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MY OWN HEALTH HISTORY: CHAPTER ONE
Was it the diet, the cold, the rain, the viruses, the success stress, the fear stress, the female “stress”?
When I was born my young parents were students at Washington State University in Pullman. My mother nearly died of Toxemia in childbirth. Stress and poisoning at the outset?
During the mid 1980’s the US government admitted that the Nuclear facility at Hanford in Eastern Washington had released important amounts of radioactive contaminants during the 1940’s-50’s. Pullman is downwind from Hanford and since infants are particularly sensitive to radioactive poisoning, this can’t have done me any good. Another black mark against my future health, At age 3 we moved to Seattle, Latitude 47N36’°
GENES AND DIET:
From birth I left little rocks in my diapers. I was not breast fed so this can only mean I had an intolerance to whatever I was being fed. Here we come to the subject of Constipation. Henceforth I will refer to it as the C word because it has a pejorative connotation. I inherited this trait from my maternal grandfather’s family. My mother told me because her mother told her. Normally the C word is not a subject of conversation. At a family reunion does anyone ask “Hey guys, how many among you are constipated, raise your hands?” It was a serious problem, in at least one case leading to
surgery for an impacted bowel. Parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces nephews. Since I know that my own C problem originates in an intolerance for the glutens and the western Neolithic diet in general, I can only assume that this is a genetic inheritance shared by other members of my mother’s family.
Other consequences of this inherited trait - hormonal imbalances leading to menstrual problems, endometriosis, pre-menstrual-stress syndrome in females, premature adolescence in boys as well as obsessive, forceful, driven personalities, extremism, even fanaticism bordering on” imbalance”. My
grandfather’s youngest brother wrote a journal in which he mentioned that at the end of her life their mother began to “trip over her feet”.
“Trip over her feet”. (This may be due to "Aging MS. See June Blog post). Her family found this amusing. I believe my mother suffered from acute PMS. She was given to unpredictable, violent emotional outbursts. Fear (as well as Cold) is said to "injure" the Kidneys in Chinese Medical Theory. The Bladder meridian running down the back protects the Kidneys.On the other hand my mother’s family enjoyed robust health, their physical strength a match for their dominating personalities. Unfortunately for me, I inherited the food intolerances which led to the hormonal imbalances but not the robust health. My father was more an intellectual than a man of action. His health was more fragile, he was subject to frequent sore throats, and viruses. For me this is an unfortunate combination since the “vessel”, my body, cannot contain it’s explosive contents.
I also recognize cultural inheritances, in particular the Protestant Work Ethic. Members of my mother’s family are very ambitious, driven to succeed professionally and financially. This is not to say that my father lacked ambition, he was just less ferocious about it. My father descended from a family of
early American Quakers, I can now see that I derived my most important ethical values from my father and his father. But the command to succeed was there too. I’ll call this the SUCCESS STRESS. Ambition, the desire to make something of oneself belongs to the "Water" element, the Kidney/Bladder polarity. Again the back meridien is implicated. My mother's maternal grandmother descended from Calvinist stock, Northern Irish and Dutch.
COLD, WET, CLOUDY, NORTHERN CLIMATE:
In most ways the Pacific Northwest is a wonderful place to grow up. Sea (we lived near the beach), mountains, forest, wilderness. But the winters are long, wet and rainy. It’s the humidity coupled with the cold which undermines a fragile constitution. I’m not convinced the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D is as important a factor in MS as the Cold pure and simple. Scotland ranks as the world's highest MS incidence. Seattle must not be far behind with it's similar climate. (See Blog entry). If there was a virus floating around, I would get it. The Asian flu of 1957 “got” me. Shortly thereafter I developed
mononucleosis and hepatitis. It’s not that I ever saw myself as a sickly, weak person. To the contrary, I was independent, resourceful, “athletic”, felt myself capable of facing any and all obstacles. I endured the illnesses and then quickly forgot them until the frustration of the next one. As everyone should know flus and viruses in general tense up the body. I believe the deleterious effect of body tension becomes more crucial in the eventual onset of MS than the immune system problem. (Dr. Zamboni and his colleagues have observed that the veins of the back and spine in MS patients are deformed.)
Another factor I may have insufficiently considered (update Jan 2013). Some illnesses linked to MS such as Mononucleosis, Chlamydia, Epstein-Barr and even Lyme disease may in fact damage the veins leading from the brain (their walls and valves).
In Chinese Medicine it is said that the Cold (as well as Fear) “injures the kidneys”. The water element corresponds to cold, winter, north, it’s organs are the yin kidney and the yang bladder. The bladder meridians runs down the bands of muscles which parallel the spine. When threatened the bladder meridian serves to protect, it tenses up in particular to protect against the cold. So the Cold in itself induces back and shoulder tension. Even as a child my father noticed that my upper back was all knotted up by tension.(Of course Fear may have been of equal importance, and "success stress")
MENSTRUAL PAIN STRESS:
My first menses occurred just after my 12th birthday. Every month thereafter I knew the most debilitating menstrual cramps imaginable. Is it plausible that cramping of this magnitude and frequency can actually deform the circulatory system in a growing girl? Can this alone explain the predominance of women as MS patients?
Before puberty and after menopause female MS incidence equals that of males. This implies that something in the female metabolism damages women's vascular system. Consider that use of birth control pills increases the incidence of stroke implying that they somehow impact the brain's vascular system. Birth control pills are contraindicated for women who suffer migraine headaches and migraines are related to brain blood circulation. Somehow none of this has penetrated the minds of MS researchers.
As of February of my senior year in high school I experienced a debilitating fatigue. I (and my parents) were
proud of my first place in my class of 600, but my real pleasure was dancing in a small local ballet company. My parents didn't really approve of this arty trait, I think that is why they asked me to get an after school job, to teach me the "work ethic".All this was too much. The Doctor who examined me thought I was anemic. (Does this imply that the iron was sticking in my brain rather than circulate in my blood?) I quit the job and struggled through to graduation. I was SO tired. Thirty years later a French Neurologist determined that the Multiple Sclerosis began when I was 18. This amazed me since I experienced no neurological deficits at the time. But, yes, there was this fatigue. It is a bit CREEPY to think that at age 18 my blood vessels were too damaged to nourish the brain of my grown body. It’s true that the only time I have the impression that that my brain has been “oxygenated” is after a good swim when
the blood flows at full force. Blood cells carry oxygen, if the blood circulation in the brain is insufficient, wouldn’t that alone cause fatigue even
if there is no question of a blood reflux?
In my next entry I will discuss what could have been done to prevent the Stress which I believe led to Multiple Sclerosis. I grew up in white bread - peanut butter - bacon America. Now there isn’t much of an excuse to expose one’s children to the Stress I knew, beginning with the food stress. More later.