Sunday, 8 March 2015

This could get ugly...

Friends, family, and readers alike, this is a story about growing up.

Today, I made and drank my last cup of coffee for a while. I'd say forever, but let's be honest, that's not likely to happen.

Four years ago I sat in the office of my naturopath. After months of 'trial and error' it was finally determined that I was allergic to all things cow and soy. The former was far more heartbreaking news than the latter.

The path to receiving this diagnosis was long. My whole life I have struggled with weight, insomnia, depression and anxiety. I tried various diet schemes, exercise programs, counselling, medications and none of it seemed to work. So, when I started running six years ago I started to change how and what I ate. I made a wonderful group of friends all working towards the same goal of becoming "runners." We met two or three times a week and it was amazing! But, I wasn't loosing weight. I was eating better and exercising more than I'd ever done before. And I thought, what am I doing wrong? In September of 2010, I began to seek the answer to this question, and it turns out many of the issues I faced growing up were directly linked to the foods I was consuming.

During the first meeting with my naturopath I rhymed* off what felt like every detail of my life. We discussed family medical history, the regularity of my bowel movements (7:24 am every morning, for the record, folks!), the length of my cycle - you name it, it was noted. The funny thing was that when I was asked why I was there I answered with because I want to loose weight, and I don't understand why my efforts aren't working. I can't remember exactly how he, my naturopath, responded, but it was basically something along the lines of, "that's not actually why you're here - that's only a symptom of whatever the issue is." And, I will admit, I was slightly skeptical of whatever diagnosis this guy was going to give me. I didn't see how admitting the frequency of cataracts in my grandparents had anything to do with my inability to slim down - and it didn't. BUT, a single life event, for which I felt was completely unrelated, did. Mononucleousis. Yep, that bad boy changed my life forever. Not only did it cancel my first major attempt at travelling to Africa, but it also became 'the tell' for many of my health-related issues.

So, here's the basic breakdown of how the cow/soy allergy works**. There are no similar proteins found in cows (and like animals - so goats, sheep and buffalo) and humans. When we consume one of these tasty creatures, our white blood cells attack it and they break it down, no problem. However, my DNA is shaped similarly to that of the cow protein. So, when I consume a nice, juicy blue steak, covered in butter sautéed onions and mushrooms not only do my white blood cells go to work on the cow protein, but also my DNA. This results in a wide range of problems such as replicating the symptoms of Mono, depression, increased anxiety, insomnia, eczema outbreaks, decreased concentration, and an inability to lose weight. Up until I removed these items from my diet, I was sick and tired of constantly being sick and tired. All of the things I struggled with growing up were the result of my love of beef.

Additionally, I suffer (...well, to be fair, those around me suffer more than I probably do) from something called Estrogen Dominance. This is where the soy allergy comes in. Soy is a natural source of estrogen. Too much estrogen makes for incredibly bitchy ladies, particularly around a certain time of the month (THEIR PERIODS!). But, the cow protein allergy also plays a role here. Fun Fact: the consumption of dairy contributes to much of the negative associations of the menstrual cycle - cramps, bitchiness, the irrational emotional meltdowns over absolutely nothing (I have a whole other rant on my conspiracy of the dairy industry, but perhaps I'll save that for another post). Technically, a woman shouldn't know when she's about to start until she goes to the washroom (unless she's tracking her cycle)***.

But, what does this have to do with me breaking up with my longtime love, coffee? Well, the caffeine places added stress on all of the things already on high-alert in my body. My adrenal gland for one. My nervous system for another.

Over the first year or so on 'the diet' I slowly reintroduced coffee into my life. I have successfully gone from drinking multiple pots (yes, I said 'pot' plural-ed) to one single cup, every morning to start my day. For the most part, I think this has been okay, so long as I kept the rest of my dietary restrictions in check. My addiction to coffee is more about the process and routine of making it rather than the energy boost I gain from drinking it. But, I'm coming up on nearly two years of being off the rails, and I'm really starting to feel it. I'm struggling to concentrate, my sleep patterns are all over the place, and my anxiety is getting me to the point where I have a difficult time working up the courage to get out of bed, or even get groceries. It's time to make a change. It's time to start feeling better. But mostly, it's time to really let myself heal and move forward - not on, but forward.

Today makes 'Day 7' of not consuming any cow or soy products, and tomorrow will mark 'Day 1' of no caffeine. So take warning, my friends, this could get ugly. But, hopefully in the 4-6 weeks it will take to start seeing some progress, I will begin to return to my 'normal' self.

Until next time,

-the Orange Canadian

*Note: Facts may not have actually rhymed. 
**I am not a medical professional, and am only using the facts passed on to me through this experience. 
***Again, not a doctor, but the information I received from my naturopath, and my own experiences and those of other ladies that I know of who have removed these products from their diet certainly lead me to believe this to be true. 

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