The Hidden Danger of Corn

I learned a great lesson in what not to eat today. Was fibromyalgia causing my persistent dental pain? Did I have my first-ever cavity? NO! I went to the dentist rather urgently this afternoon, only to find that my teeth are fine, but a popcorn hull was lodged deep within my gums. Embarrassing (I really should floss more thoroughly) and awesome (no cavities!).

Now that I’m doing Whole30, corn of any kind is forbidden, which means the offending hull is from roughly a week ago. Wow. If that’s not inspiration to clean up your diet, then by all means, head for the corn trough, but I’m sticking with Whole30.

Whole30, Day 3

Current fibromyalgia symptoms: Right buttock/ low back/ hip pain still hanging on. Stiff neck but better than two days ago. Major brain fog—possibly related to switching to Whole30 from vegan. Tired but not exhausted, and worried I won’t sleep again.

Today’s exercise: 20 minute run; 30 minute walk; 30 minute light weightlifting and stretching routine.

Breakfast: 1 egg; 1 apple

Lunch: Ground beef cooked with onion and tomato; sautéed broccoli; and raw carrots

Snack: Smoothie made with canned coconut milk, ½ frozen banana, ¼ cup frozen blueberries, 2 tablespoon almond butter, and ½ scoop Garden of Life Perfect Food. Between lunch and dinner, I had four small sheets of Sea Snax seaweed.

Dinner: Ground beef sautéed with onion, green pepper, and jalapeno pepper served atop 6 big leaves of buttercrunch lettuce; Wholly Guacamole; and ½ roasted sweet potato.

General Feelings So Far: This is the most radical diet change I’ve ever made so quickly, and I definitely feel weird—like I’m living on a level somewhat removed from reality. Perhaps this is the “carb flu” spoken of in It Starts with Food.

I’m still not morally on board with eating animals, and that’s going to always bother me no matter how this diet change goes. I think it’s definitely a good idea to look for health benefits by cutting out wheat, corn, and processed food. But I’m still unsure about the rest of it.

I didn’t sleep last night and got out of bed at 3:45 a.m. to eat several spoonsful of almond butter. I found out the hard way that it’s easy to accidentally consume too few calories on Whole30. I remedied that today with more sweet potato and avocado, plus a coconut milkshake. I definitely don’t feel like I’ll be hoofing it to the kitchen in the middle of the night tonight. I’m not one to wish life away, but I’m definitely eager to see how I feel in a few days. The second week is supposed to be when more of the positive feelings (and less carb flu) happens.

Whole30, Day 1

whole30

Salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Day one of Whole30 hasn’t been too bad. I’ll break it down for you.

Current fibromyalgia symptoms: both hips ache, and muscles in right buttock are in spasm just enough to provoke pain down my leg, presumably from the sciatic nerve. Left-sided neck and upper trapezius feel sore and tight. A bit of fatigue, possibly from not sleeping well due to hip pain last night.

Today’s exercise: two-hour walk around the neighborhood. Nothing major, just strolling and enjoying the weather.

Breakfast: 2 organic chicken eggs scrambled with sautéed kale and onions, plus 3 strawberries. I had a slight stomach ache after breakfast, which never happened when I was vegan, but it wasn’t too bad.

Lunch: 90% lean beef (organic, pastured) cooked in organic coconut oil with diced onions and a tomato, served atop a heaping bed of romaine lettuce and topped with a little plain yellow mustard. Sort of like a hamburger without the bun, ketchup, or mayonnaise. I also ate 8 baby carrots.

Snack: After walking for a couple of hours, I had 4 big spoonsful of organic almond butter (fresh from the co-op churn—no sugar or salt added) and 4 organic strawberries.

Dinner: Wild-caught salmon cooked in a little olive oil with oven-roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. YUM. I only wish I’d remembered to buy fresh dill for the salmon.

General Feelings So Far: It sounds crazy to already have a lot of thoughts about Whole30 since it’s only the first day, but my mind is very much on my eating habits. First, I’m still morally uneasy about consuming meat, and only take some comfort in knowing my food was raised and slaughtered by farmers using as humane practices as possible. The grease of the ground beef, even though it was 90% lean, was a little gross, although the beef tasted great. I’m just not used to grease since I’ve been vegan for months. I’m very glad that Whole30 doesn’t allow dairy. Cheese and milk would be too much to stomach at this point, and I truly believe that some of my fibromyalgia symptoms improved once I gave up dairy and became vegan.

The cravings are insane. I’m not much of a sugar-eater, or at least not in the cupcakes-brownies-cookies sense, but obviously my body is used to refined carbohydrates. Throughout today, I’ve found myself craving banana nut bread, refried pinto beans, sweet cornbread, and pecan waffles. Wow. The “sugar dragon” mentioned in the Whole30 book, It Starts with Food, is no joke.

I also found that I didn’t buy enough food at the grocery store. I’ll have to stop at the co-op again tomorrow for more fresh veggies and meat. One more observation—it’s not easy dealing with special occasions and staying true to Whole30. There’s always a friend’s birthday or a holiday on the horizon, and with those special days come pizza, cake, and alcohol. I’m pretty sure my first test is coming within a week, but since I’m hoping to slay the God-forsaken beast that is fibromyalgia, I’ll stick to my guns and eat my own food, no matter what the occasion. But I might still dream about buttermilk biscuits.

Relieve Fibro Symtoms Whole30?

I’ve decided to try the Whole30 diet for a month starting tomorrow. I’ve been vegan for several months now and have noticed improvement in my fibromyalgia symptoms, but there’s still too much pain in my body. I’m going to keep a fairly detailed log of the Whole30 experience in case any of you are interested in trying it, and also so I can chronicle the ups and downs of transitioning to zero processed foods.

For anybody who hasn’t read about Whole30, check out their website. The basic premise is to eat no sugar or sugar substitutes, eat no dairy or grains or legumes, and drink no alcohol. Essentially, balance your plate with a big pile of vegetables and a palm-sized protein source— in other words, eat real food, not crap.

Since I already don’t consume dairy as a vegan, that part won’t be hard. I’m also a minimal drinker, so the lack of alcohol isn’t a big deal (although I’ll miss my occasional beer). I already cook with olive oil and coconut oil and enjoy fresh vegetables, so I’m on board there. What will be challenging for me is the meat consumption and the lack of potato chips.

I love potato chips. They’re a serious vice. I get the slightly healthier kind—organic and seasoned with only salt and pepper—but I can’t have a single chip on Whole30. That one’s going to be rough.

I’m sure the meat and eggs will taste good, but I have major ethical and moral hang-ups about consuming animals. There’s a local farm that uses the most humane slaughtering methods possible, and I vow to only buy from them. But still. Killing is killing, and I’m struggling with this one. I’m certain I’ll predominantly be eating wild-caught fish rather than beef, pork, and chicken. None of it warms my heart, but at least the salmon got to swim freely and enjoy life before landing on my plate.

Tomorrow’s the big day. I’m very much hoping for a major reduction in inflammation, and thereby a major reduction in muscle spasms and pain. My right hip has been keeping me up (I set a new personal sleepless record—84 hours awake), so something’s got to give.

Breakfast will likely be a scramble of eggs, kale, and onions cooked in olive oil. Lunch and dinner, I’m not sure. I shopped for all kinds of fresh organic ingredients at the co-op today, and it was weird to be buying meat again after being vegan. But with the hope that Whole30 can knock down fibromyalgia, I’m going all-out with it tomorrow.  You’re not supposed to weigh yourself during Whole30, but I’m going to because I’m already on the low end of healthy and need to make sure I don’t get skeletal. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Runner’s World

Raining and running along the bayou.

Raining and running along the bayou.

I’ve been a longtime believer in exercise as a means of keeping sanity. I’m vegan. I prefer to live without prescription drugs whenever possible. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know these things already.

Some of you have asked to know more about Fibro Athlete, so here’s your answer. I’m in the online edition of Runner’s World. Check it out if you’re interested, and keep running, friends! :-)

Physical Therapist and Chiropractor to the Rescue

I sometimes undervalue the effectiveness of physical therapy and chiropractic work. In my latest bout with back and hip pain, I was reminded of something that I ironically tell my patients and friends regularly: non-invasive treatment can be the best kind of medicine.

After my sacroiliac joint pain progressed into gluteal spasms and a rotated pelvis, sitting became impossible. I stood for as many hours of the day as I could, and laid prone with a pillow under my hips for the remaining hours. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain, and I finally had a “duh” moment. I work at a spinal rehab clinic. My bosses are a top-shelf physical therapist and an awesome chiropractor. Time to ask for help from the best.

I’m sometimes too passive in asking for help because fibromyalgia makes me feel like I need help way too often. But when I couldn’t sit or sleep, it was time for intervention. My boss /physical therapist put me through a thorough evaluation, and I started treatment two days later. It can be a little strange to be a patient in my own clinic, but the tradeoff is knowing that I’m getting great treatment. The decrease in my pain, progress in flexibility and mobility, and renewed ability to sit (and sleep) are testaments to how well chiropractic care and physical therapy can work together to heal even chronic pain suffers.

I’ve been to two PT/chiro sessions this week, and am currently able to sit pain-free on the floor. I had no idea how important sitting is until I couldn’t do it for a few days. I ran 6 ½ miles on Monday and was able to concentrate on the blue sky over the beach rather than the pain in my back and hip. Tuesday, I could do light weightlifting at the gym and actually sit down for dinner rather than standing through meals. Today, I ran 5 miles, walked the dogs, and was able to sit for 15 minutes in the hot tub without feeling like my sacrum was about to stab through my skin.

Forgive the pun, but fibromyalgia is a pain in the ass. I think the best way to sum up fibromyalgia to people who don’t understand it is to say this: it’s not just a cluster of random and sometimes unexplained painful symptoms (although there are definitely those). Normal injuries happen, but the aftermath is abnormal. The consequences from a healthy runner falling on a trail run are usually some bruises and scrapes. The consequences from a fibromyalgia-suffering runner falling on a trail turn into weeks of muscle spasms, misaligned bones, and exhaustion. It’s like fibromyalgia makes a worst-case scenario out of every situation.

The longer I live and the longer I fight chronic health problems, the less faith I have in pills and surgery. While those things are good options for some people, I prefer to stay as minimally invasive and drug-free as possible. Luckily, I have access to extremely competent and like-minded health practitioners who can stretch, massage, and manipulate my body into a good enough place to keep me out of the pill bottles and out from under the knife. I’ll never again underestimate the power of a physical therapist and a chiropractor—or the convenience and comfort of sitting.

Sacroiliac Dysfunction and Exhaustion

I ran 10 miles on Sunday and felt like a million bucks. I drank sips of sugary tea every 20 minutes and was able to maintain a pace of 8:40 per mile for all 10 miles, which is pretty fast for me at that distance. I was on top of the world that night and felt motivated and energized for more.

The next morning was a different story. My right sacroiliac joint felt off, and my back was stiff and extremely sore. My walking gait was awkward, and sitting was very uncomfortable. I went to my boss/chiropractor/friend for an adjustment, and he confirmed the problem in my right SI joint. He had to use a lot of force to get a proper adjustment, but the relief was immediate. However, so was the fatigue.

I barely managed 15 minutes on the elliptical that evening, and today, I’m totally wiped out. My back is holding its position, which is great, but I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus. The actual SI joint is majorly inflamed and has palpable swelling, and when the alarm went off for my 6:30 a.m. run, I opted to stay in bed with an ice pack instead. Work was pretty torturous the rest of the day, and I laid down as soon as I got home.

We all know that fibromyalgia causes fatigue. My questions are these—has anybody else experienced SI joint dysfunction along with fibromyalgia? If so, has extreme fatigue come along with it? Have any other fibromyalgia patients had massively increased fatigue after chiropractic adjustments? Thanks for your input! I’m going back to bed with an ice pack.

Raynaud’s After Running

raynaud's

White, cold, and numb. Yuck.

I ran six miles in 58-degree weather, and even though it was sunny and beautiful outside and I never felt too cold, my hands told a different story. Raynaud’s Phenomenon sometimes turns just one or two of my fingers white and makes them go numb, but this particular run provoked several pasty appendages. I know there’ve been suspected links between fibromyalgia and Raynaud’s, but I wish there were more information for patients. I don’t want to take medications or have surgery or do anything else drastic, but I would definitely like for my fingers to stop going numb when it’s not even extremely cold outside.

Caffeine Provokes Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Caffeine, as I’ve suspected for several months, makes my fibromyalgia symptoms much worse. While that revelation kind of sucks, it’s also always nice when something can be easily controlled, like caffeine intake.

I love coffee. As a vegan, I’ve been enjoying soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk as creamers. I never add sugar or sugar substitutes to my coffee, which makes me even more certain that it’s the caffeine that, even in very small amounts, massively increases my anxiety and provokes muscle spasms.

I kicked caffeine out of my life for a couple of months, then started drinking less than one cup of coffee per morning last week. Within two days, my neck pain was worse and I felt less hopeful. My running improved. Even hills felt like less effort. But the increasing pain and hopelessness were absolutely not worth it. By day five of drinking less than a cup a day, I was in bad shape.

Going cold turkey wasn’t too hard since I’d only been drinking coffee for six days. It wasn’t great fun, but it wasn’t the worst thing to quit. And, on Sunday, I not only ran eight miles at a decent pace, but I also took my paddle board on a two mile journey.

Fibromyalgia is picky. It demands a lot of sacrifice. But if forgoing caffeine allows me to live a more normal life, then I’ll never touch another cup of coffee again.

Brrr… Is Cold Weather Making Fibromyalgia Worse?

The cold snap across the US is wreaking all kinds of havoc, and I’m curious if anyone else who has fibromyalgia is seriously bothered by the cold?

While I’m still feeling pretty good in general (thank you, vegan diet), my back and neck are super tight and my hamstrings are getting tighter. I feel achier all over, and I’m sleeping under an electric blanket. I haven’t been able to use my hot tub in several days because we turned it down for the cold snap, so maybe that’s part of the equation.

What do y’all think… is fibromyalgia aggravated by cold?