When my stove died some years ago at the time I was still living in my 1970s house, I preempted further disturbances in my kitchen by also replacing the ancient, old style dishwasher and the refrigerator that regular made noises as though it was in the throes of death (ps – a wee heads up in case it’s helpful to know that I”ll be talking a little bit about meat and fat in this post).
I splurged to get one of those almost noiseless modern marvels – The Quiet Dishwasher – since the kitchen was open to the small dining room and living room that also washes whatever you give it without you having to rinse anything. For a few years, it was like God’s Gift to my kitchen, especially given that I was mostly bed or house-bound during that time period and spent many of my days lying on a little foam mattress in my living room 15 feet away.
It worked like a charm until, well, it didn’t. At sone point it started stashing fat instead of being able to wash it through. Dark oily black sludge collected around the inside frame of the door and had to be physically wiped off. The fat also started sticking to the inner workings, requiring the DW pieces be removed and scrubbed on a regular basis.
Like so many of us who develop a chronic illness, the onset of my DW’s symptoms was puzzling and felt as though it had come out of the blue.
I wondered if it had anything to do with changing my diet to one based on meat and bone broth.
But we’d had plenty of fatty stuff in the dishwasher before then (pork belly anyone?).
David and I had moved in together and gotten married by then and he did a lot of the scrubbing and cleaning. We started removing almost every last drop of broth and placing rinsed, very clean dishes in a DW designed to clean things straight from the table. Even though it had been just fine before. Despite the extra work we were doing, my Little Miracle DW still held on to the sticky little molecules.
We tried a different detergent, since the eco-friendly green ones are sometimes less powerful. No change.
We finally called A Dishwasher Doctor, who came for a “home visit.” He tested the water temperature. Check. The heating element. Check. Looked into the mechanisms. Check.
At the end of his examination, he explained that environmental laws had changed in 2010 to ban the use of phosphates in detergents because they lead to algal bloom. Phosphates had been huge helpers in getting dishes super clean and since their elimination he’d started seeing problems like the ones we were having. The one recommendation he’d been able to give us was a prescription for a new detergent, and gave us the name of the one he’d found to be the best.
The new red, white and blue capsules may have helped a little to make our plates and glasses a little shinier, but the black sludge continued with abandon. Unabated.
It was over a year later, in the month we sold our house – after David had soaked all of the dishwasher parts in the bathtub with some of our really good liquid soap, including the top and bottom trays with all of their little wire frames coated with a fine layer of sticky gray fat, AND scrubbed them clean, that the answer popped its little head up from our basement.
We had been addressing a few requests from our buyers and were replacing our hot water heater. It was the original from 1973 when the house had been built. The tank was decades past its expiration date but had been working just fine as best we’d ever been able to tell. I’d kept an eye one it and had felt good using something old rather than changing it out just based on recommendations. My parents have one that’s just as old and doing well too that they drain out once a year.
The plumber from Lowes who came to install the new one David had bought online opened the door to the tiny space holding our stalwart heater and looked at David, “You need to replace EVERYTHING,” he’d said. All the pipes. All the connectors, ….. And we needed a different sized tank than the one he’d ordered. In other words, EVERYTHING.
After our new hot water was installed, our Miracle DW suddenly came back into its own. Squeaky clean dishes. No more accumulation of sludge. No sticky gray stuff. No more needing to scrub the little basket at the bottom every week …
We were a bit shocked. And pleasantly surprised.
It had been a hot water issue, not a detergent issue.
A hot water HEATER issue – not a meat broth issue. Even though the hot water had tested fine when our DW Doctor had checked it, it hadn’t been quite hot enough.
This is so often what we badly, deeply, repeatedly, and sometimes secretly wish could happen for our chronic illnesses.
A Solution. An end to the quest. A way through. An understanding of the problem so we can get going and FIX IT.
This is what we hope for. That after digging in just one more place, consulting just one more expert, trying just one more recommendation, tolerating just one more side effect, looking under just one more rug (or inside one more closet), we’ll find The Solution.
And yet, for so many of us, it doesn’t happen like that.
We try to push through, or cure the infection or the stress or escape the overwhelming job or relationship that triggered the onset of our illness, thinking that this was the cause. Just like we worked with my diet to keep the dishes cleaner before placing them in the DW.
For many of us, trying to heal or fix the event that triggers the onset of our illnesses doesn’t solve the problem either. Although the meat broth seemed to be a trigger, what likely happened is that it was the last straw that threw off a delicate balance of things that were already compromised but not yet symptomatic. By adding just a little more fat, we had unknowingly altered a system that was already almost maxed out as our hot water heater was heading into its last days, dropping temps a degree or three.
Trying to address the problem in the system that expressed it – our DW – hadn’t worked because the underlying cause was something bigger and deeper than what it appeared to be on the surface.
So many of us experience these same trials and errors in our chronic illness experiences. We consult the experts, who are at a loss. Or they sound very knowledgable and prescribe something that makes so much sense that we can’t imagine it won’t work. We learn that it works great for others. We’re willing to put up with the flare ups if it will help. We’re okay with being patient and starting over with something that may take a month or two to take effect. We’re Gung ho about trying what is recommended. We’re happy to experiment.
At first, we’re hopeful. We trust the experts. We’re even excited to explore. We work on being brave, because we trust this will get us through. Until we don’t feel courageous anymore. Nor willing. Until we feel cautious and no longer so open. No longer hopeful or excited.
And then, somewhere along the way, something different calls to us. Gently. Or loudly. Subtly or by hitting us over the head.
It can come from understanding things in a new way. Maybe it’s not “the DW” – or the tissue, or the cell, or a particular organ, or your adrenals that are exhausted or not working quite right. Maybe – Maybe it’s something else, like the hot water heater. Something in another room, or even in the basement. Something far away that seems completely unrelated.
my interview with Jannine Krause on her podcast “The Health Fix”
Dr. Jannine Kraus is a naturopath in Tacoma, Washington who is also a licensed acupuncture physician specializing in stress reduction. She trained at Bastyr University in Seattle and has a focus on helping people reduce the effects of strain and aging on the body and symptoms. Jannine contacted me so we could do a cell danger response podcast. She wanted to talk about trauma, chronic illness, how we can make sense of symptoms, and share what people can do about it from this lens because she’s seeing the effects from this perspective in her office every day.
In our conversation, we explore how the cell danger response (CDR) can explain sensitivities to medications, supplements and other treatments. We talk about why it can take a while to heal (as it has for me and for so many others with all kinds of different chronic illnesses). We explore lots of other topics, including the freeze response and why fight and flight are important in chronic disease too.
And we do a small, easy, accessible exercise at the end that anyone can use at any time and that helps counteract messages of stress and threat, such as what we are experiencing in greater doses during Covid-19.
In this talk, you will learn more about:
- why it’s not in your head
- why even normal activities such as exercise can trigger a flare up, such as worsening exhaustion in ME/CFS
- the critical difference between stress and trauma
- what patients with chronic fatigue have in 80% of their abnormal metabolic pathways and how it differed from the control group in a research study
- 3 insights from the cell danger response theory that are changing how we understand more than 100 diseases
- why it’s not uncommon to need a long time – possibly many years – to improve, stabilize or recover
- how autoimmune diseases are showing us that abnormal pathways leading to chronic illness actually brew and develop over years and decades before onset (and that not everyone with this factor gets sick)
- the signal that may be keeping our bodies in states of illness – and that can help us get out
- an example of one accessible approach that can reduce inflammation and our body’s responses to stress
- why these normal even recommended daily activities can strengthen pathways that lead to chronic illness
- the 4 common factors that can trigger the onset of all kinds of chronic diseases
- the components in the freeze response that are protective and designed to be helpful
- who Brian is (and why he is at her feet)
You can listen to the podcast on Jannine’s page now. It’s episode 183 in her podcast series and it’s free.
Go to the Podcast
Michele B. “SOOOO well done, Veronique. You explained everything in such an easy to understand and accessible way. I would love to see this podcast go viral. It would help so many people get a better understanding of what is happening and what we know, from our personal experience, can make a big difference in functionality and health.”