Sunday, July 10, 2011

Harnessing the Inner Hippy

"Hello. My name in Pandora and I am a sugar addict."
"Hello, Pandora."
"It's been eighteen hours since my last sugar hit."
There is a round of applause. The throng nod in aknowledgement, muttering support and encouragement.

I'm coming  to terms with my sugar addiction, made more painful and prominent after a trip to the naturopath yesterday.

A bit of history - I suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure. I've had this condition for years and it's something that I keep an eye on. It's a bit of a pain, but it's also not normally a problem. It's when it gets out of control it's really inconvenient, which it has been over the last few weeks. Getting symptomatic is a pain - normally I'm not like this, the hypertension has no effect on my daily life. However, being symptomatic, the hot flashes, the headaches, the lethargy, the palplitations - it's crap.

The last time I got symptomatic I went and saw the doctor. After a day attached to a sphygmomanometer having it go off every half hour and getting the diagnosis of mid-range hypertension, I was put on blood pressure medication - and there the horror stories start. The first lot my doctor tried me on made be feel comatose and it gave me a dry, hacking cough. The second lot of medication made me out on three kilograms in two weeks and my legs felt like somebody had run a couple of litres of water down my legs - it was dreadful. It stopped my life - I couldn't exercise, I couldn't think, I couldn't concentrate. She offered to try me on some other types of meds, but I promptly told her where to go. Nicely, of course.

On gaining her begrudging consent, I went off all medication and went to my naturopath, who brought the blood pressure down to acceptable levels in a few weeks with the use of herbs and some natural remedies.

We worked out that most of my hypertension triggers are stress, saturated fat, shock, salt and alcohol.

Eliminating as much salt and alcohol has been okay. There are lapses. It's the main reason I drink in strict moderation (along with the fact that too much grog starts depressive cycles). I try to manage my stress and suceed for the most part. Shock is a bit harder as there's no control over this - and my aunt's death a few weeks ago is one of the main reasons for this episode.

Calculating that the last time I got symptomatic, my uncle had died, things were crap at work, I was smoking and drinking too much... cleaning up my life, giving up smoking, curbing my alcohol intake to less than a glass a week, exercising more, losing weight. You get the gist. After a month, things were back to normal.

Two weeks ago I went back to the naturopath feeling like poo. The hot flushes were driving me up the wall - I was sleeping under one blanket in the middle of winter - just getting too hot at night. Other nasty things were happening too. After a salty, cheesy meal cooked by a friend, with a glass of wine, I was up with palpitations for most of the night. Stuff like that - it's horrible.

Two weeks back on the herbs - not much difference in the blood pressure but the symptoms have gone away. So it was back to the naturopath again. So now is time to go hardcore.

Part of me wants to berate my naturopath, Marta, for being a heartless hippy. Then again, I know what she says will help me. It also makes a modicum of sense what she says.

For the next month I have to follow the following regime:
  • No processed sugar
  • No red meat
  • No salt
  • Nothing processed - or if packaged, with as little sodium content as humanly possible
  • No eggs
  • No ham
  • No cheese
  • No alcohol
  • No artificial sweetners
  • No starchy foods - white rice and potatoes are out
  • No additives if it can be avoided.
Add to this, dairy in moderation, limited fruit, keep bread to a minimum... And beans are good. Lots of beans.

I told you my naturopath was a heartless hippy.
Actually, she isn't. Really, it appears I have a hypersensitive system that needs some TLC.

It's a recommendation to keep me off of the blood pressure meds for the long term. If I can get on top of the triggers it will be better for me. And in her defence, I can still eat fish and chicken, yogurt and some low fat milk is okay and I can have my daily cup of caffiene  - just one cup, but she's aware that I need a vice - and coffee is my vice.

But no ice cream! My one staple comfort vice has been taken away from me. I did manage to con one macaron off her a week - but generally the rule is to eliminate as much sugar, sodium and saturated fat for the next month.

I know I could take an easier route. Go to the normal route and go to the "proper" doctor, go on the meds and eat what I like. I can't do that to myself - not after the last round of meds. Besides, once you're on them, getting off them is next to impossible. I don't want to be on medication which the long term effects aren't really understood, with side effects that are revolting. Stuff it. This is the way I have to go.

On the good side, my weekly grocery basket is a lot cheaper. I went to the check out today with such goodies as quinoa, freekah, aduki beans and lentils. I can have a  tablespoon of honey a day - that's allowed. At the checkout I looked at my stash and thought that I wouldn't be out of place in a health food shop. I even bought a cauliflower. It's not my favorite vegetable - up there with zucchini as a pointless vegetable.

I still have no idea what I'm going to do with the cauliflower - there is no dripping cheese sauce to go in it - but I've made it my mystery vegetable for the week and we will see what happens.

Dinner tonight was chicken chilli con carne with quinoa - the spice mix which worked well was a blend of cumin, coriander, a spot of smoked paprika and black pepper, garlic, bay and oregano.... just no salt.

Lunch will be taken to work for the most part. I have a few dinners to go to in the next month where I'll have to either be the restaurant client from hell or just order a side salad and eat later.

It will work out. I'm adamant that it will work out. I'm doing everything right - bar the ice cream.

My biggest surprise has been how crabby I've been about having to give up ice cream. I feel deprived, upset and just plain shitty about this. I know I crave it. I know it's easily available. It's my drug of choice.

It also appears that it may be a drug that I've overdosed on and it's slowly wrecking my internal health.

Wish me luck - and be pleased you don't have to follow me into the bathroom.

So along with all the dietary changes, I have to come to terms with the fact I'm an addict - a sugar addict.

Let's hope the come down isn't too bad...


The Elephant's Child said...

Aaaargh. But I think you are so right to stay away from 'normal' blood pressure medication. It seems for many to become a life sentence. Never good.
I have a wonderful recipe for cauliflower, chickpeas and spinach. No added salt. Let me know if you would be interested and I will send it to you.
Good luck.

Jackie K said...

Finely grated celery as salt, and lots of cracked pepper. Shake liberally onto cauliflower.
Or, very yummy if you can have oil: bit of olive oil and squeezed lemon on top - YUM

Good luck - that diet is what we're all supposed to be eating I think...