Archive for June 2004
The old woman next door is watering her cats again. She has four or five cats and is constantly calling them to the back door for treats – “kittieees-kittieees-kittieees”, she sounds like the call of a bird. She doesn’t see too well and when she gets the hose out to water the plants, her beloved kitties always get in the way. They leap in front of the stream to bat it with their paws, then look astonished and wet in the aftermath.
I had coeur de boeuf (beef heart) for lunch. It’s rich in coenzyme Q10, minerals, and B vitamins. Heart food. Did you know that saturated fat is the food of the heart, that the fat around the heart is rich in saturated fat to provide fuel, that the heart runs exclusively on ketones? A medical fact little known by the public.
I bought the coeur de boeuf from Monoprix sliced, so at least it didn’t look like an actual heart – unlike the pork heart, which was whole in the tray. It looked just like normal muscle meat, apart from the occasional funny looking vein attached, and the sealed look of the muscle wall. I fried a slice in butter. I thought it would be tough, for some reason I equated toughness with strength, but of course the opposite is true, it is actually very tender and flexible. You would be forgiven for describing the texture as somewhat slimy when you first put it in your mouth. I had to fight my squeamishness. It’s actually a very smooth meat, not rough like muscle meat, perhaps down to the type of protein it is made from, such as collagen or elastin. The taste is quite pleasant, lighter, more flavoursome and more complex than beef, with a slight hint of liver flavour to it.
You can buy fromage de tête in France, even in the supermarkets. It’s a pate made out of pig’s head. Couper la tête de porc en deux… begin the recipe instructions on the internet. Place in a large pot, add the feet of the pig and cover in cold water. Add garlic, shallots and a bouquet of herbs to taste and simmer for six and a half hours. Add the tongue (la langue de porc) and cook for another thirty minutes. Add wine, de-bone the feet and head and peel the tongue, and cook for another thirty minutes. The mixture is then chopped, cooled, gelatine is poured over it, and it’s left in the fridge for 24 hours. Everything but the oink, indeed! The end result is nutritious and tasty – or so I’ve heard. I plan to try out a few more delicacies. Brains are supposed to be good for the brain. I haven’t dared try them. Goosefat, lard and offal are about my current limit.
Grass pollen allergy season has hit at last, and whilst my allergies aren’t as extreme as previous years, I’m still suffering with sinus pain. It’s hot now too, and at seven thirty at night I’m sweating a little still.
I went for a walk earlier to try to clear my head. In between ogling designer handbags and being hit on by predatory French men, I discovered that the olive trees have started to flower. The park actually smells like a jar of pickled olives. Olive trees live for five hundred years, and I imagine them growing long after I’ve gone. We’ve been cultivating olive trees for at least the last 8,000 years – the varieties we eat can only be grown from cuttings. Seeds revert back to small, large-stoned wild varieties. At least we have not bred them to sterility like bananas.
I had foie d’agneau (lamb’s liver) for tea. I pulled a large, tough vein out of the liver and left it on my plate. I studied the small, branching veins leading off the main trunk. I must have veins like this in my own liver. I imagined the clotted vein in my leg and wondered how much it has healed, whether the clot has calcified. Calcified veins are not something I want in my body.
Apparently humans can live off meat alone, as long as they eat the fat and the organs too, and make a broth from the bones and marrow. Native Americans of the North and the arctic regions are familiar with this. People forced to live off meat with little fat become ill after only a few days – it’s fat-hunger, and is known as “rabbit starvation“, with diarrhoea in about a week, headache, lassitude and vague discomfort. They can eat until their stomachs are distended, and still they will not be satisfied. Still trying to heal myself, I am now eating organ meats for the concentrated nutrition – tomorrow is coeur de boeuf.
I have been thinking a lot about vegetarianism, and how I justify eating meat now. I cannot quite put it into words. When I was first a vegetarian in my teens, my philosophy was based on need. It was okay for natives in the jungle to hunt monkeys, because they needed to, to survive. I did not need to eat meat. Now I understand that I did, that my noble intentions made me ill. That we are born into a savage world where the lion does not lie down with the lamb, that we must do the best for ourselves and the ones we care for, and that living by morality is merely a luxury in the battle against the forces of the natural world. If at the heart of me is a savage, then I will embrace that savage and run with her nature – reluctance only damages one’s own spirit, it cannot repair the world.
I wonder how long I will live? I always had plans to live to be a hundred, and preferably find some way of living forever! My body is broken though, and I have to be constantly vigilant to keep it working properly. My chances of not developing diabetes are dependent on this continued vigilance. But I am optimistic – might megadoses of vitamins help? I believe a lot of things can be cured with the aide of nutrition.
The thing that astonishes me about vitamins is that they actually work. I took potassium and it relieved me of the nightly leg cramps I experienced after having my DVT. That was what got me started.
J. has terrible hay fever. My own year-round hay fever, allergies and asthma seemed to have mostly cleared up since I started eating properly, and we’re both on an identical “nutrient dense” diet (low carbing plus following the Weston A. Price principles, but such a diet can’t cure everything. When J.’s allergies started up at their usual time in March, he was really suffering – he couldn’t sleep at night because he was so bunged up and sneezy all of the time. I resorted to Dr. Atkins Vita-nutrient Solution for an answer.
The big A recommends vitamin C, B5 (pantothenic acid), quercetin, magnesium and fish oils as part of the treatment plan. The only thing I had in my cupboard of wonders was vitamin C, to strengthen my leg veins and ward off colds. So we gave it a try. Three grams of vitamin C over the course of a day, and J. had stopped sneezing. He was still a little irritated around the eyes and nose, but much better, so we kept it up.
While we were back in the UK, I picked up the other ingredients, along with some conventional cetrizine. J. started taking the cetrizine immediately. Back in France, I began feeding him so many vitamins he rattled. Pantothenic acid is supportive of the adrenal glands, it helps them to work correctly. Anyone feeling frazzled, emotionally exhausted, stressed, hypoglycaemic or allergic should give it a go. It’s helped me considerably this year when recovering from low-blood sugar. Vitamin C and quercetin act as natural antihistamines, and so do fish oils.
J. had no irritation at all, and I began to think the tree pollen season was over. But then he missed one day of pills, and his allergies came back immediately.
“Do you think,” I suggested one morning, “you maybe ought to try just taking the vitamins? I don’t like you being on allergy tablets, I worry about what they’re doing to you.”
“I haven’t taken any cetrizine for ages,” J. replied. “It’s the vitamins that are working.”
Now it is my turn – grass pollen season began on Sunday when we were in Geneva. I couldn’t stop sneezing. I calmed down on the plane, but began to sneeze in the taxi on the way home, to my dismay. When I got in I immediately took a dose and twenty minutes later had calmed down. I’ve been letting them wear off before I take another set – that way I can tell they’re effective. I seem to need them mid morning. I’m left with some sinus pain, but at least I’m not sneezing – and I’m not taking pharmaceuticals, which has got to be good.
This weekend we went to Geneva. A little background: Geneva is in Switzerland, just over the other side of the Alps, and only 40 minutes from here. Think Heidi, Saint Bernards with barrels of brandy attached to their collars, flowering meadows of lush green grass, goats, Swiss chalets and snowy Alps. Well, that’s the stereotype anyway! We stayed at the imperialistic Hotel President Wilson (5*), “convenient for the UN building” apparently – the human rights convention is right next door, and the main UN building is just a short drive down the road.
The hotel overlooks Lake Geneva. The opposite bank is wooded, with parks and widely spaced houses. Geneva town centre feels very small yet widely spaced, and from the air the houses look spread out, groups of half a dozen with a couple of fields in between and some patches of woodland. There’s something civilised about this – the distinction between town and countryside not being so great. Something that Marx advocated in The Communist Manifesto, but is rarely repeated by modern Marxists today. From the air we could see lots of square buildings, three storeys high with shutters on the windows and quirky symmetrical folded out roofs (I am sorry, I cannot explain in words!). We even saw some log cabins on the edge of the lake.
We could learn a lesson from the Swiss
The cleanliness of the lake astonished me, the water was very clear for a long way down and the bottom was coated in healthy green pond weed. Swans and ducks clustered at the shoreline and herons posed on the grassy banks. There were many small boats moored around the edge of the lake, a water-skier, tourist boats, a ferry, but very little sign of rubbish or pollution. This was confirmed when, aghast, we watched a hawk swoop out of the air and catch a fish in the water. Not just one hawk – we must have counted a dozen in the air over the lake at the same time. I didn’t think hawks came in flocks! The lake must be a veritable cornucopia of fish. Perch was on the menu at every restaurant, we think from the lake. It is a most telling sign of a clean, healthy ecosystem in which the predators at the top of the food chain are numerous. In England, we would be lucky to see even one hawk.
The Swiss speak French and German and are influenced by both cultures. I believe their cuisine lies somewhere in between the two, and they are very fond of their dairy produce like the French (think Heidi). Choucroute was on the menu at several restaurants. The hotel we stayed at was completely obsessed with low-fat foods, but I think this is probably because it was designed to cater for Americans.
There is something fertile about France, and Switzerland too. You rarely see a young mother in England, unless she is a chav, looking scruffy and screaming at her kids. Middle class mothers are much older in England, and most of them have wrinkles before they give birth. In Nice and in Geneva too, there are young, well-to-do mothers everywhere, and shops to cater for a fashionable pregnancy rather than a frumpy English one.
One thing that did strike me was the sheer quantity of naughty children around. I think there were a lot of tourists, certainly Americans and Germans. The population wasn’t as slender as the population of Nice. In Nice children are remarkably well behaved, precocious, and passive. They follow their parents quietly and stop to look at the views, if they’re sat at a brasserie they don’t complain about it – a drink or a bit of bread is enough to keep them quiet.
By contrast, the children in Geneva were running around causing riots, yelling, whining and screaming. Unfortunately our boat tour of the lake was somewhat claustrophobic, due to the presence of one such child – a naughty little boy who couldn’t sit still and ran up and down the deck being violent and loud and seeking attention from everyone. The family spoke French but were somewhat stocky and large, so could have been French or Swiss. The child was clearly overloaded on additives and short of nutrients – perhaps the parents thought he was merely boisterous: I think he had ADHD.
On the tour of the lake we passed the house where Byron and the Shelleys stayed during that fateful period when a nineteen year old Mary Shelley got high on laudanum and various other substances began to write Frankenstein. There are several large mansions on the lake shores – Rothschild, Manoir Colgate, and a few historic palaces now owned by unspecified Arabian princes.
There is a little mermaid – The Little Mermaid of Lake Léman, or, The Siren, a bronze statue by Natacha de Senger, who was set on a rock there in 1966. Of course there are mermaids in Lake Geneva! What was I saying about biodiversity and good ecosystems? There’s also a mermaid in Copenhagen, but, strangely, she has legs. Must be the PCBs.
My hypoglycaemia still bothers me sometimes for no apparent reason, despite being on a low-carb diet. I have a new theory as to why it developed every day.
My granddad developed type II diabetes in old age. He had a short fuse and got annoyed easily, though he was very loveable. My mum and dad both have the same short fuse and apple-shaped weight problem, so perhaps this is an inherited problem that has hit me early because of the carb-heavy diet people have been eating for the last twenty or thirty years.
Perhaps warfarin had some sort of effect on my ability to raise my blood sugar and has damaged me in some way. I have searched and searched for information on a connection between blood sugar and warfarin, I just can’t find any studies to confirm or deny it.
Well, obviously carbs can be a killer. I was just eating more carbs and doing less exercise, and my hypoglycaemia is purely to do with insulin resistance and weight gain. But how can it be? I am lighter now than I ever weighed, my BMI is 20, but I still have a problem!
Transfats (hydrogenated vegetable oils) are known to contribute to insulin resistance because they disrupt important biochemical reactions related to blood sugar by substituting themselves for saturated fats in the body’s cells. Maybe years of eating transfats and polyunsaturated vegetable oils, including a probable increased consumption last year, contributed to my hypoglycaemia. I wonder what percentage of the fat cells in my body are trans, and exactly what I can do to get rid of them? If I could burn off every last trace of trans I would.
The pill and increased levels of oestrogen contribute to insulin resistance. I was on the pill for a couple of years. So shouldn’t I have started to get better, not worse when I stopped taking it?
Certain vitamins and nutrients play key roles in regulating blood sugar, I may have been deficient in those nutrients after a period of not eating very well and being vegetarian. I might still be deficient in these nutrients. But believe me, if there is a vitamin out there that could possibly help, I have taken it ad nauseum!
Candidia infections can supposedly spread to the pancreas where they damage beta cells and cause hypoglycaemia. But I had no symptoms of a candidia infection, unless it was a “silent” infection? Everything I’ve read from legitimate sources suggests this is unlikely unless there was something really wrong with my immune system – and I’d know about that.
Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. I have a long history of vaguely “autoimmune” problems – my teenage years had me screwed up with fibromyalgia. I have considered the possibility of autoimmune problems more than once – but my insulin output surely would have been lowered, not raised. Type II diabetes isn’t autoimmune, it’s more a metabolic imbalance.
I was in a constant state of adrenal exhaustion. I was very scared in hospital, and in the months after coming out of hospital and I would have fluttery panic feelings all of the time. Adrenaline raises the blood sugar whether required or not, so perhaps I was raising my blood sugar and pumping out insulin to cover it at an accelerated rate, ending up trapped in a cycle of overproduction. Ultimately, this has damaged my ability to control my blood sugar. This is currently my favourite theory, though could it really have caused permanent damage?
Will I ever find a cure? Will my body ever heal? I don’t believe my problem was merely overweight as losing weight, whilst it has helped, has not healed me. I’m still unable to process carbs like normal people.
Why do some thin people develop type II diabetes? Is there anyone out there who can clarify this for me? Halle Berry is a type II diabetic, and she was naturally thin when she was diagnosed with type II diabetes. So what went wrong for her and could it relate to me? Apparently her control method is that she “doesn’t eat carbs a lot” either. Ha!