Underneath my yellow skin

Taking Charge of My Health

Many moons ago, I had to deal with bronchial issues on and off for several years. I would be coughing and sniffling and have mucus draining in the back of my throat for a month, get better, then have it start all over again. Once, at the nadir of those years, I was coughing for nine months straight. In desperation, I begged my doctor for antibiotics, even though I knew they wouldn’t help. She said as much to me, and I told her I knew it was folly, but I had to try something. She reluctantly prescribed them to me, and they made me feel worse than the bronchial issues instead. I Googled the side effects (which I should have done before I took the pills), and they were basically the same as the symptoms I was suffering. My therapist gave me the name of a naturopath, and she suggested giving up gluten, dairy, and sugar. At the same time. You can imagine how pleased I was with this suggestion, but as I said, I was desperate, and I was willing to try anything.

Taking a deep breath, I did it. I gave up everything dairy, gluten, and sugar. You have to remember that alternatives were not as plentiful and tasty, so it was a struggle. For the first month, I was stuck on the idea of finding a one-to-one substitute for each thing I had to give up. I wanted to find a bread that tasted like wheat bread, ‘cheese’ that tasted like dairy cheese, etc. That is folly, for your information. The trick, I found, was to find things that were tasty and not compare them to the original. It still wasn’t easy, but I found acceptable alternatives. Cheese was the hardest thing to give up, and the only fake cheese that was edible was Lisanatti Foods Almond Cheddar Cheese, and that was only when it was melted on something like a sandwich.

Of the three categories, sugar was the hardest to give up completely, especially since I don’t cook. I don’t add sugar to anything, but everything comes with sugar. Plus, I love chocolate, sooooo…..I would just look for chocolates with natural substitutes at the co-op and try to eat less of it. I wasn’t as stringent with the sugar as I was with dairy and gluten. By the second month, I felt great. My cough was gone, and most of my intestinal/nasal problems were cleared up. By the third month, though, I was literally dreaming of pizza. Because my symptoms had cleared up, I decided to gradually introduce dairy, gluten, and sugar* back into my diet.

I realized at that time or soon after that I’m lactose-intolerant (as most East Asians are) and gluten-intolerant as well. I deal with the former by taking Lactaid, and I deal with the latter by suffering the side effects. I haven’t had to deal with bronchial issues in the past several years, and I attribute my improvement in health to my taiji practice.

However. In the past three months, I’ve been sick three times. The first time was a pretty standard flu, but the second time, it was vicious. I haven’t felt that bad in decades. I struggled moving from the couch to the bathroom just to pee, and I didn’t do much more than sleep. That eventually cleared up, and, lo, all was good. Then, about a week and a half ago, I felt lump settle into my throat, and I knew my bronchial issues were back. I was right, and I was hacking hard, feeling the mucus draining down my throat, and exhausted. I knew it was the same shit I had dealt with in the past–I have a shitty immune system, partly because I have thyroid issues–and I was not happy at all. I could speculate about why I’ve been so sick in the last three months–grief, rapid weather change, going to the doctor for other reasons–but that’s not the point of this post.

What is? I have a shitty diet. As I mentioned, I don’t cook, and I buy things that are usually smothered in cheese. I’ve been noticing over the last few months or so that my lactose intolerance has been getting worse. Even when I take my pills, I still suffer some side effects. In addition, my gluten intolerance is making itself known, too. Remembering how much better I felt when I switched over my diet many years ago, I decided to try it again. But first, I would experiment, for science. I noticed that when I ate a whole-wheat pita, I felt bloated and gross,** and I thought maybe my problem was more with gluten than dairy. I also did some research and found out that yogurt and aged cheeses are less of a problem for some people with lactose intolerance, so I decided to test that theory. Without my pills, both were hard on my system. With pills, sharp cheddar cheese gives me little side effects. In other words, sharp cheddar cheese stays on the menu. I’ll try the rest of the yogurt today and report back.

Cashew milk ice cream is tasty. So is rice-tapioca bread. Almond milk is good on its own, but too thick for cereal. One thing I’m glad about is that there are so many better options for non-dairy and non-gluten these days than there were back when I tried this the first time. My system is adjusting to the purge, but I think it’s going to be OK in the long run. In addition, as long as I get the nutrients elsewhere, there’s no harm in giving up dairy and gluten. Or rather, giving up gluten and cutting back on dairy. I also noticed that Lisanatti Foods now has a Jalapeno Jack Style almond cheese that I may try as well. I may actually start cooking, which is almost an anathema for me, in order to have better control over my diet. Or, I could just watch another Cooking With Mazzy episode. That sounds better to me.

On a totally different subject, I burned my wrist quite badly the other day. It was completely my own fault, though. I was trying to carry three drinks including boiling hot tea in a traveling mug, my phone, and probably a plate to the living room in one trip. I leaned over to set down the traveling mug, and the tea poured out of the sipping hole all over my left wrist. It hurt like a motherfuck, and now I have a bracelet of red around my left wrist. It doesn’t hurt much now, but it looks terrible. The thing is, the minute it happened, I flashed back to taiji principles. Do things in the easiest way possible. Loading myself down to only have to make one trip is not the easiest way possible. I should have done it in two, which would have mitigated the possibility that I would pour tea all over myself.

Most of the times I hurt myself is because of my own thoughtlessness, and this was no exception. Better to take a few more seconds and a second trip then to juggle three cups, one of which contains a boiling liquid. This is the second time I’ve dumped tea on that wrist in the last month, so I really need to change that habit. It’s hard, though, because it’s so ingrained in my brain to save time by carrying everything at once. Hopefully, I can break myself of this thinking before I burn myself again.


*By gradually, I mean all at once. I’m an all-or-nothing type of gal, for better or worse.

**Scientific term, y’all.

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