I am mere pages from the end of The Victorian City, and what a fascinating read it has been, but the time between posts has been far too long so this is my tidbit offering in the meantime.
Several months ago I shared my arduous and utterly frustrating experience with two frozen shoulders. What I didn't disclose was that last summer, my juvenile arthritis that had gone into remission forty years ago seemed to rear its ugly head once again. As swiftly as turning on a light switch I was fine one day and the next morning when I went to bend down to play with Deacon my knees felt as though they were swollen with fluid. The pain that I thought was a case of stiff hamstrings was the lead-up to my hips becoming ever more stiff. Great. In a matter of days I had gone from having two dysfunctional joints to six and while I was a youthful and active fifty year old woman my body was acting as though it was ready for a nursing home....or had been hit by a massive truck.
Attitude is everything and thankfully I have always been a 'glass half full' sort of person. I never missed a day of work and through months and months of pain and frustration I only welled-up three times with pity for myself in such a pathetic state. Waking up a dozen times a night to get more comfortable forced me into the spare room before my husband got to be as sleep-deprived as I was. My iPod got me through stages of sleeplessness and pain and I highly recommend podcasts for taking your mind off of pain in the middle of the night. Things were looking rather bleak. Then a case of serendipity played out.
Last September, a new employee was scheduled to work with with me at the library. After the initial pleasantries she mentioned that she wasn't feeling all that well and had had a rough night...all down to one Smartie. Victoria had been diagnosed as having celiac disease in childhood and was vigilant about keeping gluten out of her diet. Trying one Smartie while out with friends was enough to cause stomach pain so it's a good thing she didn't overindulge but who knew there was gluten in Smarties? I had always assumed gluten was something that was produced through kneading dough or in batters with vigorous beating. Wrong....well, right and wrong. Victoria told me about learning the hard way that it's in soya sauce as well as a man-made product. We talked about the food industry off and on over the next few hours and when I mentioned my arthritis pain and how much I dreaded the powerful drugs to help control it she suggested I try eliminating gluten, or at least wheat, from my diet for one month before seeing my doctor.
I don't know about you but where I work there were a few women who seemed to always be trying the latest fad eating trend. The rest of us playfully gave them a hard time as we ate brownies with abandon during our staff meetings and enjoyed seconds of cake brought into the staff room. Now I was about to become one of them and it was sort of embarrassing. That first evening, standing in front of the pantry with my hands on my head I was completely dumbfounded about what I could have for dinner and then the thought of no marmalade on toast the next morning was disappointing to say the least. The want, no...desperation, to lessen my pain was far greater than the need for toast, or cinnamon wheat square cereal. Oh, and I have to mention...in for a penny, in for a pound...I gave up dairy as well. Once I started reading about foods with inflammatory properties it was a no-brainer.
My first cup of tea with almond milk was interesting but after a week the look of despair disappeared from my face after the first sip. The soup pot was out constantly and my husband would help me ladle spoonfuls into freezer bags for down the road. If the oven went on for a roast I would grab a couple of sweet potatoes to bake as well...and a squash, or anything other veggie that was handy. My knees had swelled quite badly after enjoying some bruschetta at a restaurant so the nightshade foods were out as well. No tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant; the list was getting longer.
So did the change help? After one week of removing wheat and dairy from my diet the stiffness that had begun in my left hand disappeared. My knees and hips were still sore but at least I was being proactive and the research distracted me from what I couldn't do, this change empowered me and kept me from going mad and losing hope. My doctor is only a couple of years older than I am and while she was previously a bit too quick with the prescription pad she was very supportive of my endeavour to try and do what I could to heal, or at least help, myself through diet. She even suggested adding curcumin supplements to my plan of action. Beware though, when you take this your t-shirt will carry the musky scent of a leftover curry dinner should you work up a sweat! We also chatted about what I had learned about menopause affecting connective tissue and could my troubles be connected with a drop in estrogen? The body is a weird and wonderful thing but a little more wonderful would be nice. She has given me until the end of May to decide what happens next.
My new physio-therapist has been heaven-sent. After my initial assessment she is treating me as having two strained rotator cuffs and tight trapezius and is suspicious that bi-lateral frozen shoulder was ever the problem although the two diagnoses mimic each other in symptoms. Whatever the case, she started me off with nine stretches and one month later has me doing fifteen different stretches with great success! Each week Dorothy gets a kick out of my jubilant stories of being able to reach into the Tupperware cupboard and root around without pain, pull the car door shut without grimacing or reach behind my head to pull out the extra pillow. Never take mobility for granted! With Dorothy's help I am quite sure that my shoulders will be almost as good as new by the end of April. If there has been any sort of link between the inflammation in my upper body causing my knnes and hips to act up then hopefully I will be seeing the backside of that as well. But if I do have to face my future with arthritis then at least I am doing my utmost to hold its worst effects at bay and stay strong.
Tying my health update up to include a book review I have to say that Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe book It's All Good is absolutely fantastic if you are trying a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle. After the fifth delicious recipe that worked out perfectly I returned my library copy and bought my own. Cleo's Afternoon Shake tastes like a liquid Snicker's bar if you need something decadent but healthy in the late afternoon and her recipe for Japanese Meatballs was a hit the other night; my husband kept going on about how good they were the next day for lunch. My lunch today is going to be Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley. In a strange way, rather than being a challenge, eating gluten and dairy-free has opened up so many avenues and introduced me to all sorts of new foods. My husband wasn't as thrilled about tempeh burgers from a local vegan restaurant as I was though but he's a good sport for trying.
The title of this post is On Going Gluten-Free...ish and I say 'ish' because while the elimination of wheat in my diet is a definite I have no doubt there is still gluten lurking in many of the products I use as condiments or dips but we're trying. One last thing to add, and it's a big one, when you hear about the 'brain fog' that comes with eating wheat - it's a reality. There is a clarity in my thinking now that wasn't quite there before and who knows, perhaps it's what I am putting into my body rather than what is being left out, all I know is that I have experienced it for myself and it's all good.