Monday 28 November 2011

Disappearing Act

Its been a while since I have even checked my blog, let alone updated anything. I haven't been in the best place health-wise the past few weeks and although I'm trying to remain positive, it can be difficult at times.

None of my experiments with introducing new foods seem to be working very well, and I'm stuck in a bit of a rut. I have this constant feeling of being 'swollen' in my abdomen, and I'm not sure whether it is bloating or simply inflammation. It doesn't feel like the usual bloating that I have put up with for the past year...but I'm not sure whether it is even possible to have a physical presentation of the inflammation that is likely going on in my intentines.

On Friday night I was doing some baking for a Thanksgiving dinner that I was attending on Saturday night. I was pretty excited to be attending my first ever Thanksgiving - its not something we typically celebrate in Australia. But my boyfriend's mum is American, and has quite a few American friends over here, so she puts on a big dinner every year. I had decided on 3 different desserts - a pumpkin pie, a hazelnut honey cake with spiced cranberry chutney from Roost (one of my favourite blogs), and an upside down apple cake of my own devising.

I hadn't been feeling at all well on Thursday....I woke up after an unusually solid sleep feeling utterly exhausted - that sort of mental and physical exhaustion that I used to feel when my symptoms were at their worst. I was supposed to be attending my CB's brother's gig that night with a group of friends, but by the afternoon I knew there was no way I was going anywhere that night. I feel crap - that was the first time in quite a while that I've had to let my illness interfere with my life in a big way.

Friday came and I was still feeling crappy, but now it was more GI symptoms than the brain fog and exhaustion. After work I stopped by the supermarket and got all of the ingredients I needed to start my bake-a-thon. I wasn't feeling too crash hot, but I thought the baking would be a good distraction and fill my house with wonderful smells. I returned home and had everything laid out on the bench...ready to bake!

A good few hours later I was finally finished, with a pie and 2 cakes to show for my efforts. I was feeling pretty proud of my efforts, but had also been feeling increasingly unwell as the night went on. Eventually at about 11:30 I thought i had better go to bed because I just wasn't feeling good enough to even talk to my housemates, let alone clean up the kitchen. I spent the next 6 or so hours in bed writhing in pain while simultaneously fighting off intense nausea. At one point I even considered driving myself to the hospital because I just didn't know what to do - something that anyone who knows me could confirm is the last thing I am likely to want to do.

I know we have up and down days on the SCD, and that it takes time to heal. But at the moment I feel like I'm just not getting any better, and in some ways getting worse. My diet is currently restricted to meat, chicken soup with no veg, zucchini, diluted apple jelly, turkey patties, and the occasional egg. I can't tolerate any fruit or honey, or even the majority of veggies. Carrots and pumpkin have both been crossed off the list. I feel like things I was tolerating are no longer agreeing with me, and my list of foods is growing smaller and smaller. And even then, I still feel crap almost every day.

I'm going to keep plugging away - I know as crappy as I feel that it would be so much worse without the diet. I just wish I could understand why I am feeling so horrible all of the time, why I have started bleeding and why constant pain seems to be one of my new symptoms. Am I doing something wrong?

Thursday 10 November 2011

An Excellent Podcast on IBDs and the SCD

I'm sure many of you have heard of SCD Lifestyle , and the fantastic work of Jordan and Steve. I have been downloading all of their podcasts, and have found the ones with guest speakers particularly helpful. Last night on my walk home from walk I listened to their podcast number 29, with special gues Dr. Leo Galland. There was so much useful information in that one podcast that I felt like my head was spinning. I would strongly recommend anyone wanting to know about treatment of IBDs and the use of the SCD diet to have a listen.

How Dr. Galland Treats Digestive Disease

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Smoky BBQ Chicken

I have a whole bottle of apple cider vinegar sitting in my pantry, and I've been trying to think of recipes that I might be able to use it in. I'd never even heard of apple cider vinegar until I started the SCD, so wasn't really sure what it might be used for. Until today, I had only ever put a small amount in my chicken soup to extract more of the gelatin from the bones.

I thought the tanginess of the vinegar might be good as the base for a marinade, and I had some chicken cutlets that were just waiting for some attention. So I had a look through my spice rack to see if I could find anything that might go. Here is what I came up with, and I must say having just finished it less than half an hour it - it was delicious!

- 8 Chicken cutlets (I used thigh with the skin removed, but this would also be good on chicken breast, marylands, or even a butterflied whole chicken)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Pepper to taste

- Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a large container or ziplock bag
- Throw in your chicken and shake until all pieces are well coated
- I would recommend marinating your chicken overnight - this is what I did and it really tasted fantastic
- Fire up the BBQ and cook your chicken for a few minutes on each side

This recipe is simple to put together and easy to cook. Its perfect for those nights when you want to fit in a gym session after work :)

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Greek Lamb Chops

Anyone who knows my dad could be forgiven for thinking that he suffers from some sort of identity crisis. Having been a tradie all of his life, he has worked with people from a whole range of different cultural backgrounds. Being a little food obsessed, my dad has certainly embraced many of the dishes introduced to him by his workmates. I think the funny thing here is that he always went through phases where for a few weeks all we would be seeing at the dinner table were dishes from one particular region of the world. I think it was probably Greek or Italian first, and then we got Chinese and then Indian crept in as well. Now I'm definitely not complaining - I doubt too many of my school friends could say that they came home to find a dinner of char sui pork neck with fried rice, or tandoori chicken with naan bread on the menu for dinner.

In a lot of ways I think I owe my passion for food to my dad. His ability to create something delicious without a recipe or with whatever happened to be in the fridge and cupboards always amazed me. So when I moved out and started cooking for myself, I tried to be as much like him as I could.

One of my favourite cuisines would definitely have to be Greek food. I love lamb, and I love garlic, i love their dips and antipasto. When I was in Greece a few years ago, I was in food heaven. Everything was fresh and flavoursome, but inexpensive as well. So one of the first dishes I tried to create myself when I moved out was a Greece-inspired lamb dish. Because I often don't have time to cook a roast after work or on a busy weekend, I tend to opt for chops as my cut of choice when I'm eating lamb. If i had the money, I'm sure I would be munching on some lamb cutlets as often as possible.

So here is my recipe for Greek Lamb Chops. I tend to just wing things in the kitchen and never really pay attention to how much of anything I am putting into a dish - so hopefully I have this right. If not, I'll adjust my measurements next time I make them (which is looking like tomorrow night).

- 4 Lamb chops or lamb steaks (I prefer loin chops)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pepper to taste

- Simply combine all of your marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag or container with a lid and shake until combined.
- Throw in your lamb and again shake around so that each piece of meat is evenly coated.
- Marinate for at least an hour. I like to leave mine overnight so that the flavour really soaks into the lamb.
- How you cook these is really up to you. My preferred method is on the BBQ, but thats just because I love to chuck just about anything on the BBQ. I also like to cook them on a tray under the grill (broiler for any US readers), which lets all the excess fat drip off and makes the chops lovely and crispy. But you could also fry the chops or even book them in the oven.

Sometimes I'll make a little extra marinade and soak some zucchini and eggplant in it as well - absolutely delicious on the BBQ.

Sunday 23 October 2011

I left a doc's appointment feeling...GOOD!

I've been on SCD for a good few weeks now, and am quite proud of myself for how well I have been doing. I'm still eating intro foods because they have been working for me, but have also been introducing new foods every 4 or so days. Pumpkin and green beans have both been successful so far, but no fruit currently seems to be agreeing with me.

However, despite my adherance to the diet, over the past couple of weeks my symptoms have come creeping back. The first sign was the bleeding, which definitely had me a little worried. And then slowly but surely back came the C and the bloating and the tiredness. As soon as the blood appeared, I went back to my safe foods hoping that I had just introduced something that didn't quite agree with me yet. But even when I was in my 'safe zone', the symptoms just kept coming back one-by-one.

I decided that it was about time I got a referral to see a second GI specialist after the first one was such a disaster. So I made an appointment with the GP who has been looking after my family since I was born and went in to see her on Friday. I have to say, Friday wasn't a particularly good day for me. One of our family dogs, who we had for 14 years, was suffering from a facial tumor. Neither of my parents could bring themselves to get her put down, and that morning my 2 beautiful sisters had called me to ask whether I would be willing to go with them to the vet. Anyone who knows my family will know that our dogs are just as important as our human family members, and Buffy was our oldest pet. She was the type of dog who knew when you came home after a really crappy day, and would look at you as if to say 'come on, let me give you a doggy cuddle'.

So I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office and my mum called me to ask about Buffy. I told her what the vet had said, and that we had had to have her put down, and then I started crying right there in the waiting room. The poor other guy who was there probably thought I was dying, because all he would have heard was "they said it was a facial tumor and that there is nothing they can do"....and then me bawling my eyes out. Oh dear.

Anyway, I got in to see the doctor and after 5 minutes realised that I was an idiot for not making an appointment with her earlier. If you've ever had an amazing doctor who actually really gives a crap about their patients, you will understand exactly what I mean. The problem is, this doc is so good that it usually takes about a month to get an appointment with her, and she only works 2 days a week, so I had ended up seeing other people instead.

I don't think I've ever had a more thorough checkup in my regular appointment turned into an hour-long session where she went through the whole history of my GI problems, what tests I'd had done and which treatments I'd tried. She was really worried about the bleeding, especially after there was no sign of hemorrhoids, and called my previous GI specialist a complete idiot which made me feel much better about that horrific experience. The only way the appointment could have been better was if she was a GI specialist herself!

So I now have a referral to a GI doc near me....I can't afford another private consultation, especially because I'll need a colonoscopy and endoscopy, so she has referred me to someone at Box Hill hospital. There is generally a 6 month waiting period to get in to see a public specialist, so she has told me that on one day when I am feeling particularly crappy, I need to front up to the emergency room with my referral and wait there until I can see somebody. I have been pre-warned that ths is likely to take around 10 hours, but that is a lot better than waiting 6 months. Plus my CB has already promised me he will bring a picnic and wait there with me :)

I'm feeling positive about things today, which is a good thing after the past couple of weeks and that fear that creeps into you when your symptoms start returning for reasons you don't understand. My GP was worried that SIBO is not the full story, which would suck...but I'd rather know. Having knowledge arms you so that you can fight whatever it is that is making you sick.

I wish everyone could find a doctor who is as wonderful and caring as my GP...and if anyone living in Melbourne wants her details let me know.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Overseas Adventures with SCD!

A couple of months ago my CB won a tour of Turkey....this seemed pretty exciting to someone who never seems to win much, not even the raffle at the school fete. At the time, we talked a bit about heading overseas and where we would like to go, but after a few weeks we had both kind of forgotten about our plans and our potential trip in the midst of daily life.

So about a month ago, I was surprised when CB again brought up the topic of heading overseas. He had decided that we were going to take the tour and split the cost 50-50. I told him that I would love to go, but that I didn’t think it was fair that he had to pay when he had won the tour as a result of his hard work. After a few days of back-and-forth I reached the conclusion that CB is just as stubborn as I, and that he wasn’t going to budge on this one. I just had to suck it up and accept a half-price tour of Turkey…damn.

On Monday night we took the exciting step of booking and paying for our flights and the tour…I have to say I was pretty excited. I spent 6 months in Europe and the UK in 2006, and since then I’ve had a short trip to Thailand and that’s about it. So the travel bug has been biting hard lately, I have to say. Unfortunately the most time CB could get off work was 3 weeks, so our hopes to visit half of Europe were somewhat dashed. However, we are having a 4 day stopover in Malaysia before heading to Turkey, and will be spending a few days in both Italy and France once our tour has finished.

At first my excitement in booking everything and dreaming up day-trips and adventures completely took over and all I could think about was how much fun we were going to have. But a couple of days ago it dawned on me that my diet is going to be a major issue when travelling, especially overseas. The thing I am most worried about right now is the tour, as a lot of our meals are provided along the way. When I was last in Europe I did a 3-week tour with meals provided (back when I had a happily functioning digestive system), and remembering that experience makes me think it is going to be incredibly difficult to have my dietary requirements met while on the road. So now a little bit of stress has kicked in.

It does make me a little sad that I won'e be able to experience a lot of the amazing foods that Malaysia and some of Europe has to offer. My sister just got back from a 6 month stint in the US and Europe, and managed to put on about 15kg along the way. As crazy as it sounds, I would love to be able to do the same (possibly with the knowledge that I will be returning home to my gym membership). But then I think, better to be healthy than to indulge in foods that I know are going to make me sick. Hopefully I can keep that resolve when faced with the patisseries of Paris! 

I wholeheartedly refuse to let my digestive troubles and restricted diet ruin my opportunities to experience life, so of course I am going to try my best to sort all of this stuff out. And hopefully by May next year I will be less restricted in what I can eat, and won’t be so badly affected by things like I am now. For now I am just focusing on the positives – I am travelling again, and with someone who means the world to me. I guess I can’t really complain about that.

And if anyone has any great suggestions for travelling overseas while on SCD, I'd love to hear them.

Stay happy :)

Friday 14 October 2011

A Shout Out to Everyone with an IBD

A few times when my SIBO symptoms have been really bad, I've sat there and told myself "Hey, it could be worse. There are a lot nastier illnesses out there." While this doesn't really make you feel much better at the time, it is definitely true.

A lot of the discussion boards and forums I am a member of are filled with people whose IBD has impacted their life in so many terrible ways - months bedridden, trips to hospital, surgery to remove parts of their digestive tract and so on. As much as SIBO sucks, it could be worse.

The past couple of days I've had quite a bit of pain in my intestines. I'm not really sure what the cause might be as I am eating only safe foods, and haven't introduced any new supplements. But the pain has been keep me up at night bad. And then a couple of days ago I started bleeding. Now this is something pretty new for me - I've had a few spots of blood here and there, but never anything major and it always went away quickly. This time, things weren't so simple. The bleeding just got worse and worse until yesterday the toilet bowl was just filled with blood. Strangely enough, the BMs seemed 'good' - bristol 4's and 5's.

I thought about taking today off work to go to the doctor, but decided I'd give it a day or so to see if it clears up on its own. I am sick of handing over money to doctors who I know probably wont be much help.

Anyway, this little episode got me thinking. Here I am, having a slight freak-out at a couple of days of bleeding when so many people with Crohn's or UC have this as a constant symptom that sometimes takes months to clear up even on SCD. Its not an easy thing for people to see blood where it shouldn't be, so I can only imagine how disheartening it must be to have this as one of your symptoms day-in-day-out.

So I guess this post is just a little shout out to anyone with an IBD who has to put up with crappy things like this happening to them on a regular basis. If you are one of these people, I'm sending you virtual hugs and hoping that eventually you find the thing that works for you to beat your disease.

Until then, we can all be there to support each other.

Much love xx