Thursday, February 27, 2014

Being A Good Neighbor

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the next greatest is to love our neighbor. I'm sure I fail at this many times. Still, I can't help wishing that more people knew how to be good neighbors and to truly consider the needs of others, especially in the area of health. 

We know most of the people in our neighborhood and are on friendly terms with them. Unfortunately it's their ignorance of environmental toxins that often cause problems for me. I wish I could enlighten them about the dangers of their chemical choices. So far I just continue to pray and watch for good opportunities.

Being Neighbors

Oh neighbors, 
you are always friendly when we meet on the street,
you rarely have loud parties,
you keep your lawns well-trimmed, 
yet you do not know what harms us most. 

Oh neighbors, 
why must you use fabric softener in your dryer that blows directly into my backyard? 
why must you burn leaves and trash on a beautiful Saturday morning?
why must you spray for mosquitos in the dry season?
why must you paint cars and fill the air with epoxy? 

Oh neighbors,
to 'love your neighbor as yourself' requires a better knowledge,
to understand you are doing harm to yourselves, not just to others,
to change your toxic ways would help us both,
if only I could help you see.

To be a good neighbor is no easy thing.
Perhaps one day we'll learn from each other, 
what the other needs.

I'm learning how true it is that being a good neighbor is no easy thing. For those of us with EI, we wish more people understood about the negative effects of their chemical choices. We can keep praying and sharing as we have opportunity. In the meantime, perhaps we can evaluate what area we might improve in to be good neighbors to those around us.

P.S. Here's an excellent blog post by my friend Martha about why we should care about chemicals as part of being good neighbors to others.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Cost-Reward Ratio

This isn't a new concept; lots of people use it in various areas of life. However, this post is to explain how those of us with chronic illness continuously live by the cost-reward ratio.

Healthy people make plans and fill their schedules with little to no thought about if they'll have energy for such things. They may factor in other considerations, but they naturally assume they'll be able to do whatever they plan to do. Not so with chronic illness. 

For those with chronic illness, we must weigh the cost to our bodies if we do certain things (sometimes even just getting out of bed). The cost is then compared with the reward. Which is higher? That determines what we choose to do or not do.

When I was severely ill, everything I wanted to do was extremely high on the "cost" side, with almost nothing on the "reward" side. Thus, I rarely did anything or went anywhere. Physically it just wasn't possible. Staying alive was my main goal, with no strength left for anything else.

Thankfully, as I've gotten better, I've been able to do more again. Still, I'm continually assessing, what is the cost of this activity compared to the reward?

Right now I have some pretty good days and some not so good days. So on the good days, I can handle a little more "cost" for the reward. Other days I know my body isn't strong enough for the cost of certain activities. 

Examples: On a good day, the cost of going to church (exposure to perfume, output of energy, etc.) is medium, while the reward is high (being with friends, worshipping God, etc.). So on a good day, I choose to go to church. 

On a bad day, say, a friend invites me out to lunch. The cost (eating not very healthy food, exposure to chemicals in the restaurant, etc.) is weighed against the reward (sweet fellowship with my friend). But since it's a bad day physically, the cost comes out higher than the reward.  

Whatever activities or opportunities come up, they are considered in this way. (The recovery period is also factored into the "cost" long will it take my body to recover from doing ___?) Sometimes it's an unconscious factoring, and I immediately know what I should do. Other times it's a prayerful deliberation about what is best for me in the overall picture.  

The reason I explain this cost-reward concept is because I'm sure for healthy people, it's often confusing why those with chronic illness choose to do certain things while turning down other invitations. It's not that we're fickle, unloving, or crazy. We live with a constant measuring of what our bodies can handle and what is too much. That's why patience, grace, and understanding from others mean so much to us. 

On a positive note, it's not a bad idea for healthy people to use this concept as well. Consider the toxic factors in the activities you choose to do. 

*Is there mold in a certain movie theatre? Then don't go there (or at least not often). The experience of seeing a movie is not a high enough reward to expose yourself to poisonous mold. 

*How often do you eat out a month? Eating fast food or even restaurant food is a toxic weight on your body. Measure the cost to your health against whatever reward it gives you (not having to cook, visiting with friends, etc.). 

These are just a couple of quick examples. If you consider your weekly activities you'll probably find more things you might want to evaluate in light of the cost and reward.

The world is not the same as it used to be. More and more chemicals are invading every area of life, making it essential for us to live differently than we did 20 years ago. Those with chronic illness are basically forced to change how we live and carefully guard our bodies. But even "healthy" people need to be aware of the cost-reward ratio and be proactive about protecting their health.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Few More Thoughts about Allergies

This is my third post in a series about allergies. (If you missed them, you can go back and read the first and second posts.) I hope this information has been helpful for you. 

Delayed reactions vs immediate ones:
Some people have symptoms immediately when they have an allergic reaction. This was mostly how I was. I knew within seconds of entering a building or eating a food, if I was allergic to it. This can be very annoying as it limits you from doing things. However, it's also a blessing because you can quickly identify the source of the reaction.

Other people however, can have delayed reactions. They may not show any symptoms for hours or days after they've been exposed to an allergen. While these people can often continue functioning, it's much harder for them to figure out what exactly they are allergic to. Again, the best way is to pay attention and watch for patterns. 

Stop, avoid and be proactive:
The nature of allergic reactions is that they tend to get worse by the minute. So, as soon as you realize you're having an allergic reaction, stop what you're doing and if possible get away from the source of the allergy (such as leaving a moldy building, stop eating a food if you're reacting to it, etc.). Then immediately take action to control the reaction. 

I recommend taking tri-salts right away. It's a simple powder that you put in a little water and drink. I carry it in my purse so I always have it. Tri-salts help neutralize the reaction before it can get worse. (You can read more about tri-salts here.) If you need something stronger, then maybe consider benedryl. It's not a natural product, but it is effective when you need strong help for a reaction. Before I learned about the CBT allergy treatment, I carried benedryl with me everywhere because I couldn't risk a serious reaction without something to stop it. Some people also carry an epi-pen, for those life-threatening kinds of allergic reactions.

Whatever you do, when you're having a reaction, don't tell yourself to "tough it out." That's the worst thing you can do. Also, if necessary have someone in your life who can tell you to take your tri-salts or benedryl! Sometimes in the midst of an allergic reaction, people cannot think clearly and need someone else to help them get away from the allergen and take proactive measures. (My mom had to do this for me for many years.) 

Increasing severity: 
Certain allergic reactions can get worse with each exposure. For example, the first time a person eats a mushroom they might get a headache, and not even realize what was the cause. The next time they eat mushrooms they could break out in hives. By the third time they might have a swollen tongue or trouble breathing, etc. Because of this, it's important to recognize allergies quickly and then either avoid or treat the allergy with CBT or some effective method.

Allergy shots:
In general, I don't recommend allergy shots. I know many doctors use them, and some people are helped by them. From my observations and my own experience of using allergy shots for years, I believe that in many cases they do more harm than good. 

If you are currently taking allergy shots, be sure to talk with your doctor about how long you should use them. I know some doctors say to keep taking them all your life. However, I think that's not the best way to use the shots. They should be able to wean you off the shots at some point. 

Of course, as I've already shared, I believe that the CBT allergy treatment is more effective and completely natural and safe, not stressing the body. It's also true that as you do things to improve your health and build up your immune system, your allergies should lessen. 

Well, that's a lot of information about allergies. =) Do you have any other questions I haven't addressed?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

More About Allergies

Here are some more thoughts about allergies that I hope will be helpful. 

Allergies in combinations:
I learned that I could be allergic to combinations of things. 

Sometimes it's combinations of foods. Potatoes by themselves might be fine, but potatoes with tomatoes, not so fine. Beef may good, but beef with broccoli, not so good. 

Sometimes it's foods & the environment. For many years I had an egg--oak allergy. I reacted to eggs when the oak trees were pollinating. 

Sometimes it's something I'm detoxing and a food. When I was detoxing the prednisone I took years ago, it made me react to certain foods that normally I was ok with. 

To discover allergic combinations use detective skills and pay attention, not just to what you're eating, but also to what's going on around you and in your body.

Watch for patterns:
Sometimes allergies can be trigged by certain patterns or habits in your life. For instance, when I used to eat sugar or dairy, it made me more apt to react to other things. Once I figured this out, I knew to either avoid the sugar and dairy or to be prepared that when I ate them, I would probably have allergies to other things.

For some people having a lack of sleep can trigger more allergic reactions. Being dehydrated is also a common trigger, as well excess stress. If you watch you can probably figure out what patterns may increase or worsen your allergies. 

Chronic or hidden allergies: 
These are allergies to things that you're exposed to on a regular basis. Many times people eat the same foods every day. They have general symptoms they can't explain. But they don't have an immediate or severe reaction to anything they eat. However, because they ingest the allergic foods every day, they have an ongoing reaction that causes the general symptoms. 

(Note: The same can be true of any personal care or home product you use regularly. You may be allergic to it without realizing.)

A good way to discover these chronic allergies is to change your diet for at least 10 days, eating completely different foods or ones you rarely eat. This gives the body time to clear itself from the foods you eat regularly (such as dairy, wheat, sugar, corn, eggs, potatoes, etc.) that might be a chronic allergic exposure. After the 10 days, add back in the foods you regularly eat - one at a time. When you expose yourself to each food again, after the body has been away from it, it usually will cause a reaction if you're allergic to that food. (In this case I'm talking about real foods, not man-made foods. Canned, packaged and processed foods are full of chemicals and additives that are bad for the body. If you have symptoms after eating them, it's probably not an allergy so much as the natural consequences of eating things we weren't intended to ingest.) 

Also, remember again the allergic combination possibility. Sometimes people don't feel better by simply eliminating dairy, but if they avoid dairy and sugar, or dairy and wheat, then they see changes. That's why it's important to change your diet to foods you rarely eat for those first 10 days, then gradually add back the other foods one at a time. 

This chronic allergy can happen with any foods, even "healthy" ones like oranges, lettuce, etc. Sometimes a hidden allergy to one or more foods is responsible for many unexplained symptoms. Experimenting with your diet can help you identify which foods you're allergic to and which ones are actually good fuel for your body. (Each person's body is unique, so no one diet works for everyone. Some people feel better when eating all raw veggies, others need cooked veggies; some do better with high protein diets, others with high fat; etc.) I encourage you to find what works best for your body.

Spreading allergies:
It seems that once your immune system begins to struggle and allergies appear, if you don't take effective measures, then the allergies often spread. 

In other words, you may start out with an allergy to eggs. This is a warning sign from your body. If you do nothing, then before you know it, you may be allergic to potatoes, trees, dogs, etc. Your body is trying to get your attention, and it will continue to send more warning signals until you do something to address the problem. 

So don't ignore those allergies! Receive them as a message from your body and take effective action.

Well, I have a few more thoughts to share, but this post is already rather long, so I'll save them for next week. =)