Doctors, Deviation and Balloons
For the last week I have been trying to get my body to somewhat of a baseline. I'll be honest, I'm usually good sticking to something for about a week or before I tire or simply get bored with what I am eating. Food has always been a tricky thing for me and the reasons for that have evolved over the years. Today food is all about health. It's about what nourishes and supports my body, period. It is not about weight loss or weight management, it is not about muscle building or how my physique looks. If you're wondering "what about desire? Cravings? Food is delicious!" Of course I like delicious food. Who doesn't like pizza? I'm not as strict as I used to be but it's a journey and it's mine so I do what works, for me. Today my food choices are simply about cleansing, beating the bloat, reducing headaches and fatigue and keeping my immune system healthy. This last bit is probably the most important. I used to suffer endlessly from chronic sinus infections, sickness, colds, strep, UTIs, painful psoriasis, acne and more. Let me be perfectly clear. My goal is NOT symptom management or a short term fix. There are periods of time when I have a symptom flare or fall off the wagon and when I do I know what foods to eat, what foods to avoid, when to fast, all that good stuff. But health is about the long game. It takes dedication, hard work and a lot of discipline. So, why would anyone do that? Well, here's part of it.
It wasn't until I realized that ALL of my symptoms and ailments stemmed from a poor diet that I became ready to change the way I was eating. Let's back up. As a child, my diet was absolute garbage, Slim Jims, Mountain Dew, candy, ice cream, cheese, bread, fast-food. Yikes, it makes me cringe just to think of it. Let me put this in here, my parents fed me at home and we ate a lot of good, home cooked meals. It wasn't all bad and they did their best. When you're a kid, you find trouble and I am not very good at being told what to do. As I got older it was more of the same, plus cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Don't even get me started on the medications. Birth control, antibiotics, steroids, nasal spray and anti-depressants were a way of life. At one point I developed preferences for different antibiotics and knew the ins and outs of a urine sample better than anyone. I don't think I ever went more than a month or two without being on some kind of antibiotic for something. It blows my mind to think about that now. I have not taken one single drug other than the occasional Zyrtec in almost 2 years. What?! Can I get an AMEN!
Despite eating a Standard American Diet for much of my life, I have finally found healing in the last few years. Really a very short time in comparison to the years I spent suffering. My big wake up call came in the fall of 2017. I started feeling sick, woke up the next day with a sinus infection so bad the room was spinning. I tried to go to work and just pump myself full of Flonase and Mucinex but I was so dizzy I could barely stand. I couldn't even drive myself home. After a week in bed with no improvements I went back to work. I felt pretty horrible most of the time, the dizziness had subsided a bit but I had an awful headache and I was completely exhausted. This continued for a year. I saw countless urgent care doctors, took a few trips to the ER and eventually saw two ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialists. The first one told me I had a deviated septum and needed surgery. I decided to get a second opinion and the second ENT told me the same thing. He did tell me there was a "less invasive" procedure called a balloon sinuplasty. Basically, they put a thin wire up your nose with a small, long balloon on it. Once the balloon is up your nose in your smaller sinus cavities, they inflate it. This is to manually open your sinus cavities and once they're open, it's for good. You're awake but you can feel the pressure and hear the crunching of your sinus cavities. I know, scary stuff.
An interesting tidbit about my procedure. It's an outpatient procedure and was performed at my doctors office. My friend took me to the office around 9 in the morning (you won't be able to drive after). They took me back, had me sit in a chair, similar to the ones at the dentist. They hooked me up to a machine to monitor my pulse and vital signs. I didn't think I was that nervous. I'd been to a million doctors and had many procedures over the years. I'm a good sport and have a pretty high pain tolerance. Doctors don't tend to scare me (perhaps they should have). But for some reason my resting heart rate was in the 120s. If you don't know, the average resting heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Basically I was panicking and they kept making me more nervous by making a big deal about my heart rate and asking me if I'd had an EKG recently or if I had heart problems. I told them I struggle with anxiety from time to time. They said it was probably white coat syndrome and after some time they were ready to begin. They were originally going to give me novocaine or some other pain blocker but novocaine is typically mixed with epinephrine, to prevent overdose. They couldn't give me epinephrine because it raises your heart rate. Again, I didn't feel nervous or anxious but I guess my body was under an enormous amount of stress and pressure.
To calm me down they gave me nitrous oxide or laughing gas as it is commonly referred to. The entire procedure took about 20-30 minutes. It was pretty uncomfortable but the worst part was the aftermath. They numb your throat (for reasons I can't remember) so you can't really swallow and for good reason because the stuff that comes out is nothing you want to ingest. I spent the next 24 hours spitting up blood and mucus and whatever else was coming out of my previously blocked sinuses. It is definitely in my top 5 most uncomfortable moments ever. I still felt pretty woozy and out of it for the next few weeks. I may have experienced some benefits but if I did they were minimal. I decided to go ahead and get the septoplasty since that seemed like the only thing that would fix this problem once and for all. I would have to wait another three months while my sinuses healed from the previous trauma, er, procedure.
On September 18, 2018 I had my septum straightened. It's an extremely common and routine procedure. I wasn't really that worried mainly because I was so ready to be done with this horrible chapter of my life. I was really counting on this one to fix me. Everything went as expected. They put you under, they do things to your nose you would't want to know about and then its over. It honestly wasn't that bad. I will say, once the anesthesia and the painkillers wore off I was in some pretty bad pain. The first night was the worst. I sat propped up on my couch dozing in and out of sleep. I did take painkillers the first day so I could sleep and my body could heal. My pain was definitely at a 10 but that was only for one day. The next few days weren't so bad and I was good with Tylenol. Which is good, because I'm a recovering drug addict. When you're actually in an extreme amount pain, painkillers treat the pain and not much else. Taking the pills wasn't really a big deal, for me but I was very grateful I only needed them for one day.
My mom came down to Atlanta and took care of me. Our week consisted mostly of watching Parks and Recreation (third time for me and a first for her) and some other shows that were on. I was able to get up and walk around the next day and leave the house about 4 or 5 days post-op but I was no where near good. I was still really dizzy and fatigued and achy. Luckily I was on a 4 month leave of absence from work so I had plenty of time to sit around and heal. I took the leave because I was getting increasingly sicker and more miserable with every day. It was pretty touch and go there for a while and all I'll say is I'm grateful I was able to take the time off. I don't think I really started to feel "like myself" for about 4-6 weeks.
My body has always had an adverse reaction to medication, I just never thought about what adverse meant. Doctors make it sound like the side effects they list on the bottle and at the end of drug commercials are just part of it and some people experience them and some don't. That it's normal and all part of the process. Not true. These side effects ARE the adverse reaction. Your body reacts to stimuli because it is trying to tell you something. We've just gotten really good at normalizing discomfort. There have been times in my life when I needed life saving antibiotics and medications but the vast majority (I mean 95 percent) of all mediations have been for ailments caused by poor diet and lifestyle. This is my opinion based on my own experience. I'm not here to tell anyone to stop taking meds or not go to the doctor. That's your business and I'm in no position to tell anyone how to live their life.
Here's where I need to make a connection between having a surgery to fix something and finding a healing diet to fix something. The surgery was to repair my deviated septum which it did. Thanks to the surgery my septum is straight and I can breathe better. Here's where full body healing comes in. I never remember having a problem breathing before. I'm assuming I was born with a deviated septum, as many people are. I never even knew I had one until I had surgery for it at 32 years old. The issue was then and is now inflammation and overproduction of mucus. Am I glad I got the surgery? Absolutely, I think it helped a great deal. However, and this is a big one, I will still experience symptoms of a sinus infection (without the nasal congestion) to this day IF I am exposed to mold or other airborne toxins OR if my diet is heavy on fats oils or processed foods. There is no "fix it" with anything, sorry to burst your bubble. That concept is one I am very familiar with and some days I wish it were that easy.
Since the surgery two "cold and flu" seasons have come and gone and I have had no need for any medicine whatsoever. This is a big deal. I used to get strep throat all the time and would get colds every winter. Also, I was basically sick with a cold for a year, I know that the diet change is what made the difference. The most I've gotten is a bit of congestion, sinus pressure and fatigue which usually only lasts a few days and then it's gone. I am able to knock it out with herbs, supplements and of course, my netti pot. Again, I am only sharing my experience since beginning a plant based diet.
So, I originally started to write a post about what I eat for breakfast, but the ins and outs of my healing, diet and lifestyle choices are heavily influenced by my previous experiences of being sick. Since I haven't really shared my experience with sinus surgery and other history of disease, it seemed like a good time to do it. There is so much that goes into healing, eating and cleansing. An instagram post can only scratch the surface. Also, as a person in general I am a fan of the long-form. My brain just takes longer to process information and I tend to be really thoughtful and a little ADD. So I like having time to get my thoughts straight and the space to deviate from the current topic.
Today I spend my energy on healing, learning about food, herbs and supplements. I learn about breathing and yoga and how the organs in the body work. What their functions are, what helps them and what hurts them. I learn about non-toxic living and yes, what medications do. I am currently on no medication and have not been on anything continuous for 7 years. Right now I am enjoying the bounty of nature and eating mostly summer fruits. Melons, grapes, cherries and of course my beloved tropical fruits, bananas, papaya, pineapple and the occasional jackfruit.
"The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison." -Ann Wigmore