Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Body hacking! (or, more about my tits)

Sorry it's been awhile. This winter, within the space of five months, I got married, defended my PhD thesis, and got a job in the midwest (which starts in the Fall). So it's been a pretty big year.

But now onto the fun stuff. Recently, I've continued my project with body hacking - this time, the attempt was to rid myself of the dreaded PMS.

You may remember my rant about xenoestrogens in the environment and what they might be doing to women's bodies. Well, since then, I've gotten rid of most of the plastics in my food prep/store arsenal, and I eat fewer things out of cans or plastic containers. Canned tomatoes are right out.

Why the paranoia? Because PMS. For me, "PMS" manifested as the (fairly typical) mood swings, fatigue, allergies, and bloating - and swollen, tender breasts. But this was not run-of-the-mill breast tenderness; this was "ohmigod it hurts to walk down the stairs because they're moving" and "wtf none of my bras fit me anymore because they're swollen." This was half the month spent in pain and shame.

I've lived with this since the end of 2006.

I went to the doctor for it - four times. The first time, my doctor prescribed Yaz (a birth-control pill). It made me suicidal (like, I'm Winona in Beetlejuice suicidal) for the whole week I was on it. The second time, my doctor gave me a pamphlet about PMS and told me to avoid alcohol and caffeine (because they make one retain water, and people assume that swollen tissues in the body must be due to water retention). Fair enough, but giving up alcohol and caffeine didn't work. The third time (which was this January), the doctor (who has been my functional GP for three years) tested my thyroid and told me to see a "women's doctor." The fourth time (seeing the women's doctor, the same one I saw the first time), my doctor wanted to put me back on my antidepressants and get a Mirena IUD, and she recommended that I seek counseling.

This all made me feel really angry, and disempowered, and hurt, and belittled. The various tests I had gotten showed that something was clearly wrong with my body - my thyroid hormones, though within normal range, were in the lower third of normal. My testosterone, which I demanded be tested at the fourth appointment, came back "a touch high" (my other gripe with this doctor is that she never tells me the actual results of my tests - including a high cholesterol reading in 2008 which she told me was "fine," but then said that I should "stop eating fried foods and meat" - which is extra funny because I've been vegetarian for 15 years. I found out later that my LDL had read 170, which is crazy high for someone my age and health). This fourth doctor also simply refused to test my estrogen and progesterone levels, even though I asked her.

Anyway. I considered the Mirena IUD, because the doctor told me that I would "stop ovulating," and therefore the monthly hormonal fluctuations would stop. But then I read a paper (Barbosa et al. (1990) "Ovarian function during use of a levonorgestrel-releasing IUD." Contraception 42.51) that showed that, although the various hormone levels of women with a hormonal IUD were lower than those in the control group, the levels were still high enough for ovulation to occur (read: you could still suffer the PMS). I did not bother arguing with doctor #4 about this point. The Mirena is also not covered by my insurance, and would cost about $500 to put in. I also have no need for a new birth control method. In short, it would have been a lot of money for something that may or may not have fixed my PMS, but would have introduced an artificial hormone into the area of my reproductive organs (a progestin, which is not biologically identical to progesterone but is meant to act similarly in the body. Don't get me started on non-biologically-identical hormones.)

Experiment #1: Left back at square one, I tried doc #2's suggestion (found in the handy "you and PMS" pamphlet). I gave up caffeine and alcohol, got regular cardiovascular exercise (despite my running allergy), ate protein at every meal, and took a ton of supplements (which have worked for me in the past and were recommended in Esther Blum's Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous: evening primrose oil, Omega 3s, DIM, Vitex, B vitamins, milk thistle, Alpha-Lipoic acid, calcium, and magnesium. It should be noted that Esther Blum also recommends going caffeine-free for PMS and associated breast issues).

Did that work? A bit - the girls were in less pain than they had been in previous months, though the swelling didn't go down at all. This got me through to mid-March, and boy was I miserable - no coffee, no alcohol, tons of pills every day, and running to boot (if I skipped a day of running, my running allergy also came back). AND my tits still hurt. So I started reading again, suspecting that my hormones were still out of whack.

Experiment #2, which I started March 13, was to go dairy-free. I kept eggs at first (though I've already lost my taste for them), but no yogurt, butter, milk, cheese, or anything derived from milk. The reasoning behind this experiment is that dairy products contain mammalian estrogens, which act like estrogens in the human body. I hypothesized that my body was getting too much estrogen from the dairy I was eating (and, to be clear, I was not eating a lot of dairy before this experiment, and almost all of it was organic - I will cite more about dairy and estrogens in a later post). Just to keep it scientific, I added back in caffeine and alcohol, and cut down my supplement intake to evening primrose oil, Omega 3s, a liver support (B vitamins, milk thistle, and alpha-lipoic acid), and Vitex and DIM between ovulation and bleeding (though I'm rethinking this and considering taking the Vitex throughout the cycle and the DIM only in the first half). Heck, I even mostly stopped running.

And guess what? IT WORKED! Since March 13th, I have been pain-free (through one complete menstrual cycle). All my bras fit. And I noticed significantly less bloating and fatigue in the days before bleeding.

So it's a win. Bodily, I don't feel 100% (sugar or gluten will be my next opponent/experiment), and I could still stand to lose some weight (so I might start running again), but holy damn leaving the breast pain behind is a revelation.

Alors, bienvenue, a (once again) vegan lady!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Dear Jezebel

My comment to your article, "The Marketing Woes of 36DD," has not been published (yet?), but I can't get that bad "I read some sexism buried in a supposedly feminist post" taste out of my mouth.

Here's (an excerpt of) what Margaret Hartmann wrote, in an otherwise very thoughtful and poignant critique of the bra industry. She cites WWD.com:

"Band size defines a clear distinction between a busty woman with an average figure who wears a 28-to-34-inch band but is a G cup, and a plus-size woman who may not have large breasts, but whose band size ranges from 36 and larger and is a C or D cup."

and then replies:

"Yes, it's important that we separate the woman with a 28-inch band and G cups from the woman who wears a 36C, because one may be a hot porn star with implants, while the other is just a fatty."

Thought #1 (a preliminary): Bra size is often measured incorrectly. For a good way to measure your bra size, see this wiki-how article. If your band size (i.e., the circumference of your chest under your breasts) is really 36 inches, then it is likely that "plus-size" clothing fits you. I'm not saying that wearing "plus-size" clothing makes you a "fat" person. It does mean that your chest circumference is larger than what the fashion industry has decided is the "norm" for women's bodies. So when the WWD.com article calls women "plus-size" who have a bra band size of 36 or above, it is not necessarily making an evaluative statement about the woman's appearance.

Thought #2 (sticking to my ribs): When you imply that women who wear small band sizes and large cup sizes are "porn stars" who have "implants," you propagate a few very unfortunate and very anti-feminist myths: first (the smaller), the idea that women who get implants are doing so in order to look more like "porn stars," i.e., in order to sexualize themselves. Second - and what really offends me - is the notion that women who have large breasts for their frame have implants in the first place, or, even worse, that women who have large breasts are more sexualized than their smaller-breasted comrades. As a 100% natural 30FF (in British sizes, a 30H in American sizes), I hate the fact that people see my large breasts and make assumptions about my sexuality.

My point is that women really do come in all shapes and sizes, and naturally so, and it hurts us all when we assume that the way a woman is built implies something about who she is as a person. As a closing comparison, wouldn't you all find it horribly offensive if I made a statement like "all overweight women are lazy"? Well, saying "all giant-tittied tiny ladies are hyper-sexual" is just as bad, thank you very much.

To all those anti-health care conservatives...

What about the children?!?

This newborn (newborn!) has been denied insurance because he has a pre-existing condition.

And you say that you care about the unborn? And the babies? I don't really think you do.

Monday, 16 November 2009

One word: plastics

A disturbing new study is out which has found high levels of BPA in many of our food-preserving vehicles (by which I mean "cans"). BPA is already known to have effects on erectile/reproductive function and hormone production/reception. Also, news articles upon news articles (reporting on scientific studies, of course) continue to warn the public about the dangers of phthalates, chemicals added to tons of plastics to improve their plasticity.

Right, okay, so throw out all those canned tomatoes (cans of acidic foods tend to leach more BPA than cans of alkaline foods), stop drinking stuff bottled in plastic, or cans (yup, soda cans too), start buying phthalate-free cosmetics (moisturiser, nail polish, eyeshadow, powders, hairsprays, and more!), don't forget the phthalate-free vibrator (just when you thought your vag was safe from chemicals) - why am I still upset about all this information?

Both BPA and phthalates are "xenoestrogens", which means that they act like estrogen in the body. *All* of the hullaballoos I've been reading in major news sources about the dangers of these chemicals have only addressed the dangers these chemicals pose to *boys* and *men.* Are women not affected by excess estrogen? Are girls and women miraculously exempt from the consequences of these endocrine disruptors**?

No! But, of course it is only when the masculinity of young boys and the reproductive abilities of grown men are being threatened that journalists and the government feel the need to raise the red flag. God forbid my son be effeminate! (Or grow up with undescended testicles, or tiny penises.) God forbid that adult men not be able to stick it to their ladyfriends (or manfriends)! God forbid that all these fetuses come out female instead of male!

Thank you, sexist media, for warning us about threats to male health.

My question: where the heck are the studies about women?? And since there are such studies, why the heck is Big Media not reporting on it? Doesn't our health count?

**Disclaimer: I am a lady who is quite sensitive to excess estrogen and xenoestrogens in my body. I would hate to develop breast cancer, ovarian cysts, reproductive problems, diabetes, etc. because health organizations and the government failed to see that putting hormones into everyday products was a detrimental thing.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Apples and Oranges

Two arguments against Health Care that just don't cut it (in response to some stuff I read on Facebook comments this morning):

1. Health insurance should work like car insurance - we pay for all the routine stuff, and the insurance kicks in for all the major expenses.

Why this doesn't work: Who decides what is "routine"? Is a once-a-month checkup routine? Or only once every six months? What if I find a breast lump - would it be "routine" for me to go to the doctor's to get it checked out? What if I end up getting charged for four or five "routine" visits in a month's time? That could rack up some serious debt.

2. People who have health care debt are just not fiscally responsible (i.e., they spend their money on cable, cell phones, clothes, eating out, etc.)

Why this doesn't work: Health care expenses are usually on a completely different scale from that of our normal living expenses (and I'm including mortgage/rent in this equation). Having done some research on that oh-so-routine procedure that half of us will likely go through at some point in our lives (no, I don't mean hip replacement), pregnancy and childbirth is one hell of an expensive operation. Even if you do it at home, even if you get a midwife and have no complications, it can cost in the region of $1500-$4000. If you do it in a hospital (or if complications necessitate that you do it in a hospital), it will run around $6000 (though, according to actual people's testimony, it usually ends up costing more like $10,000-$20,000). If your fetus for some reason needs a c-section, or if you need an epidural, or if you need a little snipping of your perineum, those are extra expenses, and cost extra! In short, it would likely cost me more money than I make in a year to give birth to a child in a hospital right now.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

More on health care

I thought I'd link to Mike Madden's article on Salon.com about the present existence of health care rationing and refusal to cover necessary expenses (which are exactly what Obama's so-called 'death panels' would be). The insurance companies already deny care to their customers, and Madden gives a run-down of some particularly horrifying examples.

This is why we need a government option.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Public Health option and my thoughts

I've been busy writing, but y'all should check out the new White House website clarifying their proposed public health option. I think it's a fabulous idea, given the fact that this information has not been able to be dispersed through typical channels, due to counterproductive disruptions (at the 'town-hall' meetings), media spinning, and strategic misinformations put out by conservative politicians and pundits alike. Here's what I think:

1. Decent health care should be a guaranteed right (ideally for everyone, regardless of birthplace, but certainly in this country for citizens and workers).

2. Preventive care should be the concern of the government: it's our tax dollars that pay for the treatment of diseases and problems which could have been prevented.

2a. The government should turn their backs on the food industry lobby. They want us to buy their products and get addicted to them, regardless of how much they hurt us in the process (oooh, but on a side note, someone should do some actuarial studies on the effect of the modern food industry on the lifespan of the consumer - in terms of pure profit, it doesn't benefit the food industry if they are losing years of product consumption because their consumers are dying earlier due to diseases caused in part by their products).

2b. The government should regulate the hell out of the food industry - I'm talking no more trans fats (and full disclosure on food labels, none of this 'rounding down' shit), no more MSG (or MSG-like neurotoxic additives), and get all that processed soy out da biz!

2c. The government should wake the hell up and realize that xenoestrogenic and antiandrogenic chemicals in our water - which are detectable but not filtered out in modern water treatment plants - are harming us! We need better filtering, better testing, and, finally, DISCLOSURE on the uptake rates and effects of these chemicals and the levels in our local water supplies.

3. A note on definitions: if the government *were* planning to institute "death panels" as part of their health care plan, and if the government *were* then planning to euthanize all the unsavory grannies in our country, this would not be an example of "eugenics". Why? Because eugenics aims to get rid of the "unsavories" *before* they reproduce, eliminating their contribution to the gene pool. These old people are presumably well beyond the age of reproduction, and they have probably already passed their genes down to the next generation. Thus, killing them off would not be eugenics. Ha!