“Oh My Gosh” Moments in 2016- A Health Update

Outdoor chlorinated pool

Every once in awhile I learn something rather startling about my health. Here are some “Oh My Gosh” moments that I’ve had in 2016. I’ve bolded key words so you can easily find the topics that interest you.

Vitamin B12 gives me zits, and not the small kind, but the larger, painful, cystic acne kind. I hadn’t had any acne in a long time and then it started showing up. While researching information on Vitamin B12 for a friend, I stumbled across some information on the VeganHealth.Org website about B12 that made my mouth drop open. The third paragraph in step one says

In rare case, someone might have an acne-like response to such large doses of vitamin B12. If that happens to you, skip to Step 2 and opt for one of the lower dose regimens.

I realized that this could be the reason for my acne and I began experimenting. I cut out the B12, the acne went away. I restarted the B12, even cutting a 1000 mcg tablet in 4 pieces to take 250 mcg and it came back.  Here’s the article about Vitamin B12 and acne.

Since my serum B12 is getting quite low (319 pg/mL with a reference range of 243-894), I can’t sit around and not do anything. Right now I’m trying Vitafusion Women’s Multivitamin, which has 9 mcg of B12 in one gummy vitamin (150% of the Daily Value). I could not find a B12  supplement that had a low amount of the vitamin, so I decided to try a multivitamin. I’ve actually been cutting the gummy in half, eating half in the morning and half at night, based on what is stated about B12 in the VeganHealth.org website mentioned above:

There is a large difference between amounts taken twice daily and once daily because beyond 3 µg (for adults), absorption drops significantly.

I get 4.5 mcg of B12 with each half gummy. The acne I had is going away and I’ve had no new breakouts. (Yay!) Just recently, I started taking 1 1/2 gummies a day, cutting them in pieces and eating 1/2 gummy throughout the day. If that works, I will increase to 2 gummies a day (recommended supplement amount). Hopefully that will be enough B12 to increase my serum levels! I don’t like taking additional B6, which is in all multivitamins, as my serum levels for that vitamin are high without supplementation, but I can’t not take B12 right now and larger doses make my face hurt with acne!!

Another great article on Vitamin B12 can be found on the VeganHealth.org website. It is entitled What Every Vegan Should Know about Vitamin B12. 

I am not completely vegan, but I don’t eat a lot of animal protein. It is surprising how fast my levels are dropping as my serum B12 was 417 in March, and that was even while taking some B12 supplements….. (Both levels were fasting.)

On another note, I determined that pecans, blueberries, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and corn don’t seem to work for me. Strawberries likely don’t either but I seem to be okay with raspberries. In testing the blueberries, I ate one ounce. Ditto for the corn and just 1/2 ounce for the pecans….and less than that for Brazil nuts! All those foods gave me a headache the next day. And not just a small headache, but a pretty major headache that lasted the entire day, and in the case of corn, for over two days! That is the second time I’ve tried corn this year. I also tried it 2 years ago with the same result. I will retest it next year but it sure doesn’t seem to be working for me now. And that’s sad as I love corn, especially Olathe corn from Colorado!!

corn

I’m still suspicious that foods in the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, bell peppers and eggplant) give me joint pain, particularly in my knees and hips. Time will tell as I continue to experiment.

tomatoes

Eating raw Swiss chard definitely gives me Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) along with a cough. This was shocking to discover as I eat LOTS of cooked Swiss chard without any problems at all. I grew Swiss chard in my garden this year and while picking it, I put a quarter sized piece in my mouth. Shortly thereafter, my mouth and throat began to feel weird and I developed a cough. It felt very uncomfortable! This lasted about 2 hours!  I tested the raw chard again a couple of days later and the same thing happened. (I tested it twice….using some bought at the store and some from my garden.) I searched online and found this interesting piece of information from the Oral Allergy Syndrome Network website:

If you have a grass pollen allergy you may experience cross-reactions with one or more of these foods: cantaloupe, honeydew, orange, peanut, swiss chard, tomato, watermelon, and white potato. (To see a detailed oral allergy syndrome food list please click here.)

I noticed (many years ago) that peeling potatoes made my hands itchy, so I always wear gloves when I handle potatoes now. Eating the skin of thin skinned potatoes (cooked of course)….as in Yukon Gold potatoes and red potatoes gives me a similar oral allergy syndrome reaction. I am quite allergic to grasses, so at least I now understand why this is happening! Melons aren’t problematic for me, peanuts don’t work (headache) and I will retest oranges this fall when they come into season.

Most probiotics don’t work for me, but I have found two to be helpful. Jarrow Formulas Ideal Bowel Support and Jarrow Formulas Baby Jarro-Dolphilus plus FOS have helped me quite a bit. The Ideal Bowel Support took away a great deal of the intestinal pain I was having and the second reduced the amount of heartburn I was experiencing. Neither probiotic gives me histamine issues. Things aren’t perfect, but they are much better! I have learned that finding the right probiotic is really trial and error!

My lipid levels went in an unexpected direction (not good) on a no fat, whole food plant based (WFPB) diet. It is shocking to be expecting my best lipid labs ever, only to get some values which were the worst ever. Specifically, my triglycerides (TG) are at their highest ever at 147, HDL at lowest ever at 39, and CHOL/HDL ratio at highest ever at 4.8. My LDL went from 99 to 120. I was shocked and frustrated. In looking as to why this might have happened, I stumbled upon some information by K. Lance Gould, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. On his website, the Weatherhead PET Imaging Center, on this page, he states:

The elimination of excess carbohydrate is a major departure from most vegetarian or semi-vegetarian foods. However, reduction of carbohydrates is important since individuals with low HDL and high triglycerides may demonstrate marked increase in triglycerides and fall in HDL on low fat, high carbohydrate vegetarian food. If grains, beans and rice are the only source of adequate protein, carbohydrate intake and calories may be high enough to prevent reaching lean body habitus and optimal cholesterol lowering with adverse effects on HDL and triglycerides in some people. The modified semi-vegetarian food with good protein sources described here usually keeps HDL high and triglycerides low.

That seems to be me….my TG jumped (as did my LDL) and my HDL dropped…all while eating a low/no fat mostly vegan diet.  Dr. Gould has a free download on the home page of the website…on the right hand side, (in case you are interested) entitled: Gould Guide for Preventing and Reversing Coronary Artery Disease.

It seems I’m not the only one this happens to. Others have mentioned it in different online patient forums. Dr. Fuhrman mentions this as well in his new book, The End of Heart Disease.  He suggest cutting back on foods with a high glycemic index (GI). Dean Ornish also mentions the glycemic index/glycemic load and triglyceride link in his post: How to Optimize Triglyceride Levels.

The difference between my best lipid labs ever and these ones, are the addition of dates (very high GI), more fruit and short grain brown rice. I’ve cut out the dates, cut way back on fruit and will try to eat other grains besides brown rice.  Other lipid labs that were run in November of 2014 were also better than my most recent labs and during that time I was eating some fish, olive oil, very little fruit and no rice.  It does appear that more carbohydrates in certain forms (fruit and brown rice) have not been helpful for me. (Bummer!) I see my cardiologist in November and look forward to his comments. I’m not sure, of course, that high glycemic foods are causing these issues….but it seems a reasonable guess at this point in time. Hopefully my labs will be better in November!

For more information on the glycemic index see:

Finally, the most jaw dropping, Oh My Gosh moment happened in June and it involved a swimming pool. I used to swim all the time prior to getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in 2003. It was one of my favorite forms of exercise. Since getting CFS, swimming has been very hard for me. Each summer I would try to swim in the athletic’s club outdoor pool, and each time I felt exhausted and awful afterwards. I thought I felt poorly because of too much exercise, but I began to wonder if that was really what was happening. This year I decided to test my theory that it wasn’t the amount of exercise I was doing, but something else…perhaps the chlorine or some other chemical in the water was affecting me negatively. I have been able to snorkel for an hour in the ocean, do hour long classes at the athletic club using weights and even some short hikes without problems, so I was ready to see how a swim in the pool would affect me.

I chose a week in June which was a particularly good week for me. I was feeling great all week so on Friday I got up, grabbed my buoyancy belt and went for a swim.  (The buoyancy belt helps me to stay afloat so swimming is easier.) I swam for 6 lengths of the pool, then went to the shallow end and did a few leg exercises. All in all, I was in the pool for less than 15 minutes. I loved every minute of it and it felt so good to swim! I ate some food I brought with me so I would be well nourished, showered, and stopped by the plant nursery on the way home– where I started to feel a little off.  I made it home and within 3 hours of the swim I HAD to be horizontal. I literally could NOT move. It was scary! Very scary! That night I could not watch a movie because it was too much stimulus and input for my brain. I did not develop a cough or skin rash as some people who are sensitive to chlorine experience. I just could NOT function!

Outdoor chlorinated pool

It took me TWO days to completely recover! On Monday, I was back at the club doing my hour long Just Weights Class and I was relatively okay. The next weekend I did a 5 mile hike at about 8,000 feet in elevation, and while I was tired, I was fine! So, I concluded that it wasn’t the exercise, it was something else that put me in the horizontal position after my swim, and I was suspecting chlorine or some other chemical.

I looked back at my food and activity record and found that my worst afternoon on a cruise that I had taken in March was after I had spent time in a hot tub that morning. I also remember that several years ago I had spent a lot of time in our club’s indoor salt water pool helping my husband do water therapy as he recovered from a fractured femur, and I had not been adversely affected.

So, I needed to test my theory about chlorine (and/or other chemicals). In August I went to the club’s indoor pool which is a salt water pool. I spent 45 minutes in the pool this time (not just 15 minutes) and I did way more exercise. And yes, I was tired afterwards, but still very, very functional. I even had 7 other people over for dinner that night!

Indoor Salt Water Pool

So, it appears, I am very, very sensitive to chlorine…which is a scary thought as there is chlorine in our drinking water and cleaning products. I’m ridding my home of all cleaning products and learning to use water, baking soda, vinegar, etc to clean with. I’m checking into filtering my water and not using hot, steamy water for showers or dishes. (So as to avoid breathing in the steam.) In general, I’m being very careful and way more attentive to chemicals. If I can go from feeling wonderful to non-functional in 3 short hours because of spending 15 minutes in a chlorinated pool, I need to respond to that problem!!

I guess I should touch on the oral petechiae situation that I experience. Have I figured it out? No. Do I get them more often when I eat food that I didn’t prepare? Yes. Did they appear when my body was super stressed out (eg my swimming pool experience)? No.

That sums up what I’ve learned so far this year. I hope some of it is helpful to you!!!

Wishing you a wonderful fall season!

 

5 thoughts on ““Oh My Gosh” Moments in 2016- A Health Update

  1. Wow, Tina, great update; this is all very interesting! And helpful–I especially need to look into the GI issues; maybe that would explain some of my problems. I have been eating a lot of fruits lately, and rice, too. You are amazing in that you go about investigating your problems in such an inquisitive, systematic way. Maybe the chlorine difficulty will get better for you over time as you change things; I hope so! My own swimming pool sensitivity seemed better this year.

    1. Yes, it has been quite a journey Rhoda. Glad something I wrote is helpful for you. Wishing you improved health too!!! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  2. Tina, I just found your website. I’m also very sensitive to histamines in foods and find this all very interesting. I’ve been reading some of the things you’ve written, and I’m writing in particular because of your ‘oh my gosh’ moment in terms of the swimming. I’ve been taking a swimming class recently. This class is, of course, in a chlorinated indoor pool. I’ve been finding that I feel really odd after the class and really for about 24 hours after the class. I was suspicious of the chlorine myself. But wondering if that was it (or if that was even possible). I know when I feel off, but it’s sometimes frustrating to figure out why.

    I also have some digestive IBS type of issues and haven’t found relief from probiotics. I’m going to look into the probiotics you mentioned.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It’s so validating!

    1. Hi Jen~ I’m so sorry for your health issues and I wish you better health
      soon!

      I’m glad that what I’ve written has been helpful for you. (It’s nice to know you aren’t alone with your symptoms!) It helps me to know that there are others out there with similar experiences!

      To be honest, what has helped my digestive issues the most lately has been Manuka Honey. I quit all probiotics about two months ago, (because their effectiveness was lessening) and for various reasons (which will be summarized in a post at some point in the future) I started to use Manuka Honey. That has helped me quite a bit! I take about a teaspoon a day dissolved in water and I drink it throughout the day. I’ve been doing this for 23 days (or so). Things have improved in the GI tract area! 🙂

      Thanks for checking in with me. I appreciate knowing that (1) I’m not alone and (2) what I’ve written has been helpful. 🙂

      I wish you all the best!!

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