Tuesday, March 27, 2012

... of a 21 day intestinal cleanse.


  • I remembered that I really do like most healthy foods.
  • I experimented with cooking new foods and gained some culinary skillz, searing tuna for the first time, making my own marinades, chopping ginger, and integrating coconut and coconut oil for some yummy results. (Thanks to my friend, Mala, for the green beans recipe. Yummy!)
  • I discovered Kombucha, specifically this stuff, which is like health-food crack. (And about as expensive at $3 a bottle.)
  • I've enjoyed sitting at the new dining table a few nights with Daisy, eating a proper meal. 
  • I found ways to "come down" from my day without wine. I enjoy a cup of ginger tea before bedtime. It makes me feel all warm and happy inside.
  • My mind seemed to de-fog a little.
  • My energy returned. I've been getting up at 5am to go to the gym for the first time in almost 5 years... and not feeling like I'm about to die in the process.
  • I lost 8lbs.

  • I have NEVER, repeat NEVER, created nor done so many dishes. Kudos and thanks to my husband who helped out with that. 
  • I am seriously tired of chopping, grinding, grating, mixing, and cooking every blessed meal from scratch. I actually don't mind cooking and I enjoy fresh food but cooking like this all the time, every meal, just for me, is just exhausting, especially given my lifestyle and schedule. To eat like this full time I'd need a personal chef.
  • Turkey burgers for breakfast for 21 days is not to be recommended.
  • My sweet tooth (such that it is) could only be satiated by bulk, dried apricots from Whole Foods, costing me $20-$30 a week.
  • There hasn't been a morning where I haven't wished I could sit on the couch, watch GMA, and hold a cup of fresh-brewed coffee in my hands. It's the one thing I've missed like CRAZY. I haven't really felt like my day has started for 3 weeks.
  • Not being able to eat out ANYWHERE absolutely 999% SUCKED. Back to my point about dishes and prep time but, mostly, it's about the social element. For instance, every Friday, my husband, daughter, my parents and I would normally all go out for a family dinner together and on Saturdays I would take my daughter our for second-breakfast. Going to social functions - a fashion show at a friend's house, the movies with my daughter, and a 3 year-old's birthday party - was just torture. I couldn't eat or drink anything available except for water. 
  • That supplement drink I had to taste 2x a day did not taste any better on day 21 than it did on day 1. It's nasty and I'm happy to being saying goodbye to it.

My 21 days ended today. I did not cheat ONCE. I am proud of myself but I am ready for the limitations to be over. For sure, the one thing that kept me going was knowing that it would be over.

Unfortunately, my chiropractor (who is also somewhat of a nutritional coach) expects me to integrate food groups one at a time to track my reaction to them, and to eliminate at least gluten and soy from my diet altogether.  So, it's a bit of a false light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel.

Given that I will be in Disneyland most of next week, I think it highly unlikely I will be successful at cutting both from my diet entirely. Plus, I'm still really not sure nor convinced that completely eliminating either is the right thing to do. Certainly, the cleanse had no affect on my pain levels. This final week much of my shoulder and neck pain has returned with a vengeance. 

Once life settles back down again I plan to find a nutritionist. My pilates instructor works with some folks who are heavily into Chinese medicine and who believe in a more balanced approach to nutrition and so I'm interested to get some second or third opinions, or at least some other strategies to try. Cold-turkey elimination seems so...wrong and drastic to me. I'm interested to see if there is another way to address this food "issue".

What I can say for sure is this:
  1. I will be drinking a cup of strong, sweet coffee in the morning.
  2. There will be wine with a friend on Thursday evening.
  3. I will not just start eating like crap. I didn't before and I won't start now. I plan to keep much of the fresh-and-healthy eating alive for home-cooked meals and try harder to choose the best options in restaurants.
When I started the cleanse I thought it would be just 21 days of change. What I'm starting to realize is that it's only the beginning of a whole new and different journey to learn more about my body.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oh Poop!

Hello. It's me again. The girl with the laundry list of problems. Nice to see you again. So glad you made your way over here for another episode of: "What the ef is wrong with Ms. Ranty Pants now?"

As you may remember (or, like me, may have tried to block out) I am currently undergoing a holistic-based treatment with a local chiropractor for chronic pain, resulting in a diagnosis of (in lamen's terms) a bent spine, neck, and pelvis plus some issues with the right side of my brain plus some issues absorbing oxygen.

(If this is news to you and you can stand the tedium of catching up, click here for "the diagnosis" and links to the  back story.)

Still with me? Excellent!

I've been on my intestinal cleanse now for two weeks with one week left to go (thank the DEAR LORD) and have lost 8lbs (the silver lining to an otherwise excruciatingly inconvenient, expensive, time-consuming, and limiting diet). I am feeling like I do have more energy, for sure, but am not sure how much of that has to do with the diet and how much of it has to do with the oxygen-therapy, massages, brain-based-therapy and chiropractic adjustments I go through three times a week. Anyway, I got up at 5am the last two days to work out and didn't feel like I was about to die, something that hasn't happened since before I got pregnant with my daughter almost four years ago. Ok, granted, another silver lining, but I'd seriously need 24 carat gold lining studded with diamonds to endure this diet for much longer.

The next step on the diet exploration was the poop test. Basically I pooped in a tub about three weeks ago and sent it to a lab for analysis. The analysis was to identify potential foods or food groups that I am allergic to and that may be causing inflammation throughout my body.

Here are the basic food groups that they tested for:

  1. Gluten
  2. Soy
  3. Dairy - specifically cow's milk and chicken eggs
  4. Nightshade Vegetables
  5. Meat(s)
My results came back yesterday and here is what it says I am having an allergic reaction to (in the order of most reactive to least):
  1. Gluten
  2. Soy
  3. Dairy - specifically cow's milk and chicken eggs
  4. Nightshade Vegetables
  5. Meat(s)
No, I didn't cut-and-paste wrong. It's the same 1-5. 

In short, I am allergic to, well, food.

Here is the rundown of some of the specifics, cut-and-pasted from the results:

Food toward which you displayed most immunologic reactivity: Cashew, Chicken, Pork, Tuna
Food toward which you displayed intermediate reactivity: Rice, Corn, Beef, Oat
Food toward which you displayed least immunologic reactivity: Walnut, Almond, White potato 
Within each class of foods to which you displayed multiple reactions, the hierarchy of those reactions detected were as follows:
Grain toward which you displayed the most immunologic reactivity: Rice
Grain toward which you displayed intermediate immunologic reactivity: Corn
Grain toward which you displayed the least immunologic reactivity: Oat
 Meat toward which you displayed the most immunologic reactivity: Chicken
Meat toward which you were next most immunologically reactive: Pork, Tuna
Meat toward which you displayed intermediate immunologic reactivity: Beef
Nut toward which you displayed the most immunologic reactivity: Cashew
Nut toward which you displayed intermediate immunologic reactivity: Walnut
Nut toward which you displayed the least immunologic reactivity: Almond
Nightshades:You displayed immunologic reactivity to white potato, the member of the nightshade family usually consumed most often and in greatest quantities. While this does not necessarily mean you would react to all other nightshade foods (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), it is possible. In the realm of elimination diets for immunologic disorders, nightshades are usually eliminated as the entire food class (i.e., all four previously mentioned foods in this class). This is especially important to the clinical setting of arthritis. 
It was recommended in my report that I eliminate all gluten, all grains, all soy, all dairy, all nightshades, plus chicken, pork, and tuna from my diet.

As you can imagine, this was panic-inducing. I started this journey to reduce limitations that had turned my life almost upside-down, not uncover new ones.

The only thing I could feel thankful for was that they didn't test for sensitivity to wine and coffee. 

This was not what I was expecting AT ALL, especially given I do not have any digestive issues. In fact, I'm the one person in our family who almost always skips the vomiting stage of stomach flus. If anything was "in tact", I thought, it was my big ole gut.


I spent all last night ruminating on the results and realizing that there was NO.WAY.IN.HELL I was going to become one of those people who brought zip-lock bags of anti-allergenic foods to restaurants while others ate off the menu. I mean, I realize there are many people who can't live life any other way because they have such severe digestive reactions to these foods. When this food literally makes you throw up or have chronic diarrhea, I see you have little choice. But the reality is that, even if I am allergic to these foods, the most they are doing are exacerbating inflammation caused by my physical issues. I mean, even by the farthest stretches of the imagination, you can't claim that gluten bent my neck and put my pelvis out of whack. So, my desire to turn my and my family's entire life (and I mean my life, not just my diet - if it was just about food, we'd have a non-issue here) upside down to eliminate all traces of these foods is basically... ZERO.

All day today I was itching to get to my Chiropractor to get his interpretation of the results, fully expecting him to say something along the lines of: "Oh, this is fairly normal for someone in your situation" or "This can't possibly be right. You need to get re-tested."

Instead he said: "You are only the second person I have ever seen with this level of food sensitivity."




To cut a long story short, he was just as surprised as I and, thankfully, immediately understood some of my utter fear that this was going to turn my life upside down. Maybe he realized that it was one straw too many for me, I don't know, but he walked me through some thoughts. Here they are:

First. What the hell? How can I be allergic to EVERYTHING? His thought process, although I have no "test" to back this up, is that I either (a) am genetically pre-disposed to gluten and soy allergies (the most common allergens) and that my genome was activated at some point in the recent past and/or (b) my immune system, through all the issues I have been experienced, got so compromised and so inflamed, and I got so run down that my body began reacting to anything remotely irritating that I ingested- hence the broad spread of my results.

Second. Do I have to eat like a bunny? Ideally, probably yes. But we live in the real world not the ideal one. He suggested that I cut out gluten, at least for a year (at which point I could try and incorporate it back in and may be ok - if it's a genetic issue, however, it's a life-long thing.) He also recommended I cut out soy completely, since it's the second most common allergen and usually accompanies a gluten sensitivity. I scored lower on my sensitivity to cow's milk so he suggested I cut that out but could probably get away with products that are based on cow's milk - cheese and yogurt for instance - so I don't have to go "dairy free".  As for the other stuff, take it on advisement.

All of which is still a lot to take in and will require some adjustments but, at least, it's not going to turn me into a crazy person. (I don't think.) I guess one of the advantages of being on a cleanse which includes almost none of these food groups already (except the meats and fishes) is that being able to add ANYTHING back in sounds like a bonus. 

All I can say is that I'm going to try really hard to be gluten and soy and cow's milk free but I'm not going to be anal about it. If I'm out with friends, I'll look for the best option on the menu, will ask if something's gluten free, and make the best choice I possibly can. But I just can't tolerate being the person who takes 10 minutes to order because I need to understand every ingredient in each dish and then end up requesting that the kitchen remove this or replace that. I can't do it. I won't do it. It's not in my nature. Spare me the lectures. I'm going to do my best and that, at least right now, is the best I can do.

If I get through the end of my physical treatments in 6 months, a year, and realize that I am still in a place that I am not happy with, maybe I will consider further changes to my diet but, right now, I feel like I haven't even begun to give the treatments a chance and here I am faced with life-altering changes. It's too much too soon. Plus, who knows, if we fix the physical stuff and reduce my overall inflammation, maybe those foods won't be so much of a factor in my life anyway? I don't know but I'd like to go through a process of elimination a bit before making even more major changes.

The one thing I will say is that, in some ways, a lot of this is vindicating. I've been trying to tell people for some time that my body is all screwed-up, that I had a sense of degeneration, deterioration, spiralling downward, and all of this supports that I was not being a whiny-cry-baby. I do have serious physical issues, some cognitive issues, and now I find I also have some pretty widespread allergic reactions going on. Which pretty much covers everything. And yes, it's good to know that when I "hit rock bottom" it was for a really good reason.

In other news... my knee pain continues. We've narrowed it down to mainly the MCL and the chiropractor is on the verge of recommending an MRI at this point, in case I've torn it or the meniscus. The one thing holding us back is that I have good range of motion, stability, and no swelling, which suggests it's a lesser issue. Oh, that and I don't want to be told I need another surgery. But man is that puppy sore. Last night I couldn't even lay on my side with my knees together. Ouch!

One week to a glass of wine and a cup of coffee with almond milk or some such crap. Just one week...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Balsamic Vinegar

I feel like I'm swimming in it these days. It's pretty much the only thing with any "twang" that I can eat or drink on this cleanse and so I'm downing it like a college student with a beer bong.

It's in my salad dressings. It's in my marinades. I use it to dip stuff in. I seriously suspect that I have begun to sweat it. That and garlic and lemons. Those come a close second.

In truth, the food part of the cleanse is not that hard. Yeah, it takes a ton of time to prep everything but since I have my primary ingredients for every meal in a baggie at this point - garlic, lemons, onions, spinach - it's getting easier. And it's not like I ate all that bad to begin with.

What I'm missing like CRAAAAAAAAZY is..... coffee.

(Ha! You thought I was going to say wine, didn't you!?)

I don't even drink that much of it: one cup, maaaaybe two each morning, and perhaps a trip to Starbucks with the huzband in the early evening once a week. Yet I just feel like my day can't start without it. I wake up in the morning and seriously am unsure of what to do with myself. I just want to hold a warm cup of rich, french roast in my hands. I want to wake my mouth up with the dark, creamy taste of it. Plus, smelling it brewing for my husband every morning is just torture.

And before you say it: no, it's NOT the caffeine. I have not had any withdrawal symptoms and I would quite happily drink decaf. It's 100% about the taste. I LOVE it. I MISS it. It will be my first indulgence after this thing ends.

Other things I miss? Again, not the food itself but the function of food in my life. On Fridays we usually go out for dinner as a family and now our Friday choices are basically limited to Jack's Urban Eats, which is a "build your own salad" restaurant. Then on Saturdays, Daisy and I usually go out for some kind of treat together, either breakfast, lunch, or a cupcake. Last Saturday I took her to Whole Foods and salivated while she devoured a carrot cup cake and I sipped on bottled water. (TORTURE.)

On the positive side, I have been experimenting more with food than I have ever done. I seared my first ahi tuna steak last week (delicious), made my own marinade for salmon (yummy), and tonight made some KILLER sweet potato fries with garlic, oregano, rosemary, and olive-oil. Finger-licking good! I think I will definitely continue to incorporate some of these basic principles into my diet beyond the end of the cleanse. Eating like this religiously, for every single meal and snack for the rest of my life? Um... no.

I am still waiting for the results from my food-allergens test, however, so I may find that there are foods I should not incorporate back into my diet. We'll see what that looks like.

As to how I'm feeling, I would definitely say more energetic. I'm not getting the afternoon energy slump I was before. I'm not sure how much of that is related to the diet vs. the fact that the constant adjustments and massages are alleviating my neck and shoulder pain more. I'm sure both were/are contributors to my energy level.

So, yes, there is some improvement on the physical side. It's slow and in fits-and-spurts but I'm starting to have more "good" time than "bad" time with my pain. It hasn't gone away completely but has, for the most part, reduced to a manageable level... background noise if you will, vs. the full-on rock concert it was before. Sitting at a computer for any length of time, however, is my key regressor.

The main functional improvement I have experienced is more comfort in bed at night. Instead of the popping and clicking and general feeling of destablization that had forced me to box myself into a back-laying position with pillows, I now find I can freely change positions in bed. This, in turn, is helping my back because I'm not locked into one position all night.

In addition to appointments with my chiro, I have also begun a plan of clinical Pilates sessions at my local gym. The teacher there, Deborah, had a car accident ten years ago, at about my age, has many of the same issues as me (particularly in her neck) and so she is tuned-into what I'm going through, not only physically but functionally and emotionally. In addition to being a Pilates instructor, she also works at a physical therapist's office, and is a a certified BodyTalk practitioner. (More on that later.)

One of the things Deborah has been working with me on is my posture and basic movement patterns, particularly as it relates to the relationship with my pelvis and knee pain (which continues). To put it simply, my various dysfunctions have caused my body to compensate in a number of unhealthy ways and now, to even perform basic activities, I'm using the wrong muscles and/or firing them in the wrong order. So now I'm re-learning to walk, stand still, climb stairs, sit-down, and get-up out of a chair.

Some days I feel like I just need a complete remodel, ya know?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I want to be Ingrid

Every Wednesday and Friday at the gym, I do my physical therapy warm-ups in a quiet, open area next to the almost-empty group exercise room. I say almost empty because, in that cavernous room, is one elderly lady, gracefully doing plies at the bar.

Ingrid is 70 years old and has been a ballerina all her life. We met in passing two weeks ago and have become informal "gym buddies".

Ingrid is in better shape than me, without a doubt. Her posture is almost perfect, she is lithe and strong, and her movements are graceful and purposeful. She can lift her 70 year old foot above her waist with a control and poise I'm quite certain I have never mustered in all my 37 years. She can sweep her arms around her body so beautifully so that, if you squinted a little, you would believe our ages to be reversed.

But this is not why I want to be Ingrid - although I do wish that I had pursued a vocation that kept me in better shape.

What gets me is when Ingrid talks about ballet.

When Ingrid talks about ballet, her face lights up, her eyes twinkle, and her body vibrates with passion. She was a company dancer for the New York City Opera House, has tutored many a young girl to some of the country's top dance schools, and devoted much of her early years to teaching ballet as therapy to children with polio, in some cases helping children walk unaided for the first time.

Although she retired from teaching ballet several years ago, she recently returned to work after a school in Sacramento practically begged her to. She talks about her students with love, affection, and pride and, is again, watching with eager anticipation as one of them applies to the New York City Ballet.

And as my ears listened to her stories, my heart beat a little faster, feeling her enthusiasm through osmosis and wishing that I had spent my life doing something I felt so passionate about that, at age 70, I would still look and sound like that when talking about it.

In 30 years, I want to be Ingrid.

Separately, and on a seemingly unrelated note, I watched the Kony 2012 video this week and was blown away. (If you have not watched it yet, first of all, where have you been? Secondly, you should do so right now. Click my link.)

Of course I was moved by the plight of those kidnapped children and, yes, I put my money where my mouth was and signed-up to support the movement. But, yet again, what "got" me more than anything else was the film-maker. He saw something so unimaginably wrong, a situation so large and overwhelming that it was absorbing thousands of children a year, thousands of miles away and he dared to think that he could make a difference. He didn't quietly lament the state of the world or give $20 to some Christian aid charity, he put his money and his time where his mouth and heart were and achieved something truly worthwhile.

At this point in my life, at this crossroads, I am struggling with what my life means and what's the point. What is the difference I have made? What is the reason for my existence if not to be Ingrid and living it in pursuit of something that I really give a shit about? The things I thought would matter no longer seem to or, at least, seem to matter a lot less than I imagined they would and, in many ways, it feels as though I've been heading in the wrong direction for 20 years.

I have no answers right now, only questions.
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