Hi, friends! I’m home from Oregon. Mal and I got in yesterday morning, picked up Murphy from the dog sitter, and then spent the rest of the day unpacking, grocery shopping, and getting our lives back in order. It’s so good to be home. I missed my little pug-let.
I wanted to give you guys a colitis update since I didn’t talk about it much when I was on vacation last week. The short of it is that I’m still flaring. Boo. It’s NOTHING like my previous two flares that kept me close to a toilet for two weeks straight, but I’m still bleeding. I feel totally fine, which is why you saw me having so much fun on vacation, but things are still not quite right. I called my doctor yesterday, and he said to just keep trucking along with my current meds. (He switched me back to Colozol early last week.) He said sometimes it just takes awhile for the drugs to work and the colon to completely heal, so I’m trying to be patient.
Anyway, with that said, I thought it would be a good time to recap the Whole9 Seminar since I’ve had a lot to think about since I attended it.
The Whole9 Seminar was awesome. It was exactly what I expected and really helped me connected the dots with regard to my health and ulcerative colitis. The ‘9’ in Whole9 comes from these 9 factors, which Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, the creators, believe are all important for optimal health.
At the seminar, we spent about 3/4 of the time on nutrition and the Whole30 diet. The rest of the time was devoted to exercise and active recovery, which really resonated with me. More on that in a minute—let’s cover the nutrition stuff first.
Melissa and Dallas believe the food we eat should meet four criteria:
- Promote a healthy psychological response
- Promote a healthy hormonal response
- Support a healthy gut
- Support immune function and minimize inflammation
The first two bullet points were interesting, and I may blog about them in the future, but for the nutrition portion of this post, I’m going to focus on the last two since they are more directly related to my health issues. As you know, I’m not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian, so if you have specific questions, please consult these health professionals.
Support a healthy gut
When it comes to nutrition, it really doesn’t matter what you put in your mouth if your body can’t properly absorb it. If the gut is damaged in any way (often referred to as “leaky gut”), its ability to protect you and keep the “bad” stuff out is compromised. It basically opens you up to a whole bunch of problems and food can disrupt this balance. Sugar, in particular, fuels and changes the growth of bacteria in your gut. If there’s an imbalance, it changes the communication between the gut and the “friendly” bacteria, which then can alter the activity of your immune system. Three-quarters of your immune cells are located in your gut, so your food choices are really important. This is where things got really interesting for me…
Support immune function and minimize inflammation
As you probably know, your immune system fights off infections and other “bad guys” and repairs the body. Acute inflammation, your body’s initial, short-term response to damage, is okay. It’s a healthy response—acute inflammation is the start of the rebuilding and healing process. However, if there is ongoing inflammation, there’s more of a breakdown of tissue as the body tries to heal itself. Chronic inflammation stretches the inflammatory response over weeks, months, and even years, which creates all sort of problems. And you might not even know you’re experiencing chronic inflammation (also know as “silent inflammation”). Basically, chronic inflammation puts you at a higher risk for “lifestyle diseases,” including autoimmune diseases.
Did you see ulcerative colitis in that list? Chronic/silent inflammation can become an autoimmune dysfunction down the road. Your body is basically bathing in inflammatory chemicals, so your immune system gets confused and improperly identifies “threats” (your body’s healthy tissues/cells) to attack. Ulcerative colitis is basically an attack of the immune system on the colon. It’s a malfunction in the body that sends the immune system out to destroy invading organisms, but in this case, the “invaders” are a perfectly healthy colon. This “attack” causes inflammation and ulceration (bleeding ulcers) inside the colon. I know, it sounds lovely.
Of course, there is a genetic component to all of this. Apparently, somewhere inside me, there’s a gene for ulcerative colitis, so I had a much smaller margin of error for dealing with chronic inflammation, and so the gene was turned “on.” Dallas explained this well: “Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger.” Lucky me, right? According the Melissa and Dallas, however, you can improve (and even cure) these “lifestyle diseases” with dietary changes.
The Whole30 believes these foods make you less healthy (sugar, gut health):
- Sugars & artificial sweeteners
And these foods make you more healthy:
- Meat, seafood, eggs
- Oils, nuts, and seeds
Diet is definitely important for supporting gut health, immune function, and minimizing inflammation, but you can’t always look to nutrition to answer a lifestyle problem. Basically, you can’t fix all of your issues with food. It’s just one piece of the puzzle, which brings me to exercise and active recovery.
EXERCISE & ACTIVE RECOVERY
Besides nutrition, the seminar also focused on exercise and active recovery. I found this part really interesting, especially since I always thought my flares might be related to the amount and intensity of my workouts. My doctor insisted exercise wasn’t causing my flares, but now I definitely think it’s a contributing factor.
Health and performance are different things. You can get healthier and continue to improve your performance, but there comes a point when these two things no longer correlate. For example, take professional athletes—some of them push themselves really hard to perform at an elite level, but, often times, at a cost to their health. You always hear about so-and-so athlete dealing with a reoccurring injury or playing through one. Of course, it’s their job, so they take the risk, but for regular people, it’s not worth it; it’s no longer health-promoting. You don’t want to risk your health or any long-term damage, so it’s important to moderate frequency, intensity, and duration of your workouts as well as active recovery. The seminar didn’t cover these things specifically (I think it’s in the book), but I heard the message loud and clear!
So, what does all this mean for me?
I won’t be doing a “real” Whole30, but I am going to keep trucking along with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) since it’s specifically intended for improving intestinal health through diet, and I know a lot of people have had success with it. It’s also very similar to the Whole30.
I know I mentioned Paleo in my previous post, but I now realize I probably shouldn’t have lumped it together with SCD. They’re very similar diets (I just figured Paleo was more familiar), but just to be I’m clear, I’ll be eating more of a SCD—closely now, but, hopefully, with more flexibility in the future.
As far as exercise, I’m definitely going to take it slow—less CrossFit, less running, less everything. In the next few days, I’m planning some long walks with Murphy and yoga, but nothing too strenuous until the bleeding completely stops (as suggested by my doctor’s nurse, who is familiar with CrossFit workouts). Once I stop flaring, I’ll get back into CrossFit (I miss it so much!), but I won’t go 5 or 6 times a week like I was once doing. It was just too much for me. I also plan to take more rest days and incorporate some lower-intensity exercise into my weekly workouts.
Stress-management & Sleep
Additionally, I’m really going to try to better manage my stress levels. I suck at manging stress and know I’ve said this before, but it’s tough to pull myself away from my job since it’s all-encompassing. I really enjoy it, but I know I need to unplug more than I currently do. I’m also planning to put a priority on sleep and really try to get 8 hours every night.
I hope my recap of the Whole9 Seminar was helpful! It was definitely an interesting and worthwhile workshop, and I highly recommend attending if it ever comes to your area. If you have specific questions about the Whole9 or Whole30, feel free to ask—I’ll do my best to answer them—but definitely check out the Whole9 website or It Starts With Food for yourself. Additionally, the Whole9 Resources have been really helpful to me.