Out for a drive south of Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 6, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist! Arrive December 8th.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our Health and Health Care

We don't talk very much about our health or health care. That's because this blog is about our travels, it's not about politics or religion or current events. And health care (especially in the U.S.) is a very political topic. We definitely have our opinions about all of these things, but we've learned that people in general are very polarized when it comes to these topics and some people aren't able to grasp that if we disagree on something we can still be friends!

But our health and health care is related to our travels in some ways.

We are very healthy. Some people might say we are "lucky" to be able to say this, but we think it's more to do with planning. We eat very healthy, and we get a lot of exercise. We believe that it's the combination of these two things that allow us to be healthy. We take zero drugs or medication or pills. Nothing.

Ruth went through twenty years of relatively minor digestion problems coupled with a few other oddball things that progressively deteriorated to the point where she became underweight despite eating as much as I do. Our great Canadian medical system couldn't find anything wrong with her. Eventually, a doctor suggested that maybe she has a gluten intolerance. The system won't pay for the test to find out, so the only other way to find out if you don't want to pay for the test yourself is to go "gluten free" with your diet.

After a month on a gluten free diet? Twenty years worth of problems gone. Just like that. After two months, she had gained back all of the weight she had lost and everything was back to normal.

But over the past year, I've noticed some problems. Nothing serious, but things that aren't just right. And, some of you have noticed via pictures that I've lost weight as well. I've always been a tall skinny guy, and genetically, there is no fat in my family history. But I really do think that I should be 10 or 15 lbs heavier than I am now.

And, I've had three sessions over the past three weeks where I've felt lightheaded and had to go lie down. This led me to do some research, and I believe this is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) which can be directly related to gluten intolerance.

Most of you are saying...."You better go see a doctor!"

But I'm not the type to go running to the doctor for every little thing. I don't believe they are very good at diagnoses, and there's enough information available online. I believe I'm smart enough to sort through it all and understand what I'm sorting through.

We believe that a majority of people have a gluten intolerance of some kind. Most people are able to live with it and the symptoms don't bother them enough to do anything about it. Then, there is a large group of people who have symptoms bad enough that their doctors have them on all kinds of medications to mask the symptoms. Then, there are the group who have figured out that it's gluten that was causing their problems and go on to live a healthy problem free life provided they avoid gluten.

And so from the research I've done, I too have decided to go "gluten free" in my diet. Fairly easy to do, since Ruth already cooks that way. One thing we've learned though, is that if you have a problem with gluten, it doesn't help to say "Oh, I've reduced my gluten intake". You have to REMOVE gluten from your diet. And, you have to do it for a least four weeks to see if your symptoms disappear.

It's not quite as easy when you're traveling, but you'll never starve. If you like fruits and meats and vegetables, you'll do fine! And of course you can have rice and potatoes. But the big no-no (among other things) is of course wheat products. So, no bread or most bakery goods. Or pasta, unless it's made with rice or corn. As I said, Ruth eats this way anyhow, so it won't be that difficult for me to do the same thing.

I'll report back in a month or so and let you know how I'm doing.

36 comments:

  1. Hope it works for you! It's not fun to be going to another country and not be feeling well.

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    1. For the most part he feels fine. He has done lots of research and feels this is the right path to follow.

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  2. I knew Ruth ate gluten free, and assumed you did as well. I hope your test helps you. I don't know of any gluten issues for either of us, but I am aware of the issues many people have.

    We don't like doctors either and I agree they aren't very good at diagnosing things. I always try to self treat first.

    I had noticed you looked a little thin, but then again you're so active I figured that was why.

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    1. For the most part he does eat gluten free at home except for bread but if we are out then he would eat things that weren't gluten free.

      I thought that one of the other reasons for his weight loss was that he wasn't drinking beer all summer.

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    2. Hmmm...you may be on to something there...

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    1. It turns out that there are a lot of popular mainstream beers that are gluten free. Most lagers, especially the ones that have been made with corn and/or rice as well as barley have a low enough gluten content to be called gluten free.

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    1. Yes that's true, and so is Victoria in Mexico, and that's my favorite anyhow! :-)

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  5. I hope that's the answer for you. Good luck. It'll certainly be a lot easier for you, like you said, because Ruth already cooks and eats this way. It's more difficult when one is cooking for others who don't follow a gluten-free diet. And, there are those, many of them, who 'reduce' gluten in their diet thinking that's the trick. Not!

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    1. At home he has eaten the same meals as me except that he would have regular cereals and breads. So now he is just going to go 100% gluten free.

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  6. Forgot to mention ... the new photo is super!

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  7. Yes, I too like the header photo.
    One of our young nephews has Celiac Disease, and is now a happy healthy (and somewhat precocious) young lad. When he was little though, he was just an unhappy baby. Wasn't gaining weight, always in discomfort etc.
    Eventually they did figure out that he was intolerant to gluten, (and admitted it was one of the rare times that a Doctor made that prognosis) and within a few months he was putting on weigh again. And EVERYBODY was much happier.

    Hypoglycaemia is just as bad as hyperglycaemia.
    I'm not overly thrilled with the ability our doctors have when it comes to diagnoses, which is why it's always best to be the adult when it comes to ones own health. The information is out there!
    Sure hope this helps.

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    1. So happy that they were able to figure out your nephew's problem early and that they were able to change his diet so that he is able to have a happy and healthy life.

      Hopefully doctor's are now able to start to diagnose Celiac and gluten intolerance sooner now. I went for years and years before they were able to figure out my problem.

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  8. Hi there, I have been an RD/CDE for 22 years, and have not seen a close association btwn Low blood sugar and gluten intolerance. I would suggest you go get a cheap Walmart blood sugar meter and next time you have a spell, check your sugar and if it is under 70 (3.85 mmol) then it could be low BG (blood gllucose) causing your symptoms, however, if it was low BG causing your symptoms they would resolve with eating, not lying down. Unintentional weight loss is always worrisome, and faint spells could be from many things, including occult blood loss in the intestine. The gluten free diet won't be hard since Ruth already follows but it is the latest "catch all" diet to cure all that ails you. (NOT) I think your readers would feel better if you saw a Dr. before going on your next big adventure!! OK, just my 2cents. (just worried about you!)

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    1. Kevin has done lots of research into his "symptoms" and it comes up with a gluten problem. He hasn't jumped to a conclusion quickly and has read many different sites and many different thoughts on the subject before reaching this decision. People who are gluten intolerant/Celiac have many different reactions, and symptoms. I know that some people look at this as a diet to lose weight or as you have said a "catch all" diet but again from reading about it, it does seem that it has fixed many people's digestive problems as well as other things.

      We like you idea of buying a blood sugar meter and will probably do that. Thanks for giving us your 2 cents worth we do appreciate it.

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    2. I was coming back here to suggest the same thing. That way while away you have an option to cause and treatment.

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    3. At this point we aren't in Canada long enough in order to get a check up and all the blood work done and get the results back before we leave for New York, so for now we will go this route.

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  9. Good luck on your experiment. Hope you get to the bottom of all this trouble.

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    1. We should know if it works within a month or so. One way or another we will figure it out.

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  10. When the MAIN PART of your diet consists of bread products, you sure don't feel well; I can attest to that, but who can afford beef at these PRICES???? You better be in GREAT SHAPE, Kevin, to go on an AFRICAN SAFARI, SO, YOU CAN OUTRUN THE ephalants, THEY RUN REEEEAALY fast .... LOTTSA BEER, NO GLUTEN !!!!

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    1. Wheat and wheat processing has changed a lot over the last few decades and that has lead to more people showing the effects of gluten in the diet.

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  11. Wish gluten was the answer to folks who are gaining weight rather than losing. I'll be interested in following your progress. I do think we often know best. Doctors are after all just "practicing".

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    1. Some people do lose weight after going on a gluten free diet. Our daughter lost weight and many other have too. Gluten affects different people different ways, not everyone will have the same symptoms. In my case I was losing lots of weight due to the gluten as my system wasn't absorbing much of the food or nutrients in the food.

      We know our bodies best and generally know when something isn't right but trying to convey that to a doctor can be difficult.

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  12. Hi again, I do hope you are right, and a gluten free diet certainly won't hurt. That being said, take a look at this: (from Mayo Clinic)
    Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:

    A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
    Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
    Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
    A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
    Weakness or fatigue
    Unexplained weight loss

    I think this could also be the symptoms of gluten intolerance. I am just saayin" HOpe that is all it is!!

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    1. Fortunately, haven't had any of the first five, so not worried about that!

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    2. Good, that makes me feel better!

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  13. 1st let me say I love the header pic...keep that one for a while...
    since Ruth is already on gluten free it certainly isnt going to hurt you to try and today so many stores have huge gluten free sections and even restaurants are having gluten free menus. My poor niece is developing all kinds of food allergies. did take them forever to decide on celiac, now is also allergic to soy products and a couple other things. I agree with you...gooid genes is a great commodity, but healthy eating, not smoking, and getting exercise is the best thing. Some of my customers are old farmers, many in their late 80's that are still working their farms and they are healthier than I am (and I think they look younger !) Promise us all that if this doesnt fix the problem you will consider a doctors opinion also.

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    1. Donna, you know us and that we put up a new header picture each and every day, that is our trademark. Having said that, this is our cover picture on our Travel with Kevin and Ruth facebook page.

      We hope that your niece is doing better now that they have found out what her problem is and that she is changing her diet to reflect this. It's even more difficult when it is combined with other food allergies.

      We feel that a lot of health problems out there are due to food and if people could change their eating habits to a more healthy diet and more exercise there would be a lot less sick people.

      We promise that if we can't figure this out ourselves Kevin will see a doctor.

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  14. My sister, daughter and brother in law are all gluten free and has made a big difference in their lives, not that hard to change your diet to that style of eating. Good luck.

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    1. We haven't found my eating gluten free to be a problem and for the most part Kevin has been eating the same way except for bread products and eating out at restaurants where he may order an item that has gluten in it so it wouldn't be a problem for him to eat gluten free.

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    2. As long as there's rice and corn tortillas, all is well...

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  15. What a relief it must have been to be able to diagnose your problem~

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    1. It was, and now we are both feeling great and neither of us miss our old diet. I enjoy making our gluten free meals and baking goods and we don't notice any difference in the taste or the texture.

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