Monday, 30 April 2012

Yoga, a gaseous affair

WARNING:  This is an IBS-specific post, and may contain TMI - Too Much Information.  

Is it possible that I have found a subject perhaps even more taboo than the bowel movement?  A friend of mind confirmed today that yes, this is, in fact, the case.  Passing wind, tooting, farting, letting ‘er rip – all terms to refer to flatulence.  It is difficult to write a blog about IBS without ever touching on this subject matter.  So, I will be completely honest, on occasion, I toot.  I call it toot because it sounds a little more sophisticated than some of the alternatives listed above.  When you have IBS this can be one of the biggest, and most embarrassing, challenges you face.  We have all had that awkward situation where you are doing everything in your power not to do so.  You have also, no doubt, been in a situation where, horror upon horrors, one has escaped.  Extreme and utter embarrassment.  For some of us with IBS you go through bouts where you are gassier than others, for whatever reason – too much fibre, not enough fibre, not enough water, something you ate, too much air intake, stress, backed-up etc.  So, without further ado, I am going to tell you about my last yoga class…

As with any physical activity, I plan my meals ahead of time in order to facilitate full digestion.  Last Thursday I did exactly that, I had a 7:30pm yoga class, I got home from work at 5pm – this gave me two and a half hours to attain full digestion.  One would think this should be enough.  Please keep in mind, whenever I have a fitness activity I always eat something with very little fibre and arguably nutrients, basically, I choose straight white carbs because, for me, these are the most bowel friendly.  With this in mind, I ate two pieces of white toast with peanut butter.  But then I did something I should not have done.  Peanut Butter Captain Crunch – one of life’s greatest meals; I adore it so much that my American mother-in-law mails it to me because you cannot buy it in Canada.  In my heart I knew this would be a bad move, but there was exactly enough for one more bowl, I still had about two hours to go, so I ate it.  As I was leaving for yoga I started to realize that I would not be able to digest this meal, I tried several times to have poopy success, but, it was not to be.  With a feeling of impending doom, I left for yoga. 

Has any yoga instructor ever mentioned to you that certain poses help to facilitate digestion?  This is completely and utterly true.  It is also one of the last things you want to hear as you butt-clench your way through a yoga class, trying not to rip ass in the middle of all these zen-loving strangers.  Bearing this in mind, I would like to say that Yoga Thursday was one of the most uncomfortable experiences in recent life.  I felt ready to explode for the entire duration of class.  Gas can be manageable if you are doing poses like warrior, however, very difficult to ignore in child’s pose, or even worse, in downward dog.  In down dog you are in the perfect position to happily relax and let your body do exactly what you both want it to do – if you are in the comfort of your own home.  I managed to fare all right up until the superman pose where you lie on your stomach and float your legs/arms out behind you.  Essentially, you are rocking on your stomach; this is tantamount to becoming a human whoopi-cushion.  As I lay there trying not to rock I looked at the bum of the woman in front of me.  Unbeknownst to her, I was eyeing her rear end thinking, if I were to projectile vomit right now, it would definitely land on that bum.  Even worse would be projectile vomit coupled with one rip-roaring fart.  I obviously decided to stop the pose and just lay there.  Good life decision. 

I did manage to get through the whole yoga class without tooting, and I can honestly say that I have not done so in a class before.  I can also tell you that I wasted no time in getting myself to the safety zone outside my car, where with a great sense of relief I finally ripped one good under the cover of a darkened parking lot. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What a pain in the ... bursa?

In recent weeks I have come to regard my 10k race as achievable, it is still extremely daunting, but I have acknowledged that I will be able to accomplish this.  A week or so ago I was able to fulfil my training requirements, exceed my own expectations, push through some plateaus and then bring my triumph to a screeching halt.  After two rest days it began to dawn on me that the pain I had been feeling was not, in fact, “the burn” that I attribute to exercising.  Instead, it is the pain of a premature geriatric.  You have all seen it, the hip swagger that is more of a stagger, the tentative shuffle, and … the waddle.  I injured my hip, and as a result, I no longer have the graceful run of a gazelle; I am full-on penguin.  It appears as though I have a case of bursitis, so I have been icing, stretching, and pill popping for over a week.  I can put in a valiant effort on a decent walk and I can suffer through some yoga, but I cannot run.  Yesterday I plunged into the pool for a long-overdue swim with the vain hope that it would help to calm things down, but, alas, it was not to be.  My 3.3k walk home probably did not help, and I am now wondering if the 60 flights of stairs I heaved myself up today were a bad idea.  So, as I write this I am covered in ice with pain pulsing from areas I did not know existed.  I believe this is where I make my bi-monthly emergency phone call to both my chiropractor and my massage therapist.  Every time I see my massage therapist she says “what did you do this time” and then “how did you manage to do that”.  I really have no idea.  She says I am overzealous, I say that I am trying not to wimp out; her recommendation is to strive to be about a notch below wimp so I can save myself some money.  Whenever I take up a new activity some sort of injury follows:
  • pole dancing = lower back issues and bruised rib;
  • running = shin splints and bursitis,
  • ballroom dancing = stuck neck;
  • yoga = muscle spasms;
  • strawberry picking = muscle spasms in low back; and
  • skiing = rotator cuff. 
Following all of these injuries my husband comes up with a new term of endearment for my injured body part, all of which appear to come from the menu at McDonald’s and/or KFC:  McRib, Chicken Wing (rotator cuff), Hoof (foot), and Drumstick (hip).  In conclusion, if you notice a lack of running-related commentary, it means I really did it this time; I finally injured my Biggie Fry. 

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The F word – Part Deux: Dear Diary…

In my last post I began my introduction to the world of fibre and how I came to discover my optimal intake-level of the f word.  Knowing your numbers is great in theory, but if you do not know how to track your fibre then you will have no idea how you are doing.  Sure, your symptoms may indicate that things are not going well, but you will not know how the fibre or the food is affecting you.  The solution is … food journaling! 

For those of you who have been diagnosed for awhile, you have probably received this recommendation many times before.  If you are anything like me, I blissfully ignored it.  I became so aggravated any time someone suggested that I track my food, and even worse my symptoms, and my feelings.  And then I had one too many “episodes” and could no longer ignore the repeated recommendations of my dietitian to begin tracking.  So, pen and notebook in hand, I began the tiresome task of writing everything down.  When I say everything, I mean absolutely everything. 

What to track?

  • Track how much (ex. 1 slice of whole wheat bread, ½ cup of unsweetened applesauce etc.) and how it was prepared (ex. peeled, cooked, grilled, poached, raw etc.)
  • DO NOT forget to track your liquids, especially water
  • Track when you ate it
  • Track how you physically felt throughout the day (ex. felt bloated after lunch, solid BM after breakfast, cramps after dinner etc.)
  • Make note of details relating to your BM (bowel movement), this would include color, consistency, smell, easy or difficult to pass
  • Track how you felt emotionally (ex. felt stressed all day, very positive day etc.)
  • Write down any event you may feel was significant
  • Make note of any physical activity you did that day and for how long – in addition, if your IBS felt better or worse as a result
  • For women, if you are on your period, be sure to note this as it can drastically change your symptoms

 Now that you know what to track, how should you track?  There are so many options that you can use, I have tried both the manual options and a few of the online options.  Here is a sampling of what you can use:

  • Notebook – just like a diary, you can just make a new entry each day and jot down all of the details as listed above.
  • Spreadsheet – I am a girl who loves her spreadsheets.  I love to create an Excel file for pretty much everything, so journaling was no different.  My philosophy is, if you can make it visually appealing and thoughtfully organized, you will be more likely to use it.
  • Worksheets – Some dietitians will give you a worksheet that you can use to track your food, and if not, make your own, maybe using a spreadsheet!
  • Online – There are unlimited online choices.  In the past, I have used Fitday (the free version) and I currently use Livestrong (paid version, but will likely switch back to the free version next year).  These providers have all of the information available online, so you do not have to wonder how much fibre is in the food you are eating, or what the nutritional break down is of a Tim Hortons blueberry bran muffin.  These are useful tools because they can show you whether or not you are reaching your RDI for various nutrients, it has a “journal” option that allows you to track your symptoms, as well as your fitness and other activities.  My husband is a valiant Fitday supporter, but, Livestrong is prettier and has lots of articles relating to fitness and food.  A friend of mine uses a similar paid tool on the Women’s Health website and I also know that many runners use SparkPeople.  However, it does not matter which option you choose, it just has to work for you.  
  • Mobile –  most, if not all of the websites listed above also have apps that you can download to your iPhone or iPod so you can track on the go.  They also sync up to the online versions.   

When keeping a food journal, ensure that you track for a minimum of two weeks, but preferably a month.  This will allow you to track a wide variety of foods and it will give you a clear idea of your eating habits and how your symptoms relate to what you eat.  

Once you have tracked for the allotted time, you should analyze the results and make adjustments accordingly.  For example, if you notice that every time you eat turnip your guts are a-rumble, maybe you should stop eating this gas-inducing food.  If you notice that when you eat food high in refined sugars that you have the runs, maybe it is time to re-think your sugar intake.  If you notice that no matter what you eat for breakfast, you are having problems, maybe change the time you eat breakfast.  Perhaps you discover that an after-dinner walk makes you feel much better, you should ensure that you do this every night because it gives you relief.  What happens if you have strong symptoms and cannot figure out the trigger?  Check your food intake on the previous day.  Often times, it is the food that you ate yesterday that creates the symptoms you feel today.  If that does not work, did something happen in your life that could have triggered the symptoms? 

Below are some screen shots from both Fitday and Livestrong to give you an idea of what their interfaces look like.  Check back for Part 3 in my f word series.  

Screenshot of Livestrong's MyPlate 
Screenshot of Fitday's interface