24 July 2013

A New Journey: Part 1 -- Background

"I pulled in to Nazareth; I was feelin' about a half past dead."
-- The Band ("The Weight," or "Take a Load off Annie)
from the album "Stage Fright"

I have Type II Diabetes.  That's the raw fact.  I was diagnosed with this condition officially in May 2010.  It was not a total surprise to me.  In 2007, my cardiologist was stunned to find that my triglycerides were at nearly 900 and my cholesterol was getting close to 400.  These are wicked numbers.  My doc and I were both shocked into silence.

"Do you know how much sugar and fats you would have to consume to get to this point?" he finally asked.  I had no idea.  Turns out, I would have had to be a total "RC Cola and Moon Pie" addict with a constant intake of Original Recipe of Kentucky Fried Chicken to get those numbers. Since I worked out fairly regularly and weighed about 230 lbs, the numbers did not make much sense.  

Yep, I was overweight, but I am a big guy at 6'3" tall with a "big boned" build.  I also carry a bit of muscle -- due to both exercise and activity choices.  Yet, here I was.  Short version:  I worked for three years to get those numbers down.  I am resistant (allergic) to statin drugs, so a formula of pharmaceutical grade niacin, omega 3s and a non-statin drug (Niaspan, Lovaza and Fenofibrate respectively) was finally attained that helped bring those numbers into some place of at least borderline normal -- still higher than desired.

One further back event helped start this journey.  In January 1995, I collapsed in chest pain one day at the cathedral, where I was the Dean.  A cardiac catheterization procedure found that I have a fairly rare and unusual coronary construction.  It is genetic.  The coronary arteries are 2.5x larger than normal; and the inner walls of the arteries are wavy instead of straight and smooth.  It is called Coronary Ectasia.  Cardiac medicine has only come to grips with this condition since the 1980s.  It may have contributed to my father's untimely death at age 54 (in 1968).  This is controlled by medication that "tenses" the arteries and makes them more efficient.  The medication creates a problem with high blood pressure, so it is joined with a medication to deal with that.  I have almost no plaque in my coronary arteries.  I started this trip of strange eruptions 18 years ago.

Diabetes also runs in our family.  My maternal grandfather was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes when he was 56 and had a sudden heart attack.  He lived to age 82 by taking care of himself and remaining active.  He is the one who was an entomologist/naturalist who taught me to hunt, fish and navigate by celestial orientation.

In short, when my diagnosis of Type II Diabetes was announced, I was not surprised.  However, I was both disappointed and very concerned about how things might go forward.

Some folks, who know me, are aware that I don't sit around worrying about this kind of stuff very much at all.  In fact, I have been called "cavalier" by close in family members, when it comes to appropriate life adjustments.  

Then, something changed.

While I was in the Black Hills of South Dakota for two weeks in June, I was suddenly struck with the reality that I live on a lot of medications -- a lot for me, at least.  In my work with the Lakota people, I have become extremely sensitive to their evolutionary plight.  First Nations people had almost no incidents of heart disease or diabetes in their lives -- until after 1900.  

What changed?  It was their diet.  It went from one of largely protein supplemented by berries, fruits and various kinds of vegetables.  The only sugar came from those sources.  The only "grains" consumed were "seed sourced" and natural to their environment.

Fact:  Among the Lakota people, the leading cause of illness and death at present are diabetes and coronary disease -- in that order.  When they were forced into reservations and forced to consume a western European (read:  Immigrant American) diet, their bodies got sick.  

What has happened to us immigrant Americans?  Since the early 1900s, our diet has steadily increased in carbohydrate and sugar consumption.  Those food sources now comprise better than 70% of our diet.  

I did an informal Facebook study of what friends post concerning foods, recipes and prepared dishes over the past six months.  Ready?  Eighty-five percent of the postings were desserts or foods consisting of refined flour, simple carbohydrates and sugars of several varieties.  I am not astounded by this.  It is reflective of the typical American diet at large.  While in South Dakota, all this hit me in a very big way, because I had time to reflect and was asking for insights.

Michial Seamus

Yep, he is Irish -- born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  He was a Roman Catholic seminarian when the "unpleasantness" erupted in that country.  He ended up leaving his homeland and found his way to the United States, where he became a citizen about 25 years ago.  He settled in Sarasota and owns a small construction company.

Five years ago, he was told he needed a hip replacement.  However, he flunked the pre-op cardiac EKG.  He was sent immediately to a cardiologist, where he flunked the more comprehensive stress EKG testing.  Turns out, he had a badly blocked descending aortic coronary artery:  the one known as the "widow maker."  He was literally days or weeks from a massive, fatal heart attack.

While in the hospital recovering from the stent procedure to save his life, he learned he had Type II Diabetes in an advanced form.  He was placed on insulin right away.  His blood pressure was way too high.  More medication.  At the end of his recovery process -- when he finally got his new hip -- he was on seven medications.

Michial's wife has severe Celiac Disease.  This is also a "modern" condition where the body builds an intolerance to foods containing gluten (most modern grains are very high in gluten).  Michial became very despondent in this newly diagnosed conditions (he had not been to a doctor in about a decade prior to the orthopedic surgeon).  Not being one to sit long in despondency, he took a break from his work and began doing intensive research.  He spent time at NIH and at the Harvard Institute of Public Health.  He consulted all manner of medical practitioners.  He determined that what he was eating was killing him.  (Note:  his cardiologist told him he probably had only about five to seven years of life left).  

Mic got radical.  He removed all grain products and foods containing wheat, corn or barley from his diet.  He removed all foods that contained any kind of sugar and limited his sugar intake to whole fruits and certain root vegetables in moderation.  The only natural sweetener he used was a tablespoon (total) of raw, unprocessed honey in his tea.  He removed all milk products, except heavy whipping cream (has no sugar, believe it or not), butter from grass-fed cattle and natural cheese (no processed brands).  He boosted his protein intake to about 65% of total daily intake -- protein from only fresh or frozen meats (preferably organic), poultry and fish.

Mic did this three years ago.  Today, he is 45 lbs lighter.  His blood pressure is textbook.  He no longer uses insulin, and his fasting glucose is stable at 5.0% (textbook).  His blood chemistry is all totally within normal range.  His cardiologist recently told him she changed her mind.  She thinks he could live well into his 90s.  The only medication he currently takes is the ONE pill that "keeps his coronary stent clean."  His diet?  More like the Native American diet prior to westernization.


I had long since grown weary of reading about the latest pill, formula, process or routine that would guarantee a "diabetes cure."  ALL of that is crap!  Diabetes is not curable.  Diabetes can, however, be controlled to the point that it is in a kind of remission.  I also had gotten weary of people who claim they can help -- but at a rather steep and constant price.  I do not want my health to be their living.  This is not to say that nutritionists and health counselors are not useful.  Lots of folks need that kind of accountability -- paying for someone to guide them.  I have never worked well with that kind of accountability relationship.  So, I was stuck.

Then I met Michial.  Just happened that my annual physical was scheduled for the day after my return from South Dakota.  I poured all my thoughts and concerns out to my primary care physician.  He is a 40ish guy who keeps up with research, is extremely attentive to detail and is not afraid to consider treatments that are beyond "allopathic boundaries."  

My doc knew that I was not happy with the diabetes folks I had consulted shortly after arriving here.  It was the same old routine, and it simply meant, "stay on your medicine; eat this way to maintain yourself."  He is the one that suggested the support group that Michial leads.

I went to meet Michial and learned of his journey.  It requires a radical lifestyle change.  He likens it to being an alcoholic:  Once you start the journey, there is no going back.  Going back means a return to the condition you are leaving.  This shift begins with a detoxification process.  It is ten days long, and I began this journey today, 24 July 2013.

Stripped Clean

Yesterday, Denise and I "cleaned house."  We removed every food that listed sugar in its ingredients.  We removed all pastas and wheat products.  In fact, all grain products except old fashioned oats.  All processed meats and cheeses are gone.  We ended up with four and a half large grocery bags -- heavy with boxes, cans, bottles and packages.  The garbage sack got filled as well...before the garbage man came yesterday afternoon.  All of it now gone from this house.  We are done with it.

This morning, I rolled out of bed at 6:00 am and began a new way of living and eating.  This first ten days is like an elimination diet....only certain things will be eaten...and in certain quantities.  No fruits (except a few blueberries).  No vegetables outside of a small prescribed selection that creates either a soup or a salad.  Fresh protein sources, eggs and one kind of cheese will be allowed.

My blog will be a journal for the coming days...during the detox.   I awoke this morning and took the first measurements:  Fasting Glucose = 123.  Blood Pressure 134/82.  Weight 240.6 lbs.  All high.  Just watch this space.  Just watch.

Love and Blessings,


1 comment:

  1. Good for you! I've been considering the same thing. Debbie Mann can explain a lot about what's going on with me, but my current plight means not only diabetic, but also collagenous colitis which doesn't allow me many raw vegs. Yogurt, blue cheeses or feta, egg whites, beans and brown rice are staples, with less meat than most. We also just installed a pool with a swim current that's adding to my daily activity. Let's see how this goes!