Tag Archives: gluten

Here’s Some New Year-New You Stuff, Kind Of, Not Really

This neurological disorder has really done a number on me. Over the last year or so, my fine motor skills and spatial coordination have eroded rapidly; I’ve experienced regular muscle spasms accompanied by a painful electric jolt; I’ve fallen at least four times, which is quite terrifying when it happens in the middle of the night all alone; phantom bugs have crawled up my arms and legs; my memory, concentration, and cognitive abilities have been foggy; my left arm has become almost completely numb; and I’ve had to reassess my threshold for pain. There have been moments when I believed myself a goner, if not fully at least functionally, and by far, the hardest part of all of it has been the diminished capacity to write. Even a short blog post like this one takes hours to compose because of all the breaks I have to take and the pitiful state of my typing. In short, the last 15-16 months have presented some interesting challenges.

But now, hopefully, the tide is about to turn.

The other day, an acquaintance directed me to research that sheds a little light on what could potentially be the cause of my illness. If you don’t have time to read that article, in a nutshell, excessive sodium intake, primarily from processed foods, can cause the body’s Th 17 cells, which are part of the immune system, to become overly aggressive and attack normal body tissues. While not definitive, the research lends itself to the idea that excessive sodium consumption can trigger an autoimmune disease like MS. I must admit to being guilty of relying too much on processed foods in my diet over the years, and when I really got to looking into it, I realized that my sodium intake has been much higher than I had thought. I never add salt to anything and barely cook with it, so I figured I was okay. However, once I looked closely, I had to admit to myself that I’ve consumed way beyond the recommended amount.

That same acquaintance also pointed me towards how a paleo diet has shown positive results at not just halting but reversing MS symptoms. He himself has seen a dramatic recovery in the 3-4 months he’s been following paleo. While the effects of the diet could just be related to the reduction of sodium, there seems to be more to it than that. I’ve already been gluten free for three years, and when I first cut it out, my symptoms all but disappeared, leading me to believe I had found the culprit. However, now that my symptoms have returned, it stands to reason that if gluten can be responsible for neurological degeneration, other foods could be as well.

Therefore, I have decided to make every effort to follow the paleo diet guidelines and remove restricted items from my intake. I plan to chronicle my results here to have a record of my experiences and responses to the change in nutrition. Hopefully, I will see the same improvements to my health that others have shown. Regardless, it feels nice to have a ray of hope after so many months of decline. If I can at least get back to the point of being able to write regularly and work outdoors even just a little, I will be content with the results. So here goes nothing as I start my journey to recovery.

Talking Smack

I made this vow over the weekend, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who really knows me: Regardless of my diagnosis on Wednesday, I will fight this neurological disease with everything in me. It has no idea the mistake it made coming at me, son. And once I’m back to feeling like myself, I’m hitting the world like an emeffing tornado. Stand back and watch because the show will be entertaining!

Late Night Update

So, yeah, I haven’t posted an update in quite a while.

I guess the easiest way to do this is just to come out and say it: my neurological stuff is back with a vengeance. It started rather subtly about 9-10 months ago, and I honestly thought it was just the stress and strain of dual enrollment causing a few symptoms to flare up. I was already about 90% committed to resigning my position before the symptoms came back, and as I felt worse and worse, I knew I couldn’t physically handle the teaching load any longer. In the back of my mind, I kept telling myself that as soon as I got out of the stressful environment, I would feel better. All I needed was some time outdoors working in the sun. The semester ended officially on May 11, and for the first few days, I rested and relaxed but didn’t really feel any better. I’ve written before about how much I love working outdoors on the property, so I tried to dive back in and work myself back into football shape, as I like to say.

For the first few attempts, I noticed that my overall strength and endurance had declined quite precipitously, and I figured I had just gotten out of shape because of the harsh winter. I pushed myself a little harder but couldn’t get my body to cooperate. No matter what I did, I felt weak and fatigued, and the neurological symptoms continued to worsen. Also, I kept noticing that I couldn’t focus or concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. I’ve written five full novels and dozens of short stories; concentration has never been an issue for me before now. All through May and June, I kept telling myself that I just had to get back into good shape and I would start to feel “normal” again. Last summer, I had promised Finn I would build him a fort to play in this summer, so in June I tackled that project. This time last year, I built my home in seven weeks, working mostly alone all day every day. Even though I was tired, I didn’t feel broken down. Just putting together that simple child’s fort, which is in no way elaborate, I felt completely desolated, and my forearms hurt in a way they never have before. Then, at the end of June, I went to get the boys for our summer time. First, the trip to Jacksonville and back nearly wiped me out completely. I’ve made that trip several times, once in a single day. This time, it took me three, and I was absolutely spent when I got back here with the kids. Trying to play with them became more than I could manage. Still, I kept telling myself that I just needed to get back into shape.

My eye-opener came on Independence Day. When the boys are here, I like to do it up right: a big cookout, fireworks, and lots of shenanigans. It’s our thing. I spent seven straight hours that day setting up, grilling, lighting fireworks, and cleaning up after. When I got into bed that evening, I twitched and trembled worse than I ever had before. The next day, my arms and legs literally hurt from the trembling. I don’t mean I had muscle soreness. That’s something with which I’m quite familiar. This pain was something else, and it’s the first time the neurological stuff has been truly painful. That’s when I had to accept that my symptoms haven’t been from the stress of my job or that I was just out of shape. The neurological stuff is back, and this time it’s worse than before.

I saw a neurologist last week, and we’re waiting for authorization for a new MRI before we proceed. At this point, even though a lot of things are up in the air, I’m hopeful that we can find the right diagnosis and get me well. I’ll try to post updates on what we learn and what’s in store. As for now, please, send some positive energy my way.

Saturday Afternoon Ramblings

It began as a small tremor in my left hand, nothing major, just an occasional annoyance.  Over time, it morphed into a severe cramp that drew the fingers of that hand into a tight knot, not as painful as one might expect but certainly unpleasant.  Then, I started having difficulty with balance and walking.  Sometimes, I would fall for no apparent reason, and just walking from my office to the classroom took every bit of concentration I could muster.  I started having random, bizarre muscle twitches all over my body.  Sometimes they lasted a few seconds, once nearly an hour.  By mid-October of last year, an overwhelming feeling of death descended on me.  I wasn’t in pain, but I felt as if my body were failing.  From these symptoms, I feared the worst outcomes: MS, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s, or a brain tumor.  Of course, I sought help and started seeing a PMC physician and a neurologist.

Let me say most importantly, from the beginning, Dr. Kenneth Justice of Parkway Medical treated me with compassion, concern, and understanding.  Each visit to his office, he reassured me that we would find an answer, and he never once made me feel like a hypochondriac or someone faking an illness.  Even as test after test revealed nothing, he continued to believe that what I was experiencing was real.  I am grateful for how he treated me throughout the ordeal.  He even called me one evening, after office hours, just to see how I was doing.

The same cannot be said for Dr. Karen Mullins at Knoxville Neurology Clinic.  Never in my life have I met a doctor and a group of medical “professionals” so unconcerned for a human being’s health.  After reading her dictations, I am convinced that she never once took me seriously and dismissed my issues as either imaginings or some attempt to scam the system, despite my repeated claims that I only wanted to find out what was wrong with me, never once asked for any kind of medicine, and insisted that I had to get well enough to function in my job.  If you ever need medical assistance for anything, don’t waste your time with Knoxville Neurology Clinic or Dr. Karen Mullins.  They are the worst collection of half-assed, pretentious, unprofessional jack-wagons I’ve ever encountered.  At some point in the near future, I will be writing their office a letter expressing my disdain for their incompetence, and it will not be a pleasant correspondence.  I was desperately ill and needed help, and they ignored the totality of what I was experiencing, instead focusing on some nerve damage in my left arm, an issue I’ve lived with for years without complaint.  If a damaged ulna nerve can cause muscle spams in the abdomen, I guess I really don’t know anything about the human body.  Yes, I’m bitter and pissed off at how they treated me when I was scared out of my mind that I was quite literally dying.

On Thursday, I received absolute confirmation of what I’ve known since late January/early February.  I have a sensitivity to gluten that created a myriad of neurological symptoms because of my immune system’s attempts to fight off the reaction to the protein.  I’m not a doctor and won’t attempt to describe the complexity of how this works, but my blood work confirmed that I have this issue.  The good news is that since I’ve eliminated gluten from my diet, most of the symptoms have completely vanished, and the ones that linger are much diminished.  I need to thank Dr. Limas Adams for taking me seriously and identifying the issue.  I also need to thank my cousin, Janette, for pushing me to consider gluten as the culprit.  Without them, there’s no telling how bad and permanent things could have gotten.

Today, I feel pretty healthy.  As I’ve said before, I certainly don’t feel nearly 40.  My balance, which has been an issue ever since my head injury, is as good as its been since the accident.  My typing is much improved, though I still have some issues with fine motor skills.  Overall, I feel pretty good.  Sure, I miss certain foods, like pizza and chicken wings, but if eliminating those from my diet is what it takes never to feel the way I felt last fall, I think I can endure the sacrifice.  If you have unexplained medical issues and cannot find any answers, please consider looking into gluten sensitivity, sprue, or Celiac.  Some doctors are more knowledgeable on the subject than others, but Dr. Adams is an expert.  If you’re in East Tennessee, I highly recommend him.  Below are a couple of links to get you started learning more about this issue.  There are plenty more if you do a simple Google search.  That’s all for now.  I have a book to finish before the semester begins.



Saturday Morning Ramblings

What a difference a year makes.  This time last year, I was beginning to feel the neurological symptoms that made me so sick last fall.  Around this time was when my left hand started bothering me so badly.  The worst of the symptoms didn’t really begin until probably August, but I remember my left hand cramping and twisting into an odd knot throughout June.  At first, I ignored it, believing I just needed more potassium, but as the symptoms progressed, I knew something more serious was happening.  At the worst of the illness, I could barely walk, and simple typing left me feeling utterly exhausted from the concentration required.

Today, I won’t say I feel 100%.  My left hand still trembles, and my fine motor skills are not great.  Typing still requires a lot of concentration, and I often jumble letters or strike the wrong keys as I type, which can be annoying while working on a book.  However, the most significant improvement is in my energy levels.  While typing still requires quite a bit of concentration, it doesn’t leave me feeling exhausted.  In fact, my productivity is nearly double my previous amount in terms of daily output.  Part of that comes from my sense of urgency for finishing this manuscript, but mostly it has to do with energy.  When I finish writing for the day, I don’t feel utterly spent and look forward to the next day.

Physically, I also feel better.  I certainly don’t feel like I’m staring down 40.  In fact, I have more energy than I’ve had since my early 20’s.  Part of that comes from working so hard on the farm, but most of it comes from getting over the worst of the neurological symptoms.  My strength is returning, and my stamina has improved.  Considering where I was just seven months ago, feeling nearly crippled, I’ll take it.  I don’t know if I’ll see any more progress in terms of the fine motor skills and coordination, but I can live with how I feel today.

Until I see the specialist again in August, I can’t say definitively that gluten is the culprit, but that’s been the only change to my life.  Since I cut it out of my diet, I’ve progressively felt better, and the one time I accidentally consumed it, I felt sick for three or four days, so to me, common sense dictates that gluten must have been the root cause of the neurological symptoms.  Until someone can prove otherwise, that’s what I’ll believe.  For now, I’m going to enjoy how I feel and continue doing what I’m doing.  I feel strong, healthy, and productive, and to me, that’s about as good as it gets.

Wednesday Morning Ramblings

Check back for an updated picture of this area soon.

I got to spend a little while yesterday using a new brush cutter/weed eater, and today, I’m so sore I can barely stand it.  For one, this cutter is at least twice as heavy as my other one, but also, it’ll take me a couple of weeks to work myself back into decent shape.  The crunch time of the semester doesn’t lend itself to high levels of physical activity, so I’ll have to readjust to working outdoors.  I love the exercise, especially after the soreness works itself out, and hopefully by the end of this summer, my body will be in pretty good condition.

I also hope to make some major progress on the property this summer.  There’s a lot to do, and it will take a tremendous amount of effort, but I feel up to the task.  Each day gluten free, I feel a little closer to my former self.  My left hand still gives me a few problems, especially with typing, and I’m still a little clumsy, but other than that, I’m feeling stronger and healthier than I have in quite a while, so while my health is on the upswing, I’m going to get the farm producing.  Keep an eye out for pictures of the progress.

Since it’s raining today, I’ll probably spend the day indoors cleaning and organizing my place.  I have a lot of work to do to have it ready for the boys in June, and I can’t write there if it’s too disorderly.  My goal is to dive back into book four tonight, so the space has to be clean to make that happen.  Book four is my number one priority for this summer, so I have to roll up my sleeves and get to it.  The story has been gnawing at me for some time, and there are so many wonderful scenes to write.  If the book comes together the way I envision it, it’s going to be a wild ride.  Please, stay tuned.

Tuesday Morning Ramblings

There’s one annoying aspect of my neurological symptoms that’s still lingering.  When typing, I have difficulty timing how long I hold down the shift key to capitalize certain letters.  Slowly, it’s getting better, but with as much as I type, it’s fairly annoying.  The letter “T” seems to be the worst.  I have to retype it several times to get it capitalized.  I never really noticed just how often I begin sentences with a word that begins with this letter until I started having the issue.  Now, I’m more aware of just how often it occurs from the sheer volume of retypes I have to make.

Another lingering issue is getting my fingers to land with precision.  Before the illness, I was a fairly proficient, self-taught typist who could average about 60 wpm.  Now, I often miss the key I want.  I’ll think “E” but my finger strikes “F” for no apparent reason, and some letters I have a hard time pressing fully, mostly “A” and “O ” it seems.  Again, it’s getting better, and typing today is much easier than just three months ago, but it’s still frustrating to be slowed by something I can’t really control.  Hopefully, as I continue to heal, these issues will eventually fade away entirely, but there’s always the possibility that I’ll have to deal with this for the rest of my life.

In the grand scheme, it’s a minor nuisance, but for a writer, it’s pretty frustrating.  I’ve always prided myself on my command of the language and efficiency with getting my thoughts down on the page, whether typing or handwriting.  Now, I’m having to adjust and reread everything more closely to make sure I didn’t type the wrong letter or reorganize letters or completely miss one.  One positive from this adjustment is that I am paying a lot more attention to what I write as I write it, so I guess I should focus on the positive and not just accept the inconvenience as my current reality.

So if you’re reading an entry one day and see something I’ve completely mangled, please don’t judge me too harshly.  I really do know the language fairly well; it’s just that my fingers and brain aren’t completely back in sync yet.  As I’ve been typing this entry right now, I’ve had to make at least a hundred typo corrections along the way, and this one is less than five hundred words long.  That’s how frequently I’m still missing keys.  However, compared to just three months ago, that’s a big improvement.  Then, it seemed like I had to correct every single word as I typed.  At my worst, I was down to about 20 wpm.  Now, I’m back up close to 40, so I’ll accept that progress and hope that the healing continues.