Coincidences? or Signs? I’m always a little wigged out when something like this happens; maybe it’s just my human brain trying to impose some order and meaning onto chaos, but you never know . . .
The other day, I was Googling “CitraSolv,” a natural solvent used in craft projects. I’ve been looking for CitraSolv all over the place, especially since the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors (or was it Quilting Arts?) featured an article on using CitraSolv to make background papers out of magazines. In the search results, I noticed a medical article featuring both “CitraSolv” and pancreatitis. Now, as many of you know, I experienced a bout of near-fatal pancreatitis in 2008 that kept me in the hospital for several months, and I continue to struggle with chronic pancreatitis. So of course, I had to read the article (or at least attempt to read it; medical articles are something like what I imagine it feels like to be dropped into the middle of a crowded, foreign bazaar where nobody speaks your language but everyone else seems to understand each other).
It turns out that CitraSolv was used during the course of an experiment to prepare samples. What caught my attention, though, was that the study was related to the use of anti-inflammatories (celecoxib, best know under the trade name Celebrex) to slow or inhibit the conversion in mice of pancreatitis to pancreatic cancer (a common problem with pancreatitis, and one that lurks in the back of my mind continuously). It seems that anti-inflammatories like Celebrex can almost completely stop this conversion in mice. Unfortunately, Celebrex and other celecoxib drugs can also cause heart problems, so you’re likely trading one health problem for another if you take it for pancreatitis.
The next morning, my sweetie and I went to lunch at Monument Cafe in Georgetown, one of our favorite restaurants. We were making a grocery list of healthy and low-cal, low-fat foods, and we started talking to our server. She mentioned that she uses Agave instead of sugar, and raved about the merits of this natural sweetener, which is made from the Agave cactus, the same plant used to make tequila. She mentioned that Agave is safe for diabetics because it has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners, and that it’s thought to be a natural anti-inflammatory.
That tiny light bulb we all know so well flickered on in my brain; if anti-inflammatories could be helpful in the treatment of pancreatitis, and especially helpful for stopping pancreatitis from converting to pancreatic cancer, and if I couldn’t take anti-inflammatory drugs because of their detrimental effects on the heart, what about natural anti-inflammatories, I wondered?
I came home and did some research on natural anti-inflammatories, and found some very interesting information. Apparently, inflammation of the body can be a huge health problem. As I understand it, inflammation occurs as a natural healing response to trauma, infection, or allergies. You know how, when you cut your finger, it gets all hot and swollen and sore? That’s inflammation. It’s your body’s way of healing the cut. This is occurring on the inside of your body, too. Our bodies attempt to heal the damage we inflict on them, and that causes internal inflammation of various cells, organs. Chronic inflammation occurs when this healing reaction spins out of control. All of this is somewhat of an oversimplification, but I won’t bore you with the details. An excellent site for information about inflammation—what it is, its causes--and what you can do about it, is Women to Women.
In addition to the medical article about the effects of anti-inflammatories on pancreatitis, I ran across other interesting information that bears out the theory that my body may be chronically inflamed; fibrocystic breast disease is also thought to be related to inflammation (a few years ago I had to have a breast lump biopsied; it turns out I have “fibrocystic breasts”). Rosacea, a skin condition I’ve dealt with for years, is also thought to be a symptom of chronic inflammation. Women to Women has quite a bit of information about other symptoms of chronic inflammation or conditions related to it; a few of them are
- acid reflux/heartburn
- chronic pain
- high blood pressure
- insulin resistance
- joint pain/arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis
- systemic candidiasis
Anti-inflammatory drugs can cause all kinds of problems because of the way they work; for example, turning off the inflammatory response can negatively affect your digestive tract (think about the effects of too much aspirin, an anti-inflammatory, on your stomach). There are, however, a number of natural anti-inflammatories that I can incorporate into my diet:
- Multi-vitamins, and especially vitamins D, C, E, and B12 (which my doctor insists on and tests for every few months);
- fish oil (mercury-free Omega 3s) and olive oil
- probiotics (yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.) that maintain a healthy digestive tract
- herbs and foods such as turmeric, oregano, garlic, green tea, blueberries, and ginger
- and, just like Mama always said, lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In addition, experts recommend that you eliminate processed foods and white sugar from your diet, and avoid trans-fat at all costs.
I’m going to have to continue to play around with my diet, since an overabundance of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains can cause problems for those of us with pancreatitis, but I’m optimistic that I may be able to incorporate enough healthy anti-inflammatory foods & supplements (as well as anti-inflammatory behaviors, such as stress reduction and exercise) into my lifestyle to at least significantly lower the chances of developing pancreatic cancer.
None of these ideas about the healthy benefits of vitamins, natural foods, herbs, exercise, etc. is new to me. It’s all information I’ve run across in the past and knew that I should be paying attention to in order to be healthier. But I think it makes a difference to me when I understand the why behind the what, and can visualize how anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories like vitamins C & E, for example, might be staving off those little cancer cells.
Oh, and the agave? Well, there are mixed reviews. There is some question as to whether it’s really safe for diabetics; some studies show that agave produces a much lower glycemic index if used between meals, but a much higher index if eaten following a meal. More importantly for me, It turns out that agave is metabolized in the liver, just like its cousin, tequila. For most people, this isn’t much of a problem. Since I have to stay away from alcohol because my liver is most likely compromised, I think I’ll skip the agave.
And the CitraSolv? Well, I never did find it. The CitraSolv site says it’s carried at HEB, including the one by my house where I do most of my shopping, but it was nowhere to be found. Maybe I should Google it . . .