Friday, February 28, 2014

What I Learned on The Clean Program

Although I don't anticipate it being the main focus of this blog (or our lives), I wrote about my health history and my addiction to sugar  in previous posts because I wanted to provide some context for what we've been doing lately.  But I have one last bit of back story to give you before you're all caught up.

For years, I've had a problem with my hands and forearms going numb - usually early in the morning while I sleep.  There's the normal thing that happens to everyone: when you sit on your foot for too long, it falls asleep and you have to shake it out and go through that pins-and-needles feeling to get it to come back.  And then there's this thing that happens to me: I'm sleeping in bed in no particular position - often flat on my back, but it could also be on my side, and my hand goes numb.  When it's really bad, I can also get nerve pain (which feels like pressure, burning, and freezing simultaneously), and the only way to make the pain stop and the numbness to go away is to sit or stand up and let my arm dangle by my side.  This leads to a fair amount of sleep deprivation, which leads to crazy.  The problem gets worse when I'm working on projects that require a lot of upper body work (like woodworking, one of my favorite things to do in the world), and the problem subsides during periods when I'm doing less upper body work.

So I've gone to doctors.  I think there's been 5 or 6 of them, and a couple of physical therapists, and 3 chiropractors.  I got x-ray'ed and zapped with things to make my nerves fire and given stretches and exercises.  I learned a lot, including that I have a herniated disc in my neck, and that there's one particular way a chiropractor can crack my neck that makes my hands feel like they light up with electricity.  I found out my condition is called neuropathy.  But nothing made the problem go away completely or long-term.

Then, in late December, 2012, my mother got sick, and I spent 3 weeks taking care of her in the hospital in Grand Rapids, where there is very little healthy food to be found (it's a high-carb sort of world out there).  By the time I got home, I was feeling pretty crummy, and my friend Bernadette recommended I try The Clean Program, the instructions to which Dr. Oz had put up for free on his web site.  I think it has been taken down now, so if you're interested to find out more, this link points to the FAQ on The Clean Program's community forum.  If you dig around, you can find everything you need to know to try it without buying anything.  There's probably nothing wrong with them, but those kits and things people sell always smell like quackery to me.  

Cindy is a dream, so she was all for trying the month-long cleanse together.  If you don't know, The Clean Program (as we did it) is basically just a short-term restricted diet on which you cannot have things like sugar, anything in the nightshade family (such as tomatoes and peppers), peanuts, strawberries, bread, dairy, and the big one for Cindy: caffeine.  She complained about it her lack of coffee the whole time, which I mostly thought was hilarious.  (Perhaps my disinterest in caffeine comes from my Mormon genes; I've never really cared much about it, personally.) 

During the second half of the cleanse, I noticed that I was not having any nerve pain symptoms anymore.  They have gone away for periods before in the past, so I didn't think much of it.  But when it came time to reintroduce the foods we had eliminated, I remained completely fine until the night I had dessert with dinner for the first time in a month.  Early the next morning, the numbness was back!

Well, that was pretty much a revelation, peppered with a dash of torture.  And reading up on neuropathy a little bit shows me that there's a known link between numbness and diabetes.  To me, that spells validation!  I don't have diabetes, but I very easily could (It's very prevalent on my Mormon side).  And I DO have a sugar addiction, with a long history of putting way too much of it in my body.  So now I get to choose between feeling pain and eating sugar. 

By the way, when I say "sugar", I'm talking about bread-type-stuff in addition to sweets.  Hm.  Perhaps I should have mentioned that sooner...

It has been a year since we did The Clean Program.  Addiction thinking is slithering and persistent, like a snake.  I sometimes find myself negotiating with my addiction and pushing the envelope.  My sugar tolerance has gotten better since I've drastically decreased the amount of it that I'm eating.  Now-a-days, the numbness will come after a couple of days with bites of candy and dessert after meals (such as during our Valentine's weekend trip to Virginia a couple of weeks ago).  I often don't stick to terribly rigid rules and eliminate sugar completely.  But then, sometimes I do.  Last night, I had a dark chocolate peanut butter cup after dinner.  It was too sweet and made me feel a little jittery.  So maybe I will just avoid the stuff entirely.  I don't know... I just want to stay healthy and pain free without having to fuss.

And in case you're wondering how things turned out with my mom, here she is on the day after I brought her home from 3 weeks in the hospital and 2 weeks in recovery at a dear friend's house.  She's getting ready to do her favorite thing to hate: clear snow off her 200 yard driveway with the tractor.


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