Day 37

My mood has really stabilised after the vortex of sugar withdrawal. I have more patience with the children and I am just happier.

My sleep is suffering still, waking and insomnia are a problem.

My joint pain is so much better. The joints are still horribly tender to touch, but basic movement is now fine, which is mountains better than where I was at the beginning (god, even getting up off the sofa was a total nightmare at the end of the day).

So, changes I’ve successfully made so far:

  1. Cutting out sugar
  2. Restarting exercise
  3. Eating a bit more home cooked food and a few less takeaways
  4. Supplement regime to help my arthritis

Changes I need to focus on, in addition to continuing the above:

  1. Better quality sleep
  2. Some strength exercises
  3. Cutting down the alcohol

Going to try not drinking Mon-Thu. Starts tomorrow.

Irritable

I’m on my eighth day of no sugar. Primarily I am feeling:

Irritable

I am so bad tempered. Yesterday I was just so fed up and my fuse was so short – there wasn’t even anything wrong, I just felt angry. I know it isn’t hormonal as I’m in the first half of my cycle (god help me if I get to the end of the month and still feel like this because my PMS has been dreadful the last two months). It seems that this is just a phase while my neurotransmitters sort themselves out, but it’s bloody awful. The last two days especially have been bad. My internet research tells me my mood will improve considerably after the two week mark. This is probably what prompted me to:

Quit Facebook

I deactivated my account. I didn’t bother to tell anyone, I just deactivated it and haven’t gone back. I was so fed up with it. It’s such a pointless waste of time. I have kind of missed it, but I have also noticed how much time in between doing other stuff I was just wasting scrolling through my feed. Hurrah! Free of it all. And on a more positive note:

My appetite seems to have diminished

When I first stopped eating sugar, I ate MASSIVE meals. I was starving. I made sure I ate enough that I wouldn’t want to snack, but to fill my bottomless pit of a stomach required huge portions and several courses. Before I was eating these massive meals, I was just eating massive quantities of sugar.

Well, that seems to have rapidly tailed off. I am not craving sugar so badly in the mornings now (in fact, it seems like ages ago I would stop at the shop every day to buy two chocolate bars after breakfast, although it has only been a week), and I’ve noticed that I am feeling more and more full on less food. It’s like my body has realised that it isn’t as hungry as it thought it was. Another bonus is that:

Food tastes better

It really does! It almost feels like I can taste more than I could a week ago. For lunch today, for example, I ate a massive tuna salad and the first few mouthfuls were total bliss. I don’t even like tuna that much, but it was all I could find to go with the few wilted salad bits I had left in the fridge. Everything just tastes really nice. Which is great. And I have also noticed some progress on my:

Rashes

Okay, so my breast rash (man, it just sounds so embarrassing even saying it), I think is looking better. The top photo is today, the bottom is a week ago:

And more surprisingly, because I wasn’t even really thinking anything would change, is that the so far incurable fungal infection on my toe looks loads better (today on the top, last week on the bottom). I haven’t put anything on it, or done anything else to my diet other than cut out sugar:


Finally, I am still working on:

Exercise

I did a run today, 3.94km in 31:34. It’s not fast, and the wind was f*cking freezing (considering it’s the end of April), but I almost cannot believe that I can actually even do this. At the end of last year, my toe joints were so bad that I couldn’t put my shoes on without pain. I was limping, not walking. Today, I ran. Yes, there was a bit of pain in my feet, especially the right foot, all the way around, but the fact I can run at all is incredible.

I am still taking all the supplements and the joint pain in my thumbs in now negligible. I can still feel it if I try to stress the joint, but it’s not affecting me daily like it was (I couldn’t undo lids, or get the seatbelt on the kids without pain). I think the lack of sugar has also made a difference. I know that sugar is inflammatory, so I should have cut it out before, but you know how it is. Life, right? Anyway, no sugar and the supplements meant I ran further than I thought I would today and it felt amazing. I can’t wait to go out again.

Day 22

I’m 3 days into giving up the chocolate and treats and it has been manageable. My cravings were bad this morning and yesterday morning. The afternoons are easier. I’ve made sure I’ve eaten a decent meal at breakfast and lunch to try and curtail the urge to snack.

Yesterday the headache set in, but it hasn’t been bad enough for me to take a painkiller. I’ve still got the headache – it will probably be about day 5 before it goes away properly.

I haven’t been as irritable as I have on previous sugar-withdrawal occasions, but I have been extremely tired. And the rash on my breast has been, if anything, worse.

On the plus side I have also felt somehow better. I’ve wanted to do some exercise for the first time in months (helped greatly by my arthritic joint pain easing somewhat). Going for a run (well, a walk with a few jogs), felt both reassuring and fragile. My foot is still so bad, but the rest of me loved that loose, easy feeling of running along.

Did I mention that in a fit of delusion last year I entered the Great South Run? It’s a 10 mile race I’ve done twice in the last seven years. I know I am crazy thinking I might be able to train for it in my arthritic state, but I am thinking that maybe I could start and see where I am in a few months. Think positive, right? 

Day 20

My joint pain is improving. Not just ‘I think it is,’ more like ‘It definitely is.’

My thumbs hurt less when I use my hands to do everything. And this evening I realised that standing up at the end of the day when I’ve been sitting on the sofa isn’t as painful. I don’t have to slowly unfold myself feeling like my hips are going to get stuck or crack under sudden movement. Tonight it was just hip pain, not frozen-hip-and-every-other-joint pain. The supplements are actually helping.

Today was also day 1 of no sugar. I made sure to eat a reasonable sized breakfast and lunch. I did it. No headaches so far, and only mild cravings.

The body responds slowly, that much I know (I’m three weeks in almost and very little has changed so far). But my motivation is still high. I have a long way to go and I am looking forward to the journey.

Homocysteine Test Results

My results came back and they are fine. My level is 9. Anything above 9 is considered a risk, so I am right at the top end. Patrick Holford advises anything over 6 is less than optimum. So all in all, I might have slightly higher homocysteine levels, but considering I am a 42 year old coeliac with osteoarthritis and I am permanently exhausted, that’s not too bad, right?

After this, and the breast clinic visit, and my reasonably good blood results from December, I have had a bit of a think. The mind-body connection is a phrase bandied around a lot, but maybe in my case a lot of my ill health really does stem from my mental health, not my physical condition. The negative effects of stress and depression on the body are slowly being accepted by mainstream doctors. My mental health has been poor, pretty much since I became a mother seven and a half years ago.

Part of it was the realisation of my own parents under-parenting (which I had just never really given much thought until I had my own children), and part of it is the absolute exhaustion of being a mum with no one to help out – no family, no friends. I have found the journey so hard, and I have often felt so completely spent, but still had to pick up and carry on day after day. I have a perfectionist streak and criticise myself constantly.

And of course, when your mind is not right, you don’t do the right things when it comes to eating and exercise. I seek solace in chocolate and wine and pick at food instead of making myself proper meals. The long term effect is vitamin deficiencies and tiredness.

So I need to clean house – mentally – in order to make this journey work. I have finished searching for weird things that might be wrong with me (I think this is partly a hangover from three years of miscarriages with no attributable medical cause ever found). I need to focus on making the steps to clean up my diet, but also on making steps into the dusty, crowded, dark and neglected warehouse of my brain and putting things in order. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do that just yet.

Homocysteine Test

This post contains affiliate links which means at no cost to you I receive a small fee if you click on them and subsequently purchase a product. Thank you!

After the enormous amount of hours I have spent researching, I have settled on a theory that my MTHFR mutation is causing me to be undernourished and suffering from malabsorption (yeah, it sounds crazy, but so is debilitating arthritis at 42).

There is a lot of information on the internet about MTHFR, but not much in cold, hard print. The only really relevant text I could find was The Homocysteine Solution by Patrick Holford, so this is the one I’m going to base my initial lifestyle changes on in an attempt to reduce my arthritic pain.

For good measure (and because Amazon was clever enough to show it to me in the “also bought” section), I am also reading a copy of Say No To Arthritis by the same author.

Finally, just so I can have some kind of verification of what’s going on, I have ordered a homocysteine test at great expense (£149+postage). This is an enormous amount of money to drop on a something out of the blue, but I am at the point of desperation for answers and results, and nothing works like cold hard numerical analysis. I am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Solving The Joint Pain Problem

The first thing I need to do if I’m going to get super fit is solve the joint pain problem. I can’t do any decent exercise until I’ve calmed down the pain in almost every joint in my body.

From my toes, through my knees, my hips, my spine, my elbows, wrists and hands, everything hurts. Everything is a struggle.

I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in September last year, aged 41. Now I’m 42 and the pain is spreading at what seems like an increasing rate. And I really am SO done with it. I can’t function properly as a mother to my three children because my whole body hurts all the time.

So, I have spent every spare minute researching a trail through medical studies and literature to formulate a hypothesis on how to fix myself.

The traditional medical solution is painkillers and bone fusion. That just isn’t an option I want to look at to be honest.

I simply cannot believe that it is normal to feel the way I do and to have a body deteriorating as rapidly as mine seems to be. How the hell am I going to live to be 100 if at 42 I am already falling apart? I have a genuine fear that if I don’t do something radical to change what’s going on in my body, I could well be in a wheelchair by the time I am 50 (and my daughter will be only 9). Again, NOT an option I want to look at.

So, here in brief note-y form are the huge leaps I have taken through medical science to explain my own condition. I am not a doctor, but I am probably more interested in my own health than any doctor is.

Osteoarthritis

Scientists don’t really know WHY cartilage breaks down.
https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/2091/researchers-offer-first-direct-proof-of-how-arthritis-destroys-cartilage.aspx

However, joints in patients with OA exhibit a common trait of less viscous synovial fluid (the fluid that lubricates the joints)
http://www.boneandjoint.org.uk/content/jbjsbr/41-B/2/388.full.pdf

My hypothesis 1: Synovial fluid’s primary role is to lubricate and cushion. When faulty it doesn’t do this job properly and cartilage gets damaged through normal joint use, aka, “wear and tear”.

Currently there are no drugs available that can stop or reverse the process of cartilage degradation.
http://www.mdpi.com/2221-3759/3/4/177/pdf

My hypothesis 2: Fix my synovial fluid to prevent new damage.

Synovial fluid contains three things:

  1. Fluid filtered from blood plasma
  2. Lubricin secreted by cartilage chondrocytes
  3. Hyaluronan secreted by the cells of the synovial membrane

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synovial_fluid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) can be injected into the joint, but results are not great.
http://annals.org/aim/article/1305531/viscosupplementation-osteoarthritis-knee-systematic-review-meta-analysis

And oral HA is dubious – HA levels are a tumour marker (though not necessarily causative).

So why would my HA be low, and how can I raise it?

Oestrogen increases hyaluronic acid production (in mice). If my oestrogen is low, my HA would be low.

Evidence: I suffered multiple recurrent miscarriages when trying for a family.

So, if my oestrogen is low, how can I raise it?

Oestrogen is synthesised from androgens, which are synthesised from cholesterol – the primary steroid. Cholesterol is a precursor to several steroid hormones in the body including oestrogen and vitamin D.
http://www.dermalinstitute.com/uk/library/76_article_Hormones_and_Your_Skin.html

The liver, mainly, creates cholesterol (around 20%), but ALL cells make it as it is essential to life.
The body converts cholesterol to pregnenolone which is considered to be the “mother” hormone.
Pregnenolone is then converted to other hormones such as progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, and dozens of other critical hormones. If your cholesterol is low, these hormones will also be low.

Evidence: my cholesterol is very low : 2.4 mmol/L or 92mg/dL, and so are my triglycerides : 0.49mmol/L or 43mg/dL

I always thought that was a good thing, so I was stunned to discover this is actually quite bad and that it is linked to anxiety, depression, violent behaviour, infertility, suicide, and negative outcomes (ie death) in the critically ill/elderly:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/01/02/low-cholesterol-linked-to-violence.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/men/features/can-your-cholesterol-be-too-low-feature#1

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/4707834/Too-little-cholesterol-is-harmful-for-elderly.html

https://metabolichealing.com/cholesterol-your-body-is-incapable-of-making-hormones-without-it/

There is very little info on low cholesterol, but it is called hypocholesterolemia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocholesterolemia

Why is my cholesterol low and how can I raise it? 

Low cholesterol has me stumped. It can be caused by statins (nope), an inherited genetic disease (nope), a couple of other rare diseases (nope) or an extremely low fat diet (guffaw! Hardly the case for me).

The other general causes seem to be malnutrition and malabsorption. I am fairly slim, but I am certainly not malnourished in the true definition of the word. If I have malabsorption I don’t have the typical symptoms. However, in the absence of any other explanation, a sub-clinical undernourishment problem is what I’m going to go with.

Evidence: I do have a compound MTHFR mutation, which (it turns out), means I am a poor absorber of folate/B9, so perhaps this is not as crazy as it sounds.

The whole MTHFR thing uncovers a host of problems I may have, including low glutathione, and low choline. Choline is also further depleted by pregnancy and breastfeeding, as is cholesterol. I am still breastfeeding my daughter.

http://www.beyondmthfr.com/low-lipids-low-cholesterol-and-choline-deficiency/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782876/

My hypothesis 3: My compound MTHFR mutation, combined with three pregnancies, breastfeeding and a poor diet, has resulted in a malnourished state, causing low cholesterol and triglycerides, meaning low steroid hormones, which ends up causing low levels of hyaluronic acid and therefore the deterioration of my joints with osteoarthritis.

Now, I know that this is crazily unscientific, but it does make sense.

So this is what I am going to base my “treatment” on:

Reversing my “malnourished” state and then looking at how to best support my cartilage for regrowth (cartilage does regrow, just very very slowly).