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Monday, October 14, 2013

ULCERATIVE COLITIS : ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE













PLEASE BE REMINDED, I AM NOT A DOCTOR AND I HAVE NO BACKGROUND IN HEALTH OR HEALTHCARE OR TREATMENT OF ANY KIND. THIS BLOG IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. FOR ALL YOU KNOW, I'M A DERANGED LUNATIC CAUGHT IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE. YOU WOULD NEVER LISTEN TO A PERSON LIKE THAT. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER BUT ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SOURCES. DON'T ASSUME OR CONCLUDE FOR A MINUTE THAT WHAT WORKS FOR ME WILL WORK FOR YOU. ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ALL OF YOUR HEALTH CONCERNS BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING, ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR'S ADVICE, USE UP THE ENTIRE DOSAGES OF MEDICINE YOU'RE GIVEN AND CONTINUE TREATMENT AS LONG AS YOUR DOCTOR SAYS YOU SHOULD. FURTHERMORE, NOTHING HERE SHOULD BE INTERPRETED AS ME, GRAHAM BECKER, GIVING ANYONE ADVICE ABOUT ANYTHING. I'M NOT. NEVER TAKE THE ADVICE OF A STRANGER ON THE INTERNET IS MY ADVICE. HERE'S TO YOUR HEALTH!

MY GIFTS, MY BLESSINGS

I didn't create me. No surprise, I didn't create the earth, the clouds, the sky, my parents, my siblings, or really anything at all. All the big stuff happened before I got here. Somehow, the big stuff along with a lot of little stuff, made my existence possible. The universe was patient and timed my appearance to be right now. I don't know how that was done, but 'I think, therefore I am.' And, according to scientists, the 'Big Bang' was like almost 5 BILLION years ago. And don't forget, too, the 120 million years the world was ruled by dinosaurs. We humans are only about 200,000 years old. There was a lot of time when we weren't here at all.

And, now, after all the kerfuffel, tadaa, I'm here with you and, miracle of miracles, you're here with me. All those millions and billions of years of history by the time I popped my head in, or out as the case may be, and, because the same has happened to you, here we are, together in the ether of the internet.

Honestly, probably just like you, I haven't a clue as to why we're all here together on this little floating stone in space. All I know is that the whole universe and more existed before I got here and I don't remember being here before. And since my current experience lets me believe I am here now, I want to be the smartest I can be about the tiny space I hold.

Of course, sometimes it feels like I'm balancing plates on sticks, while standing on one leg perched on an open air steel beam of a high-rise under construction. And it's starting to rain. UhOhhh...I hear thunder...and LIGHTNING!

None of this is lost on me. Taken simply, creation favors life, as complicated as life can be, and as such has given me a little window of time in which to say 'hi.' In the meantime, I've come to believe that my creation, and all creation really, is somehow rooted in a purposeful trajectory in its cosmic timing.

That also might be my cosmic ego wishing it to be true so as to secure my concept as a singular little purpose in the universe.

And, one might also consider, if creation favors life, then creation also favors love and care. Because there is no life without all creatures caring for their vulnerable newborns. Humans, more than others, seem to have the singular ability to love or not love. Love can be scary because it implies a commitment beyond friendship. It can not be done alone. You can love a movie but that's different than loving another person. Love means being open to pain, and that's scary. For the universe, love is built-in. For humans, love seems to be a choice.

The rest of the living world, however, is simply operating from instinctual love and care. We may choose to show or not show our love, but LOVE appears to be among the trajectories of creation. And because love is already part of the equation, and because my universe begins with me and me alone, I've chosen to love my body, to love myself, and to fight for my best health, every day, just for me. It's the right thing for me to do, I think.

So, I truly believe that creation is loving in its intent. That leads me to try to act in loving, patient ways. I do try. I am human, though.

By choosing to love my body, I've helped myself to focus on a debt of gratitude to that creative power. If life is a gift, I'm not giving this one back. In the meantime, I'm going to take care of it so I can enjoy what's left to my brief existence.

My health has been challenging, but I really feel I'm one of the lucky ones. I count my blessings and stay positive. I truly feel everything I've been given: my life, this beautiful planet, the sunshine, the company of family and friends, are wonderful gifts and make the space we occupy, tolerable. Gifts, too, that can only be appreciated while I'm here. I don't know if or where I'm going after my body wears out, so I only have now. Since I'm pretty sure this existence, my life with this human body, is a one-off, I'm not getting this gift again. I've decided to give my gift the best possible care I can. That way it stays the gift that keeps on giving.

I can honestly say, so far, my IBD diagnosis, specifically my UC diagnosis, opened up an opportunity for me to actually be healthier than I might have been had I never had the diagnosis. My diagnosis changed my life. And, in the end (pun intended), for the better.

My mental and behavioral decisions in response to my diagnosis, my dogged determinism, my willingness to follow wherever my personal investigation took me, led me back to health. I wasn't going to fight the process of healing. I was going to listen to my body's messages, even when it was screaming at me. Admittedly I backslid several times, but I never flagged in my focus to solve the riddle of my body's immune system. It took me 20 years to come to full remission of my symptoms.

I should have known a 100 calorie soda wasn't equivalent to 100 calories of vegetables. But I didn't really make that connection at first. Like all humans, I have to sustain myself everyday. Generally, I like to do that with food. I'll bet you do, too. Besides, eating can be just plain social and fun in its best moments. People share recipes, are remembered for their recipes as well as their ability to be artistic with food. We gather our families and friends around food. Oh, and we LOVE it when food has that perfect combination of mouth-feel and flavoriciousness which results in contented satiety infused with ardor. Food is simply a recipe for love. I love to eat and I know a lot of other people who also love to eat. For me, food is an emotional experience for sure, especially when I'm cooking. I find the whole process of cooking, from idea to creation, therapeutic. And I love being in control of all the ingredients. I eat home a lot so I can do that, be in control. And I'm careful when I go out.

And since I got healthy, I'm not letting go. I have convicted my criminal bacteria and they are no longer welcome to my gut party. This has been part of my story that has resulted in my immune system being symptom-free since 2001. For me, my journey has been like that movie "Sliding Doors". If I hadn't done what I claim I've done, I would be in another place for sure.






KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Being diagnosed with ULCERATIVE COLITIS and living with that diagnosis since 1980 has underscored and highlighted for me the importance of that adage: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

The mental strategies I use are these:

ASK QUESTIONS. BE OPEN TO ANSWERS. BE OPEN TO SECOND OPINIONS. THE TRUTH FOR YOU IS ALL THAT MATTERS. PURSUE THE TRUTH ALWAYS. MAKE EDUCATED GUESSES. ANALYZE. SELF-TEST. REFINE YOUR APPROACH. STAY OPEN TO NEW INFORMATION. FOLLOW LEADS. KEEP IT POSITIVE. DON'T GIVE UP. PURSUE, PURSUE, PURSUE. THE INTERNET IS YOUR FRIEND, BUT BE WARY AND CONSULT MULTIPLE SOURCES IN YOUR QUEST FOR THE TRUTH. DON'T STOP. DON'T BE INTIMIDATED BY OTHERS. BE BRAVE. ASK THE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS. REMEMBER, THERE ARE SOME WHO DON'T WANT YOU TO HAVE ANY ANSWERS. GET THE ANSWERS YOU DESERVE, ANYWAY.

As a child, it started with my dad's weight. He was always a big guy to me. As an adult, I came to believe my Dad had a physical addiction to processed foods, especially sugar and fat washed down with cases of diet soda. Ice cream and pancakes were a particular weakness. He lived to eat and oh how he loved to eat! Not only did he enjoy good tasting food, he ate copious amounts of it. A high-end buffet was his best friend.

I loved my Dad. I saw his bigness as something I wished was smaller because, as a consequence, I was always worried about his health. He had a stroke when he was 66 and died young, of heart failure, at age 71. He gave me unconditional love and supported me even when it was challenging, shared his larger-than-life personality with me, made me laugh, and, being the eternal optimist, gave me my positive outlook on life. I'm always grateful and I miss him a lot.

I miss my Mom, too. She died of cancer when I was just 15. She was an actress and loved to laugh and, like Dad also loved me unconditionally. I learned early that, as big as we might be, our hearts are all about the same size, about the size of a fist. The same size heart can be asked to work in a body with 125 or 175 or 300 lbs. At 5'11", my dad was at the upper end of that scale. His heart was being asked to work too hard for too long.

Hearts can break early under those circumstances. More than one heart, sometimes.

Before my diagnosis, I ate everything. I was young and so I was able to work it off, no problem. After my diagnosis, I couldn't seem to eat anything without feeling like I was eating shards of glass awash with acid. I had to recondition my mind in the face of pop culture marketing forces promoting fast, convenient, tasty, prepared, cooked and attractively packaged, food stuffs.

Without medication, it took me 20 years to accomplish complete health and total remission.

You read that correctly. 20 years of backsliding and flareups.

Thankfully, the flareups were never as bad as I had it when I was initially diagnosed. I would always catch it as soon as I felt the cramping and gurgles and felt that telltale slippery slide of a bloody stool. And then I'd have to heal all over again. Fortunately I never had too far to go, maybe 4 weeks back to full recovery.

Eventually, I turned the negative into a positive. The avoidance of that pain is of paramount importance in my life. I will continue to do everything I can to keep my good health. For me, myself and I, rethinking my food choices was a 20-year process. The allure of processed foods was strong and kept pulling me back. In my rethinking, I've learned to feed my body in such a way that, as a direct result I believe, I am now symptom free, and have been since 2001. For me, a nutritionally-based solution was the answer to my healing.

Today, I thoroughly enjoy my daily, smooth as yogurt, bowel movement. No trace of inflammation anywhere. Never constipated, never any diarrhea. Normal.

Imagine, totally normal. That's right, I'm an atypical freak of nature. I'm not alone though.






My success at controlling my IBD, my Ulcerative Colitis, has reinforced my behavior to the point where my will power has merged with my everyday thought processes. The new behavior is now a good habit. It's not a struggle. It's become a lifestyle choice. And I found flavors and foods I never knew existed.

And I learned to cook for myself. I thought, I can read a recipe, how hard can it be? Well, I found out it's not that easy but it sure is rewarding. And now I really love to cook. Our American culture encourages a love-hate relationship with food. Love to eat; hate the weight. I MADE FRIENDS WITH FOOD.

Fast food commercials rotate with weight loss programs on the telly, the internet, and in print all day, every day. Fast food companies spend billions of dollars every year to sway you to their latest offerings. It's a beautiful marriage, fast food and dieting. They're perfect for one another, don't you think? It's a lot of fun to eat fast food and when I eat it I feel wonderful, happy and content. And really full. I like that feeling and you can get a lot of fast food for $5. I sure miss the kids' toys they used to include in their meals, tying the latest cartoon movie to the fast food experience. Another wonderful marriage. Especially for the kids.

And when I would notice a little weight creeping up on me, I could go on a diet of the same food choices, with strict portion sizes so I didn't have to think, packaged, prepared and frozen meals I could microwave. I loved the convenience of diet food because after a hard day's night, I don't want to have to think about food because it's bad enough I have to deprive myself being on this damn diet, so I want it tasty and hot in 2 mins. And, for sure, I'll pay $2.00 to do just that.

And, really, let's hear it for those frozen dinners! Processing a frozen dinner meal includes the research and development and consumer testing of a patented recipe, cooking, portioning, freezing, designing and printing the packaging, assembling the packaging around the frozen food, keeping the frozen food frozen for transit, marketing and advertising the item, paying truck drivers in wages and benefits, providing transportation in refrigerated trucks, and delivery with a smile... all of this, from field/farm to factory to market basket and microwave, all for the price of $2 when on sale?? And they are still making a profit?? Who cares how they do that!! Hurry, at 5 for $10, we're stocking up!

Microwave Marvels, I call them. At $2, however, you really don't want to look at the ingredients acquisition and formation process and how that stuff got formed to look and taste like food. So we won't. Suffice it to say, it's the perfect confluence of taste and savvy marketing. It's easy to develop a love/hate relationship with food. You can love it when it's plentiful and you're satiated, hate it the next day and then hate it even more when you feel deprived by dieting. Only to love it again after being finished with dieting. After a while, I would ditch those frozen delectables and gain all the weight back. Yo-Yo dieting. Gotta love it. Makes me want to go back for seconds.

My journey led me to love food again. I'm not afraid to eat anymore. I'm not afraid of the reactions my body might have. I have bouncers called antioxidants, phytochemicals, flavanols and polyphenols who will kick any exacerbator's ass.

Remember that sailor man who ate spinach and got muscles? That sailor man was correct about one important thing. It's important to eat more plants.

Although not really clear to me at the beginning of my journey, it became obvious I needed to make friends with better food choices. At first, I really didn't know what that meant. I thought all food was pretty much equal and all I had to do was just watch my caloric intake.

IN SUMMARY

At this stage in my health, I can pretty much eat anything except my exacerbators, which literally gives me unlimited healthful choices of real, living, organic and unprocessed food. I'VE CHOSEN TO USE MY HEAD. IT MAKES GOOD DECISIONS WHEN I LET IT. When it comes to will-power, I have to use my head. My brain is torn between what my tongue would prefer, my heart's desire, and all the images of gumdrops marketers have placed in my head. My head holds my only hope to overcome my powerful emotional connection to processed foods. Processed foods contain ingredients that make me hungry for more soon after I've eaten them. And 6 weeks later I could have another flareup. The combination of fat, salt, sugar and mouth-feel is so hard to resist. But, uh uh, no way. Not on my watch. I'm not chowing down on meds, antacids, or processed food. A wise and healthy person once said to me, "If man made it, don't eat it." Powerful. I've taken it to heart.