Jan. 2017 – Book of the Month – The Great Cholesterol Myth

I first heard of The Great Cholesterol Myth when I was attending Bauman College. A fellow student had read the book when she was diagnosed with high cholesterol in her mid-20’s. She wasn’t satisfied with the idea of being on statins for the rest of her life. This peaked my interest and so when it was time to do research on a topic relating to heart health, I read the book. Several months after reading the book, I went to the Paleo F(x) conference and saw Jonny Bowden speak.

If you’ve ever been concerned about your cholesterol levels or if high cholesterol runs in your family, this is a must read. It was a fascinating read and paradigm-shifting book. And yet, the authors are able to break down this very complicated topic so that even the non-health nut, non-science-y folks can learn a great deal.

SPOILER ALERT: Rather than animal foods that are rich in cholesterol and saturated fats, the authors build a very strong case that processed foods, sugar, soda, trans fats, and vegetable oils are the main culprits in our SAD diet (Standard American Diet). They also suggest that lifestyle factors, like STRESS, need to be dealt with in order to keep cholesterol levels in healthy ranges. Another SPOILER ALERT: Bowden and Sinatra demonstrate what the pharmaceutical companies don’t want us to know: “…[c]holesterol is a relatively minor player in heart disease and a poor predictor of heart attacks” (p.31, Bowden & Sinatra, 2012).

I’ll leave you with these facts about cholesterol:

  • Cholesterol is a waxy steroid that is found in every cell membrane in your body.
  • Without sufficient levels of cholesterol in your diet, your body will make it (in the liver) because it is essential.
  • It is a building block for important structures such as sex hormones, bile, vitamin D, and it supports brain function, serotonin production, and it acts as an antioxidant.
  • It also helps to digest fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), insulates the nerves, and aids in fighting infection.

In the wise words of LeVar Burton, “of course, you don’t have to take *my* word for it.”

Dec. 2016 Book of the Month – GAPS Gut and Psychology Syndrome

I first heard the term GAPS on Pinterest about five years ago when I started finding and pinning healthy recipes. I continued moving forward on my path toward healthy eating and becoming a Nutrition Consultant and I kept hearing about GAPS all along the way. I bought the book well over a year ago and it’s been on my list of books to read for quite some time. I finally picked it up a few months ago and got to reading it.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome was written by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She wrote this book as a practical guide for those suffering from all host of mental illness issues including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD,  as well as asthma, eczema, and allergies. I hate to be redundant here but “All disease begins in the gut” and so this too is a book about healing the gut in order to heal the domino of other issues that cascade after an inflamed and irritated gut.

Campbell-McBride draws upon her experience as neurologist, as well as her experience as a mother of an autistic child to detail the inner workings (pun intended) of the digestive system, the gut flora, the immune system, and how the gut and brain are connected. Later, she details how to treat the problems, with food and supplementation.

I’ll leave you with a quote: “In GAPS people, due to the abnormalities in their gut flora, viruses from vaccines or the environment have a good chance to survive and persist” (p.29). Some folks will tell you that it’s all in your head, but I’m starting to think that it’s all in your gut.

If you’re interested in learning more about the gut and how to improve your own health, GAPS Gut and Psychology Syndrome is an amazing resource.

Five Things You Can do for Someone with Cancer

So someone you care about just got diagnosed with Cancer. There are a LOT of emotions going on, most of them shitty ones. It’s a rough time. Really effing rough. Some people don’t know what to say or do, so they don’t do anything. Other folks, are there in an instant, offering ALL THE HELP. Others want to help, but just don’t know what to do. There is no “right” way to react. But you can be assured that if you act from the heart and it will mean something to your loved one.

  1. If they ask for help of some kind and you can be of assistance, do it. Folks going through Cancer treatment need rides, company, meals, distractions, and hope. Shortly after my diagnosis and meeting with my surgeon, my friend Kevin said, “What do you need from us?” My answer was that I didn’t want to feel alone. Cancer treatment is a very lonely thing because ultimately you have to endure this all by yourself. I wanted to avoid that feeling as much as possible, so I asked for walking buddies, visitors, and distractions. TeamKLB came through for me in a MILLION different ways.
  2. Calls, texts, cards, flowers, emails. The amount of people that were checking in on me really helped to pull me through emotionally. “Grief shared is halfed. Joy shared is doubled.” There is no truer quote for me. Because I shared my story so openly, a weight was lifted off of me. Check in on your loved one and allow them to share their feelings with you. This is not about how uncomfortable this may feel for you, this is about being there for your loved one.
  3. If your love language is Acts of Service (as mine is), here were my favorite acts of service: homemade healthy meals, helping me put Christmas away, cleaning my house, delivering food (usually Jamba Juice), and being a walking buddy.
  4. If your love language is Gifts, here are my favorite gifts: Whole Foods gift cards,  Nordstrom square silk scarves (for those that lose their hair), a lightweight sleeping cap (again for those that lose their hair), cozy blankets/socks/sweaters, breast cancer jewelry, book gift cards, iTunes gift cards, and boredom boxes with puzzles and the like. I got quite a few handmade gifts, which to me, fall under both Gifts and Acts of Service, and these were my most favorite: a watercolor of me, a cross stitch saying TeamKLB, and a hand carved wooden ribbon.
  5. Help your loved one get in contact with a Cancer support center. For me, Bay Area Cancer Connections was an integral component of my healing. They had tons of resources, as I’m sure other Cancer support centers do as well.

It saddens me that I need a post like this on my blog. My journey began in 2014 and I have been asked this question too many times already. I wish you the best, I wish your loved one the best, and I wish for a world without Cancer.

I’ll leave you with a quote.

“Having a complete meltdown IS handling your grief. Keeping it bottled up and deep inside you and not going into it is called avoiding your grief. It’s like standing in waves at the sea shore. In the beginning there are lots of rollers, they come very fast, they knock you all over the place. Down the road they come more slowly, but they never stop coming completely. And every so often there is just a killer wave that knocks you down, takes you under, flips you down and up and down, until all you can do is hope that very soon you will pop into the air and be able to catch a breath. YOU don’t handle the waves, the WAVES handle you. Give yourself as much time and space as you need. The less you fight the waves, the sooner you pop up into the air again.”

Hugs and Health <3,

Katie

Hearty Turkey, Vegetable, and Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup with Turkey & Veggies

This soup was created with liver health in mind. Midway through my chemotherapy treatment for Breast Cancer, my liver enzymes were too elevated to continue treatment. We had to postpone treatment for at least one week to make sure that my liver was healthy enough to process the chemotherapy. At that time I was in school to become a Nutrition Consultant and I knew there were things that I could do to “Love my Liver”, so I went home and made some BIG changes to my diet for that week and well, IT WORKED! I went back the next week and my enzyme levels were low enough to continue with chemotherapy. Here is one of the recipes that I made for the “Love my Liver” week.

 

Recipe:

1 1/2 C green lentils (soaked overnight)

1 jar diced tomatoes

24 oz. homemade bone broth (chicken or turkey)

2 T butter

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

4 small summer squash, sliced

3 small bell peppers, diced

6 carrots, sliced

6 stalks of kale, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. ground turkey

Herbs:

Bay leaf, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano

Sea salt & Pepper

Rinse lentils and let soak overnight. Next day: in a large pot, sauté onions and garlic in butter. Add broth, tomatoes, lentils, and veggies. Add ground turkey. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Continue simmering for 30-45 min.

Enjoy!

2017 Goals

We have survived another trip around the sun and so begins 2017.

I always love a fresh start and as a teacher, it’s nice to have two fresh starts each year. As I look forward into this new year, I like to make goals for myself. I’m not a big fan of the word resolutions, but I believe it’s important to set intentions for positive growth in our lives. It recently dawned on me that not everyone continually makes personal and professional goals for improvement (sidenote: this boggles my mind!). In my adult life, I have always been focused on self-improvement, I therefore view making new goals or resolutions as a positive thing. I realize that not everyone agrees and that’s okay. I look back at my previous resolutions, and see that I have not met them all, and again, for me that’s okay. For example, in 2016 meditation was a daily goal for me. I didn’t meditate everyday, but I probably meditated about 1/3 of time. While that is less than ideal, it’s still more meditation than I have done in the past, so I view it as progress toward my goal of daily meditation. Which is why I see the new year as a time to reflect and recommit to myself.

It’s also great to have a written record of my past goals so that I can what was important to me, what I was successful with, and what was challenging for me.

2013 Goals:

  • stretch daily ✅
  • have more patience and kindness ✅
  • exercise regularly
  • work from 7:00-4:30 ✅
  • go to bed on time
  • limit social media use

2014 Goals:

  • work from 7:30 – 3:30 ✅
  • exercise regularly
  • stretch every morning and every night ✅
  • limit social media use
  • drink water throughout the day ✅

2015 Goals:

  • stretch first thing in the morning and before bed ✅
    oil pull each morning ✅
    listen to music in the morning to start off my day with a smile ✅

2016 Goals:

  • meditate daily
  • get enough sleep
  • read before bed
    hike weekly 
  • swim weekly

In looking at goals from years past,  I can see where I had success and where I had challenges. The ✅ indicate goals that I feel I accomplished. My goals have been similar and will be similar again this year. However, I’m going to put them in order of importance this year.

Along with the same idea of goals and resolutions, Gretchen Rubin (of the Happier podcast, The Happiness Project , and Better Than Before) asked “what’s your one word theme for the new year?” My answer is health. It’s a big word, I know, but I would like health to be the reason for everything I do this year. Move more, move better, eat well, drink well, meditate more, think well, act with intention, care more, and love more. Also the growing trend of “more social, less media” is included in my goal of overall health. Gretchen’s work has inspired me since 2013 when I was motivated by The Happiness Project. Check it out. Period.

 

One last thing to note here. You may have noticed the last and tiny goal on my list: Walk 2017 miles in 2017. In 2016, I was introduced to Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement and I began listening to Katy and Dani Hemmat’s podcast, Katy Says. One of the episodes, The Ben Show, is about a gentleman, Ben Pobjoy, who, inspired by Katy’s work, set out to walk 2015 kilometers in 2015. He completed his goal, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.That commitment to walk 2015 kilometers literally changed his life. It’s a must listen episode. Inspired by Ben, Dani has decided to walk 2017 miles in 2017 and I’m going join her! It works out to an average of 5.53 miles each day. For me, my 5.53 miles have to come from going for a walk, hike or run, not just from my steps around the house/office/grocery store etc. I already get 3-6 miles worth of steps in my average day, so I feel like that wouldn’t have been much of a goal or challenge for me.

Do you make resolutions or goals? What are your 2017 resolutions or goals? Happy New Year!

Hugs and Health <3,

Katie

 

 

To snack or not to snack?

I get a lot of questions from folks wondering what they can eat for snacks when they switch their diet from a SAD diet (Standard American Diet) to a whole foods/ real food/ paleo type diet. Before I give a green light on what to snack on,  let’s rethink the idea of snacking altogether.

The idea of six small meals or three bigger meals with a morning and an afternoon snack is really a new idea. This is certainly not how we evolved. Let’s take a moment and think about blood sugar. In general, when you eat, your blood sugar rises. In order to deal with the rise in blood sugar, the pancreas secretes insulin which allows the glucose (blood sugar) into the cells where they are put to work. When you are always eating (as with six small meals or chronic snacking) your body is always 1) working to produce enough insulin (which prioritizes the production of the hormone insulin over other hormones), 2) dealing with elevated blood sugar, and 3) digesting food, which does not allow for your digestive system to have breaks throughout the day.

Here is the other “issue” I have with snacking. When we are taught to eat small meals, we are essentially setting ourselves up for snacking. You’re simply NOT going to be satisfied with the small meals and you’re going to have to snack. Simple as that. What I propose instead are three larger meals. Crazy, right? Three larger meals, with breakfast being your largest and dinner being your smallest. I’m also going to suggest that you increase your fat intake and possibly your starchy carbohydrate intake. Fat provides the most calories per gram (9, as compared to 4 from both protein and carbohydrates) making it more satiating. Fat keeps you fuller longer. And let’s remember that fat doesn’t make you fat. That is false.

With all that said, sometimes I do snack. So I do have some healthier recommendations for snacking.

    1. Beef Jerky or Turkey Jerky. We found Clean-n-Jerky during our trip to Colorado last spring and we love it. Small business, check. Woman owned and operated, check. Simple, real, and easy to pronounce ingredients, check. Well-sourced ingredients, check. Bonus: it’s also 21DSD compliant.
    2. Dip and veggies. I’m mainly referring to homemade dips because it is amazing what they manage to add to store-bought dips! I always think, I don’t put that into my dip when I make it at home, what could it possibly be used for? Anyways…guacamole and veggies, hummus and veggies, avocado-hummus and veggies, tzatziki and veggies, etc. Make some dip and cut up some veggies and enjoy! While veggies are not the same as chips in terms of flavor and texture, when your dip is delicious, the chips are really just a vehicle for the dip, so why not swap them out for a healthier vehicle or even just a spoon!
    3. Avocados make great snacks. I like to slice up half an avocado (or sometimes the whole thing!) and add a bit of sea salt and lemon and I’m all set! My husband loves avocado with hot sauce, which is also pretty great too.
    4. Fruit is also a great snack. Obviously I’m going to suggest eating whichever fruits are in season.
    5. Nuts or Nut Butters. A handful of nuts is a great option and so is a spoonful of nut butter. Sometimes I like nut butter on a apple or banana too.
    6. Deli meats and cheese. Avoid those conventional crackers because they are crap. No really, they are total crap. Also choose your cheese and deli meat wisely. I look for organic at a bare minimum, but ideally they are from pasture raised animals. Here are a few brands that I like.

      Hopefully some of these suggestions will be helpful to guide your snacking options. You’ll probably notice that most of my suggestions have some fat or some protein – this is intentional. If you just eat a simple carbohydrate, your blood sugar will quickly spike and then quickly fall, which is something to be avoided as much as possible.

      I leave you with two tips: 1) The less processed the better. When you are left with a challenging choice to make, go for as little processing as possible. 2) No naked carbs. In nutrition school, this was one of the first tips we learned – be sure to include some fat or some protein with your carbohydrates for healthy blood sugar management.

Hugs and Health,

Katie

 

 

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Garlic

Well it’s hard to find folks out there that are not fans of garlic, although they do exist. I, however, am not one of them. There’s a garlic meme that I’ve seen floating out there garlicand just I had to include it for this post. It is me to a T. While garlic is not new to most any of us, there are always new and inventive ways to include this superfood in your diet. I include it in tomato sauces, in my bone broth, in stuffed peppers, Asian StyleTurkey Lettuce Wraps, and in the fresh gingered beets recipe that my husband loves (it can be found here:  Flavors of Health Cookbook), and in many, many more recipes. Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests roasting garlic because the flavor profile is more tolerable for kids. She also suggests making garlic mushroom toasts. (Again, I would opt for a gluten-free or paleo “bread” option instead of whole wheat toast. See this post for more on why.)

Food Facts:

  • Member of the lily family.
  • Because garlic has not be breed to be sweeter, larger, or milder tasting, it contains most of its “wild” nutrients.
  • All varieties of garlic are quite similar nutritionally.
  • Allicin is the active health ingredient in garlic and is a combination of alliin, the protein fragment, and alliinase, the heat-sensitive enzyme. When raw garlic is either cut, pressed, or chewed, these two ingredients are combined. It was discovered that by cooking the garlic immediately after slicing, the heat-sensitive enzyme is destroyed and no allicin is created. Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic that is revered for fighting cancer and protecting the heart. In order to get the most nutrition out of garlic, it is important that you cut/mince/slice/chop the garlic and then let it sit for TEN MINUTES before exposing it to heat.
  • A garlic press is the best tool for combining the alliin and alliinase. Jo Robinson says, “press, then rest”.
  • Many grocery stores carry garlic grown in China; check where your garlic is coming from. This is frustrating for someone that grocery shops in the same county as Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world. I am a locavore, after all.
  • There are two garlic varieties: softneck and hardneck. Hardneck garlic has a hollow stub that protrudes from the top. Softneck garlic appears to have a stem, but it is simply the papery skin that has been twisted.
  • Store garlic in the fridge (not the crisper drawer) for the longest shelf life. Until it is cut it will not leave the fridge with bad odors.
  • It is native to the Mediterranean, Syria, and China.
  • Excellent source of vitamins B6 and C, manganese, and selenium and a good source of phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper.
  • garlic-Has been demonstrated to protect against atherosclerosis, heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure.
  • Historically has been used to to fight infections because of its antimicrobial activity.
  • Can help protect against colon cancer.

 

 

From:

The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Superfoods by Tonia Reinhard, Eating on the Wild Side, by Jo Robinson, and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Micheal Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.

 

 

Oct. 2016 Book of the Month – Practical Paleo 2nd Edition

This month’s Clean Eating Book of the Month is a little different than usual. Typically I read and review informational health books, not usually cookbooks. BUT Practical Paleo, 2nd Edition is actually both. It’s chock full of recipes, but it’s also a huge resource for health information. It’s almost like a BOGO. 🙂

For me, the great thing about all of Diane’s work is that we both went to the same nutrition school – Bauman College, so I know that we are coming from the same background.

First, let me say that this book is HUGE. And by huge I mean filled to the brim with tasty recipes. You will not feel deprived when cooking recipes from Practical Paleo. And the photography is beautiful, as always! I can’t tell you how much I hate a cookbook without pictures! The great thing about her recipe section is that each recipe has easy-to-understand icons indicating if foods have eggs, nightshades, are slow cooker friendly, 21 DSD compliant, or can easily be frozen. Her recipe icon list includes many more options. Diane’s recipes are also straightforward, easy to follow, and delicious.

In addition to the amazing recipes, there are about 90 pages of meal plans that can support many different health conditions. She details 14 different health conditions/targeted meal plans, and includes information about the health condition, things to add, things to avoid, some possible supplements to consider, and a 30 day meal plan. Wow! And the second addition has three new meal plans.

The other major section of the book is about food and your body. In typical Diane fashion, she breaks down the nutritional biochemistry of how food works in your body. She spends time explaining paleo and helps folks transition into a paleo lifestyle. There are several handy one-page guides that explain about healthy fats, sweeteners, carbs, paleo foods, and more. She uses the latest scientific information to debunk myths. There is a section that details how digestion works and how to repair it when it’s not working. Diane details autoimmune conditions and balancing blood sugar. And let’s not forget the Poop Pageant!

5:5 StrawberriesThis book has been dubbed the Paleo bible for a good reason. It really has everything you need to understand about a whole-food based diet. Naturally, this book gets…. 5 Strawberries! I highly recommend going out and getting yourself a copy.

 

Here is a picture of me with Diane and my new book at the book tour in San Francisco.

 

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Sweet Potatoes

Food of the Week: Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes, but I haven’t alway loved them. I remember the first sweet potato French fry that I had back in 2003 in Monterey. I hated them. Now, I could each them nearly every day. One of my favorite recipes for sweet potatoes is for savory sweet potato cakes from Mediterranean Paleo Cooking. This is a great recipe. We usually just bake them and add plenty of Kerrygold butter (grass-fed). Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends mashed sweet potatoes or crispy sweet potato fries. Yum!

Food Facts:

NCI5_POTATO

  • Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family and are not at all related to potatoes (nightshade family).
  • They are native to Central America/northern South America. Colobus brought sweet potatoes back to Spain with him, but those original sweet potatoes were similar to carrots, not like our modern sweet potatoes.
  • Their glycemic index is 45 (sugar is 100). The glycemic index of potatoes by comparison is 75-100. The glycemic index is a measurement of how much a food raises the blood sugar.
  • They are rich source of antioxidants, especially the carotenes.
  • In the supermarket, most yams are simply marked as yams, but are truly just another variety of sweet potatoes. True yams are hardly ever sold in the United States.
  • If you’re looking to grow a very nutrient dense variety of sweet potato, opt for the Carolina Ruby.
  • Do not store uncooked sweet potatoes in the fridge.
  • Boiling sweet potatoes reduces their antioxidant value, while steaming, roasting, or baking does not.
  • The skin is more nutritious than the flesh.
  • Good source of vitamins C, B2, B6, and manganese, copper, biotin, and pantothenic acid.
  • Good source of fiber.
  • In animal studies, they have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

From: The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.

CVID…. what the heck is that?

cvid-ribbonTeam KLB,

Let me back right up to where it all began…

Before I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer I had noticed that almost every time I ate, my nose would run. It didn’t matter what foods I ate, whether I was eating on the go, or whether it was spicy or not. Most meals made my nose run. I had even commented on this to Jim. I assumed this was some type of additional food intolerance.

During my time going to Bauman College (my in person classes, before I switched to distance learning), we learned about histamine and that got me thinking that this must be related to some issue with histamine. That stuck with me, but then I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so many other things got put on the back burner.

Fast forward to early 2016. At that time I had been completely done with all cancer treatments for about a year and had my last surgery in Oct. 2015. I kept waiting to get my energy back, to not have to drag myself out of bed every morning, to feel like myself. I know my body well enough to know that there was something else going on. At that time, I just didn’t know what or who to ask. In mid spring of 2016, while on instagram, I found a post by a woman with the handle @thelowhistaminechef (she has since changed her handle and can be found at Healing Histamine.) Coupling my low energy with my runny rose, I thought, THIS must be what I need to learn more about. THIS is what I have. And to top it off, she was going to be a Paleo F(x) in May. I had to go see her talk.

At Paleo F(x), she did a food demo. After the food demo, she answered some questions about her experience. (A great story, by the way, I highly recommend checking out her page). After going into anaphylactic shock while reporting for CNN in war zones, she consulted a naturopathic doctor. This eventually lead her to a diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and to a low histamine diet. She encouraged her listeners to reach out to an immunologist or a naturopathic doctor. When I came back home after the conference, I looked up MCAS and contacted my doctor for a referral to an immunologist. There are many symptoms of MCAS, but the ones that I noted were: gastrointestinal (intestinal discomfort), brain fog, headaches, migraines, general fatigue, being cold all the time, food and chemical sensitivities (including perfumes), and of course my respiratory symptoms.

I met with an immunologist just a couple of days after arriving home from Paleo F(x). Before going to the doctor appointment, Jim jokingly said, “they’re going to put you on the no food diet” since this was something I dealt with at nearly every meal. It was the most thorough doctor appointment that I have ever had with a doctor. I told her about what I thought I had and about my symptoms that aligned with MCAS. Then she went on to ask me about everything I had ever done. I told her about my my cancer diagnosis and treatment, my recurrent sinus infections, my digestive issues, chronic yeast infections, and a systemic yeast infection. I told her a story to illustrate my experiences. In Feb. of 2016, I got a common cold. That cold lasted for four weeks! And then I was well only for ONE WEEK before I started getting sick again. This is a common occurrence in my life. She then did a physical exam and told me that she didn’t believe I had MCAS because people that have it usually have skin lesions and I don’t have any of those. She did, however, suspect that there was probably something amiss with my IgA. She noted that the sinus symptoms and the bloating and digestive discomfort was like a red flag for low IgA. She asked me to have 11 vials of blood taken for testing and asked if I would get the pneumonia vaccine to help determine what I had. I decided to put off the vaccine until I knew I needed it.

Throughout the appointment I was able to convey to the doctor that I wasn’t looking for a prescription or a quick fix. I wanted to understand what is wrong with me and to do everything in my power to heal it on my own with holistic, natural, and diet/lifestyle based interventions. I know my body and I know when things are “common, but not normal” (refer to this post for more…) and when there is truly something amiss. She was awesome. She was so impressed that I knew my body so well and that I listened to it. She also understood that as a holistic nutrition consultant, I practiced what I preached.

After two separate blood draws (I pass out folks!) I went back to learn about my results. Here they are:

IgA  <6 mg/dL                   Normal range: 87-474 mg/dL

IgG 343 mg/dL                 Normal range: 681-1648 mg/dL

IgM 26 mg/dL                   Normal range: 48 – 312 mg/dL

IgE <2 kU/L                        Normal range: <114 kU/L

Please note those normal ranges come directly from the test results. As you can see, they are all very low, but my IgA and IgE were the lowest. Based on these test results and the fact that most of the other test results came back “normal”, she believes that I have Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID). However, she could not diagnose me without first giving me the pneumonia vaccine. To be able to diagnose, she had to prove that my body did not respond to the polysaccharides in the vaccine. So reluctantly I got the vaccine. Six weeks later I had my blood taken again to see if I had any presence of antibodies. When looking at the test results, side by side, you can see there are virtually no differences. To my body, it’s like I wasn’t even vaccinated, I have no antibodies built up to the pneumonia virus. So on August 4th, I was officially diagnosed with CVID.

Here’s an FAQ:

Q: What are the treatment options?

A: There are three main treatment options:

  1. Prophylactic antibiotics. Basically a prevention in case I get sick. Just in case. This option is not for me. I’m anti prophylactic antibiotics. See this post for more on why….
  2. Immunoglobulin infusions. The immunoglobulins come from healthy blood donations. They are then processed so that it’s just the immunoglobulins, not all of the blood. It is actually a clear liquid.
    1. Every four weeks, for about 4-5 hours at the infusion center at the medical center. Indefinitely.
    2. Weekly, for about two hours at home. These infusions are subcutaneous (under the skin in the abdomen region.) I would give the infusion to myself. Also indefinite.

The advantage of doing weekly infusions are: you don’t have to sit at the infusion center for 5 effing hours every month! and that your IG levels stay more stable rather than spikes and dips with monthly infusions. The disadvantage is that you have to do this each week and you have to do it yourself. Ick.

Q: How did you get this? Is it related to cancer?

A: I was born with it. The doc believes I was born without IgA and IgE, and that the rest of my immunoglobulins are low because they have been working on overdrive to compensate. Most people do not get diagnosed until they are in their 30’s or 40’s. It does not have anything to do with my having had cancer. However, a compromised immune system is more at risk for cancer. Think of it this way: the immune system is like an army. My immune system doesn’t have very many soldiers (very low IgA and IgE) and the soldiers it does have are busy fighting small battles (low IgM and IgG). So when a big battle (cancer) comes along, it can only do so much to fight the cancer.

Q: What are the infusions like?

A: They are mostly long, boring, and uneventful. Except for the first one.

I remember my doctor mentioning something to me about the fact that because I don’t make IgA, I could have antibodies built up to it. This means that I could go into anaphylactic shock. That’s where I remember the conversation ending, which left me concerned. So before I would let them give me anything, I asked how they test, prevent, or treat for this. The standard protocol is to treat with premeds (antihistamine, hydrocortisone, and Tylenol) and then to ramp up slowly. For the first half hour, the dose is very low, and every half hour they increase the dose. They also have additional meds (Benadryl) if needed. Once I felt that I understood their plan, I consented. Initially, I noticed nothing. But after the first half an hour, when they increase the dose, I noticed feeling a little flushed. Then I noticed that near the IV site, my arm felt kind of tingly. A little bit itchy, but mostly like someone had put icy hot on my arm. I told the nurses and they decided that they should flush my IV with saline. Then they gave me Benadryl and more hydrocortisone and restarted IV. My arm was still tingly and so they slowed infusion down. This did not seem to help. The doctors and nurses came to check on me and it was decided that since it was only near the IV site, and not all over my body, it was probably not an allergic reaction. We continued the infusion. Afterwards, I had a bit of a headache and felt tired from the Benadryl. The nurse emailed me the next day to say that she had talked with my doctor and that the tingly feeling was normal. The second infusion went much smoother, but I still had the tingly sensation.

Q: What differences will you notice?

A: The doctor said that is likely that I will notice feeling less tired. She didn’t seem to think But many of my other symptoms would go away. I should also get sick less often and be able to have and more robust immune system. So far I haven’t noticed much. My levels were so low that it could take a while to rebuild them to normal.

Q: You’re doing all of this for a runny nose?

A: No. It’s much more than that. It’s giving myself an immune system that actually functions. It’s preventing cancer reoccurrences. It’s regaining energy. It’s preventing a lot of hospital visits due to “non-serious” illnesses. The runny nose was my catalyst for seeking out medical help for a much bigger problem.

Q: What are the risks associated with CVID?

A: Getting sick, a lot. Many people with CVID end up getting very sick from things like pneumonia. Or are just chronically sick.

Here is a link to learn more about CVID.

Thanks for reading this, it was a lengthy one!

XOXO,

Katie