30-day challenge to better health?

I frequently shop online at Well.ca, a Canadian online drug store whose prices are frequently better than local stores…and they offer free shipping with no minimum purchase requirements.

February at Well.ca is free sample month. And, unlike most free samples you get that are small, well, samples, several of the freebies offered by Well.ca are full-sized products. I placed an order recently and one of my free samples* was a 30-day supply of a new multivitamin with probiotics from Merck called Multibionta.

Multibionta makes the claims that it:

  • strengthens the immune system
  • optimizes digestive and intestinal health
  • reduces the duration of colds
  • reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms
  • reduces stress and exhaustion

Multibionta contains the usual daily multivitamin vitamins (A, D, E, C, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B6, B12, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid) and minerals (calicum, phospohorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and selenium) as well as the following probiotics:

which they say will help with digestive health, possibly help alleviate allergy symptoms (lord, do I need that), may help with lactose intolerance (part of the digestive health aspects), and boost the immune system.

Sounds like exactly the kind of thing I could use. For ongoing use, they’re pretty expensive ($15 for a month supply) but I can well afford to try them out with the free 30-day supply. And if I like it, the freebie includes a coupon for $10 off the regular product.

If you’re interested in trying them out for yourself, you can get a 30-day supply for free if you spend $30 or more at Well.ca this month, or you can get a coupon on the Multibionta web site for $5 off. Then you can sign up for their Multibionta 30 Days to Great Challenge and be entered to win an iPad. I’ve signed up and I think I’ll try to get back into posting here on this blog after my long absence by posting about whether or not I’m feeling any benefits.

* Another freebie was an awesome echinacia cough and throat drop called Herbon, which was perfect timing, since I’ve had a cough for the last two weeks that just won’t go away.


Chronic anemia

Geritol ad from the 1950s from Vintage Ad Browser.

As I wrote previously (in Koilonychia and Spoon nails redux) I’ve had trouble with my iron levels essentially since I was a child, when I was placed on a doctor-ordered regimen of Geritol. (I was about 9 years old.)

It has cropped up periodically, most recently when I had my pulmonary embolism in 2000. Then I had to take iron supplements for months just to bring my iron level up to the very low end of normal. (I can’t remember what the actual value range was but I believe 4 was considered the low end of normal and I was below 2.) I’m fairly confident it hasn’t risen a great deal since then — I’ve been avoiding my family doctor since about 2003 or so but none of the suspected causes of my anemia have really changed so it’s unlikely that the anemia has disappeared. (Note to self: Take that blood test requisition form you have and go get the tests done.)

I don’t know the precise cause of the chronic anemia. I presume it’s a combination of a lifetime of fussy eating (including general, though non-deliberate, avoidance of iron-rich foods) and heavy periods throughout my adult life. I doubt there is any kind of a familial tendency (not that there are any recognized genetic causes of iron-deficiency anemia) — my great aunt and my sister both suffer(ed) from pernicious anemia but I don’t know of anyone in my family who had iron-deficiency anemia except for me; then again I am usually the odd one out in my family.

Back when I’d first posted about anemia and koilonychia a year and a half ago, I’d half-heartedly experimented with taking my multi-vitamin supplements. It had some beneficial effect on my nails, but, unfortunately, I stopped taking the supplements shortly after that and saw the resumption of nail problems including the koilonychia. Recently I’ve become more and more aware of how terrible I feel and I think much of that is down to the continued chronic anemia: fatigue, sleepiness, palpitations or tachycardia, hair loss, dizziness, breathlessness, twitchy muscles (this has been bothering me more and more over the last few months), tingling or numbness (also a growing problem), messed up menstrual cycles, nail issues like koilonychia, and itchiness (even with massive antihistamine usage, I am itchy all the time).

So this time, instead of relying on a multi-vitamin, I’ve ordered a (fairly low 25 mg dose) iron supplement from Well.ca (my favourite drug store, frequently with lower prices than you’d find in a local drug store). I’ll have two-month’s supply from the one bottle I’ve ordered so I’ll give it a try for that amount of time and see if I notice any appreciable difference in the symptoms. In the meantime, I’ll also try to find that blood test requisition slip (it’s tucked inside of a book that I can’t locate right now) and get them done. Probably long past time that I sorted out what other issues I have. (I suspect diabetes is one of them, but I haven’t been willing to find out for sure up to this point, partly because I just can’t afford regular prescription medication right now.)

Start as you mean to go on

Though I’ve been overweight for much of my adult life, I was never debilitated by it. Up until about 1999 or so, I could and did walk long distances, did Tai Chi and yoga, could walk up and down stairs without trouble, despite weighing at times the equivalent of two regular-sized women. I had some back problems, but that was intermittent and more related to my tendency to be accident prone (and to having an ample bosom) than to my weight or state of health, since it started long before I ever became significantly overweight.

Sometime during the year or so leading up to my pulmonary embolism at the beginning of 2000, and worsening significantly in the years following, my body started to break down. There isn’t a moment that I am awake or asleep that at least one part of my body doesn’t ache, a constant miasma of unwellness. From the top of my head, where the remnants of past fractures make my hair follicles hurt, to the constant ache in lymph nodes under my arm and jaw, to the aches and pains in every joint — arthritic fingers and toes; elbows and knees that bore the brunt of too many clumsy falls and broken bones; the almost permanently torn rotator cuffs from bra straps that struggle and fail to win against gravity.

That’s not even considering the other physical complaints and breathing that feels as though someone is sitting on your chest all the time. I feel permanently oxygen-starved. I can’t concentrate. I have the attention span of a squirrel. I feel like I’m constantly recovering from the achy, feverish, tired, slightly-drugged effects of the flu. I’ve put up with it all for so long, barely able to muster the interest to note the issues, let alone actually do something about them. A few half-hearted past efforts failed, unsurprisingly, because I just couldn’t sustain the attention long enough to break old habits and build up new ones, resulting a Catch-22 situation as neglect results in more and more damage to a body already under extreme duress, which in turn exacerbates the mental and emotional issues leading to more self-abuse and neglect, and the cycle continues. 

It really needs to stop.

I turn 45 in a couple of months, and I have the body of a 90-year-old. A sick, frail 90-year-old. If I want to see 46, I need to smarten the hell up.


Not tomorrow. Not in a month. Now.

Little steps can lead to big results, but only if you actually take those first steps. I know what I need to do, I just need to figure out how best to sustain my wandering attention span until better habits are in place and can sustain themselves. Weird as it may sound, I may end up having to temporarily rely on 5-Hour Energy as a daily supplement instead of an occasional pick-me-up, since it is one of the few things that actually helps me to concentrate when my mind is all over the place. (It’s certainly the only reason that I was even capable of writing and publishing this post, which would otherwise have remained a half-formed thought in my Drafts folder for months.)

The Me Project 2.0: Week 7 begins

For some reason, I’m having a terrible allergic reaction to something yesterday and today — I have some hives breaking out on my upper arms and legs, and I am sneezing up a storm. I would swear I’d missed taking my antihistamines but I haven’t.

Was very briefly sleeping a normal schedule but that went out the window in the last couple of weeks during the push to release the Joomla site. Now my internal clock is screwed up — here it is 7am and I have been up since about noon on Sunday. Not good. I’ve also bitten all my nails again. So, “backsliding” is the word to describe the last few weeks. But not this one. Nosirree, bub.

Have decided to try to follow a semi-vegetarian diet. Actually, technically I’ve decided to follow a more natural, less processed diet, which conveniently enough happens to be mostly-vegetarian. I’m not prepared to start eating tofu at this time, but I want to try to cut out the heavily processed foods I’ve been eating. Had a bad hypoglycemic attack yesterday because I’d been too busy working on a site to eat properly. (Contrary to popular belief, peanut M&Ms, while chock full of peanutty protein goodness, do not help balance your blood sugar. I know — it surprised me, too. Next thing you know, they’ll decide that chocolate isn’t one of the major food groups and refined sugar is bad for you.)

I’ve also decided to try to cut back on (back on, I said, not out) the cheese (OMG did I write that out loud???) and other foods, like orange juice, that make me phlegmy. I’m hoping that will help clear up some of the problems I’ve been having lately as a result of my allergies. My digestive tract will probably be happy about the cheese thing as well — I’m mildly lactose intolerant. Also, though I don’t eat much of it, I’m going to try to give up tomato sauce — my body has never tolerated tomatoes well. So, no pizza, no cheesy/tomatoey pasta. I can feel my colon singing out in anticipated relief as I write. (No, you don’t want to know what a singing colon feels like.)

I’d like to say I’m going to start this right away, but I refuse to waste the food I’ve already bought. So, I will finish up the food I’ve got on hand and just try not buy any more to replace it when I next get groceries.

Get a grip

*Still* haven’t gotten the actual contract for the job I’m supposed to be starting on March 30. Seriously? It’s supposed to start in a little over a week and I still feel like I’m being dangled out of a window. The fact that I haven’t gotten the paperwork yet tells me that they’re still waffling about the start date, which ticks me off more than a little. Unfortunately, I seem to have a lost a grip on myself when this whole shillyshallying thing started. I *should* have been actively looking for something else and just taking care of the things I need to take care of, but instead I seem to have slipped back into the arms of clinical depression, which isn’t manifesting itself as sadness but rather is manifesting itself as avoidance and apathy. Sad (or even SAD) depression might be better. I’m getting nothing at all accomplished.

I need to shake it off and get my shit together. I haven’t been outside in the daylight in so long — maybe I just need some natural vitamin D to perk me up. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice so I think I’ll head outside.

You don’t grow out of it

I was one of those kids that mothers curse their children with when they get older, a challenging child “just like you”, who will make you apologize to your mother for all the grief you put her through. Full of the curiousity that killed the cat, stubborn, determined, too smart for her own good and eager to make sure everyone knew (correcting teachers was a favourite pastime).

I was — and still am — a very fussy eater. I could happily eat the same things on a regular schedule and never get bored. I don’t want to experiment, I don’t want to change things up. I don’t want to broaden my palate. My taste buds are perfectly happy, thankyouverymuch. My sister is not considered by anyone to be a fussy eater, yet she is more rigid in her eating habits than anyone I know, including me. The main difference between us, and the reason that I’m classified a fussy eater and she isn’t, is that she isn’t open about her dislikes. Unless you eat with her regularly, you’d never know just how particular she is. You’d never know that she  rejects new foods based on look or smell, even if she knows that she likes all of the ingredients that make up that food.

There are varying degrees of aversion that most people — not just fussy eaters — have towards various foods:

There are foods you wouldn’t eat if you were starving and they were all that was standing between you and death — mushrooms, any meat that looks like it actually came from a living creature (that includes insects and grubs, shellfish, anything with bones or recognizable body parts, and meat that is pink or bleeding), and tofu if I can smell it fall into that category for me.

There are foods you don’t like but could force yourself to eat if you had to in order to live (and I mean an immediate threat of starvation, not “eating grossitemA will help prevent diseaseB”) — bleu cheese, asparagus, cauliflower, refried beans, and creamed corn fall into that category for me.

And there are foods you’d prefer not to eat but could eat to be polite or because they are good for you — broccoli, wax beans, whole wheat anything, cashews, walnuts, tomatoes, and peppers fall into that category for me.

Fussy eating is something you don’t always grow out it. And there’s no reason you should have to. People really need to stop trying to make us feel ashamed for knowing what we like and don’t like. As long as your nutritional needs are being met by what you eat, why does it matter to anyone?

Surefire hiccups cure

We’ve all tried the usual thing to stop hiccups — holding your breath, drinking water, drinking water while holding your breath, eating a spoonful of sugar, etc. I don’t know about you but they rarely work for me on their own.

The key to stopping persistent hiccups is to calm the spasms in your diaphragm. Holding your breath alone doesn’t always accomplish that, nor does drinking water or just ignoring it and hoping the hiccups go away. I get hiccups fairly frequently (including this morning) and I’ve never yet had the following home remedy not work — give it a try yourself the next time you have a case of the hiccups that won’t go away:

  1. Right after you hiccup, exhale completely from your diaphragm. (Contract your upper abdominal muscles near the diaphragm as you exhale.)
  2. Inhale completely from your diaphragm and then hold your breath.
  3. While holding your breath, drink as many small sips of water as you can (aim for about a cupfull at least, if you can).
  4. Hold your breath as long as you can after you stop sipping the water and then exhale. The hiccups should be gone.

The entire process above should only take about 20 seconds or so. If your hiccups are coming too frequently, the process above may be interrupted by a hiccup (usually that interruption will come during the initial exhalation in step 1) — just restart.

Happy Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras) is the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent. For many of us, it’s better known as Pancake Day, a day to pig out on pancakes and syrup.

I almost always forget about Pancake Day until it’s too late. When I was living at home, my mother would make a big pancake supper. When we were older and no longer living at home, we would usually get together at Smitty‘s for pancakes and omelettes. And when I first moved up here to Ottawa, work colleagues and I would head to the pancake house that used to be at the corner of St. Laurent and Industrial (it later became a Hooters — I don’t remember what it is now). On my own, I usually go for Eggos instead of pancakes because I don’t own a frying pan and I like waffles better than pancakes, but the intent is the same. I haven’t had Eggos in years so there are yummy times ahead today. 😀

Interesting sites:

Perils of the Pill

Normally, I don’t pay attention to birth control pill commercials on TV. Tonight, my attention was attracted by a commercial for Yaz. Yaz advertises itself as a contraceptive as well as a treatment for PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and moderate acne. And that is what caught my attention.

In 1999, I developed a number of different symptoms related to hormonal problems, including really irregular periods, horrible mood swings, and a resurgence of teenage acne. I wasn’t on my usual Pill at the time because I discovered through trial and error that it exacerbated my depression. But I needed something to try to even out the hormonal problems. When I went to my doctor in late 1999, I insisted I be prescribed a new (in Canada, anyway) drug called Diane-35, which contained a combination of estrogen and cyproterone. Cyproterone is an anti-androgen. It was a bad choice on my part. By January 3, 2000, I was in the Ottawa General emergency room with a pulmonary embolism. Because the hospital was overloaded with flu victims and there were no beds, I was sent home to inject heparin into my stomach twice a day for a week. The doctors weren’t overly concerned about the specific drug I was taking and didn’t report it to Health Canada’s Adverse Drug Reaction Database. (Added later: This database was later renamed the Canada Vigilance Adverse Reaction Online Database.)

While some dispute their validity, CBC’s Disclosure (2003) and CBC Marketplace (2005) have both aired stories about Diane-35 and all of the women who developed blood clots while taking it. The Disclosure page, which is currently 404 (I’ve left it linked in case CBC is just moving things around temporarily) included extracts from the drug reaction database and it would appear that I was actually one of the first women to develop a blood clot in Canada while taking it.

Which brings me back to Yaz. Yaz is a combination of estrogen and drospirenone, which acts something like an anti-androgen. That would concern me. I took Ortho 7/7/7 for over a decade with no hint of blood clots, but developed a PE within a month or so of starting Diane-35. I’ve had no blood clot issues since, despite being more sedentary and having at least one genetic marker for increased blood clot risk. That tells me that the cyproterone/estrogen combination was most like the culprit. That makes me suspicious of the safety of combining other anti-androgen or pseudo anti-androgens with estrogen.