Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nexi-What? Prilo-Huh?

Hold on to your hats. There are approximately 300 million Americans. In 2009, 110 million prescriptions were written for Nexium & Prilosec.

I listened carefully to the "side effects monolouge" of Nexium the other day and I was astounded as the list rolled on and on. I looked up the official side effects and found the following SAMPLE - note that this doesn't even include Prilosec or any other prescription medication OR over the counter:

Side Effects by Body SystemGastrointestinal
Gastrointestinal (GI) side effects have included bowel irregularity, aggravated constipation, dyspepsia, dysphagia, dysplasia, epigastric pain, eructation, esophageal disorder, frequent stools, gastroenteritis, GI hemorrhage, rectal disorder, increased appetite, anorexia, ulcerative stomatitis, and vomiting. Pancreatitis has also been reported.

Nervous system
Nervous system side effects have included confusion, dizziness, hypoesthesia, insomnia, migraine aggravation, paresthesia, sleep disorder, somnolence, tremor, and vertigo.

Cardiovascular side effects have included hypertension, angioedema, tachycardia, chest pain, and substernal chest pain.

Musculoskeletal side effects have included arthralgia, aggravation of arthritis, arthropathy, cramps, fibromyalgia syndrome, hernia, hypertonia, polymyalgia rheumatica, and back pain. Myalgia and hip fracture have also been reported.

An increased risk of hip fracture has been reported in a cohort study. The risk was significantly increased among patients prescribed long-term high PPIs.

Hematologic side effects have included anemia, hypochromic anemia, cervical lymphadenopathy, epistaxis, leukocytosis, leukopenia, and thrombocytopenia. Agranulocytosis and pancytopenia have also been reported.

Hepatic side effects have included bilirubinemia, abnormal hepatic function, and increase in SGOT and SGPT. Hepatitis, with or without jaundice, has also been reported.

Metabolic side effects have included glycosuria, hyperuricemia, hyponatremia, increased alkaline phosphatase, excessive thirst, vitamin B12 deficiency, and weight increase/decrease.

Genitourinary side effects have included abnormal urine, albuminuria, cystitis, dysuria, hematuria, micturition frequency, moniliasis, genital moniliasis, impotence, dysmenorrhea, menstrual disorder, vaginitis, and polyuria.

A 42-year-old female with previously normal sexual function experienced loss of libido during esomeprazole therapy. She had been prescribed 40 mg esomeprazole twice daily for one month for symptoms of acid reflux disease. Over a 10 week period, she experienced a decline in sexual function until she could no longer respond sexually. After discontinuation of esomeprazole, her symptoms improved but did not return to what she considered normal.

Psychiatric side effects have included apathy, confusion, aggravated depression, and nervousness. At least one case of loss of libido has been reported.

Respiratory side effects have included aggravated asthma, coughing, dyspnea, larynx edema, pharyngitis, rhinitis, and sinusitis.

General side effects including hot flushes, fatigue, fever, flu-like disorder, leg edema, malaise, pain, earache, tinnitus, otitis, parosmia, taste loss, taste perversion, and enlarged abdomen have been reported.

Ocular side effects have included abnormal vision, conjunctivitis, and visual field defect. Blurred vision has also been reported.

Dermatologic side effects have included acne, dermatitis, pruritus, erythematous rash, maculopapular rash, skin inflammation, and increased sweating. Alopecia and erythema multiforme have also been reported. Duodenitis, esophagitis, esophageal stricture, esophageal ulceration, esophageal varices, gastric ulcer, gastritis, hernia, benign polyps or nodules, Barrett's esophagus, and mucosal discoloration have also been reported.

Endocrine side effects have included goiter.

Hypersensitivity side effects have rarely included allergic reactions (less than 1%). Toxic epidermal necrolysis (some cases fatal) and Stevens-Johnson syndrome have also been reported.

Immunologic side effects have included anaphylactic reaction or shock.

A 63-year-old female with dyspepsia experienced acute interstitial nephritis coincident with esomeprazole therapy. She presented to the hospital with a 1-month history of nausea and intermittent vomiting. Three weeks before presentation, she was empirically prescribed esomeprazole for the treatment of dyspepsia. A week before presentation, she stopped taking this drug, as she suspected it was exacerbating the malaise, nauseas, and vomiting. On day 4 of admission, a renal biopsy showed acute interstitial nephritis. Prednisolone therapy was continued for 4 weeks. Supportive dialysis was needed for 4 days, by which time renal function had improved. However, at follow-up 8 months later, serum creatinine levels remained abnormal

I never dreamed that a "Little Purple Pill" could do so much. Wonder of wonders.

Did it occur to the 110 million prescriptionites that their bodies are screaming out "STOP, YOU'RE PUTTING CRAP IN ME! I'M SENDING UP INDIGESTION AND ACID REFLUX BECAUSE YOU SUCK AT EATING!" Am I crazy to throw up the Hail Mary and suggest that they should figure out WHY their bodies are not digesting the food - dare I say fix the problem - instead of forcing God's perfect creation to digest something it deems toxic? We're like three year olds slamming into an electric fence three times per day. Side Note: Why didn't He give us brains to match the wonders of our bodies?

Really, take a gander through these side effects and send me your thoughts. I'm anxious to hear...


Friday, October 29, 2010

Vegan MoFo

How cool is this! The blog Vegan MoFo is hosting their Fifth Annual Vegan Month of Food. Over 450 bloggers have registered for the 2010 Blog Roll. Each blogger has committed to posting a minimum of 20 posts in the month of November, highlighting Vegan food delights.

I took a troll through the 2009 Blog Roll and absolutely loved every blog I opened. This is an absolute GOLD MINE! I saw more delicious looking recipes in five minutes than I've managed to collect in the past month. I sense that covering this list of awesome vegan blogs may be my entire social life for the next few days - lucky as we're about to get our butt kicked by a HUGE tropical wave. There is zero to do here when it rains and your man is travelling!

Bookmark this site for the month of November and let the Vegan creativity rain down!

Addendum: Tropical Storm Tomas has granted me a very blustery guilt-free day indoors. Since the power returned a couple of hour ago, I've been snuggled with an iced coffee and my mutt perusing the 2010 Blog Roll for Vegan MoFo. It is amazing to read as these hundreds of bloggers prepare for what appears to be the Olympics of vegan blogging. Lots of bloggers are from Portland (my hometown) and the pictures of the produce, vegan food carts and funky city streets have nearly brought me to tears of nostalgia. Just a cruel reminder that I bought two packages of grapes yesterday and had to throw over half of them away before they ever hit the fridge. I think I receive double points for trying to go veg here. There are points, right?

Honestly, if you have any interest in adding some healthy recipes to your life - saddle up on November 1 and get your "Add to Favorites" button ready to link like never before. Who knows... maybe I'll be ready to join the MoFo fray next year!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

People say a lot of crazy things when they find out you're attempting a vegetarian diet. "Oh My God - What are you doing to do on Thanksgiving?! "So you're just eating like sticks and stuff?" "But you still eat chicken, right?" Hmmm.

Aside from these little gems, the thing I am asked most often is what supplements I'm taking to replace the "essential" nutrients found in meat. This is a stumper because the recommendations from different sources are varied and the notion that meat contains something absolutely essential for our survival is so ingrained in our culture. Some say you need additional iron, B12, Vitamin D & calcium. Others say that there are certain "combinations" of proteins you should eat together to make them "complete". My gut tells me that a well rounded vegetarian diet will provide all that I need but I need the facts so let the research begin!

IRON: A friend stopped me at work last week to warn of the health dangers of being a vegetarian. He said that he had been a veg for years and suffered from anemia to the point that he was hospitalized. My initial instinct was to tell him that cashews contain about the same amount of iron ounce for ounce as red meat but I kept my trap shut - no one likes a snarky vegetarian. I managed to dig up these iron content numbers per 100/cal. The RDA for iron in men and post-menopausal women is 14mg/day - 33mg/day for for premenopausal women.

Spinach, cooked 15.7
Collard greens, cooked 3.1
Lentils, cooked 2.9
Broccoli, cooked 1.9
Hamburger, lean, broiled 1.2
Chickpeas, cooked 1.1
Sirloin steak, choice, broiled 0.9
Chicken, breast roasted, no skin 0.6
Pork chop, pan fried 0.4
Flounder, baked 0.3
Milk, skim 0.1

Spinach v. Steak = No-Brainer

B12: Ah B12. After doing my research, this is the one I am most concerned about. B12 is essential and is not found in significant amounts in any plant sources. If our bodies are functioning properly, the liver will release and reprocess the B12 in our system (over and over again) for up to 3 years. The problem is that you don't know if you're processing the same old B12 or if you are suffering from a deficiency until the damage is done. The damage from B12 deficiency is mainly neurological - yikes. Soy contains no useful amounts of B12 regardless of what it says on the package. Even the big Vegan websites concede the false advertising. My best bet is to either take a B12 supplement or stick to whole grain cereals that are "fortified" with B12. For now, I'm sticking with Smart Start cereal and unsweetened almond milk. It's quite delicious.

Calcium + Vitamin D: These two are almost always linked together. You need Vitamin D to process and retain calcium. Our vitamin D needs are more than adequately met by about 10 minutes in the sun per day. I live in Barbados - check. We've been lead to believe that cow's milk and cheese are the only sources of calcium on the planet (Thank you Dairy Council!) It may be the fastest way to get your calcium but it's also the fastest way to ingest numerous amounts of hormones and pesticides. It's also ridiculous to think that the milk I drink comes from a nice farmer sitting on a bucket in the morning dew milking Ol' Bessy. I think I'll take my chances on the following foods & a calcium supplement if necessary...

Oatmeal, fortified 240ml; 163 mg Calcium
Spinach, frozen, cooked, 240ml; 138 mg Calcium
Tofu, firm, 240ml; 258 mg Calcium
Almonds, 240ml; 92 mg Calcium
Beans, boiled, baked or refried, 240ml; 50 mg Calcium
Mustard greens, cooked from fresh, 240ml; 52 mg Calcium
Orange, 1 medium 52 mg Calcium
Halibut, baked, 75g; 51 mg Calcium
Kale, fresh, cooked, 240ml; 47 mg Calcium
Broccoli, cooked from fresh, 240ml; 36 mg Calcium
Bread, whole wheat, slice; 32 mg Calcium

Food combining seems to be a thing of the past in VegLand. As long as we eat the necessary nutrients, our bodies are completely capable of arranging the molecular bits and pieces into exactly what we need. Considering that a fair number of 300 million Americans are abusing their bodies with McDonalds, Dominos, and all things fried (have you seen that ridiculous chicken sandwich at KFC that uses two breasts as the buns?), I have full faith that my body can take my responsible vegetarian menu and make me function properly.

As I read more and more and more (Amazon LOVES me these days!), I find that most of my fundamental food beliefs are only beliefs because of multi-million dollar ad campaigns, powerful lobbies and a whole shite-load of people who have floated a ton of toxins and chemicals into our animals and genetically engineered our food for a whole lot of money.

I don't want to become one of "those people" but frankly, the whole mess is very scary.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crystal Ball In Reverse

For those that don't know me, I'm a bit of a tracker. I love statistics, numbers, polls and facts. (David Timbs is chuckling right now) On and off for the past 5 years, I've used The Daily Plate to track my food intake as well as the intake of my personal training clients. "The Plate" as I lovingly refer to it, is the most user friendly and useful tracker I've ever found. The site was purchased by the LiveStrong organization last year and the features have only gotten better. Highly recommend!

I started running in late January (after seeing a rather unflattering photo of myself at at party - yikes) but aside from the initial couple of watery pounds, I wasn't losing an ounce. I ALSO wasn't changing a thing about my diet. I have always been physically active (sometimes to an extreme) and I've known for years that the key to MY fitness and health is to be found in my food. Statistically, 9 out of 10 women will "go on a diet" - but only 1 in 10 will exercise consistently over a long period of time. (Per Curves data - 2008) The magic happens when, as my dear Hillaire would say, you "move your bacon" regularly AND simultaneously make changes in your diet.

To be clear, I gave up fast food forever ago and at my worst, I eat much healthier than the Standard American Diet (ironic acronym SAD). However, my worst includes a lot of meat, dairy and an abundance of salty foods. I could never eat chocolate again and not miss it for a second... come between me and a bag of potato chips and I'll take your arm off. No joke.

Fast forward to April 12. I was running and keeping up with my yoga practice and going nowhere on the scale. Frustration Station. I turned 40 and started to worry - this might not come off. I began to seriously track my food on April 13 and have been tracking ever since. Today I looked back over the past months and realized that I have a treasure trove of information. It's kind of a reverse crystal ball. I'm seeing the past. Flipping between the old days and the vegetarian days is fascinating.

Although I was eating very lean meats and brought my calories down to a sane level (read: no more late night bags of 'Hint of Lime' Tostitos) my cholesterol intake was above the RDA almost every day and my sodium was over the limit approximately 5 days per week. Mentally I absolved myself by looking at the sugars that rarely made it over 20g per day and the low fat numbers. After all, I was eating lean meats and low carbs - how could that be bad?

Since the time I started limiting my meat diet in mid-August, I've lost 16 pounds - shocking for a 40 year old gal! I've notice a big improvement in my running in the past two weeks alone. Something is different. I know this sounds loony but I'm not getting winded on my longer runs. Could it be that not ingesting cholesterol is having an effect? I wish I had thought to have blood work done before I switched over. I would LOVE to have that stat!

I'm certainly not implying that this way is 'the way'. We are all so different. In Ayurveda, a common caveat is "one man's food is another man's poison". Our individual genetic makeups or our "constitutions" are unique - and the choices we make effect us uniquely. I'm just sharing my story and hoping you find a thread of usefulness to shove in your pocket as you walk your own road.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The China Study - My humble review

Having worked in the fitness arena for many years, I know that the world of nutrition research and diet "manuals" is a tricky and treacherous place. Are eggs ultimately good or bad? Should we eat low fat products or stick with the originals? How much protein should we be eating? Can sugar substitutes lead to cancer? And the list goes on...

After slogging through hours of reading research material in The China Study, I got to the "meat" of it and enjoyed the second third very much. This book is so laden with reference materials and footnotes that the last third is just appendixes, etc.

In a very small and inadequate nutshell: After studying the effects of Casein (the protein found in cows milk) and it's startling effect on children in the Philippines, Dr. Campbell embarks on the largest population study ever completed with the help of the Chinese government. There are chapters on animal proteins (both meat and casein) and their correlations between cancer, heart disease, diabetes, MS, etc. etc. Then you get a few chapters on how the food industry, pharmaceutical companies and government organizations are jam-packed with lobby groups and "councils". All of which are corrupted by money and a desire to maintain the status quo - at the expense of our collective health. "Be a vegan" is the message - loud and clear. I found the chapter on The Harvard Nurses Study fascinating.

This book has the tone you would expect from a 70 year old Cornell University scientist who has spent the last 20 years ringing the fire bell from the church tower over a town of deaf people. He's been belittled by the medical community who rely on drugs and surgery to solve our problems, the National Dairy and Meat Councils who have much to lose in light of his studies, and our government "health organizations". After sitting on the boards and writing policy for most of them - once his research lead to veganism - he was kindly asked to leave, thank you.

He's not selling anything, he doesn't have a website or any products, there is no diet plan except "eat plants, not meat" and "take a B12 supplement monthly and step into the sunshine occasionally." He has a number of impressive Doctors in his court along with a convincing amount of research (that took me FOREVER to read).

After wrapping it up, I spent about an hour reading criticisms of his work on the Internet. There isn't as much as I expected for such a controversial book but I found a few reviews and articles that called legitimacy of The China Study itself into question. You can easily google those yourself if you're interested. However, even several of the reviewers who criticized the book still stated that "reading this book will change the way you eat forever". I know that I probably won't drink milk any time soon or buy into the "Got Milk" campaign no matter how hot David Beckham is in the ads. If I had kids, I would be terrified of the school lunch program and the 165 million dollar advertising budget that the National Dairy Council slates for our schools each year. How do you fight that?

In the grand scheme of books on vegetarianism, you've got three options:

1. The Animal Cruelty books (in my mind, this includes the PETA videos I can't bring myself to watch AND the Sarah McLaughlin mini-cruelty-infomercial. Q: have you ever reached for the remote faster than when you hear the first notes of Arms of the Angels?)
2. The Industrial Farming/Environmental/Government books (Food, Inc., Omnivore's Dilemma, Fast Food Nation)
3. The Health Benefits-Scare-The-Crap-Out-You Books.

The China Study fits squarely in #3. A great read if you're open to it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Who Are You? Who Who Who Who

Apparently there is a whole subcultural in Veg-Land that spends a LOT of time and energy creating vegetarian classifications. Miles of discussion boards are spent arguing about who is a "real vegetarian" based upon those classifications. Loads of "discussing" and tons of opinions left me no alternative but to decide for myself - Who am I?

Vegans eat nothing (flesh or by-product) from anything that ever had eyes. By-products include all animal milks, cheese and dairy in general.

Vegetarians (this is where it gets sticky) eat dairy. Some would call you a "Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian". One could conclude that if you didn't eat eggs, you would be a "Lacto Vegetarian". Right? I don't drink the milk here and I buy vegetarian cheese but I won't avoid sour cream and odds are, I'll use butter. Lacto/Check. I like eggs. Ovo/Check.

I'm getting that you're categorized by what you DO eat. Vegetarians who eat fish are called Pescetarians. Who knew?

In this months Men's Journal (best mag ever btw - I read it cover to cover every month and have learned more than all my InStyle's and Glamours combined!) Kevin Gray wrote a great article called "The Rise of the Power Vegan" highlighting several elite athletes (NFL included!) who are Vegan. One was a guy named Michael Arnstein who is a "Fruitarian" - he needs four refrigerators to hold all of his fruit. He ran the Boston marathon in 2:28. Quote from Mr. Arnstein "Literally, my shit does not stink. If I took an orange and blended it and put it in a bowl, you would not know if I had blended it or just crapped in that bowl." WOW.

I don't know how to segue from that but... Here's how it shakes out: I am lucky to live on a beautiful Caribbean island with wonderful fish. The fishing dock is less than 5 minutes from my house and I know that the fish is healthy and unprocessed. I feel great about eating that fish occasionally.

On the flip side, I battle the grocery store and importation of fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis*. Any visions you have of wonderfully stocked fresh fruits & veg in Barbados are way off track. Our fruit often borders on rotten right off the truck - it took me three tries of $15 pineapples before I finally got something edible. Our veggies can be the saddest things you've ever seen.. sad sad cucumbers. We have no peppers to speak of - poblano, chipotle, green. And you can count on a small package of wilted, anemic asparagus spears to cost around $10 usd. I make every effort to eat local fruits but c'mon - how many mangoes do you think you could down during mango season? (My personal record is 172) The environment takes a 100 times greater hit from importation of my Fuji apples than eating the fish off the dock.

Verdict: Color me a lacto-ovo-pescetarian! I'm good with it!

**Just found another one! Those who "limit" meat or only eat small quantities are now called Flexitarians. Seriously.

*The very mention of Whole Foods, Wegmans, Harris Teeter (heck, even Publix!) produce department brings tears to my eyes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Girl Who Hates Lettuce

Yes, that's me - The Girl Who Hates Lettuce. It tastes like crunchy dirt and makes me gag a little. I'm not a fan of any crunchy vegetables and my mantra for years has been "Pork At Every Meal". Trust me, a collective "WHAT!" will be heard around the world when my family and close friends read the news... I am taking a stab at vegetarianism.

I turned 40 this year and change has been blowing all around me - like a tornado in fact. I started running against my better judgment and completed a crappy half marathon, I've delved a little deeper into my yoga practice, my Ayurveda practices are rooting into my life (more on that much later)and I've managed to healthfully lower my weight to my best in years; like a neon Vegas road sign, all of these things keep pointing me toward "the V word".

This all started when our Ayurveda Practitioner, David Timbs, came for a visit from New Zealand. One of the girls in the workshop asked if he was vegetarian and why. David's reply: "If someone comes into your garden and steals a tomato, you might be irritated. If someone steals your dog, you're mad as hell and heartbroken. If they steal your child - it's absolutely unacceptable and devastating. Hence, we value life forms differently. There is a hierarchy and we have decisions to make based upon those values. I value animal life and choose to think of them as our friends - not our food."

I saw truth in that answer and liked EVEN MORE that David had to be asked - he didn't preach it from the mountain top 'all vegetarian guilting'. I thought about it quite a bit but couldn't conceive of giving up meat. Then about two weeks after he left I was playing with my dog and grabbed her hind leg, teasing her I bit her leg and said "I'm gonna eat this little leg". It hit me. Her leg is EXACTLY the shape and size of the chicken legs I roast on the weekends. Ouch.

I started on September 1, to eat meat only on the weekends. For the past two weeks, I'm down to fish on Sundays.

I know that many of you have felt a tugging in your gut about meat - either because of hormones and genetic altering, the impact of industrial farming on our environment or for humanitarian reasons. I hope to use this blog to share insights on what is out there as I make my way along this road. I've read some nutty stuff on the web so far (read: whack jobs!) but there is also a lot of good stuff.

With any luck I can compile the good stuff, add a little levity, and link some recipes that make me feel like I'm eating a Carolina pulled pork sandwich!