Blog: Yoga, Nutrition & More

Battle of the beasty bowel – IBS

July 13th, 2014

IBSI’m delighted to share this guest post with you, my hungry readers also plagued by digestive health issues, written by Alexa, a client who is conquering the Battle of the Bowel.

It was six a.m. and I was hungry. Or at least, I thought I was supposed to be hungry. I squinted with unawake eyes into the fridge assessing my options. My hand flew to my abdomen as a cramp rippled through me, causing temporary paralysis. After the pain subsided I decided I should eat oatmeal, mostly because it seemed like the food runners are supposed to eat for breakfast. Another cramp seized my body as I poured the hot water into the dry oatmeal mix and sipped my black coffee. Although the cramps in my stomach and achiness in my body seemed to protest, I was gearing up for a 20-mile training run that morning—one run amidst many other painful ones I had completed during my five month training period while I chased down the title of “marathoner.”

I think back to that morning, and what seem like hundreds of similar mornings like that one, and I hardly recognize the person staring confusedly into the fridge at the crack of dawn. Not only do I not physically recognize her—she’s gained about ten pounds now and has clearer skin, shorter hair, and more muscular arms— but I can also no longer clearly recall the piercing, paralyzing pain caused by daily laxative abuse due to a killer case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

If only they could call it something else not involving the word bowel. Those of us caught in its wrath don’t get to have a slick one-word name like Crohn’s or Colitis – we’re stuck with the awkward and ambiguous acronym that no one ever understands, forcing those of us cursed with the wretched disorder to say its name out loud. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Instant conversation stopper.

My stomach problems, as I call them, in an attempt to avoid the “B” word as frequently as possible, began when I was fifteen and a sophomore in high school, amidst a myriad of teen anxiety, boy troubles, body image issues, and academic stress. Whether or not my intestines decided to stop functioning properly because I was anxious or because of a more physiological reason I am still unsure, but what I am sure of is that my stomach never seemed to stop hurting.

Soon after the stomach pain began, so commenced the countless trips to the pediatrician, gastroenterologist, and allergist, who gave me advice, medications, and sympathetic looks. In the end, none of them seemed to be able to cure me, and I continued to live in pain while abiding by their confusing, contradicting advice.

This confusion lasted about four years, and throughout that time, I attempted repeatedly to cure myself. I gave up dairy, meat, bread, and just ate fruits and vegetables. Then, I stopped eating all together. All the while, the pain persisted, and with every failed attempt to figure out what was wrong with me, I let my IBS take more and more control over my life. It controlled when I ate, what I ate, and when I could exercise, making my morning runs even more difficult. This lack of control, more than my inability to eat an ice cream cone, is what defeated me. There are so many things that already existed out of my control, and the fact that I was now unable to control my own bodily functions frustrated me beyond words.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is complicated. The physical symptoms intertwine themselves closely with the emotional and mental difficulties so that it is hard to tackle what is happening in the bowels (sorry, but the B word is sometimes necessary) without first dealing with what’s going on inside your own head. Dealing with a case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a lot harder than dealing with cranky intestines or a case of mild anxiety, it is something that requires energy, planning, a willingness to try, and a good dietitian who knows about the power of FODMAPS.

I’ve been on the FODMAP diet for almost nine months now, and it has revolutionized my ability to eat and function as an IBS sufferer. The low FODMAP diet, which stands for a diet low in Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols is a diet that eliminates the consumption of fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols. How I explain it to people who aren’t scientists or dietitians though, is that it is a diet that doesn’t include many of the sugars that my stomach can’t digest properly. If I were to eat these foods, they would ferment in my stomach, and cause the unpleasant symptoms I dealt with for so many years.

Although I cannot say that I am cured of my IBS—as there isn’t really a cure—I now feel as though I have more control over my symptoms and my own bodily functions, which is definitely a step in the right direction. Listening to my body and becoming more intuitive about how it reacts to certain foods has been key, along with understanding which foods I can now eat again –in moderation. For anyone who is stuck in the dark abyss of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there is a way out. There is hope! Your bowels will not continue to fail you forever. Seek out a qualified dietitian, try out the low-FODMAP elimination diet, and while you’re at it, start brainstorming new names for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’m sure you’re as tired as I am of saying the “B” word.

 

 

 

 

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Summer time’s about making it easy

July 7th, 2014

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden

Over and over, I hear, “I just don’t have time for healthy eating.” Yet in the same conversation, complaints of not feeling 100% are voiced loud and clear. You’re not at your perfect weight, optimal vibrancy or well-being, and not happy at the end of the day, yet you’re indispensable at work, you attend to kids, mow the lawn, clean house, cater to a whiney partner. There’s no time for physical activity, meal planning, grocery shopping and food prep. Then…..here it comes…..drum roll……”I know what I should eat, I just can’t seem to get it together!”

That’s where summer time comes in. Mother Nature offers a bounty of fresh goodness from local farmer’s markets, CSA’s, even your own community or backyard garden. Your grocery store boasts of local produce – firm, red tomatoes, juicy, sweet corn, snappy green beans, brilliantly ruby beets, and crisp, buttery lettuces.

Why is this so hard? I believe you’ve lost touch with the part of you that gets excited about feeling awesome. About being your absolute best. About being energetic, capable, and beautiful. You know, that part that whispers all-knowing thoughts you choose to ignore. Well, Honey, I hear you, once you do it one time, you gotta do it every day, right? Not really, but you’ll want to, once you taste summer’s divine flavors.

You are meant to be a vibrant, strong, resilient and brilliant being! When you attune to the obvious and subtle qualities of your body, you are attuning to the grand rhythm of the Universal Light of Consciousness that dances through each rain drop, each particle of soil, each root, stem and leaf, and each and every cell of your own being. Attuning to that, dear one, means feeding your body what’s appropriate for the season.

Summer is about staying light, clear, attuned to the present. It’s not about blowin’ and goin’ 27/7. Yes, play is a part of summer. Yet, too much play intensifies Pitta, which is inherently light and that’s a by-product of heat. Light is good, don’t get me wrong, it’s the benefit of the intensity of the production of heat, of transformation. Yet, get too hot, what happens? You burn up. Ever pop a hot chile pepper into your mouth unbeknownst of the violent heat inside? Then you know what I mean.

Make summer healthy. Make health summery. No matter where you shop, stock up with an abundance of green leafy lettuces, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, fresh corn on the cob, crunchy asparagus, grassy peas, blueberries and strawberries, peaches, nectarines. Upon home arrival, wash it ALL. Yes, ALL. Bag produce in mesh refrigerator storage bags so when you’re ready, at your finger tips is a rainbow of deliciousness. You’ll feel better, lighter, cleaner, more vital eating this way at least once a day.

Feel the need for protein? First of all, attuned to Nature, you’ll recall spinach, corn, broccoli, peas and Brussels’ sprouts all have good amounts of protein. Want more? Toss in some nuts, sesame seeds, tofu, garbanzo beans or hummus on the side. If you’re lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can add low-fat cheese for a punch of flavor (or nutritional yeast if vegan). Animal protein needs high? 4 ounces of grilled salmon, chicken or lean steak rounds out this plant-based meal.

Now git to gittin’, as I like to say!

 

 

 

 

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Garden goodness

June 22nd, 2014

Garden goodness

Garden goodness

Garden goodness means a foundation of freshly picked green lettuces, like arugula and green and red leaf lettuces, tossed in a dreamy and light red wine vinaigrette (anything too heavy drowns out the simplicity of the taste of the young greens) and topped with a satisfying bean salad (get inventive and create your own bean salads – use black beans, chickpeas, navy or pinto beans)

Note the nasturtium flower adorning the top of this bowl of divine flavors (the blossoms and the leaves are edible). A bit of peppery arugula, mild mixed greens, tang of feta, heat of radish, and sweetness of cucumber. Use your imagination and create any kind of bean salad to accompany your greens!

Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey (local if you can get it)
  • Pinch salt and pepper (I love lots of freshly ground black pepper) 

Combine all and mix well (Magic Bullet emulsifies well or use a hand/wand blender).

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Chickpea and Orzo Salad

June 21st, 2014

Chickpea SaladCraving mouth-watering, a little-salty, a bit crunchy goodness? On a sunny summer day when you’d rather be at the beach, taking a river walk, kayaking, biking, this simple, easy, and bursting with flavor recipe uses canned beans to get you out of the door faster.

Chickpeas’ soluble fiber means your belly feels content for much longer, hunger will not interfere with your outdoor plans. Arugula or spinach, along with bell peppers, provide a burst of energy and feta just a touch of nostalgic flavor. Lightly dressed, this is a perfect picnic food.

Chickpea and Orzo Salad

Salad

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • ½ small purple onion, finely diced
  • ¼ cup orzo, dry, cooked and drained
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbles
  • Handfuls of arugula

Dressing

  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Pinch salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients for salad except the arugula. Line a salad bowl with a handful or two of arugula.

Whisk together ingredients for the dressing (or use any other vinaigrette to your liking). Combine bean salad ingredients with the dressing. Allow to set for 10-15 minutes to infuse flavors.

Top arugula with bean salad. Enjoy!

 

 

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Need breakfast to lose weight? Maybe not!

June 19th, 2014

Smoothie time

Smoothie time

For years, weight management experts have staunchly promoted eating breakfast (I prefer to call it your ‘morning meal’) as a mainstay of a weight loss diet. Well, hold onto your hat, Honey, it may not be so. A recent study, while linking breakfast skippers to being overweight (that’s called correlation), didn’t find causation – in other words, that skipping breakfast causes weight gain. What it did find was that breakfast or no, all study participants lost the same amount of weight.

That’s confusing. True, that’s what research does. It shows different sides of the story, yet uses different methods to get to those conclusions so you can’t really compare them.

I turn to an observation study. In the Weight Control Registry, a very high percentage of its over 4,000 members (80%) who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off at least for one year, claim that eating breakfast keeps their weight in check. 90% eat breakfast 5 days a week.

Back to the question: To eat or not to eat a morning meal?

Eat it. It establishes routine, structure, pattern. Without a plan, we eat willy nilly. We eat whatever is in our path – pastries, donuts, fatty high calorie breakfast sandwiches that are useless and unproductive fuel in our body. Know tonight what you’re eating tomorrow – at every meal, not just breakfast.  You’ll lessen the changes of bailing on your exercise plans or picking up lunch and dinner at the noodle house or pizza shop down the block.

A good breakfast will have some protein food (egg, beans, dairy or soy milk) and carbohydrate from fruits, vegetables and whole grains (spinach and mushroom omelet with whole grain toast, high fiber low sugar cereal with banana and blueberries, or bowl of fresh fruit topped with yogurt, nuts and granola). Bon appetit! 

 

Study demonstrates no effect whether breakfast or skip breakfast.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jun 4. pii: ajcn.089573.

 

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