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A Ferret Called Wilson

Chasing Happy, Chasing Dreams

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health

Chronic Fatigue & Supplements

For those of you who have been following me for a while, you know that I’ve been fighting with a candida infection for over a year now. I’ve also been fighting with chronic, debilitating fatigue. I have an extremely strong will and if I know I need to get something done, then I can fight through just about anything. It’s probably this will power that has gotten me into the fix that I’m in. Just like with sports, if you push too hard and don’t give yourself adequate rest, eventually you will crash.

Continue reading “Chronic Fatigue & Supplements”

Dejected

I believe in Love and Happy; I believe that these are things that are possible for all of us to have, that they are indeed our very rights as human beings. I am putting my whole life force into chasing my Happy, but there are times when I get downright depressed at the enormity of the task. Let me lay it out for you.

Human beings by their very construction need certain unmeasurable, non-marketable things in order to thrive. We need to love and to be loved. We need a sense of belonging. We also need healthy food with complete nutrient profiles, not just the right ratio of carbs, fats and proteins. Unfortunately even the best nutritionist only knows a part of what a complete profile looks like, so another way to state our need is that we need to eat whole and varied foods, with all their germs and natural chemical composition intact. In addition to those things we need stimulation. A certain amount of adrenaline rush, hardship, thrill, exhilaration, and sadness are all necessary to keep us in balance. Finally, at least as far as my understanding, we need stillness.

Continue reading “Dejected”

Coffee and the Law of Conservation of Energy

So, I’m working hard to heal myself from all the damage of swallowing the Standard Narrative whole with a side of Standard American Diet to go. My latest assigment from Mary is to take coffee out of my diet. She promised me it won’t be forever, but I need to go for a month without coffee. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was in high school. I never drank it because of the energy boost it claims to give people (I’ve never needed the extra boost), but more because it was a social thing and a hot beverage that had more substance to it than tea, which I’ve always registered as hot colored water. Taking coffee out of my life is going to be difficult.

Mary suspects me of having adrenal fatigue and I think she’s pretty on point with that. She also thinks that coffee is messing with my digestion. On top of that I have struggled with anxiety and ADHD for as long as I can remember, possibly from as young as 8 years old. What she told me is that coffee can actually sap your overall energy and ability to focus, exacerbating both the anxiety and the fatigue. That is the opposite of why most people drink it, so it got me to thinking. Continue reading “Coffee and the Law of Conservation of Energy”

On Being Healthy

In past posts I’ve mentioned that I have been fighting with a systemic candida infection. In September of 2014 I put myself on an extremely low carb diet and I stayed on it for a solid year. Well, I got off for a week at Thanksgiving cuz I thought I was healed, and then of course there were those days where you’re just a mess and you have to choose between eating what’s not on the diet, or not eating at all, but generally I was pretty strict. When a year later I was still having symptoms every time I let off the diet I knew I needed help. Continue reading “On Being Healthy”

Feeding Ferrets

Wilson JWW
Wilson swears he was not going to hide this meat in my underwear bin.

Meet Wilson! He’s a small ferret boy approaching seven years old. He and I have worked for his entire life to get him on a healthy diet and he has fought me every step of the way. We started when he was a baby on Marshall’s ferret food (please, never feed this food or any Marshall product to your ferrets!). It was weeks before he would accept ferretone-tinged Marshall’s food. Then it was weeks before he would eat any kibble shaped differently from Marshall’s food. Months followed before he would eat all his dinner without leaving the different flavored ones behind. Five years after he came home with me I finally succeeded in getting him to eat some duck soup (which was actually boiled chicken), and now, six years of living together and he is finally on a whole prey raw meat diet. Here is what I feed him and his girlfriend of five years, Amber CTB.

Their main diet at the moment consists of whole, pureed, raw quail. I throw it bones Cut Quailand all into my new Vitamix and spin it on high for about 30 seconds until it comes out pink and smooth. Often I will supplement with chicken skin or organ meat as my guys are pretty old and need the extra calories and protein. I admit, I gagged a little the first time I made it, but now it’s no big deal to me. About two months ago I started mixing up chunks of raw quail into the soup in the hopes that they would accidentally get in the weasel’s mouth, and then he would have to eat them. Luckily this strategy worked. I remember the night I woke up to hear happy weasels crunching on quail bones.

Pink mice look disturbingly alive fresh out of the freezer

Once I had both of my smalls eating the whole meat pieces I stepped it up and added in pink mice. Weasels need a variety of meats to get balanced nutrition. I’m not sure how much variety is necessary, but in any case I found a reptile supply shop that sells individually frozen mice of all ages, so I order two tiny bags of small sized pinkies. Knowing Wilson, if I threw this little guy into his meat dish straight up he would carefully eat around it and it would just go bad, so I had to be sneaky. The first ten mice went into the blender with their quail. The eleventh mouse got cut in half and mixed into two separate servings of meat. Poor Wilson had no idea he was eating whole mouses! A few weeks later, I stepped it up to two pinkies per regular serving of meat. Chicken and Mice

In the most recent menu, one serving of meat includes about 45% whole quail, 45% chicken thigh and skin, and the last few pieces are baby mice. I divide up the meat and put one day’s worth into these tiny 80mL containers and refreeze them after they’re cut into Wilson-won’t-hide-this-in-my-underwear sized pieces. When I serve it, I put it in a small dish submerged in hot water and ladle soup over it. It only takes about five minutes in the water to get warm enough for my little things to find it appetizing. One container of meat and about three teaspoons of soup is all they will eat in a day right now, so that’s what I put out for them.

I have to say it is a lot of work to feed raw. It’s incredibly rewarding, though. Wilson and Amber have never been plumper despite their age and Amber’s recent health issues. I love being in control of my babies’ nutrition, too. I had searched all over looking for dry food that was ferret appropriate, but ultimately I came to the conclusion that no commercial product actually respects the obligate carnivorous nature of the ferret, along with their incredibly short digestive system. Pricewise, at the moment it is definitely more expensive that dry food, too. Probably about 50% more. But ferrets are tiny — 80 mL of meat for a meal! — so it’s not really a financial burden at all. More the time factor, really.

A weasel in a triple soup food coma.
A weasel in a triple soup food coma.

The next steps for my weasels are to get them to eat meat off the bone so that I don’t have to cut it. It’s supposedly good for their teeth to gnaw on big chunks, so I’m working up to chicken wings. They also need fur and feathers to replace fiber and bulk up their stools. I bought a pair of unprocessed marmots for that purpose, but when they arrived I had no idea what to do with them. They’re huge! And furry! At this point, however, I am simply pleased that my weasels will accept the food I prepare for them. Their doctor agrees with the diet and I am able to adjust the fat, protein and vitamin content of their food as they age, which is a huge source of comfort to me. I love my little furries and I highly recommend that anyone else who cares for weasels make the effort to incorporate at least a little raw. No amount of convenience can replace the ability to give your small things the nutrition they need, especially when their health starts to decline as my guys’ is.

Candida Recovery Relapse

I diagnosed myself with an overgrowth of Candida albicans in September of 2014. I had been fighting with an array of mismatched and otherwise inexplicable symptoms, including adult “non” acne, bipolar like depression, soft stools, and chronic vaginal yeast infections. In addition I required as much as ten hours of sleep on a regular night, and sometimes up to fourteen if I had had a particularly rough day. I had seen doctors for each of these issues separately and was frustrated by how often they would come back saying there was nothing wrong with me. If I don’t have acne, what are all these red bumps all over my face?!?

Luckily I’m both stubborn and inherently suspicious of the scientific community. So eventually I landed on candida as a potential explanation for my difficulties. I started a low carb diet, with zero pasta, bread, rice or potatoes, root vegetables only in emergency situations, maximum of half an apple’s worth of fruit in a day, and always mixed with yogurt or in a smoothie so as not to hit my blood stream full force, zero added sugar, massive quantities of active culture yogurt, natto and a daily clove of raw garlic. I quit mushrooms and even laid off soy sauce — in Japan! — for the first two weeks. The result was a two day stretch of carbohydrate withrawal, a two week stretch of mental carbohydrate withdrawal (where anything starchy looked delicious, but my body did not crave it the same way), followed by a steady improvement of my symptoms. In one month my vaginal candida healed. After two months it didn’t come back. After three months my skin was relatively red-bump free and my bowel movements were on the whole generally regular and solid. In the fourth month I relapsed.

Proponents of fancy or trendy diets can rave all they want about the “ease” of their diet, how “tasty” the allowed foods are, the health benefits, the moral superiority, but the truth is that in the modern world wheat is king and corn is emperor. It’s nearly impossible to take starchy foods out of your diet and still participate in society. I found myself feeling isolated from my friends because I was the one who couldn’t go out to eat anywhere but a family restaurant (think Denny’s) that would serve a la carte. I had to quit beer and almost all other alcohol, too, which meant people always felt awkward when it was time for drinking parties. On top of that, the world is so fast and full that I think any human would find it a challenge to prepare all of their own meals today, but almost any pre made meal or snack today is just saturated with sugar. I found myself spending whole days feeling hungry and light headed because there was just nothing that I could eat. Naturally, after I was confident that I had things under control, I started to reintroduce small quantities of the forbidden carbs into my diet. That’s when things went awry.

It’s hard to know, without writing it all down all the time, how much wheat someone consumes in a day. A sandwich, a cream sauce, a steamed bun — they all have nutrients attached to the wheat part, so it’s hard to think of the wheat as separate from the whole. For example, how much filling needs to be in a sandwich to justify the fact that it’s being put between bread slices? So, I relapsed. I was under a lot of stress between work and my sick weasel, and I didn’t have the time or energy to go out shopping AND cook. The first sign that things were bad was the poo. Then my skin started to break out again. Finally, back came the crotch rot. I was hoping I could just tough it out until the stressors went away, but no go. I had to go back on my diet and I had to do it immediately.

I quit the carbs again four days ago. I cooked with garlic, ate double portions of natto, made my own kefir and chugged it. I’m happy to say that my body is already starting to rebalance itself! The vaginal candida is all but gone (fastest I’ve EVER healed from one of those!) I’ve had a few good poos mixed in with the slushy ones and my skin hasn’t produced any new bumps in a week. It’s frustrating to have to be so strict with myself, but it’s comforting to know that it pays off and that I can be in control of my health. I hope I don’t have to stay on such a strict diet forever, but for the time being I’m just trying to be at peace with the fact that my body had gotten overwhelmed by all the unnatural crap that had been thrown at it since my youth. I’m trying to be kind to my body, and to my spirit, because we are all trying really hard in a very human unfriendly environment.

The tyranny of the majority

Why do some mountains have stairs in them? It’s because people want to pretend that they are hiking through nature, but they don’t want to experience the icky bits of real hiking through nature that involve things like getting sweaty, or dirty, or actually having to touch the nature.

Peace!
Two mountain bikers obviously just wrecking this busy mountain trail

I was out riding my bike yesterday, and one of the guys I was riding with commented that he used to have a lot of trails available to him back at home in Yokohama, but in recent years they have all been chocked full of stairs and are now unrideable. This is on top of plans by the Tokyo prefecture to outlaw riding mountain bikes in any of its public parks because they are “dangerous” and “damaging” to the trails.

I love riding mountain bikes. There’s nothing like it! I love riding my cyclocross bike, too. I have been a voluntary bicycle commuter for working on four years now and every year my commute gets longer. This year I’m up to twenty-five kilometers (around twelve miles) in each direction.  When I lived in Philadelphia I was an active member and supporter of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and between my personal experience and their research, I have come to the conclusion that bicyclists are the middle child of society. Everyone hates us despite how hard we try.

Many mountain bikers will, of their own accord and because no one else will do it, go out to trails to reinforce them against runoff and erosion. To clear them of fallen logs and to add stones or other solid objects for safer and less environmentally damaging water crossings. Many road cyclists go out of their way to signal to other road users, stop at stop lights, give the right of passage to pedestrians. On the whole, I think people who really love bikes are pretty damn awesome citizens. And yet on the trails we are banned because most people don’t want to have to share with us. They don’t want to have to learn trail manners, wear lights or bells to make their presence known to other trail users, or walk through passes that aren’t boarded up with stairs. On the roads, we are banned from sidewalks because we are dangerous to pedestrians (pedestrians don’t move as fast as bicycles. Simple physics), but are we protected from cars when we ride in the streets? Of course not! Cars are busy being driven by busy people who are too goddamn busy to pay attention to whether or not their actions could kill someone.

It doesn’t matter that bicyclists have been shown time and again to benefit the environment and to benefit the economy. The reality is that most people own and drive cars and most people do not ride bikes. What happens is that an activity which is good for everyone but only practiced by a few, an activity that is beautiful and healthy and clean and provides thousands and thousands of humans a critical sense of freedom and exhilaration in their life, is being snuffed out by the tyrannous majority of lazy, pampered, but most importantly obediently consumptive humans the world over.

Well, if you want to live in a world where the only way to get around is by gas guzzling carbon belching automobiles, a world where the closest you ever get to nature is through the bullet proof glass at the gorilla exhibit in your local zoo, a world where everything is dumbed down and sterilized for your convenience, go ahead and have at it. If you want your stairs, go to a fucking park.

Just stay out of my mountains.

Candida and My Physical and Mental Health

I’m three weeks in to my candida cleanse diet. The first week was the absolute longest, with the cravings for pasta and other simple carbs so strong that my sides could be bulging from dinner and I would still feel the ache like emptiness in my stomach. Since then I have slowly felt the tug less and less. I’ve never fought with an addiction, so to speak, but I am pretty sure that I had become addicted to carbs.

Since then I have started to get accustomed to this new eating style. I can go to most restaurants now and find something to eat. I thought I would feel frustrated on the days when what I really want to eat is just not available, but in fact I’ve found that my body is easier to satisfy than I expected. If I give it enough vegetables, and I find I prefer them cooked or smoothied, and a satisfying chunk of protein, I tend to be ok pretty independently of what the details are. It’s surprising, even though I know the importance of listening to one’s body, that one’s body can actually be heard as loudly as mine is.

Physically I feel amazing, and light! For months I was bogged down with this bloated and heavy feeling. I thought I was eating healthy, but my weight was up by about three kilograms above the top of my happy range and nothing I did would budge it. I knew I was retaining water, but I would drink until I just couldn’t drink any more water and it still wouldn’t flush out. Climbing or riding I felt this unnatural heaviness in my limbs as though there was more strength in me but I just couldn’t access it. Now that has cleared. At night I don’t get the gas and bloating that was messing with my sex life, just this clean feeling of not being hungry any more.

Emotionally I’m a different person! In the last five days I have suddenly rediscovered my raging insatiable sex drive. I had spent so long fighting yeast infections that I forgot my body craved sex! One evening the feeling came back with a vengeance and left me almost in a cold sweat. Certainly it’s more convenient, as I believe Aristotle pointed out, to not have a sex drive, but to me it’s a sign that my body is alive and healthy and so I’m happy for it. I’ve been sleeping better, too. Most nights I sleep the whole night despite my housemate snoring like a chainsaw and not waking up to his alarm in the morning. My head is clearer during the day and most importantly, that unbearable sense of dread and hopelessness for the future has lifted! I feel as clear now as I did the first week I took antidepressents, only this time I’m not on medication. Moreover, I’m not afraid that this is a passing break in the clouds. I feel like this is me, the way I’m supposed to be, and that my chronic anxiety and inability to focus and get done the basic administrative tasks that lube the life machine were just symptoms of a temporary illness.

Part of me is sad that I don’t have a doctor overseeing my healing. I would like to have some kind of medical test or something to prove that this syndrome of dullness and irritation that is lifting from me truly was the result of a chronic, systemic candida overgrowth. But at the same time I am happy to see that I have the power to return my body to health without the need to be poked and prodded and lectured by someone with a degree who thinks he knows my body better than I do. Medicine is nice, and when it comes to catastrophic injuries and things like that, it’s a good thing to have in one’s social toolbox. However western medicine does not talk to the body and that’s a major source of information on how to heal that gets left out of the picture. It doesn’t heal on a holistic level, just takes away symptoms here and there. So in that sense this is really a good thing.

Since I’ve been tracking my physical and mental condition for three weeks now, I actually know where I am in my cycle! I should be ovulating in the next week, which is when my yeast symptoms have been the strongest in the past. I’m starting to crave carbs again a little more than I did a week ago and part of me wants to say it’s fine to have them now because I’ve been so successful, but I think I’m going to instead interpret this hunger as a sign that the candida is not yet cleared from my system. I would like to observe one complete cycle without candida symptoms before I give myself the green light to allow various sugars back into my diet. It’s unfortunate that it takes so long, but unlike many women who are dieting to “slim down,” I am dieting for health and I have a clear goal and a timeframe, and rigorous documentation of my progress. I am not worried that I won’t succeed!

Eat a Variety

So, I’m on this candida diet right now. It’s perhaps the most difficult and restrictive diet I’ve ever been on, particularly since I’m trying to do this in Japan where the food is strange and the resource all written in weird squiggly box symbols. Yesterday I finally found a website that offered information freely (Candida Cure Recipes) and it even explained why there seemed to be confusion over whether or not fermented and pickled foods could be part of a healthy candida purge. I am really grateful to Susan for making this information available. It’s really the only thing that can help me in my position.

So that said, according to Susan’s candida philosophy, the first problem with a candida infection is that it tends to come in tandem with a generally weakened immune system. So a candida diet has to be rich in essential nutrients, vitamins and detoxifying bits. She offers up several degrees of candida dieting that are increasingly difficult to adhere to, but also increasingly hostile to an unwelcome candida population. The first level is simply to take out useless calories from your diet and add in helpful foods. Think ditching refined sugars, bleached and husked grains and most processed foods. This should be an easy and absolutely essential step in any diet that aims to promote overall health, but even though it was only one out of ten degrees of dieting it is so restrictive that anyone following it immediately loses the ability to dine at most restaurants.

Supposing one is successful at removing refined and simple carbohydrates from their diet, one is then challenged to replace those calories with more nutritious foods. Reading Susan’s website, you would think this is an easy and fun task. I’ve been on a candida diet for three days and I’ve eaten:

  • TONS of yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Eggplant
  • Eggs
  • Okra
  • Peppers

That’s about it. If these were each one a meal, that would be one thing. I could say “look how many recipes I’ve made!” But these are single ingredients. Tell me it’s not a sad list to look at? However, these are the only foods I could find that matched the commandments of no sweet rooty vegetables and no refined carbohydrates. Moreover, in order to achieve my daily caloric needs I’ve relied heavily on the animal categories.

This isn’t what Susan meant and this isn’t a sustainable diet. It’s also almost entirely industrial products with unknown chemical contents. No matter what the USDA says it most certainly does not contain enough variety to provide me with all my body’s nutritional needs, particularly its needs for antioxidant assistance and immune system support. Even the variety of animal flesh in my diet is miserably low. Chicken, beef and fish? That’s it? It’s a shame.

I ran into the problem of sufficient nutritional diversity before when trying to shift my ferrets onto a raw, or at least a whole prey diet. The advice is unanimous that a ferret’s digestrive tract is too short and too sensitive for almost all commercially manufactured kibbles, but as an obligate carnivore they require a variety of meat sources at a variety of ages, including organ meats, skin, small bones, fur and feathers. So far I have been able to find frozen mice of dubious origin, and chicken. It’s maddening!

Even mainstream doctors will stress the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet. But like everything else in our world today, once health was quantified everything that we couldn’t measure suddenly lost its value. The government decided that there are three macronutrient categories that partition all calories: carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. The government decided that there was a list of vitamins and minerals that encompassed all dimensions of nutritional benefit in a food, so that foods nearly devoid of natural goodness can still be considered nutritious if they are “enriched” with molecular constructs matching the missing elements from this list. According to the government, and therefore according to industry, chemically purified, skimmed, homogenized and hormone enhanced milk is the same as milk that came out of a cow that lived in a field and ate cow foods so long as you put the vitamins back in. And so when we try to follow the doctor’s orders we end up with trite recommendations: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Really? One apple? Every day? Is a pesticide apple ok? What about an apple that was picked last year and stored in a climate controled refrigeration facility? Is an apple better than, say, a pomegranate? Or a coconut? Why an apple? And while I’m on the subject, should I peel it first?

These days everything I say has the tone of despair and in my heart I want to sound the alarm of impending disaster. Help me! Please! I am dying! We are dying as a people! We know what we need, we know what we want, but we are so small and so insignificant that we can’t do it without help. All goodness in the world cannot be quanitified. It is not that “money can’t buy love”, it’s that scientists can’t measure the body’s voice, governments can’t enforce good spirit, bosses can’t observe the value of a human life. In our mistaken belief that science will one day allow us to know all things, we have arrived at the false conclusion that what science can’t know does not exist. It’s heartbreaking.

And right now, it’s stomach-aching, too.

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