In Which I Speak of Soy and Estrogen

I have recently been asked to articulate my concerns about soy as food. I have told some of my experience with soy and estrogen dominance in my dust-gathering-yet-unfinished series on Balance, but thought I would share this brief as well.

About five years ago, at 32 years of age, I was displaying the classic signs of pre-menopause (about 15 years earlier than average). I will not go into the details of my physical symptoms, but I was miserable. In addition to my obviously feminine-related symptoms, I had memory loss, confused thinking, mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, extreme fatigue, and blood sugar issues.

A midwife friend suggested that I might be dealing with the results of estrogen dominance. After research, I realized that while I had likely been dealing with estrogen dominance for most of my life (having displayed key signs of hormonal imbalance along the way), the soy-intensive diet plan that I had been following for the previous year plus had sent my balance further askew than ever before. This resulted in the symptoms mentioned above, all of which are linked with estrogen dominance.

After realizing that my consumption of soy was likely linked to my physical, mental, and emotional difficulties, I cut soy from my diet. I made changes to eliminate other sources of phyto (plant) and xeno (chemical) estrogens from my life, but the elimination of soy was by far the biggest change. Within a month, I could see a dramatic improvement in my mental, emotional, and physical state. In a few more months, it was like a new person (the person I had once been, but hopefully even better) had come to live in our house.

Hormone balance is all about balance… having the right proportions of estrogen, progesterone, etc. Large amounts of soy, a phyto-estrogen, can cause an imbalance in anyone. Some people are more susceptible than others to this imbalance or, already having an hormonal imbalance, to even greater extremes of imbalance. I am one of those people, but I am not rare. And I believe that there are many people whose health issues are, unknown to them, due to hormonal imbalance.

If I’ve peaked your interest, I would be glad to answer questions as I am able. Also, I have found Dr. John Lee’s website to be a helpful and informative resource.

Memories, tangible and intangible

The apron is blue cotton, generously sprinkled with pink and pale yellow flowers mixed with faded leaves. It snaps up the front, cobbler-style, has two front pockets, and is trimmed in pink. I crumple it to my face, and despite its many washings, if I breathe deeply enough (or is it my imagination?), I can still smell her, still smell them. The scent of their home, my precious grandparents’ Byrds Nest. And the tears well up. And sometimes they fall.

Like rightthisminute as I sit and type. And sob. One moment, please…

Thankfully, aprons make lovely hankies. G’ma would have several tissues tucked into those pockets, but I just use the apron.

I love cooking in my G’ma Liz’s aprons, this one especially. I love serving my family on her dishes.
I have several shirts of G’pa’s that I dream of crafting into a piece of him that I can hold.

Four years gone, my G’pa and G’ma Byrd. September 2007 – G’ma on the 25th, G’pa on the 27th. He had to care for her until the end.

About a week ago, one of my Blessings dropped the lid to G’ma’s teapot. The one that matches the green set of Colonial dishes that she bought in 1959. I think a sob escaped my throat before I ran to my room, not wanting to hurt her with my pain. Several minutes later, I scrawled out gift #694: small hands that are more precious and irreplacible than G’ma’s 52 year old china. Such lessons in broken things.

A few days after the teapot lid was broken, I realized … I cling to the physical remembrance of those gone before. Though I know holding on to their things won’t bring them back, still I cling. Yet I realize that the real gifts that they have given me are in my heart.

So yesterday, I scrawled out some more thanks. Thanks for memories of my G’pa and G’ma. There are so many more that I’m sure I’ve missed. Family of mine, I would dearly love it if you would add some of your memories.

(Gifts #695-755)
Christmas in Atlanta
Visits to Andy’s Trout Farm
The twirl and whirl of them square dancing
Scenic overlooks in the mountains
Climbing to a mountain top
Trip to the waterfall
Picnics – with “vitamins,” pimento cheese, saltines, ham sandwhiches, and more
The Byrds’ Nest acquired
Upstairs room with twin beds for E and I
Hours of talking with my Bubba
Mountain air through the windows
Vanity with old lamps and hat pins
Mountain Christmas with no power and loads of snow
Fireplace to keep things cozy
Oil lamps
Sound of G’pa going in and out the back door
G’ma puttering in her kitchen
Firecrackers in the front circle on July 4th
The cats
Smoky and Trixie, their dogs
Mountain walks
Picking Mulberries
The basketball goal mounted on the side of the old cabin
Having a place at the table and my “own” cloth napkin
Big lazy susan with condiments, etc
The green dishes, full of good food
Love we could eat – greens (which I didn’t appreciate), beans, cornbread, eggs, toast, “vitamins” (raw veggies), ham, juice… I could go on and on!
Homemade peach ice cream and lemon pound cake
Learning to play Rook (with G’ma, E, and a “dummy”)
Front porch rockin’
Birds coming in to eat
G’ma’s aprons and tissues tucked in sleeves and pockets
Sweet milk and buttermilk from Daisy(?), who lived down the mountain
G’pa always on the go… chopping wood, gardening…
G’pa’s crazy stories
His rib-cracking hugs (I am blessed to have a son who got that gene)
Their places in the living room
Watching baseball and weather on their little TV
G’ma’s papers
Playing games
The cool of the upstairs bedroom on my face when I’d return from mountain driving feeling carsick
Taking Beka to the Byrds’ Nest for the first time
Picking/snapping beans
Going to the canning place with G’pa and Beka
“Becky” ūüôā
Teaching Beka “Rage” on the front porch (“I never played a game I didn’t want to win before”)
A broken hot water heater in the cabin = fast and freezing showers for the girls!
Walks to the creek/waterfall “next door”
Sharing a birthday with G’pa
Turning “100” with him
Watching Papa, Eric, Beka, Jonathan, and G’pa split wood – at 82, he was the best of the bunch!
Sleeping in the cabin with Eric and Beka our first Christmas married – two couples, two twin beds.
The Easter egg hunt for our (then four) Blessings
The softness of G’ma’s hands
G’ma’s cat paraphernalia
“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get”
G’pa: You’re a mess! Elanor: No, you’re a mess!
Favorite G’pa quotes: Do you love me like you used to love me before you learned to love me like you love me now?
And: Cotton-pickin’ pea picker
And: I was lookin’ back to see if you were lookin’ back to see if I was lookin’ back to see if you were lookin’ back at me
G’pa sitting in his chair, reading the Bible.

Thank you for walking down memory lane with me. Enjoy the song, but make sure you have a tissue tucked up your sleeve or in your pocket.

My Health Journey – an update

I’ll get the confession part of this post out-of-the-way right off the bat. I got stuck on my journey¬†for a few weeks. I had five days of sickness, which had some scale advantages, but also weakened me considerably and contributed to my difficulty in¬†getting back into my fitness routine. But honestly, my stalled-out-state was more mental than physical.

I got stuck in complacent mode.

Yes, I was still thirty pounds from my goal weight.

But …
I was over thirty pounds down from the weight I “settled” at after Andrew’s birth.
I no longer cringed when I passed mirrors or saw pictures of myself.
I was into the smallest clothes I owned, aside from a few favorite “thin” outfits I’d saved.

I was starting to think, “You know, I look pretty good for a mother of eight.” Not in a “maybe I’ll stay here for the rest of my life” kind of way, but in a “hmmm, maybe I don’t need to walk today after all” kind of way.
But you know what? “Hmmm, maybe I don’t need to walk today” thinking leads to “maybe I’ll stay here for the rest of my life” thinking.

Thankfully, I “woke up” last Saturday and remembered that my reasons for eating carefully and moving more are bigger¬†than not being disgusted at myself or wearing a particular size of clothing. That being healthy and strong is much more important than looking “pretty good for a mom-of-eight.” That I don’t want to be¬†the fat old lady¬†who hurts her children and grandchildren as they try to care for her. That I want to be the mama and gramma who runs and hikes and swims and plays actively with her children and grandchildren. That I want to glorify God in my body.

So I got moving again this week. I walked with my friend Bethany on Monday and Wednesday, did lots of active work outside with the Blessings, and was thoughtful with my eating. It was nice when the scale showed the difference¬†yesterday morning (I crossed 20 pounds lost since joining Sparkpeople¬†and 35 lost from my “settled” post-baby weight), but better¬†than the numbers is the way I’ve felt. I’m back to pursuing my health goals and becoming who I am meant¬†to be in this area, and it changes my perspective and attitude about so many things!

Thank you, Lord, for the gentle reminders! Help me to be¬†faithful to abide in You and to bring joy to Your heart as I pursue being the woman You’ve called me to be, both inside and outside.

Here are some pictures of my journey that I posted yesterday on my Sparkpeople page.¬† I was surprised by how dramatic they seem to me…
September 1995 – Our Wedding Day

August 2010 –¬†Three months post-baby and heavier than the aforementioned “settled” weight.¬† I was already cringing at the thought of looking at this picture.¬† Can you tell?

May 2011 – Making progress. And loving it!

Time for a This-and-That

House stuff – we’re making progress! The main living areas are pretty much settled, except the library, which needs a ton of work (floor patched so that we can put up bookcases in a currently unusable corner, lots of books to unpack, etc). We are loving our expanded space, and are so thankful. Really, truly, I will get more pictures posted soon.

The garden is coming along. Slower than we’d like, but the ground is ready for planting now, so once the fence is complete, we can get some goodies growing. I did get peas planted this last week, and we lined up tomato cages along the row to protect them from the chickens. The chickens are the reason we need the fence; they adore scratching up seeds that I have planted. For instance, this afternoon I went out and planted some morning glories at the base of the windmill. I had more seeds than I could use there, so I went to the other side of the house, planted some near the garden, and watered them. When I got back to water the seeds by the windmill, the chickens had already decimated the area. Perhaps some will come up despite them. But you can see why we don’t want to plant the garden until it is fenced!

We will also be planting some things out in the yard, as the actual garden area is pretty small. Tomatoes and peppers will be in cages, and we hope to have our winter squash fenced in another area of the yard. Summer squash might fit in the main garden, but we’ll see.

Settling in to the neighborhood is a fun experience. Our closest neighbor, Bethany, has been a friend of ours for almost four years now and helped lead us to this house. She lives with her aunt, who is super sweet and has come over a couple of times to visit. Another aunt and uncle live on the other side of Bethany, and came to meet us/bring us a meal soon after we moved in. We’re looking forward to getting to know more folks in the immediate area as time goes by.

We are out in the country in between a tiny town and a shopping/business area, and are about 15 minutes from Hutchinson. It has much more of a “country” feel than where we used to live, and at the same time is closer to town. It is also closer to work for Jonathan, who is working for a company in the aforementioned shopping/business area that builds storage buildings/barns. What a blessing to be only a few minutes from work! He is working long hard days, and is adjusting to working for someone else again after almost 6 years of being self employed. I’m so thankful for his hard work and diligence.

It has been a blessing to be back fellowshipping with folks who are dear to us and who have known us most of our lives. There are actually three meetings in Hutch where we might have landed, each of which has many folks who meet the above description, but we feel that we have “landed” where we should be.

We had an educational and fun experience yesterday. A small town nearby has a monthly “poultry sale,” and we are eager to get some guineas to eat our ticks, so we headed out there yesterday. Many of the sellers and buyers are Amish or Mennonite, so there were many tractors pulling truck-bed trailers or horse trailers behind them (these are locally considered an acceptable alternative to a buggy or car for family transportation). There were rows of animals in small cages in the sale area, and we learned that it was an auction, not the type of seller-to-buyer type sale we were expecting. We filled out our registration, got our number, and set out to learn the ropes.

The auctioneer moved up and down the rows of animals and other merchandise, and folks would bid on each item in turn. There were lots of poultry – chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, peacocks – of varying ages. There were eggs for hatching and eggs for eating. Also for sale were an interesting variety of other animals and merchandise – goats, sheep, horses, ponies, cages of all sizes, buckets, fencing, even a hammock.

We had no idea what it would be like; we forgot the cage we were going to bring for transport; and the poultry seemed to go for a good bit more than we expected. Perhaps we were just being cheap, but we decided to mostly observe. Jonathan did bid on some guineas, but other folks though they were more dear than he did. Adding interest to the day were the 30-50 mph winds, which sent some of the Blessings back to the van to wait after walking around a bit. Over all, it was a very interesting and fun learning experience. We’re certainly planning on going again.

On a personal note, my weight-loss efforts have been greatly abetted by a great website, sparkpeople.com. When I started with them on 3/26, I had gotten down to 8 pounds under my pre-pregnancy (with Andrew) weight. I’ve taken off an additional 13ish pounds as of yesterday’s weigh-in. SP is totally free, has tons of helpful tools, and it is helping me make lifestyle changes, not just diet. I think the biggest impact has been from tracking every thing I eat and exercising more, and their tools have been a tremendous help in that. It also is a terrific encouragement that two dear Missouri friends are also on sparkpeople and inspire and encourage me.

By way of disclaimer, sparkpeople does not “allow” nursing moms to use the site, and, at the risk of the SP police coming after me, I will admit that I skipped that box when I registered. They want to avoid promoting weight loss at cost to babies, and I appreciate that! Not all moms are well enough educated nutritionally to be trying to lose weight while nursing a baby. I didn’t sign up with them until Andrew was almost 11 months old and eating solids in addition to nursing. I also aim for the upper end of my “calorie range” to insure that I’m getting enough. If I’m hungry, I eat. I am motivated by tracking my food to eat stuff that is good for us, instead of just filling. That’s how I’m making it work for me and Andrew. I think I’m honestly giving him much better nutrition now than I was before I started SP, when I was still eating way too much junk. Also, I will not eat fake “low fat” food. If the real thing is worth the calories, I eat it. If not, I don’t. (*steps away from her “fake food” soapbox before she gets wound up). I don’t want to encourage moms toward weight loss that in a way that is going to cost their precious babies the nutrition they need. Nourishing babies with good quality milk is soooo much more important than losing weight.

While I’m sure I’m leaving out many things that have been on my mental blog-about list, this hopefully gives you a little taste of our “new” life. No pictures, but they’re coming!

A week for alkalizing

I noticed on Sunday afternoon that I was starting to feel awfully acidic (heartburn, general yucky feeling, etc). I tried to ignore it, but by Monday morning, I realized that I needed to focus on moving my body toward alkaline this week. And I needed to do it fast, because my beloved sis-in-law and The Cousins are coming on Friday (woohooo!!!!), and I know I’m going to be eating all sorts of fun stuff while they’re here.

Without getting into a bunch of details, I’ll try to give a brief explanation of the acid/alkaline (ph) issue. Everything you eat has the effect of causing your body to become more acidic or more alkaline. For your health, it’s best to have a ph that is slightly alkaline (around 7.2). I believe most Americans have a very acidic body ph, something that leads to all sorts of health problems. Rule of thumb – fresh fruits and vegetables are the most alkalizing, meats and processed foods are the most acidifying. I’ve done a lot of learning and have long way to go, but that’s probably the simplest way to sum it up.

I started learning about ph in the midst of my cervical cancer concern, and in conjunction with figuring out why I could no longer tolerate coffee and had constant heartburn. When I started testing my ph, it was around 5. That’s truly dreadful. With a radical change of diet for several months, I brought it up to around 7.2, and have been able to maintain that with a way of eating that seems reasonable and workable for me. But there are times when I get off track with my eating, and I realize I need to adjust course.

This past weekend is the first time that I’ve had such obvious evidence that I was off track and needed to re-stabilize my ph. Since Monday, I’ve been eating more alkalizing foods and very little of foods that acidify my body, and I am feeling much better already. By the weekend, I should be ready for a few splurges. Woot!

Perhaps the reason I’m blogging about this at all is that it is a reminder to me of some of the lessons I’ve learned in the last few years.

In general, I believe that it is important to live in moderation. As I’ve learned more about health and nutrition, I’ve sought to implement that knowledge in a way that is workable for our family and not too extreme. I’ve done this with varying degrees of success, so I’m not tooting my own horn, just sharing my perspective/goals.

Alongside a growing commitment to moderation and grace has come the realization that there are times when a less moderate, dare I say – radical, approach is appropriate. When faced with the possibility of cervical cancer, I was very willing to get extreme about my way of eating! There are other times when, usually for a temporary period, it seems appropriate to “get radical” in one way or another.

The goal for me is to be able to come back to a moderate way of life. I want to be radical in my love for my Savior all the time, and I want to walk with Him steadily, in a way that demonstrates His amazing grace.

Operating procedures

As I mentioned, I had some outpatient surgery under general anesthesia last week.  I thought some of you might find it interesting if I posted a bit about the stuff that they did to get me ready for the surgery.  

We got to the hospital at about 7.30 in the morning. ¬†The registration process was held up a bit because I didn’t care for the wording on the general sign-away-your-life form, but we eventually came up with something to add to it that made me more comfortable. ¬†Then I needed to go have blood drawn, as there had been a misunderstanding about that the day I had gone up for all my pre-testing.
After those delays, I put on my bright pink hard-hat (there is lots of construction going on at the hospital and patients have to wear hard hats on their way through the construction zone), and we headed back to the pre-surgery room.
Of course, one of the first things I had to do was change into one of those lovely hospital gowns and place all my belongings in a plastic hospital bag.  Then the fun began!
I’m sure I don’t remember everything they did before the surgery, but here are some of the “highlights:”
Mixed in with the other preparations were questions from a couple of nurses about various things (Rx, vitamins, allergies, etc) and well as some forms to sign.  It was interesting that they were obviously used to folks signing the form without any questions, because me asking questions surprised them a bit.
They put leg wraps on my legs to prevent blood clots and such.  They were made out of very lightweight material and velcroed around my legs from my ankle to my mid-thigh.  Once we were in the OR, they hooked the wraps up to a pump of some sort to keep the blood moving. 
Another nurse hooked up my IV.  I appreciated that they asked on which side I would prefer to have the IV.  The IV was the entry port for almost every thing with which they injected me.
Everything, that is, except the heparin. ¬†That went into my upper right arm, and good gravy it hurt! ¬†The nurse warned me that it would sting like a bee sting, but wowsers, she was right! ¬†It’s not sore any longer, but I still have a bruise there. ¬†The heparin is an anti-coagulant, which was slightly funny to me after all the admonitions to avoid aspirin, garlic, or anything else that might thin my blood. ¬†
Once I was all “suited up,” Dr. S came in (and Jonathan came back to the room, so that we could both talk to him). ¬†We addressed our questions and concerns about the surgery, receiving¬†answers that¬†varied in their “satisfactory”¬†level. ¬†Then both Dr. S and Jonathan disappeared and I was wheeled into the actual OR, where I scooted over from the gurney to the operating bed.
The OR was freezing! ¬†I was already cold, so I was very thankful for the warmed blankets that they layered on top of me. ¬†I don’t remember much from the OR, as I think they got the put-her-out drugs going pretty soon after we got in. ¬†I remember being bundled up and strapped in (for which I was actually glad – that bed was small, and I didn’t want to land on the floor!). ¬†The nurses were chatting with me, helping me to be relaxed as I fell asleep. ¬†They said that if you’re relaxed on your way out, you’ll wake up relaxed as well (which proved to be true for me). ¬†I remember them asking for my children’s names, and I got stuck for a bit after #5. ¬†I think I managed to get out the names of Blessings 6 & 7, but that was about it for me!
When I came to, I was back in the room where they had done all the prep work. ¬†It took me several minutes, I think, to even recognize where I was. ¬†And really, from the time I woke up until after we got home is pretty much a blur. ¬†Dr. S came in and talked to me, the drugged one, but neglected to go out and talk to Jonathan. ¬†I’m not sure how that happened, but by the time I got around to trying to remember what the Dr. had said to me, it was Friday afternoon and I knew both he and his nurse would be out of the office. ¬†So I called today and got the scoop from wonderful nurse Tammy – she’s a gem.
So that’s my experience with operating procedures. ¬†If you made it through my account, I hope you found it interesting!

Home and Groggy

I’m glad to say that I’ve been home for a few hours (most of which I’ve spent sleeping). Things went well with the surgery. I am in too much of a fog to type much, but if you want, you can read Jonathan’s update here.

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