Autoimmunity and fitness with Focus T25

While looking for a specific youtube video I made recently, I came across this one from October 30, 2013 filmed during Focus T25 Speed 3.0. In this video, I was struggling because I had not had anything to eat prior to working out. While I have worked out first thing in the morning for years, since developing Sjogren’s Syndrome, this has become problematic. I feel weak and nauseous during my workouts. I just realized that at some point, I started working out again on an empty stomach and was fine. I felt great, in fact. I had awesome P90X3 and 21 Day Fix workouts! I am now back to struggling and didn’t make the connection to not eating before a workout! I think this happened because I started waking up later and therefore, didn’t have time for my morning Shakeology to digest and workout before having to start school with the boys. I think when I am in an autoimmune flare, I need to have some fuel before my workout. I’m looking forward to my workouts next week to see if it makes a big difference with my current struggles.

Sjogren’s and Pilates???

Today, I did the Pilates Fix routine from the 21 Day Fix workout program by Beachbody. I am in love with Pilates! This routine worked every muscle in my body but in a relaxing, slow burn kind of way. It felt restorative rather than taxing. So it was quite fitting that a fellow Sjogie should post the following blog post, about a dancer battling Sjogren’s. She also owns and runs her own fitness studio teaching Pilates and yoga!

Tia Cassady writes:

Since Jacqueline’s discovery of Sjogren’s she can no longer professionally compete in ariel fitness. Jacqueline can not train like she used to and can not keep up with the other competitors as her body gets fatigued sooner, her joints are stiff at times, she gets easily bruised and the recovery time is much longer than most dancers and athletes. Jacqueline has decided to not get on medication at this time and is approaching the disease in a holistic manner for now. Jacqueline is taking supplements, made changes in her diet, exercising daily, attending physical therapy, massage, chiropractor and acupuncture treatments. Jacqueline is more determined than ever to continue her passion for dance and helping others.

….Jacqueline decided to rehabilitate herself through safe and effective exercises on her own through methods such as Yoga and Pilates.

 

As time marches ever closer to my third Spartan Sprint, I am reminded of last years race where fatigue, weakness in my hands compromised my performance. It was frustrating, and yes, I will say devastating, but I pushed past it and finished the race with an excellent time in my age group. I’m approaching this race with the thought of training hard and doing my best. It’s day to day at times with how my body feels. I am hoping with better nutrition and nailing down my supplements that my body will do what my mind wants it to do ….and that’s to climb that darn rope and not have to do BURPEES!!!!

So what is Sjogren’s?

Sjögren’s is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.

Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.

With upwards of 4,000,000 Americans suffering from Sjögren’s, it is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders. Nine out of 10 patients are women.

We all have mountains to climb. You just have to find the best path and put one foot in front of the other and get moving!

Food as fuel and medicine

Food as Fuel and Medicine

This is something I think about often. I’m in the middle of reading several books on the topic. Yes, there are conflicting ideas out there and only more time will tell which is the best approach … if there is a best approach. It’s more likely that there are a few best approaches. The data is heavily leaning away from the current American diet of highly processed and refined foods, low fat, high carbohydrate diet. It can be difficult to embrace a new way of eating for fear it is the latest fad and will be replaced by some new thing soon. However, it seems we have tested most of the combinations so far, after all, there are only so many food groups! A friend sent me a link to this article from CBS Sports about a change in nutrition for NBA athletes. I think NBA athletes have a lot in common with us. They need to get as much out of their body as possible. Those with autoimmune issues are trying to get the most out of our bodies with as little pain and fatigue as possible. Shockingly, according to the article, the NBA is not known for it’s good nutrition. These athletes struggle with injuries and surgeries yet are not giving their bodies the food they need to rebuild and repair!

 

This sentence really struck me! “We’re making the shift from basically worse than pet food to actual food,” Cate Shanahan said. Worse than pet food? Money is not an obstacle for these folks. Knowledge is!

With Howard, the intervention began where it does with most athletes (and non-athletes, for that matter) who need to change their diets. It began with sugar. It turned out that Howard was consuming the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in the form of candy and soda — not to mention the additional sugar his body was making out of all the empty starches he was eating.

It was bad. At Cate Shanahan’s request, Howard had undergone a blood screening that revealed a frighteningly pathological profile. His glucose readings were through the roof, much higher than they should have been for a ripped, 27-year-old professional athlete who used to call himself Superman.

Howard was struggling to return to form after back surgery the previous spring, and was wrestling with the enormous pressure of whether to re-sign with the Lakers as a free agent. Cate Shanahan believed his performance and recovery were being seriously compromised by his poor diet. She saw the telltale signs of sugar addiction — spikes in energy followed by crashes and erratic motor skills that were indicative of nerves misfiring.

With diet modifications, Howard’s bloodwork is now much improved in a very short time. He avoids sugar, all processed foods, vegetable, canola, and corn oils. In contrast the current government food pyramid, these professional athletes now get at least 50% of their calories from healthy fats! The Lakers now only eat grass-fed beef and free-range chicken and pigs that are eating natural diet rather than fed on corn. If you want to learn more about the nutrition plan, read Dr. Shanahan’s book “Deep Nutrition.” I have just ordered on my Kindle and will review it at a later date. If you read several of the nutrition to fight autoimmune disease books, it’s the same nutrition plan. We, just like athletes, need to give our bodies the fuel it needs to repair damage done by autoimmune disease  and allow us to lead normal lives! Processed foods, too much sugar, vegetable, corn, canola oils are thought to all contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of heart disease. If you have autoimmune disease, inflammation is your middle name. If you’re trying to get optimal performance out of your body to jump higher and run faster, you want inflammation at a minimal to build and repair tissues. “”I’ve definitely noticed my joints aren’t as sore, aren’t as stiff when I wake up when I don’t eat the bad oils,” Kaman said.” That’s music to anyone’s ears! It will certainly be interested to see how all this plays out in the big leagues. Stay tuned….

 

Let Food and Fitness Be Thy Medicine

I have been coming to terms with my diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome and what it means for my active lifestyle. I have found that nutrition and fitness are critical to my quality of life.  A friend, Cassidy Bowie, posted the following in the hopes of motivating others to look deeper at their nutrition and their fitness – to live a life of high quality!  I was so moved by her post, I just had to share it with you. She has graciously given me permission. (edit: You can now follow Cassidy’s journey at her blog.)

“I was asked to share my story recently to help encourage others here it is for my friends and family here to read :

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
– Goethe

Shortly after my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. This blow was hard to handle as I had been very sick for some time and being diagnosed with both at such a young age was a hard pill to swallow. For the next eight years of my life I became very ill and spent a lot of time at the hospital. Lupus and RA were controlling my life. I had numerous surgeries, blood clots, and a detached retina. All of this in a short amount of time. I used to joke if you looked at my medical history and file, without looking at my age, you would think I was someone much older. I went through trying, I can’t even count, many different medicines in order to try and control the two diseases and the damage they were causing to my system. I finally reached a point about three years ago when I decided that living miserably with everything wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life anymore. I had been so sick that I could barely walk most days. I had difficulty walking to the grocery store; I was given a handicapped placard so that I was able to park closer to everything so walking wouldn’t be a hindrance in my daily activities. This was a lifestyle that was hard to handle, being constantly sick and in pain. Not begin able to walk very far without being miserable.

I had a friend who encouraged me to run Tough Mudder. For those of who don’t know what Tough Mudder is, this race is a 10-12 obstacle course race. In my condition many thought of this feat as ridiculous. How can someone who could barely walk at times, and suffer so much pain just walking be able to finish a race like this? I set my mind to it and was able to achieve this race with my brother Alex and amazing friend Shannon by my side. I will never forget as I was almost in tears at the last few miles of the race my brother telling me big girls don’t cry we are going to do this I don’t care how long it takes. I crossed the finish line and broke down in tears, with my best friend Nikki and her mom there cheering me on. I was hurting after this amazing feat and at that point decided that I didn’t want to live my life suffering anymore. I needed to make changes to my life in order to live better.

With the help of a great friend and gym member Nicole Davis, I decided to completely change my eating style. Paleo diet is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that humans consumed during the Paleolithic era. This lifestyle change allows you to go back to the basics of eating real food. I decided that going cold turkey and cutting out all the crap of my current diet was the way to go. I went home and cleaned out my cupboards, I got rid of all the processed foods, grains, and dairy products. I donated what I could and gave other items to friends. This started my lifestyle change into a better living. I also began working out six days a week. I began with bootcamp style workouts and running ( a lot). With these lifestyle changes I saw my Lupus and RA symptoms diminish and started feeling better than any medicine would be able to provide to me. I was able to improve my athletic ability and overall health state. With all of these changes, my Lupus specialist is now able to take me off the toxic medicines that I have been on for so long. I decided to take the natural approach to living and a better lifestyle overall. This change was not easy by any means but it meant living a healthier life. This past summer I was able to compete in a total of 25 races, a monumental achievement considering where I was just a short three years ago. These 25 races included 3 half marathons, Spartan races, Tough Mudder, and a Ragnar.

I truly have my lifestyle changes of diet and exercise to thank for being able to achieve this crazy goal of so many races in a year. I have become a much different person and able to do things I never thought possible when I was sick. These lifestyle changes are going to allow me to live a healthier, longer, and happier life. My story needs to be shared so that people who are going through a hard and difficult time are able to see light at the end of the tunnel. This will allow hope and encouragement reach those who are effected by illness, discouragement, or doubt in their life. Next year I have many more goals that I plan on achieving. Now that I know I am capable of achieving what I put my mind to there is no stopping me.”