Saturday, July 27, 2013

Silver Sneakers Success!

So today marks a huge milestone in my journey to health. Last week I joined a gym, and today I had my first workout with my personal trainer. Now for those of you that know my story, you know that the nightmare actually began in the gym during a high intensity spin class two years ago. Since the Big Meltdown, I have not stepped foot in a gym until last week when I took the courageous step to join one again.

Over the past two years I've done my best to stay active and in the best shape possible. Even if it was only a walk around the back yard, or the most basic of stretching I was determined to not let my illness completely take me down. I made it a habit to practice gentle yoga a few times a week (even if it was just seated stretching), and lightly bounce on my rebounder daily (sometimes for only 2 minutes!). I also did the Sit and Be Fit workouts as well, which I highly recommend.

Today was different though. Today I was leaving the safety of my home and going to workout in a public place with plenty of smells and a more intense workout than I've done in a very long time- and most importantly- a place that equalled big time trauma in my brain.

As I dusted off my workout shoes I'll admit I was nervous. All sorts of thoughts and "What If's" ran through my head. "What if I can't do it?" "What if I pass out?" "What if I have a bad reaction to the smells?" "What if I panic?" "What if I'm not ready for this?" All these thoughts ran through my mind as I got ready, got in my car, and got even stronger as I pulled into the parking lot. I almost punked out. I almost let myself turn around and go back home. But thanks to prayer, thought questioning, a couple quick rounds of FasterEFT, and encouraging words from my Dearest I put aside my fear and faced it head on.

When I stepped into the gym I was immediately accosted by the aroma of the cleaning spray that they use to wipe down the machines. I ignored the tingling sensation in my ears and focused on greeting my new trainer, Arthur. As we talked, I felt more and more comfortable. He asked about my medical condition and I gave him the Cliff's notes version. By the time I was finished, Arthur was looking at me in both amazement and disbelief- the typical reaction that I get from those who hear about it for the first time!

He then took my height, weight, and BMI. He said that my weight and BMI were actually perfect for my height and age. And here I was seeing myself looking like a concentration camp survivor. Another prime example of how our perceptions of ourselves can be so incredibly twisted! So that was an unexpected bonus, and a great confidence booster!

We started off with some easy walking on the treadmill for a 10 minute warm up, followed by some basic stretching. There were a few moments I started to get "jelly legs" but I kept silently talking to myself and persisted. We then moved on to the weight machines. We did arms and shoulders first, lighter weight and higher reps. I kept myself moving slow and steady, focusing on each muscle as it worked. Arthur was very encouraging- talking to me the whole time, praising my progress, and steadying me when I got a little wobbly. He was incredibly patient!

After arms we moved onto legs and then abs. After abs a bit more stretching, and before I knew it the session was over. "That's it?" I asked Arthur. "What do you mean that's it? You've been working out for an hour straight!" I couldn't believe that I had already done an hour and wanted to do more! "That's enough for today" said Arthur. "Baby're just getting back into it." He then went on to compliment my perseverance and said that he couldn't believe what good shape I was in after all that I've been through. He informed me that his sister has Fibromyalgia and that he was going to tell her all about me. Hopefully my story would inspire her to work toward getting off medication and on the track to real healing.  Be a blessing to others....another unexpected bonus for the day!

Watch out Agnes! I'm catching up to you!

As I made my way home, I felt the tears well up in my eyes. I've cried so many tears over the past two years, but these were tears of joy and not of sadness. I thought of myself 6 months ago...a time that the idea of joining a gym and doing a real full hour workout seemed like a distant dream. A time that driving my car was an epic undertaking, and even simple housework was enough to exhaust me. I felt like I had just climbed and conquered a mountain. Not even just by finishing the workout, but by facing my fear head on. By not letting my anxiety get the best of me, and by not letting trauma win. It feels so good to experience the positive results of hard work!

I pulled into the driveway of my house and put my car in park. I sat there for a minute, relishing the moment and focusing on the feeling so that I can revisit it later on when needed. I wrapped my arms around myself and gave Me a big hug. "You've come a long way, baby. A long way..."

Friday, July 26, 2013

All About Salicylates and Salicylate Intolerance

More and more people these days are discovering that they are salicylate intolerant. Salicylate intolerance is actually becoming almost as prevelent as gluten intolerance. In my own personal healing journey, finding this important piece to the puzzle was one of the key factors in making great strides toward regaining my health once again. You see, having salicylate sensitivity pretty much crushes all traditional ideas of "healthy eating". When we think "healthy eating" we think plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, moderate protein, and whole grains (in the case of Paleo no grains). Because of the media and many popular health gurus out there, many have been led to believe that a vegetarian or vegan diet is the healthiest way to eat. Unfortunately if you are sensitive to salicylates, these diets can be absolute poison and totally counterproductive to healing.

Now before and vegans, veggies, or Paleos attack me, I'm going to remind you that I followed all three of these diets full throttle for a good portion of my life. I became a vegetarian back in 2004 and then a vegan in 2005. I followed a strict vegan diet for almost 5 years on the 80-10-10 principle consisting of 80% raw foods. When I became ill in 2011, I switched to a Paleo diet and continued to follow that until May of 2013 when out of desperation I switched to Failsafe.

I'm not going to get into the whole vegan/veggie thing in this post. I will save that one for another day :). What I will say is that for the longest time I could not understand why I kept feeling worse and worse as time went on with these supposedly pure and healthy diets. Before I became severely ill I ate organic at least 70% of the time, but as the years progressed on a vegan diet I began to experience changes in my energy levels, moods, and hormones. After being struck down by illness, I devoted myself to eating 100% organic and fresh at all times. Although I was now eating local grass-fed meats and had cut down fruit drastically because of the sugar, I tripled my daily intake of vegetables. After being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, I was instructed by a "practitioner" to cut out all carbs in the form of grains and starchy veggies and to follow a strict Paleo diet. It seemed that the "healthier" I ate, the sicker I became.

Now I'm not saying that vegetables and fruits are bad. I love fruits and vegetables! I was very content to eat them all day long every day, but unfortunately my body felt differently about it. Fruits and vegetables are, in general very healthy....unless you're sensitive to salicylates.

So you might be asking, what are salicylates?

Salicylates are chemicals that occur naturally in many plants, including many fruits vegetables, and herbs. Salicylates in plants act as a natural immune hormone and preservative, protecting the plants against diseases, insects, fungi, and harmful bacteria. Salicylates are also created synthetically and can be found in many medicines, perfumes and preservatives.

Salicylates are found virtually everywhere, so if you're salicylate sensitive this can pose big problems. Its (fairly) easy to avoid exposure by controlling your diet, but sals can also travel into your body trans-dermally (through your pores) and through your nose via inhalation of fumes and scents. 

Even though they can be artificially produced, salicylates are the naturally occurring defense system of plants. You see contrary to popular belief, plants really don't want to be eaten. Furthermore, there are studies that correlate increased salicylate production by plants in response to our modern day toxic environment. Plants are evolving to protect themselves against the high amounts of industrial toxins in our soil, and the new super bugs resulting from overuse of pesticides and antibiotics. So we must understand that while our grandparents enjoyed a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables with no issues, we are dealing with a new era of food and environment. 

What it means to be salicylate intolerant

In high enough doses salicylates are harmful to everyone, but most people can handle average amounts of salicylate in food, products and medications without experiencing any adverse affects . But, there are many out there for which even a small amount of salicylates causes problems. Both adults and children may develop symptoms and health problems from dose-related salicylates. This is called ‘Salicylate Sensitivity’ or ‘Salicylate Intolerance’ and is different than an allergy. People with salicylate intolerance are unable to handle more than a certain amount of salicylates at a time. The tolerated amount and items are different from person to person. For example, one person may be able to handle a serving of carrots (moderate sals) but not a serving of coconut (very high sals). Some people can handle the sals in personal care products such as lotion or toothpaste, but not in food. Every Body is truly different, so finding your own personal threshold is very important.

 Salicylates also have a cumulative effect in the body and build up over time, this means that a salicylate sensitive person may be able to tolerate a small amount of salicylates but will experience symptoms after excessive exposure over time. Also note that if you've got an aspirin allergy, hands down you're intolerant to salicylates. 

Salicylate Intolerance Symptoms

Please note that I AM NOT A DOCTOR, and the info I am providing is purely info and not meant to diagnose any diseases or conditions. Many of the symptoms below overlap with other conditions, so if you're unsure, it's best to consult with your healthcare provider.

The symptoms of salicylate intolerance are truly head spinning and can be downright confusing! I personally experience many of these symptoms upon intake of too many sals, and it took me a long time (and alot of pain and suffering!) to figure out that sals were causing problems. 

Physical Symptoms:
  • Itchy skin, hives or Rashes 
  • Stomach pain/upset stomach 
  • Asthma 
  • Headaches 
  • Swelling of hands and feet 
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Bed Wetting 
  • Mouth Ulcers or raw hot red rash around mouth 
  • Persistent cough 
  • Frequent need to urinate/urgency to pass water 
  • Wheezing 
  • Changes in skin color/skin discoloration 
  • Swelling of eyelids, face and lips 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sore, itchy, puffy or burning eyes 
  • Watering eyes 
  • Anaphylaxis (this is very rare, but deadly) 
  • Sinusitis 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea 
  • Chronic sweating or no sweating 
  • Aching Muscles and joints 
  • Congestion 
  • Nasal polyps 
  • Chest pains
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Low platelet count
  • Acne
  • Addictions
  • Arthritis
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Bad Breath
  • Blackouts
  • Bloating
  • Blood sugar problems
  • Blurred vision
  • Breast pain
  • Catarrh
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Coated tongue
  • Colitis
  • Constant Hunger
  • Constipation
  • Crawling sensation on skin
  • Difficulty in Swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Eczema
  • Excessive thirst
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Itching
  • Itchy and red ears
  • Joint Pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Menstrual problems
  • Metallic taste
  • Migraine
  • Cramps
  • Muscle tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Palpitations
  • Poor balance
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Pre-menstrual problems
  • Racing pulse
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Feeling drained
  • Flushes
  • Food cravings
  • Gall bladder problems
  • Gritty feeling in eyes
  • Heavy body odor
  • High/low blood pressure
  • Indigestion – recurring
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sore tongue
  • Stiff neck
  • Styes
  • Temperature fluctuation
  • Thrust
  • Tics
  • Tinnitus
  • Urticaria
  • Vertigo
  • Weight problems

Mental and Behavior Symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity 
  • Memory loss 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Cognitive and perceptual disorders 
  • Depression 
  • ADD 
  • Irritability 
  • Central Nervous system depression
  • Accident prone
  • Anxiety
  • Anger for no apparent reason
  • Behavioral problems
  • Blankness
  • Brain fogging
  • Changes in handwriting
  • Clumsiness
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Detached or unreal feeling
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Disorientation
  • Dyslexia
  • Feeling of dissociation
  • Fidgetting
  • Hallucinations
  • Hearing without comprehension
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Indifference
  • Math and spelling errors
  • Mental exhaustion
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Poor self image
  • Poor memory
  • Reading problems
  • Restlessness
  • Slow processing information
  • Slurred speech
  • Stammering
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Tenseness
  • Uncontrollable rage
  • Weepiness
  • Withdrawn

  • How to determine if you're salicylate intolerant

    The best way to find out if you're intolerant to salicylates is by following an elimination plan like the Failsafe Diet. You'll also need to avoid saliciylates in your personal care products and medications (please do not stop taking your medications unless you consult with your doctor first!). Although it's very difficult to avoid environmental salicylates, you can drastically minimize your exposure by switching to natural, free and clear cleaning products and avoiding anything scented or perfumed. 
    I would recommend following a strict elimination plan for at least 6 weeks. This will give your body time to eliminate its previously stored salicylates. After a minimum of 6 weeks (some people may need more time), you can begin challenging yourself with small amounts of sals and monitoring your reactions. Be careful when reintroducing salicylates into your system after an elimination period. If you are not careful,severe reactions can occur. If you reduce the level of salicylates in your system and then reintroduce too many salicylates at once (as in taking an aspirin, which is packed with salicylate) anaphylactic shock can result, so start very slow!  It's very important to keep a journal/food diary during this time. This way you can keep track of foods and exposures and resulting reactions so that you can better plan your regime according to your own personal threshold. 

    Below are charts (thanks to which contain the general amounts of salicylates in foods and products. Salicylate content may vary in foods according to region and species, so please use this as a GENERAL REFERENCE only. Always use caution when attempting any elimination/challenge diet. 


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Canned Pear****
    Pear (ripe and peeled)
    Apple – golden delicious
    Nashi Pears
    Paw Paw
    Apple – red delicious
    Canned or dried Fig
    Canned pear****
    Custard apple
    Passion fruit
    Pear (w/ peel)
    Apple – all other varieties
    Canned Morello cherries
    Kiwi fruit
    Sugar banana
    All dried Fruits
    Cherries – all other kinds
    Rock melon

    **** Canned Pear has negligible amounts of salicylate if it is in sugar syrup, but if it is in natural juices/syrups, it has a moderate amount of salicylate as these often contain some peel, which contains salicylates


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Bamboo Shoots
    Beans (dried – not borlotti)
    Cabbage (green or white)
    Green Split peas
    Lentils (brown)
    Lentils (red)
    Lettuce (iceberg)
    Peas (dried)
    Potato (old/white and peeled)
    Bean Sprouts
    Borlotti beans
    Brussels sprouts
    Cabbage – red
    Fresh Asparagus
    Green Beans
    Green Peas
    Mung bean sprouts
    Potato (white with peel)
    Yellow split peas
    Asparagus – tinned
    Aubergine – peeled
    Black Olives
    Canned Asparagus
    Fresh Tomato
    Frozen Spinach
    Lettuce (other than iceberg)
    Potato (new and red Pontiac)
    Snow Peas
    Sweet corn
    Alfalfa sprouts
    Aubergine with peel
    Broad bean
    Canned black olive
    Fresh Spinach
    Sweet Potato
    Water chestnut
    Canned Green Olives
    Chili peppers
    Hot pepper
    Tomato Products
    Water Chestnut


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Poppy seedCashews
    Sunflower seeds
    Desiccated coconut
    Peanut Butter
    Pumpkin seeds
    Sesame seeds
    Brazil nuts
    Macadamia nuts
    Pine nuts
    Peanuts with skins on
    Water chestnut


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Homemade caramel****
    Maple Syrup
    White Sugar
    Golden Syrup
    Malt Extract
    Raw Sugar
    Chewing gum
    Fruit flavors
    Honey flavors
    Jam (except pear, preferably homemade)
    Mint flavored sweets

    **** Caramel can be made from just sugar and water or sugar and milk – both are salicylate free and therefore caramel is generally alright. However, store bought caramel can have a variety of additives and added flavorings that do contain salicylate – so be careful when buying/eating caramel and be sure to read the ingredients


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Golden Syrup
    Malt Vinegar
    Maple Syrup (pure)
    Apple Butter (only if homemade from acceptable varieties of apples)
    Fennel – dried
    Parsley (except Chinese parsley also known as coriander)
    Soy Sauce (if free of spices)
    Fresh Coriander Leaves (also known as Chinese parsley)
    All Spice
    Bay leaf
    Mixed herbs
    Black pepper
    Celery powder
    Chili flakes
    Chili Powder
    Cider Vinegar
    Commercial Gravies & Sauces
    Fish, meat, and tomato pastes
    Garam masala
    Jam/Jelly (all commercial varieties – you can make your own from acceptable ingredients)
    Vegemite and other Yeast Extracts****
    White pepper
    White Vinegar
    Wine Vinegar
    Worcester Sauce
    **** Yeast extracts are high but they are different from the yeast used in baking. Baking Yeast is generally ok.


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Canola Oil
    Safflower Oil
    Soy Oil
    Sunflower Oil
    GheeAlmond Oil
    Corn Oil
    Peanut Oil
    Sesame oil
    Walnut Oil
    Coconut Oil
    Olive Oil
    **** Margarine- Only if it’s made from acceptable oils. Butter- be careful of butter that is made from sweet cream. They add sugar to this, which can contain high amounts of sals depending on the type of sugar used.


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Oats (plain)
    Rice cereals (plan)
    Breakfast cereals that include fruit, nuts, honey or coconut
    Corn/maize cereals
    Flavored breakfast cereals


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Organ meats
    Sausage casing
    Etc etc.****
    Fish canned in an unacceptable oil and/or with seasonings added
    Gravy made from prepared mixes (i.e. stock cubes/bouillon/meat extracts/etc.)
    Processed luncheon meats (many are seasoned and thus contain salicylates)
    Seasoned meats (e.g. salami, sausages, frankfurters, and hotdogs)
    **** Most meat, fish and poultry are salicylate free, but you should avoid meats that have been processed or seasoned as they often contain salicylates


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Cheese (not blue vein)
    Yoghurt (natural only)
    Ice Cream ****
    Rice Milk
    Goat Milk
    Soy Milk ****
    Blue vein Cheese
    **** Be sure the read the label carefully on these things, they are ok only if they do not have any additives (gums, carageenan) or added flavorings. With ice cream it can be very difficult to find brands that make pure and plan ice cream without all the additives (though there are a few out there), I recommend just making your own Failsafe version.


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Plain potato chips (read the ingredients list)Apple chips (only if homemade from acceptable varieties of apples)Popcorn
    Popping corn
    Chewing gum (all flavors)
    Fruit flavored candy, gelato, ices, popsicles, sherbet, sorbet, and sweets
    Licorice/liquorices (all flavors)
    Mint/peppermint/wintergreen flavored candy/sweets
    Pickles (and anything pickled)


    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
    Decaffeinated*** Coffee (instant)
    milk (goat and cow)
    homemade pear juice
    soy milk
    rice milk
    Dandelion coffee
    Store bought pear juice
    Decaffeinated Coffee****
    Coca cola
    Rose hip tea
    Rose hip syrup
    regular coffee
    all teas
    Cordials and fruit flavored drinks
    fruit and vegetable juices**
    chicory coffee
    ***Juices of acceptable fruits and vegetables are ok. If you want to have juice with acceptable fruits and vegetables, I would suggest juicing them fresh at home. Be careful of decaffeinated coffee. Many producers decaffeinate their beans using chemicals that many sensitive people react to. It's best to choose a brand that is organic and decaffeinated using the swiss water process.

    NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High

    Many of the foods listed on these charts I would not condone as part of a healthy healing regime (like alcohol!), but I've listed them anyway as I understand that some of you who are reading this may still be consuming them. Be sure to check out my posts on safe brands, food handling/choosing, Failsafe recipes, and safe sources (I've done my homework!!). As always, I cannot stress enough that foods should always be organic, fresh or frozen, grass fed and free range (in the case of animal products) and from local organic farms whenever possible.

    Products and Medications

    Navigating your way through personal care products and medications can be very tricky when you're trying to avoid salicylates. Sals can lurk in all kinds of every day products, under many different names. This is a list of common products that contain sals, as well as the names that sals masquerade under. My best advice to you- become an avid label reader!! At first it may be difficult to remember what ingredients to avoid, but trust me, after a while you'll become a pro :)

    Products that often contain Salicylates:

    • Acne products
    • Air fresheners
    • Alka Seltzer
    • Breath savers
    • Bubble baths
    • Cleaning products
    • Cosmetics
    • Detergents
    • Essential oils
    • Fabric conditioners
    • Fragrances and perfumes
    • Gums
    • Hair sprays, gels and mouses
    • Herbal remedies
    • Lipsticks and Lip glosses
    • Lotions
    • Lozenges
    • Medications
    • Mouthwash
    • Muscle pain creams
    • Pain relievers
    • Pepto-Bismol
    • Razors with aloe strips adjacent to the cutting edge
    • Shampoos and Conditioners
    • Shaving cream
    • Skin cleansers or exfoliants
    • Soaps
    • Sunscreens and tanning lotions
    • Supplements derived from rose hips or bioflavoniods
    • Toothpaste
    • Topical creams
    • Wart or callus removers

    Terms/Ingredients to Avoid:

    • Acetylsalicylic acid
    • Aloe Vera
    • Any coal tar derived dye
    • Artificial flavorings
    • Artificial food colorings
    • Aspirin
    • Azo dyes
    • Benzoates (preservatives)
    • Benzyl salicylate
    • Beta-hydroxy acid
    • BHA
    • BHT
    • Choline salicylate
    • Disalcid
    • Ethyl salicylate
    • Eucalyptus Oils
    • Isoamyl salicylate
    • Magnesium salicylate
    • Magnesium Sterate
    • Menthol
    • Methyl Salicylate
    • Mint
    • Nitrates/Nitrites
    • Octylsalicylate
    • Oil of Wintergreen
    • Peppermint
    • Phenylethyl salicylate
    • Red Dye (#40)
    • Salicylaldehyde
    • Salicylamide
    • Salicylate
    • Salicylic acid
    • Salsalate
    • Sodium Salicylate
    • Spearmint
    • Yellow Dyes (#5 & #6)

    Brand Names of Common Drugs containing Salicylate

    This list was compiled by the Mayo Clinic. It is not a complete list of all drugs containing salicylate, but it is a good start. If you are taking a medication and you are not sure if it contains salicylate or not check with your pharmacist or doctor. Never start the elimination diet with out checking all medications and first and consulting a professional. Never start taking a medication with salicylate in it directly after the elimination diet and shock can occur from introducing too much salicylate into your body at once. And most importantly, never stop a prescribed medication without checking with your doctor first.

    • Acuprin 81
    • Amigesic
    • Anacin Caplets and Tablets
    • Aspirin Regimen Bayer Adult Low Dose
    • Aspirin Regimen Bayer Regular Strength Caplets
    • Bayer Children’s Aspirin
    • Bufferin Caplets and Tablets
    • Disalcid
    • Extra Strength Bayer Asprin Caplets and Tablets
    • Mobidin
    • Mono-Gesic
    • Norwich Aspirin
    • P-A-C Revised Formula
    • Regular Strength Ascriptin
    • Salflex
    • Salsitab
    • Sloprin
    • St. Joseph Adult Chewable Aspirin
    • Tricosal
    • Trilisate
    • ZORprin

    The list of salicylate containing products can be very daunting at first, but I promise you that it is very possible to live a low-sal lifestyle and still be able to keep good hygeine. Be sure to check out my posts about safe brands, and failsafe product recipes.