Search for Health

Even as a child I realized my family had a lot of health issues. I might not have realized it as young as I did except for the fact that while most everyone was sick with some serious health problem my grandfather never go sick. Not even a cold.

In my teens I vowed I would not end up sick as well.  The list of diseases in my family is long.

  • Both parents and their parents died of heart disease
  • My grandmother, mother and myself were born with a congenital kidney problem.
  • Two great aunts died of breast cancer
  • Various uncles suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases
  • Diabetes was rampant with several aunts, uncles, maternal grandfather and maternal great-grandmother suffering with it. Two relatives had to have amputations as a result.
  • Other illnesses included: gall bladder disease, glaucoma, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gout to name a few.

My siblings suffer even more problems. Two of my sisters at age 40 nearly lost their lives. One needing heart bypass surgery, the other losing all her female parts to two forms of aggressive cancer. My brother has liver disease (not from alcohol). All my sisters are dealing with high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease.

As I learned more about health and nutrition I became a vegan, then a vegetarian and back and forth.I should mention that I became a vegan when I had cancer (age 23) and was diagnosed with gallbladder disease the following year.  Since that time I’ve been relatively healthy. Sure a few colds here and there, my disability worsened but that was to be expected. A positive change from giving up animal products was complications with my congenital kidney problems. The last time I had an issue with my kidney was when I was 23.

One striking difference between myself and my siblings is they know why I changed my diet but their attitude is you only live once so have fun. I say I only have one life and I want to be healthy to experience it.

I’ve felt that I managed pretty well. I had to check the box for gallbladder disease and cancer (but not breast cancer). I’ve reached my mid-50s pretty happy and believing diet could prevent all the diseases I witnessed in my family.

This week I sat down with my doctor and mentioned my struggle to lose weight. He was happy with my blood pressure (120/64 my blood pressure has been consistent since my teens the highest it’s ever been was 120/70 with the exception of my pregnancies) but wanted to take some blood and run a few tests. All the tests came back in what his office calls the very good range. No cholesterol problems, not even close to pre-diabetic, etc. But one test came back with a problem.

Seems I didn’t escape every thing through diet.

When I was young I was told two issues I needed to keep an eye on because they were hereditary were the glaucoma and hypothyroidism.  I had extensive testing done in my 30s on my thyroid and nothing appeared abnormal. Well, turns out today my thyroid is under performing. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include

Fatigue

  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory

I can check so many things off this list as being issues I’ve been dealing with it;s easier to list the ones I haven’t experienced.  I haven’t experienced elevated cholesterol levels, slowed heart rate or depression. I haven’t noticed memory issues per se but I’ve been noticing struggling to find a word I want to use happening on a pretty regular basis. The hair loss I’ve had since the birth of my second child (at age 24), cold intolerance has been a regular part of my life for so long I can’t tell you when it started.

So today I start on thyroid medication. I’m not thrilled to need a prescription medication but if I can feel better and return to my normal weight I will be happy.

Why did I tell you all this?

I shared my family health history today to show that even though genetics will determine certain things such as eye color, or that same gray streak in my hair my grandmother had, we have more power over our destiny than genetic does. Dr. Christiane Northrup explains that our genes predict less than 10% of all diseases.

I’m not trying to say a vegan/vegetarian diet is right for everyone. What I do believe is that each of us has the ability to listen to our bodies and know what it needs from us.  If all we do is adopt a whole foods diet, one free of processed junk foods, we would all see an improvement in our health.

It was very important thousands of years ago to categorize things. I can eat that plant, I can’t eat that plant. Or this tribe, not that tribe. We don’t have to do that anymore – we have processed food now!  ~~Keegan-Michael Key

 

 

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23 comments

  1. Had to get my walk done before it gets too hot so now I can comment. You are 100% correct. The genes can be there but whether they get expressed is up to us. I think there is a lot more to it other than just how we eat but the diet does play a huge part.. The joy we have in our lives, stress levels, community, and I strongly believe that some illnesses are present to teach us and those around us lessons. Compassion, awareness, mindfulness are just a few. I think so many of us are adding tons of sugar into our diets because there is no sweetness in our lives. The sugar is, in my tiny opinion, an even worse culprit in our physiology. You have done the best you can to take care of yourself and have done so better than most. I’m sorry to hear about the thyroid problem. I’ve had it on and off, depending on who is doing the testing. 😦 Most don’t catch it. I hope the meds help. Hugs, M

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    • I find stress has an immediate impact on my health in a very negative way. I find laughter and spending time with children helps me to keep stress levels low. I can’t imagine how stressful raising children on my own, one suffering from bipolar symptoms, would have been if I didn’t use humor to deal with those problems.

      I’m currently on the lowest dose of synthyroid. I’ve done a bit of research since the diagnosis to see what foods might be in my diet that adversely affect the thyroid and which ones support its health in the hope that I won’t need to increase the dosage.

      I wonder, how do you feel when you are off the medication versus on it.?

      One good thing might come of this, I might be able to tolerate more cold and turn the thermostat down lower in subsequent winters. 🙂

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  2. I was fortunate to inherit healthy genes but I have also made my health a priority in my life and it has paid off. I take no meds except when I have a migraine and feel very very fortunate. At the moment, though, my age has caught up with me and I had to have a biopsy Friday and am waiting for the results. It’s scary and I’m trying to not imagine the worst and trying not to worry until I know what I have to worry about.
    I think you have done very well in maintaining your health, Lois. The best we can do is the best we can do.

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    • Cynthia, I will keep you in my thoughts and look forward to hearing the results of your biopsy. You were lucky to have healthy genes too many don’t. I believe my grandfather’s good fortune with health helped give me a buffer to the worst problems I could have faced.

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  3. I’m glad that you have spent most of your life free of genetic diseases. I’m with Marlene thinking that sugar is a major factor in so many things. Also, state of mind and stress. Most of my problems come from stress. Except for diabetes. That runs rampant in my family. Being part Native American I find sugar again is the culprit. I’ve pretty much excluded it out of my diet and have a firm grip on my blood sugars. Weight, unfortunately, is something I can’t seem to master. Sometimes I think my thyroid is out of whack but the tests come back fine (I had some done several years ago). As long as you’re happy.
    I also find you can’t tell people how to live their lives or take care of their health if they aren’t willing to try. lol

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    • Sugar and high fructose corn syrup I believe is going to go down as the curse of humanity. I read some where years ago that donuts are the most dangerous food we can eat because it combines fat and sugar in a way that clogs our arteries and plays havoc with our body by the combination of the two. Just think of how many foods today combine fat and high amounts of sugar.

      I suffered from stress related illness for a period of time. My doctor pointed out I needed to control stress to be healthy. I eliminated so many things including toxic relationships and lowered my stress to find she was right.

      I think, just my opinion, that Native Americans suffer more from the standard American diet because it’s so new to their heritage their bodies haven’t had time to adjust. I’m from German and Irish descent so my family ate cooked fatty foods for generations.

      No, you definitely can’t tell others how to take care of their health but you can’t change how they view anything until it affects them personally, thinking of the environment as one example.

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      • I’m also half German, so yeah, I get it. Double whammy for me! lol
        People don’t want to quit eating what tastes good to them or gives them that sugar high. I find now that I don’t like things too sweet or salty anymore so that helps a lot.

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        • Oh boy. I’m mostly German with some Irish. Alcohol was my downfall and I joke that I didn’t have much choice. What I’ve found through the years as I changed my diet is that taste is more of an acquired thing. Foods, especially the junk foods, I loved now are disgusting to me. I don’t taste flavors as much as chemicals. Soda was a good example of that. I loved soda, after not having it for a while I tasted one and nearly gagged. How could I have drank that for so many years and loved it. I never liked salty foods but sweet yes. I found that I can eliminate sugar cravings by eating enough fruit,

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          • I have found that out about fruit too. I just have to be careful what fruit as some raise my blood sugars too high. I never drank much alcohol, never cared for the taste. I am down to one soda a day. Coke Zero. Sometimes I don’t have any. I got to have my coffee though. It keeps people alive. LOL

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          • I could never drink diet sodas, they do something to my head and I get dizzy and pass out. Any thing with aspartame or msg does that to me. As for coffee, I can’t stand the smell of it but I’ve heard some new reports saying it’s actually good for you so drink on.

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  4. Only a very rare few people get into their senior years free of prescription drugs. Our bodies are just not designed to live beyond a certain point without some assistance from medicine. I am grateful every day I live in this time in history. I would have died at 26 in childbirth otherwise.

    I believe life style choices and genetics do play a part – but the percentage of how much either one plays in our personal story is very very individual. I have known quite a few people who should have been dead fairly early in life because of the poisons (like cigarretes) they put into their bodies – and they lived into their 70s and 80s. And then there are the individuals who take care of their health through diet and exercise and drop dead from a heart attack while doing exercise or from some other early onset disease condition like breast cancer. My own brother-in-law had a heart attack at 30 – healthy individual – no risk factors – but it happened. Doctors were not able to say why. He is in his 60’s now and never had another attack. What the heck happened there? I guess organism like us hard to make predictions about.

    I am actually glad to hear that they found hyperthyroidism – it explains the weight you were trying to get rid of. It wasn’t what you were eating or your lack of exercise, probably. You lead a healthy life, but that plus a positive outlook and healthy diet cannot overcome an organ that isn’t functioning quite right. I am thankful they found this and it it is something they can treat. Maybe you will see some improvements.

    I have started to deal with arthritis – and I joked with my doctor that it seemed like several of my body parts have reached their ‘expiration dates,’ and I am glad that medical science has a way of extending my expiration dates on several of my organ systems.

    Good health to you, Lois.
    Elaine

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    • Elaine, I’m sorry your brother experienced a heart attack so young but good to hear he’s done well since. Many doctors believe stress is a major factor in heart attacks today. I don’t think that’s all that outrageous of a belief, just look at the stress we are putting on ourselves in these times.

      I agree with you in that it’s a good time to be alive with the advances we’ve made in medical care but we have to use it in conjunction with healthy lifestyle. I see too many who refuse to take responsibility for their own health and just see their doctors to treat their symptoms.

      I’m curious how you are treating your arthritis. I have used a copper bracelet for years. People tell me it’s all in my head so one day I took it off. Within a few days the pain in my fingers came back.

      Good health to you too, Elaine.

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  5. Like you, not crazy about prescription / over the counter drugs. Having said that, I most definitely use something (as you are) if it helped/improved a health concern. Will be interested what you think of this med/how you feel / if it helps etc..

    Also interested to hear, if you find any foods/diet which affect it/improve health to point it might be reduced etc…

    What I feel sad about, is the huge overprescription of so many “meds”…sigh. Seems like one is prescribed, and then another for side effects, and yet another for more side effects etc…

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    • It’s only been a couple of days and I’ve been very strict with my diet as well but already I am waking more refreshed in the morning. I am being careful to avoid foods that adversely affect the thyroid and just started my first fermented foods for probiotic health. One food I found that does adversely affect the thyroid is walnuts, which are considered a healthy fat for vegans. No more walnuts, but there are many other nuts and seeds that are okay to eat so I’m fine. I have to have a follow up with the doctor in six weeks so I should know more then.

      I agree with you that there is too much over-prescription use and one of the reasons I didn’t want to have to take any prescription medications is that I watched my grandparents go through that vicious cycle of starting one then needing another to counter the side effects and then another and another. I hated watching what was happening to them. It’s also why I am going to be very careful in my diet to either keep with the lowest dose or be able to get off the medicine. A couple of decades after my grandfather started on his thyroid medicine the doctor announced that his thyroid was basically dead and only the medication was keeping him going. I don’t want to be like that.

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  6. Well, that is a bummer, but hopefully the thyroid medication will make you feel better. It really is amazing all that you’ve been able to accomplish through diet and nutrition. You know, I think that we tend to assume that health is the default position – but in today’s society I’m really not so sure. I recently stumbled upon this TED talk by a young mother who had an awakening about nutrition and health. She basically cured herself and her kids of numerous chronic health problems simply by eating real food. https://youtu.be/rJgi4J8Rjpo

    It’s one of the reasons that I sorta consider my food allergies and sensitivities to be a blessing in disguise. It forced me to be very aware of what I’m eating, and to cook almost everything from scratch. I don’t really think of that as being radical anymore, but I do remember what a shock to the system it was when I was first diagnosed. I literally didn’t know what to eat if I couldn’t have processed food!

    Anyhow, sometimes I feel like there are all these things “wrong with me” because I can’t seem to “handle” stuff that most Americans take for granted in their daily lives… the stress, the alarm clocks, the lack of sleep, the junk food diet, the crazy schedules, the daily alcohol consumption, the lack of exercise etc, etc. I often find myself asking how it is that “everybody else” can deal with that sort of thing and feel “fine” while I feel wretchedly horrible if I even tiptoe into that sort of territory. But watching that woman’s TED talk made me think that maybe “everybody else” isn’t really “fine” after all. Maybe they feel miserable living that way too, but they just don’t know any better. What a sad thought.

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    • That was a fantastic video. I have come around myself in the way I view health. Growing up I only knew one person who had allergies and asthma. Children didn’t take medications year round. I assumed everyone else was healthy but me (with the kidney problems). Then I met my cousin’s wife who was into health food, more what we call clean eating now. She only ate organic foods and avoided all chemicals in cleaners etc. She did yoga and was physically active yet her child was born with an extra toe on one foot. I must have been in my late teens at that time and the conclusion I came to was that genetics was more important than any lifestyle factor.

      Fast forward a few years and my kids’ dentist explained to me that my children had soft teeth and they had frequent cavities. I decided to do some research and stumbled on information on sugar. I did what my cousin’s wife had been doing. I cleaned out my kitchen and removed all sugar. This meant making all our food from scratch, even bread. At the next dental check up, the dentist wanted to know what I was doing because my children had zero cavities and their teeth were no longer soft. All I did was remove sugar. That’s when I knew Hippocrates was right when he said “Let food be thy medicine.” I looked at the way kids were eating and how many were medicated in my son’s generation and could only find a couple of differences between my generation and theirs. They are less active and eat less real food.

      It’s good that you saw your allergy diagnoses as a blessing in disguise. That’s how I viewed my cancer diagnosis, and my children’s dental health. Like those things my thyroid diagnosis has spurred me to be even more careful with what I put in my body.

      One thing I’ve found since cleaning up my diet and the chemical cleaners in my home is that my body is very sensitive to them when I am exposed to them today.

      I wouldn’t say there is something wrong with you for letting stress get to you, I’d say instead that you have heart and are a caring person. This year has brought out my fears and insecurities with the election of Trump. I can’t recall a time politics that affected my stress like it is now. I think those who seem to handle all of life’s stresses without a problem are those who stick their heads in the sand. They are too busy staying busy to reflect on much. I don’t want to live that way, I’d rather learn to face each stress, fear or insecurity and grow from it.

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  7. I hope your new medication helps you Lois.. And only last week I had bloods done, just to have a health check.. As I am not on meds of any kind, thankfully.. And had not been to see a GP in ages.. And when I requested a health check.. The receptionist argued with my hubby who was making the appointment at the surgery, as she said she doesn’t need one she is healthy.. It had a five minute ‘Debate’ on the reasons why I wanted an MOT.. and she finally relented and gave me an appointment..
    When I went for the results I was told everything is ship shape.. and the nurse even said it was the best set of results she had seen.. 🙂 so big smiles.. Then promptly told me I couldn’t have another of these checks for 5 yrs as I was not on medication..

    Anyhow.. Like you, I feel diet is a very important key to our health.. And I feel lots of this processed food containing preservatives and E numbers are not doing our long term health any favours..
    We are what we eat.. Comes to mind.. And avoiding chemically treated foods, I always peel fruit which is bought. And am so thankful we grow most of our own veggies which are organic and not treated with anything..

    But if I had been found to be lacking and in need of medication, if I could not find an alternative means, I would be following the Drs advice too..

    Wishing you a wonderful Week Lois.. 🙂 Sending Love xx Sue

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    • Congratulations, Sue on your good heath. I am not surprised seeing photos of you, you exude health and vitality.

      I am shocked that you can only have a check up every five years. Here they push us to have a full work up annually whether you are sick or not. I reject many of the tests they want to run simply because I see them as just another way for the insurance companies to make more money.

      Not sure if I can reverse the problems with my thyroid naturally but I’m going to give it a heck of an attempt. Starting some fermented veggies today just for that reason.

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      • That may well be the reason Lois, as the Hospital’s and GPs surgeries will get paid what ever.. Here on the NHS and the strain its under cut backs are more the norm.. You can not have 248,000 people migrating into the UK in 2016 and it not having any affect on all the services .. Yet the politicians are blaming all the bed shortfalls and the delays in operations on the fact of the ageing population living longer.. Blah Blah!…. Drs are not staying they are going abroad because of long hours and better offers of pay elsewhere.. While we recruit from overseas and then there is a language barrier..
        A link for the Migration figures are here.
        https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/statistics-net-migration-statistics

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        • Interesting information on that site. I can’t imagine how you fit so many people into such a small and established country. The US is young and has a lot of land, much still open to development although I’d hate to see it all built up but at least we still have room for more people.

          Our illegal immigration takes a large toll on our medical services because there is a federal law that they must be treated and the federal government will reimburse the hospitals but they haven’t been reimbursing and so many hospitals have closed in areas with high illegal immigrant populations.

          I have to say that here the elderly are on average do use more medical services than the younger generations but there are things we could do to reduce those costs that we aren’t.

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