My Gut Health – an uphill battle | Singing Let It Go

This huge post can be divided mostly to two subjects – my gut health in the first half and my progress in singing in the second half. Feel free to skip to the topic that interests you.

Since in May I have several performances with summer fast approaching so the need to have the option to take off as many layers as possible will be ever present, I am trying to force myself to get a handle on my bloating by wearing dresses again and tucking my tummy while I get back to what helps reduce my symptoms so I won’t need to be constantly aware of my abdominal contraction – avoiding processed food. It’s also Purim today, so an excuse to take out the Japanese style dresses out of my closet.

March 19th 2019 – qipao coming out of the closet

I’m also going to try and use my lipstick as a signifier to tell myself: eat before going out, eat when you come home, but as long as you’re out with this lipstick – don’t eat a byte. Hopefully that will help me avoid eating at restaurants and random processed food on offer during my weekly rehearsals for all the events in which I will participate.

My Gut Health

By many measures you could say I’m pretty healthy. My total cholesterol stays around 100-120. My LDL stays around 50-70. Some would say that’s heart attack proof, and heart attacks are the number one killer in the modern world.

I’m 39 years old. If I bother to do regular running, my HDL is in a good place too. Last time I tested my HDL it was 46 while doing a half assed job of training for a marathon, which I succesfully completed for the second time this February in the Tel Aviv Marathon and I only did about a quarter of the training program, barely running once a week only the long runs and often even skipping those.

I did barely manage to finish it within the cutoff of 6 hours and some change, but on the plus side – unlike the last time I did a marathon 2 years ago, I didn’t strain my left ankle so much that I had to resort to alternating between walking and jump limping for the last 2 hours but my left ankle still remains the weakest link in my running physique and almost a month later it still hurts a bit, though I tend to believe that’s because I also slipped the reins on the quality of my diet so there are less anti oxidants from whole plant foods to help repair the damage and I’m also probably causing some damage from the processed food I’ve been eating in the last month.

I also ran 4 kilometers from my house to the starting point, and due to misunderstanding the lanes added at least a mile if not two to my actual race distance which was not tracked, so I probably ran a total of 50 kilometers that day, not 42… and still I didn’t have to resort to limping like I did two years ago! Yes, two years ago I was also lazy with my training, but I guess that over the years, even lazy training adds up to some gains… especially when the vast majority of the overall dietary pattern is whole plant foods as in my case which might help negate some of the degradation of muscle tissue due to higher anti-oxidant and lower oxidant content in the diet. Imagine if I actually wasn’t lazy with my training…

Also, for a period that includes junk food, I have been relatively tame this month, never getting into bouts of “eating into the pain” like I previously did in junk food binge phases… so I guess I am getting better at not getting stupidly extreme with junk food… though perhaps that has to do more with budget constraints rather than improvements in self discipline. If I was a bit less limited with my funds, I might be worse off with my gut.

Of course, whether junk food or whole foods, everything I eat is vegan because, well – I’m vegan for I’m not sure exactly how many years now. 5? 6? I like eating healthy food when I can muster up the self discipline, but I am vegan first and foremost so that I am not a part of the machine that contributes to the killing, enslavement and abuse of animals and destruction of the environment humanity needs to survive… so I have a harder time keeping up the junk food restriction than I do keeping up the vegan restriction. When I eat junk food, I’m only harming me but if I ever ate something that isn’t vegan – I wouldn’t be harming just me.

In my last post I declared sort of victory over my bloating, but to be honest – that was premature. In retrospect, I think the reason I experienced benefits was because the naturopath had me pile on restrictions on my already relatively strict salt, oil, sugar free whole plant foods diet to also avoid potential bloat causing foods and it was so restrictive and bland even for one accustomed to not having any added salt such as me – that I just did not want to eat unless I was really really hungry, so I just ate less food and gave my gut a break. I suspect I could have achieved the same results via any method that caused me to not want to eat as much food i.e. lying in bed a lot, distracting myself with video games, going out as little as possible and indeed those behaviours tended to go hand in hand with the diet she prescribed because I had little energy for much else with it.

I can’t live like that. What happens when I have to get out of the house? I have commitments to friends, I’m in community theater and singing activities. Sure, I can eat small amounts of food if I’m not very active and stay at home all day, but if I want to go out into the world and live a bit, I need more calories, I get hungry, and if I don’t eat enough food I will end up succumbing to junk food cravings and as I know from past experience, anything processed makes my bloating much worse.

The gastroentorologist said I’m bloated because I’m vegan and I eat too much fiber. I told her that when I eat processed food I have less fiber and my bloating gets much worse, so how does her fiber theory work? She didn’t do any tests, she just listened to me talking for two minutes into barely a quarter of describing my issues and laid down her word, and her word was – it’s because you get too much fiber. She ended up referring me to do a glucose test and prescribed me to try colotal for a month and if it doesn’t help stop taking it after a month. I’m going to see about getting that test but I’m still on the fence about taking the drug. She claimed it has no side effects, but a drug with no side effects sounds suspicious to me. Especially after watching Gojiman’s videos, I’m afraid of just throwing things into my gut before knowing what’s going on with it.

I also did abdominal and thyroid ultrasound, because my TSH is constantly shifting between normal and sometimes a bit high but sub-clinical and my T3 and T4 are always normal. The ultrasound for both came out okay.

I went to a vegan friendly clinical dietician and she said maybe the gastro is right about the fiber, but I also definitely shouldn’t be eating processed food. She said she had little advice to give me about what foods to eat, hearing all the many different things I tried to control my bloating with diet. including low FODMAP. As far as she was concerned if I am cooking my own food every day and eating plants as grown I am already doing the best possible diet… Well, at least during the times I keep it up and when I’m not eating junk food, which is the vast majority of the time, at least 80-90% of my calories are from whole plant foods, if not more.

The dietician suggested I try a digestive enzyme supplement and maybe try also for a month the colotal the gastro prescribed. She backed the gastro up that colotal has no side effects, but I am a bit loathe to take medicine without a clear diagnosis. I’m not totally against drugs, I am a trans woman after all and apply estrogel semi regularly… and yes, I have tried going on and off hormones to see if that has anything to do with my bloating to no avail… but I don’t like this attitude of “take this pharmaceutical and let’s see what happens”. Having seen Gojiman’s clips on gut health, it seems to me that since there are a variety of underlying causes of gut issues, the solution for one cause might be an aggravator for a different cause or create new problems, making isolation of the root problem more difficult while potentially compounding the issue.

I want to save money to get gut health tests that GojiMan has on his site, but it will take me a while to get enough money for that, and my general practitioner told me the tests he recommends are not accepted as reliable and I should not go for such quackery. I’m not convinced he is a quack just because she says so, but I’m not sure who to believe at this stage since nothing I have tried to do so far has worked and I’ve been trying to figure this out for years now.

I already spent some money consulting people at True North Health Center to no avail. I went to a naturopath who was relatively cheap to no avail and stopped after two meetings when she said she had no nutrition advice to give me and said my problem must stem from emotional problems and recommended reflexology. My emotional health is not going to get any better than I am already trying to make it better through other means. Life will always have stress – for everyone. There is no treatment that will remove stress from life, so I would rather try and find a physical solution since there is no such thing as life without emotional stress.

Now I am trying the public medical health system using these tests, the gastro and dietician while hopefully eventually saving money for Gojiman’s tests. That will take me at least several months. Maybe next month I will try the enzyme supplement and colotal, the second of which I’m not sure whether I should try…

Funnily enough, the dietician also echoed that my digestion problems might stem from an emotional imbalance… that only served to imbalance me emotionally more, because I know there is no way to remove emotional stress from my life. I’m a non-passing trans woman, I am stressed just from going out of my house and existing, being daily misgendered and since the bottom surgery also suffering from hot flashes which I can’t get rid of no matter what I try… but if it wasn’t that, it would probably be something else. Most people have jobs and relationships and commitments that cause emotional stress. There is no such thing as life without emotional stress…

So sure, maybe the cause is emotional stress, but that’s a useless observation because there is nothing to do about that beyond generally trying to improve quality of life as much as I can – and some things just can’t be improved and you just need to live with them, like the fact that I will never be able to avoid daily misgendering since I am post multiple surgeries, tried makeup, clothes, learned voice feminization, etc. and still suffer from it.

This whole bloating thing is such a Sysiphian up hill battle that I am tired of even trying, and allow myself to slip into the pleasure trap (a term I learned from True North Health Center), eat some junk food, which activates my cravings for more junk food… and I waste lots of money on it that could have gone for the gut health tests Gojiman recommends.

I have to eat so close to perfect for months on end to get any improvement on my pre-meal bloating, or alternatively, I can expedite recovery from a junk food binge by semi-fasting i.e. by cutting the amount of food I eat in half and try to lower my caloric expenditure so I don’t get hungry enough to go for junk food – that method allows me to reduce bloating in weeks or days instead of months, assuming along the way I don’t end up throwing my hands in the air and eating junk food instead…

…and even when I do manage to reduce my pre-meal bloating to the best of my ability, it still only works pre-meal, I still bloat significantly post-meal, and I end up weighing 57-58 kg, 1-2 kilograms below normal weight pre-meal not including clothes, though if you include clothes and measure post-meal then I’m always just at the edge of normal BMI at 59-60 kg for 179 cm. Of course, it’s rare that my weight is that low because I would have to be keeping up several months of abstinence from junk food to achieve that. Usually it’s more around 60-63 kg, maybe 65-66 kg if I am after a junk food binge.

Not that I want to weigh that low, it’s just that the only state in which my pre-meal bloating is gone is when I also happen to weight that much, but even then I still have post-meal bloating.

And through it all there is always the ever looming constant reminders around me living in modern society of all the junk foods that I love. I can isolate myself at home and have only healthy whole plant foods there, but when I go out to acting class, singing class, and just on the way to meet friends or on the way home, and these friends indulge themselves too – I get reminded of the existence of these foods, and it’s just a matter of time until I break my abstinence, and it really doesn’t take much junk food to aggravate my bloating but it takes a lot of mental effort to get back on track with whole plant foods and abstinence from processed foods.

The fact that doing the apparantly right thing to solve my bloating and avoid processed food makes me slightly underweight and doctors tell me I need to gain weight doesn’t help – another excuse for me to throw my hands in the air and eat whatever.

The fact that my folate tends to be low unless I eat lots of raw vegetables despite eating legumes every day and I’m told by doctors to supplement or get it from diet but on the other hand I’m also told these vegetables are a possible cause of my bloating and I have to eat large volumes of food to get my folate from diet which makes me post-meal bloat more – another excuse for me to throw up my hands in the air and eat whatever.

The fact that even when I eat perfectly no processed food at all, only plants as grown, for months on end, and I resolve my pre-meal bloating, only to still suffer from post-meal bloating and have no practical difference for all that work – also an excuse to throw up my hands in the air.

Add to that all the usual mechanisms of the pleasure trap and the ego trap as outlined by Dr. Alan Goldhamer and Dr. Doug Lisle – and I really am prone to just say to hell with it, so I’m a skinny trans woman who always looks pregnant even though she doesn’t even have a womb, what of it?

I don’t know if I will ever solve this issue. Perhaps it’s just something to live with… I’m just sharing this in case someone cared about my previous post about this topic and thought “wow, she found the solution, yay!”

Well, this is to update that no, I did not find the solution and it’s a constant up hill battle to manage my symptoms while trying to also not be deficient in folate and let my muscles decay through inactivity so I can reduce the amount of food I want to eat to get the bloating back down faster only to ruin it all with junk food and end up losing on all fronts.

I wish I had a solid ideological basis to avoid junk food like I have with animal food, because then maybe I would have this sorted by now if I managed to keep processed food abstinence up for more than 3 months at a time without having that ruined by a week of junk food binging or a month of intermittent junk food eating.

And yes, I know fitness is important for health. I notice improvements in my mood and physical immunity when I am training… but what can I say, vanity is a part of me, and though there are other reasons to exercise other than how I look, it feels self defeating to go out for a run and instead of being lean I end up looking even more pregnant because the next day I need to eat larger amounts of food to get back the extra calories spent. Now that I’m done with the marathon, I’m more inclined to put fitness aside until I tried everything I know of to resolve these gut issues. It’s too depressing to exercise, which in turn increases my calorie intake, and *look* even less lean as a result of doing so.

Post 2019 marathon selfie – February 22nd 2019

Please note my emphasis on the word look. I realize I am never even close to being overweight. I just fluctuate between skinny with varying degrees of stomach distention.

Just did 50 kilometers, but it doesn’t mean I look lean – February 22nd 2019

Even pre-meal after the marathon still have a bit of bloat – February 22nd 2019

Yes, I also tried eating more calorie dense whole plant foods. They increase my bloating too, though to a lesser degree than processed food.

Running is also the only exercise I enjoy doing, but I am less motivated to do it without the vanity benefit, though I do find it to be a useful anti-depressant.

Singing Progress

So what now?

Well, as usual I have video games to play and friends to hang out with.

I have a Disney songs production in May to prepare for, as well as a new play and rememberance day.

I need to somehow get myself to stop buying junk food in restaurants long enough to save money for tests and catch up with expenses which would also help reduce my bloating.

So basically, I’ve got my hands full with living life and I need to try and stop indulging these cravings long enough to save funds that can perhaps lead to a solution or at the very least, to feeling I have exhausted all possabilities and it’s time to give up and accept that I will always have these gut issues but it’s very, very difficult to maintain junk food abstinence and save that money from not eating out – especially now that these activities lead to me going out of my house more than usual, interacting with people more than usual which also means being exposed to pleasure trap foods that will ignite my cravings again and again and again – more than usual. Now is not a time that I have the option to just stay at home almost all week and barely get out of the house so that I barely get exposed to something processed.

I don’t know if I can do it, if I want to do it or if it’s worth doing except for the state of my bank account. I’ve been stuck with this bloating issue for years now. I don’t remember when I didn’t have it and I don’t see myself ever not having it. It’s hardly the worst problem in the world to have, all things considered.

On the bright side, I received really good feedback today on how I sang Let It Go from Frozen in a rehearsal for the Disney songs production. A bit depressing we had to lower it down 5 semitones to get where I could do the entire thing without any falsetto so it would sound that good, but at least it’s still above the tenor range so not completely gender dysphoria inducing. I did come a long way with my high range since participating in a similar singing production two years ago, which I attribute significantly to improvements in my breathing and resonance from my rhinoplasty – though probably a lot of it, if not most of it, is also gradual improvement from practice of various techniques over the years and just generally trying to sound feminine and gradually, without noticing, pushing my upper range higher and higher.

Two years ago, I was bummed out I couldn’t do A Perfect Circle’s “3 Libras” without breaking into falsetto in the choruses or sounding very strained. This year, I’m bummed that I had to lower freaking “Let It Go” from Frozen 5 semitones to make it sound good. Both then and now, I thought to myself “what if this is as good as it gets and this is as high as my vocal range can comfortably go?” and I feel dysphoric for not being able to reach proper alt range.

Well, now apparently I am comfortable singing between tenor and alt which I could not do back then and I *can* sing Let It Go in the original pitch but with tons of falsetto and 2 years ago I just couldn’t hit those notes at all. Who knows? Perhaps in 2-3 years, I might end up being able to “Let It Go” at the original pitch without hitting falsetto? Either way, people seemed impressed with how I sang and performed it today at the rehearsal despite the transposition.

I don’t have those Elsa curves nor those Idina Menzel pipes, but the people at the rehearsal still seemed to be very impressed, and the song carries significance for me as a non-passing trans woman, that I feel that I am constantly struggling internally between wanting to hide away ashamed that I am not feminine enough while also wanting to “let it go”, to show myself, to express myself to the world – not just as a woman or a trans woman, but as an individual – and while others might say “what’s stopping you?” – it’s hard to think about other aspects of yourself when gender dysphoria keeps getting in the way, day after day after day, whether via casual misgendering, gender harassment or taking a look in the mirror and hating the bits of my face that still look male or my bald head when I’m not wearing the hair system.

One person in the production said that I do it well enough that he thinks I could inspire other trans women who hear me to think they could do just as well despite being born male, so I am considering recording myself performing it in my home studio. I doubt the quality of the live recording, assuming there will even be one, will be adequate, but I am feeling too lazy to record the playback from scratch and the transposed karaoke version has very noticeable transposition artifacts – at least to me. I will experiment with using the transposed karaoke playback and if it sounds absolutely horrendous I will consider recording the playback from scratch.

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