Netflix Health Documentaries

Due to my battle with graves disease i’m trying to read related papers, blogs, etc…and watch youtube video’s. I came across a ‘teaser’ for the Netflix documentary The Game Changer and decided to watch it. Based on that, Netflix recommended me ‘What the health‘ and ‘Heal‘. After watching these 3 documentaries i had some thoughts i wanted to write down and share.

The Game Changer

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Game Changer

This documentary caught my attention because of the people involved and focussed on the question ‘do you need meat for your protein’ with an emphasis on athletisism. The conclusion was ‘absolutely not’, animals get their protein from plants and simply are a ‘vessel’ to transfer protein to us through the products we make of and are produced by animals. Let’s take out the middleman/animal and start eating plants ourselves.

There was loads of starpower involved with people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton, Jackie Chan, etc.. It had some great points regarding the marketing power of meat and related industries how and that came about. The story about the fire-department and how changes in diet helped them, was well told. But in all honesty, getting Americans to eat a bit more vegetables and spend less time at fast food places would also have done the job (to a certain point).

Unfortunatly it didn’t go into the nutritional value of fish, just that due to pollution fish could be unhealthy. But the interviews with people from the medical and scientific field were very informative. Well made and very inspiring. Although don’t think that people like Arnold don’t enjoy a nice piece of steak now and again.

Heal

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Heal netflix

This is more of an esotherical documentary about the power of the mind in relation to health and sickness. It showed some powerfull stories of people with diseases and/or problems. If you don’t believe in this stuff, you can still appreciate the documentary and how things are told. But if you’re looking for scientific validation of the body-mind hypothesis, then this is not the documentary you’re looking for.

What the Health

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor What the health

This documentary focussed more on the ‘ethical’ aspect of the food, and specifically, the meat industry and you get shown some pretty grewsome footage and some astounding political and financial entanglement of the organisations that should be protecting the consumers. But also some inspiring stories of (sick) people who started to cut meat and other animals products from their diet and the changes that occured.

It touched on most of the same points that the Game Changer documentary had, like ‘do you need meat’, so it felt a bit like a deja-vu. But i was more fascinated by the political aspect and showed (just like John Oliver often does) that at least in America the so called trusted organizations are not as indepedent as they might seem and have a conflict of interest. But research and science require money and that sometimes makes for ‘strange’ bedfellows’.

And i think this might be one of the most critized documentaries, and lots of critizism has been critized. Have a look for yourself first

General Feel After Watching

After watching all three documentaries i felt conflicted about what to do with them, they all had a great story to tell but i felt they were also 1 dimensional (which is of course the producers/directors prerogative) in that in my opinion health is not just about food or just about mental health.

It’s a combination of all sorts of factors, environmental, social, mental, stress, genes, etc…

Optimism and purpose, a low stress level, a natural diet and an active lifestyle…experts say these factors are three times as important as your genetic makeup when it comes to enjoying a long and healthy life

https://internationalliving.com/top-5-healthiest-places-in-the-world/

So when you go vegan after watching these documentaries and expect to live healthy to the age of 120…you’re kidding yourself. It’s also most likely not the intent of the people who make them to focus on more than 1 or 2 dimensions, but the documentaries are used in (heated) discussions about what’s right and wrong. That’s were you have to be cautious and make up your own mind.

‘Heal’ is even more 1 dimensional, although i think there definitly is something to the body-mind connection (in essence stress in my opinion), it sort of let’s you think that if you can ‘let go’ and ‘be at peace’ that you can cure cancer. And although it has worked for the person depicted in the documentary it does not mean it works for everybody. It’s like when people are shown who ‘healed’ themselves by believing and trusting, but they do not show the millions of people who believed and trusted just as hard (or even more) but didn’t make it. Again, try and judge for yourself, but be very critical about what you are shown.

Also the science behind especially what was shown on Game Changer was not very scientific. I know they have very little time to explain the science and i’ve watched some youtube video’s which shows that a large part of the science has a lot of merit and is backed by research. But when you show an experiment with 3 people eating ‘meat’-dinner 1 night, and ‘vegan’ the next, and then show a vile of blood (or time of erection during the second experiment) of which 1 was more blurry is not real science. First of all, what did these people eat and do the rest of the day? Second, what does ‘blurry’ really mean, at no point is explained that ‘blurry’=bad, that’s insinuated. The intention is good and you can learn from it and be inspired but again…be critical about what they show you and read up about it.

Meat

Regarding The Game Changer and What the Health, i was even more triggered to rethink the way i look at and deal with meat and other animal products (although i was already skipping all cow-products). So i tried looking at it from a few angles:

  • Ethical: what is the impact of the meat/animal industry on the environment and how does that effect me, my family and the world;
  • General Nutritional Value: does meat or other animals products have nutritional value (beside protein) that is usefull;
  • Do i need it: this is more about if there are enough (tasty) alternatives for meat and if they can support me with staying healthy and fit.

To make it short: i value people who produce food very highly but they are a big part of the solution regarding environmental and (drink) water issues, that is mostly because by (lazy) consumer behaviour. We live in a mass consumer/producer world which we need to change for the better otherwise our world will be a lot less ‘friendly’. And since most changes start with yourself, we decided to reduce our meat-intake and eat meatless at least 3-4 times week. Alternatives like Tofu, Tempeh, meatless meat are on the rise and get better all the time. My kids still have to get used to a selfmade chickpeas, blackbeans burger but i’ll get there.

Regarding the other dimensions, i won’t skip meat all together. I like it too much, it has nutritional value and and the foodindustry can be changed into a more ethical and conscientiousness industry….but that takes time, lots of discussions and patience. Luckily there is also hope from scientific research into things like meat from stemcells (and 1) and from companies Beyond Meat and Burger King to even convince the carnivors amongst us to give the alternative a try. I know i don’t need it for staying healhy, there are enough alternatives do create a diverse diet and i integrate them more and more so maybe in a few years we will be meatless up to 6 times a week.

Eggs

At one point i got crazy about if eggs are good or bad for you, seems like half of the world is pro and the other anti. My brother, who also watched ‘What the Health’ is skipping eggs all together. I like eggs and as far as i can tell, just as with everything, if your moderate with your intake (3 to 4 eggs a week), you’re good. I like this quote from an article about egg-research:

“The main message for the public is not to select a single type of food as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ but to evaluate your total diet in terms of variety and amount.”

https://www.statnews.com/2019/03/15/are-eggs-good-or-bad-for-you-new-research-rekindles-the-debate/

Final Note

These type of documentaries can be inspiring and informative but if you take what they show and tell at face value without a critical thought than you delude yourself. Always try to look at them from different angels, try to find some criticism and decide for yourself on what is true and how you want to proceed. Nevertheless, always try to learn from others and try things out. Eating less meat and more plants, less cheese and more nuts&seeds, never hurt anyone….i think.

I intend to watch some more documentaries like Fork over Knifes and The Magic Pill just to get other perspectives and educate myself on these topics. Try one of them yourself, never stop learning.

My Battle With Graves Disease, Part 4

In my previous blogs [1, 2 and 3] i wrote about my battle from a personal perspective, and also with the idea that it might help some people recognize symptoms and/or have a kindred spirit. This blog is an extension of my journey but focussed more on what i did (and still doing) to fight of the disease. It’s not a ‘you must do this as well’-blog, just a story about what i did and what got me to do it.

The Thyroid Connection

After my second encounter with Graves i was disappointed that my work hadn’t paid of but still believed there were other ways which i hadn’t tried or known about. One book in particulair got me on a new path: Amy Myers’ The Thyroid Connection. Although it’s a typical american style book with lots of marketing, it did lay out a few things regarding the disease and health, and specifically the ‘gut’. The most intriguing aspect was about the health of the microbiome in the gut in combination with molecular mimicry and the relation to auto-immune diseases. Here’s a quote from her book:

There are several other food proteins, such as casein in dairy, that have a similar molecular structure to gluten. Because of this molecular mimicry, when you eat dairy your body can get confused and think you just ate a bowl of pasta and trigger an immune reaction.

So basically gluten can cause a leaky gut which allows foodmolecules into your bloodstream and specifically gluten and casein proteins are similair in sequence to thyriod tissue so your auto-immune system gets fooled and reacts in a wrong way. It’s a theory but i found multiple resources explaining this process so there is something to it. Based on this book and some other resources i wanted to test a few things.

Getting into testmodus

I did the following tests:

  • Do i have Celiac diseas (Coeliakie): negative;
  • Do i have a vitamine B12 deficiency anemia in combination with a problem with the intrinsic factor: negative & negative. I did this one because my B12 measurements always declined after a while. Even the last measurement showed a decline so i’m taking B12 shots every other month again;
  • Do i have any food allergies/intolerance: the result was that i had a ‘medium’ level of intolerance for grains & cowdairy (and black pepper);
  • How is the microbiome in my gut’ by means of a stool-test: the result was pretty bad.

In the meanwhile i also consulted a dietician (who helped me with the food allergy test) and decided to go ‘cold-turkey’ on gluten and dairy, sort of an elimination-diet. And then you find out how many products that stuff is in :-(. Anyways, the idea of that diet is to eliminate any obvious culprits from your diet, see how you react and then after a while, 1 by 1 add types of food you eliminated and see how you react for each added foodtype.

Based on the stool-test she also advised prebiotics and probiotics to support the gut. For prebiotics i took acaciafibers. I started this way of eating and supplementing in april of 2019 and, as of today, have followed it quite strictly (although have downgraded the pre and probiotics in december):

  • make my own lunch during weekdays, usually something with vegetables, rice, sweetpotato, fish (tuna);
  • when i eat at a restaurant i always ask if they support my diet, and most do very well;
  • make my own snacks (e.g. banana or applesauce cake/bread);
  • no more cookies, sweets, chocolate, most chips or anything that you used to nibble on at home or at parties;
  • look for recipies to mix it up like glutenfree pancakes or selfmade pizza;
  • replaced ingredients with glutenfree variants such as pasta (although that was disappointing), couscous and oatmeal.

I’m still trying to vary and look for new things, sometimes it’s a bit hard but overall the transition was quite smooth. I do miss a good pizza or pasta or a croissant (which i had to do without during our last vacation in France) but the number of glutenfree products has increased immensly and, although more expensive, are not too bad.

The Effect

Almost within a week i started noticing a difference, especially in the gut which used to be ‘active’ and noisy. But that (mostly) went away after a short period. I also used to have a mild form of acne on my face and that also (almost) vanished. Another aspect was that i started to get a bit leaner because i lost some bodyfat. I think mostly from not eating dairy products and cookies/chips/etc.. Off to a good start but that still didn’t mean i solved Graves disease, the thing is though, you can never really know untill you die and never had it again.

As measuring is knowing, i wanted to do a few more tests. 1 Test, which my dietician advised, was to check for antibodies TSH receptors. Lots of thyroid-diseases are caused by auto-antibodies. They are created when the immunesystem accidentally sees thyroidcells as ‘alien’ to your body and starts creating antibodies to destroy these cells. So a high count is bad, low count is good. I did take some convincing the endicrinologist, most likely an insurance thing, but she eventually agreed. I took this test on the first of august. As you can see below the 2 measurements before my diet where above the norm, the last measurement was very low which is a good thing.

Now to be clear, you still can’t say with certainty that the diet caused this, but frankly i don’t know what else did. Too bad you can’t A/B-test yourself.

After the summer vacation i also did another stool-test, it showed quite some improvements but not as good as we hoped. So we upped to dosage for pre and probiotics. Unfortunatly these stooltest are not insured and you have to pay for them yourself. They cost about 150 euro, so i’m not eager to do it again but it does give you a good status about the microbiome in your gut.

When starting the diet the idea was to start adding stuff back. The only thing i’ve experimented with was goat-cheese. It’s hard to really blame that product but everytime i took it my gut was ‘off’ a few days. Still have to experiment a bit but gluten and dairyproducts won’t come back anytime soon.

Stopping the Medication

After summer we also decided to stop with the medication. I was on the lowest possible dosage of strumazol and the results were good. In the pictures below you can see my test results for the 2 things they usually test for, TSH and Free T4 (vrij T4). One thing to note is that on 19-10-2018 my free T4 was very low, almost having the effect of a too slow thyroid which is the opposite. To my surpise i was not called by anyone, most likely because it still falls within the 9-25 category, but this was (again) disappointing. I called them myself and based on that i lowered the dosage.

The last 2 measurements were a bit ‘scary’ to me. The free T4 was up 1.3 from the last measurement but still in the middle. The thing that worried me a bit was the TSH which went down significantly and was grazing the lower boundary. The good thing is that both measurements were stable but i’m hoping the next one shows a bit higher TSH value.

Based on the last measurement we agreed that the next measurement will be done in february (2020), so fingers crossed.

Gypsywort

In november and december i didn’t feel too well, i didn’t sleep well and my energy was very low. I also lost a bit of weight (from 99 to 95/6) so i was stressed that Graves was rearing it’s ugly head. But the measurement from end of november was ‘good’ and my weight was sort of steady at 95. It could still be that things were moving a bit too fast but not fast enough for the ‘norm. And that could be a result of my body still adapting to no medication (woman who just a child still feel the effects of hormones up to a year later).

I still wanted to have a chat with the orthomoleculair doctor and get his perspective. His view was is that you have to listen to the patient, if the patients isn’t feeling well then there’s something wrong, even when the results are good (or not bad). Another patient of his for a few years had the same thing i had and was prescribed the same supplements. But what he also added was something called Gypsywort (wolfspoot) which according to some sources can help with thyriod problems and it helped that patient for a few years (or at least kept Graves away). I’m not a big believer in the homeopathic way but nonetheless it seems that some people are helped by it (or at least believe that it helps) and i do believe in the power of (some) plants. So i thought i’d give it a try.

I have been taking it for a week and a half, and it’s hard to tell but i do feel a bit better. But it can also be the extended vacation i’m taking to get some rest from work and time for myself. So the jury is still out on this one.

(Bad) Experience

This journey has been very expensive, i think i have spent about 2500-3500 euros in the last 2 years on supplements, (blood/stool/allergy) tests, visits to non or-partly insured practitioners. Has it been worth it…..i’ll tell you when i’m dead…..at 100 years old 🙂

The experience with the medical world has been disappointing so far. If you break a leg they are the first ones to go to, but if you have something like an auto-immune disease they might help get rid of some lifethreatening symptoms, but actually healing you is out of their league. The seem to be restricted by their education and just follow a protocol and/or insurence related aspect. I’m not saying it’s that way for all doctors and have read stories that also show the opposite but this is my experience. My advice is to be critical and read up on stuff and, you are the patients and it’s your body and life!

What’s next

One thing that i want to do more with is ‘stress’, which can also lead to several (auto-immune) diseases. Things like mindfulness, meditation, even if it’s just 10-15 a few times a week. I’ve tried it a few times the last months and it feels more relaxed afterwards.

Lastly, i have to deal with Graves for the rest of my life. Period. And whatever i do i won’t know if it works. I will know if it doesn’t, what specifically didn’t work then or why….no one can really explain. But i want to keep my thyroid intact. So i will continue to search and measure and in a few months will write about the results.

Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Course Experience

When i started with Crossfit i was immediately hooked. The intensity and the varience in training was exactly what i needed after about 25 years of playing basketball on all levels, including 3 years of professional basketball. Also the community was great, a bit crazy but very social and intent on getting stronger and fitter . And the prospect of doing things you never thought you could like a ring musle-up or a handstand push-up was very inticing.

I wanted to know more about Crossfit and the concepts behind it, with in the back of my mind the thought of teaching and helping people get fit by means of, amongst other things, crossfit principles. So an obvious starting point would be to take the Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Course. There were 2 things that stopped me at first:

  1. I didn’t actually have a clear goal what to do with it. Although lately i have been rethinking my careerpath or at least looking for a ‘hobby’ which really excites me.
  2. It’s a 1000 dollars! and although valid for 5 years, you have to do the entire weekend over again to renew the certificate so it’s quite an investment.

Why did i do it anyway? 2 reasons:

  1. Because i’d rather have the experience of something i’m really excited about and might actually want to do something with in the future, than always wonder what it would have been like if i had done the course. Even if it costs me a 1000 dollars.
  2. And i thought it could also help me with my ongoing journey to help fight off Graves disease

So i wanted to share some of my experiences from that weekend and maybe inspire other people to either take this course or do something they really want but haven’t done yet.

Day 1

When you usually work out in a smaller box (Kickstart Crossfit), entering a large gym like they had in Almere came with a ‘wow’-factor.

I think i like a smaller box better but very impressive nonetheless (even when portions were under construction).

The days started with the usual administrative checks and getting your T-shirt followed my introducing the coaches and explaining the outline of the course. Then the fun started with the day consisting of about 50% lecture time and 50% active time. Day 1 was about ‘what is Crossfit’, ‘What is fitness’, the squats, the presses, technique and lastly about safety. I won’t delve into all the individual things, that’s too much (feel free to contact me if you have a question). There are 3 things i’d like to highlight from day 1:

The first question was of course how you would explain crossfit. There are a few definitions in the guide:

  • Constantly Varied Functional Movements executed at High Intensity
  • Core Strength and Conditioning program
  • Prepare for the unknown and unknowable

But explaining it like this to people never really works well, you have to show them so i usually show some youtube clips and the conclusion was that you need to let them experience it for themselves and then explain the concepts.

My personal conclusion is that Crossfit is a means to keeping you fit for life by proper nutrition and constantly varying the workouts which contain natural, essential, universal and functional movements and doing them intensly enough for you so that your body will be able to handle everything daily life throws at you. So it’s for everyone of all ages, especially for older people who get weaker, then do less and then get even weaker.

The second thing which was a bit of an eyeopener was that the Crossfit Games had nothing to do with Crossfit. Of course that’s not entirely true but for the most part it is. Crossfit is not about getting you into shape for the Crossfit Games. It’s to prepare you for the unknown and unknowable for the rest of your life. The Crossfit Games is an extravaganza of and for the fittest people on earth which requires more training hours than most people can spend. Don’t feel ashamed if you posted a 49.694 rank during the Crossfit Games Qualifiers, you’re most likely more fit and have a better health than about 7 billion other people.

The third and last thing were the people there and why they were there (someone from my box asked to check around). I talked to some people, most were there because they want to better understand crossfit and/or start to teach crossfit at a box. But 2 stories stood out:

  • One guy, who was about my age, had enough of his previous job (electro-engineering) and wanted to something entirely different with sports. He started following a personall training course and added a small workout office to his house. This course was his next stop on his way to start his own small business together with his wife who also took the path to personall trainer. A risky move but very inspiring.
  • Some else with whom i didn’t speak directly but overheard, wanted to help kids with a tough background through sports. Crossfit was, due to the high intensity-factor, very suited to help them get rid of excess energy and frustration.

All in all day 1 was quite immersive and full of information, very enjoyable but i didn’t have the energy to cook food, so i ordered a pizza (gluten and dairy free :-)).

Day 2

Day 2 had the same structure as the first day with focus on nutrition, metabolism, welness, diet, Glute Ham Developer, programming, the lift-moves, ring muscle-ups and snatches. We also got to do our first one-on-one coaching when someone did a WOD when performing the medicineball clean. This was really fun and educational and you could see the others’ mistakes and how they react to a cue. We also coached eachother with pull-ups and the (scaled) ring muscle up.

The coaches during the whole weekend were great, highly skilled at coaching and a close team. A great aspect of how they teach, is that they never say that Crossfit is THE way, although it is something they believe in, it’s never sold as a golden solution. Secondly I have never been corrected as much as this weekend and at one point i was almost afraid to move because i knew i did not have a vertical back when doing the push-press and push jerk and my timing was off. Luckily i wasn’t the only one.

So if i had to make a wordcloud of the corrections i’ve been given it would be:

  • Knees out!
  • No jumping with the shoulder-to-overhead moves! (at 1 point he actually sat on my foot so i wouldn’t jump which is had to neurologically unlearn after 25 years of basketball)
  • Keep your back vertical!

We ended the day (before the exam) with the entire group doing the snatch including the progression (no pulling with the arms!!! ) with the coaches moving around and correcting people.

The Exam

I guess for most people the whole weekend was about getting the certification by passing a 55 multiple question exam and you could almost feel the anxiety when the clock struck 15:30 and personally i was a bit nervous. I had studied quite well by reading the certification guide at least twice and took vigorous notes the whole weekend. There were also some flashcards sites i used [1, 2] for learning the definitions better. Legally i can’t say anything about the questions because they’ll come after you if you hurt their brand. And rightfully so.

The (paper, yes paper) test itself was in the English language which for me wasn’t a problem. But there were people from all walks of life and some had a hard time with actually understanding and interpreting some of the questions. One guy failed to distinguish between ‘permitted’ and ‘forbidden’. So bring an English-Dutch dictionary!

If you paid enough attention and took notes, about 20 to 25 of the questions were relatively easy. Same goes for the moves, if you paid attention and read the guide most of the ‘moves’ questions were not that hard. But quite some questions were ambiguous and/or used terms that were not specfically mentioned during the lectures or in the guide. So pay attention, read very carefully and make sure you understand every word from the question. Most people that do not make it is not because a lack of knowledge!

Waiting for the result

The last time i was this nervous about a result was when i took my drivers-license when i was 18 but now i also had to wait at least 7 working days for the result. But finally on a friday night i got the result

Damn i was happy! I wanted to see my score but i couldn’t find it anywhere, but i guess that’s irrelevant.

What’s next

After the course (and of course getting my certification) i was really excited to put this newly gained knowledge into practice. It also reaffirmed my feeling that this is something i want to do more with. Hopefully i can get some experience at my box and/or by letting people know about this so i can help someone get (more) fit.

There are loads of specialization cources and the Crossfit Kids course is really interesting but for now i’ll focus on some of the online courses.

And after that….we’ll see but it’s a good feeling to feel excited about something!

My Battle With Graves Disease, Part 3

In my previous 2 blogs [part 1, part 2], i started writing about my ‘battle’ with graves disease and ended the last one with the hope that i was done, which wasn’t the case. So in the first half of 2018 a few things were a bit off. I had trouble sleeping through the night, workouts didn’t really go well, stressfull at work and in the month before the summervacation a pretty bad situation at work happened. So i was really tired and in need of a vacation. So when vacation was there i thought i could relax for about 3 weeks. The day before my vacation i thought i weigh myself. 98kg (down from 100). Strange but most likely stress and being tired. 2kg isn’t that bad.

But during the holiday things didn’t improve, they actually worsened and quite rapidly. I just wasn’t feeling well, cranky, on edge, no fun to be around. The only thing that gave some aleviation was a nice swim in the ocean. But halfway though i got a stomachflew (or ate something bad as others had it as well) and got that tight, cramped feeling again in my gut. And the last few days my hands started to shake and i was very rushed at everything.

We got a bad feeling and so i weighed myself, 90kg….! That’s a loss of 10 kg in a month. When home i asked for a bloodtest and it usually takes a few days for the result. But the next morning i got a call from the doctor with the (bad) news that graves is back with a FT4 value of 66 (last time it was 38) when it should be between 9 and 25 and i had to start with the strumazol right away. F#$k, all the effort to live a healthy live including food, supplements (which i have to pay for myself) were useless ?!? What a looser! Why didn’t i get it to work 😦

So i had to call work again and tell them i was out of commission. Then a visit to the endicrinologist, same one from last time. A nice person but i was afraid she was going to propose something (see my previous blog) i really didn’t want which i told here straight away. To here credit she was willing to try something but first get all the values down so i had to take medicine for 4-5 weeks.

I thought i could go back to work after my appointment with the endicrinologst and start with half a days work and slowly add more hours. I also made an appointment with the company doctor because it’s good to make this formal. He was very good and understanding and also ‘got it’ (maybe more than i did). He told me to stay home a few weeks and then start with half days work and see how that goes. He explained that your whole hormonal system is out of balance and that’s something to be really carefull with. It was quite a relieve because he took away the (selfimposed) pressure to get back to work quickly.

I also made an appointment with the orthomoleculair doctor to get his perspective and he ordered some bloodwork (and since insurance doesn’t cover this i have to pay for the bloodtests myself). And it showed huge defficiency in zinc, selenium and B12. Magnesium was also not good but already started with a new variant which seemed to take hold. Apparently there’s a wide range of magnesium supplements of which you have to find the right type for you. My D3 levels were excellent, a small comfort. So ordered some more supplements and also got 10 B12 shots because, as he put it, it can be that you don’t have an intrinsic factor (or a bad one) which means that your body can’t get (enough) B12 from food. B12 apparently is very important for lots of things, including for your auto-immune system (here’s a good blog). But he was also honest that he couldn’t tell if this is the cause or result, but now the body is out of balance so let’s see if we can restore that.

Not just physically but also mentally something snapped. I withdrew myself even further, felt like a looser and weak. My wife tells me i’m sick but what about the 2,5 years i was okay? But i started to realize that my mental model of the world was wrong. And that i was actually sick. I have a goal of reaching the age of 100 in a healthy fashion which means you have to take care of yourself. But this requires not just a balanced body but also a balanced mind.

After taking medicine for 5 weeks the thyroid-levels were normal again with a value of 17. I did not want to take the betablockers for the heart, that stuff is nasty and didn’t think it was needed. I’m not saying never take this, sometimes it might be needed, but be very critical. We decided to start titration therapy, which basically means reducing the amount of medicine and see how the body, or in my case the auto-immune system, reacts. I asked if i could take small amounts of strumazol for the rest of my live and although possible, the chances of hormonal swings are possible. More over, due to strumazol the white level bloodcount is reduced which is not beneficial for your immune-system and makes you more receptive for disease, especially at a later age.

So we started reducing the amount of strumazol. But now there is more fear in the back of my head. Is my heart pounding harder? Are my hands shaking? Do i feel stressed or is is something else? Mentally it was (and is) a big struggle and i would not say i was depressed because i still believed that there was more to explore, but i definitly felt down. The good thing was that i could start with crossfit at a very slow pace and also decided to do (power) yoga which felt good. But i knew i had to work on my mental state as well so i took some steps there. I also started to learn and explore other means to combat this disease which i will tell about in my next blog.

Sidenote: one thing that was very peculier is that when i started taking supplements and was never really sick anymore or even had a cold. And when i was a bit under the weather it usually was gone within a day. That’s quite something considering i have kids which were 4 and 6 when this started, so a lot of bacteria from school and daycare. Even when my wife got sick it didn’t affect me. So it’s my ‘believe’ that supplements do help, unfortunatly it doesn’t help with graves specifically. Which supplements help is also difficult to identify.

Supplements i take currently based on bloodwork and symptoms:

  • Magnesium (Taurine) – daily
  • Q10 Enzym – daily
  • Zinc – daily
  • D3 – daily
  • K2 – daily
  • C (1000mg) – daily
  • Selenium – twice a week
  • Iodine – three times a week
  • B12 shots, once every 2 months

My Battle With Graves Disease, part 2

In my previous post i ended with stating that knowing what’s wrong is only the beginning. This post i wanted to tell what i did next after i found out what was wrong with me.

I’m a pretty down to earth guy who follows science and wants to know more about the ‘WHY’ behind my disease. One book in particulair, Overdiagnosed by H. Gilbert Welch, made me more wary of just following doctor’s advice and always ask more questions because you are the patient, not the doctor. And the fact that i had thrombisis followed by a pulmenary embolism and graves’ disease at the same time, while the medical world told me that there is no relation…..just didn’t sit well with me.

Getting answers from mainstream medicine was hard and they simply didn’t know and only looked at my symptoms, not at any other things. So i wanted to go beyond standard medicine and try and find out if other people could help me. My wife (and her family) were already aquinted with an orthomoleculair therapist but i was sceptical because this field of alternative medicine has a hard time proving it’s research is emperically sound. But i thought what the hell, it’s worth a shot. He was a nice guy with >30 years of experience and he had me run bloodtests on minerals and vitamins through the regular channels. His statement was, and i agree, your body has to be in balance and an auto-immune disease is not something you just get (although you can be genetically predispositioned), it’s often a result of being out of balance. And he was very straightforward, there is no magical cure, it’s finding the right buttons to push and that differs per person.

The results were worrysome as he put it. According to international standards to which he holds the results (because the Dutch standards are way too broad in his perspective) i had an enormous deficiancy in Selenium, Magnesium, B12 and vitamin D3. The question is of course: was this part of the cause or the effect of loosing so much weight. So he got me on a bunch of supplements including some extra like Q10, K2 and B1 (or 2, i forgot). This gave me a sense of control. Because anything is better that the alternatives:

  • Medicine: keep taking medicine but can cause live damage and reduce the number of white bloodcells
  • Surgery (thyroidectomy): surgically remove most or all of the thyroid, followed by a life long of medicine.
  • Radioactive iodine: a ‘pil’ which, if dosed correctly, destroys only half of your thyroid (but often more which results in hypothyroidism for which you need medication the rest of your live)

But the really weird part and the reason why i didn’t go for these option is that the Thyroid is actually just fine! It’s your auto-immune system which causes the thyroid to react. So why remove a healthy organ and not try to find the actual cause.

But anyway, i got this so, no need to worry. Never drank, smoked, no coffee, drugs, ate healthy, exersiced regularly. I’ll be done in no time. So during the next year i took my supplement, started reducing bloodthinners. Changed my diet by altering my breakfast with cottage cheere (kwark in dutch), fruit, nuts and seeds and oatmeal. Work was good, relationship was better and i started getting stronger (i stopped crossfit 😦 after it happened and started slowly in the gym). And then at one point i got the ok to stop taking medicine and almost a year later i was a patient no more. A year without medicine and no relapse, i wasn’t sick anymore (in my mind i was never really sick)!

For a while things went really well, even started crossfit 🙂 at a box nearby despite the concerns of my wife because she associated my disease with crossfit (which of course doesn’t cause it but the extremity of the sport can have an effect on the auto-immune system). And things were looking good, i was stable at 100kg for about 2 years now and still no relapse. So i was part of lucky group that ‘survived’ the disease…….untill the summer of 2018. Which i will write about in my next blog.

My Battle With Graves Disease, part 1

My story probably started way earlier but that’s only in hindsight, let’s start in the summer of 2014 in France. I thought i had a bit too much around the waist and wanted to feel better, despite the fact that i worked out (fitness, running) and biked to work every day. Of course when there’s french cheese and bread you don’t start right away so after we came home i put my mind to it and started changing things. Less bread, more ricecrackers, other dietary changes and started a new way of working out through crossfit.

But soon, eating was getting more difficult, wasn’t really hungry, stomach was protesting with sort of a pinching feeling or knot in the gut. This caused me to eat less and even skip meals. Athletically it didn’t go bad but, in hindsight, never really well. Often during a workout i had an empty and low energy feeling. But i thought that this is just part of getting started. But also at work, again in hindsight, things weren’t going smoothly. Speaking to quickly, stumbling with words, unfocussed, couldn’t sit still. Also at home things weren’t improving, i was edgy, didn’t react well to the kids. And being a bit of an introvert didn’t really help the situation.

What did go well was the loss in weight, melting ice. I started at 96kg and after 2 or 3 weeks i was down to 93/92 and a bit later to 90. I was even proud to go shopping for tighter pants. But despite the diet and working out, the energylevel was not that high and i got more edgier, hurried. And then things got busy at work….so it’s stress right? It would explain the fact that i’ve not been sleeping well (waking up 2 or three times at night), for quite a long time actually.

But the loss of weight was going well, 88 kg and a few weeks later down to 85. My wife thought it was going to far and was worried. I got a bit worried as well but the six-pack was showing so that can’t be bad. Then down to 84/83kg, mmm, anyways, the Sinterklaas festivities were done, almost holiday so no more stress and with Christmas in foresight i thought i could go for an eating-binge and everything would be alright.

On the monday after Sinterklaas i wasn’t feeling well, bit of a flew. I was down to 82kg so i went home early from work and lied down on the couch. I woke that night with sort of a cramp in my leftcalf, didn’t think too much of it. Next day i brought the kids to school and thought i’d go for a short run to get the cramp out. Okay, bad idea, after 200m i had to sit down and almost couldn’t breath. Very weird feeling considering we did a pretty hefty WOD the week before with 300 airsquats, 200 kettlebell swings, 100 burpees, 800 m running, 100 burpees, 200 kettlebell swings and 300 airsquats (with a buddy and ended within 43 minutes or so). So i went back home thinking the flew really got me. But anyways, had to pick up a Christmas tree so took the bike to the gardencentre and back again. Pffff, had to lie down. Something wasn’t right because my heart was also pounding quite hard, which has been the case for a while now. So i made a doctors appointment.

Now i can’t remember if i went to the doctor the same or the next day but went there by bike, like we do here in the Netherlands. I tell my story and the doctor asks: “did you come here by bike?”. And then she said: “i’m inclined to call an ambulance and not let you go home”. Okay, didn’t see that one coming, still not realizing the seriousness of the situation. So i promised i’d call my wife, who was working at home that day and then immediatly go the the hospital which she made sure would be informed upon arrival.

An hour later at the hospital i was taken for an X-ray and then a checkup which seemed fine. After that they injected me with contrast-fluid so the CT-scan could get a good image. So i got into a dark room, people whispering in the back, and into a CT-scan which is quite intimidating. Keep calm, breath slowly, which is really hard as i was getting more nervous. After the scan i was brought back to a room and with no one telling me anything, we were still in the dark.

Waited for half an hour, then suddenly a nurse walks in and injects me with something. Bloodthinner, she says. Hun, why? Has the doctor had a chat with you? He’ll be here shortly. A bit later the doctor comes and explains that i’ve had a lung or pulmenary embolism. Which at the time didn’t strike me as serious but it actually can be lifethreatening (a friend later told me his father died of one). But what about my calf? That means thrombosis, which probably resulted, via bloodcloths, in the pulmenary embolism. It was only later that night, when it was clear i had to remain in the hospital, that my calf started swelling and actually started to hurt.

Euhh, what about graves? Won’t be long. So there i was in a hospital bed on bloodthinners and a compression around my calf, not much fun. Luckily my wife was there to support me and take care of the kids, family and friends looking me up, so it was bit of a rollercoaster but it wasn’t ‘real’ yet. The next day the doctor came for a checkup and we asked about the weightloss but he said it’s not related. But he made an appointment with another doctor but first a few more days of rest.

Then, a few days later, another doctor starts asking about stress, being on edge, starts touching my throat and asked for some bloodwork. The result? You guessed it, Graves disease. What the hell is that? Apparently an auto-immune disease. But how? We don’t know either. Okay, but what about the thrombosis and pulmenary embolism? As far as we know there is no relation. Right, a bit of a coincidence don’t you think!?. Again more medicine, strumazol for the thyroid and betablockers for calming the heart.

Damn, should be a fun Christmas. But my mind was already at ‘when can i work out again and get back to work?’, instead of realising what happened. The good thing though is a started feeling better, i was calmer, my heart wasn’t beating as hard anymore and my hands weren’t shaking (another symptom). I could move around and started sleeping better and things were looking better. But anyone with Graves, or any auto-immune disease, knows that this is just the start of the battle which i will tell in my next blog.

Donald J. Trump, just what America needed (?)

I’ve been somewhat fascinated with America politics ever since Al Gore lost to George Bush in the 2000 election. Not the least because he partly lost due to a bad designed voting ballot. And since 2016 it has become even more interesting with the, not so surprising, election victory of Donald J. Trump. It has been fun to watch all the late night talk show hosts take jabs at Trump, especially my favorite John Oliver.

But it got me thinking as to why he won and if he is really the narcisistic ego maniac the mainstream media makes him out to be or if he’s quite clever in his own way (or both). So i wanted to share my thoughts on this subject.

Why he won?

I won’t linger on this too long because there’s lots of resources out there that explain why. But i wanted to highlight 3 things that are interesting:

Majority vote does not count: America is the only (as far as i know) where a majority vote does not count. That was the case in the 2016 election where Hillary Clinton won 2.1% more of the votes that Trump.

Effective use of social media: (i won’t go into the Russian interference which i think has been proven quite well) to share and counter ideas, attack opponents (on both sides of the political spectrum), and lots of self-aggrandizing of and by Donald Trump. It was so effective because of the third highlight:

Fear: people in the swing states and states where the ‘old’ industry resides have had it hard the last decade because of, amongst other things, automation, which Andrew Yang explains very well. The Job-loss because of that, combined with:

  • all the cultural changes that conservative america is not ready for,
  • the fear of becoming a white minority,
  • decades of relativly poor education and
  • voters fed up with the political swamp

caused voters in the ‘swing’ states to vote for trump. Fear worked perfectly for Trump.

Is Trump a bad president?

To answer this question i first want to seperate a few things when talking about Donald Trump:

Trump as a person: i don’t know much about him as a person besided what i see in documentaries and on tv-shows which do not always depict him in a positive way to say the least. However there’s always the facade people hold up in public so i can’t really judge him here. But you can tell a lot from a person they way he behaves and talks, and in the case of Donald Trump, let’s just say we would not be best of friends.

Trump as a business man: When you look at his roallercoaster resume he’s a real business man (born rich so he had a headstart) and entrepreneur but also someone who takes risks and doesn’t always play fair or by the rules. The fact that he went bankrupt 6 times can be discussed both negatively (who goes backrupt 6 times?) and positively (he came out on top 6 times as well). So i would say that he’s succesfull as a business man (not going into ethical discussions here).

Trump as a president: in my opinion and views he failes miserably. As a president you represent and lead your country by example both with dignity and humility. You are a bridgebuilder to bring people together (although i think America is a lost cause regarding that concern). Trump has been anything but that:

  • always twisting or making up his own truth,
  • purposfully attacking people who don’t agree with him,
  • not stepping up to the plate when he should (like Charlottesville) and
  • acting like a 2 year old on twitter with the Gretta-tweet as an example.

Although most republicans publically support him, i bet a lot are ashamed of their commander-in-chief. A lot can be said and discussed but it’s not worth the digital ink.

Trump’s domestic policies: Although his message resonates with a whole lot of (conservative) people regarding items like economy and immigration, the ‘HOW’-part is a disaster:

  • Education: now even more eletist than ever thanks to Betsy deVos
  • Environmental policies: Trump seems to be hellbound on turning back environmental policies from the Obama administration with potentially devastating consequences for American health and the environment
  • Immigration: a country based on and made great by immigrants is now trying keep Muslims and people from South America away by telling lies and building a wall that won’t actually solve anything
  • Health care: he has tried to repeal Obamace multiple times and although it’s definitly not great (largely due to Republicans when negotiating the deal) his lack of sympathy for the millions of Americans without proper health care like we have in Europe, is appaling.

What he has got going for him is the economy which is a result, in my opinion, of swift action Obama and the FED took during the financial crisis. But to Trumps’ credit, his actions don’t seem to hurt the economy that much, for now. But to say that due to his policies the economy is now stronger than ever……

Trump’s foreign policies: Now here is where things get interesting and where i think Trump is actually getting things in motion. Of cource in diplomatic terms there’s lots to improve and he has not made much friends, but as an American i would not be so fast as to criticize him.

  • Foreign wars: Afghanistan, Irak, Syria, not easy places to get out off, but he has taken more action on these matters than Obama, who seriously screwed up on Syria. You can debate wether it’s the right action but we all can agree that, despite the heroic sacrifice soldiers have made, they are unwinnable, senseless wars. When does the west stop meddling in or dealing with countries they shouldn’t. From an American perspective, getting their soldiers home is important and also stopping the money that has been poured into those wars and using it for domestic purposes. Trump is getting things done, now see if he can finish it.
  • Renegotiating Economic Pacts: Here is where his business instincts are helping him, telling people about the bad-deals his predecessors made and actually renegotiating pacts in a more favorable way for America. This will also help his 2020 campaign which can depict him as a dealmaker.
  • China: this is in my view the most important he is doing, getting tough on China. China has been getting away with lots of thing, especially with keeping the status of a developing country, not opening up their internal market for foreign companies and state funding of companies to keep prices low. Everyone has been too soft on China and tries to make friends with a nation that’s only interested in making China strong (locally). Lots of countries depend on China economically, especially the U.S, so it’s a gamble for Trump waging a trade-war which can have great impact wordwide. But is seems that it’s paying off. We still have to see how this unfolds but it’s a start. Europe should follow his lead.

Of course there are lots of things to be critical about like Climate Change policies, ties with Saudi Arabia, influence of weapons industry with regards to foreign policies, Ukraine, Iran, etc.. But that does not change the fact that he has come through on some of his promises in the eyes of his base and others.

Will he be impeached?

25% chance, no matter which side you are on, anyone with half a brain and that has watched the hearings has to admit it’s shady at best. But due to republicans having the majority in the senate, chances of impeachment are low, but not entirely of the table. Unfortunatly, should he be impeached, the people next in line are not much of an improvement.

Will he win the next election?

75% change. Bernie Sanders should have been the democratic candidate in 2016 and is the most authentic candidate….if only you were 10 years younger. Warren has good ideas but can she convince the swingvoters and keep the wealthy democratic supporters on board. Biden as a president seems promising but he is vulnerable and is scoring poorly during debates. Andrew Yang has some of the best ideas but too far fetched for a lot of Americans. Pete……seems like a nice guy. The rest…..

So, is he a bad president?

Yes, definitly. I would not want that man as a president. He might be doing allright on foreign policies but the fact that he can’t get over himself, lies all the time, is not bringing America together and simply is not carrying himself in a dignified way makes him unfit for office. He might have been a very good minister of foreign policies, but we’ll never find out.

But he is smarter, in his own way, than most people give him credit for and his business and non-political approach combined with a savvy team around him, resonates with people, so strategically he’s doing ok and is actually the president conservative voters are looking for.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to continue following the news coverage, it’s fun, interesting and educational as well. I’ve also read the book A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn which explains a whole lot and also that nothing much has changed in centuries. But as a friend told me, America is somewhat of a young nation still trying to find it’s way and that’s never a smooth ride. Good luck America!

And writing a blog takes even more time than expected, but a great exercise for rethinking certain subjects and actual write something. Already have a few more ready to come out.

To blog or…

Why Blog?

Be curious, not judgmental.

— Wald Whitman

I attended the Digital Architecture Design Day conference today and was inspired by one of the keynote speakers Eric Schabell who talked about sharing thoughts and ideas to educate, inspire and ignite a conversation.

This got me thinking about how i’ve always felt a tendency to help and educate people with things i’ve learned and also have a (healthy) thurst for knowlegde and understanding and simply to write things down. But i never took the time to share my thoughts and ideas to enable this in a more structured way.

So the proof of the pudding is in the eating and i’m going to use the coming year for exploring blogging and see what comes out of that.

My blogs will mostly be about my work as an Architect at bol.com, my experience with basketball and training kids, living with the auto-imune disease called ‘graves disease‘ and what i’ve done to cope with it, movies, family and my second favorite sport crossfit.

So here goes.