25 July 2013

A New Journey -- Part 2: The First 24

"You know I'm free, free now baby
I'm free from your spell
Oh I'm free, free, free now
I'm free from your spell
And now that it's all over
All I can do is wish you well"
-- "The Thrill is Gone," Lyrics by Roy Hawkins & Rick Darnell, 1951
--Sung by B.B. King, 1969 album, "Completely Well"

I stopped smoking cigarettes on Ash Wednesday, 1979.  I began smoking during the fall quarter of my junior year at The University of Florida.  I was about to take my first ever oral exam in an embryology course lab section.  I was going to be identifying microscope slide specimens.  One of my dorm suite mates smoked, and, for whatever reason, I bummed one of his non-filtered Camel cigarettes.  'Just one,' I thought -- you know, they say it calms the nerves.  I sure got a rush!  Within two weeks, I was smoking about 10 cigarettes a day; but I switched to filtered Camels.  A little healthier, right?  Mindset is all relative.  

At the height of the nine years of cigarette addiction, I smoked about a pack daily.  I was also running 5 to 8 miles, five days a week.  Now, one would think enough sense could be had to see that these two activities do not go well together.  Again, mindset is relative.  Science and religion are a lot alike that way:  1) We can read and research the same material, yet come up with different conclusions; 2) We can always find data and material to justify the way we want to think or believe; 3) If we are really uncomfortable with what we find, we can ignore it or go into a place of denial.  Regarding my smoking addiction, I was pretty much in the #3 camp.  I already knew this was an unhealthy habit.  I justified its continuance, because I actually could run 5-8 miles daily without any (seeming) problem.

There was a kicker here.  One day each week, I ran with my primary care physician.  He was about five years older than me (at this time I was not yet 29 years old).  He could observe things that I denied.  Also, over the three, or so, years prior to this, I had suffered numerous bouts of bronchial pneumonia.  It was after one of those episodes that Dr. Hrnicek and I were running one Friday afternoon.  He had treated two episodes of bronchial pneumonia since becoming his patient in July 1978 (I was newly ordained and the Associate at Christ Church, Springfield, MO.  Dr. Hrnicek was a parishioner).  He simply said to me, "You know, if you don't quit smoking I just might be attending your funeral before you finish your time at Christ Church."

A week later, we made a pact.  I would stop smoking on Ash Wednesday.  If I could remain cigarette free through Easter the following year (1980), he would treat me to the best dinner at a place of my choosing.  If I lost, the dinner was on me.  

The first days of not smoking were problematic.  Headaches, nervous sensations, a kind of listlessness and unspecified crankiness ran through the first week or so.  Somewhere after that, those experiences ceased altogether, and I did not want to smoke.  The only time in the 34 years I have tried it again was after our mom's death in 1987.  It made me sick.  It was  very short-lived.  Oh, and I got that dinner promised by Dr. Hrnicek in late spring 1980.

I made some statements in yesterday's blog posting about the genetics of both diabetes and celiac disease.  Both are, in origin, genetic disorders.  Some folks questioned my use of "intolerance" in speaking of response to wheat and other grains.  

First, I am not a geneticist.  I have done a great deal of reading in ancestral genetics over the past decade or so.  I have also researched a lot about diabetes in general and specifically with Type II Diabetes (there is a difference).  All of my research comes from the National Institute of Health, the Harvard Institute of Public Health, Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Research).  I am not big on self-help material -- unless they are referenced by studies as viable options for sustained lifestyle.  Fads are not good for one's health.

Second, if one has a gene that will trigger a certain condition, it will be something either in the environment or in diet that will "push" that gene into activation.  Example:  Most Native Americans have a gene that will activate Type II Diabetes.  It was not until their diet radically shifted that the affects of that genetic predisposition were activated.  Boom....diabetes.  The same is true for celiac or other disorders.  Identical twins can carry the same gene marker, one will develop symptoms and the other never will.  

Third, in 1900, diabetes of both types was diagnosed and treated in only about 3% of the American population.  In 2010, 33% of the general American population was being treated for both types of diabetes.  The National Institute of Health estimates that this could grow to nearly 50% of the population by 2025!   None of those folks simply "got" or "caught" diabetes.  The gene has been there for a very long time in human history.  The same is true for most of our disorders.

A side note:  Whatever predisposed the genetic disorder of coronary ectasia (I mentioned this yesterday...it is a heart condition that I have), it was there from my birth.  It is quite likely the reason that I could not run track successfully in high school.  Coach Bill Duncan, at Winter Haven High School, would yell and scream at me to "speed up" and "beat the clock."  I was a "horse" in his words.  I could run long and steady.  When I ran fast, I hit the wall soon and would drop back to a slower pace.  It was not until 1995, that the genetic disorder truly showed itself with heart attack-like symptoms.  Go figure.  Until my knees began to be problematic, I could run a 9 minute mile for 12 to 15 miles.  It's all about how to live with what you got.

I just completed the first 24 hours of this radical shift in lifestyle that I shared in Part 1.  To answer a couple of questions:
1)  No, I am not on a "starvation" diet.  Think of it as an elimination diet...the kind one uses to determine food allergies.  I have dropped all grains and foods containing extracts of grains.  I have ceased consuming all sugars and foods containing sugar or sugar substitutes.  I have limited vegetables to a narrow range that are low on the glycemic index.  I am eating six ounces of protein at each of three meals.  I am eating two "snack bags" -- one in the morning and one in the afternoon -- containing a mix of raw almonds and walnuts (ten of each).  I can drink coffee or black/green tea (no flavored teas).  I can drink club soda.

2)  Yes, everything containing anything I mentioned above is gone from the house.  We do have a few items that will be added after the detox phase.  

3)  I am not hungry much...just when it seems to be time to eat the next meal.  Breakfast today was satisfying:  Okinawa fish soup, which I made from scratch in the crock pot yesterday -- enough for about two meals each for the two of us.  Last night, we had baked salmon and a salad with mixed greens, tomato, onion and bell pepper...with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing.  Filled me up.  Cravings:  I have a low-grade headache today...a symptom of systemic addiction to sugar (grain products/carbohydrates are metabolized as sugars).  I dropped by the grocery store yesterday afternoon to get the fresh fish for the Okinawa soup.  I purposely walked down the cookie, baked goods and chip aisles.  Yep, I did find myself really wanting something.  Nope I didn't get anything. I am not of the mind that one needs to avoid being around that stuff.  For me, it simply drills down on my resolve.

3)  How will I know when the detox phase is complete?  I must have three straight days of fasting blood sugar below 100.  To get the most reliable metabolic data, I have to do three things when I arise in the morning:  weight, blood pressure and fasting glucose (blood sugar).  So, I get up, take my blood pressure, hit the scale and pad downstairs with the dog.  I put the coffee on, take the dog out and, immediately after bringing her in, I do the "diabetic stick routine" -- it's a monitor kit about the size of a wallet that I keep in the kitchen, or in my briefcase when I travel.

Today's numbers:  Weight 237.6.  Blood Pressure 126/72.  Blood Glucose 122.  Compare this with yesterday at weight 240.6.  Blood Pressure 134/82.  Blood Glucose 123.

Weight change means I am burning stored glycogen.  Less internal pressure.  Blood Glucose change means I am moving less glucose through my system.  Something is working here.  Just keep watching.

Love and Blessings,


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