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Currently (2020) my most updated blog is pinkfeldspar.

Spaz is a useful side blog for sorting other stuff out.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

spoonies and the periodic table- stop throwing darts at your life

I may be formally redacting my new year's resolution to avoid chocolate, and I'll tell you why. I used to get magnesium in my diet via cashews, which I loved until that blew up into an anaphylactic reaction back in 2011. Since then I've been ordered by several doctors to avoid all nuts, including even more foods by family extension. The next best thing on the list (besides whole grains, which I don't pursue because diabetes) is leafy greens. I'm discovering that even though brussels sprouts qualifies even more than leafy greens, it somehow fails to make the usual leafy green list, but since I love brussels sprouts, yay.

However, after a series of food reactions last September, I chopped out several major food items for a length of time, particularly chocolate since it is known to raise histamine levels. Up to that point, I'd been eating at least one teaspoon or more of cocoa powder nearly every day for years because I make my own hot chocolate with my favorite protein powderCocoa powder is rich in magnesium, and although it's difficult to eat enough of it on a continual basis to be worth it (let's assume I don't want the extra glucose and calories and caffeine), it does actually make sense to include it if I do so sensibly. I'm making this decision after I got this test result back.

One of the most noticeable changes I've had over the fall/winter holidays is my fibromyalgia doing something new. I've been getting long hard streaks in major muscle groups, easily felt with fingertips, feeling like I have stripes running through my muscles. They are sometimes excruciatingly painful, worse than my normal fibro flares where an entire muscle group goes hard and stays hard until it is vigorously massaged and stretched out, which is a lot more work than most people go through before they get their healthy exercise. Magnesium is one of the biggies with fibro because it's crucial in muscle conduction (it's all about ion exchange and enzymes, but I digress), and it dawned on me that I'd chopped out my major daily source, so I tried supplementing with tablets out of a bottle.

I grew up on handfuls of supplements. I know way too much about supplements, thanks to an exuberant mother. I know all the debates by heart- oxides vs citrates vs chelates vs stearates vs... Back then it was all about dolomite, which has warnings, now it's about liquid. How can you tell which is the best? Point blank, magnesium supplements hurt my stomach. I break them down into smaller portions, bury them in food, skip days, doesn't matter. I'd rather eat the plants that magnesium comes in. I love brussels sprouts (and broccoli, another good source), but I can eat only so much. I'm going to try going back to putting a spoon of cocoa powder in my protein drink several times a week. If I have to chew another children's benadryl doing it, so be it, but so far my body seems to be ok with it.

Why is that a big deal? Because after about a week of magnesium supplements my stomach hurts so bad I'm doubled over, and as I've done this off and on through the years and complain about it, my doctor wants to do stuff like ultrasound on my gall bladder or a colonoscopy. Tests always turn out FINE, and I finally learned the pain goes away when I stop taking the magnesium supplements. I'm tired of tests. I'm tired of magnesium supplements. Bodies don't digest rocks very well, no matter what form the molecule takes. If humans could digest rocks we'd be grinding them up and eating them. Filtering them back out of plants and calling it a different name doesn't make a lot of difference in my stomach, I'm still swallowing a rock. However, I have to wonder how the above test result would look if I weren't trying so hard. Would it be worse? Would it even matter? Magnesium deficiency is notoriously difficult to test for, yet I live with many of the symptoms almost continuously even though I still remain within a 'standard range', albeit on the low side, according to blood tests.

See that chart? Yeah, that's me at rock bottom the first time they tested and then four days after an injection. I bottomed out even worse six months later and got another injection, but  21 days later was nowhere near the level I reached after my first injection, so I guess over an extra couple of weeks I lost that much serum magnesium, which might be a normal rate of loss after an injection for all I know. Now, fifteen months later it looks, by sheer comparison, like my magnesium level is better than it used to be, right? BUT. I've been struggling with supplementation and attempts to get more magnesium in my diet. I just know that I was having an easier time when I was at the 1.9 mg/dL on 2/14/13, four days after an injection. My latest result was 1.8, so at least I know supplements are doing some good. It just doesn't feel good enough, and I know if I stop trying, it'll bottom out again.

Side note- since I've received magnesium injections in the ER a couple of times while still being within 'standard range', arguably at the very low end as in the chart above, and feeling better afterward along with cessation of particular symptoms, I am able to correlate how I feel now with magnesium. For instance, one of the symptoms I was having both times I got the magnesium injection was a weird numby sensation all over my face, which Rx lists put in the 'severe' range of deficiency symptoms. Of course, that could be related to nerve damage I'm still healing from, as noted in previous posts, but I don't live with it continuously- this symptom being markedly worse at the same time as a low magnesium result is pretty clear cut for me. Regular doctors want me to take xanax or head meds for that, and a neurologist says it's something I have to live with, even though it went away with a magnesium injection. So when my lips and face start feeling sort of numbish, if I'm having no other symptoms of allergic food reaction, I think magnesium, especially if my fibro is flaring.

My point is that even though I'm keeping my serum magnesium level up, I'm having symptoms again, so serum blood level may not accurately reflect what is going on with me. I can only imagine what would be happening with me this winter if I weren't even trying. I sometimes entertain the notion of feeling bitter about going through another slump, but then surprise ripples through the area as a person my age keels over from a heart attack. They all say Too young, but 'young' doesn't mean 'healthy'. Hard to feel bitter about having to try so hard to get healthier when someone else who wasn't trying at all just bit the big one, or just barely survived thanks to a life saving surgery and most likely a big shot of magnesium along with it.

Magnesium deficiency is prevalent and preventable. (I'm not being paid to link anything in this post.) I am a product of big pharma. I started extricating myself from big pharma in 2008. It has taken a lot of planning and dedication, and I'm feeling way better than I did in 2008. This guys explains in a very easy way how bad it got for me.

If you arrived at this post searching for a light in the dark, I wish you all the best. I'm here to say there is hope, but it's up to you to want it badly enough to plan your extrication. Please don't stop meds cold turkey without thorough research on how to do that, and please stay in touch with your doctors so they can help you monitor. Once my doctor saw me breaking free, he switched directions with me and continues to cheer me on.