February 22, 2012
My wife and I recently graced the cover of AARP: The Magazine. Actually, Meredith graced the cover. I was the guy next to her. The article focused on our family, and how we have coped with serious illnesses through the years. Readers were kind, responsive and generous with their ideas for treating chronic conditions, MS in particular.
In letters and emails, through books and videos, experts and everyday folks told their stories. Virtually everyone had a plan or theory, many with claimed success vignettes of their own. I am grateful and, frankly, overwhelmed by the quantity of information just sitting on tables and desks, any level piece of furniture. I do not know what to do with the stuff.
And I am confused. Who am I supposed to believe? What should be taken seriously? Every letter was different. Some of the material is way out there. Most recently, I received a carton of books with a warm and wonderful note. One volume offered the cure for HIV AIDS, another the prevention of all cancers. That thick book contained chapters such as Our Cosmic Connections and Sickness be Gone. The series presented numerous anecdotal case studies.
The temptation, of course, is to scoff. But mainstream medicine has not produced formulas for preventing or curing these and many other deadly diseases. Common sense suggests that I keep looking. I do believe now more than ever, probably due to frustration with the failure of doctors to treat MS effectively, that the time has come to think outside the box. I am ready to travel new roads in search of answers.
I have come to believe that diet plays an extraordinary role in the direction a disease takes and how quickly it progresses. Yet one so-called expert contradicts the next. Eat free range beef and chicken. Do not eat any red meat. Take fish oil supplements. Fish oil supplements are a waste of time and money. And I am supposed to adjudicate this disagreement for myself?
Common sense is your ally in situations like this. I have, in fact, stopped eating red meat and even chicken. There is no way animal fat is anything but bad for humans. I have cholesterol issues, so this decision seemed to be a no brainer. Besides, there is something repugnant about eating a creature that is supposed to running around. “Animals are my friends,” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “and I don’t eat my friends.”
I try to stay away from dairy products, which many nutritionists have declared a no-no. I do not drink milk, though a little bit on cereal does find its way down my throat from time to time. Then there is the shot of half and half in my one cup of coffee each day. Of course a yogurt makes a mighty good modest lunch. Oh, yes. There is that frozen yogurt once in a while.
Did I say I am staying away from dairy? I do think my intake is modest, especially compared to what it used to be. I believe in moderation more than absolutes. This is not a religion, at least for me. Of course, there are those who worship at the dairy-free alter.
The tough task is to give up glutens, or even understand what they are.
“The mixture of proteins found in wheat grains, which are not soluble in water,”
according to one dictionary. “Any of the prolamins found in cereal grains,
especially the prolamins in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats, that cause
digestive disorders.” Huh?
In other words, everything you like. Examples: breads, rolls, muffins, cookies, biscuits, . muffins, donuts, cakes, pastry, pizza, pasta, pancakes. Get the picture? That is just the beginning. This is not so radical, but the plan is hard to implement, unless you want to be an air-eating fanatic who never gets invited anywhere for dinner.
There are quality of life considerations in any decision we make about what we will eat. Nobody wants to deprive themselves of all fun foods. On the other hand, for many of us who know chronic illness, there is a price tag for good health. I have told Meredith on many bad days that I would eat cardboard if I could feel better. If we are what we eat, many of us have a big job on our hands.