Wednesday, September 17, 2014

You're Better Than That.

With all that has been going on lately, with Ray Rice and his abusive relationship, and my anniversary this past weekend, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

When the news went viral about Ray Rice and his then fiancĂ© in the elevator, I thought, what is wrong with that woman to marry him after the fact? Then a friend put it all into perspective for me.  Many of us women have been exactly where Janay Palmer is, and are guilty of continuing as the victim just as she is, including myself.

First off, before my Dad reads this and grabs his gun, I have never been abused, physically or verbally. Emotionally, however, is a totally different story, and just as bad if you ask me. Janay is in a toxic relationship. She’s not one of the few, she’s part of the majority of women and men in toxic relationships. She is sticking with the man who hit her. Think of all the memes on social media with teenagers talking about their ideal guy and their idea of losing weight to get them, even to the point of starvation dieting and exercise bulimia.

I was in and out of a toxic relationship for 5 years. I was made to feel “less than” due to lying and cheating, yet I continued in the relationship for some reason I still don’t understand. I guess I felt like that is all I was worth… there’s no telling and I don’t really want to revisit who I was back then, as I had truly forgotten about all of that until now. And yes, you can forget about all of that once you are truly happy. Back then, I believed a good man didn’t exist. In order to be happy, you just had to lower your standards. I thought all men lied and cheated, because almost all men seem to. That relationship made me a different person. I was crazy and bi-polar. I would be happy one day and feel the darkest of sadness the next. One day, I woke up and realized that if what I was putting up with is all there was, I didn’t need any of that. I would rather cut that person out of my life, as well as any of my friends who supported that relationship.

I went on a few lunch dates and what-not, but one night my room mates dragged me down to Charleston for a birthday party where I met my now-husband. I had no intention of getting into a serious relationship, as I was in the process of interviewing for my dream job that wouldn’t allow for it.  However, I met the man God sent to save my life. He literally saved me from myself. Our anniversary weekend just passed… 5 years of marriage (a year of dating), a few moves, and 2 babies later, I realized just how happy I am and how much I have forgotten about my not so awesome past. I am in the type of relationship every woman should wish for- not that mine is perfect at all, but it’s pretty darn close to it. From the beginning, my husband has supported me in every decision I have ever made, every job choice, every friendship, every educational choice, every travel opportunity, and even every illegal and taboo life changing decision such as our home birth. He holds me accountable when it comes to my faith, my training, and all even at the cost of his time. He will go to work all day, come home, and make sure I go get my training done, even if that means he is home alone with cranky kids (if they happen to be cranky).  And better yet, he seems to improve as a husband as the years go by. He even wakes up to soothe our youngest to sleep at night after I nurse him.  Most importantly, he never ever gives me any reason to doubt him, and trust is such a huge part of a loving relationship. He has that kind of respect for me, to make me feel security and feel truly loved. That’s what every woman should wait for.


Why am I writing about this on my fitness blog? Because the relationship a person is in completely affects their mental and physical health. If you are in a relationship that makes you unhappy, you do not make good diet or exercise choices. When you are stressed due to your significant other, you tend to lack drive, and elevated cortisol levels are terrible for your heart. If you are in a toxic relationship, know that there is better.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Got (non-dairy) Milk?

            Many disagreements exist regarding the health benefits of dairy, as well as the concerns of consuming raw, unpasteurized dairy. Much of the information concerning dairy is conflicting based on who is paying for the research and advertising. The choice of whether or not to consume dairy or what type of milk to consume is best made according to the priorities of the consumer, such as nutritional preferences, risks and benefits, and individual digestive reactions.
            The CDC and FDA post many warnings against consuming raw milk. These organizations claim that there are nothing but harmful bacteria and germs that have caused 79% of dairy related outbreaks between 1998-2011. However, other studies have shown that more illnesses have been recorded due to bacteria in deli meat. They also claim that almost no nutritional values and hardly any enzymes are lost in the pasteurization and homogenization processes. However, studies have shown better growth in children who drink raw human milk as opposed to pasteurized milk. Studies have also shown that enzymes and bacteria in raw milk protect people against asthma and allergies, and the hormones in raw milk strengthen the immune system. Due to the loss of lactobacilli bacteria through pasteurization, people who are lactose intolerant are more likely able to digest raw milk. Raw milk was found to be more digestible in 86% of lactose intolerant people.
            During pasteurization, the process of heating milk to kill bacteria, the milk is heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds, or ultra-pasteurized, and heated to 280 degrees for a minimum of 2 seconds. The CDC claims that this does not significantly change nutritional value, but admits that some enzymes are inactivated and immunoglobulin are killed. Lactobacilli is killed which helps to digest lactose, and lipase is killed first in order for homogenization to even out the texture of the milk. Among enzymes killed in pasteurization are lipoprotein lipase, which increases the shelf life of milk once killed, plasmin protease, alkaline phosphatase, lysozyme which is the antibacterial, amylase, catalase, lactase, lactoperoxidase, and phosphatase. Milk contains 3.3% total protein, and the biggest cause for denatured proteins is the sensitivity of light of proteases, methionine and cystine. The high temperature of pasteurization causes whey and casein to interact but supposedly does not affect the nutritional value of milk, but only the functionality. After pasteurization, homogenization takes place so that the protein-heavy fat globules are broken down so there is not a cream layer on top and milk is more even throughout. This also makes the separation of whole, low fat, and skim milk easier. Because of the killing of lipase, there are an increased number of allergic reactions to the milk.
            The fat content in milk is another highly debated topic. Several decades ago, people only drank whole milk. Just a couple of decades ago, low fat milk was introduced to households and to school lunches by the FDA in attempt to make children healthier. However, whole milk is linked to lower body fat while low fat milk is linked to faster weight gain in children. The belief is that low fat foods makes one hungrier, and especially for carbohydrates. Not only does skim milk possibly cause a faster weight gain, but also with the absence of B vitamins combined with a person’s attempted metabolism of cow milk protein, homeocysteine is caused to buildup and that is a cocktail for heart disease. Also, in order to make milk appealing to children, flavored milks such as strawberry and chocolate are given to them that are filled with sugar, which negates any possible nutritional benefit of consuming milk, regardless of fat content.
            An array of health problems exists that are linked to dairy. Dairy is considered an inflammatory food that can cause arthritis flare-ups, as well as Rosacea and IBS. Alzheimer’s is also closely linked, as milk tainted with bovine tuberculosis is directly found in Alzheimer’s patients. 20-40% of dairy herds are infected with bovine tuberculosis. Also, Casein kinase 1 is found in the brains of patients, which builds up amyloid beta and notch cleavage.  As for Chron’s Disease, mycobacteria in cattle stops white blood cells from killing E. Coli by releasing the molecule mannose, and triggers the antibody protein ASCA. Infant ear infections are very likely caused by dairy, as there is 300% more casein in cow’s milk than human milk, and casein is very mucous forming. As for Osteoperosis and milk companies’ advertising that milk builds strong bones, the intake of milk has shown no effect on reducing the instance of fractures. This may possibly be due to increased urinary excretion of calcium when dairy is consumed. Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis could be caused by dairy as people have the same abnormal autoimmune response to milk. Diabetes may be caused by cows’ milk when children are given cows’ milk formula before 3 months of age. Autism is famously linked to dairy, as diets that eliminate diary, most importantly eliminating casein, get rid of the gastrointestinal problems that are thought to worsen behavioral problems in autistic people. As our immune system is such a large part of our digestive system, casein irritates the respiratory system and causes allergies. Prostate and breast cancer are also shown through studies to be caused by dairy, most specifically IGF-1, which is increased with the injection of rBGH in cows. The hormone oestrogen secreted in cow’s milk is thought to cause breast cancer. 
            Among all of the concerns with drinking dairy, there is the treatment of cows, as well as the results of what cows are treated with. Cows are given rBGH, bovine growth hormone, in order to increase their milk production. These cows then have diarrhea, and with the proximity of the utters to the excretion, the utters and milk are contaminated with the bacteria in the diarrhea. Farmers admit that about 90% of dairy products in grocery stores have fecal matter. These cows also suffer from mastitis, and with mastitis, they have somatic cells in their milk. There is an estimated 1,120,000 somatic cells in each spoonful of milk. This means there is approximately 1 drop of pus in every cup. This is not a huge serving of pus, but it just depends on how much pus the consumer is okay with consuming.
            The drinking of milk is thought to have begun 7500 years ago between the Central Balkans and Central Europe. Europeans seem to have the highest rate of lactase persistence and are the only people who can continue to digest milk without issues. Cultures who tend to be lactose intolerant are African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, American Indians, and Asian Americans. These cultures have lactase deficiency, which causes lactose malabsorption. At 3 years old, the age by which children normally wean, they stop producing lactase and rennin that helps them to digest milk.
            For all the controversy over whether dairy milk actually does a body good, there are several other milk sources that are beneficial to our health, and have good sources of vitamins and protein, among other nutrients. Whole milk has 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 35 mg of cholesterol, 8 grams of protein, 12 grams of sugar, and 120 milligrams of sodium per cup. All other sources have fewer calories, fat, cholesterol and carbohydrates (with the exception of rice and oat milk). Soy milk has between 70-130 calories, 2-4 grams of fat, 7-9 grams of protein, and 4-5 grams of carbohydrates. Almond milk has 30-50 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 1-5 grams of carbohydrates. Hemp milk, which is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, has 70 calories, 6 grams of fat, 8-20 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbohydrates. Oat milk has 110-130 calories, 1.5-2.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 24 grams of carbohydrates. Coconut milk has 50 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of carbohydrates. According to the numbers, coconut milk is a great milk source if fat is a nutrient preference, whereas hemp milk is a great alternative if one needs protein. Also available are goat milk, which is high in fat, sheep milk which is high in protein, and buffalo milk which is very high in fat. Most of these alternative milks are fortified with calcium; a nutrient for which dairy milk is widely drunk. However, the calcium in dairy milk is not easily absorbed. One must have Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. The only natural source of vitamin D is sunlight, although vitamin D is added to dairy milk. As a matter of fact, the combination of retinol and saturated fat in dairy milk can actually weaken bones. Instead of drinking milk, calcium can be found in better sources such as leafy green vegetables, beans, and supplements.
            As for infants, human milk is higher in carbohydrates and amino acids cystine and tryptophan, which make it much better for infants to digest. Milk consumption in childhood, especially before the age of 3 months is linked to type 1 diabetes. Milk allergies are also the leading cause of ear infections in children. Milk also causes behavioral problems and asthma. Although enzymes and chemicals are added to infant formula in order to help them to digest the cow milk protein, more information should be provided to parents to inform them against using formula if the ability to feed their children breast milk if available. Giving children cow’s milk after weaning is also unnecessary and parents should be informed of milk alternatives and their benefits versus the use of dairy.
            Heard often, each argument depends on who is paying for the research. Each individual should weigh the benefits of dairy consumption. However, more information needs to be made more widely available to people in order to make informed decisions. Most importantly, people should have proper information so they can make good decisions for the sake of their children, as their decision can impact whether their children will get diabetes, asthma, allergies, eczema, issues with autism, bacterial infections, and even cancer. With all of the alternatives available, dairy milk is not the only option, or even the best option for all the benefits its consumption supposedly has.












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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Story.

          


     With so many women simply going in for a repeat c-section after having one with their first at the advice of their doctor, many questioned why I fought so hard for a VBAC. There are so many benefits of a vaginal birth for a child. They receive the gut flora from their mother that helps with their digestion, the mother is more easily able to breastfeed due to the natural hormones that balance at delivery (and breast milk has GLA and antibodies necessary for the baby’s immune system as well as digestive function), and that same hormone cocktail possibly protects the mother from Postpartum Depression. There are also many other benefits that can be found with a quick google search. There are also many risks of a c-section that people don’t seem to recognize often. More woman die from c-sections than car accidents and breast cancer, babies risk traumatic deliveries, and most importantly, their separation from their mother, which is incredibly traumatic emotionally for both mother and child. I also most likely will want more children, and more c-sections lead to problems with placenta previa or accretia, uterine rupture, and premature birth, as well as other risks. Most importantly for me, however, was the beginning of my motherhood with Kai. When he was born and taken away from me after 25 hours of labor and an “emergency cesarean”…. I cringe every time I hear “emergency” followed by or preceded by 24 hours of labor because it’s almost never an emergency but the doctor’s impatience along with hospital protocol regarding pitocin…. Kai was held by his father and spent time with my other family members and Jake’s before he ever saw me. I was one of the last people to hold him after family and nurses. My hair stands on end with anger every time I think of Kai’s entrance into the world. I was immobile due to the c-section, so I couldn’t be his mother for the first week of his life. I could hobble around, yes, but I was in too much pain to carry him and change his diapers since I couldn’t handle the pain medications and switched to a simple dose of Tylenol and anti-inflammatory. Not that we didn’t bond at all, because I certainly love my Kai more than words could ever express, and his love for his mother is obvious. A mother and son’s bond is like no other, regardless of any situation. Needless to say, however, I wanted a very different outcome my second time around, so I started doing my research six weeks after Kai’s birth, and promised myself I would get what our family needed.
            As soon as I got a positive pregnancy test, I called the only truly VBAC supportive doctor in the state. She was/is amazing. She e-mailed me back and forth when I needed support or had any questions. She called me to update me or keep me informed on anything that popped up. Then the news came at my 23-week appointment that the original OB who cut Kai out of me gave me a single layer suture. Why? Maybe he was in a rush and wanted to get home to dinner and already spent 12 hours trying to convince me to go for a c-section that day. Maybe he didn’t care that I wanted a VBAC (although he knew) and just did what he did routinely. Or maybe he told me the truth when I called him to tell him how upset I was due to his decision when he said single layer sutures have less chances for infection and cause less trauma to the uterus than a double layer, as I had a very thin incision. Besides, 3 out of 5 studies show this to be the truth… Who knows. Regardless, the hospital at which my doctor practiced at would not allow a VBAC on a patient with a single layer suture cesarean, so my search continued.
            I called several doctors and midwives all over the tri-state area. I scheduled an appointment with one doctor who didn’t even know doctors still performed single layer sutures these days, but agreed to have a chat with me. I drove an hour to see her, only to find that the receptionist scheduled my appointment for the wrong month. I saw that as a sign that this wasn’t going to be my doctor, as I do not have the patience to drive 2 hours to not be fit in. The second doctor I saw who was supposedly supportive of VBACs told me she has only performed 8 VBACs of an attempted 10. Of those 10, all women had a “proven pelvis” so she didn’t feel confident in my success seeing as I didn’t have a proven pelvis. I tried to tell her how healthy I was with my nutritional and athletic background, and she told me that health has nothing to do with the success of a VBAC. That was interesting, seeing as ACOG’s guidelines points to health as being the number one indicator in finding whether a patient is a good candidate for a VBAC. I then saw a midwife at that practice. She told me I am a participant in my labor. A participant? I’m pretty sure I’m the one birthing the baby and the doctors/midwives/nurses can maybe call them the participants. I saw another midwife who seemed to be tolerable, so I stuck with her. After all, I did need someone to attend this birth, as I didn’t know what the heck to do with labor and birth. I also called the only home-birthing midwife practice in the state, and the head midwife there wouldn’t see me. I’m not sure whether it was the single layer suture that turned her off or the fact that I wanted a VBAC.
            Enter my midwife. I made a list of several midwives and doctors in the tri-state area, and called many on the list. I finally spoke to a woman who immediately sounded like my open window. I called her sobbing incessantly the day when I felt completely hopeless. This was just before settling for the second hospital midwife I saw. Just before calling her, I finally admitted to my mom what I was going through, because I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. No one wanted to attend my birth, and help me to ensure it to be a natural birth and do what was in the best interest of my child and me. She talked me through every scenario of homebirth outcomes, and every scenario for how I could have the birth I wanted. She told me that I still have options, and understood how ludicrous it was that I was having such trouble to simply give birth. Besides, VBACs ARE safer than repeat c-sections. She was busy for the foreseeable future, so she asked if she could come over that day. She drove all the way down and walked through my door and gave me the most understanding hug. I nearly started crying again just because I was so happy to find someone who was willing to help me. Not only did I find “someone,” I found someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience around the world, as well as a woman with a heart of gold. I basically found the modern day Mother Theresa in my eyes. Just as when I met Jake, it was like God gave me no excuse but to be with him because he knows I’m not the best at making decisions, he did the same in this case. God shut every door to every wrong opportunity for a care provider, and put the right one right on my doorstep, as he put me on Jake’s doorstep 6 years ago. What can I say, when God answers my prayers, he makes sure I see the answer and know it for what it is.
            I kept my hospital midwife, as my insurance doesn’t cover my midwife, and that way my ultrasounds and what not would be taken care of. I wanted to have someone in my corner at the hospital in case I did need a non-urgent transport during labor. This actually added much unnecessary stress, in hindsight. The doctors and midwives at the practice held conferences about me and decided I needed to be talked into a repeat c-section, as my children will be less than 18 months apart. I told them I would most likely go late, and that wouldn’t be an issue. I was right. 18 months on the dot. Then at 40 weeks they wanted to induce me because I had oligohydramnios, or low fluid. I didn’t, as they simply weren’t measuring all pockets and didn’t give me full credit. My midwife checked me via palpation continuously, and could tell I had ample fluid. No one at the hospital practice ever touched my belly. They then tried to induce me at 41 weeks for the same thing, even after another doctor did an AFI and found that I had plenty of fluid. Then 42 weeks rolled around, and the hospital midwife turned to the most often used reason in the book, telling me “You’re baby is going to die.” Her reasoning? I was post-dates, my placenta is showing calcification, and my babies are less than 18 months apart. I reminded her that my babies would be at least 18 months apart at the point, and placenta calcification happens after 30 weeks anyway. When my placenta decides to stop working, I will go into labor. And 42 weeks is not post-dates, by the way. After 42 weeks, I would be post dates, but I continued to monitor the baby’s heart rate and his reaction to contractions and activity. He was doing great. And why was I so against induction? Because inductions tend to fail and end up in c-section since the babies aren’t ready to be born yet. If the baby is not ready to be born yet, he could have breathing issues, as well as brain damage due to artificial contractions that get him nowhere (which is why pitocin inductions lead to “emergency c-sections” due to fetal stress that would never have happened without the pitocin).
            After a week of prodromal labor where I was having contractions 3-5 minutes apart every night, I finally went into labor, which lasted 67 hours at exactly 42 weeks + 5 days. I told Jake that after this, a marathon will be the easiest accomplishment of my life. Imagine having your groin and stomach electrocuted every 5-7 minutes for 67 hours. That’s the only way I can describe that to anyone who hasn’t been through that. They finally felt nearly unbearable at a certain point due to my exhaustion, and after my midwife checked me, I was 9 centimeters dilated. She said it with a smile, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. I asked her if that meant I was going to see my baby that day. She laughed, but come on; I didn’t know labor could last 3 days either. Who knew how much longer I could survive through that. I got in the tub and started pushing and out came my baby boy, all 7 lb 4 oz of him. My face was the first face he saw, and that has to have something to do with the way he is so beautifully attached to me like no one else. My first didn’t even know me from anyone else in the beginning, other than the fact that I had the milk. This little man calms down at the sound of my voice or the sight of my face. It’s an incredible feeling. He then latched and nursed 26 minutes after birth, without me even trying. I was simply holding him and he found the source on his own. I have barely put him down since, and hate to do it when I do, and have been up and moving around and out of the house since he was 2 days old. Recovery is so much easier this go-round, and my relationship with my baby is so guiltless compared to with my first. Big brother loves his new baby brother and life with a newborn couldn’t be easier. This time last year I was googling death by exhaustion. This time I can’t understand why I have energy or why this baby is treating me so well.

            Faith in God, faith that he will make things happen, and trust in my body that I am capable of doing what every woman before me has done, and never-ending support from my husband got me through it all. Throughout those last few hours of labor I kept chanting to myself, “God give me strength, give me courage, and deliver this boy safely”. I am so thankful I stuck it out to the end and things happened the way they were meant to. It all paid off. As for my midwife and home birth, I never want to go a different route. I feel so much safer in the hands of someone who has expertise and experience and relies on their brain for instantaneous events than in the chair of a doctor who relies solely on technological devices. Doesn’t it make sense that someone who only ever uses a calculator can not act as quickly as someone who uses their own brains the majority of the time is much more quick to seeing solutions to problems as they arise? My midwife had me do several exercises months before the birth, to ensure good positioning of my baby. Like training for your first marathon, you wouldn’t ignore the advice of the very experienced coach! Positioning of the baby has so much to do with the outcome of labor. With my sweet baby boy in my arms, I’m thankful for every bit of the challenge I was given to overcome. And by the looks of my littlest man, he is happy for all we went through as well, for I have never seen a baby smile or laugh as much as he does. His first smile? Day 1. That is what it’s all about.