Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Health Coaches are the Future of Healthcare"

I've been too busy lately to dedicate my typical Fridays to my weekly IIN classes, I know, I know, it is my time for me and I should be valuing that time as much as the other busyness is consuming my time (trust me, no one piles on the Jewish mother guilt better than I do on myself). So I'm behind, but that feels okay because I'm currently sitting on plane vacation-bound to sunny California, which I intend to be a trip dedicated to me, yoga, my classes, writing, beaching, eating good food, cooking home-cooked meals with the plethora that the year-round farmers markets provide, trying fun new exercise classes with my Dad and spending time with loved ones I haven't seen in a year. Because I haven't been doing my IIN classes diligently per usual, my enthusiasm has waned slightly, but just barely. 

But I had an incredibly validating experience the other day that has me chomping at the bit, so much so, I've spent the better part of this flight fighting my paid in flight WiFi not working with the IIN interface, ugh, just to do my class and write this post. So much for excitement, ugh.

So what started as a potentially horrible day - my Mom had called me the night before scared and having excruciating chest pains! I asked her umpteen million questions as any loving daughter would. All her ailments pointed to heart attack and especially at her age, she's at a higher risk, albeit healthy, fit and a very conscious eater. After extensive research online I further learned that pretty much every menopause symptom is similar to that of a heart attack as with heartburn. I told her I would call in the morning to see if the chest pain continued (that she had had for 5 days, and had just told me about!!!!). It hadn't. So I went into problem solving mode and made an appointment with the on-call doctor. I figured it is better to rule out the scary stuff than the alternative. While turning to a western medicine doctor is not my first choice, nor Mom's, I figured 5 days of heart pain was enough to warrant a visit.

Long story short, the on call doctor was amazing, exuberant, thorough, patient and kind. He hooked her up to an EKG which had normal readings, her blood pressure was a tad high when we got there, but promptly lowered (white coat syndrome). All his analysis ruled out heart attack and the next thought was heartburn. Mom felt embarrassed and silly, but had never experienced heartburn before (a true testimony to how well she really eats). He suggested an OTC antacid which mom promptly wrinkled her nose at and asked me what are her alternatives. To which I replied activated charcoal (but that sucks up everything good and bad), APV (apple cider vinegar), lemon water (both of which have alkalizing effect on the body - even given their inherent acidic flavors) and lots if leafy greens.

On call doc looked at me and smiled and then retracted his typical antacid suggestions, realizing we'd prefer natural remedies saying, "Yes, yes of course those are great options. Try it for a few weeks if it doesn't work then perhaps try an OTC antacid." Both Mom and I feeling relieved thanked the on-call doc and asked him what made him so wonderful and if he was accepting new patients (mom never liked her primary, which in my book is crucial in getting the best healthcare). He told us his background, asked Mom hers then turned to me and asked, "What do you do? Are you naturopath?" I caught myself in my typical response of my day job and instead said that I'm enrolled at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition® and working towards getting a Health Coach certification. Which he instantly lit up and said, "That is fantastic! IIN is a great program! Health Coaches are the future of healthcare! We need health coaches everywhere - in doctors offices, in patients homes, in their kitchens. When you finish your certification call me I would love to hire you!" :) :P :) :o

Not only did we learn Mom was not having a heart attack (Phew!), but just something simple we know how to manage, she found a new primary she loves, AND I got validation AND a job offer to work with an amazing alternative, progressive-thinking western medicine doc!! OMG, what a day!

I enrolled at IIN for me, not knowing my future plans once I get my certification, but hoping that it would open a whole new career path I never thought possible. And this possibly horrible day turned amazingly validating, made me know this is SO what I want to do. And if doctors are seeing the value of Health Coaches to pick up where they leave off and don't have the time to follow up and "coach" their patients towards healing themselves. This is where Health Coaches come in. This can and will be me. The idea of helping others help themselves is exactly what I want to do! And knowing that there is recognition that Health Coaches are the future of healthcare, outside our little IIN bubble, then I can't wait!!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Being Vegan is Not for Me

I tried. I'm done. I quit. I am officially raising my white flag to this vegan challenge.

I was going along fine for the last 10 days eating a whole grain high carbohydrate diet with greens, tofu, soy yogurt (yuck!), seeds, legumes, nuts, vegetables and more vegetables, and with the occasional fruit (most of the fruit in Maine right now is coming from Mexico and is pale and flavorless and juiceless. I'd rather go without, thank you) but I JUST CAN'T the last 3 days. I'm so over it.

All I can think about is eggs. I wake in the middle of the night drooling about all the things I could make with eggs: fried eggs, scrambled eggs with cheese, eggs Benedict, frittatas, coddled eggs with herbs, deviled eggs, mmm deviled eggs. There is a constant stream of dancing eggs in my sleep. This is just ridiculous.

I do home pressed juice cleanses almost monthly and never, never have I had cravings like this. All I can think about is eggs and cheese! It is like those are the only foods in the world and if I don't eat them I may die. Oh and I am constantly hungry. I ate every 2-3 hours yesterday and every 2 hours I was hungry again. And I was eating good things too. Kale salad, homemade granola with almond milk and blueberries, leftover tofu and brown rice stuffed cabbage rolls, rice noodles with kimchee, but it was never enough. And then, on top it all, I was craving something sweet last night. I never crave anything sweet. I so rarely want sweets that they don't even exist in my house. So I attempted to make the banana ice cream I am always seeing with a little bit of bittersweet chocolate nibs. Which really was more of a brown, cold, overly banana tasting soup and that was deeply unsatisfying. I went to bed hungry and dissatisfied, dreamt of eggs all night and woke up this morning still hungry. I surrender.

And I know it isn't me. Clearly my body makeup is not designed for a long term high carbohydrate diet. Being vegan is not for me. I need some fats and some animal protein because otherwise I am this egg obsessed person who only sees eggs in place of faces. I hate this constant awareness and obsession with food. I normally have very good strong will and know how to identify why I am having a craving, but this is obscene. My entire head-space is food obsessed and I cannot continue to live like this.

But that was the experiment - to see if veganism was for me. Over time I have lessened and lessened my animal protein intake naturally, so going completely vegan, and being inspired by Dr. Neal Barnard, has led me to my egg obsession. But as I have learned, just because you think you "failed" at a diet, it is that the diet doesn't fit your body's needs, not that you don't have the capacity to stay on such a diet. Not all diets work for everyone and this is why so many of us "fail" when we go on an overly restrictive diet. I know it isn't me. Veganism is just not nourishing my body in the way that it needs. Listen to your body. It knows best. And my body is telling me to eat eggs and some amount of animal protein. And that is just right for me.

This morning's breakfast. You bet your ass I ate eggs! Man were they delicious.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Dreaming of Eggs

I've been trying veganism for the last 11 days as part of my self-imposed 21-day vegan challenge and also familiarizing myself with different diets as I move through my IIN® course.

I have been enjoying being vegan and really haven't been struggling with it much. Eating tons of veggies, grains, nuts, seeds and some fruits, which are already regulars in my mostly vegetarian diet. I even turned some standby recipes into vegan forms and realized a lot of what I already eat is vegan.

So far I have really enjoyed the feeling that my body is not spending exorbitant amount of time and energy digesting, which has left me feeling very energized. I notice specifically when I eat meat everything slows down and digestion consumes a lot of energy. I'm also noticing flavors more. Unconsciously, I have also cut out any and all processed foods. Nothing I am eating right now comes pre-made or pre-packaged, which are rare in my regular diet anyway, but wow am I super sensitive to flavors now, especially salt. Another interesting perk, albeit TMI, my bowel are effortless. For lack of any better way to describe it, they just fall out. No effort, no pushing. It is really quite cool. As someone who's whole journey of food/body consciousness started because of my bowels, anything that makes them fall out, is really exciting (well aside from diarrhea kind of fall out, that's never fun).

As a whole veganism was working for me until 2 days ago. Maybe it is because I had a very stressful week at work or maybe I drank a few too many glasses of wine - to counter the stress, yes I know, not the best choice, but my TRX classes just didn't do enough. The last two days all I can think about is fat. I am craving fat. Specifically eggs, cheese and yogurt. They are all I think of. I bought some soy yogurt, to substitute my regular consumption of yogurt during this 21-day challenge, blah, so disgusting! Soy yogurt is nasty and I am dreaming of the day I can eat a large spoonful of tart, plain Greek yogurt again. Sigh.

Try as I might I am dying for that fatty mouth feel and taste. I even bought hummus and some salted cashews, thinking of getting my fat-fill from vegetable sources. I've even upped my EVOO use, which is already plentiful. Not helping. I wouldn't normally buy hummus, I would be more inclined to make it or just not eat it. Hummus normally gives me gas. And it didn't do much, except well give me gas. And the salted cashews sounded decadent and creamy, but even after eating the whole bag, completely put off by the amount of salt on them, I was parched and still craving fat. Humph :(

They say your body knows best and you should listen to it. So I am listening and today I caved. I made a gorgeous organic kale salad with caramelized onions, butter beans (creamy deliciousness), and a little bit of thinly sliced aged Parmesan with a balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below). And because I couldn't have another night dreaming of eggs, I pan fried an egg (in EVOO, still trying here) and put that on top. Oh. My. God. I think I just died. 

As you can tell I am trying still, my minimal egg and cheese was surrounded in veggies. And that's the thing. I am doing everything in my power to not eat animal protein. I am eating every few hours and eating all vegan foods, but still I am hungry and not satisfied, especially today. I think my body may be saying something.

We will see how my insane craving for eggs, cheese and yogurt goes for the next few days, if it doesn't let up even now that I have given in a bit today, I might be learning being vegan is not for me, and that is OK.

Kale, Butter Bean, Caramelized Onion & Parm Salad Recipe

Put EVOO in a pan and warm. Slice an onion thinly into half moons. Breaking apart the half moons as you put the onions in the warmed pan. Let caramelize, only tossing occasionally as you prep the kale.

Wash a whole bunch of kale. Hold the stem in one hand and the leafy part in the other and pull, destemming the kale. Chop the kale leaves small. Put in a bowl.

Go stir the onions. They should be starting to get color on them.

Massage kale with your hands. This will help break down the fibers and will make the kale less tough when eating it raw. The kale will decrease a bit in volume and become slightly darker green.

Open a can of butter beans (cannellini would work too), rinse. Add to your massaged kale.

The onions should be about done. Caramelize to desired brownness. So long as you started the onions first, they should be ready now.

Pour onions and oil from pan on top of kale and butter beans. Toss gently until well incorporated. Add thinly sliced pieces of Parmesan. Dress with EVOO, balsamic vinegar, a little bit of apple cider vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss and eat.

To make this vegan, remove the cheese. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Who Knew Diet Could Effect Your Period!?

I have noticed over the last few years how dramatically my menstrual cycle has changed and it has made me think...

I started very young, at 10,  (I have theories about this as well, especially since the growing trend is towards starting younger and younger, but that's another blog post all together) but ever since the first time waking up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain thinking my butt had exploded, my period has been the bane of my existence every month.

The week before my period I always get the dreaded period pimple; red, shiny, painful, un-popable; painful breasts, irritability and irregular bowel movements. Typically loose stool followed to extreme constipation the day before my period would start. I would get excessive food cravings for salty and fatty foods. The first day of my period for as long as I can remember has been anxiety inducing. My cramps would be so bad, I often would stay home from school, doubled over in pain, shoving my fist into my lower abdomen maintaining constant pressure, alternating between constant moaning (which surprisingly helps) and a heating pad. Regularly running to the bathroom either to pass a large blood chunk or have diarrhea. The only thing that would work mildly was taking ibuprofen every 2 hours for the first 24 hours. For years I have been concerned about my high intake of ibuprofen on the first 2 days of my period, otherwise I never take meds. My doctor said even 2 pills 8 times a day is still not the same strength as a prescription med would be. Phew. In college my doctor prescribed me a "mild" pain med to help with my horrendous first day cramps. The prescription caused me to shiver uncontrollably, become sweaty, get dry mouth, paranoia, nausea and dizziness. I thought I was dying and laid on my bathroom floor crying and freaking out, all the while bleeding heavily and still in pain. Clearly pain meds and I don't mix well. It was suggested I try a pill birth control, but I have always been opposed to unnecessary altering of my hormones. And again I am anti-medication for anything.

For as long as I can remember dreading my first day has always been this way. My periods were always incredibly heavy. Bleeding through everything. Waking in the middle of the night to change my pad, pjs and bedding. Also my period would last 7-10 days of epic bleeding. Not to mention the horribly lethargy and exhaustion. Bleeding that much takes a toll on the body. Nothing really seemed to help or alleviate my symptoms.

My periods have been this way until about a year ago, which means 17 years of debilitating, messy pain. My period changed, I didn't think much of it, thinking it was a fluke, but now I am starting to think it is because of my diet and lifestyle changes.

This is not a typical "reaction" to going gluten and lactose free, eating mostly organic and vegetarian, whenever possible, but intuitively it makes sense. If you are lessening the artificial consumption of pesticides, allergens, antibiotics and added hormones to foods, conceivably your body will find it's own rhythm and balance without those forced influences.

Sure, maybe my changes are because I am older and of baby making age, however part of me thinks otherwise. As they say - trust your gut - literally and figuratively in this case.

My period now lasts 3-5 days. I still get the menses precursor of sore breasts, cravings and irregular stool, but they are mild in comparison and the mood swings are manageable (at least A says as much) and identifiable. Also I don't get the dreaded period zit anymore. Yay for my face! The flow is much lighter too. I have one heavy day, the remaining 3 or 4 are relatively light, a light days panty liner typically will suffice. And the cramps are non-existent! I have very mild aches the week before my period but that's it. I've even stopped taking ibuprofen. My period is now a blip in my monthly schedule, barely noticeable! Woah. Who knew that was even possible? I didn't. Have you heard, or experienced the same shift with a cleaner diet and lifestyle? It makes sense to me, I've just never heard of other women mentioning this as a change with a clean diet and lifestyle shift. The days of horrendous pain and bleeding are gone – good riddance.

Helpful Side Note

For those of you who don't know or don't do it, you can and should track your cycle. Whether you use it as a form of birth control, back up birth control or simply a way to be more in tune with your body, I would highly recommend paying attention to your body and hormonal rhythm. Here is how you track your cycle:

You ovulate 14 days after the start of your period. You are most fertile on ovulation day and for 3 days around ovulation. Your cervix usually drops and your vaginal mucus will be viscous and milky. If you trying to get pregnant you will want to have a lot of sex in this 3-day window. If you are not, don't have sex or use protection.

For example: If you start in the first of the month, you will ovulate on the 14th. You are fertile for a few days around the 14th, but a buffer is always good because sperm can live for up to 5 days in the vaginal canal, so you need to consider 5 days before ovulation. You conceivably could get pregnant from residual sperm from sex 3-5 days before ovulation! So from the 14th count back 5 days. This is the start of the "could-get-pregnant-window," so again abstain from sex, use protection or start getting busy depending on your life plans. 

Also on the other side of ovulation day you want to allow and additional 3 days. These are the "in case days." Your ovulation day can fluctuate because of stress, lack of sleep, lots of sex, or not much, travel, diet, you name it; so the 3 days is that additional window around ovulation to act as a buffer. After ovulation your vaginal mucus should go back to normal and your cervix will sit higher again.

Even if you are trying to get pregnant or not trying for that matter, tracking your cycle is a wealth of information. It helps you as a woman be more in tune with your body, but also you learn what your normal is, so if something changes you will notice.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Gluten is Evil

I am convinced! Wheat and wheat gluten is evil. I already knew this for my own body, but the more I learn and hear and see, I am convinced it is the new food evil. And furthermore, I am convinced everyone is allergic, to some degree, to the current strain of dwarf wheat we consume en masse.

I know this is bold statement and possibly crazy, but our bodies are not designed to consume as many grains as we consume. Grains and wheat were not part of our evolutionary process. As hunter gatherers, we ate berries, plants and meat when we could find it. Our genetic make up is generally the same now as it was then, however we consume differently, not to mention live entirely different lives that what our bodies were naturally designed to do.

In my continual expansion of food, health and wellness knowledge I am currently reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. While I admit I picked it up because of my own gluten intolerance and always wanting to learn more about the expanding scientific evidence of gluten allergies I am amazed by the detail to which Dr. Davis goes into.  And the list of ailments that could be gluten related! He explains the genetic modifications of grains over time, our body genetic change as well as the evolving dynamic of our current food systems.

While already making radical changes to my diet since identifying my gluten and lactose intolerance, I am further convinced in my own diet, to eliminate corn and starchy, glucose-raising vegetables.

Whenever anyone mentions an aliment, joint pain, bowel issues, rashes, itchy skin, scalp, digestive issues, allergy issues, depression, anxiety, lethargy, headaches, caffeine addiction, dramatic weight gain and loss, sugar cravings.... – I am convinced that they need to remove gluten from their diet. Often I will ask if they have tried going gluten free and the response often is, "Yeah, but it didn't work." I typically ask how long did you try it, a week or 3 is the most I ever get. But what people don't realize is that it takes at minimum 1 month, ideally 3 months, and completely 6 months to a year to really reap the benefits of a complete removal of gluten from the body and diet. Furthermore, most people who think they went gf for a week or two, probably didn't even go completely gluten free, because gluten is hidden in so many unknown places. You can be consuming it unknowingly in: salad dressings, cured sandwich meats, iced tea drinks, prepared meat marinades, blue cheese dressings, condiments....places you would least expect it. You legitimately need to give it time.

Just replacing gluten-filled processed foods with gluten free processed foods doesn't work either. While not gluten containing, the whole point of going gf is a lifestyle change. And as Dr. Davis explains the non-gluten grains are just a processed and damaging. You should not just replace one with the other, but instead increase your vegetable and fruit intake.

If you have joint pain, bowel issues, rashes, itchy skin, scalp, digestive issues, seasonal allergy issues, depression, anxiety, lethargy, headaches, caffeine addiction, dramatic weight gain and loss, sugar cravings, psoriasis, feel like you are "allergic to everything" go gluten free for 3 months, ideally 6. And then see if what ails you goes away or gets better. It worked wonders for my life and according to Dr. Davis more of us need to go gf too.