Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Not So Safe Safety Bubble

If you have allergies, try as you might to forget them in your day to day, you can't. I think if you have been living an allergy-free lifestyle for a number of years, it becomes part of your every day life. In our little gluten free, lactose free home and bubble, cross contamination is not much of a thought. Also if you are lucky to have a partner who is super supportive and hyper-aware of your allergies, then you forget that the rest of the world has gluten and lactose everywhere, and in everything.

I had family visit over the summer and I was reminded of how gluten and lactose free my bubble really is. We had bought some beautiful locally made artisan bread, which I ate when I was eating gluten. But simple things like using a common cutting board to cut the bread, using the common butter and knife for cutting, and then to not properly cleaning everything off. Even wiping off the knife with the common dish towel and putting it away. Ack! Simple things, really, not even a big deal, unless you have a celiac disease. They meant no harm, and probably weren't even aware, but what was evident to me, is that they don't live in an gluten free home. And man, was it obvious, just how gluten free my home is! And for the record, A, is not gluten free, and there is gluten in my house. He just has gone through my struggle with me, watched me suffer and is so keenly aware of cross contamination, that sometimes I take for granted how conscious he is. <3 <3 (He wins a gold star for sure!)

Even with my dogs, both of whom, have allergies, it too, has become part of our bubble of safety. It is just a part of life. Narrowing down dog allergies is a tricky, long process. (Read my collection of posts about that process here.) There is sooo much that goes into dog kibble. So much bad stuff and fillers, that it has taken quite some time to figure out both of their allergies. Addi, our golden boxer (half boxer, half golden retriever) is allergic to gluten and chicken meal. Oliver, our French bulldog, is allergic to pretty much everything (it's a Frenchie thing): gluten, dairy, eggs, cheese, beef, chicken, duck, any red meat really, on top of his environmental allergies to everything and skin issues, his list is epic!

So what does he eat you might be wondering....after much time, trial and tribulation we landed on Orijen food. It is a very clean (and very expensive) kibble. And the only flavor he can eat is the Six Fish. Another thing that we learned along the way, is often there are multiple kinds of protein in dog food, which can cause allergy flare ups, finding a single protein food is very, very hard. The ratio of protein to carbs to fats, is also a very important factor. Most standard dog foods have too high a percentage of carbs in them. He also takes a daily plant sterol and probiotics. He gets no handouts and only the occasional treat. I know you're thinking, poor guy! But honestly he is a much happier and healthier dog now, than when we got him 2 years ago. If you look at the post from January 18, 2015, you can see just how red and swollen he was when we got him. And now...look at how handsome and healthy and not red he is! Cutie! <3

Our household is a very allergy conscious home, and the doggies and I are grateful. And yet we are reminded how sensitive that daily balance is. We maintain the balance without effort, but when we travelled for Thanksgiving, the balance was knocked off. Our poor little Oli, had a pretty nasty reaction to a combination of things. To no fault of my mom, who watched after them. It was just evident that Addi, Oli and I live on a delicate tight rope of allergies, that doesn't take much to fall off, even when you are actively trying. Even a simple trip to the gas pump, where they offer your dogs treats, has to be an announcement of your allergies. Dog mom panic, "Don't burst the safety bubble!"

That is what is so frustrating, is when you are actively trying and yet you have an allergy attack. If you live with allergies you probably have a similar allergy-free bubble, where your house is safe, your immediate friends and family know and are as accommodating as possible, and you have your favorite restaurants because they are cautious and can accommodate your allergies. You learn to relax a little. To breathe. And trust that your allergy-free bubble is safe. And then you get symptoms! :'(

Right now, I am having respiratory problems. I can't catch my breath, I am wheezing, and my breath is shallow. It's even effecting my sleep. Not fun. There is no glaringly obvious reason for my respiratory problems, which is my first sign of contamination, except the other night. We went out to one of our favorite restaurants, which has long been on the safe list, and yet the other night it wasn't. Something that we have ordered many times before came with breadcrumbs on this time!! Whaaa? Never before, and now all of a sudden?! Annd they skimped on the bacon! Whatthe*$5*grumble grumble! I didn't pay much attention either. I am used to them being safe. I was talking with the bartender and watching the game, until A pointed it out (again <3 him!), he leans over and asks if those are breadcrumbs, and on close inspection they were. Well shit!

So even when you think you are safe, you are not. Lesson learned, always, Always ask questions when you are eating out. And never assume that because it is a restaurant on your safe list, and you've gotten the dish before, that it will stay that way. Things change, restaurants change, heck for all I know if was a new chef! I just get a sad mopey face and am reminded that again my safety bubble is not as safe as I believe.

For people with allergies the holidays are particularly hard. There is so many social events and opportunities for cross contamination. From Thanksgiving on, try as you might, the likelihood of some cross contamination is likely. Unless you are a hermit and don't socialize, or maybe, you are lucky, and have friends and family that are allergy-aware. I am surprised by my current allergy breathing symptoms, but at the same time I guess I shouldn't be. The time of year and a more unusual diet, for me at least, with some likely cross contamination, boom, symptoms. It sucks, because you want to just enjoy the festiveness of the season and eat all the yummies (that you think are safe) around you. You can't. And it is really unfortunate timing too. Christmas festivities are within a few days and really I need to go on a strict cleanse to get rid of whatever is backed up in my body causing my respiratory problems. Bah humbug! 

As much as I want to ignore my symptoms, not being able to breathe is really, really scary. And if I think about it, I am also having digestive issues and not so good poops. So obviously it is all connected. The signs are there, my body is telling me, and now I have to help it out. Part of the process of discovering, managing and living with food allergies is learning your body's symptoms. They are there, however subtle, your body always has a way of saying, "hey that's not working for me," you just have to learn the signs. And once you do, and you figure out your trigger, the symptoms become more obvious, even in the slightest onset.

Good luck throughout your remaining holiday festiveness. I hope you are able to navigate and stay symptom free. And I know, because you are like me, you are hyper-vigilant about cross contamination, but be wary of your vigilance slipping. I think we all want to relax and trust and believe what we know to be, will stay the same, but unfortunately it doesn't. If you have lived allergen free for a long time, and you do have contamination, the likelihood of horrendous symptoms will be less, but still be on the lookout for the more mild symptoms. They are there. Always be on the lookout for daggers that are going to poke your safe, allergy-free bubble.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Let's Get Personal

Let's get personal...personaal (totally intended in the tune of Let's Get Physical by none other than ONJ (that's Olivia Newton-John, BTdubs)). 

For some this may be TMI. And I don't care. I'm going to talk about periods, menstrual cycles, because I have to. Bye all y'all dudes, now is the time to bail. I know "lady stuff" makes you squeamish. For those that stick around and keep reading, you get a gold star sticker, especially if you share this with a lady in your life.

Periods are part of every woman's life. They are normal, they are natural and there is a noticeable difference between a good period and a bad period. Ladies, you know what I am talking about. Some months are awful; cramp-y, cranky, throat-punchy, where every one sucks, you get that massive red zit on your chin that hurts like a motha', you can't eat enough chocolate, wine and potato chips to make the pain stop or make you like anyone, and to top it all off you bleed through everything, on everything, when you are sleeping (hello, more crankiness), when you are out in public and there is abso-fucking-lutely nothing you can do about it, you just hope you have a sweatshirt in your car to tie around your waist. One of Those months...I get it! I've been there! Shit, we (being the proverbial ladies "we") have ALL been there! Some months are certainly better than others.

I have to say as a woman who has spent most of her life on the side of miserable during my period; insane cramps that had me doubled over in pain crying, bloody messiness that is uncontrollable, and the sore rawness that comes with that much clean-up, PMS like no body's business, diarrhea, changing your sheets in the middle of the night, you name it, I've suffered it. To now, being on the other side of miserable periods, let me say, there is hope! Diet and lifestyle changes have made a night and day difference in my life when in comes to my period. Seriously! It seems so simple and unbelievable, but seriously, remove the foods your body doesn't like, give it more whole veggies, fruits and gluten free grains, let me tell you, my periods are totally different than they were for the last 15 years. I remember not going to school, not being able to formulate sentences between sobs of agony and writhing in pain, to regular trips to the toilet for constant diarrhea. I cannot even count the number of times I bled through while sleeping and out in public. I just figured my period was "normal". It was not! At least it doesn't have to be! 

Tuning into your body and listening to it's needs, and making considerable lifestyle changes can make for a much happier period, ie you.

My period is no longer an epic geyser of torrential pain and hormones, it is manageable now. Actually, dare I say, pleasant. What used to be a heavy flow for 5 days straight with epic cramping. I now, have a few cramps on my first day and typically again on my 3rd (which makes no sense to me), but after the first 2 days of a regular flow it lessens considerably the last 2 or 3, to where a panty liner will suffice. This is a huge difference from where I started at 10. Perhaps it is because I am of "childbearing age", but I am not so sure that is only factor. 

As you well know, if you've been following me for some time, I went gluten free, lactose free, and reduced meat, little-to-no processed foods and sugar almost 6 years ago. In that time, every aspect of my life has changed, from my weight, to my seasonal and environmental allergies, to my skin and hair, to my quality of sleep, to my quality of poop and periods, to the clarity of mind, and even a career shift! Phew! It. Is. Amazing. What. Can. Change. If. You. Listen. To. Your. Body.

So the whole reason for this post is something new I am trying and I am so excited to share: for the first time ever, seriously ever, I was excited for my period to start (no, it wasn't the excited, oh shit, I may be pregnant, excitement/fear), it was legit excitement. Why, you may ask, with a side tilt of your head....I bought a Diva Cup! 

For those of you who don't know what a Diva Cup is, it is a menstrual cup that takes place of the standard tampon or pad. It is an eco-friendly, reusable, silicone cup that gets inserted into the vagina to collect the blood during menses. Grossed out yet? I know, I know, just keep reading...

I heard about a Diva Cup from @yoga_girl, Rachel Brathen, whom I love and admire and have been following for a couple years on Instagram. She inspires me in life, love, spirit and in yoga. And during a Facebook Live session she and her friend/business partner Olivia, talked about Diva and Moon Cups. The name had floated through my brain a few times prior, but never stuck. This time it did. So I did some research and was intrigued. 

Sure, I was excited at the prospect of not having to purchase tampons and pads again, and being eco-friendly, but honestly what progressed my interest more, was for the last 6 months to a year, I've been having a problem with tampons. No matter where I am in my cycle, no matter what day, I can always feel the tampon. It was uncomfortable and noticeable. It made me ache and cramp, even smaller ones. They just hurt. It was almost like it felt full all the time, but when I took it out, it never was. As soon as I took the tampon out I would be fine. Cramps, achy-ness, gone. So for the last few months I have been dealing with pads, uggh. Pads suck! I've always slept in pads and used them on light days, but to use them for your entire period is awful. They rub, they make noise, I inevitably bleed over the edges, no matter how many damn wings and "no leak" edges those suckers have, leave it to my body, I leak over those no-leak edges. 

Now I'm gonna get technical-personal, but I guarantee there must be other women like me, women with bodacious backsides. I'm talking about being bootylicious. Let's get real, butts are awesome, and some junk in the trunk is awesomer, but let me clue in into something, as a women with some junk, pads. do. not. work!! If you have a larger derriere that is tight, and you wear a pad, blood comes out between your butt cheeks. There I said it, it's out there. I can't be alone here?? Right? Try as I (I'm hoping we) might in a pad, I walk, I sleep, it goes out your butt and gets everywhere. E.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e! And it is a fucking pain in the ass, ha (couldn't not with the bad pun). Soo, if you are like me and you can't wear tampons because they hurt and pads, well, pads are just useless, unless they wrap around from my belly button to my lower back, I needed an alternative.

I've been seeing those period panties lately, but dude, I don't trust those. Just how, how can there not be leakage? And isn't that more diaper-ish than a pad?? I dunno. So, I bought a Diva Cup. And I've been excited for my period since then. 

Today is day 1, one of my heavy days. I've had it in all day. And it is AWESOME!! Best period ever! I can't even feel it. It doesn't even feel like I am even on my period, or that anything is in there. No cramps, no aches, nada, zilch! I am so excited I am doing a happy dance. I look forward to tomorrow, day 2, my heaviest day, and I'm going to workout too! Today I felt like writing and drinking wine, instead of working out. I had to share with y'all my exciting news! I did walk the dogs, and no leakage, anywhere, all day. I wore a panty liner, just in case. But nothing! I've checked the cup a few more times than I probably needed to (I wasn't sure when it would be "full"), and it was no where near close to full. So now I am leaving it in longer. There was concern about insertion being difficult and leakage. No problem for me. I think you have to be well acquainted with your vagina to even consider using a Diva Cup, because, yes you will have to touch your vagina and even put your fingers inside to adjust and rotate to secure it in place. So if you are not that kind of woman, first let me ask why? And then, I will suggest, maybe work up to a Diva Cup. Go familiarize yourself with your vagina first. I went with Model 1. I am 30 and I've never had a child, but Model 2 just didn't seem right for me. I know I have a narrower vagina, so I was worried that Model 2 may be too big. Again, you gotta know your vagina before you can even purchase a Diva Cup. And really, as woman, shouldn't you be well acquainted with your vagina? I digress. 

I am also really excited to sleep in my Diva Cup! They say you can leave it in for up to 12 hours. At first, that seemed wrong, too long. I would never, ever leave a tampon in that long, but it is not the same. The Diva Cup, sits much lower in the vagina opening and it isn't "absorbing" anything, hence no toxic shock syndrome of a tampon left in too long. Sleeping in a pad as a side sleeper with a tight ass, is a nightmare, literally! I get up all the time in the middle of the night during my period. I have to check it and even sleep with my hands wedged in between my legs to make sure the super, sized nighttime pad plus two liners behind it, don't move, it is awful! And even then, I regularly bleed through. I may for once be able to sleep the whole night through on the first night of my period. Mind blown!

I am beyond excited for my experience and not too ashamed to share it with you all. We need, no, we must talk about this stuff! There is no shame. We are women and we SHOULD have happy periods. Until day 2, wish me good, leak free, stress free sleep tonight. I'll post more tomorrow.