A bitter sugar solution

This is going to be a bit of a brain dump: loosey-goosey around the edges, without footnotes, and incomplete in research to back it up. For now, that is. The bottom line is that I am more hopeful than scared that later this morning, I will undergo an endoscopy ultrasound (with fine needle biopsy) in a local cancer center with a top specialist in the Midwest. Because for me, blood sugar issues may have been festering if not causing my worst symptom in this 8 years battling serious illness: daily convulsive episodes. The episodes are worse when my blood sugar has peaked too high or too low. I am more vulnerable to a plethora of triggers when I am hungry; it is possible that I may not have even been aware when it was low blood sugar and maybe not hunger that was the underlying issue. And just 2 days ago, I figured out a way to manage it despite the cyst in my pancreas wreaking havoc on the normal order of things. No, not insulin. No, not glucose tablets or the like. So what can you do to quickly lower blood sugar without drugs?

Drink unsweetened bitters after eating!

Here are the three biggest discoveries that have helped make this strategy successful for me this past week, even when very sick.

  1. The tongue and gut both have taste receptors. These receptors recognize sweet, salty, bitter, and sour tastes when the food touches one’s tongue during eating. It is the work of Dr. Jason Fung, alerted to me by my chiropractor, Dr. Lee Nagel, that showed how the body reacts to the taste of sugar as soon as the sensation is detected. The body then stimulates an insulin response right way, beginning a cascade of events that goes well in folks with normal metabolisms -or- triggering various disease responses in folks with hyperglycemia/diabetes or even hypoglycemia. This finding about taste receptivity changes everything we knew about managing blood sugar through diet: from being about TASTE in addition to CONSUMPTION. Dr. Fung advocates an extremely low carb diet, advancing to the ketogenic diet if possible. (I have tried both with marginal success for my worst symptom, yet continue with the former anyways.)
  2. Bitter food receptors can initiate its own cascade of events. The literature shows how bitter foods and supplements can be used to help manage respiratory diseases. Incredible. Those of us familiar with various detoxification protocols know the value of bitters in the forms of liposomals and tinctures to stimulate bile flow. They are also used to support the kidney. But what does this have to do with blood sugar? Enter here the finding that the bitter taste may in fact be THE DIRECT OPPOSITE of the sweet taste! How is that possible if the tongue divides taste receptors into 4 equal quadrants? Maybe check your Bible to see how the Lord used bitters and sweet tastes as opposites like dark-and-light in Isaiah 5:20. Twenty-five hundred historical facts have never been refuted in the Bible since it was written over 2,000 years ago. Seems plausible to me that this metaphor, given to make a point about good-and-evil, might know something about the way our bodies were crafted as well, enough to use bitters and sweet tastes in an analogy that has a timeless uses for us, for me today.
  3. Stimulating the liver with a bitter herb may very well play a role in balancing the effects of the pancreas secreting insulin. We know that the liver stores and releases glucose. This gets triggered with the release of glucagon from the pancreas (opposite of its release of insulin) and a complex sequence of events that I need to research further. In the middle of a waking seizure attack a couple of nights ago, I had a choice to make. A) Take a bit of honey to raise my blood sugar that I assume was low and hold on while nausea followed, knowing that a) I could not tolerate anti-nausea medication and b) would have to convince my exhausted husband to bring me a complex carb/protein snack to prevent a crash thereafter. It was after 1:00 a.m. In a moment of inspiration, I thought about the liver and kidney detox products that I have used and the relationship of the liver to the pancreas in diabetes. I was just diagnosed as prediabetic! What if I B) used bitter tastes to stimulate the liver? Would stimulating the liver to produce bile flow also somehow release glucose without triggering a merry-go-round that happens when taking oral glucose? What if it’s the swinging of blood sugar levels and not the high or low endpoints are what triggers this hell?
  4. Drink a hot cup of plain, roasted dandelion tea, even if you need assistance and a straw. Result: within 90 seconds, a 30-MINUTE CONVULSIVE EPISODE, after a series of prior episodes, STOPPED AND NEVER RE-STARTED. Holy cow. Praise the Lord!!!!!!!!

Alright now. Was this bitter tea thingy just another rescue remedy to add to the list? Prednisone tops the list from multiple ER visits as often stopping the worst episodes. But doesn’t Prednisone raise blood sugar? Maybe it’s no wonder then that taking it didn’t always work for me. Maybe it was helping with some kind of inflammation somewhere . . . I usually took Prednisone with a couple of crackers which is a simple carb. Sometimes the episode stopped and then restarted again. When it did stop, I was usually ravenously hungry. While I still can’t track everything with direct cause-and-effect, it has been becoming clearer the last few days that fluctuations in blood sugar plays a significant role in this mysterious illness that has stumped dozens of medical, chiropractic, genetic, orthopedic, alternative, dental, functional medicine doctors and professionals and me too. Suddenly I had something new with which to experiment.

Dandelion Root Tea as an option for bitter tastes

The Experiment

I tested out the use of bitter tastes to bring down blood sugar after a meal, even in the presence of a wild card: a pancreatic cyst. I found that if the bitter taste was taken WITH a meal, it made no difference. I found that if the bitter taste was mixed with a sweet taste, even an artificially sweet taste like glycerin, it made no difference. (I read that persons who are diabetic and in a hypoglycemic crisis are instructed to take glucose every 15 minutes, checking their blood sugars, until their meter reading come back into a safe range as determined by their doctor.) I found that taking a certain amount of an unsweetened bitter taste, 15 minutes after a meal CORRECTED THE BLOOD SUGAR SPIKE. My blood sugar came back into a normal range and the shift began as soon as I could taste the flavor on my tongue. The pre-tic symptoms of a convulsive episode would not completely stop with just a taste; I needed to consume the amount of the bitter product that worked for me, within a minute, and re-test my blood sugar 15-20 minute later. The results were sustained until I became hungry again 3-4 hours later. Barely a tic zip squeezed through for the next 2 days.

So an unsweetened bitter solution brought down elevated glucose quickly for me, even in the presence of a pancreatic cyst, without insulin. Holy cow! But what about the role of the pancreatic cyst? Later today, Lord willing, we will find out more about what it is and if it is playing a role in my health. Is it an insulinoma even though I do not meet all of the lab criteria? Is it a neuroendocrine tumor that is pre-cancerous or cancerous despite the fact that it hasn’t changed in size over the past 10 months? Is it a pancreatic pseudocyst that can have either no impact or a myriad of impacts on the function of the pancreas depending upon its location? And most importantly for me, will the fabulous gastroenterology specialist, renowned for introducing new procedures here in the Midwest and specifically at our new, local cancer center, be able TO REMOVE IT TODAY? Of course, I want it outta here!

In the meantime, a lunch bag with a low-carb meal and cup of roasted dandelion root tea will be waiting for me when I wake up from my procedure aka chemically-induced nap. Thereafter we shall praise the Lord for a simple tool that helped me and my beloved hubby, Steve, cope with the last grueling days of waiting for this moment to come. Thank you Lord for your sustaining grace these past 8 years. I pray that your hand works through the skilled doctor today to heal me. Thy will be done for Your glory my precious Lord. JJ

Missing you terribly

There’s a Barbara Streisand song with lyrics that go something like this:

If we had the chance to do it all over again, tell me would we . . .

Could we . . .

The way we were.

It’s not that I would like to go back to my former self or anything like that.  I have had chronic pain for most of my life and lived with pain inside my heart for longer than that.  Many of my own mistakes were downright damaging.  Still other experiences damaged me and it would take until very recently to be free of their dark spiritual underpinnings.  The freedom I experience in today from the drama of yesterday’s trauma was worth the good and bad spent getting here.  But there is one part I am not sure what to do with . . .

I was never really physically fit and virtually always held a critical eye toward my physique even when at my ideal body weight.  All that did not seem to matter to the stream of the male persuasion that came my way, ever since I was twenty years old.  (Not sure what they were waiting for before that!)  I always rode my bike as a kid EVERYWHERE.  I did not think of it as exercise at the time, just a means to get me to the home of a friend.  Several times in college I tried running around the sidewalks of the sprawling campus.  “Library Hill” was a killer!  Maybe I should say that I ran on most paths except the 27 or so degree incline of Library Hill!  Carrying a full load of books up and downhill to class or to study late into the evening at the library should have earned me an extra degree in something or another!

What I miss most is the innocence of moving without thinking about it.  Every day lately brings stark reminders of the convulsions that have returned.  Every day brings a new version of shaking that hurts my neck the most and leaves some version of a headache behind.  Every day the hope of exercising for the enjoyment of it alludes me only because I cannot; I actually had grown to like high intensity workouts before I got sick 3 1/2 years ago.  Even with chronic pain I worked out with weights, unloaded my truck bed filled with sod/dirt/mulch, and kayaked for a couple of hours each week.  I loved being strong.

Today I miss being strong.  The trauma of seizures and convulsions have taken their toll.  The sickness after an episode usually lingers for hours, days.  I never really know for sure when the next episode is coming although the bedtime and waking-up patterns have been fairly consistent throughout this ordeal.  Somehow despite my weakness, I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP for more than a day.  Yesterday Steve and I went for a walk with our pup, Elle though most of the time the walking is through the halls of our home or a medical facility . . . or this past Saturday’s date night to the grocery store.  It’s something, eh?

O.K. so I am bummed out.  I have missed writing and did not blog so as not to bum you out, Gentle Reader, in reporting that the surgery did not stop the episodes as I had hoped.  There are tiny improvements and for these I am grateful.  I think I’ll need a little longer to recover and clear the anesthesia completely out of my system.  In desperation I went on a water fast for 24-hours last week.  It was awful!  Amazingly I did not have seizures until the 24th hour!  I believe the Lord gave me the wisdom through it all to start a ketogenic diet so new research and a new direction began the next day.

A ketogenic diet is a high fat diet where the fat becomes fuel for the body instead of carbohydrates.  The version for seizure control (generally used for children) is unlike the keto diet for weight loss in that fats are consumed more than protein “macros.”  Grams of carbs are the tiniest portion of the three. The increase in ketones are measured in either the urine or blood and thought to be the mechanism that brings some level of seizure control in 25-50 percent of children.  In children the diet begins after a 24-48 hour fast in a hospital.  Hmmm.  My great Physician led me here after my own fasting experience too.  So with the MyFitnessPal nutrition app in-hand, I am moving towards the ideal ratios of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.  Good news:  that means lots of bacon!  And at least I am off the pureed diet now!

The way we were.  Can it be that it was all so simple then?  Or has time re-written every line?  If we had the chance to do it all over again, tell me, would we?  Could we?

Perhaps the real longing requires me to not look back at all.  Then what is it Lord?  Fill this emptiness, please.  Ease this hurting.  Thank you for new tracks to run on, so to speak.  I still need you desperately to guide me.  I realize that I may not be alone in this desire you know.  Please comfort the Gentle Readers out there who need you too.  JJ

EMU Halle Library with another runner testing his strength!
EMU Halle Library with another runner testing his strength!