The Antelope and the Lion

When I was taught about natural selection the image that was always used was the thinning of the herd. Great fleet-footed herds of antelope running over the plains of Africa, the weak picked off by the inevitable lion there to chase them down. Isolate them, throw them down, and rip them to shreds.

The lion’s need for lunch, we were told, thinned the weaker antelope, who were, then, less likely to reproduce. Nature was selecting for the stronger, faster antelope.

Great, I always thought, unless you were that last antelope. I never was that good at track.

‘Lyme’, if it is not thinning the herd, it is certainly slowing part of the herd down. That is because what we call ‘Lyme’ and it’s co-infections, other microbial infections of similar types, are opportunistic by nature, and take up residence in the weaker parts of the body. The infection promotes inflammation, it lives in the connective tissue of the joints, or in the brain, in the lining of the gut. Areas that are predisposed to weakness take the hit. I am left handed and had seasonal allergies; my biggest problem was autoimmune. My husband always had trouble with balance; his first desperate symptoms were dizziness, tinnitus.

All of us have weaknesses. And none of us want to be that last antelope.

So, to my mind, I just have to work on being the best antelope I can be. I am left handed, have seasonal allergies, am prone to autoimmune illness’. I need to work on the balancing and calming of my immune system. I need to be gentle with it, take it to people who can give it love.

When my doctor told me, in one of the tougher early conversations: ‘If you have autoimmune thyroid disease you need to stop eating gluten right away,’ I honestly thought he was nuts. I ate lots of gluten. When he asked me about my favourite food I told him bagels. I had two little kids, I was working, I had enough to do already. Plus I have always been quite judgemental about very finicky diets. I was a moderate. In a world where what one ate was filled with judgement and self -loathing, it was almost political with me.

I have always associated a real preciousness about eating with negative things. And yet, importantly, I believed my doctor. (Eventually you have to believe someone.) And I cut out gluten (mostly). RIGHT AWAY I felt 50% better. And as soon as I felt better, I went back to eating gluten. If nothing else, it was a way to test the theory. Maybe I’m better now and I can eat half a pizza… uh, no. By bedtime my gut would feel like someone had poured concrete through it. I would feel like I could bend from about the bottom of my esophagus, but not below. All this time, I thought to myself, I guess I was about 41 at the time, this has been making me feel crappy, and I didn’t ever give my body enough of a break to figure that out…

These days I don’t even feel particularly put upon about the gluten. I have mostly cut out dairy, and I should probably do the same with sugar, but the gluten is easy. I eat rice and I eat quinoa and I eat vegetables. The biggest drag is not being able to grab a sandwich, but more and more there are other offerings catered to people who are not eating bread. If you try it, let’s just say there are a lot of chickpea salads in your future.

So, Gluten Free. It’s so common in these Wheat Belly Days that people may roll their eyes at you. But let them. Who cares. Those people being judgemental about finicky diets have their own issues. Take it from me! The more educated I’ve become about what triggers immune reactions in me, the more I am able to make good choices when out, or when home. And, conversely, the less I need to talk about it; with the waiters or with someone who’s invited me for dinner. I just go, have fun, eat (mostly) what is good for me and leave the rest. How can that not be the way to feel well?

Or one of a lot of different ways to feel (a little more) well. Maybe it’s about a combination of killing off the alien invaders and at the same time strengthening the body they are invading.

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