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The missing gallbladder continued…

1_question-markA week and half has passed since my last post on the missing gallbladder, and I find it’s time for an update.

I have spoken with many people in the meantime, only two right here on my blog, but many others on Facebook, and even some in real life. I’ve come to the realization, that I am far from being the only one who struggles with this. People have approached me based on my blog post, telling me their stories. Many have gone through gallbladder surgery uninformed. No surgeon or other physician has told them that there may be pains, problems with digesting fat, things like diarrhea, nausea, trouble maintaining weight. Some have lived for years without a solution to their problems. They’re told that these pains are “phantom” pains, that it’s normal, and worst of all, they’re told that the gallbladder is a useless organ, that you don’t need it at all.

I am not a medical professional, so I speak as a layman. But I really have a hard time believing this statement. The gallbladder is an organ in the digestive system. Together with the pancreas and liver it serves a purpose in your digestion. In a common duct, the pancreatic juice and bile flow into the small intestine when food comes through. When the gallbladder is removed, the liver produces endless amounts of bile that are consistently dripping into the small intestine. The gallbladder is a storage room for bile. It holds the bile until it is needed for digestion. The constant dripping of bile into the small intestine can mean, that once you actually need it, there won’t be enough of it.

If you have symptoms after gallbladder removal, then you know your body needs help. Why is it so difficult to inform a patient of this? It is not impossible to support your liver and bile production. We live in the 21st century. We have access to enzymes in a capsule. We can take ox bile in a pill. And we have natural ways of treating biliary problems as well. At the liver doctor website, I found these recommendations:

  • Do raw juicing using cabbage, carrot, ginger root, mint and apple etc. (see juice techniques and recipes in Raw Juice Can Save Your Life book by Dr Cabot)
  • Include fresh green leafy herbs in your salads and raw juices – the best liver cleansing herbs are mint, parsley, garlic, chives, shallots, basil, coriander and small amounts of thyme and oregano
  • Increase the amount of raw vegetables in your diet
  • Taking digestive enzymes at the beginning of your meals may reduce symptoms
  • Take a good liver tonic twice daily; ensure it contains Saint Mary’s Thistle, B group vitamins, vitamin C, and sulphur bearing amino acids such as glycine and taurine
  • Supplement with the amino acids taurine and glutamine and the mineral selenium to support good bile quality and healthy bile ducts in the liver.
  • Increase intake of Omega 3 fatty acids – Suitable sources are oily fish, good quality fish oil, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Keep oils in the fridge.
  • Sip one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar mixed in a small glass of water during your meals
  • Drink plenty of pure water
  • Drink dandelion tea and coffee
  • Be careful not to overindulge on dairy products – the best ones are natural cheeses and plain yogurt
  • Hot spices are good for the liver and bile ducts and good choices are wasabi, horseradish sauce, mustard, garlic, curry, turmeric and chilli. If you have a sensitive stomach or gastritis only use small amounts of these spices or avoid them.

There is a wealth of knowledge on Dr. Cabot’s website, plus, she writes in a way that is easy to understand for people like myself. How much of it you find to be right for you, is of course entirely up to you. Take any or all of her advice. I would make the case, that at the very least this list of natural treatments can’t hurt you. Some of them are super easy to incorporate into your daily life.

IF you are struggling with gallbladder issues and your doctor recommends surgery, please at least consider the possibility that surgery can be diverted. Do your homework. Read Dr. Jack Kruse’s articles on the subject, and of course read Dr. Sandra Cabot’s website. If at that point you still feel it is best to have surgery, then at least you will know you’ve done your research. You will know that you really are well informed.

A word on Dr. Kruse’s phrase, “You’re a ticking time bomb” as he refers to those of us unlucky enough to have lost their gallbladder, in my case of course as part of liver resection. I am not a fan of this kind of language. Instead of sticking with good advice, I spent days fearing for my life. But I am a rational thinker, and after doing more research, I’ve come to my own conclusion, that with the way I eat, and with the supplements I take, chances are that I will, in fact, live a long and healthy life. Please don’t let this one sentence scare you. As with everything you read, take it into consideration, think of your signs and symptoms, maybe talk to someone you trust, then decide for yourself what’s right and good for you.

And finally, thanks to the supplements I’m taking with each meal (hooray for Super Enzymes), I’m feeling much better. Occasionally I still have a feeling of acidity on my digestive tract. But in general, I am 90% better than I was before. Also, I’ve lost 5lbs. I will continue taking the supplements, and I will also continue doing my research.

If you have a story to tell, please let me know. Comment here, write to grokettesmusings@gmail.com. I want to hear from you.

 

 

The diagnosis

Writing this post has been on my mind for a while now, though I wanted to wait for the confirmation from the “specialist” that my diagnosis was real and true and 100% certain, and that surgery is really the necessary next step.

But let me rewind a bit. I’ve told you all about my mystery pains for almost two months. I’ve told you (at least on my Facebook page), that my primary care physician, who is an awesome paleo doctor, tried without success to find a diagnosis for this pain. In the process we stumbled on a parasite called blastocystis hominis, which I ended up treating with an antibiotic, because I just wanted to be done with that blasted pain all the time.

After seven days on this medication it became very clear, that whatever it is that caused my abdominal pain, the blasto wasn’t it. As a matter of fact, the pain started becoming more localized to the upper right quadrant of my abdomen. I lacked energy, felt like sleeping a lot, and food usually did not have much of an impact on the severity of my pain. Also, I identified the pain to be more of an ache. My own research came up with nothing. My doctor was puzzled, but when I pointed to where the pain was localized he decided it may be time for an ultrasound.

I cannot even begin to tell you how afraid I was when, just after the ultrasound, a doctor walked into the room to inform me that something was wrong with my liver (my LIVER?). They had found some masses, and they would like to do a CT scan. I believe it is safe to say, that the following hour or so, was by far the worst hour of my life. During this time I was unaware just how large those masses were, whether or not they were cancerous, and what this would mean for me.

The diagnosis, hemangioma of the liver, initially was a great relief. Hemangiomas are actually quite common, and most people live with them without ever knowing they have them. And as long as they are small and asymptomatic, surgery or other treatments are not necessary.

In my case, however, these things are rather large. I have four of them, with the largest one over 11cm in size, and several smaller ones still over 5cm in size. According to my own internet research, the big ones are called giant hemangiomas. Sadly, mine cause symptoms, and one of them pushes on a kidney. Not good. My dear doctor referred me to a gastroenterologist, who basically confirmed with much certainty, that a case like mine makes surgery an unfortunate necessity.

Surgery to remove hemangiomas like mine, includes resection of the liver. This means, part of my liver will be cut off. This makes this surgery big and scary, and it means about a week of hospital time and a recovery time of about 6 or so weeks. Plus, no CrossFit for several months. With the internet at my fingertips, I couldn’t help myself and read up on everything that I should expect. I find it difficult to simply sit and wait and twiddle my thumbs, although this is exactly what some people have recommended.

I have read stories from people who had to go through this surgery, and some of them are not pretty. And so you might argue, that this knowledge may ultimately do more damage to my psyche and wellbeing. But, I beg to differ. While initially the idea of being hooked up to IVs and drains and other scary things are by no means appealing, the fact remains that these people lived to tell their story, and that, unfortunate as these episodes may be, they too shall pass.

The truth is, that yes, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster with this lumpy liver of mine. I go from great confidence and optimism to deep fear several times a day. I have cried my eyes out, and I have laughed at my referring to my liver as lumpy. I considered not telling anyone about this on the internet, but then reconsidered. Sharing my story has been the right thing to do. Because of it, I have not only had an amazing outpoor of friendship and support, of good wishes, virtual hugs, and prayers… I have also learned that a lovely lady from my CrossFit box is a gastroenterologist. She has helped me through this with advice, positive words, recommendations, and the constant message, that I will be fine.

My family, both on my husband’s side and my own live far away. His in Arizona, mine in Europe. But my very close friends B and B… (is it funny, that their names start with a B?) have stepped up to the plate, offered their help, joined me at my doctor’s visit, and will see me through all of it. Each in their own way, they have given me everything I would need from a friend or family member. Again, other friends have reached out and asked me to let them know if there is anything I need. It’s a tribe, one that I am incredibly lucky to be part of.

I have yet to meet the surgeon, who I’m told is an amazing surgeon and awesome woman. I am grateful to know that she has experience with lumpy livers. I am still immensely scared of surgery. I would rather not have anyone slice open my gut and cut around my liver. How creepy is that?? But, thanks to all of the people that I have in my life, and also thanks to my own health and strength, I will take this hurdle and then move on.

I will prepare for this surgery by taking certain supplements that were recommended to me. I have not had an alcoholic beverage in over a month, and I shall keep it that way, and I will eat well. Bone broth is my friend. 😉 Self-hypnosis is, too.

And then, when all of this is over, I shall pay it forward. I shall give back to the community that has come together like this, so I can keep the good energies flowing.

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Marble cake… German style

In Germany my go-to cake was always marble cake, because generally I’d have the ingredients at home. And I haven’t had a piece of marble cake in… well… a really long time!

I decided it was time to paleofy my marble cake, and I’m pleased to report that it turned out really well, although it doesn’t rise quite as well as the original. Still, it disappeared within just three days. Success!

Ingredients:

3 cups (maybe just a tad more) almond flour
1/3 cup coconut oil (expeller pressed)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tbsp honey (or more if you like it a bit sweeter)
8 eggs
a dash of salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 285F.
Mix 3 whole eggs, 5 egg yolks and almonds with the melted coconut oil. Add honey, baking powder, and salt. Beat the 5 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Now add about half of the batter into a greased bundt cake pan. Mix the cocoa powder into the other half of the batter, and add to the batter in the pan. To get more of a marbling effect, pull a fork through the batter gently.
Bake for about an hour. DONE! It is really that easy.

If you are into frosting, you could melt some chocolate chips and spread on the cake the way I did.

Orange Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Almost forgot to take a picture of this… and it was soooo good and amazingly easy to make. 🙂 Won’t waste your time with much chatter. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs chicken breast (cut up)
2 to 3 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp coconut oil
zest of two oranges
juice of half an orange
1 sweet potato

Instructions:

In a small pot melt coconut oil, and add honey. Bring to a rolling boil, add the orange zest. Let this sit on low heat for a few minutes. In the meantime heat another pan to high heat and throw in the chicken (imagine a stir fry). Toss the chicken around and brown it nicely from all sides. Now add a sweet potato, cut into small pieces, and cook for a couple more minutes, then turn heat to medium.

Pour your honey mix into the meat and cook this for a good 10 minutes. If you’re busy preparing sides, turn heat to low, put a lid on the whole thing and let it do its thing. At some point you’ll want to add the orange juice.

This tastes delicious with steamed broccoli. 🙂 Enjoy!!

Real German Rouladen

After my big Sauerbraten fail, there was no way I was going to mess up this recipe. So I searched the web for a number of German Rouladen recipes and ended up creating my own version for a recipe. And boy, did they taste delicious. Really, the only thing wrong with them was that we didn’t have more of them. Could have feasted on them all night long, they were that delicious.

Here’s the recipe! 🙂

Ingredients:

-4 rouladen (very thinly sliced flank steak)
needs to be about 12 inches long each!
-1 large onion (cut into thin slices)
-4 to 6 pickles (cut lengthwise into several pieces)
-6 strips of bacon (cut into small pieces)
-mustard to spread on meat
-1 celery root (cut into small pieces)
-2 carrots
-1/2 bottle of red wine
-salt and pepper
-2 to 3 cups beef or chicken stock
-1 tbsp arrowroot powder
-a good swish of pickle juice
-bacon grease or coconut oil

Instructions:

Wash and pat dry the rouladen. Lay them flat on a surface or cutting board, spread a thin coat of mustard on each one, then lay out the onion slices (of half onion), cut pickles, and bacon all across them. Roll each roulade up fairly tightly, then tie two pieces of kitchen twine around each one to make sure they don’t come undone.

Preheat oven to 320F.

Heat a skillet on medium high heat, add fat of choice (I used bacon grease) and brown the rouladen from all sides, then transfer them to a casserole dish. Now add the other half onion, carrots, and celery root to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium, and pour some red wine into the pan, just until the vegetables are covered. Do not stir! Let the wine cook out until vegetables are almost dry. Then pour on more wine to cover veggies, stir quickly, let the wine cook out… Repeat this until you’ve used half a bottle. At the end, pour in the beef or chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, and pour the whole thing over the rouladen in the casserole. Cover the casserole dish and put in the oven. Leave the rouladen in there for 1.5 hours. At that point they should be nice and soft.

Remove the dish from the oven, take the rouladen out and set them aside. Pour the sauce through a strainer (dispose of the vegetables) into a pot, bring the sauce to a boil. In a glass, mix 1 tbsp arrowroot powder with 1 tbsp mustard and a little water until combined completely. Now add to the boiling sauce and stir. Let it cook for another two minutes.

Serve with any sides of your choice. I had leftover red cabbage and made pan fried sweet potatoes. YUM!

Sauerbraten…. FAIL!

 Isn’t she pretty? Don’t you love her cute little face? And don’t you just adore the sorry expression in her eyes??? You know, the one, where they feel so bad for not liking the food, because you worked your ass off and were just so darn excited about this recipe, and they don’t want to tell you, but when you ask them directly they have no choice but to give you that look?

Well, friends, that’s what happened today. After four long days in the fridge, I got to work and prepared the whole thing EXACTLY as instructed in my German recipe (with the exception of the flour). It smelled absolutely, positively delicious! The scent of sauerbraten and red cabbage filled the entire house, and memories from my childhood wafted around with all the sour deliciousness.

The red cabbage turned out beautifully (as always), and I made potatoes as a special treat.
The sauerbraten sauce though… oh my good Lord, was it ever sour! I thought nothing of it quite yet. I went online, asked friends what could be done. I added whipping cream bringing the sauce from a delicious dark brown to a pasty white… but no change in taste. I added a dash of baking soda, and another, and another, but still no real change. Yikes!

My disappointment was huge! I served this dinner to my family with the warning that the sauce was probably going to dissolve their stomach lining. They chose not to eat it. They did enjoy the meat (kind of), and they loved the cabbage and potatoes. I bravely ate some sauce… Uhm… yeah…

Dear Grokette followers, please forgive me for I have failed! But this is not the end of it. I am going to try again. Someday! In the meantime I have about 300 more recipes to paleofy. And still, I’m a little sad and disappointed. I will eat that meat until it is all gone! It comes from a happy, local cow. There is no way I’m going to let it go to waste! Bear with me… my next recipe will be fantabulous.