Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Sore Knees (1)


Inflammation (Sore Knees)

Sore knees are something that have just been part of the landscape for a long, long while.  Basically, at my weight, I just assumed that sore is something you expect from knees (and other joints for that matter). 

January 2011 I wasn't really aware just how bad they were.  If I knew I needed to do "a lot" of walking, then I would wrap both knees in tensor bandages and go for it.  That's just the way things were.  This photo was taken at a theme park in Disney (Orlando) but not one that made it into the trip album.  (As you might expect - I hated it.)  The pain & immobility in this photo is undeniable.  However, this was probably around 11 a.m. and we had already walked several kilometres before the heat of the day.  Therefore, the pain was something "expected" and "managed" with strategic rest stops on my part while my husband & daughter kept on touring the park/rides.  (This was months before I actually hit my mental wall on mobility issues.)

Approximately six months ago I asked my doctor for the referral for orthotics.  She examined my knees and noted the pockets of fluid on both of them.  She diagnosed arthritis (no surprise) and gave me a prescription.  "Naproxen" is available over the counter, but she gave me a therapeutic dose and I was happy as a clam.  For the first time in years I could walk without feeling major pain.  It was WONDERFUL.  Right up until the side effects kicked in......

I take no prescription drugs of any sort so I immediately felt the difference taking this one.  I noticed my heart rate on the stationary bike or the elliptical was 10-15 beats higher than normal for either machine.  But it was in the pool that it really became an issue.  It started with "a bit" of anxiety and got progressively worse each day.  I could feel my heart pounding as I crossed the deep end.  WHAT???  This would have been 9 months into the daily swim routine - there was NO logical reason for this to start scaring me now.  It was getting so bad I would have to cut my swim time short so I wouldn't burst into tears.  CRAZY!!  Doing a bit of research I discovered this was something that often happens with such medication and NO - I wasn't crazy - it was chemical.  Silly me - I thought that piece of knowledge would take care of it.  Nope.  Next swim comes along and I still had a really bad time.  Telling myself that it wasn't real didn't help at all.  Telling myself there was no reason to get upset just made me more upset with being upset!  Knowing that it was just the drugs didn't change anything.  For the first time in my life I began to see what a phobia might truly feel like.

And then it struck me.  Fat floats!  No matter where I am in the pool, all I have to do is turn over on my back and I can breath.  Fat floats.  Guess what?  Next time in the pool - no anxiety attacks.  None.  Nada.   I could still feel the elevated heart rate but the brain wasn't screaming irrational thoughts.  OMG - Really????  That's all it took??  Sigh.  Logic doesn't work whatsoever but "fat floats" calms me down??  OMG

However, the fundamental problems with the knees didn't go away.  The sacks of fluid below the kneecaps still sat there on my legs -- it looked & felt like somebody had slipped a fried egg under the skin.  And as soon as I stopped taking the drugs the pain came back too.

I have some familiarity with "scientific method" and one of the major tenets of teasing out "cause and effect" is that you only change one variable at a time.  Oops.  Over the span of perhaps 3 months I started riding my bike to & from work which sped up the weight loss process nicely.  I got orthotics which changed the height & angles of my legs with very nice results.  I changed my diet to what has become low-carb.  It turns out that diet change may have had more influence than anything else I did.  Really?  Yes. 

Remember: I am "pre-diabetic" (aka carbohydrate sensitive or insulin resistant).  It turns out there are really, really big linkages between insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.  The best description of this is in the textbook by Volek & Phinney (see references).   "One view is that chronic inflammation is the net effect of repeated exposures to substances that trigger an immune response. ....... In an insulin resistant state, ..., the substance constantly irritating and provoking the body is carbohydrate.  Carbohydrate ingestion and acute hyperglycemia (i.e. elevated sugar levels (MD)) activate a host of inflammatory and free radical generating pathways."(p. 186)  Another source of accurate although mind-numbing detail can be found on the blog by Peter Attia M.D. formerly called the "War on Insulin".  (see references).  Inflammation is a component issue in cholesterol levels & problems, and in turn, cholesterol is in fact a direct result of carbohydrates.  Go figure.

My reader's digest takeaway message??  Holy crap.  Arthritis is inflammation.  My knees have gotten a whole lot better in the past few months.  For example, those watery "fried egg" pockets under the skin have all but dried up.  You can actually SEE the patella and some bumpy bits on the leg bone underneath.  Plus: they don't hurt anymore: at all.  I can just sit and NOT be aware of my knees.  What a novel concept.  None of my joints snap as much as they used to.  I don't wake up with aching back pain in the morning.  Overall, my arthritis is MUCH better now that I've switched to a low-carb diet.  (We're into the 8th week of true low-carb now, and close to 3 months of adaptation & understanding how to do it for myself.)

These two pictures were taken this past July.  They are somewhat blurry and that's a really good thing: It means I was moving.  July 2012

They were taken at the end of my day volunteering as ring steward at the obedience trial.  I've been up & down & all around since 8 am - these photos are taken 3:30-4:00 pm.  No wraps on the knees either, just good shoes with orthotics.  The floor is concrete (formerly a deadly enemy to my knees) and I'm still moving at the end of the day.  You can tell by the stoop that I'm getting tired but just compare this photo to the morning shot at Disney with the cane.  There isn't much comparison. 

Is it the weight loss?  Partly.  Is it habituation to increased exercize?  Partly.  Is it the orthotics?  Partly.  However, the general improvement in ALL of my joints leads me to believe that the low-carb diet has delivered a huge component of that relief as well.  Considering how much better I feel overall, I'm thinking it's the lion's share of it!!!


ps.  Just found a much better reference than either one so far:  Forsythe, C.E., Phinney, S.D., Fernandez, M.L., Quann, E.E., Wood, R.J., Bibus, D.M., Kraemer, W.J., Feinman, R.D., and Volek, J.S.  (That was fun!)

"Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammations", Lipids, 2008, 43(1):65-77