Real Talk

Yesterday I sat down with a friend of my mom’s and talked about living with a gut disease. She has Crohn’s, her daughter has Ulcerative Colitis, and like many people she’s stuck in the middle of “regular” doctors and all of the weirdo alternative stuff. And like many of us, she knew what her next decision was, but needed some time to talk herself into it. Some encouragement.

We ended up talking for two and a half hours, way longer than either of us expected.

One thing that’s always held me back from writing on this blog is the fact that I don’t know everything. I’m not omniscient, I’m not medically trained as a doctor or a naturopath, and there’s no professional credential after my name. Who am I to tell anyone what to do with their health? What could I possibly provide that could make their lives better?

But then again, I talked with this lady for a long time. We had a good conversation. She even took notes, and there was a clear “next step” for her to take.

Because we spent time talking about what I’ve learned taking care of my own gut monster, and because I shared my story, she was able to get some clarity about how to treat her own disease–and some confidence to step out and take action.

She knew what she needed to do, but needed a little nudge to go after it. Some external validation. A person to talk to who didn’t try to push some weird herbal supplement on her, or make her feel like she was crazy for wanting to try a dietary approach. That’s me – I can be that person!


If I can’t provide expertise on WHAT to do, I can talk about my perspective on HOW and WHY to do it, and serve as a walking talking living example that it is absolutely possible to break out of the death spiral that is modern long-haul medical care.

I got off Remicade after 13 years.

She is going to go grain-free for the first time.

What are YOU thinking about doing?

You can do it, too.

Out of Control Health

I completely melted down in my naturopath’s office this week. Tears, about 500 tissues, profuse apologizing, all of it. I couldn’t even explain why I was such a mess. Usually I hold it together. This week? Not so much.

It’s the skin issues–they always get down, every single time.

My Crohn’s, when it’s acting up, is an “invisible illness” for better or for worse. Sometimes I look tired, or beat down, but mostly I look normal. That gives me the space I need to disappear quietly to the bathroom, or spend more time resting. I can mostly anticipate what my body will react to and what it needs to heal.

But the skin problems, they don’t hide. They sprawl themselves all over my face and neck and arms and hands like a neon sign. They practically beg for people to blurt out “OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR ARMS.” (Yes, that did happen this week, thanks very much you kind, tactful person.)

They remind me how little control I have over my body.

Sure, I do tons of work on my diet and daily habits. Research. Medication. Supplements. Moisturizing like it’s my job. I put in the work. I deserve to have a body that listens to me, right?

I’m pushing all the right buttons, why doesn’t the candy come out of the chute? Or even better, I treated all these ladies like queens, why do none of them find me attractive?

Life doesn’t work that way.

I don’t have much control over my skin. Or my gut. My immune system doesn’t take orders. My gut bacteria certainly doesn’t listen to anything I say.

What I can control is the environment I’m in, and the food that I eat. I can anticipate all sorts of consequences to my actions, and plan for them. But I can’t dictate how my body functions. If you figure out how to do that, let me know.

That is the hardest thing, doing the work but not being able to full control the outcome.

It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with many times in my life, and (clearly) it still gets to me at times. If I were fully in control, I would be healthy all the time. But I’m not in control. Never will be.


My health is out of control, and that’s okay.


Delicious Red Velvet Ice Cream Cake

If we’re talking SONIC deliciousness, which we absolutely are.

This month I have been loving the Korean R&B/Pop girlgroup Red Velvet, especially their song Ice Cream Cake. (And video! You can’t forget the videos!)

With it, the (inevitable) K-Pop obsession has descended on me. Hard. I haven’t stopped listening for three weeks now.

Typically I listen to music via YouTube at work, because it lets me roam over all types of music and never runs out of batteries like my iPod, and I think even YouTube is tired of me hitting K-pop on repeat. It keeps suggesting, “maybe won’t you try something else, anything else, for once?”


K-pop or nothing, baby.

I find this funny for 2 reasons:

  1. I don’t like pop music all that much. Generally I prefer complex music, and American pop music tends to be a sharply-sweet popsicle without much nuance. Hence, I avoid it.
  2. This month has not been my greatest health month ever, and because of that, I’ve had a pretty dark emotional outlook. Usually my music preference matches my default mood…but K-pop has prevailed over all.

On the other hand, that means that maybe I’m not in as dark of a mood as I thought, and that relatively speaking, this month’s “dark” is 5 years ago’s “too happy to function.”

If that’s true, I’m still on an upward overall trajectory, even though this month I’ve been dealing with horrific eczema. Such bad eczema it looks like I’m wearing red gloves.

It’s always hard to slide backwards, health-wise, but it’s good to keep in perspective that sometimes the overall trend is up even when the immediate outlook is bleak. Two steps forward, one step back; it’s always darkest before the dawn; all that.

Or maybe it’s just the magic of K-pop.


If you liked the Ice Cream Cake music video, you’ll understand why I’m obsessed with light-up fuzzy jackets and the perfect strawberry-blonde hair color.

Image Source

Monster Motivation

Sometimes, you need a swift kick in the pants. More often, you need that gentle encouragement of “you can do it” whispered in your ear. Especially when you’re making a big change to your diet or lifestyle.

Maybe you are trying to form some new habits, including but not limited to:

  • Diving into the Intro phase of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and slurping up some homemade chicken soup
  • Waking up and drinking hot water with lemon first thing in the morning (I hear that’s good for you)
  • Calming a sick stomach with some peppermint tea

Sometimes, forming new health habits is a drag. For me, I start off with a bit of excitement and enthusiasm, and then find myself in the doldrums of “do I haaaave to?” before the new routine becomes permanent.

That’s where encouragement comes in. Sometimes you need a little help in the form of, say…an adorable monster mug.

The Monster Mug of Motivation by KatieAbeyDesign

Fact: cute mugs make drinking liquid more fun.

Fact: cut mugs with encouragement are even better.

Unfortunate fact: most of my own mugs are not this cute–some are hand-me-down, others I won at Catholic Bingo. But I do know what it’s like to use an everyday tool that you absolutely, positively adore. It makes the day just a little bit better, no matter how difficult or dreary.

Had I this mug (which I don’t but maybe I should go for it), I would want to pour something in it every single day.

And wanting to do something helps stick it in your brain better.

Those wanting-happy-positive emotions become attached with whatever new habit you are trying to form.

Positive reinforcement.

Cheers all around!

No One Cares More about You than YOU

One consequence of moving from paper-based medical files to electronic health records: people are lazy.

Some medicos have gone to lengths to mitigate hospital security controls. Staff at one unnamed hospital put styrofoam coffee cups over proximity sensors in a bid to prevent automated log outs.


One hospital charged the junior medico with pushing the spacebar on computers every five minutes to prevent log outs.


These workarounds which keep machines logged in have resulted in at least one instance with the issuance of the wrong medication when a doctor did not realise the wrong patient records were open.

This is why you should always pay attention when you’re at the doctor or in the hospital.

While medical professionals of all stripes usually go into the profession because they want to help people, they have to work all day every day just like the rest of us. And, just like the rest of us, they become tired, annoyed, frustrated, rushed, fed up, bored, sad, or inattentive.

I can’t tell you how many times at work I haven’t been paying attention, and started typing things into Microsoft Word instead of the email message I had been intending to write.

Or even worse…a message intended for a chat with a friend going to someone else instead.

We’ve all been there.

But sometimes typing into the wrong box, or not saving a file, can have major consequences.

So if you’re at a doctor’s appointment, getting an infusion, or in the hospital, stay vigilant. Don’t nap. Pay attention. Ask questions. Be curious about what’s going on.

If something seems fishy, ask.

And if you don’t feel up to being that pushy, bring along someone who will do it for you.

As much as your nurse cares for people in a general, abstract, sense, you (and the people who love you) are the only ones who truly care about you, the human being.

So take care of yourself, and pay attention when you’re receiving medical treatment.


A RIDICULOUSLY clean mouth from Uncle Harry’s Toothpaste

I used to be constantly worried about my mouth. Probably 5% of my daily focus was spent worrying.

My gums were puffy. Sometimes they hurt. They would bleed when I tried to floss.

It was like my mouth was always angry. Red, patchy, puffy, spittin’ MAD.

No amount of brushing (with Crest), flossing, or mouthwash seemed to help.

For a couple months, my gums sprouted these weird, tiny sores that my dentist couldn’t explain.

That made me even MORE worried.

What if my teeth fell out?

What if I needed dentures while I was still in my 20s?

When I moved cities, I was scared to find a new dentist who might tell me I was going to die of gum disease.

I had a nightmare about my teeth falling out.

And of course, that stress only fed into a horrible feedback loop with the rest of my body.

Eventually, I found a good dentist. He calmed my worries and told me to start using a Sonicare toothbrush. That helped a little.

Using adhesive nasal strips at night helped a little more.

Cutting out dairy was huge. Then I could finally breathe through my nose.

But none of the steps I had taken cleaned up my mouth.


What gets your mouth ridiculously clean?

Then I tried Uncle Harry’s Toothpaste.

It’s like a punch in the mouth.

It’s so intense, that at first I couldn’t brush for the full 2 minutes with my Sonicare.

Over time, I got used to it, and I associate that feeling with the utter destruction of bacteria.

Uncle Harry's Toothpaste Reviews

When I brush with Uncle Harry’s Toothpaste (which is pretty much every night), I love the way my mouth feels–so clean and shiny.

Because it’s a clay-based toothpaste, it comes in a little jar that you dip into with your toothbrush to scoop up some of the paste. Don’t worry about getting bacteria into the jar–the WEAPONS GRADE essential oils will keep everything sanitary.

And if you don’t want a punch in the mouth, but do want to feel just as clean, they make an Anise flavor which is less intense. The only downside to that one is you have to like black licorice.

After about a month and a half of using Uncle Harry’s Toothpaste, I had a dentist appointment. It was the first exam in years that my gums didn’t bleed.

That was a major, major win.

I danced in the dentist’s chair.

The Verdict

No more red, angry gums. No more nightmares about losing my teeth. Just a healthy mouth and feeling clean every single night.

I would recommend that to anybody.

In fact, I’ve even foisted it on some of my family members–that’s how you know it’s good.

I hope you check it out.


Full disclosure: not all of the non-angriness of my gums can be attributed to the toothpaste, although I do think it contributed a lot. Bringing down the overall inflammation in my body was also a major factor.


Poop Quotes I

From James Altucher:

The Physical Body: The shell we must take care of to live. It houses everything we do. And it’s pretty simple. We know when we are doing bad things to it. Too often we think, “Once I achieve X, Y, Z, goal, I’m going to get back in shape.” But it doesn’t work that way. Not that you need to be ripped and jacked or eight-packed or whatever. You just need to be healthy. And you know what I mean?


You need to shit regularly. That’s it.


Poop Quotes is exactly what it sounds like: a series of quotes about poop. Enjoy!

4 Ways to Move Fluid Around Your Body that Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You

There’s a lot of things that your doctor can’t teach you during your 15 minutes together.

One lesson that I never had with my gastroenterologist is this: you body is a dynamic system.

Not static. Not stagnant. Dynamic.

It’s meant to be moving, always. Breathing, in and out. Blood pumping. Lymphatic fluid circulating.

Food being digested and moved into the bloodstream.

Blood moving oxygen and nutrients into cells.

Waste being whisked away.

That movement helps our bodies function. If the movement slows, or breaks down, there will be consequences to the rest of our bodies.

Instead of staying stagnant ourselves, making our bodies work harder to pump blood and lymph and everything else around, we can help out. Here are a few ways to do that:

1. Exercise (duh)

This is a complete no-brainer. We all know that exercise is good for us. When you’re super-sick, it doesn’t even have to be hard exercise–get up and move a little. At my worst, I would stand up and walk a few times around the house.

So get up, take a walk or do some yoga or bounce on a trampoline or whatever you want to do.

2. Contrast showers

These are simple in theory, but less-than-fun in practice. Start your shower with hot water, then blast yourself with cold water for at least 30 seconds.  It’ll get your blood zinging to the surface of your skin in no time.

I end every shower with a cold rinse (plus a compulsive dance with a chant that goes something like “ooh cold cold cold”). It’s a great way to convince my body that it’s time to wake up and start the day.

Bonus points if you alternate between hot and could for a few cycles.

3. Warming socks

This one is similar to the cold showers, just for your feet. In a nutshell, you soak your feet in warm water, then dry them off and put on cold, wet socks, plus wool socks on top. Hop into bed and sleep like a baby.

Yes, it sounds disgusting. But here’s the thing: you can’t feel the wet socks. The warm/cold contrast boosts circulation, drawing blood away from your brain. You feel sleepy immediately, and I’ve always slept really well when I do this treatment.

The downside is there’s some prep involved. It’s easy if you have a bathtub…which I don’t.

4. Castor oil

Rub some onto your belly before you go to sleep at night. Done!

Oh–and wear a tee shirt that you don’t mind getting greasy. By morning, your skin will have absorb the oil and there will be better flow of lymph throughout your body.


FYI: I am not a doctor, or an oracle, or your own brain. This post is intended to let you know about what’s out there…not to diagnose or treat illness. Don’t be an idiot, but do make your own decisions about your health. If you’re unsure about how something will affect you, consult your doctor.

Still Ill

Technically, this pin is a reference to The Smiths, and not to my own Crohn’s disease, but I’m the kind of person who would wear it anyway.

Of course, when you do wear a pin like this some of your conversations will be explaining that no, in fact I’m not a huge Morrissey fan but let me tell you everything about my intestines, aren’t they just the craziest?


When I was a little kid, I hated anyone knowing about my disease. I would get mad at my mom for telling anyone about it, even when she had a perfectly legit reason to do so.

I wanted to hide that part of myself.

I didn’t want to be sick.

And I definitely wouldn’t wear a badge suggesting–nay, begging–the world to ask me questions about it.

Nowadays, my health goals (which I try really hard not to talk about with random strangers but sometimes I just can’t help myself) mostly involve getting to a “set it and forget it” point where I can go days or even weeks without having to think about my guts.

That would be awesome.

I could pretend that I’m a REAL BOY for a while, without dysfunctional insides.

But alas, the fact remains that I’m ill.

Always will be, in some form or another.

And I’m mostly okay with it.

I’m still ill.

And I’m not afraid if anybody knows it.


If you like this pin, you can buy it at Darling Distraction, along with other really cute pins and stationary and stuff.

That Wonky, In-Between Stage

It's moving day every day

You know that itch you get to rearrange your furniture at 9 o’clock at night?

When you have this vision of how–let’s say your bed–can better fit your space. How it, if you’d only just rearrange a teeny little bit, would give you better sleep and more rest and everything you’ve ever dreamed of.

The rest of your to-do list fades into the background. Nothing can outshine that idea, that glimpse of a bright new future that has become your bed.

Your bed stands out, gleaming, a tantalizing promise of a WHOLE NEW WORLD!

So of course–oh wait, you don’t get that itch? Luck you.

Walk with me, then.


You rearrange your bed. It doesn’t take long, just a few minutes of pushing and shoving.

Maybe you find a few dust bunnies. Nothing you can’t handle.

Eventually you get the bed where you envisioned it, maybe nestled against a curtain of iridescent fringe you put up a few weeks ago.

Then of course you have to change up your bedside table too.

As you’re moving it, you imagine the beautiful tableau it will make with your bed. You imagine how it will look, all pieces neatly fitting into place, a beautiful spot to sleep and wake up.

And then you step back to admire your work.

Needle scratch.

It doesn’t quite look like you had envisioned.

It’s too crowded.

The bedside table is wonky and feels too big for the space. The end of the bed buts up awkwardly against your wardrobe. There’s a really weird empty space that just…looks weird.

There’s still potential–you can see a glimmer of what you were imagining.

But it’s not there yet.

There’s more work to be done.

But–it’s time to cash in for the night and go to sleep.

That’s the peril of rearranging your furniture at 9 o’clock at night. There’s a hard deadline, and you’ll have to live with wonky, half-arranged furniture for the next few hours (or let’s be honest, days).

Sometimes, you can turn that to your advantage. You can use that in-between time to look at what’s happening and formulate a better plan.

But you still have to live in the in-between.

You have to spend some time in the wonky, half-finished room.

Sometimes, I get the urge to rearrange my health.

I do my research, talk with my doctors, envision a plan for my health, start dreaming of a WHOLE NEW WORLD! of healthy poops and a less restrictive diet.

I put my plan into motion, and…

…end up in that wonky, in-between time.

In my experience, especially with naturopathic and alternative treatments, nothing good comes quickly. Bouncing from one extreme to the other is stressful on my body, and rarely happens when all my organs are  working together in harmony.

I get that itch, wanting to rearrange everything right away, hoping to make everything work together right now.

I’ll handle the dust bunnies, I just want to see results.

I want to go from the vision to a perfect bedside tableau in one night, forgetting that it takes time, and consideration, and tweaking, and rest, and for everything to settle back into place.

I have to learn how to live with the wonkiness, understanding that there are things that my body has to go through before it can realize that vision of good health.

My body has to go through the process of rearranging itself.

I just need to calm down, back off and let my body do some interior redecoration of its own.

And in the meantime, make peace with the wonkiness.