Lydia is A Natural Girl

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H.pylori & Me – The Journey Begins!

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I got the blood test results today: I’m positive for H.pylori infection. Rats.

I know you’re probably wondering why I’m not more upset about this. I think it’s because I did all of that research (both on the open net and using my university’s research resources) and know that this thing is treatable, one way or another. I’m going to figure out the way that works for me. (And in the meantime I get to eat super healthy, exercise, and feel really good as a result! How’s that for a deal?)

I’ve already seen my energy levels rise, my mood and general state of mind become more calm/happy, and the majority of my symptoms abate just from changing my diet and doing yoga consistently for the last couple of days in preparation for the arrival of the supplements. Seriously guys, clean up your diet. Your body will be overjoyed. Things I’ve cut out (temporarily, for the next three months): gluten, dairy, soy, most sugars, and red meat. (It’s important to note that I won’t be living like this forever. Bread is too important to me.)

Today is the beginning of a three-month long personal science experiment for me. I’m going to be following a strict diet (one that luckily still includes a ton of delicious food – thank God I learned to cook three years ago or I’d be screwed), practicing yoga daily, doing cardio (running at least a mile on the treadmill) every other day if at all possible, and taking many, many supplements over the next 90 days. If my regimen works, I’ll post what I did to get rid of this nasty bug. If not, I’ll continue to document my journey. I’m determined that I’m going to get rid of this thing in a year or less. We’ll see if I can do it!

Wish me luck,

– Lydia

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H.pylori & Me – The Prequel

I think I may have H.pylori. If I do have it, it’s OK – I have a plan.

Why I say “I think”: Since last Wednesday night, I have been having an intermittent mild burning sensation just below my rib cage. It comes and goes, mostly acting up an hour or so after I’ve eaten something it doesn’t like. It doesn’t do it with everything I eat or drink and still allows me to basically go about my normal day, but I am used to eating whenever and whatever I like. (Usually I eat healthfully but I do eat “bad things” sometimes too.) There has also been some mild, intermittent stomach pain in my lower abdomen and some gas. I still have my appetite, which is actually a shame as I’m being so cautious about what I put into my stomach that it’s resulted in my not putting in much at all. I have lost weight since I’ve been more cautious about what and how much food I put into my body at once, but I haven’t experienced the dramatic weight loss or other frightening symptoms others have reported. Overall it would seem that my case is mild, at least thus far. My allopathic doctor diagnosed me with gastritis on Thursday evening, and now I’m waiting for the blood work to come back to see whether or not I have H.pylori.

I suspect, even though there are other causes of gastritis, that it’s H.pylori because I was doing absolutely nothing differently and the symptoms came on overnight. I actually suspect that I contracted it from a kabob restaurant my boyfriend and I tried for the first time the day before my symptoms came on. (Damn kabobs.) I’ve never had symptoms like this before. I don’t drink overmuch, I don’t smoke, I’m not pregnant, I work out (running and yoga), and I eat relatively healthfully most of the time. I’m also 25 years old. All of this leads me to believe that H.pylori, which causes 80% of gastric ulcers, is the culprit.

A little more about H.pylori: It’s estimated (depending on which study you read) that 30 to 50% of the world’s population has this freeloader riding around in their gut. For the majority of people who have it – around 85% – there are no symptoms or ill effects. For the remaining population there are peptic and gastric ulcers, gastritis (which I have), bloating, belching, indigestion, and all manner of other unattractive stomach discomfort. Certain strains of this nasty bug have been linked to gastric cancer, though it’s estimated that only 1 to 2% of people with H.pylori will get cancer, and that it will take years of having H.pylori to progress that far. (Don’t panic! Stress causes the acid in your stomach to increase, which may worsen your symptoms. Take a deep breath – there’s good news coming in this post.)

The resistance of H.pylori to antibiotics has skyrocketed over the past 30 years. The bug was first discovered in the mid-1980s, though it has been with us as a species for millennia. In the 1990s, the go-to cure for H.pylori was what is popularly referred to as triple therapy: the combination of a PPI (proton pump inhibitor, which basically turns off the stomach acid pumps to allow the lining of the stomach to heal) and two antibiotics to kill the bug. When this therapy first came into practice it had a 97% success rate.

In the intervening years bacteria has evolved to defend itself against antibiotics. Today, the failure rate of triple (and even quadruple!) therapy to eradicate H.pylori is anywhere from 30 to 40%. This failure rate is even higher in areas where people have built up a resistance to clarithromycin and metronidazol, two common antibiotics administered against H.pylori infection. Patient compliance rates (in other words, how well people adhere to their doctor’s directions for taking the medication) have fallen for several reasons.

The first is that the triple therapy requires a lot of pills in one day, which can be confusing and hard to remember. The second is that the high doses of antibiotics can have some nasty side effects, which causes people to stop taking the medication part-way through the dosage. This premature cessation of therapy, which exposes the bacteria to the antibiotic but does not allow the antibiotic to completely destroy the bacteria, allows the bacteria to develop a resistance to the antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance in a population grows for these reasons (and others).

I didn’t just gather this information from random places on the internet. My educational experience (a major heavy on the use and understanding of the scientific method and requiring hours and hours of research and evaluating previously conducted studies) gave me the ability to sort through studies and scholarly journals and find legitimate, peer-reviewed, well-conducted, representative scientific studies. I’ve been devouring as many of these studies as I can since I found out I may have H.pylori. It turns out that since the late 1990s there have been many, many studies on both alternative treatments and supplements that aid in the success of the traditional antibiotic therapy for H.pylori. Unfortunately most of these studies have been small; wider studies need to be conducted on this bacteria and a natural route to its eradication.

I have, of course, also read as much as I could on the internet (the open internet – blogs, Facebook, forums, etc.) about peoples’ anecdotal experiences in eradicating H.pylori from their own bodies. It turns out that many of the things that people are using to cure their H.pylori naturally are the same things on which scientists have been conducting studies, especially in the last 10 years. Many (but not all) of the natural remedies people are using to cure/treat their H.pylori have been backed as legitimate anti-H.pylori agents by the scientific community.

However, I have not found any studies that claim that any one natural remedy can completely cure an individual of H.pylori with any kind of observable regularity. Despite this, if my test results come back positive for H.pylori (which I should find out this week), I am going to try a natural route to eradication before the high-fail traditional antibiotic therapy. I will be doing this under the supervision of an allopathic physician. I will also be using traditional allopathic labs, i.e. UBT (urea breath test), blood work, and stool test, conducted in allopathic medical labs, to confirm that the H.pylori is truly gone. I will be posting the protocol I choose to use and the results of my therapy here. (I say this about the labs because some of the labs that naturopathic doctors use for testing are not considered legitimate by the scientific community. I do believe in being relatively natural whenever I can, but for test results as important as these I want to know that they’re as reliable as possible.)

I already have a long list, with sources, of things that I know the scientific community has backed in being effective against H.pylori. I will present this list to my doctor. I plan to make a deal with my doctor: He will give me two/three months to try the natural route and test me before I try the traditional therapy.

I’ll update you guys as soon as I know something. There’s hope! Don’t give up.

Love,

– Lydia

Root Canal Update: A Year Later

So it’s been a year since my first root canal. I’m happy to report that I went back at the six month mark and an x-ray revealed that my bone had completely regrown, the abscess was completely healed, and the tooth looked perfect. I’ve had zero problems with the tooth since then.

I mentioned in my last post that my other front tooth, which had also been affected by the trauma, had a weak cold test during the evaluation for my first root canal. Unfortunately that second tooth began giving me some minor problems (aching, hurting) in January and I had to have it root canalled in early February of this year, almost exactly one year after my first root canal. (This second procedure was much less scary and painful as it wasn’t an emergency, so there was no swelling to get the lidocaine through.) When my endodontist (same one who performed the first procedure) went into the tooth, she said the nerve was definitely dead and it was good I was having it done now as if I had delayed it could have ended up like the first one.

Now that second tooth has been giving me some grief for about a week in the form of the occasional twinging pain, but it’s stopped doing that in the past few days. I had an endodontist appointment today to check that everything is ship-shape in there and they said the shooting pain is probably because I grind my teeth at night. I’d say they’re right – as soon as I started doing yoga again I’ve had no pain in that tooth, which I infer is from being relaxed while I sleep because of the yoga. Today’s x-ray was perfect, so nothing is going on in there.

Just wanted to give an update to anyone who might be scouring the web looking for root canal information!

Stay well,

– Lydia

Root Canal Update!

I realize it’s been a while since my first post about my root canal and people might be searching the web looking for information about what to expect – I certainly did. This post is for you.

It’s been 6 weeks since my root canal was done and I’m happy to report that everything is pretty much back to normal. My gums have healed completely and are looking healthy and pink; the tooth is not painful or loose, though it is a little discolored. However, this is normal according to everything I’ve heard from my endodontist and read on the internet. As far as they can tell from x-rays and examinations the infection at the root is gone. There’s still the slightest bit of tenderness in the area where the infection was; my endodontist told me that it will probably be tender in that spot for a while as my body slowly heals the place where the infection ate away at the bone. She also said that because I’m young, healthy, and my root canal was the result of trauma rather than decay, the bone might grow back to a certain degree within 6 months. Hurray for that! I feel normal and healthy again and have been back to working out hard, eating normally, kissing my partner – no discomfort, no pain, no sickness to speak of. (I actually didn’t get sick once this winter, which is something of a record for me.) The only reason I say “pretty much back to normal” is because I still can’t bite things like sandwiches or any hard bread because the tooth has not yet been restored by my dentist and is therefore still a bit fragile despite the amount of healthy tooth structure I have left.

What happened after my last post: Since I was about to travel overseas when I had to have my emergency root canal and I was very wary of the infection coming back after my course of antibiotics, my endodontist (who was so patient with all of my questions – I called her four times a day everyday while the process was happening) wanted to wait a little bit before permanently filling my tooth. She said she could have filled it before I left as everything looked clean and was progressing well, but she wanted me to have peace of mind on my trip. FYI: Flying with an open tooth isn’t painful. However, I’m a nervous flyer so I took .05mgs of klonopin and three Advil before I got on the plane. I know, I know, that’s pretty much the opposite of natural, but I have panic attacks on planes if I don’t take anything and I’d rather not put my liver through the agony of getting quite drunk in order to fly. This is my alternative until I can get over my phobia.

My swollen and discolored gums and the accompanying facial swelling went down extremely quickly after I began treatment – within a matter of days. This is probably because of the antibiotics and the Medrol, which is an anti-swelling medication with long list of scary side effects, none of which happened to me. The z-pak of azithromycin did its thing and I had no adverse side effects from that either. I drank a glass of kefir yogurt everyday and a ton of water (at least three 16 oz bottles a day) while I was taking the medication, which I think helped.

About a week after I came back from my trip (which was uneventful as far as the tooth goes), the endodontist put the permanent gutta percha filling into the tooth and placed a temporary filling on the back. My dentist will replace this temporary filling with a permanent filling when we restore the tooth. I haven’t had the tooth restored yet because I’m still working on convincing them that I don’t need a crown. Besides the fact that they’re super expensive, I want to be able to monitor the health of the tooth in the long term. That would be pretty difficult to do with a crown over the tooth structure, effectively hiding any outward signs of further decay. The root canal tooth was tender to the touch for about a day after the permanent filling procedure (which was quick and relatively painless), but since then I haven’t felt or seen anything strange or uncomfortable and have been brushing, flossing, and using my Waterpik twice daily as usual.

I went to have my teeth cleaned before I left for my overseas trip (the root canal tooth was unfilled but had a temporary filling on the back and medication in the canal) and received the good news that I have no cavities. My 24 year record remains unbroken! Woo! Hopefully this will be my one and only brush with the endodontist, though I must admit I’m a bit worried – when the endodontist did the cold test on the rest of my front teeth they responded well… With the exception of my other front tooth. The response to the cold stimulant was weak. The endodontist said we should keep an eye on it just in case, but they saw no sign of infection on the x-rays they took. Fingers crossed that something similar doesn’t happen again.

Anyway, just wanted to provide an update for anyone who might be scouring the web for those rare stories of success in the face of all of the scary stories about what went wrong for other people. Granted it’s only been 6 weeks since my procedure; hopefully this will remain a success story in the long-term.

Surprise! You Need A Root Canal.

Growing up, my brother and I were never afraid of the dentist. (I have my mother to thank for this – we inherited naturally strong teeth and healthy gums from the Trinidadian side of the family.) Unfortunately I had a pretty severe facial injury three years ago that caused most of my front top teeth to be pushed back in my mouth several centimeters. (I was riding a bike and didn’t put my hands out fast enough when I went over the handlebars. Ouch.) After the accident I couldn’t close my mouth properly because the top front teeth had been pushed back far enough that they were hitting my bottom front teeth when I tried to close my lips. I underwent lingual brace therapy that brought the teeth back into a more normal position.

The lingual braces tear up the inside of your mouth and you’re in pretty constant pain since they adjust them quite frequently. After 7 months I couldn’t stand it anymore and had my orthodontist remove the braces before he advised doing so. My bite is slightly misaligned as a result but it doesn’t bother me on a regular basis. Since then I use a Waterpik twice a day, brush twice a day with a peppermint/baking soda/fluoride-based toothpaste from Trader Joe’s and a soft brush; and use Listerine mouthwash twice a day. (I’m in the middle of converting everything I use to natural alternatives and I still have a ways to go, as you can see. I’ve also heard of the evils of fluoride but currently can’t afford more toothpaste.) In the last few years I’ve developed a problem with grinding my teeth at night (probably a result of my misaligned bite), which hasn’t bothered me much – until now.

Initially I thought the pain I was experiencing was due to my grinding habit. (That makes it sound like I stand around in nightclubs looking for victims, doesn’t it?) The pain began as a dull ache on Saturday morning when I woke up, then got progressively more painful until I woke up early on Monday morning and my lip and cheek had swelled up. I immediately went to the endodontist and they did a root canal within the hour. (I don’t care what the internet tells you – if you present with an infection, that sucker is going to hurt. I had to have four excruciatingly painful numbing shots in my inflamed gums before they could get in there to perform the root canal, and even then I still felt occasional sharp twinges of pain as they worked. And I have to go back in a few days to finish it. At least they were super-nice to me.)

That was yesterday morning. Today I had to go back into the office because I had developed a hard lump where the top lip connects to the gum line, just over the tooth where my root canal had been performed. The endodontist drained it – it was full of pus and blood and other nastiness – and now we’re leaving the temporary filling off overnight to allow the infection to drain further. I’m going back into the office tomorrow to check on how it’s doing and see if they can replace the filling at that time. I’ve been swishing Trader Joe’s sea salt and warm filtered water around in my mouth every few minutes since I got home from the office. No painkillers necessary today so far; I took what was a frankly unhealthy amount of ibuprofen yesterday and want to hold off torturing my liver further until it becomes absolutely necessary. Today I’ve just sipped some fresh homemade ginger root tea with cinnamon, had half a glass of kefir yogurt (no other probiotics in the house at the moment and I want to do something to counter the negative gut effects of the azithromycin they put me on), and eaten some organic broccoli florets and baby carrots with sea salt.

Since you, like me, may have seen this around the internet: I asked them about the infection spreading because I may accidentally swallow some of the drainage as we wait for the tooth to drain. They said that wasn’t going to happen. Same answer when I asked about potential further bone loss resulting from the formation of the cyst. (This I take more at face value as the fluid-filled sac was there for less than 24 hours, but I still have my doubts about their belief about the infection spreading, so I’ve been swallowing as little as possible since I left the office, choosing instead to swill with salt water and spit every few minutes. I suggested that we might want to extract the tooth to avoid later complications since I’ve also read that that’s more effective at preventing widespread complications down the line, but they scoffed at me.) I know I worried when I read those things on the internet before I went back, which leads me to my next point…

Since I first got the root canal done I’ve been scaring myself silly looking up root canal complications on the internet, as I’m sure many people do when they’re confronted with a health problem and are ignorant of potential complications. Apparently the consensus is that root canals are pretty much the worst thing you can do for your teeth, which makes me wish I had access to this information before I began mine; it’s too late to turn back now for me, so I’ll just have to make the best of it. I’m hoping the fact that I inherited healthy teeth and the fact that I’m young, exercise regularly, and follow a relatively healthy diet (grass-fed, pasture-raised meats; full fat milk and cheese*; green veggies; very little sugar, grain, and processed food intake except for the occasional drink when out with friends; and an almost obscene amount of water everyday) will all play in my favor.

Despite the torrent of doom and gloom I’ve traipsed through on dental forums in the last few days, I have found a couple of resources that have given me hope: Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel and Oil Pulling: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing by naturopath Bruce Fife. I’ve bought both books on my Kindle ($2.99 each! I love Kindle.) and have been perusing them all evening.

Anyone have any experience with these techniques working? I know Heather from arealfoodlover.wordpress.com had great success diminishing her cavities and remineralizing her teeth using Nagel’s method, and I aim to follow in her footsteps.

I’m particularly interested in whether I can oil pull while my tooth is open and draining or whether that’s a bad idea. I did some oil pulling this morning with coconut oil and two drops of peppermint essential oil and my mouth felt great afterward (this was before they removed my temporary filling to let the pus drain out), but I’m not sure if it would be a good idea to do it when I have an open tooth.

I’m a big fan of not polluting the body with unnecessary chemicals and junk as well as a big believer in natural healing, so I’m hoping that after this torture is over I can attempt to heal my body and teeth using some of techniques suggested by Nagel and Fife and avoid ever having another root canal again.

Any thoughts? I’m open to any and all suggestions.

*I’m looking into getting raw milks and cheeses from local farms around the area, especially after reading Nagel’s work; any suggestions are welcome if you happen to know someone who does quality work!

Come Along on My Journey…

For the last few months I’ve been looking more deeply into the ways in which the things we use everyday can do harm to our health, and I wanted to share my experiences (and get your input!) as I slowly integrate more healthy products and habits into my everyday life – without breaking the bank.

A little about me: I’m currently a college student and an unpaid editorial intern, which makes cost-consciousness not only important but essential. I grew up and currently live in northern Virginia. I’m 24 years old, 105 lbs, 5’6″, omnivorous, of mixed race background, work out regularly (weight training and HIIT four times a week), am chronic disease-free (as far as I know), don’t smoke, drink alcohol socially, and am female. I have a slight heart arrhythmia (which is triggered by certain things, not a constant). Things that run in my family: High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease. I have been on hormonal birth control since I was 16.

I feel that it’s important to include this information in case anyone wants to try the things that end up working for me – everyone is different, so it helps to know as much as you can about a person’s history and background to learn why it might the best choice for them and why something else, or a modified version of the same thing, might be the best choice for you. I love dogs, cooking, reading, and traveling.

I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned! I’m looking forward to getting to know you guys.

Sincerely,

– Lydia

 

P.S. – I am in no way a science denier. I’m a huge fan of science. Everything I do on this blog will be supported by scientific studies published in scholarly journals. I believe in vaccination and that GMOs and regular food are nutritionally equivalent.  I just think there are better ways to do things than expecting to stuff a bunch of chemicals in your body and then not change anything else about your unhealthy habits and have the chemicals work for you.