Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How Back Pain led to Dairy Free and now Veganism

For over the last year I have had this aching, sometimes debilitating, but mostly just irritating sciatica. I have tried diet changes along with many other modalities such as body work, restorative yoga, Yamuna, aerial yoga, inversions, and nothing seemed to help for long. I even bought a sacro-belt and new orthotics for my shoes, which again helped, temporarily. Always a person who loves to workout, this nagging back issue has effected my ability to workout. Squats were out, lunges, nope, any form of weight lifting, ack. I have had this constant pain and started to succumb to the potential reality that sciatica would effect me for the rest of my life. In truth, I have had some sort of hip/back/sciatic/psoas issue since my teens, but never for very long and never as debilitating as over the last year. If I stood or sat too long it would get aggravated. If I lifted heavy things without my sacro-belt, it would get aggravated. If I worked in the garden too much, bending over pulling weeds it would aggravate it. Pretty much everything I did aggravated it. I mean I was able to go about my life teaching my group fitness class, exercising mostly, but avoiding all squatting motions, I even bartended this summer and did ok. But after my 3 back-to back-shifts though, and with a farmers' market booth in between, I was hurting pretty bad Saturday mornings.

Then one day I heard something about how bad dairy really is for inflammation. I mean, of course, I know that. But over the years, dairy has slowly creeped back into my diet. All lactose free or fermented dairy, so I thought I was doing well. I didn't eat much, but as the late nights after my bartending shift accumulated and I was awake and hungry when I got home, a quick quesadilla or grilled cheese would hit the spot. At the time it didn't feel like much, but in hindsight, it was a lot more dairy than I thought.

And then I spoke with a friend who recently cut out dairy and she said it literally made her sciatica go away in days! Really?! I couldn't believe that something as simple as cutting out dairy would make back pain go away.  But always curious about the body and willing to experiment with dietary changes effecting the way I feel, one day I said, 'yup that's it, no more dairy.' I mean I know I shouldn't eat dairy. I know it is inflammatory. I know I am lactose intolerant. I know, I know...but the implementing is always the hard part. So one day, I just stopped eating dairy.

Now it has been about a month and half since I cut out dairy. And literally, I kid you not, 4 days after I cut it out cold turkey, my sciatica was gone. GONE! Not like kinda gone, but gone gone. I felt better, less lethargic, my bowels were better, but all I cared about was that nagging back pain that has irritated me for over almost a year was gone! So eventually I had to try my dreaded squats. I took it easy the first time. Nothing. No pain. No radiating irritation down my leg and up my back. Nothing. Gardening was a breeze. Even last night I took my first Brazilian dance class in a long time. It is a lot of hip action. I was nervous because after the class, as we were cooling down I could feel my back tighten up and get the sensation I used to get before the whole thing would lock up and I would be in pain for the next few days. Today, I feel great! I am sore from not using back, lower ab and hip muscles I haven't used in a while, but it is not like last year when I took this class, where I was out of commission the next day due to the pain.

So dairy free = pain free! At least for me. I kid you not! I didn't believe it either. Give it a try, if you are curious.

This whole body experiment and nutrition is a slippery slope I tell ya (in a good way) 😉, so I have been eating meat, but not much, actually, actively less since I have cut out dairy. Then I asked myself 2 weeks ago, why? Why are you eating meat? I have actively been reducing my meat consumption. I have never been a huge meat eater. I don't digest it well and I feel all over slowed/bogged down when I eat too much meat. Granted, I am only ever eating local, organic and/or grass-fed or pasture raised meat (ideally all of the above). So I have considered myself a conscious meat eater. But somewhere in the back of my mind, veganism has been swirling around. If you recall I gave veganism a try back in 2015, which you can read here and here. It. Was. Hard. I have never craved eggs so much in my life. But this time it feels different. I am already gluten free (Always! Going on 8 years now!) and now completely dairy free and continually reducing my meat consumption, so how far off is being a vegan?

I listened to @yoga_girl 's podcast recently with her guest speaker James Aspey on veganism and something clicked. I think maybe because I was toying with the idea already, I was more receptive. And it wasn't the horror stories James talked about in the meat and diary industry that did it. I've always disliked that freak-out tactic of veganism, but 2 things stuck with me; the way he and Rachel approached it was not forceful and both talked about veganism from a place of love, compassion and education. James didn't even shame Rachel, when she admittedly called her self a hypocrite because she too, has let dairy creep into her life. And who are we to determine which animals we eat. In some countries they eat dogs. I could never even consider eating my beloved dogs and yet I consider myself an animal lover. And pigs are just as smart and personable as dogs. So why do we eat them? And the dairy industry is just as awful as a slaughter house. I am not trying to convince anyone, because I believe everyone's journey is different and happens in its own way towards your goal of feeling your best. So listen for yourself.

I am not one of those crazy vegans, forcibly telling people that you should know about all the horrible things that happen in the meat and dairy industries. I know scare tactics and forceful advocacy wouldn't work on me. So I would never do that to anyone else. For me, this is a personal journey, that started with removing dairy from my diet. Then realizing meat just didn't sit well with me, physically and consciously. Also, because I struggled so hard the first time around with veganism, I was kind of curious to see how I would do a second time. With that being said, I am still eating eggs. I feel without eggs I am doomed to fail and also I feel ok with my choice, because I am getting my eggs from my neighbor and I know they are free range and happy chickens. But to each her own. We all need to be conscious in our bodies and also conscious beings in the world. We make choices every day and I am currently choosing to do what feels best for me, my body, my mind, my soul and my health.