Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I've had my worst week in a long time. Mostly I've been in bed, so tired I just lay there, close my eyes and breathe. I haven't been able to leave the apartment except once to look at a tree.

I was determined to write a blog today though, and I failed. What's below is not what I wanted to write about...stem cells, depression, antibiotics, hard decisions. I kept forgetting what I wanted to say halfway through each sentence. This just came easier. I look at my notes now and it's like hieroglyphics. I wish I had one of those speech to text programs. I think I would be able to say what I want to coherently, but maybe not. Maybe I stopped half way though each sentence because there was really no idea at the beginning of it. Sometimes you wake up from a good dream and think, “This is a brilliant idea!” and then a few seconds later realize that there was no idea at all. I'm afraid that might be happening when I'm awake.

My friend Tim, by the way, really did have a brilliant idea in a dream though: a t-shirt for a dog with a kite attached!

Yesterday I did something quite out of character for me. I left the apartment...wait there’s more...just to walk to the sidewalk and see a jacaranda tree in full bloom. I've never been one to be inspired by the beauty of nature, or beauty of any kind, really, but I wanted to see this tree. Jim had noticed it a few days before and took a picture of it with his phone. It was a beautiful picture, particularly so on his LCD iPhone screen, he showed it to me while I was in bed. I actually got up for the first time that day and went to the window to see if I could see it, but I couldn’t. I love these trees. I have a picture somewhere of the purple petals fallen all over my old Saab. I think I first noticed them years ago when I came out to LA from Syracuse for spring break, driving down Hollywood or Franklin, suddenly seeing all the purple flowers and thinking “What kind of wonderful tree is this?!” The next year, when I transferred to USC I recognized them on campus and sitting among them I really did have this feeling of awe and privilege.

I couldn’t go out and see the tree that evening, it was a few days before I finally did, yesterday. My legs were shaking as I walked down the stairs. I had to hold on to Jim for support and he practically had to carry me back up them. I don’t know for how long these trees bloom, it seems like only a week. There were already a lot of petals on the ground when we got there. They made the grass seem greener and I wanted to lie down on it, but I didn’t because the ground was wet. I remember thinking how strange it was I was feeling such a strong attraction to these vivid colors. I think I associate vividness with energy. Once during an acupuncture session, I came in feeling especially run down, and a few minutes into the session I felt this rush of fullness, adrenaline maybe, but it was like someone had turned a dial in photoshop and turned up my contrast and saturation, and I leapt out of the background and rejoined the world again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happiness Award? Me?

I'd like to thank Shelli for nominating me and some other new bloggers for a Happiness Award.

The rules:
1.)When you have received this award you must thank the person that awarded you this in the new post.

2.) Name 10 things that make you happy
3.) Pass this award onto other bloggers and inform the winners.

It's been a hectic weekend, so sitting down alone with my computer and thinking about things that make me happy sounds pretty good right now.

1. Books! - Hit TV shows, popular music , I'm really out of the loop, but if you want to strike up a conversation about a Bestseller, I'm totally up for it. I used to go to Borders or Barnes and Noble at least twice a month just to browse around and check out what was on display, what was new in hardcover, new in paperback, and what percentage of the books for sale on the Buy Two Get One Free table I'd already read. Lately I've been into memoirs. I seem to always be buying cookbooks. I have to force myself to read novels for some reason, but it's always more than worth it. When I'm too brain fogged to really read I like graphic novels, easier than regular books and not as stimulating as television.

2. Yoga! - The first time I did yoga was at the school fitness center my freshman year in college and it was pretty unimpressive. Just a lot of stretching, like a dance class but without the dancing. My first Kundalini yoga class was a completely different experience. Huge, high-ceilinged studio, live drumming and a gong, and an intense workout where every posture felt incredibly effective and incredibly right. I walked out thinking, "This is what exercise should be!" and wishing we had done Kundalini instead of the boring calisthenics we did in gym class in school. I don't go to the classes anymore because it really gets your heart rate up, which is bad for CFS, but I bought a book and sometimes do poses at home by myself. I've just lately gotten into restorative yoga, which is really relaxing and supposed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. I know I sleep better on the nights I go to class.

3. Travel - Or even just dreaming about travel. Mostly road trips. I love driving so much, one of my dream jobs would be trucking. "It's a tough job, but you can't beat the view." (I heard a trucker say that in the Big Rig documentary) I've been to 46 states, I still need Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, and Hawaii. When they build the Trans-Hawaii Highway (doesn't that just roll off the tongue?) I'll be the first to drive across. I'm not really in road-trip condition right now, but I've recently discovered the train and sleeper cars. It's like a road trip but you don't have to drive, you just lie down and read books or look out the window.

4. Music - No matter how bad it gets, there will always be good music.

5. Dougal! - My dog. Actually, my mom's dog. He doesn't live with me, unfortunately. In the words of my boyfriend, he's a "high-quality dog."

6. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - I am so excited about this show. Getting off S.A.D. (that's what vegans and raw foodists call the "Standard American Diet) is one of the greatest things I've ever done. It's just too bad I sound like a tool when I try and talk about it to my friends and family. Thank god there's Jamie Oliver to get out there and be a tool for me.

And on that note:

7. Finding New Healthy Restaurants - When it comes to restaurants, the world is not my oyster, but my venus fly trap. Are there vegan options? Are there wheat-free vegan options? Is there sugar in this dressing? Is there agave in this soup? You don't cook in vegetable oil, do you?? So when I find a restaurant that is truly committed to serving healthy food, it's very exciting. My latest find was today in Lakewood, Ohio, the Good 'N Raw Cafe. I got a green juice, and a green tea iced latte, something I love and haven't had in a very long time. Theirs had matcha, almond milk, coconut, date, vanilla bean, and a little nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. They didn't have many food options, but Jim got the "tuna" salad made from walnuts and sunflower seeds instead of tuna. I had a bite and it was amazing, and I've had a lot of mediocre "tuna" salads at raw food restaurants. Completely forgot green tea has caffeine though and I couldn't figure out why I felt so buzzed after I drank it. It was a good buzz though.

8. Different languages and accents - I get a thrill out of pronunciation. I watched six action packed episodes of 24 this week with my dad and brother, and the biggest rush for me might have been anticipating Anil Kapoor pronouncing his W's. I have a couple books and tapes on "acting with an accent." I took German in high school, Spanish in college, and I've dabbled in French, Russian, and Portuguese. I know about half of the Cyrillic alphabet. It'd be awesome to learn fluency in one of these languages, but I've pretty much given up on trying to actually learn and just do it for fun. I think the most beautiful languages are Hawaiian, Finnish, and Russian. There are no ugly languages. My dream is to learn to pronounce every sound in the IPA. (International Phonetic Alphabet)

9. Blogs - I love it when people write. I think everyone should have a blog. Really! Everyone!

10. TV - Mostly anticipating new episodes of my favorite shows. It was so much fun anticipating the Breaking Bad season premiere on Sunday! Or TV on DVD, watching like six episodes in a row, especially with someone. Actually, it's pretty fun alone too.

Well, that's ten, I guess I won't be mentioning my friends and family. Sorry guys, you're great, but I had to talk about Breaking Bad.

This is where I'm supposed to nominate other blogs, but I think by now everyone's already been nominated, so I'm just going to say, anyone who reads this and wants to do it, consider yourself nominated by me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I’ve fallen off the healthy eating wagon. I need somewhere to confess.

Last night I went crazy. I ate two Twizzlers. I ate Craisens. I’m sure I had tunnel vision. I wanted junk food so bad. My Sugar Craving Index was surging. I tried to think of something healthy to
eat instead, which might have worked if I was at home, but I was at my parents house and they don't stock pure buckwheat soba, or the ingredients for raw avocado chocolate pudding. Then I remembered my sister and her devotion to chocolate peanut butter swirl coconut “ice cream”, and found a carton tucked away in the freezer door. I'd stopped eating these ice creams because they are heavily sweetened with agave, which despite its health food status, is almost pure fructose, and fructose, according Dr. Cheney, is toxic to CFS.

I read the ingredients before eating, perhaps to see if, by any chance this particular variety was agave free. It wasn't, but I ate it all anyway. It was a shameful moment. My parents were in bed now, but just hours ago, reading over the recipe my dad was making me for dinner, I let on that I was less than thrilled that the vegetable broth for the risotto came from a box. “I don’t like eating packaged foods anymore,” I’d said. Words that were now mocking me as I went to throw the empty ice cream carton in the kitchen trash, christening the fresh plastic with the chocolate-smeared, supermarket cardboard. The sides of the bag were still all twisted up together, so it just lay there on top. I didn’t even try to press it down.

Fortunately there had only been about a quarter cup or so of ice cream left, and eating it made me so happy, if only for a short time. Compare this to early January, at
Babycakes vegan bakery opening weekend downtown. I’d been anticipating this New York bakery coming to LA for over a year because they make things like spelt cupcakes and gluten free donuts, all without eggs or dairy. Everything is sweetened with agave instead of sugar, which I used to think was ok once in awhile, but by the time the bakery opened I was very committed to eating healthy and avoiding all kinds of sweeteners, not just sugar but maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave, and even honey, which Dr. Cheney says can be positive by ETM if it’s high quality wild honey. The only sweetener I was consuming was stevia. I wasn’t even letting myself have bananas. I went to the bakery with my friend and my boyfriend, non-vegan and transitioning vegan, respectively. The trip was mostly for me. I was really excited, but I didn’t want to tell them that I didn’t plan on eating anything, not even one bite. I was committed to my health, one bite just wasn’t worth it.

The bakery was adorable. I took pictures of all the different gluten free donuts with my phone and e-mailed them to my wheat-allergic, vegan-aspiring sister in Philadelphia, not to tease, but to give hope. Besides the donuts and cupcakes there were banana breads and cookies and muffins, mostly wheat or gluten free and all vegan. I’d waited so long for this, we’d arrived! But to the amazement of my bakery companions, I didn’t order anything. I admired what they ordered, but I wouldn't even take a single bite. I hope they weren’t pissed.

So why
then? Why was it then that I made a new commitment to my health by avoiding sweeteners at all costs? I’d known for some time agave wasn’t any better for you than sugar, but I still stocked my freezer with agave coconut ice creams just like my sister, because I couldn’t stop eating sugar. I tried! I tried so hard, but I’m convinced the stuff is as addictive as heroin, nicotine, and cocaine. Combined. When I first committed to eating healthy in 2007, I made it four months, cold turkey without refined sugar, but I was still eating dried mangos by the bagful and later moved onto agave. At the same time, all in one broad move, I also cut out alcohol and caffeine. Compared to sugar, it was nothing. I could easily go the rest of my life without another drop of either if I wanted to, if I had to. But trying to give up sugar was impossible.

So how was it that one day I just said, “I’m giving it up for my health”, and actually did? It wasn’t will power.

It was kefir. I attribute it all to the kefir. After a month of drinking 4-6 ounces of it religiously every single day, I found I wasn’t having sugar cravings anymore. I found I didn’t
need to eat dessert after dinner, so I didn’t. A few weeks later I was throwing my emergency stock of agave ice creams in the trash because I knew I no longer needed them. I'd heard kefir could do this, but I really wasn’t expecting it to be that good. I felt like a normal person, a person who could look at a piece of chocolate cake and take it or leave it.

Ioderal (iodine) had also helped with my sugar cravings the year before. That and a course of the anti-fungal drug nystatin from my holistic dermatologist. She asked if I had sugar cravings. I conceded that I did, but that I’d given sugar up. She told me some
of her patients had extreme sugar cravings. “One woman told me she’d throw out all the sugar in her house, and then go to 7-11 at 2 am to get candy!” she said, laughing at the absurdity. I told her I didn’t eat candy, but the other night I’d begged my boyfriend to go to the corner convenience store at midnight to get me a couple of bottles of mango juice, which I then chugged compulsively in a matter of minutes.

After a few weeks of nystatin and Ioderal the absurd juice cravings were gone and I told my friends I was cured of my sugar addiction. I attributed it mostl
y to the Ioderal. I’d read how sugar cravings can be a result of iodine deficiency, and tried to cure myself before by eating more seaweed, but, it didn’t work. “You’d have to eat a lot of seaweed,” my doctor said. She also had me eating a handful of raw purple cabbage and cranberries five times a week to prevent fungal overgrowth, which is also supposed to cause sugar cravings. “Purple cabbage and cranberries are more anti-fungal than any drugs” she said.

Eventually though I got sick of cranberries and purple cabbage, and afraid of the side effects of so much Ioderal, and the cravings returned, though not as strong as before. But this kefir, this was something different. After a month on it, I really felt centered, that my internal flora were truly balanced, and that I could eat normally and healthily.

“So what happened?” I thought last night as I was eating Trader Joe’s raw almond butter by the spoonful. “I thought I’d licked this.” I’d noticed over the last week or so I’d been getting hungrier, but I thought that was a good thing since I needed to gain weight. I started making some slip-ups, something I haven’t done for months, but I chalked it up to the fact that I’d lost a lot of weight, and "starvation mode" was kicking in. And since I hadn’t been eating much in the last couple of months, my kitchen was simply not stocked with food, I was not prepared, and I succumbed to pancake and pizza delivery. (Gluten free vegan pancake and pizza delivery, that is. I love you Los Feliz!) Also, it was the week before my period. Everyone wants sugar then.

I thought and thought, and I figured it out. It wasn’t any of those things. It wasn’t my weight loss, or my period, or my poorly stocked kitchen. It was the antibiotics. They messed up my newly achieved harmonious delicate balance. Every holistically minded person I met said a little prayer for my soul when I told them I was going on a two week course of the very strong anti-biotic Alinia. In holistic tomes like
The Body Ecology Diet and The Yeast Connection, antibiotics are The Root of All Evil. I looked at my calendar and saw I finished the Alinia on March 6th. I then looked in my journal and found this rather frantic entry from March 8th I titled, "junk food possession":

last night I had Green Leaves tropical pancakes with “butter” and maple syrup!!! almost finished the second one. Jim said it was OK!

now I just ordered chicken nuggets!

Soy chicken nuggets, that is.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one day after I finished my course of antibiotics I gave into my first sugar craving in months. I drank kefir every day the entire time I was on them, but apparently it wasn’t enough. I’m going to keep drinking it every day, in hopes that in a month things will get back to the way they were before I ever heard of Alinia, and I can have my innocence back.

My gastroenterologist however, is thrilled that I took the Alinia. I saw him on March 10th and he practically did a little victory dance at his desk. “We got the bastards!” he said. Well, it may not have been that exactly, but something to that effect. He asked if my nausea was gone, and I said yes, but also told him that it was gone before I started the antibiotics, and I attributed it completely to the amazingly effective “tummy tonic” herbal medicine I got from my acupuncturist. I did another course right after I finished the Alinia as well. He said he still thought the antibiotics were the cause for my better digestion and slight weight gain. He actually went as far to say that this would cure my CFS. I said I didn’t think that at all, that I thought I had CFS years before I got the “amoeba” and digestion problems. He respectfully disagreed.

I also told him how I’d had a cold the first week or so on the antibiotics, but that the first symptom, the sore throat, started
before I took the first pill. The congestion and coughing came after. “It wasn’t a cold,” he said, “Die off. From the amoeba.”

“Even though I had the sore throat before I started them?”


I think my work with this doctor is done for now. He wants me to take some kind of adrenal therapy, but I haven’t made any decisions about that yet.

I still think it’s possible that I had an evil amoeba, and that the Alinia killed it. I won’t have any evidence though until I retake the saliva test in May. He said it takes eight weeks before my body will catch on and stop making amoeba antibodies. So stay tuned.

In the mean time my mission now is to try and restore harmony in my postwar system by drinking kefir and avoiding sweeteners and carbs. I might get really extremist and avoid mushrooms and nutritional yeasts too and all those things they say to avoid in the anti-candida books. Tonight I’m doing much better than last night. I have some crudely fashioned chia pudding in the refrigerator I made with unstrained almond milk from the aforementioned nut butter, chia seeds, raw cacao, and stevia. It’s there in case I need something sweet tonight, but I don’t think I will. Now that I know the reasoning behind my sugar cravings I’m a little more motivated to resist them. Just for tonight, I have will power. But will power can only last so long. What I really need is a healthy gut. I hope the kefir is enough for now. I wish I could go to my acupuncturist and get more tonic, but I’m far away from home. Well, actually, I’m at my parents house, I’m at my other home. I wish they’d throw away the candy though. And the ramen noodles...

I'll buy a huge piece of meat, cook it up for dinner, and then right before it's done, I'll break down and have what I wanted for dinner in the first place - bread and jam...all I ever really want is sugar.
Andy Warhol, New York Magazine, March 31, 1975

I remembered this quote from Sugar Blues. If you read this blog and thought that giving up sugar sounds like fun and something you'd like to do, then you should read it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Off Week

It's been a bad week, energy-wise. Haven't really been able to walk, think, or write. I hope I can write a real blog within the next few days. For now I'll just say that, except for the fatigue, I'm feeling good and gaining weight. And I just made my birthday milkshake, finally!