Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tension headache of doom

It's surprising when you go on SCD the little things you don't think about. Take for example over-the-counter painkillers, like Tylenol or Advil.

I've been avoiding ibuprofen ever since I suspected I had leaky gut syndrome. I'm sure most of you are aware that the medical establishment by and large looks at any sort of dietary manipulation with almost total skepticism.

Your standard doctor, who is generally full of himself and won't believe a word you say.

Honestly it's hard for me to believe that anyone with a severe digestive problem would NOT think food has something to do with it. I have an autoimmune disease, and there's a similar theory about the cause of autoimmune disease (as well as other diseases) called leaky gut syndrome. To my knowledge, I never had any overt signs of digestive imbalance, but the fact that I do have an autoimmune disease kind of points to leaky gut syndrome. I'll explain.

The theory is that people with leaky gut syndrome have increased intestinal permeability. What ends up happening is that because of the damage, food particles that aren't entirely digested end up leaking from your gut into the rest of your body. When the particles get out, your body tries to use them anyway, and starts sticking them into your tissues. Eventually your immune system gets suspicious and attacks these random molecules -- and your tissues in the process. Voila, autoimmune disease.

Your regular run of the mill doctor will not tell you this. In fact, if you ask them what causes autoimmune disease, they will tell you NO ONE KNOWS, likely accompanied by voodoo sounds and shaking of hands, ghostly wailing, etc. They will then prescribe you a buttload of medication, which is supposed to help you, along with an anti-inflammatory painkiller. They'll either tell you to take ibuprofen or Aleve, or they'll prescribe something like Celebrex.

However, drugs like ibuprofen (NSAIDs) or COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex, actually can make your intestines MORE permeable. And since drugs like Celebrex are regularly prescribed in addition to whatever disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are given for rheumatoid arthritis, they actually end up making your condition worse.

Of course, no standard rheumatologist will ever admit to this, because they are right and you are wrong, no matter how clear it is you aren't improving on their regimen.

But I digress. On SCD it's even more limiting than that, since there is starch in every over the counter medication. So you have to choose if you want to take that medication loaded with corn starch, or suffer.

I don't know why I was so keen to avoid even acetaminophen; after all, I'm still taking sulfasalazine for my rheumatoid arthritis daily, and that has corn starch in it. But I really wanted to try.

So, I first tried wine. Not the best idea, but it is starch free. Worked for a little while. I tried massage, I tried sex (my husband was ever so helpful), I tried some coffee, I tried more massage. The headache was still there.

I went to sleep, and woke up shortly thereafter. I was in agony, and I knew I hadn't slept long. The clock said 12:50 a.m.

I whispered to my husband that I was going to take a shower. I took the hottest shower imaginable for about 20 minutes. I came out, still in some pain, but slightly better, and went into the living room.

For a while, I was sure I was going to throw up. I started shaking, which was weird. Since I didn't know what else to do, and because I remembered from my pregnancy days that reading seemed to help me with nausea, I picked up my friend's copy of Ultrametabolism, which was recommended to me by my new doctor.

Reading for a while, I was fairly pleased with the book. The author, Mark Hyman, quotes Loren Cordain, of Paleo Diet fame, and I found the section on stress to be particularly interesting, as I am often stressed. My life is one big ball of stress, actually. I do need to find more time to meditate and relax. I noticed the book mention saunas as a great stress reliever, and I was pretty sure my previous shower qualified, so I was happy.

Anyway, the nausea passed and I poured myself another glass of wine. I know, I know, but it's starch free! I sipped that while I read and later I had another wave of nausea. This one I didn't think I'd be able to fight off, but I eventually did, and I felt better than ever after that. Now my headache is pretty much gone, but it's 2 a.m. Oh well. I feel pretty triumphant.

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