9/21 Reflections

9/21 is a bittersweet day for me. It’s my best friend’s birthday, the start of autumn (my favorite time of year), and the day my dad died.  [I had the urge to erase “died” and type “passed away” because that seems more acceptable and appropriate. “Died” seems so blunt, cold, & heartless.  But it’s real and it’s the truth so I kept it.] Even the day of his death holds some sweetness because he was finally rid of his pain.

I use running as a form of therapy. It just so happens it’s a great form of exercise 😉  So naturally, on Sunday Runday (regardless of it being 9/21), I got up to run.

Results? Meh. For the 3rd straight year, 9/21 has proven to be a weak running day.

The day my dad died, I got up around 4am (I’d been sleeping in his hospital room for 3 days so I can’t really say that wake up call was painful) to tackle my 18-miler for the week.  I was training for the St. Louis Rock & Roll Marathon on 10/21.  Even though 9/21/12 was a Friday, I didn’t think it would be smart to wait until Saturday (my typical long run day) given my dad’s progress. I made it to 10 miles before I decided to quit.  I was tired, run down, my legs felt like lead, I’d heard “Sloop John B” on the way to the gym that morning.  This was one of “our songs” (sometimes I feel like he talks to me through songs on the radio…weird, but whatever).  My body convinced my mind & heart to call it quits , shower, and get back to the hospital.  My dad died 4 hours later.

On 9/21/13 I ran the Air Force Marathon in memory of my dad, an Air Force vet.  Not only was this a tribute run, but I knew it’d be a good therapy session for the dreaded 1-year mark.  My dad and I sometimes “talk” to each other when I’m out on a run.  With just me & my thoughts it’s my reflection time, my “church”. So, I talk to my dad.  Sometimes he talks back : I’ll find strength out of no where during a tough run, the trees will be exceptionally beautiful, the breeze will bring me peace,  a song comes up on my playlist at just the right time, or I feel particularly “one” with my surroundings & my body.  I can feel my dad with me.  However, on 9/21/13, I couldn’t find him anywhere.  I was running injured and he just wasn’t coming to me. I stopped running at Mile 13 and walked the rest of the way due to an injury (plica in my right knee). Even walking was painful. At Mile 17 I started sobbing.  I’m sure anyone walking/running around me thought I was crazy. I looked at my watch and it was 11am.  My dad had died exactly 1 year ago.  It turns out, he WAS with me that day, just not the way I’d planned.  I crossed that finish line and got my “BFM” (as he would say) – I ran 13.1, walked 13.1. Year 2 of a bad 9/21 run day.

Today, 9/21/14, I got up at 6am, laced up my sneaks, and headed for the treadmill. Miles 1-4 were normal, although I felt a bit fatigued.  I didn’t eat any meat yesterday so I’m blaming being nutritionally deficit (segue-way to a future post on why veganism probably isn’t for me), my legs felt tired, and I was SOAKED.  I ran inside, with AC & fans. There was no need to be drenched.  I had planned to run 8-9 miles.  I had hoped for 9 but told myself 8 would be symbolic of “finishing” the 9/21/12 18-miler. But I made it to 7.5 and had to stop.  No, I couldn’t even run another 1/2 mile. Annoying.

Next year on 9/21, I’m taking a rest day and staying in bed.  All signs suggest this is the best choice.

Flare Culprits…

Oh dear…my apologize for going a whole MONTH without an update.  You can really tell when work grabs me by the ankles, turns me upside down, and shakes me until I can’t see straight.

So here’s a month of updates; some good, some bad.

About 1 week after traveling to DC, my body started to recover from “travel food” and my weight returned to pre-inflammation weight and the bloating was mostly no where to be found.

I discovered a coffee I can have in absolute moderation that doesn’t make me feel awful & bloated all day: Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate. I’m sure there’s really nothing special about this coffee except for how I prepare it (and dilute it, BIG time) but it works and I’m enjoying about 2-3 cups a week.

I’m still avoiding gluten, dairy, most processed food (gluten/dairy free bread & cereal have been my weakness lately), eggs, corn (where possible), nuts, seeds, onions, nightshades…

I’ve had to moderate peanut butter & almond butter.  I can tolerate it in small doses.  I love it too much to stop eating it unless my new doctor and the blood test tells me I HAVE to.

How have I been feeling lately?  Great! Until last week.  I might have forgotten I had UC and ordered Pad Thai from our favorite restaurant. Pad Thai is normally not an issue for me (and it’s gluten free!) but I even ate the peanuts. Ouch.

That same day, thinking I could eat blended veggies with no problem, I also tried a green smoothie (cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, apple, & lemon).  However, I didn’t get the smoothie *smooth* enough.  I’ve also been reading that I should have started smaller and only had a small portion of the smoothie since it can pack a punch…right to the intestines. A few weeks prior I also sampled with blending some strawberries & raspberries in a smoothie (thinking the seeds would be pulverized…not so).

I’ve also been working out A LOT more and can tell my weight’s gone up from exercise-induced inflammation. Work-related stress has also tripled in the last month.

So those are the culprits to my current flare. I have a steroid pack my gastro gave me in the spring to use if things got bad…but I’m still trying to work through this one on my own by eliminating those culprits or figuring out how to work around them.

It’s a constant game of “wait & see”. Trying to stay positive though – only 2 more weeks until my appointment with my naturopath.  Hoping she will get me back on track!

Dairy-free + Gluten-free = DC!

How do you like my mathematical equation?  As you saw in my last post, I’ve been dealing with some drastic diet changes, yet again.  Well, drastic in that some foods are back in the “allowed” column and others are forever in the “not allowed” column.  The jury is still out on eggs, btw…sadness. 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this change occurred right before I was planning to travel to Washington, DC for a work-related conference/training. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to maintain an elimination diet during travel. I had it down to a science at home, but how can you tell your server that you have to avoid potatoes, nightshades, eggs, beans, nuts, etc. without getting the “she so crazy” look.

Side note: when I travel, at least half of my suitcase weight is food (true story). Apples, Larabars, Justin’s oh-so-convenient almond butter packs, rice cakes, pre-made food for travel day, etc. 

So my “only” limitations were dairy & gluten. Easy, right? Eh, sort of. What I’m finding at restaurants is that things are either vegan (aka dairy-free) or gluten-free.  But not both.  For instance, at Busboy’s & Poets (which I HIGHLY recommend, btw…more later), when pizza crust becomes gluten-free it’s no longer dairy-free (they add parmesan, very common in gluten-free pizza crust). Pizza-craving dreams crushed. So yes, it was difficult to find things dairy-free AND gluten-free.  I had my life figured out when I was dairy-free but this gluten-free nonsense is making things more difficult. Humph.

And the only option for dairy-free, gluten-free folks at the continental breakfast offered at Hampton Inn was fruit. I guess I can’t complain since it was free, but it was still frustrating. I managed to bring protein powder with me (that I mixed in a tiny cup with hot water because I forgot my blender bottle…so gross) so I managed to eat bananas, Justin’s almond butter, & VERY concentrated protein powder every day for breakfast. 

I think I successfully avoided dairy & gluten but I did NOT avoid other foods that make me feel awful (raw onions, tomatoes, beans, & mango hot sauce…I KNOW, I splurged).  4 days after we came back home, I’m finally starting to feel better and my weight is starting to go back down (inflammation weight…ugh).

On the bright side, here’s a list of places we successfully (and often) visited that had great DF/GF options.  

Busboy’s & Poets:  Menu here. Look at all those allergy-friendly options! We went here THREE times! Their gluten-free/dairy-free nachos were so good we had to get them twice. Their breakfast options were great too, including almond milk lattes. YUM! 

Protein Bar:  Here’s their menu.  This place was amazing.  I NEED this place to come to my area. Protein shakes and awesomely healthy options. We went here twice, once for dinner (I got the Memphis Salad with vegan cheese) and once to take advantage of “happy hour protein smoothie deals” before heading to the airport (I got the DC Redline w/soy protein & almond milk). This place has my name written all over it! ❤

We also ate at Corner Bakery for lunch on our first day but their options were so limited for dairy-free/gluten-free people. 

Two places we wanted to try but couldn’t make it happen were SweetGreen & Chop’t.  Both seemed to be hot spots for the healthy-minded population but we didn’t love SweetGreen’s prices and Chop’t’s menu was a bit more limited for the GF/DF population. 

I also wanted to hit up all of the wonderful cupcake/bakeries that I know are allergy-friendly but we ran out of time, money, and stomach room. Next time, DC. 

A VERRRRY frustrating thing I’m noticing is that for many restaurants/caterers, vegan/dairy-free also means protein-free.  At my conference they offered a vegan/dairy-free wrap that consisted of sauteed veggies & a non-gluten-free wrap. So sad, so hungry. 

So there you have it. Now when you travel to DC you’ve got a good start for approved restaurants. Enjoy! 

Celebrating an Abrupt End…

…to the elimination diet! Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the elimination diet. I ate tasty foods and finally felt “uninflamed”, deflated, and great!  Then came the food introductions.  Some went well, some not-so-well. Each “not-so-well” introduction sets me back at least a week to ensure symptoms and inflammation subsides. I started noticing nearly every food reintroduction brought with it eczema (that I’ve NEVER experienced before).  Seriously, I wouldn’t wish eczema on my worst enemy.  I can handle it on my fingers, my forearm, my elbow…heck I even sanely managed the itchy bumps between my big toe & 2nd toe.  But after “potato day” it’s developed on one of my ear lobes and behind the ear and I’m about to lose my mind. 

After some consultation with my nutritionist we decided to stop the elimination diet.  While it’s somewhat easy to maintain (and I may need to do it again), it’s difficult to uphold a normal lifestyle (taking my own food to restaurants, travel is impossible, social life takes a hit, etc.) and it’s so disheartening to limit myself so strictly to only cause myself inflammation with each new food (and drag out the process). 

So, the next steps include the following:

  • probiotic daily (I use this one & drink a bottle of kombucha
  • Continue with 5000 mg of Vitamin D (reduces inflammation)
  • Castor oil packs 
  • Take L-Glutamine (1500mg daily) to repair my immune function & the GI tract (more on this in a minute)
  • No gluten, no dairy. Forever. 
  • Make appointment with naturopath (countdown to September 23rd! And no, this isn’t hippy medicine) 
  • Food/chemical allergy/sensitivities blood test

So there we have it. These days, living gluten-free & dairy-free (especially after an elimination diet) is not terribly difficult. And, thanks to the elimination diet, it’s so very easy to avoid sweets & desserts. Even after just one slip I’m quickly reminded how gross I feel (for DAYS!) after I eat sugar, oils, dairy, etc. Not worth it. 

Back to the L-Glutamine…I started getting suspicious when foods I ate never had negative reactions to (like eczema, hello) started causing issues (eggs, potatoes, peanut butter, etc.).  Yes, all of these foods can cause inflammation and are common eczema-causing foods. However, I had previously done some reading on Leaky Gut Syndrome and had some light bulb moments. Asthma, ulcerative colitis, interstitial cystitis (cause unknown but thought to be autoimmune), sinus/allergy issues, food intolerances, etc. All are symptoms of Leaky Gut. Especially having food allergy/intolerance reactions to ALL recent foods…the wheels started turning. 

I’ll keep you posted with my food adventures and PhD adventures (I owe you an update!) until my naturopath appointment.  I liked a lot of the aspects of the elimination diet so I will continue most of them and continue to eliminate the following: sugar, oils (aside from olive & coconut), dairy, gluten, nightshades, preservatives, sweeteners. But don’t think I’ll be eliminating peanut butter or almond butter.  I will go to my grave with a jar of peanut butter.  

“Revoking” Week/Elimination Diet Update

To recap Week #6 aka “Revoking” Week (I had to revoke eggs, peanut butter, almond butter, & milk) since the unfortunate eczema outbreak: The eczema slowly subsided this week, leaving only scars where those darn itchy bumps once lived. I still have 1 or 2 tiny bumps trying to ruin my fun but they certainly aren’t having much luck like their predecessors. So, this is good news, right?  Sort of. I’m ecstatic to be done with the maddening itching on my hands, elbow, and in between my toes (seriously, this location almost drove me mad). However, based on my little unofficial science experiment, that means 1 of the 3 foods (probably not milk since the eczema had well started by the time I added it) are causing allergy or intolerance inflammation.

Weird, since I never experienced this symptom before (my entire life!) when eating these delicious foods.  But after 3 weeks of an allergy-free diet, the allergens & histamines in my body vanished. It’s quite possible I’d been dealing with a very mild allergy for years but my body never got a break from this allergen (whatever it is) so it was in chronic inflammation/”fighting mode”.  With a 3-week vacation and suddenly being introduced to said allergen again, my body said “oh, hell no, not YOU again”. So, in 2 weeks (remember, 21 days to rid your body of allergens/histamines) we’ll determine who the culprit is. *sigh*

Ok, moving on…since Week 6 was an impromptu “Base Diet” week with only the new additions of tea & buffalo, it was a pretty quiet & uneventful week.  Yesterday (TMI – can’t say I didn’t warn you) I had some tummy issues that left me eating rice with salt & chicken. My digestive system is still a little shaky today so I’m planning to wait 1 more day before adding hummus (trying desperately to sneak in more protein varieties). Potatoes will likely be added on Friday.

Oh, and today is my last vacation day before weekends cease to exist.  Less than 2 weeks until August 1…I’m sure my Student Affairs & Educator friends are feeling it! Ready or not…

Just Kidding, Negative Ghost Writer, Nope…

That whole “Yay for eggs, peanut butter, & almond butter!” thing?  Forget I said that.  It didn’t happen. All 3 are off the table temporarily, again.  Sigh. Boo-hoo. Wtf. 

But seriously. WTF?!  The eczema (looks like nettle stings: I don’t have pictures, not because it looks gross but because it’s VERY difficult to see…the bumps are the color of my skin) I seem to be experiencing on my left elbow, and parts of my hands & fingers can be caused as a reaction to a food allergy or intolerance to eggs, peanuts, and/or milk.  I will preface that this so-called eczema was not diagnosed by a doctor.  Unfortunately, it’s been self-diagnosed with the help of my mad Googling skills and my degree-certified nutritionist (whom I trust more than doctors).  Because the initial occurrence on my elbow seemed like a little insect bite, I can’t exactly recall the date of onset or if it started with eggs or the nut butters.  The fact that it’s “spreading” to my hands indicates an inflammatory response that’s not responding to any OTC anti-itch creams for 2+ weeks. I’m really glad I have a good sense of humor because I am still managing to laugh about the freak-of-nature body I have that likes to do things the complicated way.  (Seriously, I was a breech baby…I like to make things difficult).

As recommended by my nutritionist, I’ve added apple cider vinegar to my diet (I pretend I’m drinking a hard cider on the beach and it’s not so bad) and dab the vinegar onto the affected skin. Yes, I’m the one reeking of fermented apples. It’s my new perfume.  

I’ve had about 6 hours to sulk, listening to Simon & Garfunkel and sad country songs.  It’s not the end of the road for eggs or nut butters…just a very sad temporary pause that might lead to permanent removal.  But for now, I have hope. 

I think I need to add wine to my diet ASAP… 🙂  


Elimination Diet, Week 5, Reintro Week 2

Week 5 was a big week.  Huge. Foods on the list: peanut butter & milk. Yes, I’d already added almond butter (which was lovely).  But peanut butter speaks directly to my soul.  Peanut butter & I go way back.  

The results?  Peanut butter tastes better after 4+ weeks of withdrawals than I ever remember.  It was perfect, made me feel/stay satisfied, and caused no symptoms. 

Milk on the other hand…I need to try, try again. As I’ve mentioned, I am supposed to add foods in their simplest forms. I would have loved to have had cheese, yogurt, or ice cream to reintroduce dairy, but preservatives & additives are not allowed.  I used to drink several glasses of milk a day. I loved it. I still love it, I just don’t love what it does/did to me physically & psychologically. I added milk to my morning smoothie, had a glass of milk with my afternoon snack of almond butter & crackers, and had another cup of milk in my blended frozen banana “ice cream” after supper.  Each time I consumed it, I got a headache (sinus-like) with sinus pressure behind my cheeks, eyes, & back of head.  The pressure made me feel slightly fatigued & weak, and I was more irritable (weepy, quick to anger, etc.) than I’d been for months.  Even today, 24+hours after my first serving of milk, my legs felt heavy during my run, I was easily irritated at all things, and have been exceptionally tired & emotionally fatigued all day. 

I realize many other factors could have contributed to these symptoms and, for the sanity of myself and family, I am certainly planning to try milk/dairy again in a few weeks to see if symptoms reappear.  I still have my fingers crossed.  

A recent development also seems to be a potential mild case of eczema on my left elbow and sides of some of my fingers.  This is potentially a symptom of a food sensitivity (which would be devastating since that means eggs, peanuts, or almonds/butters are culprits) but I am trying not to let my worry-wart mind get the better of me.  It’s too busy trying not to itch the skin off my elbows and fingers. ARGH! 

What’s on the list for next week?  Depending on my nutritionist’s recommendations regarding the google-diagnosed eczema, hummus (plain), potatoes, and pork might be on the menu 🙂 

Elimination Diet: Day 5 – Week 3 & Reintroduction Phase

So…Days 5 through 21 were SSDD in the elimination diet world.  Some days were “hangrier” than others and eventually the diet became my new normal.  I’ve even started getting excited for certain meals that I’ve grown to love.  Except for one thing:  rice.  I haven’t touched rice since mid-way through Week 2.  I just can’t.  I’ve latched myself like a leech onto sweet potatoes and I can’t get enough.  So those have become my “carb” of choice for savory meals.  I’m pretty sure only half of the roasted sweet potatoes make it into the storage container since I pick them right off the roasting pan.  Hashtag: Obsessed. 

I only had 1 or 2 severe toddler-like melt downs as the result of hanger.  One hit on a Friday night as I was driving home from returning a few things to various stores (I didn’t have anything ready to go for supper and was extra hungry that day) and all I saw on the drive home were pizza deliveries EVERYWHERE.  Naturally, I felt a pinch of rage, jealousy, bitterness, & envy. Those emotions on top of hunger created a monstrous reaction. 

As the end of Week 3 wrapped up and I started planning which foods to add to my “reintro” phase, I started feeling a little nervous.  I’ve been feeling so good I was afraid to test the waters.  What if one of the foods sends me into an inflammation spiral or flare?  Eventually I came to my senses that any “issue” would resolve itself in 1-3 days since I had been building a 3-week foundation of anti-inflammatory food & healing my intestines. 

Here’s how reintro goes, until I’ve added ALL the foods:  Eat new food at all meals on Day 1, note any and ALL symptoms (tiredness, headaches, mood, intestinal symptoms, etc.), back to base diet for Day 2 & 3 (continue to note symptoms), if all is good this food can be added to my base diet (if not, try, try again) & start the reintro of another food.  I can’t even tell you how long this will take…

My first food choice? Many assumed it would be something absolutely wonderful: chocolate, bread, coffee (!!!), etc.  But no, I chose eggs. Snooze, right? But really…my body has been NEEDING more substantial calories, fat, & protein. If I have to “snack” on chicken one more time, I might do something so bad I don’t even know what it is yet. Eggs are filled with vital nutrients to keep us full, heal our bodies (yay, choline!), and build our muscle. Plus, eggs give me 1 million options (really, I counted) at every meal.  Turns out, eating 7 eggs in one day causes a sulfur build up that may or may not result in bloating & gas.  But (good news), in moderation, I tolerate them just fine 🙂

Also next on the list: tea.  Not coffee, but black caffeinated tea.  I have LONGED for coffee.  My office is just steps from a Starbucks.  I see people sipping the delicious-ness every. single. day.  However, my body has really brainwashed me and I knew coffee would be too much, too fast. Still, even in Week 5 and as far out as I can see, coffee won’t be introduced for a while.  Coffee is a little harsh on the digestive tract…even in those that don’t have IBD issues. So it’s still on the “Foods to Add” List. 

Other foods I’ve tried thus far include almond butter & bison. Please notice how random my food reintros are: but I’m to be adding foods that I suspect caused little to no problems before this diet began.  Bison, a much lighter (& tastier) version of red meat, did not cause me the nausea beef has so it was added early.  And believe me, it tastes great at every meal. While it’s definitely more of a “treat” than a regular diet option, I’m glad it’s back among the yummy weekend supper options.

Almond butter is still up in the air (the symptoms I was experiencing could have been caused from a myriad of other things) so I’ll try it again this week or next. I can’t live without nut butters (probably moreso than coffee) so it’s just GOT to work.

One thing’s for sure: there’s no way I could be training for any race during this diet.  If anyone has, I applaud you. While I can complete workouts and generally feel that I have more energy & recover more quickly (inflammation is bad stuff, mk?), I run out of steam quickly during a run. I’ve been maintaining 10-15 miles each week but it hasn’t been pretty.

Stay tuned for a recap of Week 5 (after Week 5, obviously)… 

Goshen 5 & Dime Challenge Recap

I completed my first race since the Disney Marathon last Saturday.  The Route 66 Festival in Edwardsville, IL hosts the (you guessed it) Route 66 10K every June. This year, they partnered with the Glen Carbon Homecoming “Glen Carbon Covered Bridge 5K” to create the Goshen 5 & Dime Challenge.  A colleague of mine convinced me to sign up even though my New Year’s Resolution included “no races, just run for fun” for 2014.  Turns out, I didn’t break my resolution because I didn’t really train for the race and still had fun.

The Route 66 10K is great for several reasons:

  • 8am start time
  • Great, laid back atmosphere
  • Similar, predictable course as previous years (3+ miles are on the trails!)

I started and finished the 10K pretty strong even though I had moments of “quit” in each mile.  I finished without pain and never felt like my tank was on “empty”.  I was a little concerned because my normal go-to pre-5k/10k is off the table during my elimination diet (toast, peanut butter, honey, banana) and I wasn’t sure if the apple cinnamon rice pancakes with coconut butter & apple butter would hold.  But it worked out well!

After the 10K, I headed home to shower, eat, & rest my legs before our next “challenge”: the Glen Carbon Covered Bridge 5K in the evening.

10K results

10K results


Lunch! Sweet potato "nachos" w/chicken, mango & avocado.

Lunch! Sweet potato “nachos” w/chicken, mango & avocado.

The 5K had me a little worried because it was much hotter at 5pm and I’m not an evening runner.  I like to wake up, run on empty, and recover the rest of the day.  I didn’t know how my stomach would  hold up after a day of food, especially since I planned to be a little faster in this race.

The 5K course was flat & fast (all of it on the Nickel Plate Trail!) but all in the hot evening sun.  I started out fast (too fast: my splits were all positive) and my quads were tired from the morning race.   All “running pain” aside, I pushed through and managed to place 3rd in my age group.  Not a PR, but I’ll still take that extra medal!

5K results

5K results

Goshen 5 & Dime Challenge Dominated!

Goshen 5 & Dime Challenge Dominated!

Elimination Diet: Day 4

As I suspected, Day 4 was much easier and happier than Days 1-3.  My cravings were completely under control and/or gone. I was truly baffled by the hunger and cravings to begin with since my breakfast & lunch meals haven’t really changed.  I’m still having my protein smoothie for breakfast and rice, chicken, avocado,  spinach/lettuce, & a fruit for lunch.  It’s amazing how my poorer food choices the 3 days leading up to the elimination diet can “undo” a lot of the good food habits I’d had for so long. Another theory of my extreme hunger could include the complete reduction of sugar.  I’m not one to devour candy or desserts, but just little changes here and there (cutting out all artificial sweeteners, no after-meal peppermints, no coffee/lattes, etc.) probably sent my sugar-craving organs into a frenzy!

From what I’ve read, the first few days of the diet send your body into a detox mode.  I imagined my body going through rehab and withdrawals and my symptoms made much more sense: headache, general “icky” feeling, extreme hunger & cravings, fatigue, etc.

I haven’t worked out much this week (only a couple of 3 mile runs) but that might bring another set of challenges as I up my calorie burn and need for fats & protein for muscle repair.

I’m pretty adapted to “running on empty” since my runs occur toward the end of my daily fasts and I don’t eat before a run (unless it’s over 1 1/2 hours).   I had plenty of energy and endurance during this morning’s run but I could definitely tell I didn’t eat enough yesterday.  Combining an elimination diet with intermittent fasting AND fitness is tough…Stay tuned!