Category Archives: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Why from Bedridden to Bodybuilding?

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Welcome to summer. A week into the warm weather and everyone seems to be complaining it’s too hot. You’ve gotta love London 😉

For me, the hot weather is fantastic. The aim of my cardio workouts is to sweat as much as possible and so I wrap up in several layers, starting with thermal underwear and ending with a hoodie and extra warm fleece. In this weather I am just dripping with sweat. And yes, that’s a good thing – burning more fat to get me ready for the stage in just over 8 weeks.

Last week I gave you a broad overview of my journey ahead. Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about who I am and how it came to this. For that, I will have to take you a little bit back in time:
It was in 2010 that I found my energy levels dwindling. Initially it was cause to annoyance rather than concern and I did what I always do – push through. Hard.
In 2013, at the tender age of 31, I suffered a complete burnout and was bedridden for a year. Not much use while unable to get out of bed, I lost my job, ending my corporate career. What got me there was a culmination of life changing episodes including severe stresses at work, working hours in excess of 80 hours per week on an ongoing basis, multiple trauma, physical attacks (all of which were sexually motivated), divorce, rape, burglary, sexual harassment and bullying, cancer in the family.  I could go on, but I will leave it there.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing cluster migraines and I was signed off work, 2 weeks at a time, for the whole year. I suffered severe pain all over my body and was chronically exhausted. Every morning I woke up feeling like I had not slept in days, even after sleeping for 16 hours straight. I’d then have to decide whether I would brush my teeth or my hair. I did not have the strength to do both. Simple day to day tasks had become insurmountable.

Previously I had felt unbreakable. Super-human. Slowing down was for other people.
And now here I was. Broken.  

As I mentioned in my last email though, I was not willing to accept living like this for any length of time. For me, this was not living at all. So I started to do research. Initially I could not read for more than 5 minutes at a time, it was too exhausting and the letters on the pages turned into indecipherable dark blobs. I had to learn the hardest of all lessons and the one that would help me the most: accepting where I was right now. That meant accepting that, right now, I could only do as much as I could do. Accepting that rest was ok. Not only that, but it was helpful. Constructive. Productive! I had to learn to stop pushing myself harder and harder, something I’d been very good at. In its place I had to learn to slow down and be kind to myself. Something I had never previously done. And I had to learn to forgive myself. For everything that had happened to me.

I slowly improved and was able to start swimming and later yoga in 2014. Roll on 2016: I am now running my own businesses to empower women and to advise other people who are experiencing signs of burnout. I am in the final weeks of preparation for my first ever bodybuilding competition. I will enter the bikini category which sports a lean but not overly muscular look yet still requires a lot of training and discipline. But more about that at a later stage.

I hope that my journey will inspire someone out there to not give up in the face of adversity. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel may be.


He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!”  ~ John Randall Dunn


Thank you so much for reading, your encouraging emails and support. It means the world to me!

Lots of love
Sarah

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Still on my journey from Terribly Tired to Fabulously Fit

 

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It has been quite some time since my last post again and I am still on my journey “from terribly tired to fabulously fit”. Now less tired and focusing on becoming fabulously fit, I have decided to enter a bodybuilding competition. And I am doing it for charity.

Oh yes!

Over the coming weeks and months I will post updates on my journey to get stage ready and hope you will find it entertaining, maybe inspiring. And maybe you can even help.

Today I just want to give you a little overview and will keep it as short as I can. I will get into more detail over subsequent posts. That’s something to look forward to, eh? So let me take you a little back.

It all started as what I call one of my “brain-farts”. Not too long ago, back in 2013, I was very ill and bedridden for the whole year. I was told I would never get much better and should learn to live with my symptoms. But me being as stubborn as I am, I got to thinking “Who are these people to tell me what I am or am not capable of achieving?”
I set out on a mission to get myself healthy again. Doing lots of research and working towards my health every single day, I started to improve. Fast forward to 2015 and I started to go to the gym. It was while I performed the very first ever deadlift of my life that my “brain-fart” occurred: “I know, I’ll compete in a bodybuilding competition!”
Initially I wanted to prove to myself and others that I had gotten my health back. Since starting this journey early in 2015, my motivation has changed though: I am hoping that my journey will somehow encourage others not to give up. Inspire them to keep going no matter what anyone else says. And just to pack that extra punch and make sure that I won’t drop out (as if…) I decided to do this for an amazing charity – Rosa the UK fund for women and girls.
And this is where YOU come in. Seeing the word charity, you probably clutched your wallet tightly, didn’t you? But guess what, while it is great if you are able to sponsor me, there are many other ways you can get involved that will not cost you a penny.

You can help by

  1. Donating to my charity through my fundraising page, obviously 😉
  2. Raising awareness for my campaign by talking about it or sharing it on social media. (Instagram: @frombedriddentobodybuilding)
  3. Sharing your contacts – who do you know who could support my campaign? Maybe someone who works in the media?
  4. Encouraging me – send me a little note of support, like my posts on social media. Anything that shows me someone is watching and wanting me to succeed will help me to keep going.

My competition is on Sunday 18 September. I will post regularly to let you know how you can support me on this quest and to update you on progress 😀

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you will enjoy my posts.

Lots of love
Sarah

Milk – Nature’s Perfect Food?

If you look like this little guy, replace the “?” in the title with an “!”. Because if you are a calf, cow’s milk really is nature’s perfect food for you. Nature designed it especially for you. It includes all the goodness you need to grow and develop into an adolescent and it will build the base on which you will transform into a strong, fully grown cow or bull. There really isn’t anything better. If you are a calf…

If you are not a calf but rather a human being, well, then there is still a perfect milk for you: Your mother’s breast milk. Again, nature designed it especially for you with all the nutrients that you need as a little baby human. Yet, we feed our children cow’s milk from a very early age and health services are running campaigns to persuade mothers to breastfeed their children.

And here is where it gets crazy. Wherever you go, you can buy milk. Cow’s milk that is. And you are being fed that story that it is ever so good for you. Even though you are not, yourself, a baby cow. However, an ice cream place in London was told to remove their breast milk ice cream because Westminster Council officers wanted to make sure it was “fit for human consumption”.

Fit for human consumption? It is breast milk. It is made for human consumption. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, is a different story entirely.

An argument to reduce the consumption of cow’s milk

The common sense approach

First and foremost, I would use the common sense argument: YOU ARE NOT A BABY COW! And then there is the whole question whether we are even able to digest cow’s milk. It certainly was not part of our diet until very recently (in evolutionary terms). Homo Sapiens appeared around 200,000 years ago. Maybe it is my lack of imagination, but somehow I just cannot picture an early homo sapiens chasing a wild buffalo around to milk it. Wild buffalo are fierce animals and a mommy buffalo is very keen on defending her baby. Any approach would have been seen as an attack. And taking milk and thereby stealing food from baby buffalo? I doubt mum would have looked kindly on that kind of behaviour.

Other humanoids have existed for a while  longer than homo sapiens and I doubt any of those would have been stupid enough to steal milk from mommy buffalo either.  Farming and the domestication of cattle only started around 10,000 years ago. That is barely a heartbeat in evolutionary terms and therefore not much time for our digestion and every other system in our body to catch up with the consumption of cow’s milk. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The Nutrition Approach

So why then do we still have milk? Well, there is a very strong lobby (of course there would be, there are money making businesses involved here). This lobby will tell you about all the advantages of drinking milk. Only they somewhat distort the facts.

For example, while milk is rich in some nutrients, it is severely lacking in others and many fruits and vegetables are higher in manganese, chromium, selenium and magnesium, which we humans need. It is very rich in calcium, however. That presents its own problems: our bodies need a ratio of 2:1 of calcium to magnesium. The ratio in milk is 10:1 and 28:1 in cheese. This means that your body uses magnesium that is already in our body to make use of the calcium, which can lead to magnesium depletion in our body, which in turn has been linked to heart disease.

The Nature Approach

Cows these days have little to do with what nature designed them to be. Extensive breeding has ensured that cows have udders so big they can barely walk, so they can hold more milk and hormones off the chart so they produce milk all year round. To ensure the milk keeps flowing, the dairy cows are almost constantly pregnant while never getting to breast feed their babies.

The cows are pumped full of hormones and medication while on a very unnatural diet. Cows are designed to eat grass. By eating other stuff, the cows no longer produce the milk that is so good and nutritious for their calves. The production is flawed from the onset.

The Hormone Approach

Cows are meant to give milk after they had a calf, so little baby cow has something to munch on to get big and strong. Humans have managed to breed cows so that they can give milk even while they are pregnant, when their bodies are full of oestrogen. By feeding the population with milk, we are oestrogenising them (another word I just made up) and putting their own hormone balance out of whack.

It is therefore not surprising that milk has been closely linked to certain types of cancer such as prostate and testicular cancer in men and ovarian and breast cancer in women. Is it a coincidence that the cancers milk has been linked to are all of the sexual organs? I believe the hormones in the milk have something to do with that.

Studies comparing the incidence of cancer to the consumption of milk have further confirmed that link. For example, the incidence of those “sexual” cancers are significantly lower in China, a country with very low dairy consumption (in large cities in which dairy has become more fashionable, the incidence of cancer was higher than in the rest of the country). When we look at survival rates from cancer, the results are even more dramatic. The chances of a woman dying from breast cancer in China is 1 to 10,000 compared to 1 in 10 in the UK. The incidence of prostate cancer in rural China is only 0.5 in 100,000 yet the prognosis for 2015 is that 1 in 4 men will have it in the UK at some point in their live.

The Environment Approach

Dairy cows produce a lot of waste and green house gases. Now almost all living beings do, but we keep many more cows than would usually live in such small spaces. An average dairy cow produces about 120 pounds of waste per day. To put that into perspective, that is equivalent to 24 people. And cows do burp and fart a lot. With 4 stomachs, each digestive stage creates its own little burps.

And if you have a soft spot for furry creatures, there is of course the happiness of the cows to consider. While I know of small farms that keep their cows in very humane conditions, most of the dairy production is done in factories with no regard for the animals. On a factory like dairy farm, the cow’s life expectancy is reduced from a natural 25 years to 4.

Conclusion

The reasons I have outlined to encourage you to consider reducing your consumption of dairy is by no means complete. Studies have also linked milk consumption to heart disease and infant onset diabetes. When fed to babies, studies have also shown an increased risk of milk allergy and intolerance. Many adults suffer from milk intolerance as many of us lose the ability to digest lactose (milk sugar) as we grow up (which makes sense since we would not be breast fed once we grow up and therefore naturally there is not need for us to be able to digest it).

Still fancy milk? I have replaced it with alternatives, such as almond and soya milk. There is a much wider range out there from oat milk over rice milk to all sorts of nut milks. With so many reasons to avoid milk, why not try one of the many alternative choices?

And remember, a reduction alone can improve your health, even if you do not cut milk out from your diet completely. Strive for better, not extreme. But make your diet a little better every day. And one day, maybe you leave it out completely.

What’s Lurking In The Breadbox? The Impact Of Food Intolerances

Now a kitty in the breadbox is pretty cute, apart from leaving hair all over you bread. But what if it is not a cute furry animal lurking in there but rather something that makes you ill without you even knowing it?

As a nutrition fanatic, I have started to cut out milk about 6 years ago. I go through phases of being religiously strict to much more lenient. Either way, I have dramatically limited my intake of cow’s milk and replaced it with a mix of mainly soya and almond milk. A few years ago, I did also go through a time when I cut out wheat and therefore gluten completely for an extended period of time before reintroducing it in much smaller quantities, only having wheat gluten once a week or so rather than several times a day. But over the years I slipped back into old habits and went back to enjoying bread and pasta, with the knowledge of food intolerances conveniently moving to the back of my memory.

Now battling with Adrenal Fatigue, I am now coming across this subject again repeatedly. Allergies and hypersensitivity to food can play a vital role in overcoming Adrenal Fatigue. As I have had several symptoms that I did not immediately relate to AF, such as having the worst skin of my life with more pimples in my face than I had throughout puberty,w hich makes my face look like a pizza, as well as the re-appearance of the eczema that I experienced for a short period of time as a teenager. So when reading about how to overcome AF and being reminded of food intolerances, I took another look at my current diet.

Adrenal Fatigue And Food Allergies / Intolerances

According to the charity Allergy UK up to 45% of the population in the UK suffers from food hypersensitivity. But what has that to do with your adrenals?

Well, when you have an allergic reaction or when you are hypersensitive to a food, your body will release histamine or other pro-inflammatory substances. As cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is a very strong anti-inflammatory, your adrenal glands react to the production of pro-inflammatory substances by producing more cortisol to take care of the inflammation.

And the effect of that is a double edged sword:

a) If you have food intolerances, the constant inflammation counter of the adrenal glands can cause them to fatigue, as they are continuously producing higher amounts of cortisol to counter act the inflammation that would be caused by the intolerance or allergy.

b) If you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue, you will be more susceptible to food intolerances, as your adrenal glands will no longer be able to counter act inflammatory reactions. Therefore it may seem that you have more allergies or intolerances than you had before or that existing allergies have become worse.

You see this is a viscous cycle. Intolerances and allergies deplete the adrenal glands and fatigued adrenal glands can worsen the effect of food allergies and intolerances. So if you think you are suffering from some degree of Adrenal Fatigue already, it is time to identify if you have any hypersensitivities and eliminate those foods from your diet. Pronto.

Allergy Vs Intolerance – What’s The Difference?

The main difference between the two is that an allergy is an immune reaction whereas intolerance is a digestive reactions.

In food allergies, a certain protein in the food you are eating is seen by the body as dangerous and antibodies are sent out to defend the body from this intrusion. The allergic reaction to the food is usually immediate or occurs within a very short time of eating the food, while the amount you ate does not seem to make much of a difference. This means that if you are allergic to peanuts, it does not matter whether you eat half a peanut or a bag full. Reactions are usually more severe than those of intolerances and can even be deadly.

Food intolerance is more chronic, less acute, less obvious in its presentation, and often more difficult to diagnose than a food allergy.The multiple causes for food intolerance include:

  • Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food. Lactose intolerance is a common example.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic condition can cause cramping, constipation and diarrhea.
  • Food poisoning. Toxins such as bacteria in spoiled food can cause severe digestive symptoms.
  • Sensitivity to food additives. For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods and wine can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.
  • Recurring stress or psychological factors. Sometimes the mere thought of a food may make you sick. The reason is not fully understood.
  • Celiac disease. Celiac disease has some features of a true food allergy because it does involve the immune system. However, symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal, and people with celiac disease are not at risk of anaphylaxis. This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

The reaction to eating a food you are sensitive to can vary in severity, onset and depend on the amount you have eaten. There can be anything up to 3 days delay between eating a food you are intolerant to and having a reaction to it.

Symptoms Of Food Intolerances

The symptoms vary from person to person and depending on the food you are intolerant to. The symptoms often seem so unrelated to what you have eaten, it makes it more difficult to put one and one together and blame it on the food you ate. Below is a list of common symptoms as listed by Allergy UK:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Aches and pains
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diarrhoea
  • Eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • M.E.
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin problems
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tension
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing

Weight gain is another symptom that was not listed by Allergy UK.

Conclusion

I have suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for about 10 years. During my time of optimal health, that disappeared, even though the doctor told me there was no cure for it. My IBS always used to be worse during times of heightened stress. I suppose during my optimum health, firstly I had dramatically reduced foods that I knew irritated my gut (in my case milk and gluten) and secondly I really was not very stressed. All the sports and especially the running I was doing was my form of meditation. It cleared my mind and calmed me down.

I have now cut out the milk and gluten again and have been particularly strict with the gluten.

It is a good idea to try this out and cut certain foods out for a period of time, preferably at least 2 weeks. This then gives you the opportunity to observe the reaction more clearly when you reintroduce that food as a trial. When I have milk, I notice that my belly bloats up to such a point that I look pregnant and I have painful cramps and a whole host of digestive discomfort. Since I have stopped eating gluten, my skin has improved significantly. The pimples in my face have started to heal while no new ones have appeared and the eczema is slowly healing off. When I do have wheat gluten, I notice that my heart starts racing within an hour of eating it and then the headache comes along with a significant dip in energy levels, which last for up to two days. With all the alternatives you can get out there, it really is not worth the trouble for me.

I think when it comes to intolerances, it is important to remember that cutting them out during times of illness and heightened stress is beneficial. This does not, however, mean that we can never reintroduce those foods. As mentioned, I used to be gluten free for a long time and then re-introduced the wheat with no problems. I did not consume as much gluten as I had previousy and as my body was at optimum health, I could handle small amounts of the food irritants. It is when our body is dealing with other issues that those become a pain. Literally.