Sunday, January 16, 2011


Why does anyone douse themselves with perfume before they go the gym???? And why do they then chose to use the stair stepper next to mine, forcing me to breathe in the said perfume until I finally abandon my beloved, addictive exercise machine for the lowly stationary bicycle????

Why do people not know that there are many people in the world allergic to perfume??? And that the others who aren't allergic to perfume do not want to smell it from two exercise machines away???

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Today is day eight of the anti-candida diet that my naturopath Nesreen put me on. Yeast, or candida, is a fungus present in everyone's digestive system that thrives on simple sugars. So for this diet you can't eat refined flour, sugar, juice, maple syrup, or even fruit. And also no kombucha tea, no soy sauce, and no unfiltered vinegar.

According to my doctor, Dr. Martin Ross, Lyme Disease and yeast reinforce each other, and being on the antibiotics harms good intestinal bacteria, giving the yeast room to multiply. That's why before Dr. Ross started me on antibiotics, he put me on an anti-yeast medication. Now I've always assumed that I'm good in the yeast department because for years, even years before my Lyme diagnosis, I ate no sugar and no white flour, and I had no yeast symptoms.

But I've always had a few sweet things, as long as I saw the nutritional value: ginger bread sweetened with molasses and honey, pomegranate juice for the antioxidants, and recently, as I've been to busy writing to bake, and the Flying Apron gluten-free, vegan, organic sustainable bakery opened a few blocks from my house, I've been relying on their muffins (sweetened with maple syrup) to get me through most days. Actually, the amount of maple syrup (for the trace minerals) and frozen berries (for the antioxidants) and dark chocolate (for the antioxidants) I consumed each day was creeping up and up.

But that was OK, because I love vegetables above all else, and compared to everyone else I know, who eat cookies and ice cream and drink vodka, I am a food saint. Virtue is practically my middle name.

Or so I thought until Nesreen brought me down to earth a week ago Friday: No fruit or sweeteners for one to two weeks.

It just so happened The Poet had started a similar diet, for different reasons, a week earlier. So I went home and told him we'd do the diet together.

"That's great, sweetie, it's a really good diet," he said. "Let's do it together until the end of the month." Without thinking, I agreed.

After one week, I now know I was never, ever, a food saint before this. This no fruit thing is the toughest diet I've ever done. Before now I've stopped eating the aforementioned sugar and white flour, and wheat, and even for long stretches soy, or dairy, or chicken or eggs. None of it was hard. This is.

Without anything sweet at all, without even vinegar or soy sauce to flavor your food, time moves differently. It slows down, it feels undifferentiated. Weirdly, the savory foods I've always loved-- kale sauted with garlic, goat cheese, buckwheat noodles flavored with sesame oil and sea salt-- just aren't that exciting without the contrasting splashes of sweet throughout the day.

On the other hand, I slept really really well this week. Nine or ten hours every day. And my energy was even and steady, my concentration clear throughout the day, and yes, when I went dancing, I was spontaneous and graceful. I truly had one the of best nights for dancing I've had in a very, very long time.

So Nesreen said try one or two weeks, and The Poet said let's do it for three. As of today, I've decided to go for two weeks.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year's Resolution Remix

If you read my last post, you know my resolution for the new year was to make my own kombucha, as soon as I returned to Seattle. I came back Thursday, feeling pretty horrific from a herx as I tried increasing my Amoxicillin from ten capsules a day to eleven (making me one capsule shy of the full dose).

This Friday morning, before my appointment with my naturopath Nesreen, and before I'd had a chance to do anything about the Kombucha Project, I opened the refridgerator for breakfast. I pulled out the yogurt and scooped some into a bowl. Then I pulled out the bottle of maple syrup I usually put on my yogurt. I was already hungry, but when I saw the maple syrup, my stomach lurched with hunger. I was a strange feeling-- as if something inside me saw the maple syrup and was yelling "gimme gimme gimme!" I poured the maple syrup on my yogurt, the way I always do, and ate it.

Meanwhile, The Poet had come back to Seattle a week earlier, seen his own doctor and started a strict detox diet. No gluten, no fruit, no tomatoes, no nuts besides almonds and pumpkin seeds, no vinegar, no dairy, no... well, it's basically chicken, fish, turkey, vegetables and quinoa.... I said I would do it with him, but I wasn't really considering cutting out fruit, yogurt or maple syrup. I figured I'm virtuous enough since I never eat wheat or any refined sugar.

So I was explaining all this when I saw Nesreen later that day, even the part about the small monster inside me wanting the maple syrup. And guess what she said? I should do the diet with The Poet. Not just a symbolic giving up tomatoes and salad dressing.

"No fruit, for real?" I asked.

"No fruit, no sweeteners, no vinegar," Nesreen said. "You have yeast and you need to get rid of it. This diet will do it."

"No maple syrup?"

"Absolutely no maple syrup. For at least one week, two if you can do it."

"No grapefruit?"

"Grapefruit is a fruit! No grapefruit."

"Dark chocolate?"


"What about kombucha?" I asked.

Nesreens eyes widened. "No no no no! No kombucha!"

She explained that while kombucha is a probiotic, it usually contains yeast, due to the fermentation. That sediment at the bottom? Yeast.

So my resolution went out the window, only to be replaced by a harder resolution: the anti-candida diet.

While making kombucha at home sounds like fun, even hip, even glamorous (my twenty-three-year-old Manhattanite cousin was all over the kombucha idea), eating no fruit or maple syrup or vinegar is just boringly difficult. Now I really understood how disciplined The Poet was being with his diet for the past week.

Interestingly, all I could think about for the rest of Friday afternoon was how tragic it was that I couldn't eat any blueberries or frozen mangoes. Now on day three, I'm starting to get used to the all-veggie thing, but after every meal I find myself thinking "and now I'll have a piece of fruit." Or I start to make a grocery list, and the first thing that pops into my head is orange juice. And so on.

To compensate, I've been fantasizing how the anti-yeast diet will in just two weeks leave me focused when I write, speedy when I run, graceful and spontaneous on the dance floor, free of that clogged-lymph feeling and of the tight muscles and lingering tendonitis in my left calf.

And if it doesn't happen, I've promised myself a certain cardigan sweater I've been longing for, if I can make it through the whole two weeks. But then again, at the end of two weeks that first taste of dark chocolate will be its own reward.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Time was, this part of the year had me in bed with the covers over my head as I cried myself to sleep. Christmas, my birthday, New Year's--all markers of one more year gone, one more year of nothing but illness to look back on.

But I can look back on 2010 and say it was a truly good year. The Poet and I had many happy moments together, I had two short stories accepted for publication, I danced in the Fremont Soltice Parade, I started running and riding a bike again, and I passed many content hours working on my stories and my memoir.

And yet, when people ask me how I am doing and how I spend my time, this is only part of the picture. The truth is, I still spend hours and hours a day being a Lyme patient. The routine I go through just to get to bed (Heparin injection, endless pills, several glasses of Vitamin C and Alkaseltzer Gold, plus brushing teeth, etc) takes 45 to 60 minutes! Many more minutes go by during the day taking pills, calling pharmacies, going to the doctor, getting myofascial release so my legs don't cramp up, and of course the daily nap and 90 minutes devoted to exercise so my lymph system doesn't clog up and keep me from sleeping.
It seems so crazy, almost impossible to explain-- how can I be so much better and still have so much of my time taken up in these seemingly trivial tasks that in my mind should take no time at all? Why does taking a nap and exercising each day mean I can't also spend a full day writing, or holding down an actual job?

The truth is, after three years of treatment, I still spend over half of what I consider 'work' hours on Lyme, and it's no less complicated than it was.
But now the hours when I am free from Lyme are truly mine. I'm not watching TV, or staring out the window in a daze, or sewing because it's all I have the energy for. I am strong and focused, I am zooming around. My sister-in-law, who has only known me after I got sick, said last summer when I arrived at her house on my bike, having just been swimming and now ready to babysit, it was as if she saw the real me for the first time.

Time was, on New Year's Eve I would always say the same thing: 'let this be the year, please please let this be the year I get better.' Now I now that in the coming year I will get better. I am still working with Lyme, or working my way around Lyme, but now I have other hopes for the coming year that have nothing to do with Lyme disease at all.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I'm generally of the opinion that you don't need a new year to tweak yourself, but this year I happen to have two big resolutions.

1. Eat Slowly Again.

I used to be a very slow eater, still on the main course while everyone else moved on to dessert. This worked out well since I don't usually eat dessert. But in the past year I've been eating faster and faster. Why? Because now that I am feeling better, I am back to trying to squeeze more out of my day, feeling the need to hurry up most of the time. And also because The Poet eats very fast, and when he's done he starts eating the food on my plate. To defend against this I've started eating fast. Life should not be this kind of competition!!! I will eat slowly again and tell The Poet to get his own food.

2. Make Kombucha

Here's one I've been resisting for some time. Yes, people have told me you can make it at home. One guy at the grocery store, who saw me buying a $3.29 bottle of the stuff went off on a monologue about how he brews it up in his bathroom. "Yuck!" I thought. "I'll just keep buying it."

For those who don't know: kombucha is this fermented drink full probiotics. You can get it at Whole Foods or you organic co-op, but it's pricey. And it disappeared for a few months this summer after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms advised stores to pull it from the shelves because the alcohol content (natural result of the fermentation process) might possibly have been above the legal 5%.

Kombucha fans know how expensive a habit it is, and hard core fans might suspect it's just not as good as it used to before it took its hiatus and came back in government regulated form.

Meanwhile, the massive doses of Amoxicillin I'm on are doing a number on my digestion. I've been going through $50 bottles of probiotics like they're bowls of popcorn. Kombucha also helps, but how can I afford to drink it every day?

So when I saw an article in the Washington Post on how easy it is to brew Kombucha at home, I knew it was time. I'm in DC now visiting the family, but I'm back in Seattle next week, and day 1 at home is day 1 for Kombucha brewing. I'll keep you posted.