Belly Woes and Diet Foes (and Leaky Guts?)

Have you ever been told that you can’t do your absolute favorite thing anymore? You broke your leg, and can’t play soccer until it’s healed. You’re knee deep in repaying your student loans and can’t afford to travel until they’re almost gone. Well, my absolute favorite thing to do is eat. And this summer I’ve essentially figured out that I can’t really do that anymore.

I have a lot of gut health issues. A lot. We won’t go into details (you’re welcome), but essentially my recent life has been consumed with combating and trying to prevent symptoms from crippling almost every move I make during the day.

Before 2012, my belly was filled with every yummy treat you could think of. Eating was (and still is) my favorite past time! But after realizing that daily stomach aches weren’t the regular happenings of healthy 20-year olds, I decided to cut out gluten and dairy. Immediately, I noticed a dramatic difference in the way I felt, but still often experienced the same symptoms. In 2014 I said, “Heck, Paleo sounds neat!”, and gave that bad boy a try with a little encouragement from the Crossfit community. Boy did that change everything. I was living a happy gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo lifestyle with a Zone diet twist (strictly because I don’t know how to portion control… Don’t look at me like that, neither do you!) and I was feeling goooooood. I had more energy, saw results at the gym and in my running, and even dropped a pant size. Problems were solved!

Nope.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

One of my favorite Paleo recipes: Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread from PaleOMG!

Here comes June 13, the night I thought I had food poisoning after going to dinner with my parents. It turns out the food poisoning symptoms (intense abdominal pain, nausea) were actually symptoms of a rupturing ovarian cyst. After moving back home for the summer and coming under an immense amount of stress, that bad boy decided it couldn’t take it anymore and exploded inside of me, leaving excess fluid in my abdomen (gross, right?).

Luckily for me, I didn’t end up in the emergency room. Unfortunately for me, I’ve been battling significant gut health issues since the day after it happened.

Again, I’ll spare you the details, but imagine your digestive system being the only thing you think about pretty much every hour of the day. I became obsessed with learning about why my body was revolting against me after thinking I had finally gotten a handle on my digestive issues.

So, I stuck my nose in a book- two, actually. The first, Brain Maker, written by Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, first opened my eyes to something called Leaky Gut. Basically, after 20 years of eating gluten (while unknowingly gluten-sensitive), my gut started to break down; more specifically, the flora of my digestive tract, allowing bad bacteria to grow where good bacteria should be, and weakening the ability for my body to decide between good and bad nutrients to be transferred into my bloodstream. (PSA: I am not a doctor, and this is probably the most simplistic version of Leaky Gut available anywhere on the Internet). So, when my cyst ruptured from stress, it irritated my digestive system (a common side effect) and bada bing: chaos ensued.

Gut health is a mysterious thing- I know I didn’t understand it until I started reading, and still have so many questions. After multiple procedures (a CT scan and Bacterial Overgrowth Test) and no diagnoses, both doctors I’ve seen have suggested trying a Low-FODMAP diet to minimize my symptoms. Add it to my list of descriptors: gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, Paleo, Zone, Low-FODMAP…. What’s next?

Is this Low-FODMAP lifestyle going to help? Who knows.

After 626 words, you now have a somewhat extensive description of the past two months (and previous three years) of my life. When you struggle to maintain a healthy gut, you struggle to maintain a lot of other things- energy level, anxiety, (sanity), a desire to workout… And man, oh man, have I had to push myself to keep going. When you don’t feel good, all you want to do is lie down until it goes away. Well, when you don’t feel good every, single day… you can understand where this is going.

I just completed my third 10k yesterday (sorry social media world for exploding with pictures), and I finished about 5 minutes later than I had set my goal. The first three miles were agonizing because I just couldn’t keep the pace I wanted. But, after realizing I just wasn’t going to meet that goal, my race improved dramatically.

Yes, it was hard (hot damn it was hard), but this body has been putting me to the test the past two months and was still able to finish 6.2 miles under an hour. And this body is going to run 13.1 in October (yup, that’s a half marathon. LOL.). Holy crap it’ll hurt, but holy crap am I thankful for the things that I still can do, and you better believe I’ll keep doing them. My struggles do not even compare to others who battle severe, even life-threatening digestive health issues, and I know that, and I’m so thankful for that. But even so, my struggles are my own, and I am proud of the way I’m continuing to try and overcome them.

To celebrate these victories, both big and small, I’d like someone to find me a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, Paleo, low-FODMAP piece of chocolate cake with a gigantic scoop of ice cream. Please.

Paleo Girl on A Grad Student Budget

This week marks the very first time I have lived in my very own apartment. Granted, I share it with two roommates, but I have my own room, a full-sized bed, and a kitchen to fulfill every Paleo girl’s needs. This week also marks the very first time I have had to buy groceries for myself. I’ve gone grocery shopping in the past; in fact, I love grocery shopping. So stems my problem. My CrossFit gym happens to be exactly one mile north of my apartment, across from a Kroger. One mile south of my apartment lies another Kroger. Three miles east, yet another. And last but certainly not least, the mecca of specialty foods stores- Bloomingfoods- not but a mile northeast. What’s a girl to do… say no?!

Well, this grad student is gonna have to learn to say no. If they didn’t cause gut wrenching stomach aches, I would be perfectly happy living on frozen pizzas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and frozen tv dinners. Unfortunately for my wallet, those just aren’t options for this gal. Eating Paleo is by no means inexpensive, but there has to be a cheaper way to do it for someone who’s putting themselves through grad school. 

I don’t have the answer yet, but I’ve made a few discoveries this week that will help prevent the mini strokes I’ve been having every time I check my credit card statement. 


Buy produce that’s in season. How do you know what’s in season? Uh, look it up. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live a mile and a half from the Bloomington Farmer’s Market, you walk there on Saturday morning and find out! Yesterday I got two, gigantic, organic cucumbers, two pints of absolutely gorgeous organic grape and sun sugar tomatoes, and two organic bell peppers for $7. TOTAL. Not to mention I hit my 13,000 steps on my FitBit halfway through the day thanks to the gorgeous morning stroll. Other yummies like green beans, zucchini, egg plant, onions and some very fancy looking mushrooms covered the tables as well. Take advantage! They’re growing in abundance and the farmer’s market is a competitive place that will keep the prices low. 

Buy frozen vegetables. I’ve just recently fallen in love with the bags of microwaveable vegetables. You can keep in the freezer, throw them in the microwave for 6 minutes, and have two dinners worth of veggies ready to mix with ground turkey and tomato sauce- my favorite weeknight meal. 

Pay attention to the dirty dozen and clean fifteen. If you can afford to eat totally organic, you rock. If you can’t (like me), there’s no need to fret! This lovely list, http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/, shows us the twelve conventionally raised foods that tested highest for pesticides and the fifteen that tested lowest. And look at that- avocados and sweet potatoes, two foods I eat constantly, are on the clean fifteen list and I never have to buy them organically again!


And so begins my list of budget helping tips for myself and for you.

Agree or disagree, make to try the Paleo Blondies from A Calculated Whisk because they’re incredible.

Time to eat! 

 

 

 

Almond Butter Blondies (YUM)

Almond Butter Blondies

I found this recipe a few days ago and can confidently say that I have eaten almost an entire 8×8 pan to myself between the two batches I’ve made. Easy, Paleo, and so delicious. I encourage you to try them and convince your friends that eating Paleo doesn’t mean you are starving yourself of anything tasty. Because, these are tasty.

Enjoy!

The Glorious Off Day

I have to share the unbelievable dinner we had last night. My dad is the head chef in this household, and last night he felt inspired. More specifically, he was inspired by a recipe in the New York Times for pork chops in a strawberry-rhubarb agrodolce (Paleo friendly, might I add!). If you look at the recipe, you think hmm… rhubarb, strawberries, vinegar, ginger, and olives…. I’ll pass. But it was, I promise you, one of the best meals that I have had this year, if not longer. Served next to asparagus from the farmer’s market and a bed of quinoa, I mean, HELLO! Try it. I promise it will not disappoint.

It’s ironic to think that my second post is about my off day, but, alas, I did not CrossFit today. The common suggestion has been to either follow a 3:1 (three days on, one day off) or 5:2 (five days on, two days off) schedule. So here I am, lounging on my couch after lounging outside, basking in one of the first sunny Sundays we’ve had in quite a while. That’s not to say that I haven’t done anything physical today. I consider mowing the lawn and walking around the grocery store a great way to spend an off-day. I don’t know about you, but I get restless after a few hours of doing nothing.

So this off day was spent sunning, mowing, and exploring the wonderful new grocery store just three miles away! Since beginning CrossFit, and most recently taking on Paleo, I have become extremely aware of eating organic and naturally. Luckily for me, this new grocery store has come just in my hour of need as a beautiful mix between a regular grocer and a specialty foods store. I walked inside today for the first time, and besides seeing everyone I knew (this store is clearly a very big deal in my town), I was hit with the excitement of having a store like this that will lessen the burden of eating Paleo. At least half an aisle was dedicated to gluten free foods, another was filled with nuts, dried fruit, granola and seeds and everything else you could want to fill up in a bag and take home and stuff into your mouth. Not to mention the organic produce and huge meat counter that had me grinning ear-to-ear! I love grocery shopping, and this new store is only going to feed my wonderful (terrible) addiction.

Back on the grind tomorrow, but for now it’s almonds and dried cranberries, House Hunters, and my couch. 🙂