Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Category: No Whey

Cheesemaking gone public

One of my favorite cheesemaking resources, www.cheesemaking.com, has a blog. The author interviewed me and posted a story! check it out here:
http://cheesemakinghelp.blogspot.com/2011/06/ashley-keller-making-cheese-in-zambia.html

If you’ve been wondering if we’re still alive or if the cannibals got us, the answer is both yes and no. The kids and I arrived in Zambia uneventfully (or as uneventful as a 30 hour flight itinerary with two toddlers can be). But since our arrival, we’ve had a real time with the local micro-wildlife. We’ve all had at least one or two bouts of tummy flus, “runny tummy”, etc. So, the “natives” are eating us from the inside out. We’re quickly getting better, however, and finally catching up on life in general (haha, that’s optimistic).

It’s really great being home again! The kids are particularly happy about all the friends right here in their yard and the fresh milk (consumption has quadrupled!) Oh, and Timothy is happy to finish being a temporary bachelor. : P

Diagnosing Tim, part 2

In early December our good friends the Munoz Family recommended that we visit Dr Shelton, a homeopathic doctor in Phoenix. After hearing Timothy’s symptoms and seeing the results of his recent lab work, he suggested heavy metal and parasite tests. He also pointed out that Timothy’s kidney function was down to 59% (something missed by the doctor in Phoenix who actually ordered the labwork).

The heavy metal test came back “dangerously elevated” for lead. While Dr Shelton ran other tests, Timothy began iv chelation treatment, along with an extensive regimen of medication and supplements to reverse the damage to his organs and stabilize his condition. Early in the second treatment, the doctor also discovered that Timothy has an electrical problem with his heart, possibly caused by the lead poisoning. This nerve/heart condition is called “second degree atrial blockage”. Because it can range from benign to deadly, the doc referred us to a cardiologist. We visited the cardiologist yesterday (we were bumped way up the list due to the potential seriousness of Timothy’s condition). After looking at Timothy’s EKG the doctor was very reassuring. He ordered several tests, including one for Lyme Disease (due to symptoms and exposure in Sudan).

Sudan offered ample opportunity for lead poisoning and Lyme Disease exposure (amongst other things)

We are very thankful that the Lord lead us to a competent physician before Timothy’s health deteriorated to a level from which return would be improbable. We are also thankful that this diagnosis is very treatable (before now we were down to depression or cancer).

Diagnosing Tim, part 1

It’s been a difficult few weeks as we’ve learned much about Timothy’s health problems. I’m sorry I haven’t been better at keeping this up to date. I’ve had a lot of phone calls from concerned friends asking me to do so. To ALL of you: thank you so much for your prayers and support. I hope to get all the details up in a series of posts over the coming week. Trying to do it all at once is hopeless with two little ones, many doctor appointments, and all the other aspects of CRAZY life.

One of our goals during our time in the States was to find a diagnosis for Timothy’s multiple and complicated health problems. Over the last few years we’ve had blood labs taken during 105 degree fevers, visits with MDs, DOs, and homeopaths, chiropractic care, vitamin therapy, detoxes, and extensive antibiotic treatments. However, none of these eliminated any of his chronic and sometimes debilitating health problems (chronic fatigue, migraines, increasing allergies, etc). Being a guy (to the very CORE of his being), Timothy kept pushing through a lot of the pain in order to continue our work in Africa. However, his ability to concentrate and focus continued to deteriorate because of the fatigue and migraines (not to mention multiple GI infections and malaria experiences).

In spite of his chronic health problems, Timothy continued trying to do his best work in Zambia.



The day after he arrived in Arizona I had an appointment for him with a much-lauded infectious/tropical disease specialist facility in Tucson. This was supposed to be THE place to take someone with difficult to diagnose health problems. With much anticipation, Timothy submitted to almost two hours of interview with three doctors and an extensive panel of lab tests (blood, stool, urine… you get the idea). We were a little disappointed with the course the doctors questions took, especially after the extensive history we were able to give of Timothy’s illnesses, diseases, and parasitic infections. After several weeks we still hadn’t heard anything about the lab tests. I chased the doc down on the phone and was told that Timothy’s tests had all come back “clean”. I was shocked, and asked what the next step was. More tests? Better tests? Additional parasite tests? What? I was told, “Quite frankly, I’m not willing to further pursue the matter until your husband has seen a psychiatrist and considered depression.” ?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was clear that Timothy had actual physical health problems that extended beyond depression (who wouldn’t be depressed after having chronic fatigue for several years?) But we were at a total dead end. One of the best diagnostic hospitals in the State didn’t know what was wrong. We had no idea what to do next.

By God’s grace, as that door closed, another opened.

Whey to go!

After several years of tenuous experimentation and elimination, we have finally figured out that Timothy is allergic to whey (the waste product produced in manufacturing dairy products).  In 2007 we narrowed the field to dairy… with a lot of exceptions.  After a lengthy detox adventure, we started reintroducing dairy products.  Over time I figured out that Timothy can have certain  dairy foods, but I couldn’t figure out the pattern.  For example, he can eat cheese, thus casein wasn’t an issue.  However, he has a problem with rind cheese (brie, camembert) and most soft cheeses (cream cheese, cottage cheese)… but not all (Boursin and chevre go down just fine).  Where is the pattern there, I wondered?!  He can eat good heavy whipping cream, but not milk, ruling out lactose (additionally, Lactaid never helped him).  Milk, ice cream, and cheap pizza are all sure fire reaction nightmares. 

 

Eventually, I had to accept that I had to carry a long, detailed list in my head of “can have” and “can’t have”.  It seemed very arbitrary, and it was frustrating to communicate to friends & family members (many of whom thought I was nuts and over protective, I’m sure!)

 

Then I had my epiphany.  The other day I made homemade cream cheese from raw milk (priceless treasure that it is).  I used the simple, old fashioned fermentation method.  After leaving the milk lightly covered on the counter for four days, I drained it in cheese cloth for 5 hours.  Both the four days and five hours were the outside recommendations I found on most recipes, one of which specifically recommended the long drain time for people with whey intolerance.  I thought, “Whey intolerance… how intriguing.”  Well, the cheese being successfully concocted (with help from my mother as pregnant ladies do NOT interact well with stinky cheese!), we cautiously watched Tim eat a few mouthfuls on crackers.  He loved the taste (kind of sour cream meets cream cheese), and time would tell the rest. 

 

The next day- no reaction!!!  No headache.  No lethargy.  No problems!!!

 

This successful reinvention of a product which had always been on the “can’t have” list sent me back to the article on cheesemaking.  I found myself Googling “whey allergy” and the rest is history.  Timothy has ALL the symptoms.  You see, a whey allergy is vastly different than most common allergies, especially other dairy allergies (lactose & casein).  Instead of your digestive systems saying, “Erm, ick, ouch, get it out,” producing bloat, cramps, etc, whey proteins are [improperly] digested, then absorbed as nutrients into the blood stream.  The body’s immune system sees the poorly digested whey proteins as invaders and attacks.  The more the allergy suffering body interacts with the whey protein, the more practiced it becomes and recognizing and attacking.  Thus, the reactions become WORSE instead of better, as your body wants to “nuke” the whey out as quickly as possible.  Side effects of this warfare include headaches (whey proteins and their attackers in the blood stream reaching the brain/neck), nausea (reaction to “invader”), gastro cramps (acid secreted as body is at war), blood shot eyes (warfare in head), lethargy, etc, etc.

 

“No whey!” has become the cry of our household (and the pun of many as we gleefully inform them that we have finally figured out the root problem of Timothy’s allergies).  Shopping is a bit of a hassle now as EVERY ingredient list must be CAREFULLY considered.  It is amazing where whey lurks.  However, good home cooking from all fresh ingredients (with the exclusion of milk) produces tasty, nutritious, and (most importantly for us) whey free meals.

 

So a”whey” with our problems.  Here’s to healthy happiness!

 

For more information about whey allergies:

http://www.godairyfree.org/

http://www.wheyallergic.com/

http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/milk_allergy.html

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