October 31, 2012

A 7-day cleanse to help runner's body heal

As part of my ongoing battle with a mysterious heel/foot injury, I am doing a seven-day cleanse this week. I am enjoying it so much that it may well become my new diet. I use the word "diet" in the sense of nutrition, or the sum of food (and drinks) I consume; I am certainly not trying to lose weight.

Encouraged by my supportive sponsors Drs Paul Fleming and Leah Stadelmann of Chief Chiro (which recently joined forces with Squamish Therapeutics to form Squamish Integrated Health) I looked into the inflammatory qualities of food and decided it was time to adjust my diet accordingly, particularly when it came to bread and pasta, of which Tim and I have been eating copious amounts for years.

In the past 18 months, Tim and I had made some key changes to our diet inspired by my work with Teresa Rider on her book Reconnect With Food: Eat Your Way to Triathlon Success and a subsequent IMJ Coaching training camp run by Teresa and her husband Scott Jones in Boulder, Colorado. The two key nutritional changes we made as a result was our daily breakfast and the meat we eat most nights.

Breakfast changed from Alpen no-sugar-added cereal with milk, to a homemade Bircher muesli, while the meat we eat most often changed from lean beef to buffalo (both the mince and steak varieties). Another key change was using extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for salad dressing, rather than the low-fat ready-made bottled Italian-style dressing.

Teresa also highly recommended chickpeas, and they have become a staple in our diet since. (We are eating somewhat less tofu now than previously and have cut out canned tuna altogether. We eat chicken a few times a month and fish, usually fresh salmon.)

But now, as I desperately search for a solution to the problem that is keeping me from running -- something that has affected me deeper than I allow myself to realize because it's too hard to deal with -- I have revisited my diet again and am making some more changes.

The Squamish Public Library has a copy of Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies in which I learned more about the impact food has on the level of inflammation in our body. I haven’t yet read the entire book but the sections I have provided an incentive to act. It may have a positive impact on whatever my running injury is and at least, if nothing else, improve the way I fuel my body.

This book also mentions this website where you can check the Inflammation Factor of a food.

Recently I came across this article about foods that ease muscle and joint pain, and have since made an effort to include one of them in each of my meals, which is not hard to do. They include cottage cheese, ginger, turmeric, kale, walnuts, and extra virgin olive oil (I was using the latter already but have become more generous with it).   

Scanning Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness by Kathy Freston, chapter five titled A Jump Start for Your Body: Doing a Cleanse caught my eye.

"Of course the bedrock of wellness is feeling good in your body and being aware of what helps and hurts it, and one of the best ways I know to jump-start the process of feeling good in your body is through a body cleanse," Freston writes. "A cleanse is a short-term fast, during which you give up certain foods (or sometimes all food) for a period of time."

"It's not just good for the body, it's also a very important part of a general clearing and lightening that can have a considerable effect on our moods, our outlook, and our sense of spiritual connectedness. Again, this is all about body, mind and spirit. They rarely act or react alone."

The cleanse is aimed at giving the body a break from all the hard work of digesting our food. She recommends giving up sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten and animal products. I opted to give up four of the five for one week, though with caffeine I have kept one cup of coffee in the morning (that's down from my usual 3-4 cups, and up to five cups of Red Rose (black) tea with milk throughout the day).
I did not want to give up animal products; I thought that cutting out the other four will be drastic enough -- gluten in particular as I eat a lot of bread and pasta for example. Now into the third day I am glad with that choice.

Sugar is not that hard for me to give up, though I consume more of it probably than I realize including in the generous helpings of peanut butter I tend to put on bread, as well as of course that bag of Twizzlers or Snickers bar. Still, I love fresh and dried fruit so that's easy to turn to.

Alcohol is not that hard either, though I do love having a glass of red wine with dinner. However, a "common sign [of a weakened liver] is greater sensitivity to ... alcohol -- you might be called a lightweight. Your liver may not be strong enough to filter out toxins from the bloodstream completely, and so they effect [sic] you more powerfully than they would someone with a healthy, fully functional liver," Freston writes.

Caffeine is by far the hardest one for me. "[C]affeine stimulates the central nervous system by tricking the brain into the release of excess adrenaline," says Freston. "This excess adrenaline in your body builds up in your muscles, creating body tension, headaches, and muscle spasms."

While I rarely suffer from a headache, I have plenty of body/muscle tension. As Freston writes, giving up caffeine might cause withdrawal symptoms including headaches, irritability, lethargy, nervousness, and depression; that's a key reason I decided to simply drastically reduce my intake to 1 cup of coffee a day.

Gluten is not something I have previously considered as something that was negatively affecting me. "A gluten-heavy diet may contribute to osteoporosis, anemia, and vitamin and mineral deficiences, primarily because the small intestine is too inflamed to perform its duty of absorbing nourishment," according to Freston.  

My diet certainly was gluten-heavy with lots of pasta and bread. "Each individual has a different sensitivity to gluten, but almost everyone suffers some irritation from it," Freston writes.

As mentioned, I am not forgoing animal products this week. Perhaps another time, perhaps not.

So, what am I eating?

Breakfast is now: organic apple, raisins, walnuts (or almonds), shaved unsweetened coconut, greek yoghurt.

An alternative breakfast, which can also serve as lunch or dinner, is a large omelet with veggies, here's a meal I made the other day. You need a couple of ‘regular-sized’ potatoes, 4 eggs, extra virgin olive oil, 1 onion, ginger (ideally freshly shaved), a dash of turmeric, 3 small tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.

Peel the potatoes, slice them before cooking them until done.
Cut the onion as finely as you like.
Pour generous layer of virgin olive oil and heat in frying pan, then add the onion.
Meanwhile, crack and mix the four eggs in a bowl, then add the potatoes, ginger, turmeric. sliced tomatoes and fresh cilantro, and add this mixture to the pan.
When done, add (sea) salt and fresh black pepper to taste, and serve with cottage cheese.   

For dinner last night, I made a salad with buffalo and goat cheese (a variation of a recipe from Teresa's Reconnect with Food); I used fresh organic spinach, tomatoes, avocado, and sunflower seeds. I also added a bit of organic kale and fresh ginger.

Another lunch or dinner I am having during this cleanse is a brown rice curry with chickpeas and veggies. The curry paste I'm using has been a staple in our diet for a while: Aroy-D red or green curry paste, as all the ingredients are natural. I use extra virgin olive oil to fry an onion, before adding a tablespoon of the paste, then chickpeas, veggies, and finally coconut milk. Serve with brown rice.   

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