Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Connecting the dots

Yesterday I went to see my massage therapist. She has been on vacation for a few weeks and so I have not seen her in more than a month. During that time I have been stepping up my workout routine in an effort to get fit, get strong, and well, let's face it, lose that effin' baby weight. So, with all those things combined, I was a ball of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia all fighting for a channel to spreadh their pain message. Tanya, my massage therapist, as usual, found them all one by one. It was brutal.

Today I went to see my osteopath. I had not seen her in 2 weeks. Her nose scrunched up in disappointment when I told her my current pain level (3-4) and list of ailments. (Nothing you haven't already heard, so I'll spare you the details.)

I told her I had been stepping up my exercise routine and thought that may have been the cause of the increased issues. She asked me exactly what that meant (ie: what I had been doing and how often) and by the time I had finished listing everything I do, she was pretty gobsmacked. It was only then I realized myself how much all these things I've been incrementally adding actually added up to:

  • Power yoga 1-2 times per week
  • Cardio @ the gym 3 mornings a week
  • 30 minutes of strength training on the Total Gym 3 times a week
  • 30 minute walks 3-4 times a week

Of course, I had the passing thought: Why the hell am I not losing weight? I didn't have time to linger because my treatment started.

At some point during an assault on my IT band, the doctor asked me if I was pooping fine. Strange question to ask, right, given that I was there for hip, groin, and thigh pain? It was, however, a thought-provoking question because that... um... particular element has been somewhat back-and-forth from different extremes lately. (Sorry if this is TMI - you know where the "x" is on your web browser!)

When I reported my... problem (let's call it) she said that osteopathic medicine believes that there is a connection between IT band tightness and my GI tract. Blockages or areas of tightness in my lateral thigh, therefore, could be caused by my erratic pooping or, of course, visa versa. I asked her which was which in my case and she said it was a bit like the chicken and the egg; you don't know which way around it is.

Logically, my brain went to the conclusion that nutrition and diet could be affecting all of this. (Of course --- and before you get to the comments section Elena --- this is not the first time I've heard this but it was the first time that I've opened my mind to the possibility.)

Further research when I got home basically led to articles on the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is a part of it. In lamens terms, the PNS regulates the body's visceral organs via the innervation of three kinds of tissues, one of which is muscle tissue. Through this process the PNS is connected to your GI tract, your bowels, your pelvis, and, particularly your pelvic diaphram. (It's all a lot more complicated and involved that that but that's the reader's digest version.)

Since all of these things are connected, it is possible that either:

(a) Many of my pain issues are causing pooping issues or

(b) My pooping issues are causing many of my pain issues, particularly in my pelvis and pubic bone area.

Of course, if it's (b), a different diet could help.

And then, of course, there's the issue of my not losing weight despite all the exercising and dieting I have been doing.

And then I connected the dots.

And then came the acceptance.

Maybe - just maybe - if I changed my diet, I could affect my pain outcomes and lose weight.

Bottom line, I've been avoiding this conversation with myself for quite some time. I've seen friends change the way they eat and report benefits above-and-beyond weight-loss but I thought I knew better. (Or, realistically, hoped I did.) I've lost weight in the past on my own knowledge and under my own steam and thought I could just go down that the same path again.

Yet, it's not working. I've been at it for more than 4 months now and haven't really lost a pound. Ok, I haven't always been as "good" as I could have been and have only recently stepped-up the exercise but there should have been some incremental improvement; I haven't seen it.

Although I have been too stubborn to admit it, my body is not responding as it once did. This could be attributable to my age, my hip surgery, the fact I carried a baby, and/or my c-section. Who the hell knows? When I list it like that, it's quite frankly unsurprising that my body may be a different beast these days.

I'm not saying I'm definitely convinced there's some hollistic answer to all of my problems and I'm absolutely not saying I'm going to become some crazy person who will only eat certain foods and who delivers a 20 minute list of dos and don'ts to the waitress at a restaurant. I'm just saying that I'm open to modifying my diet right now. The whole nerve thing made sense on a practical level (rather than the hocusy-pocusy level that this stuff is often presented on) and so I'm willing to try.

So, I started googling nutrition and pain. I've already found some interesting information I think I can put to work right away and I'll report on that in a future post. For now I'll end here and await the "I told you so!" (and helpful advice) from my friend, Elena. :o)

1 comment:

e said...

First of all, I want to say I am proud of you and this is why I admire you so much. Because no matter how much you think you know something, you are always open to at least revisiting your opinion. It is particularly inspirational to me b/c I'm a know-it-all, and I must always stop and think that perhaps I do not know it all. So, while I told you so might be tempting, it's a fleeting pleasure. The really wonderful thing is that this opens up something new for you.

So here's what I would say: play. Experiment. Do a little at a time. Pay attention to what foods make you feel good and what foods make you feel pain. For me, the radical shift in my diet took years. First was the resistance and refusal, then slowly I took it on one thing at a time. And I admit, there is a pretty good list of things I do not eat, and it does take me 20 minutes to order something at the restaurant, but there is an even longer list of things I do eat.

The great news is that there is lots of delicious food that you will find that is good for you. You just don't know it yet, it's shocking how much food we ignore because we "love" bread, for example.

A couple of practical pointers: if at all possible, check for food allergies. Gluten intolerance is the first. Estimates are that 1 in 100 people have it, but some suggest 1 in 30, and climbing. I think the increasing amount of processed food in our diet is making people even less tolerant than before. But that's a whole other story.

I was going to suggest food allergies at your last post about not losing weight, but didn't want to sound like a broken record. Food allergies can cause all kinds of weird side effects, and slumpy metabolism is one of them. It was for me. When I went cold turkey (after a weaning period) off gluten, I dropped about 2 sizes. Wow! Food allergies can be tricky to diagnose, so this is something you might want to strategize with your osteopath about. Some acupuncturists will give you allergy tests by simply putting vials in your hand and testing strength. That may be too hocus pocus for you, but it's a good place to start, I think, and then you can get official tests on the ones you think are worth it. But that's just something to think about.

The other thing I would suggest is absolutely, positively cut out processed food. Even a little is bad. Nothing out of a box or bag that has more than 3 ingredients. No soda, of any kind, especially diet. No artificial sweeteners, of any kind, even the ones that purport to come from the stevia plant or whatever.

The easiest way to do this, I think, is to focus on salads. Make as many meals a salad as you can, and only add a few olives, a little chicken, sprinkles of goat cheese, olive oil and vinegar if you like, egg, chickpeas, low fat ham and stuff like this. No bacon of course and no creamy dressings. This will do several things: you'll eat more raw food (I know, I know, but it's a salad), no processed crap, and it will help your body with inflammation.

This is the main thing, you want to reduce the level of inflammation in your body so that it can begin to heal.

So, these are just a few thoughts, you don't have to do any or all of these, it's just to help get you thinking and researching. The point is that you will find what works for you, and it may not be the same as what works for me. Though I'm a know-it-all and think you should just do what I tell you. LOL. No, no, I kid.

And of course I'm here, as always, as you insanely supportive friend. Madly, insanely supportive. Oh my god, can anyone be more supportive? I don't think so.

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