me think seriously about what kinds of gifts I would truly appreciate this holiday season.  The following are a few ideas that came to mind:

– Peace

  The constant belief that my times are in God’s hands and that no matter what happens, I am being cared for by One Who is greater than any doctor on earth.

– Confidence

  The knowledge that what I have been through has made me stronger, wiser and more prepared for the battles that lie ahead.

– Endurance

  The capability and patience to deal with all the new symptoms and health concerns that I know await me in the New Year.

– Selflessness

  The ability to put aside my own issues and reach out to others who are unable to articulate the hells they are enduring.

– Happiness

  Many consider love to be the ultimate secret to happiness; I however, believe that good health is happiness (and Buddha, coincidentally, agrees with me).

 

  There is one more thing I would appreciate this Christmas: knowing that everyone who is reading this post understands that, no matter what they are going through, someone else in the world understands about some of the harder aspects of life and appreciates and respects the fact that you are still here, still battling, still surviving.  You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers, and I pray that I can encourage you to keep on fighting through any struggles you face in the year to come. 

  Merry Christmas everyone, from Shelby and Bella (my faithful fur-baby)

Brain, Brain, Where Art Thou?

Yesterday I was at the hairdressers, ready to get my hair cut.  I went to a new hairdresser this time, so I was unfamiliar with their system.  Also, I only had a limited amount of sleep under my belt and though I thought I had enough brain power to see me through, my experience proved otherwise.

Walking up to the counter I was greeted by a woman.  “Are you getting a shampoo, cut, and blow dry?” she inquired, obviously having asked that same question a million times.

  “Haircut,” was all I could mumble after a brief moment of dead silence.  She watched me then nodded. Suddenly, my mind began to spin – wait, did she say shampoo, CUT, and blow dry? That was exactly what I wanted, and that was the only combination they were offering. Holy crab cakes.  I just made myself look like an idiot.

And I wasn’t done.

When the hairdresser began asking me questions about the type of cut I wanted after I showed her an example on my phone, my brain went blank again.  Didn’t I just show her the picture of what I wanted?  Shouldn’t she know how many layers to cut now?  Why is she asking me questions?

  “Um…yeah,” I responded blankly to her questions.  Wait, what did I just agree to? Then she began to shampoo my hair, and proceeded to ask more questions.  What questions, I have no idea.

“Mmmhmm,” was my response to whatever she was saying.  My brain went blank again.  Doesn’t she know customers can’t hear others with shampoo all up in their ears?

All I knew was I had showed her a picture of what I wanted my hair to look like.  I felt so tired sitting in that chair as she cut away, tense but also very tired.  My brain had shut off.  Turns out, she butchered my hair and I walked away a very sad customer.  But I couldn’t argue, or even tell her that she had cut it completely wrong.  By that time, the energy source to my brain was zapped and it was all I could do to drive home, where I fell onto the couch.

Oh brain, where are you when I need you?

Illness and Jealousy

Laying on the couch, watching a show. That is a common custom with me, as it relaxes me and lays some of the stress to rest. There are times however, when my mind is on anything but the show, as was the situation today. I started thinking about Lyme, and sickness, and being sick while dealing with jobs, family, relationships…and jealousy.

Has anyone ever been jealous of you because you are sick?   In a way, people should be very jealous of those with chronic illnesses because of the maturity they acquire just from living daily life. Think about it: those who are sick deal with multiple major stressors every hour of every day, they deal with living with others but feeling completely alone because of their illness, they climb the mountains of financial struggle, inadequate doctors, and medications that don’t cut it. But are you jealous of them because of all this?

Earlier this year, I dealt with people who were jealous of me.   Of course they never came right out and told me what they were jealous about, but I eventually figured out that it had something to do with my dedication towards making myself a better person (health wise and otherwise) along with the intense concentration I gave towards each barrier thrown in my path. These qualities are really lessons that I have learned because of having Lyme.

At first, it boggled my mind. Jealous of me? I mean, come on, who wants my life? Who wants to be sick every minute of every day? Then I realized that they were not jealous of my life. They were jealous of the person I had become because of my life.

That jealously was so intense it amazed me. They threw everything they had into trying to smear my reputation as an honest but dedicated person. Their fight against me was trying, I cannot deny, as lies were spread and delicious rumors among the social world abounded. I grew tired of their attitude and began to tune them out of my life because of the draining effect they were beginning to have on me.   It still puzzled me at the time, why they were trying to tear me down. But it makes sense now.

Because of my 15-year struggle with Lyme disease, I have grown so much and faster than many of my peers, simply because I had to.   Dealing with such intense pain on an every-day basis has made me humble. It has brought me down to earth as far as dreams and goals are concerned and made me face the life I will likely lead forever head-on. It has given me the ability to listen to others, and to understand and sympathize with their pain. It has made me stronger in spirit and more honest. It has broken me a thousand times, and I have stood back up a thousand more. Don’t get me wrong; I have a long, long, long way to go. But thanks to Lyme, I have come a long way.

Jealous of me? Jealous of us? You know what, others should be jealous because they haven’t fought the fight we have and come out stronger in the end. I wouldn’t wish Lyme disease or chronic illness on anyone. But I now understand why someone could be jealous of me and jealous of those who are ill. It shows me that illness can make a person stronger, warmer and more generous, smarter, braver…and so, so, so much more.