My struggle with Chronic Inflammation

Chronic Inflammation impacts more people then we realize. It can go on for years without being diagnosed or even considered to be the cause of any issues. Research has shown that Chronic Inflammation can often be linked to the cause of various aches, pains, and specific health conditions (such as arthritis, tendonitis, colitis, etc..).

One of the major health issues that I quietly fought for years was Chronic Inflammation and it was not until I fully embraced the Primal Blueprint that I found relief from this pain.

About 6 years ago I knew something was going on. I was waking up with lots of pain in my joints and the pain in my toes would flare up every time I tried running. It got so bad that I stopped running and was often using pain relievers to address the issue. Running had become a huge part of my fitness journey during that time. I was passionate about competing in races, mud runs, and obstacle courses. O376942_4283290081034_869409659_n (2)ne of the hardest things I did mentally was to take a step back from running and competing and address the pain. I spent a few years trying various remedies to address the pain before I finally found a doctor in the area that would run the right blood work, so that we could take a deep look into what some the issues were.

Once we got the blood work back, one of the issues that came to light was chronic inflammation; Sure I suspected this, but getting the confirmation was actually a relief. Working with my doctor, on how best to address this, we identified the Primal Blueprint as a tool that could help me face this issue.

Chronic inflammation, which is believed to be the possible root cause of many common health problems and serious diseases, can be triggered and exacerbated by overly stressful lifestyle practices (sleep deprivation, chronic cardio, hectic daily schedules) and poor dietary habits (excess carbohydrate intake, unfavorable omega-6: omega-3 ratios). Looking back at with the long work hours and big stressful changes happening at work, all which helped to lead to poor diet choices through intake of high carbs and sugar, it is now clear that I was in the perfect state to have this flare up significantly.

Taking on the Primal Blueprint strategy, I was quickly able to address my inflammation. What really surprised me is how quickly I started feeling better, a big win was the arthritis pain in my foot was gone. This was further confirmed when I got my blood work re-checked at the six month mark and found that my inflammation was in fact gone.

I had a number of strategies that I learned through the Primal Blueprint that assisted me in actually controlling and eliminating my inflammation. To this day I find if I continue following these principles that the pain, from inflammation and arthritis, does not come back

What I have found, that has made a big impact on my chronic inflammation, is that it can be moderated through diet and exercise modifications, which resulted in improvements of my various aches, pains, and arthritis.

Primal Blueprint strategies that impact my inflammation:
1. Moderate carbohydrate intake/insulin production. Ditching grains, sugars and legumes in favor of Primal foods helped moderate blood glucose and insulin levels. This excessive glucose and insulin in my bloodstream caused me to be pro-inflammatory. So, by reducing the process that can spike insulin it had a significant impact.

2. Normalize O6:O3 ratios: Eliminate grains and PUFA oils, moderate intake of all nuts, and increase intake omega-3 oil capsules. Be careful of the omega-3 you use. Not all omega-3 supplementation is good nor do all of them have the full spectrum of omega-3s. It is very easy to take an over the counter omega-3, but have that capsule actually do nothing for you. I would be glad to help you get a quality omega-3, just message me and I will be glad to h31649356_10215443199253716_5404558816882720768_nelp.

3. Eliminate Chronic Cardio: I was a big runner and put in some significant distance during the week. I have eliminated this long distance. I still run with a focus on shorter distance, but I like to spend more of my time focusing on strength trainings and walking/hiking which I found has matched up better with my overall health goals.

 

How I measured success in controlling inflammation:
1. I retested my blood work after 6 months to see if what I was doing actually had an impact.

2. I also actively tracked my O3:O6 dietary ratio at regular intervals, inputting my food intake into an app on my phone.

3. Another strategy I used was paying attention to my pain level. I have learned to listen to my body and if it is telling me I need more rest time to recover from a workout then I do that.

4. This does not mean I have eliminated challenging workouts, but when I do plan them into my workout I also measure that performance and how it directly affects or inhibits any inflammation.

29063234_10215016968198206_918980893761077248_nIf you would like to lean more about how the Primal Lifestyle can help manage a variety of health issues then do not hesitate to reach out to me HERE . This success, I had with inflammation, was one of my driving motivators to become a Primal Health Coach.

 

Being Primal while traveling.

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One of the major obstacles that people can face while living a Primal Lifestyle is staying true to the Primal life while traveling. We all have times that we have to take a business trip out of town or having to be on the road locally due to work. It can be hard to maintain a Primal Lifestyle when your faced with eating out due to work. There are a few ways to make sure you stay true to a Primal Lifestyle while on the road.

1. Plan ahead. If you do know where you will be staying or where you will be eating check the websites out. A restaurant’s website can be a great tool in figuring out what is best for you before you get there and are rushed to make a decision. If you are going to another town, do a little research online to see where the hotel is and what restaurants are around it.

2. When you have to eat out and do not have time to check the restaurant out beforehand then ask for a gluten free menu. Keep in mind though, just because it is gluten free does not mean it is healthy. The gluten free menu can be a better option and easier to adjust to make sure you get what you need. Also, look for small local restaurants. These great and unique spots are often more willing and able to customize a meal to match our Primal life.

3. Be careful of the evening activities. When we are out of town for a work function it can be fun to see our favorite co-workers and spend dinner time catching up. However, these can easily turn into happy hour drinks and late evenings. Do your best to avoid these while still having fun with your co-workers. Make excusing yourself early in order to get a full night sleep a priority. When your tired the next day it is easier to make poor choices.

4. Plan on taking as much food with you as possible. On road trips take a cooler with hard boiled eggs, avocados, lunch meat, or nuts. If you’re going on a flight take jerky, meat sticks, and/or nuts. Be creative and think outside of the typical sandwich box.

5. While traveling make getting in movement a priority. It is easy to catch yourself sitting all day due to being in meetings or from driving from one place to another. Try to get a workout in first thing in the morning to prime yourself for the day ahead. If you’re staying in a downtown area try walking to the office, to the hotel, or to the restaurant. Movement can be a game changer when trying to maintain a healthy life on the road.

The key is to plan ahead. Take opportunities to meal prep for a trip and have a cooler ready the night before. If your rushing around in the morning and trying to get out the door chances are you might grab the easiest route – which often is not the healthiest.
For a more ideas about being Primal and eating while traveling check out Mark Sisson’s article: What to Eat When Traveling, On the Road, Camping, or in the Middle of the Ocean

Primal Fitness: practical, sustainable, and holistic

IMG_1649In today’s media and sales you often hear about the latest fad exercise video or get “abs” quick item. The majority of these center around intense workouts that are often designed to destroy you and leave you exhausted. The goal is often to make the workout so hard you have to be burning fat, right? The other fitness advice you often see is “start running” because everyone knows you lose weight running. Both of the approaches may work to some extent in the short term, but they fail to set you up for long-term health and can actually have a negative impact on those long-term goals.

I fell into all of these traps early on in my fitness journey. I ran a lot – I mean a lot! Here is the crazy thing, I hate running! I ran because that is what your “supposed to do”. Then on days that I did not run I did high intensity workouts in the gym. The upside is I lost weight, the downside is I also lost a lot of muscle. I was the skinniest I had every been in my life. I went from overweight to “You lost so much weight. Are you feeling OK?” Not exactly the response I was hoping for. I realized that although I could run a marathon, I had really not reached my own fitness goals and was actually far from it. I had lost all the muscle that I had put on through my youth playing hockey and my time in the army. That is when I realized I needed to re-asses my approach.

At that time I started to lift heavy – I mean REALLY heavy. Strength training was everything – low reps, heavy sets, no intense cardio. After a few years of this I had some blood work and genetic testing done and found out that I had chronic inflammation. The lack of proper recovery and the years of over training had all started to add up. The little aches and pains would not go away, I started to gain weight, my sleep was suffering, it was a perfect storm heading towards a major crash.

This when I got a fitness coach. Even though I understood what I need to do and what would have the best impact, I needed a coach to make sure I would follow a program that would make the most sense for my goals and help keep me on track for long term health. I am grateful for the time I spent with my coach.

These days my fitness routine centers around being practical, sustainable, and holistic in my approach. I still lift heavy, I still do cardio, and I take recovery a lot more seriously. Through the Primal Blueprint I have found a program that works bests for me. Sure I have made some adjustments to fit my lifestyle, but the base is still there and is the foundation of all my workouts.

With the Primal Blueprint I follow three basic rules: move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy objects regularly, and perform occasional all-out sprints. This functional full body training has done amazing things for me. Sure, I still have work to do to hit my fitness goals, but I can lift heavy without pain, I can run when I want to (although I still hate running), and I feel fantastic.

Finding your fitness does not have to be painful, it does not have to be a grind day after day, it does not have to be a chore to accomplish. Following the 3 simple rules from Primal Blueprint will make accomplishing your fitness goals practical, sustainable, and holistic which will help you have a major impact on your overall health.

The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid gives us a breakdown of these rules.

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The base of your fitness is all about movement. Rule #1 – move frequently! This means go for walks. I include movement everyday through morning hikes with my dogs. This provides a way for me to get outside in the morning and get my heart rate going. This is also a great way to warm up for other more intense activities and for recovering from more intense activities. Moving more is fundamental to your overall health and is critical to include in any fitness goals. The best thing you can do for your fitness is to get outside and go for walk every day.

The next focus is strength training. Rule #2 – Lift Heavy Things. I still really enjoy a great strength building workout. For me this means 3 times a week I lift heavy. My workouts all breakdown into push (like an overhead press), pull (such as barbell row or pull up), squat, and hinge (deadlift). The starting recommendation for this is to look at hitting 2 strength workouts a week. A strength workout is very specific to the individual and personal preference. These can be bodyweight workouts, group training sessions (such as Crossfit), free weights, barbells, kettlebells, etc.. The key is to pick something that you will stick with. Sustainability in strength training is key for long-term success.

The final focus on the Primal Blueprint is intense all out burns. Rule #3 – Sprint. These are short bursts of intense movement. Brief, all-out sprints are the most effective when trying to optimize hormone balance, stimulate lean muscle development, and accelerate fat metabolism. If your stuck or in a plateau with your body composition then add in some sprints to bust through it. Sprints take many forms. What I tend to focus on is running sprints, sled drags, speed jump rope, high rep kettlebell swings, and hill sprints (when I can). Warning – this is where most people over train. They go to long with the sprints or add them in their routine too often. When sprints are done right, then you should really look to do them every 7-10 days.

The above is for general overall fitness. There will be times when you have a specific goal you need to train in specific way. An example of this is a marathon or a competitive weightlifting competition. In cases as these it is best to get a coach that specializes in that activity to enable you to fully reach those specific goals. However, when your goal is overall long-term health that is practical, sustainable, and with a holistic approach then you can not go wrong with the Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid.

Items that I am reading this week.

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One of the focuses I have throughout the week is to keep on top of the news in the health community, especially news relating to the paleo/primal lifestyle that has had such an impact on my own health. As with a lot of what I do I take a holistic approach to my continuing education in the field. So, when I review the articles, blogs, research papers for the week I look for three key areas – health, fitness, lifestyle so that I can take what I am learning daily and apply it to my own life and to my coaching.

Here are some the best articles, blogs, and highlights of what I have been reading for the past week. I hope these articles can add new insights to your continuing health journey. All of this is intended to help you look at things in a new light and challenge yourself to try something new.

My first highlight is “Primal Recipes on a Budget” hosted on Mark’s Daily Apple. Investing in your health is the by the far the best investment one can make in themselves, but the reality of real world finances can sometimes keep people from jumping into this new lifestyle. This is a great article for strategies around keeping a budget while going primal. Helpful recipes that will not stretch your bank account. You can find that article here: Primal Recipes on a Budget

Here is an article that gives me another reason to love pickles. I am big fan of fermented foods and you will often hear me talk about the benefits of including fermented food in your diet. One of my favorite fermented foods is pickles and “Fermented Pickles Benefit the Gut, Skin, Brain & More” by Dr. Josh Axe adds to the many reason on why I like them. Dr. Axe takes a deep dive into the health benefits of including pickles in your diet, the history of pickles, types of pickles, and offers up an easy recipe to make your own. I encourage you to learn more about the benefits of pickles here: Fermented Pickles

My friend Scott Iardella, of Rdella Training has a great blog on “3 Rules of Training”. If you workout or are thinking about getting back to it this is a great place to start. Scott highlights 3 unbreakable rules: #1- train safe, #2 – don’t break rule #1, and #3 do your best. You can find more on this at: The 3 Training Rules That Matter Most

Finally, back to Dr. Axe. My father suffered from Dementia and I take this issue very seriously. I look at every way that I can to make sure this has little or no impact on my own health. Dr. Axe breaks down 8 simple ways to help combat Dementia that not only will help, but will also have a positive impact on your overall health. You can find more this at: Dementia

Hope these articles feed your desire to learn more and continue your own health journey.

Understanding the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid

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During my weight loss journey (and still today) I have a heavy focus on the food that I eat. I’ve heard it repeatedly from books, coaches, and interviews that 80% of body composition is really determined by what you eat. I have come to really understand this and to fully believe that this is the case. For real weight loss, to increase energy, and have vibrant health it all starts with what you eat.

 
The Primal Blueprint has provided a solid base on how to manage food in my lifestyle. By taking a closer look at the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid we have a starting point that enables us to fully optimize our genes for total body transformation. This is certainly different from other food pyramids, my plates, etc.. What you will not see on this is grains. “Grains are merely a cheap source of calories that are easily converted into glucose. They have minimal nutrition value, stimulate excess insulin productions, and contain ‘anti-nutrients’ that compromise digestive and immune functions, promote systemic inflammation, and inhibit absorption of vitamins and mineral.” – Primal Blueprint, Mark Session.

 
Here are some of the issues I faced during my journey – diagnosed with being insulin resistant and pre-diabetic, having chronic inflammation, and all the signs of being celiac. So, taking out grains was not a matter a choice for me, but more of a matter of wanting to truly re-capture my health.

 
The Primal Blueprint offers the ability to follow both a sustainable and a practical plan for long-term health. Using the lessons learned and understanding the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid has been a key aspect of re-capturing my health and creating a strong desire to help others do the same.

Here is a breakdown of pyramid:

Vegetables – this is the base of the pyramid. What has worked well for me is to make sure I am getting in significant number of veggies. Since I am also low carb and ketogenic at times (due to my insulin issues) I make sure that I am choosing vegetables that have a low impact on my carb intake. This still means that I am getting a lot variety in my diet. Much of my focus has been on lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, broccoli, peppers, onions, olives, bok choy, avocados, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, etc… When choosing vegetables your first choice is locally grown, in season and organic. If you must choose between organic and locally grown always go with locally grown. Small local farmers may not be certified organic, but typically will still be selling cleaner and fresher vegetables then those shipped in from another country or state.

Meat, Fish, Fowl, Eggs – by far my favorite category! I can not say enough of the importance of choosing your items in this area wisely. Partner with local ranchers/farmers that can deliver quality meat, fowl, and eggs. Look for grass-fed, pasture raised, or certified organic. With fish avoid farm raised and always look for wild caught. There is significant difference in the health of the fish between farm raised and wild caught. The healthier the animal was in life the healthier the meat will be for you.

Healthy Fats – Use fat to cook with or to season a dish. You can enhance the flavor of the dish and increase your access to healthy fat by using grass-fed butter, animal fats (sourced from the above areas), avocado oil, or coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil (just to name a few). Include foods that contain healthy fats such as grass fed meat, wild caught fish, avocados, coconut products, seeds and their butters, and olives. Do yourself a big favor and avoid anything with canola oil or soybean oil – these can have a dramatically negative impact on your overall health.

Moderation Foods – this is the area that I can get into trouble in. Anytime that I see myself gaining weight I re-asses this area and see if there is something that I am eating too much of. The food areas in the moderation foods are fruits, high-fat diary, nutritious carbs, and dark chocolate. It is easy to find myself eating too much full fat yogurt or adding in to many sweet potatoes during dinner. By themselves these are not bad, but if you add them in too often you can easily see yourself starting to gain weight. Especially if your body has hard time processing carbs, such as myself.

Herbs, Spices, Supplements – the top of the pyramid. Herbs and spices are great for adding flavor and texture to dishes. Focus on ones that add nutrition to your meals. I use supplements to help me close the loop on areas that I may be lacking in. I can not stress how important it is to take a quality multi-vitamin with no added junk in it. Also, look for quality prebiotic and probiotic to really help your gut heal for optimal health. I will get into vitamins and what to look for in a later blog post, but if you have questions on what you should look for please let me know.

The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid is a practical way to really prioritize my food. As time has gone by this has become easier and easier and really has developed a sustainable way to eat. My hope is that you will find it as useful a tool as I have.