Human Garage, Biomechanics!

This is part six of a series. If you haven't caught up on what I'm doing with Human Garage, see the other posts here!

 

Session 1

Today was my first biomechanics session with Human Garage, which happens at a gym offsite.

Quad stretch!

Quad stretch!

Coach Yari had me go through a bunch of tests to see how my body moves and which muscles are or are not firing properly. I mentioned the knee pain I sometimes experience that feels like my knees are loose and don't stay in alignment. I sometimes feel pressure or slight pain in my knee in positions that I don't think I should. I also mentioned my neck pain and tension and that I often use my neck to compensate for other muscles and would like to remove that tension. She said my walk looked pretty good, (from all the unwinding at HG) so that was encouraging.

After evaluating my walk and some movements, she had me do exercises to get certainmuscles to fire. These neurological exercises are training my brain to turn on proper muscles so that my brain corrects old patterns of movement.

I have homework to do! I took a video of the exercises that are specified to my issues. I have to do them 3x a day, the more I train slowly my body will start changing and adopting this new way of moving.

One thing that stood out to me, she had me do this sort of superman move, laying on my stomach but my arms back by my sides and pulling my shoulders away from my ears. I did feel a little bit of tension in my traps and I was pulling and stretching them back so I was a little concerned that maybe I was not doing it correctly. BUT when we were finished I didn't maintain that feeling in my shoulders and neck that feels like frustration, or like shrugging...forever. Normally I would, so that was an improvement already!
 

Session 2!

This exercise increases mobility in the ankle which is important for squat form.

This exercise increases mobility in the ankle which is important for squat form.

Today I met with Ryan. We went back over the neurological exercises and made some adjustments. My knee was feeling a little wiggly when walking down stairs and Ryan switched up the exercises to address that. It really did take care of the instability immediately.

He gave me a bunch of stretches and small exercises that I can do on the road or at home to keep loosening up the tightness and will help me achieve correct form for lifting a load (like in a correct squat position). It also feels like these are a great source of exercise, especially when my food is dialed in, while traveling.

Some of these stretches cause my body to react similarly to when the unwinding was being done at HG. Convulsing or burning sensations (in muscle and soft tissue) will happen if i can relax into the move. This is encouraging because it feels like I'm in control of any forward progress.

Session 3!

Today I was with Ryan again. I was about to leave for a long time of touring and today was the day that he was going to give me a bunch of workout options!

I have posted a couple of these on my Instagram. Because I travel with so much stuff already (food, supplements, life hacking, sleep hacking tools etc.) I wanted to get the most out of body weight and small tool workouts. When asked what my main goals were I said I wanted to be able to lift heavy loads while at home and when there is equipment and I wanted to have hard legs! (Christmas Abbott as fitness inspiration anyone?)

This is what my unassisted squat looks like right now. Not low enough, too far forward, upper body leaned over too far.

This is what my unassisted squat looks like right now. Not low enough, too far forward, upper body leaned over too far.

Ryan showed me some squat prep movements that I can do with resistance bands, and some pulls to couple with that. These will help my body eventually be in the correct position to hold weights and do a proper squat. For instance, one legged squats or kneeling squats with a row. Then on the next day I could pair pushing movements with dead lifts. So I could do a one legged dead lift with a resistance band and then pair that with an overhead press or push-ups. We also went over the stretches that he showed me the session before because I was having some knee pain or discomfort and we adjusted how to do them so that didn't happen.

Updates!

Here's the exciting part!

  • Since starting at human garage, I've been able to introduce more fiber into my diet with 0 intestinal pain! That includes high fodmap and cruciferous veg! I still can't eat grains or over do it with alcohol without consequence but that just may be how my body works and something I'll have to accommodate forever.
  • I've seen an improvement in my energy levels (likely due to the adrenal supplements) even while feeling tired from touring and having a crazy cold that took/is taking forever to go away.
  • I've been able to get in those workouts around 2x a week and feel comfortable and strong.
  • If I remember to do my neurological exercises, I really notice a difference in my knee (no popping or looseness). So I need to stay on top of them.

I'm about to start phase 3 of my supplemental program. After that I'll be checking in with HG to see what next steps are!

 

Human Garage, Day 5!

This is part five of a series. If you haven't caught up on what I'm doing with Human Garage, see the other posts here!

Today is my fifth session at Human Garage and I feel totally amazing I feel light, my head feels like it's further back in alignment and my neck isn't really hurting anymore. I'm excited because I get to do my first bio mechanics session tomorrow retraining my body's movement patterns. So that is super exciting! (It can take as little as 5 unwinding sessions to go into biomechanics or up to as many as 8, everyone is different.)

I was with Alex today and this session was just sort of like a general "feeling around for wherever there is tension left". So, we did a lot of calf work because calves are connected to the neck and posterior chain which is where a lot of my tension still is. He used the TheraGun on my calves and I was laughing because it's so ticklish. He worked out a huge knot in my hamstring that I didn't know I had. It was crazy painful and I was breathing through it trying to use what I've learned from all these releases. I did feel some abdominal convulsing as it was releasing and as soon as it let go, a bolt of electricity shot up and around my glute on the left side.

I told Alex that I rolled out my quads when I was in Canada with Dustbowl and wanted to see if it had any effect on the state of that tension. I'd also been doing a ton of emotional and spiritual work to help release it and was so curious if it had helped. He said they felt amazing, really great and so he didn't have to work on them at all. I was so worried it would take a long time to work through all those layers. The knot in my neck is still there but he worked on it for quite a bit and it feels better.

I was curious about why the scheduling of the sessions was so specific and how the package is sold at a discount rather than individual sessions (though, those are available too) to encourage people to go through the whole program. I assumed that if you stopped coming, because you felt better, that it would be such a waste because your old movement patterns would just set you back in your old habits. Alex said when they release the tension in the body and it corrects a lot of alignment, your body doesn't actually regress unless something traumatic or stressful happens like a car accident. Your body might actually hold really well. So, that was interesting and something i didn't really expect. (I would not recommend not doing the whole program, I'm just extrapolating on new information I found out about the body.)

That is why people can come in 2 times over 3 weeks to do the releases (the usual schedule of operations) and daily life won't reset their misalignment. I am on a crazy accelerated track and people keep saying "no one really does it this fast, you might experience things a little differently" and I'm surprised actually at the small amount of brain fog I've had during the process. i have been really tired but I'm just drinking a lot of water and making sure I get enough rest to heal while I'm completing the program. It sort of reminds me of getting rid of SIBO or Chelation and detoxing all that junk.
I forgot to take pics today bc i felt so good i got distracted.

QurEcology!

So, Human Garage includes a test within the basic package that I got and it takes urine and saliva samples and tests C protein as markers for things like Carbohydrate Metabolism, Adrenal Function etc. I submitted samples on Day 1 and had my follow up call with them today. I will be honest, throughout my journey I've become skeptical of "all the tests" you can get these days which may or may not really tell you anything about your journey. Some of the offenders I'll mention are microbiome diversity tests (usually a stool test): your bacteria change after a meal, let alone hourly so this test doesn't tell the dr. much that they can already find out from your symptoms. Another test that I don't appreciate is the food allergy test. Unless you are at an allergist, getting a scratch test, taking a test to tell you what foods you're reacting to is a waste of your money. Your reaction can be caused by the level of inflammation you're experiencing from another food and cause you to think you can't eat apples, but it could be the fact that you're eating eggs all the time and now are reacting to apples because your system is all jacked up. The only (current) gold standard for food sensitivities is an elimination diet. I really appreciate that Dr. Ruscio's approach is to get the most information possible from as little testing (and money spending) as possible. Similarly he tries to keep patients on the bare minimum of supplements for the same reason. Some functional medicine practitioners go a little crazy and i think forget that most of this is not covered by insurance and therefore some restraint would be appreciated.
That being said, I wanted to go through the whole HG process and this was part of it so I went in with an open mind, ready to ask questions and stand by what I knew worked for me.

I was actually pleasantly surprised! Asia (the person who walked me through my results) was super familiar with the steps I’ve taken so far. She was like "i don’t want you to introduce anything that you know you can’t tolerate right now but i do want to focus on your adrenals"… (Dr. Ruscio seemed to think my adrenals/thyroid are fine, based on blood tests and I’ve been taking an adrenal support as needed but not in any real long term supporting way. So that could be something that was a missing link.) 

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QurEcology2.jpg

Stuff that kicked up for me (see my results to get the picture) were carbohydrate metabolism (i'm on a v low carb diet), protein metabolism (I need to take a digestive enzyme and i didn't buy more when i ran out last time), adrenal analysis (my adrenals are low functioning, this is not great for my ability to handle stress or have energy and is connected to carbohydrate metabolism which is why the markers are almost neck and neck.) Liver Analysis (I'm doing some liver support but it could use a little boost) and I'm inflamed (shocker!)

I'm willing to do the things she suggested which were to go on a small amount of supplements, mostly ones I'd already be taking anyway like the adrenal support and digestive enzyme with HCL. I also really appreciated that she was like "it’s a challenge because your digestion is giving you issues and what I would like to do to support your adrenals is have you eat more carbs, but a lot of the carbs (not grains or anything) you don’t tolerate well." So i’m going to start taking an adrenal supplement, continue with my lifestyle and diet (and liver support) and just inch up on how many carbs I’m consuming, and see if that will help my adrenals settle down without wreaking havoc on my digestion by adding too much fiber or stuff I know makes me inflamed.

Deep breathing will be added to my lifestyle, i’m not really focusing that as much as I have with meditation, and doing it more regularly will help me stay parasympathetic. Deep breathing will chill me out, which will reduce my inflammation/adrenal/catabolic markers. A lot of her other suggestions i’m already doing: prioritizing sleep, blue light blocking glasses, meditation, light exercise etc.

The big update is that i’m going low histamine diet (in addition to my mostly-keto and low fodmap) to help my body rest and repair. I’ve experienced this being an issue and talked to Dr. Ruscio about it, but I have not committed to doing it because I’ve been so focused on microbiome rebuilding and probiotic foods. 

I do a round of treatment as listed above for 30 days and then we adjust for 60-90 days and then from there there's an ongoing plan. I'm about to leave for Europe so I'll be starting this then, it'll be just over 30 days of travel. No booze in Europe but I've done it before and I really do feel better when I don't drink so I'm sure it'll be easier done than said.

We forgot to take a progress pic this week bc I was so chatty :)

Human Garage, Day 4!

This is part four of a series. If you haven't caught up on what I'm doing with Human Garage, see the other posts here!

This is the first day of the second week of my work with Human Garage. I'm doing 2 weeks with 3 sessions each for the releases to accommodate my touring schedule; as well as make sure the work is being done in a manner that won't regress due to my unavailability.


Today was Neck & Peripheral release with OJ.

He started with my calves bc calves are connected to your neck (and, coincidentally are shaped like the heart muscle AND function as the major leg muscle to return blood to the heart, who knew!) I had some tight knots in there that were pretty uncomfortable. After calves, he worked on some hamstring release. Jordan was also with us almost the whole session, pulling and holding fascia to facilitate tension release.

Now that I'm an old pro at Human Garage, when I go we usually talk about whole body wellness, books and podcasts and personal experiences. This time we were talking about Katy Bowman and her book and a couple of podcasts I've heard her on. She's a movement specialist and has an awesome book called Move Your DNA and it's all about not "working out" but getting your body to move the way it was intended and how that gets nutrients into your muscles, bones, tendons etc. she calls it "Nutritious Movement" and believes there are daily "doses" we need of this movement to actually increase our longevity. She encourages people to walk around without their shoes on so their foot can fully bend and flex. Additionally, OJ mentioned that you pick up information from your feet that your body uses to inform itself about your environment. This is one of the reasons I wear flat shoes with large toe pads so my feet can feel more of the ground and my toes can spread in a more natural way.

After the hamstring attention, he worked on my shoulders again and then got to my neck. My neck has been so tight for so long, it's connected to everything. I engage my neck when it has no business doing anything. This is one example of why the process at HG isn't just releasing tension but also about retraining the brain to stop engaging my neck. It's about breaking the movement pattern. I can remember, playing field hockey in high school and hating ab day because it would hurt my neck so much. My neck would tire out before my abs did. More recently, while working out with Open Sky Fitness, any upper body exercises Rob would give me, I would feel in my neck. It made me feel stressed out, frustrated and cranky. When OJ was releasing these muscles, I felt exactly the same way: irritated, cranky, frustrated and stressed. 

I mentioned on day one that knots in your body form to protect other parts from getting injured, from emotional and physical trauma but I failed to mention another reason. If you're trying to do something, and your muscle isn't strong enough, it will recruit the help of another muscle to do the job. That can cause knots and is yet another reason why the bio mechanical assessment and brain retraining is so important. My neck is engaging whenever I do core work, whenever I do upper body work, it's tensing my neck and my jaw and causing stress. 

Today was my first meeting with Dr. Luke, the Human Garage chiropractor. I have another chiropractor who I usually see but during this process, HG asks you to not get any massages or chiropractic adjustments so as not to interfere with their process. Dr. Luke is similar to my chiropractor in that the doesn't just adjust your whole body. He uses a tool called an activator to make micro adjustments which are only some millimeters rather than large adjustments that you may be more familiar with. A lot of movement patterns knock us out of alignment just slightly, so he focused on areas that felt off. He also uses drop blocks to push through my joints to increase movement and open the joint up. It also allows him to work on a joint without jostling the rest of the body which may or may not need to be adjusted at all. I spoke to Dr. Luke about the reason for coming to Human Garage and he dug around my Ileocecal and Houston valves in my guts to get them to work more properly, he called it "changing the pressure" in my insides. After that we chatted, Brahm came in and then Dr. Luke went over my images to show me how my alignment has changed thus far (all the while, my Houston valve felt like some business was happening.)

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Human Garage, Day 3! (Oh, there you go)

This is part three of a series. If you haven't caught up on what I'm doing with Human Garage, see the other posts here!

I will say in this post, that during this series I am not going to be able to remember the names of all the muscles that are worked on each session. I'll talk about general areas of release and focus more on my experience and the effects of the releases.

Today I met with OJ and we did Shoulder Release.

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I talked with him about the neck pain I've been having if i turn my head to the right and look down towards my armpit. I think I slept on it wrong after the last tour and it's been sore ever since. He got in and around my arm sockets today, on top, in the front and around the back. He said my subscapula is very tight. A lot of the releases I felt up my neck, up behind my ear and into my jaw. A couple times i'd feel it in my hips, mostly my right hip. I'm not surprised, since I store tension in my neck and feel stress in my neck. Ever since Garry released my jaw I've been more connected to my awareness of tension in my jaw. I know I grind my teeth from when I saw the holistic dentist before I started Chelation. Bruxism or teeth grinding can be a symptom of a number of things including stress and low blood sugar.

i felt stressed. It felt almost like frustration, a sense of urgency for the session to be over, but not painful, impatient. The connection I make is that if you store information in the muscle, when you release it, you have to actually feel it to let it go. I could sense myself trying to avoid the discomfort and my mind would wander. So noticing that, instead, i would really breathe into it and try to relax and allow the discomfort. I was even saying to myself to "relax". Then, when i did that, OJ was like "oh, there you go" (a common theme at Human Garage, and also an inside joke because it's said so much) so it really did seem like the more i could connect my mind to the relaxing the emotion or control, the more the muscle did relax. 

My right side is tighter than my left. It could be from being right handed, or OJ suggested that if I hold the mic with that hand while singing I should try to be conscious of not over extending that arm to do so. The following shows I was much more aware of this and tried to either hold the mic less (and just open my eyes so I don't hit myself in the face) or hold it and tuck my arm into its socket.

Look at how long my neck is in the most recent pic!

Look at how long my neck is in the most recent pic!

I'm really enjoying my time at the garage. For one, it's not terrible to have a ton of time getting my body worked on. It may be intense but it really is like the ultimate massage. I do wonder what it's like for people that come in that don't have the experience I have had, spending the last 4 years tuning into my physical and mental state. I don't know if I would have been able to handle this process as easily and as fully, back in 2004. The yoga, meditation, lifestyle and diet practices I have learned and adopted, allow me to be super aware of bodily sensations and to sit in the discomfort and focus on the mind body connection. I wouldn't discourage anyone without that experience from going to Human Garage but I would encourage people to lean into the process, despite previous experience. Open your mind if you think that "health/wellness stuff" is "woo woo" because it really will make realigning easier.

It's also been really fun to get to know everyone working at the garage. So far everyone I've met came in with their own injury and just never left.

I maintained the alignment that I gained after the Core Release session with Alex. I do feel like i'm walking around like a skeleton animation on the Discovery Channel. I have so much swagger and it feels like i'm standing in a power position. It does have an effect on me mentally and emotionally to feel so open and tall.

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Human Garage has supplements and other goodies for sale in the lobby area, essential oils to test out, water bottles that double as foam rollers. I've been using the essential oil sampler of the "heart chakra" oil, each time I leave, to help facilitate the release of what i'm holding on to. I was thinking, too, when i went to sleep last night about how the real task is to let go. It's been my goal for years to learn how to do that, to let go of emotional baggage, of judgement, of past transgressions, shame etc. I was thinking about what that really means, and it came up in my Live Awake meditation (one of my favorites is called healing through letting go) and it struck me.

Letting go = forgiveness. 

Forgiving myself for feeling the way I do, for being stressed or impatient or bloated or controlling. Forgiving others for being who they are, forgiving myself when I'm annoyed by another. Deciding in the moment what that forgiveness means and looks like is part of the challenge but it's at least a mindset and practice. It's been something I've latched onto. I keep talking about how I want to change, to not feel "this way" (depending on the moment and or feeling) but what have I done to change my situation? Lifestyle and diet aside, how can I expect to change if I don't change my daily habit or re-train myself how to respond to stressful stimuli? It's something I'm adding to my tools. Hopefully less circumstances will lead to an "issue" at all if I can lead from a place forgiveness.

Human Garage, Day 2!

This is part two of a series. If you haven't caught up on what I'm doing with Human Garage, see the other posts here!

Today was my Core Release day with Human Garage.

I was with Alex, a motion mechanic I hadn't met yet. He started our session by sort of assessing where I was at after the last time. This session was definitely not as emotional as yesterday but he did go back over some of the areas they worked on, trying to release more. Especially in my quads because there's still a lot of tension in there and he mentioned that it was a lot like peeling back layers. They took away a layer yesterday and he got some more release today. They're incredibly sore, but that's sort of part of the process. That they just go over and over the area until the release happens. I did feel like in the tightest part of the left quad, some of the same burning sensation up and around my back (perhaps my psoas on the left side) and also the burning sensation sort of near the intestinal area and hip area on the left side similarly to what i felt on the right side, last time.

We talked about how I was feeling and what I was hoping to get from my work with Human Garage. He had read my file and was familiar with what I had said upon my initial consultation, he also had Jen's notes from the previous day, but he also asked me.

mood lighting

mood lighting

I was really struck and impressed by this. One of my issues with the western medicine machine is that everything is so separate. You see a neurologist for issues with your brain, a psychologist for emotional issues, a gastroenterologist for your gut health etc. In my experience it is rare for these doctors to work together in an efficient manner to get to the root of a problem. Many emotional consequences come from your gut health being out of whack. But if you go to a psychologist for anxiety, they are likely not going to tell you to examine what you're eating or to test you for leaky gut, despite the fact that it could be causing your anxiety. It was cool to see these practitioners, working on different parts of my body, within the same business, really communicate with one another in the way that I hope more MDs will. It means they're more likely to catch connections between body parts or symptoms.

Alex worked on my core, but it mostly felt like he was working on my guts. I laid on my back, he'd put his hand on the right side of my abdomen (actually, near the ileolcecal valve), have me breathe and just sort of let my body allow his hands to go deeper in my abdominal cavity. It wasn't difficult for him to dig around in my guts and I don't know if that's because I'm really open to healing that part of my body or I'm not very protective of it. It felt like a very non invasive way of releasing the muscle. Then he did the left side. It felt like I had bubbles in my stomach or intestines. I was actually surprised that him working on the front of my abdomen didn't make me need to go to the bathroom. Usually when someone rubs on your guts, it makes you have to poop!

He worked on the muscles between the ribs. He worked on the back which felt like the upper psoas (the psoas wraps up around to your spine). It was pretty tight but didn't really hurt when he released it. It was easy to chat with Alex the whole time. We talked about how he got started at Human Garage. Like a lot of the practitioners I am familiar with in functional/natural/gut centered health he had his own journey of healing that led him to become a practitioner. (Other examples are: Garry Lineham, Dr. Ruscio, Sarah Ballantyne, Chris Kresser, the list goes on...) These people educated themselves and then chose to share their knowledge to help heal others.

The last thing to release was the diaphragm. The rest of the core release allows the diaphragm, once released to really allow you to breathe a full breath. All the sitting we do and shallow breathing we do prevents us from taking those healing, relaxing and oxygenating full breaths.

When he was done with my core (of all the release days, it's the shortest, i was done after an hour and a half or so) he went back to my legs and got them to release a little bit more. I asked if there was something else I could be doing to make sure that I was letting go of it all. It was really difficult, in the face of the extreme discomfort, to not tense up the rest of my body. He said that I was doing it, just breathe and try to relax. It's about stretching my legs and focusing more on the mental aspect of what am I storing in there? what am I holding onto? what are we breaking down and what are we trying to let go of? I do leave feeling a lot lighter and I do I notice a difference in the way that I'm walking for sure. 

At the end of the session he had me walk it off and i felt like i was walking around with my chest puffed up. I felt very powerful and joyful. I was smiling. As a woman and as a sensitive person, I feel like i walk around very physically closed off and hunched over. I had a swagger to my walk from the core release, my hips were swinging in opposition to my arm. I felt great. 

I did talk with Alex a little more about the overall Human Garage process today and about how the process of unwinding is the first step in realignment. They remove the tension from muscles and fascia and then you go into biomechanics sessions where your movement is assessed and you're given exercises to help your brain re-train your movement patterns. I understood the overall idea of Human Garage, but every day that I go, and we chat while on the table, I gain a little bit more understanding.

Human Garage, Day 1!

I started my sessions with Human Garage yesterday!
If you missed my introduction on what they're up to, you can read about it here. 
 

The entrance to Human Garage is in the alley off of Washington Blvd in Venice. 

The entrance to Human Garage is in the alley off of Washington Blvd in Venice. 

My goals in working with Human Garage are to get my body in the right position so that it's able to heal itself. Misalignment is causing some mechanical issues with my gut and digestion, not to mention make me prone to injury if I exercise. I hope that through working with Human Garage I'll be able to eat more foods with less discomfort and reduce or eliminate bloating after eating. I hope to be able to lift heavier weights. I'm currently experiencing some weird knee sensations and pressures which feel like bone on bone, due to being misaligned. If Human Garage can get me back in a righted position, I'd be able to lift weights without the fear of harming myself.

At my visit we began the first of 6 sessions designed to un-wind my body: Lower Release. They start from the bottom up (legs first) because that method has proven to be the most effective in releasing tension from our bodies. (We walk from our hips, feet first.) Starting with the legs allows the rest of the body to unwind (release tension from our muscles and fascia) easier.

My practitioner was Jen, they call her "gentle Jen" because she is not. She greeted me with a hug (they're all huggers at Human Garage, I love it) and led me to the massage table. We talked a little bit about how the process would go and why they start with lower release first. She started with my calves and ankles, feeling for knots in my fascia and tension in my muscles. Unsurprisingly to me, my body is tight, likely from years of sports but also emotional stress. I came prepared for pain, ready to breathe through the discomfort and "lean in" to the process. She worked on my calves and at one point reached for a tool they call a "TheraGun" it's a drill-like tool that has a rubber ball at the end. The ball vibrates against your muscle making it easier for the practitioner to release the tension. (Side note: I'm not sure if you're aware of this but we don't actually have "knots" in our muscles. What feels like a knot is actually the brain telling that muscle to fire and hold tension, either to protect a part of the body or from stress or trauma. Fascia can have knots, but even that is a misnomer. The "knot" is really a bundle of fascia stuck together. Each of these points of tension can be released with stretching and massage techniques.) After my calves were sufficiently released, Jen worked on my shins.

Most of the massage/acupressure/tension release is done manually. It feels like a really deep tissue massage. They break up the sessions into 6 and schedule the appointments 2 a week for 3 weeks. This is so you don't go too long between sessions and re-tense any of the areas they're working on. No massages, chiropractic appointments (outside of Human Garage) or working out is allowed during this time. The point of the  protocol is to break down the tension in your body, allow it to right itself (alignment speaking) and then train your brain to keep you in that position, not fall back into old patterns of movement. Exercising, massage or chiropractics could interfere with that process and so HG has learned to tell clients to refrain during the realignment process. Walking and light stretching is encouraged.

TheraGun!

TheraGun!

So far, calves and shins, weren't so tough to sit through. Some of the tense muscle release even made me laugh, the TheraGun was especially tickling. Following the shins, Jen rearranged me to lie on my left side with my right leg at a 90 degree angle (and bent knee) resting on a cushion. This was to make my adductor muscles accessible. I know that these muscles and my hips are pretty tight. I have a hard time sitting cross legged on the ground with my knees not high up in the air. I can't sit in lotus position in yoga without pain because my tight hips put too much pressure on my feet, resting on my calves or thighs. While releasing tension in my adductors I was doing a lot deep breathing. It was painful close to my groin and even more so closer to my knee. I was noticing some sensations during this part of the session. I would tremble and convulse the more I relaxed and let the tension dissipate. (Sometimes, when I give my dog a massage he does this. When I'm rubbing his neck he'll tense up and breathe heavily while his muscles shake out the tension.)

So, she's working on my adductors, I'm shaking and breathing and doing my best to relax or "lean into ;)" the tension as it's releasing. The muscles with a lot of tension sometimes release in layers. So as the first round of tension is letting go and she's getting deeper in there, i start to feel shaking and tension release in other parts of my body. I could feel it in my lower back (perhaps lower back or psoas muscles) and i also felt this burning sensation in the right side of my abdomen. It felt like soft tissue, not muscular. it felt the way scar tissue burns when you massage it to break up. I was reminded of my consultation visit with Garry (owner and founder of Human Garage). He spoke about how my muscles and fascia were pulling my organs out of alignment and that tension was affecting my ileocecal valve and mechanically holding it open. (I know that area is prone to issue from my colonoscopy.) The area that was burning was right where my ileocecal valve is located. Even thought it was uncomfortable, it was encouraging to feel like the tension release in my hip muscles would relieve my gut of that tension. 

From adductors, Jen moved on to lower psoas and quad muscles. Lower psoas wasn't so bad. It's really tight and it was uncomfortable so I just kept focusing on relaxing my body and breathing deeply. Breathing does two things in an instance like this: it will tell your body to relax, that this is a position it's meant to be in and allow the muscle to release and it also chills you out. The instinct is to tighten up, resist and hold your breath to bear down on the pain. But, (and i'm sure this is a metaphor for the mental aspect that Human Garage is also teaching) resisting will only maintain the pain and keep everything all jacked up. So, I'm doing my best and Jen starts on my thigh muscles, my quadriceps. When I first took a yoga class in around 2006, i remember hating it. I was in warrior 3, I think, and I remember my eyes leaking and feeling like I was going to cry because of the emotional surge I felt, connected to my thigh muscles. I was prepared for this at Human Garage. I feel like the last 4 years of my health journey, my relationship with myself, with meditation, with learning to let go (i said learning...), with sitting in the discomfort that life delivers, prepared me to find Human Garage and sit through this... the thigh release. Knowing that I store my feelings in my body (read: everywhere) I was mentally prepared to cry on this table. Jen starts working on my thighs and it's like i have three calf sized "knots" or spots of tension. And they. are. fucking. painful. I'm not shaking at this point, I'm basically lamaze breathing and spontaneously convulsing. I was trying so hard to relax into it but would feel the opposite side of my body tense up. It was hard to tell if I was tensing or if the tension was involuntary connection to other muscles like my lower back/psoas and hips.

Jen had Garry's son Jordan come over who also works at Human Garage doing fascia work, to hold/pull the fascia in my lower leg while she worked on that thigh. My eyes were watering, my lips were quivering and I just sat in it. I was tense, breathing heavy and trying to just feel what was coming up. Jen told me to try and name what I was feeling, that if my brain could identify it, it would actually help the muscle to release. A way of exorcising the emotion out of the muscle. Ironically, I was having a really hard time identifying it. It definitely felt like frustration, maybe some fear and a little sadness. I started thinking about high school and when i first started having panic attacks. It felt like I was scared and alone and no one really knew how to help me. It felt a little bit like the sadness that comes along with and lingers after fear has come and gone. It also felt like the control you seek when you're scared. Like you'll do anything to maintain the power position and relieve the feeling. I have felt this in moments of panic, I have felt this in the aftermath of a break-up, that urge to call the one person you know you can't, the inability to speak when your mind is in panic mode and you're flipping through your brain files, for a way out. It sucked. And that was only the right leg. I did my best the whole appointment, to talk through what I was feeling. Mostly so I could make sure I was articulating it. But also, if i said it out loud, then Jen would sometimes be able to tell me why something was happening or what it was. During this emotional moment she encouraged me to let it out. She tried to get me to name it. I tried to talk through what it kind of  felt like and what i thought it was.

Then we moved on to the left leg. This one was even worse! I tried to take what I had learned from the right leg and really breathe into it. I tried to stretch my left leg longer rather than tensing up my body. I started laughing uncontrollably and saying that it hurt SO MUCH but i couldn't stop laughing. Jen asked if I wanted her to back off, but I said no. It felt like this was my penance. That the pain hurt going in, so it had to hurt going out, and I wanted it out. i want to exorcize the control and the attachment and judgement from my body and I don't think it'll go easily or quietly. Soon, after laughing my head off, I was mouth in a grimace, eyes squinched shut, silently sobbing. I kept thinking about something my therapist said to me back just before I was leaving my day job to do music. It was about me not having to do everything. She said "you think that if you didn't do everything, you'd cease to exist". I have this connection to "actions speak louder than words" so, if I'm not the friend I feel I am inside, and I don't show up for things, or take time for myself, or lead by example, then who am i? How can I exist outside of how i live my life? and Isn't living my life through action?


Remembering that while i'm feeling all this conflict and pain and sadness and frustration i say to myself "you are afraid if you feel this, if you let go of control, the pain and conflict, that you will die, you will break." I'm not exactly sure what it means or how to approach it but it felt true. I do have a terribly hard time letting go of things, emotionally speaking. I will circle around something I've done or said or felt and just hold onto it and revisit it over and over, looking at it from all the angles. It's a bit OCD, which I've written about before. I want to yank that part out of me. I want to live life easy and let things go and not get upset or angry or scared or sad or attach my self worth to the job I do and I'm not sure how to do it. How to release that. I think this is one more step in that direction. Meditation, self reflection and awareness, as debilitating as they can be some times, were also steps.

After Jen worked on my legs, she did my lower psoas and hips and then she put my ankle, knee and hip joints on these blocks to push through them and make sure they were opened up and working properly. Then she had me walk it off. As quickly as the emotions came, they were gone. I felt lighter. I also felt like i had someone else's legs on my body and wasn't sure that I could walk, or that I was re-learning how to walk. My feet felt like they were striking and rolling correctly. We took another photo to track my adjustment process.

I spent the rest of the day with friends and my husband. I felt sad. I felt open, vulnerable and exhausted. I was introspective and tried talking it through. I'm going to spend more time mulling this over. We'll be revisiting my thighs at later release sessions, lucky me, until they're done. So I'm sure there's more to learn from this. 

Because of my tour schedule, I'm cramming all 6 sessions into two weeks. But will be writing and reflecting on them over time. Stay tuned for the next visit which I'll be posting about soon!

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From just one visit, you can see my right shoulder is more aligned, my head isn't leaning as far forward and I look high AF.

Exciting New Steps!

I haven't written an update on my next steps regarding inability to re-introduce more foods without symptoms yet. I've been waiting to see how a couple things go. The initial plan was to do another round of SIBO antimicrobials and anti fungals before deciding if I was going to go on low dose Naltrexone or Fluconazole for either fungal overgrowth or reduction in auto-immune symptoms. That plan is on the back burner for now. I saw minimal improvements after doing the 2nd round of SIBO supplements and thought it best to stick to the diet and lifestyle habits I knew worked and save money for a bit.

Fascia magnified 25x!

In the meantime, I've been doing research into other reasons why it seems my health progress has stalled. I heard a bit about abdominal adhesions and how those can cause SIBO to persist. I don't have recurrent SIBO but it did make me curious about the possibility that adhesions were preventing my organs from functioning properly (specifically digestive organs). Simultaneously, Brahm was learning about fascia via The Melt Method. Fascia, the connective tissue under our skin, holds all our organs in place and communicates with the brain about the state of the body. Adhesions in fascia can be caused by physical (like an accident or fall) or emotional trauma (stress, depression etc.). (mind blown emoji)

Knowing that fascial release was something I'd been looking into, Brahm sent me this podcast about The Human Garage. It's a local spot that focuses on getting our bodies and minds in alignment. They use techniques like facial release, massage, chiropractics, nutritional adjustments to set your body right physically and mentally.

After listening to Garry Lineham, founder of The Human Garage on the The Bledsoe podcast, describe what they do I immediately reached out for a consultation. This felt right. Why when i have inflammation in my body is my neck super sore? Why can't i sort out my bloating symptoms? Eating such a limited diet is working as a tool to get my body to chill out but doesn't seem like it's supposed to be how i live forever. The Human Garage seemed like the key to unlock what was preventing my body from healing completely.

Oh, Hello!

I went in for my consultation in June. Garry and I hit it off right away, we've had a very similar journey and if how well he's doing is any indication of where I'll end up, I am stoked! We talked about my diet and lifestyle changes and how I've stalled on progress. I know from my work with my chiropractor that my spine isn't blocking off any communication from my spinal cord to my organs but we have never adjusted any of my musculoskeletal alignment, tight muscles or fascia pulling my bones out of perfect skeletal alignment. One of the first parts of the consultation, after the initial chat was examining my posture. As you can see from the images, my top half leans to the right and my hips twist to the left. I'm doing a fairly good job at keeping my ears over my ankles but to make that happen, I'm leaning back and pushing my hips forward. That explains why i'm always standing in first position!

Garry and I talked about my history of Crohn's symptoms and the ulcers they found near my ileocecal valve and that i have discomfort but not sharp pain in that area. He used an iPad app to show me the muscles in my hips and how they're pulling on my soft tissue. He said that I've made great progress with lifestyle and diet but the issues i'm having now that are persisting are all mechanical. Yeah. MECHANICAL. My hips are so tight they are pulling on my skeleton, which is pulling my organs and fascia and my ileocecal valve is being held open by my body. Mind Blown.
I knew that there might be a physical component to my healing but I had no idea it could be that integrated.
I stretch! I exercise! I'm strong! I don't have weird physical pain unless i treat my body like a garbage heap! I was sold, this was game changing piece information. Garry also explained how my bloating was a mechanical issue, neck pain seemed obvious...

He wanted to give me an example of how simple physical manipulations could cause huge changes. He adjusted my jaw to show me how just that tension can affect the whole body. He stuck a gloved finger into the back corner of my jaw muscle and applied pressure. While he was doing that he told me to lightly stroke my right thumb from pad to first knuckle. That would signal to my body to relax (the pressure he applied was uncomfortable and I was doing my best to breathe through it.) Then, at the right moment I was to stretch my right arm above my head and towards the back wall and rub my stomach in a clockwise (to me) circle and that would reduce the intensity of the pressure in my mouth. (I tested this, it really worked.) My eyes were tearing during the adjustment and I had a small emotional release while he explained how it worked. Afterwords I felt super calm, and a little high. He adjusted both sides of my jaw and then I walked around to see how it affected my posture. Not only am i standing straighter just from my jaw but i had better blood flow to my brain and i was striking the ground properly in my stride.

Before // After

Before // After

Before // After

Before // After

Before // After

Before // After

You can see that my alignment improves and even though I look drunk, you can see that my jaw is more relaxed in the close up as well as my skin tone shows better blood flow to my brain. (Though i'm used to seeing my cheek bones popping out like on the left, the picture on the right is my correct facial alignment. I looked less sleepy, eventually).

Energy and Emotions

Besides physical alignments, The Human Garage also does bio-mechanical assessment, for instance how many of the nutrients that I'm eating, am i actually absorbing? (My guess, not as many as I should be.) I'm also curious about how this work will affect me emotionally and creatively.
I have done energy work twice before with my friend and neighbor Riss, from Energy Mechanic. The work she does involves using crystals and chakra manipulation. (This may sound woo woo but there is now scientific evidence that meridians exist. So if it works for you, I say do what you need to do.) During her work, I had my eyes closed and felt different emotional surges and physical sensations even though she wasn't touching my body, just manipulating the energy above my body. When she was working on my most blocked chakra, my sacral chakra, it felt like I was having intense period cramps even though I wasn't anywhere close to having my period. I also felt an emotional surge and release, like an urge to cry or tension like anxiety. After that session, I felt super creative. That next tour I felt like Whitney Houston. I had a much easier time singing new vocal melodies, getting out of my head and improvising. I'm excited to see how working with The Human Garage affects my performance and writing with the band.

I signed up right after my consultation. They like to do 2 sessions a week for three weeks to make sure the alignment adjustments stick. Since I'm rarely home for that amount of time, I'm doing 3 sessions for two weeks at the end of July. I'll be documenting each visit here so you can see what they do and how it affects me. Stay Tuned!

The Mind Gut Connection

I've talked a little bit about my mental health on this blog. I have a history of anxiety and depression that has become very manageable via lifestyle and diet. As a teen, I was on prescription medication and re-introduced some of them in my early 30's when I needed some help. Chemical intervention has periodically helped me see solutions more clearly and be able to function through times when my biological chemistry is off.

I've learned on my journey, a lot about the science behind the mind-gut connection and why it was so important for me to get my gut healthy again. 95% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, if it's healthy. I've seen first hand the repercussions of an unhealthy gut when I indulge in food and lifestyle choices that don't serve me. My symptoms are heavy on the mental and emotional side with some bloating, pain and weight gain on the physical side.

A theme that's been popping up in my life recently has been OCD. I've been acutely aware of my tendencies for skin picking and nail/cuticle biting flaring up around times of stress and deviations from "my protocol". I'm familiar with depression and anxiety flaring up around eating foods I know I'm reactive to. Experiencing heart palpitations, skin flushing, lack of patience and being moody is nothing new after a period of indulgence. Conversely, it's also no surprise that when i'm in the self-care "zone", that I feel more at peace, am able to withstand stressful situations without experiencing anxiety and even wake up joyful.

I'm in a constant state of checking in and reflection these days. I check in with myself before and after eating. This really helps me make sure that I'm giving my body what it needs and not something I'm using to distract or numb myself.  It also means that I can indulge in a positive way and ideally prevent repercussions from poorly timed cravings.
 

That being said, I'm not a robot. While I do try to avoid serious (for me) offenders like grains, indulging does mean having something that is likely to have some sort of negative effect on my system. So, in my reflection this week I wanted to share what I've noticed about myself.

I have always been a nail biter and skin picker. When I had acne, i would pick my face, compulsively and without awareness and without being able to stop until i "got" what i was going for. Picking leads to scarring and long enduring red marks. The feeling was one of control and relief. The same goes for nail picking and biting, it always felt like I just "needed to get the one hangnail/piece of cuticle/dry skin" as if it were an imperfection I could fix. My hands and face, red, sore and bleeding would not be enough get me to stop. 

As an adult, I try and resist these urges. I get acrylics if my nails break. I travel with lotion so my cuticles don't get dry enough to pick. (And if they do, i still mess with them.) When I am out of balance, either from stress, lack of sleep, lifestyle or food, these habits come back in full force. (Of course, weather is no help for hands that tend to dry out.) When my defenses are low, these habits emerge and with them comes my old, defenseless sense of self. How embarrassing it is to have thumbs that look like I stuck them in a Vitamix, or parts of my scalp that are nearly bald from the scratching at an old scab. I never thought of myself as having OCD, not in any real way. Only in the way that getting things right and that having acute attention to detail at work makes you a rockstar, did I associate with obsession. Obsession to be awesome! ;) But I do see, now, the obsessive tendencies in these behaviors and even now realize them in my old work habits. (emails causing anxiety, perfectionist tendencies, wrapping up self worth in the job I was doing.)
 

Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that if you change your diet and get enough sleep that it would cure all occurrences of depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD/ADD etc. I'm just sharing that in my case, it made a huge difference (almost all the difference) in the presentation of my genetic predisposition to be "mentally out out of order" when my body is out of whack. I was able to function with coping mechanisms, off of pharmaceutical medication, when I made changes to my life/diet that healed my gut (and therefore affected my brain chemistry.)

Gut Health literally affects brain chemistry. Eating what is right for me and practicing self care, helps me maintain a state of mental wellness. What does that mean (for me: keto food, 8.5+ hours of sleep a night on a consistent schedule, low alcohol consumption, self examination and stress management practice).

When friends or family members mention their mental distress I always encourage them to look at what they're eating to see how their gut health may be affecting their mental health and mood. Remember, something you've eaten for a long time without noticing symptoms doesn't necessarily mean that you are tolerating that without consequences. The body will adapt and adjust to the environment you create for it. An elimination diet is a sure way (and the only gold standard, not any "allergy test") to reset what you know you can tolerate and serves your body best. I only now experience some symptoms like heartburn and intestinal pain/cramping, now that I've removed foods and then re-introduced them. Only once my body had time to experience relief did I notice the discomfort I was causing myself.

I've been reading more lately about the gut as your second brain, it's fascinating the science that continues to roll in. The microbiome is proving to control so much more about our emotional and chemical states than we previously ever understood.

Here are some links and books about the Brain-Gut connection if you want to learn more:

https://chriskresser.com/heal-your-gut-heal-your-brain/

http://emeranmayer.com/book/

https://www.maryvancenc.com/gut-brain-connection/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/how-mood-and-gut-health-are-linked/

https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Maker-Power-Microbes-Protect/dp/0316380105

Looking Back at Being Tired

Brahm and I take walks in the morning when I'm home and off a tour schedule. I was remarking a couple days ago at how easy it felt to hike through the Silver Lake hills. Only a year ago, it was still really difficult. I had to time the walks just right after eating, or make sure the walk wasn't too long or hot, or it would shut me down. TO WALK. I don't think that (even) my immediate circle even really understands how taxing daily tasks were that recently.

Brahm asked for an example of when I last remembered not being tired, before now, and I said I could literally not remember a time in my life that I wasn't tired all the time. I know that kids are tired, stay up too late etc. but I really can't remember a time that I wasn't exhausted during first and second period, needed a nap after lunch (especially after lunch! #lunchables), being exhausted at the end of a school day, struggling through practice or rehearsal, sleeping half the day away on the weekends. I'm learning now that is not normal; common, yes, but not a sign of a healthy body, especially a young, strong one. (Side note: food is supposed to energize the body not put us to sleep!)

Exercising a year ago was virtually impossible and it's been three years since I've prioritized fitness. I've only this past year started doing walks more regularly and making it to yoga. Very recently I've started adding in what I like to call "micro workouts" I can't always rally myself mentally to attend a class but I want to get stronger now that I'm feeling up to it. When I'm home (or at sound check, or getting gas for the vans) I'll do body weight exercises like walking lunges or squats or jumping jacks. It may seem like too little to make a difference but you'd be surprised! Two months ago I could do one military push-up (arms beside your body, not out like a "T"), now I can do 10. I've been focusing on core strength. Two months ago I could hold plank for 60 seconds, now I can to ab roll-outs. At home, with access to weights, I'll do walking lunges with a kettle bell or use our pull-up bar while i'm just watching TV or hanging out. Throughout the day, it adds up.

I've followed the advice of other Autoimmune wellness experts and taken things as I can handle them. I'm slowly getting stronger and am able to do more than I was before. I now feel like I'm operating in a 3 steps forward (rather than 2) - one step back, motion. This past month I was home a lot and definitely pushed my abilities to the limits in terms of socializing, alcohol, sleep and food, but I'm OK. I use tour to really cut back (livin' on a budget) and nourish myself, focus on sleep and what my body really needs. At home I try to do that but the temptation of seeing friends and having access to tastier food than what I travel with is challenging to resist.

I'm grateful to have my fatigue level as poignant point of reference. A lot of the other health progress I've had has been slow and almost imperceptible at times in improvement. My fatigue level has been a strong indication of my wellness level. Even though its terrible to be tired, I'm grateful that I'm sensitive enough to have symptoms indicate to me when something is off.

 

SIDE NOTE: my skin has (finally) improved dramatically. Here are some pics to compare to when I was doing the AIP diet.

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SIFO? and constantly making changes.

I've been doing great since March, as I mentioned in my last post. However, starting around November it was more of a challenge to maintain a state of wellness. It's difficult to stay on top of all the moving parts that keep me feeling my best, especially in times of financial or physical (working late, etc.) hardship. I found that my body was inflamed and was more difficult to "chill out" than usual. (For me, this means I'm low-level bloated after eating almost anything, my eyes are puffy and tired looking, I'm sluggish, brain foggy and prone to be moody AF.) I was taking the supplements that usually helped me to reduce inflammation, doing my diet (fairly well) and maintaining lifestyle interventions. In all transparency, towards the end of the year, the issue was that I'd indulge in something (maybe more alcohol than usual or starches I usually stay away from) and then before I could "chill out" my system (which usually takes a week, for me) I'd have something else and the cycle would continue. 

Because the diet that makes me feel great (right now) is so limited in variety, I also had a suspicion that maybe we hadn't completely solved the puzzle. I'd cleared SIBO in 2015 (we tested 3x and besides, the diet I consume would mitigate any remaining imbalance there). I haven't been able to reintroduce anything beyond greens, cucumber, limited amounts of tomatoes and avocado and small amounts of fermented foods into my diet. For the sake of my quality of life, I'd like to be able to tolerate some more foods, mainly vegetables. It would really make eating out more fun and tasty. Not to mention, while greens are packed with vitamins and minerals, I'd like to get a wider variety from other foods.

I had been listening to Dr. Ruscio's podcast and some others and hypothesized that perhaps my gut was still in a state of dysbiosis or perhaps there was a pathogen I was keeping at bay but hadn't eradicated. It's possible I'd cleared SIBO but not all of a fungal overgrowth (Candida or otherwise) that could have been there in the first place. I also know that while not diagnosed (for those concerned if i've "been diagnosed", it's a thing, LMGTFY!) with Crohn's Disease but suffering from the symptoms of it and benefiting from the treatment of an IBD like Crohn's, that it's possible that I am destined for a Low FODMAP diet forever. Research shows that people with IBD that go off of a low FODMAP protocol, often get worse. However, as the ever (now greedy) wellness consumer, I'm willing to try all my options.

I knew the first step was on me. I had to get back into a wellness routine that I knew worked for me. January first, I decided to do the elemental diet (I've done the semi-elemental diet in the past, which I do not tolerate well.) I did this for 3.5-4 days, a short, reset period. It's homemade, you can get the list of ingredients here. The purpose of this experiment was to see if I removed digestion from the equation by consuming this pre-digested liquid diet, could I get my body to de-bloat and "prune" (as Dr. Ruscio likes to say) back any initial overgrowth of either fungus or bacteria in my gut. I also committed to doing the first month of an herbal anti-microbial/anti-fungal protocol. It's the same one that I'd done with SIBO, just to prune back anything that had gotten out of control between November and January. 

It turns out, I tolerate the elemental diet very well. I was tired the first day and had a headache but that's pretty typical for me as a withdrawal symptom. I was symptomatic for the first two weeks of the antimicrobials/antifungals which indicates to me that I had some dysbiosis and/or fungus in my gut. I set a follow up meeting with Dr. Ruscio for the next month to discuss what I suspected and to talk about doing the second month of antimicrobials/antifungals which were more geared toward fungus, or if he had another suggestion.

In talking to Dr. Ruscio, I let him know the symptoms I was still experiencing: Low-level bloating, inability to add in more vegetables, some fatigue depending on lifestyle. He suggested that it's possible that I may have a microbiota that needs occasional "pruning" and is prone to overgrowth if not kept in check. The suggestions were the following:

  • Consider doing periodic bouts of the elemental diet (the one I tolerate) to give my digestion a break and starve out any dysbiosis. 
  • Do a round of the 2nd month of SIBO/SIFO treatment (the antimicrobials/antifungals)
  • Consider doing a round of Fluconazole, a pharmaceutical intervention for SIFO that doesn't show adverse effects on the mirobiota. (TBD if i do this in addition to the protocol above) 
  • Consider going on LDN or low-dose naltrexone, an immune booster now commonly used for those with autoimmune diseases. (It's his opinion based on research that my body's immune system attacks my microbiota, if this drug can help calm my system down from being on red alert all the time, perhaps I'll feel better.)
  • Do a week of a low histamine diet. I had additional concerns that maybe I have histamine intolerance (which may or may not be affected by the possible fungal presence). I have sometimes have allergic symptoms when consuming wine, my heart races after eating some foods, I flush when I have too much or certain alcohols and I am sometimes intolerant to fermented foods. My hypothesis is that this will change after antifungals, but we'll see. I do better when I avoid these foods, currently.
     

I have reservations about pharmaceutical interventions.
Taking antibiotics throughout my life, I believe, helped me to arrive in this condition.
I'm starting with the herbal antimicrobials/antifungals and then we'll consider the rest of the options in a month or so. 
I'll update the site then!

 

A Couple of Side Notes

COST
I have a Covered California health care plan, the cheapest one that covers the least. Dr. Ruscio doesn't accept insurance so he's out of network no matter who I'm covered by (though his office does encourage you to super bill your insurance for their fees.) After 2015, I knew that my health care costs would be fewer in frequency and less in cost. I chose to downgrade the coverage I had to save money monthly (but not bankrupt myself if I have an accident). I do still have an HSA so if I make any money via w9, all of that money can go to paying me back (income tax free!) for any healthcare costs I incur during the year. This is one way that I help pay for my wellness on a budget.
Additionally, as Dr. Ruscio is an FMD, I needed a prescription written for the Fluconazole and the LDN (whether or not I fill them and take them we'll decide at a later date). Rather than paying another doctor for an appointment to get that written, I used my FREE (thanks #ACA) physical appointment to consult with my General Practitioner (who admittedly said he literally knows nothing about what I'm doing but if it works, then he's for it) and have him write me those prescriptions. That saved me an additional $150 on a doctor visit. 
 

In other exciting news, our new album is available for Pre-Order!

In other exciting news, our new album is available for Pre-Order!

Maintenance and Some Helpful Tools

Since about March, I've been feeling GOOD. Yep, I know, it's crazy! I have a handle on what food makes me feel best (even while touring). I've chilled out on consuming (but am not depriving myself completely of) alcohol. I am doing my best to sleep 8.5 hours a night, (10p bedtime is best for me but not consistent due to our tour schedule). I've added exercise back into my routine: Daily walking, light body weight workouts and yoga. I still do my best to stay updated on what's going on in the chronic illness / autoimmune wellness community, every little life hack can help.

When I started 3 years ago on the AIP protocol, if you had told me it would have taken this long for me to get to a point where I was feeling good, I may have never started. Temporary dietary changes felt like the end of the world. Every event was annoying because "I couldn't eat" something. Now that my food is dialed in and I've learned how to navigate social events I can say that food is the EASIEST part of this lifestyle, for me.

What I struggle with now is not overdoing it. I feel pretty good and "normal" most of the time now. So much so that I'll over schedule myself and end up knocking myself right back into feeling crappy. It takes me about 3-5 days to recover from a night lacking in sleep.  An early flight followed by late show, for instance and I'm right back to inflammation, headache, tired eyes, stress and anxiety until I can get back on track. It's hard to take advantage of wellness and not take it for granted.

I recently double booked myself for a late night birthday party followed by a friend's show. That afternoon I was feeling a bit restless and anxious so I got myself (read: forced self-care on myself) over to a yoga class. On my way home I called my best friend and talked out the situation. The reason I'm feeling so good is that I am prioritizing my health. I realized that the best decision for me was to cancel my plans. I reorganized my evening to fit with the routine of having an earlier night event and getting to bed by 10p. I need to use down time between tours to catch up on sleep and get back on "home schedule", to take advantage the times when I have control over my environment. 

Sleep, Food and Booze 

Similar to the project management triangle (see above), I can mess with one constraint at a time of: Sleep, Food or Booze and usually maintain a state of wellness.

None of the constraints can be altered without affecting the other.  Each of the points can be a stressor on the body.

  • If I'm not getting enough sleep, my food and booze intake has to be perfectly on point. (That means less than 20g of carbs, no booze and adequate fat intake, for me.)
  •  If I'm being more adventurous with my food, say having some handmade nixtamalization tortillas, then I need to not be overtired and I can't overdo it with alcohol.
  •  If I'm going to have more than 2 drinks, I need to make sure my food is on point and that I'm going to sleep enough to chill out my system.

It's all about balance. (Stress Management is a constant factor and has to be considered at all times before indulging in any of the above three constraints.) 

 

 Tools I couldn't live without 🙌

Podcasts:

I follow some health centered / bio-hacking podcasts that often have a lot of information i'm familiar with but usually offer a great tidbits that I can hold as a reminder or something to help keep me motivated and on track. 

Dr. Ruscio Radio - This is my doctor, he's frequently commenting on and sharing current information having to do with gut health/ auto immunity / SIBO and thyroid issues. He also interviews other doctors about their research and writings. This has helped me save so much money as I don't need to call him for an appointment if my questions are answered by what he's giving away for free. 

AutoImmune Wellness Podcast - Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt of AutoImmuneWellness.com just wrote a new book on thriving with chronic illness and autoimmune conditions. Even though I'm at the last stage in this 16 episode podcast, I still found each episode really helpful. It's comforting for me to know and be reminded that there are other people out there also struggling with the symptoms associated with chronic illness. I was especially relieved to hear that what I still struggle with, (stress management, getting enough sleep and prioritizing my health routine) is what other people also commonly struggle with. Mickey mentions this in the last episode of the podcast and I felt so relieved. That these "gurus" of autoimmune conditions are struggling with the same things. She talks about how it's constantly a challenge to stay in balance. She, like me, gets greedy when feeling good and inevitably "over does it". 

Other podcasts I recommend following for new info, recipes and life tweaks: 

Revolution health radio, Ben Greenfield Fitness, and websites like SCDlifestyle.com, ThePaleoMom.com and NomNomPaleo.com

 

Other tools: 

Support system: I surround myself with people who support my health habits. I plan with friends who are happy to have a dinner in, or let me have a say in where we eat. (Inevitably, your self care will make some people defensive. Do your best to make a space for them to exist in a way that doesn't knock you off track.) I find this support invaluable both in  moments of weakness and the rest of the time. It's just good to have people around that support you!

Planning: I bring food with me everywhere! I eat before I leave the house and I make sure there is something I can eat with me for at least one or two meals in addition. That way I won't get caught off guard (life happens!) and make poor (for me) decisions. I also try to keep my food exciting and interesting by switching up what I’m making so I don’t stray out of boredom.

 

What to expect if you go down this road.

Let’s suppose that you stumbled upon this blog because you’re on a similar journey. I’d like to share some tips with you. Let’s call this the “might I suggest” list as I’m not an expert and no one likes a bossy know-it-all.

Not everyone is going to support you.

         I sincerely hope that everyone in your life does. That will make this SO much easier for you. However, you may find yourself in the position of defending yourself, frequently. We’re all at different stages in our lives. Not everyone is going to be ready to self-examine, just like there are people in your life that probably still trigger you too. You may be met with skepticism, sarcasm, ridicule and defensiveness. Don’t engage with people who are quick to negate something that is working for you. Similarly, not everyone is going to want to hear about your journey and how you’re doing. Even people who love you very much may be triggered by the conversation. Despite how you’re wording it, people are going to take what you say however they interpret it. Change the conversation. Save that energy for people who do want to engage with you on your tactics and progress.

Forgive others for being skeptical, you’re never going to win everyone over.

Forgive yourself for not having all the answers. All you can do is what’s working for you RIGHT NOW and when it’s not, change tactics. You do not have to be an expert at this.

 

Allow people to show up for you

         If you have people in your life that ARE supportive of you. Let them help! Take advantage of those relationships to talk about what’s working, what’s not, what your challenges are. If you have an outlet, it will make the time around the less supportive people easier. 

If your friends and family aren’t ready to be your support system, find another outlet: a message board, a doctor, a creative endeavor or exercise that will help you work things out. Some people need to talk stuff out, others may find that the best outlet for them is another type of expression. No matter what it is you’re trying out, I guarantee someone on the internet has tried it. Someone is out there for you. 

 

Plan!

Assuming you're here because food is your thing, BRING FOOD EVERYWHERE. This could mean having almonds in your purse, or your own creamer in a cooler bag if you’re into getting coffee. Whatever your weakness is, PLAN FOR IT. I eat something before I leave the house, EVERY TIME. Just incase I get stuck in traffic or my day gets unexpectedly extended, I usually bring a little lunch bag with one more meal than I need. If you’re fed, you’re statistically more likely to make a better (for you) food choice. If you’re hungry you’re statistically more likely to get what you want to eat, rather than what might make you feel your best. (cake rather than fruit in this example). If I have a meal with me, I can just eat that!

 

There is no zealot like a convert (aka avoid preaching)

This one is a struggle for me because I get SO excited when I learn new things. I went through a phase in my 20s where I told everyone who would listen about how to treat their dog like a dog instead of a baby. I’d recently worked with an awesome trainer in LA and it was transforming my husband’s and my relationship with one of our dogs. We were EXPERTS. (um, no we were not.)

I went through a similar phase when I first moved to LA when I had excellent results with Weight Watchers teaching me how not to eat pizza all the time, add a little exercise to my life and I miraculously looked better in a bathing suit. (turns out, still not an expert on food, health and diet.)

I still struggle with “oversharing” because I want to connect with people and help them. If their journey sounds like it could be eased by the experiences I've had with diet and lifestyle I feel that it would be a disservice to them to not mention it. I try so hard to keep the conversation basic. Then I find myself mid-conversation talking about heavy metals or suggesting diets and I shame myself for being too pushy. It’s actually why I started this blog. It felt like all I talked about was this journey and where I’m at. Writing it down helps. That way I can still share the helpful information but in a way that is less personal for the recipient and stays personal for me. I am not able to share what I’ve learned in one conversation anyway so I just end up steamrolling the unsuspecting listener.
Every journey is personal.
While people might like to hear some of what’s working for you, they don’t necessarily want to be told what to do.

 

Small Changes with Big Results

Make time for you. Literally schedule it if you need to. This may be challenging; it can feel selfish.
I am of the mind that if putting yourself first makes you a better person, it’s also benefiting those around you. If you’re a mom or a spouse or a co-worker... or a person, putting you first will benefit others too. So, it’s not selfish. It’s a service. We’re all in this together. Don’t you wish that person honking at you in traffic had done a little more self-care? Maybe we’d all be a little nicer if we did.
 
Do as little as you need to – let go of needing to do everything correctly or best or first. If you’re like me, you probably owe some of your condition to that  type-a, “problem solver” nature in the first place. Do less and try to be OK with that. Learn to be OK with the absence of “busy”. Let go of being right and forgive yourself for being wrong. Change your language if you need to. I've been conscious about letting go of the word "no" as I think it holds too much negative energy in my speech. I try other ways of phrasing things, it's small but it can change your emotional connection. Explore outside of your comfort zone; maybe things that seem "woo woo" can help you.

 

That's all I've got. When I figure everything out I'll be sure to let you know.
Good luck, you're not alone, and well done. 

 

Food and Shame and a little Self-Awareness.

Real Talk.

I met a friend for drinks a couple months back. We were chatting about my “health journey” progress.  While we were sharing our current states and struggles I admitted to her that I don’t adhere perfectly to my diet all the time. She said it would be a worthy post to talk about the struggles of doing what’s best for yourself while managing stress and temptation. Also, she was relieved because based on this blog, she thought I did adhere perfectly. Let's get honest (and a little vulnerable)!

It does take diligence and a strict adherence (in my experience) to an elimination diet or therapeutic diet to see results and really get an idea of what you may be reacting to. However, many times I’ve been in an “in between” spot. A sort of “post elimination phase but still really not sure what is triggering me" spot. Those times (and life in general) can be extremely daunting. I have food weaknesses just like anyone. Over the past three years I’ve spent extended periods of time being super diligent about what I’m eating, when I’m eating and keeping track of the results. I’ve also found myself facing a “what’s the point” ultimatum. You can tell from my story that I spent the greater part of this journey (the majority of my life, less the past 3-5 years) bouncing back and forth between prioritizing my health and coping with stress and emotions. Coping for me usually means choosing comforting over healthy, foods and drinks.

 

One meal isn’t going to undo all the work you’ve done.

If you’re a year in on a journey and you’re between tactics and you’re about ready to throw in the towel or have a bagel. For goodness sake, have the bagel! (or whatever “cheating” would be for you)

This is a one step at a time, paying attention, listening to yourself (physically and mentally), treating yourself with loving kindness, patience and grace, marathon. Have the drink, or the meal and then pick yourself up and get back to what makes you feel best.

Everyone has their own threshold, their own limits. I want to avoid becoming fixated on my health and food in an unhealthy way. In between times of diligence, sometimes out of frustration and sometimes to let off a little steam, I’ve gone “off diet”. Other times, I buckle down.

When I want to see results I need to be strict. When those results, after a period of adherence aren't satisfactory, sometimes I have a “fuck it” meal (or couple of days). Then it’s back on the phone with Dr. Ruscio, and back to the drawing board of what was working as well as what wasn’t. I tweak diet, supplements, discuss habits and get back to what is the best routine for my lifestyle. (Dr. Ruscio interviewed Steve from SCDLifestyle.com and they talked about this notion as well. Don’t drive yourself crazy!)

 

It’s not about you.

For me, talking about health and food options has become a sensitive subject. Its one of the reasons this blog has become a more positive way for me to share my experience.

I feel judged by people around me in the form of sarcasm, eye rolls, “okaaaaaayyyyy” from servers, etc. This may sound arrogant but I don’t mean it to: it’s because my choices are triggering those people. I can’t speak to their journey and what it is that I’m triggering but I do know it is most certainly true that whatever they’re reacting to isn’t about me at all. Nothing anyone ever does is because of you. Everything is an outward projection of that person’s reality. My problem is, I’m sensitive. I’m reacting internally, to their reaction of me. I don’t want to trigger anyone’s own bullshit, I feel bad about it.

Frequently in the past, when I’d be stressed, triggered, lonely, sad or “over it” my instinct would be to go eat fast food (I think I actually have an addiction to Big Macs and french fries), or buy something or have a drink. My brain would search for anything to distract myself from what I was feeling because it was uncomfortable. I remember feeling this sort of discomfort and inability to sit in it during quiet moments alone, or in a yoga class. It often manifests as reaching for my phone every 5 minutes or not wanting to hold a yoga pose. It’s taken the last 5 years to begin to be comfortable staring this discomfort in the face. I’ll probably have to practice it for the rest of my life. I look for tactics to be able to stare it down calmly, and decide to feel it rather than eat it, buy it or numb it away. I have to say that the amount of eating rather than feeling (or fill in your preferred distraction here) has gone down significantly in the past year with this very deliberate decision. Traveling abroad with no phone service has aided in my practice as I have one less thing to use against myself.

A good friend of mine is a meditation coach in LA and she taught me a method of tapping into what’s really going on. I just tried this the other day when surprisingly (because it’s been a while since I’ve had this reaction) ALL I wanted was a Big Mac. I knew after all the success I’ve been experiencing on the Ketogenic diet that I would feel guilty, bloated, tired, moody and probably have a rough couple of days if I indulged. I couldn’t shake the impulse and I knew if I passed a fast food joint I’d stop.

So I did what she taught me:

I was driving but you can do this anywhere, an office bathroom, your office, a quiet room. Just find a place to be alone with yourself, place your hand on your heart and ask yourself “What is it that I need to know?” and let yourself honestly answer. Every time you answer “I’m angry” or “I’m hurt” or “I’m frustrated because this person said this” respond with “OK… What else?” and you just keep answering yourself until you’re finished. Until you’ve fully listened to yourself and all your grievances.

Once I did this, I was able to reflect on the true answer and it totally calmed me down. I honestly didn’t feel the need to stop for fast food anymore. Sometimes the answer is still a bummer, but it’s a stepping stone, a point for you to focus on and work from so you can continue to grow. Like Christina taught me, all your feelings want, are to be felt.

I wanted to figure out why I couldn’t just let some things go and why I was so anxious and hurt and my heart was racing and I wasn’t sleeping. It came down to this:

My fear was that I’m not worth it.

-That I don’t deserve to “act like such a diva” and restrict my food this much while in public, on tour.
-To spend all the money and time and energy and conversation and tears and meditation on myself.
-That self exploration, improvement and love are selfish (there are bigger problems in the world).
-That I’m a burden on my co-workers and my husband.
-To make my friends listen to what I’ve tried eating and what the symptoms and what the results are, over and over and over again.
…and so on.

The energy I was receiving from those around me was triggering that fear. It felt like they were confirming all of it to be true.

So, I sat there in the car and said to myself “Hey, wait a minute. Why do they get to dictate if I’m worth it?” I’ve been spending all this time and money and energy. I obviously think I’m worth it. So fuck that!

I read Big Magic this week by Elizabeth Gilbert and it contained this perfect little message:

“Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you”
Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.
Because that moment?
That’s the moment interesting begins.”

I still get hurt feelings but its unrealistic to expect otherwise. I am always going to face people who don't agree with my lifestyle or personality. The good news is that those people don't dictate my life. I do. AND I have an intimate but fierce support system and a doctor who’s on the pulse of new and “natural” treatment options, so I have support where I need it. I need to focus more on leaning on them and brushing off other people's projections.

Instead of giving into the shame and doubt, or rushing through the discomfort with distractions, I face it. It really seems like the more I address the issue directly, the stronger I get. The longer I stay the course with food, the more resilient I get. The better I get at not reacting to someone else, the calmer I am at facing conflict. I am transforming as a person, I can feel that and those close to me can see it. Everyone I interact with will somehow benefit from this work.

How I sing,

How I sing,

Signs are consistently popping up to help me stay on course, more than ever before and I truly think it’s because I’m just pushing through the discomfort day by day. The harder it seems, the more messages I receive: apropos billboards, passages in books, grafitti, music, a scene in a movie, the meditation theme I heard last night. It’s all just SO relevant and coincidental. I find it very encouraging and I love sharing that with like-minded folks because I think it can also be so exciting and affirming for others on similar journeys. Even if the moment doesn’t specifically pertain to them, the process does.

So, don’t worry about being perfect. Focus on what you’re feeling and adjust as you go. If food is your thing then do your best and don't beat yourself up. Stay the course and pay attention, signs are showing up to confirm what you already know, you are worth it.

Oh, and also read Big Magic.

How Do You Eat on the Road?? (Summer 2016)

Bacon Wrapped Prawns over Arugula, in London!

Bacon Wrapped Prawns over Arugula, in London!

When talking about my digestion challenges and diet people often ask “How do you do that while touring???”

This series of posts is how I’m currently doing it.
I’ll try to post when things change so you can see the tweaks!

Summer 2016 Edition –
Diet:
Ketogenic/ Low Fiber/ Ultra Low Carbohydrate
Purpose: Reduce fermentation in my guts from fiber, which mitigates my physical and mental symptoms.
Tracking Method: My Fitness Pal (micronutrient tracking and percentages)

I’m currently eating about 1400 cal on the road, 80% of which comes from fat, 15% from protein and 5% from carbohydrates. On this diet, I am not hungry. The fat keeps me sated.

Breakfast:
Coffee!
Vital Proteins Pasture Raised Collagen Peptides (or Bulletproof Upgraded Collagen)
Heavy Cream (2oz +/-, enough to turn the coffee beige)

Lunch/When I get hungry/Snacks:
Any combination of the following:
-2T of peanut butter (ok, usually this is eaten alone)
-1 Hard Boiled Egg and 1-2T of Pasture Raised Lard (duck or pork by Epic brand right now)
-2T of Fermented foods if I have it: Kimchi or Sauerkraut
-1 Can of Sardines (Trader Joe’s)
-1 Pot of Duck Rillets (this is what I’m looking forward to in the Netherlands!)
-1 small head or ½ a regular heart of romaine lettuce

Dinner:
Usually the venue serves us dinner. I request something like a burger patty or another piece of protein (salmon, steak, chicken thigh etc.) on lettuce. If not, like in Europe, I eat more of the above from the lunch category. Also, Wine.

Side Note:
Touring is expensive because eating out is expensive. If I ordered the dinner listed above it’s about $15. I travel with a bag of foods I can eat to help subsidize the cost. It’s not as fun as eating out but it lets me afford the supplements and every three months or so follow-ups with a doctor. It also isn’t usually worth it to order a meal out because I’m 100% more likely to not feel great due to industrial oils or cross contamination or just quality of the food. So I try to pick my battles based.

If I do eat out… I order:
Scrambled Eggs (with or without cheese!) and bacon (and sometimes sausage)
Meat and lettuce
Eg.
-       Chipotle: chicken and lettuce
-       Outback: Steak and greens (spinach or side salad)
-       Any Café USA: Salad with a protein on top (hold any onions and usually add thousand island or Caesar dressing)

I also travel with a small cooler bag and ice pack, which go in a freezer over night (either in my room or with the front desk at the hotel). I keep my probiotics in this. I’m also starting to travel with heavy cream because most restaurants do not have it and it helps me having a filling breakfast coffee/protein drink. I also can control the source of the cream this way. I prefer organic, pasture raised.

You can follow along on Instagram with my hashtag #howdoyoueatontheroad

 

 

The Road to Recovery (or "Something is working!")

Hieeeeee. I've been waiting to post an update. I wanted to live with some dietary changes and lifestyle habits before writing.

Shocking revelation: I've come to find, that unfortunately, there may not be one diet that suits me.

When i started the more recent part of this journey, the last 2-3 years or so, my goal was to have a very specific list of foods i could and could not eat. Dream scenario: I would just stick to that and my skin would clear up, my energy would return and i wouldn't look pregnant after eating. Well folks, I'm sorry to say that may not be in the cards for me. 

It's become obvious to me through all of these dietary changes, treatments and experiments that one diet for the rest of my life isn't realistic. Not only am I in a different phase of healing than i was 2 years ago but so many factors affect my digestion, energy and general sense of well-being.

 

Um, so what's the good news? Why should I even listen to you?

The good news is that I AM feeling better.

When i'm tired on the road (Dustbowl travels 200 days a year now(!)) i feel like a normal tired person. I don't feel exhausted or like "how could i possibly get up there and perform this show right now/get out of bed" (which is what a lot of the past 2 years felt like.)
I don’t feel tired all the time. it’s not a perfect result. If i have some FODMAPS, or too much alcohol or something else that inflames my system, i feel like going to sleep. (I often will sleep if I can and that’s what my body is asking for.) But overall I’m feeling more "tired like the average person on a tour that doesn’t get regular sleep".
I also don't feel cripplingly depressed anymore which is a huge relief.

My skin has improved dramatically. The only treatment that seemed to budge that symptom was doing chelation. While it was expensive (and I'm still paying for that year of medical bills, thanks insurance!), I believe it was very necessary for me to rid my body of those toxins. My skin is proof of that.

Digestion wise, my diet is still very limited. But, if i stick to food in my life being practically perfect (in terms of what makes me feel best and not "what I'd like to be eating") then I can get away with this crazy tour lifestyle of never sleeping at the same bedtime and experiencing light to moderate stress on a consistent basis. I have energy and I am more patient, pleasant and physically comfortable.

HSP/Empath

The last 3 years or so have definitely been more about food for me. A lot of self-searching, a lot of self-love practice (still a lot of work to do there) and self-acceptance practice has been instrumental for my physical progress. The more I do this internal work, the less likely I am to self sabotage by going "off diet" as a way to distract my heart and mind from what it's feeling.

A friend of mine suggested in the past month that I should read "The Highly Sensitive Person" a (self help) book about people who are easily overwhelmed by the world around them (stimuli) and their internal, emotional lives. I've been told my whole life "you're so sensitive" which, i often took as a criticism. That I should not be hurt or affected so deeply by everything. I always have been. I cried and almost threw up and had to run out of the movie theatre during the end of Edward Scissorhands (spoiler alert) when the town is chasing him. Similarly, I leapt out of bed to go bawl in the bathroom just this year when Brahm and i rented Chappie and (spoiler alert) the kids were throwing rocks, teasing and kicking him. And it obviously doesn't end with movies...

I've seen HSP lately all over the place, others confirming I'm not alone in essentially being shamed for operating from a place of feeling and intuition. It's real, I pick up on nuances that are definitely there and that not everyone picks up on in relationships, in conversation, in the temperature of a group. It's also called being an Empath which i think is seen as a little more woo woo. I'm beginning to let go of the self judgement that's been impressed upon me; it's gonna take some time.

I used to think this was a weakness. I realize now:

THIS IS MY (not so secret) SUPERPOWER.

Though annoying/eye rolling/tease-inducing to some, I think reading this book was one way for me to accept that yes, I am sensitive, but it's not something i need to hide or tuck away or PROVE myself out of. Being sensitive means that I have an explanation for the chronic empathy (or lastima as Katya would say) that i experience on a daily basis. I can revel in the emotions i feel while singing and then give that gift to our audience (or to myself if i so choose). It makes me a more intuitive friend and wife. 

I am still struggling with the New England work ethic i have, where i wrap up all my self worth in the job i'm doing and then harshly criticize myself for not being better. This whole life I've spent working to prove that i deserve a place on this planet. I wonder what it's like to feel like you're meant to be alive and not that you have to earn your keep.

It extends to physicality as well. If I weren't so sensitive (HSPs are statistically more likely to have digestive/autoimmune issues) who knows if I would have made all these changes to my life and ended up in a healthier, happier place? I've been eating "so clean" for so long that I can really feel the difference if I introduce a food that doesn't agree with me now, or if i over do it with booze (which takes much less, than It used to). It helps keep me on track because I don't want to feel like crap, i'm better at avoiding foods because it's usually not worth it for the "cheat" experience. 

 

 

Things I'm doing now to continue healing

You can follow what those meals look like on tour with my instagram hashtag #howdoyoueatontheroad and food I eat in general with my instagram hashtag #feelsgoodblog  
You can follow what those meals look like on tour with my instagram hashtag #howdoyoueatontheroad and food I eat in general with my instagram hashtag #feelsgoodblog
 

DIET

I was focusing on SCD + Low FODMAP for a couple months and still experienced bloating. I started looking into the Fast Tract Diet (which does a Weight Watchers style points attribution to foods based on their "fermentation potential") to see if that would help. I believe it did to a point. However, for cases like mine that are a little more difficult to pinpoint and mitigate, Dr. Norm Robillard (author of The Fast Tract Diet) suggests limiting carbohydrates to 20g> day. His app doesn't account for that so I switched back to using My Fitness Pal where you can control macros you're tracking very specifically. I knew if I was going to limit carbs by that much, I'd need to up my fat intake. Essentially putting me in the ketogenic diet basic framework. Once I became vigilant at carb counting. I noticed that if could stay on track i was sated, my bloating reduced substantially and that overall, the diet generally agreed with my system (for now).

This means i'm aiming for percentages of 5% (specifically 20g> of carbs a day), 80% Fat and 15% Protein. I am not currently testing to make sure I stay "in ketosis" but I am concerned with the carbohydrate number as carbohydrate malabsorption and gut fermentation seems to be the more prominent reasons I keep bloating and feeling zapped of energy.

The foods I'm eating are very similar to what you've seen me list before, i'm just tracking how much I'm having now. Eggs, Pasture raised animal fat (no, i'm not worried about cholesterol ), Greens (wilted at home, usually a salad on the road), Pasture raised/organic meats (the fatty-est ones if available) and limited dairy (hard cheeses, experimenting with heavy cream in coffee etc.) I am allowing alcohol (red wine and tequila/soda mostly). I am very aware of the irritating and inflammatory effects and try my best to be picky of quality and not overdo it.

It's working for now; so I'll do it until I don't, just like everything else.

 

SUPPLEMENTS

Under the supervision of Dr. Ruscio, my functional medicine doctor in SF,  I'm on supplement rather than pharmaceutical treatment for Crohn's Disease: Curcumin from Turmeric for anti-inflammation, Vitamin A, Digestive Enzymes, Betaine HCL, three types of probiotics as well as self-prescribed/leftover from past doctors: Concen-Trace Minerals, and chlorella (to continue chelating until my skin is blemish free).

This is working out well for me. We talked about FMT as a last resort if the heavy probiotic therapy doesn't rebuild my gut microbials enough but we're not there yet.

SCOBY facial! also note how clear my cheeks are yahoo!

SCOBY facial! also note how clear my cheeks are yahoo!

SKINCARE

I use FATCO religiously at home and on the road. Their oil cleansing method of feeding my skin from the outside while I'm working on changing the inside with diet has made my (non broken out) skin look so healthy! I am so hooked on using organic, conscientious skincare as I think that part of my problem in the first place was just chemically treating symptoms my whole young adult life. Their face cream is so damn soothing, I recommend all of their products (at least to try) to everyone.
I've also been doing SCOBY facials at home as well as organic peels, exfoliation and hydrating masks to keep the skin looking and feeling healthy and to prevent any breakouts from traveling/stress/not sleeping/dehydration. They look weird but the acid from the SCOBY really does a number on eating away dead skin cells and keeping my complexion bright. I do one RIGHT when i get home from tour and right before i leave again. As soon as I take it off I use these tools if i need any blackhead extraction while everything is moisturized and right at the surface, then i tone with FATCO toner + rose water

 

SLEEP/MEDITATION

It's very difficult for me to get proper "what is recommended for a normal adult" sleep on the road. We never go to bed at the same time and rarely get 8 hours consistently (listen to this podcast to learn more, see also page 17 of the transcript for shocking info on bed time/sleep amount if you're not going to listen to the podcast.)

What i do to "do my best" is go to bed ASAP after a gig, I wear amber glasses to cut blue light as soon as i'm in the hotel room (and i use night shift on my phone). I wear a sleep mask and earplugs while sleeping and I do a guided meditation every night. I sleep as long as long as my body allows and when we are off the road i try to go to bed around 10p as frequently as possible to recoup any sleep deficit. 

 

EXERCISE

Let's be honest, i'm not really exercising. I try to walk as much as possible at home and on the road. I have grand plans to do yoga but usually spend off tour times trying to get rested and chill for a minute before we go back out. Yoga though, not cross fit or spinning like the old days, is what I think would benefit my nervous system right now. I just need to motivate...

 

Revelations

I think I had to acknowledge I was ill to realize that I'm happier knowing I'm not perfect and don't need to be and stick to a lifestyle that makes me feel well.

Accepting that my body has trouble digesting and that I'm sensitive is part of my solution. There is no one diet for me, there is just what I'm tolerating right now. Of course, It's hard for a type A person like me not to have a "fix". To not be able to get to "normal". (What does that even mean? Be able to eat crap food and feel fine? To have a flat stomach 100% of the time? To have perfect skin?) Maybe I was presented with physical circumstances as a method of accepting myself, as a way of learning to let go of shit that doesn't matter and be a more patient, loving and positive person. I certainly think it's a good lesson to learn before I bring any children into this world. It helps me strive to be a better partner, friend, co-worker, self.

2015 was the year of "give no fucks", during which I gave entirely too many fucks about so much bullshit. I think 2016 is the year of letting go (dare i say, actually giving no fucks?). I've made a lot of progress in setting boundaries for myself (both work wise and also personally). I'm listening to myself and adjusting the plan of action as needed. I'm trying to be present in every moment and take everything i can from those experiences (whether pleasant or not). I'm sure I'll have to switch up what I'm doing again soon. It seems that going with the flow is the point.

How Do You Eat on the Road? (Spring 2016)

When talking about my digestion challenges and diet people often ask “how do you do that while touring???”

Burger Salad! Bacon, Avocado, lettuce and a burger patty.

Burger Salad! Bacon, Avocado, lettuce and a burger patty.

This series of posts is how I’m currently doing it.
I’ll try to post when things change so you can see the tweaks!

Spring 2016 Edition –
Diet: SCD + Low FODMAP
Purpose: Reduce Inflammation and control Bloating/mental symptoms

Breakfast:
Coffee!
Vital Proteins Pasture Raised Collagen Peptides (or Bulletproof Upgraded Collagen)
Powdered Coconut Milk

 

Lunch/When I get hungry/Snacks:
Any combination of the following:
-1 Can of Sardines (Trader Joe’s)
-1 small head or ½ a regular heart of romaine lettuce
-1 small container of organic blueberries or raspberries
-Salad with Protein, no dressing.
-Burger patty with cheese and bacon and avocado on lettuce, no dressing.
-Avocado.

Dinner:
Usually the venue serves us dinner. I request something like a burger patty or another piece of protein (salmon, steak, chicken thigh etc.) on lettuce.

If I do eat out… I order: Meat and lettuce
Eg.
-       Chipotle: chicken and lettuce
-       Outback: Steak and greens (spinach or side salad)
-       Any Café USA: Salad with a protein on top.

Touring is expensive because eating out is expensive. I travel with a bag of foods I can eat to help subsidize the cost.

I also travel with a small cooler bag and ice pack, which go in a freezer over night (either in my room or with the front desk at the hotel). I keep my probiotics in this.

You can follow along on Instagram with my hashtag #howdoyoueatontheroad

OMG, IBD? (and my experience with the Elemental Diet)

I wrote in February how I'd done 9 rounds of Chelation, for Mercury and Lead toxicity. I've since stopped getting IV treatments and (at the suggestion of my budget conscious Doctor) am currently taking supplements to continue chelating in a less expensive, yet effective way. 

The plan was to go back on the diet that had made me feel best in the past. My experience had shown that would be the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol, combined with a Low FODMAP diet. However, this time around I remained symptomatic. I was still bloated after 2 weeks on that diet (strange, for me). I was also still very tired most of the time, something that usually improves on this diet. The one improvement I DID (very happily) notice that improved after chelation was my skin! My acne has really diminished from 8 breakouts a month to maybe 1 or two spots.

I had spoken to Dr. Ruscio and Dr. Lalezar about the diet not bringing about similar results as it had in the past. Dr. Lalezar suggested we re-test for SIBO as there is a chance that it had come back. She also tested me for leaky gut, (an Array 2 for you test savvy readers) to get a sense of how permeable my gut is right now. Dr. Ruscio suggested, prior to me going back on AIP + Low FODMAP, that one option would be going on the elemental diet (an easily absorbable liquid diet) for a time to see if giving my guts a rest on breaking food down would improve my tolerance.

The other option would be to treat me for non-clinical IBD. This is a potential diagnosis for me. That I have an IBD (likely Crohn's due to my presentation of ulcers) but it doesn't present normally. This could be why the Gastrointestinal MD (Dr. Shaye) was hesitant to diagnose me with Crohn's after seeing my blood panel but thought it was likely that I had Crohn's after seeing my colonoscopy. Treatment for that would include a natural protocol of anti-inflammatory supplements/tinctures and making sure that I'm on the right diet for an IBD. (Dr. Ruscio is a "food first" doctor" he believes that for any of the natural/holistic methods of healing to work, you have to dial in food right for YOU first, then treat. I, clearly, am also very much on this train.)

 

My (Semi) Elemental Diet Experience

Of my own volition (because I hate waiting for doctor's for results and am trying to minimize costs) I decided to first try the elemental diet. I am familiar with three options for this diet: Vivonex Plus, Absorb Plus (which is a semi-elemental diet) and Homemade. The difference between elemental and semi elemental is protein and fat content and the size of the molecules you are absorbing for nutrients. Unsurprisingly, the larger the molecules get the more flavor improves. (I did Absorb Plus because apparently Vivonex tastes like the glue on a postage stamp (is made by Nestle, not the greatest track record for providing us with whole foods) and the homemade one you have to take like a shot because it tastes so bad.) For 6 days I drank a shake that tasted like the milk after a bowl of Kix cereal, not terrible. I remained bloated during the diet but that's not uncommon. It's still giving your guts a rest, even if that occurs. I had some reservations about it as the protein in the shake is from Whey and I don't do dairy on a regular basis. However, I don't have an allergy and despite any symptoms it would still be improving inflammation by reducing digestive work. (See the FAQs here about the soy and whey in the product, they calmed my fears.) This diet can also be used to effectively get rid of SIBO, but you have to take it for weeks at a time. I previously successfully treated my SIBO with anti-microbials, prescribed by Dr. Ruscio.

Things I noticed while doing the Absorb Plus semi-elemental diet:

  • I wasn't hungry but I would get very hungry if i didn't continually sip my shake. Dr. Ruscio's suggestion for me was to sip slowly throughout the day rather than DRINK a shake at mealtimes. This would help keep my blood sugar from spiking since I don't seem to do well with sugars or carbohydrates. This was a personal precaution but I think i could have probably taken it normally and be fine. I didn't have a problem with energy or anger the whole week (sometimes an issue with me and carbs!)
  • I did find some Casein Curds in my stool. I thought perhaps I'd swallowed a chunk of undissolved powder (that's what it looked like) but after a couple of these appearing and some intense internet research, I found that it's actually "casein coagula." I haven't been able to gather any information on why or how your body makes these little thumb-tip sized curds but it seems clear to me that my body was just trying to protect itself from the dairy and expel it. I noticed this happened again after having a raw milk latte at Mission Heirloom for my Birthday. I avoid dairy on a regular basis so this was a new experience and after I wasn't alarmed by it any more, I was more interested in the function. I can't wait to hear what Dr. Ruscio and Dr. Lalezar say about it. I'd never seen one before, and within this diet and one latte, I'd seen 3 over the course of a week.
  • I didn't weigh myself but I'm sure i lost a little weight. My pants felt less tight and the idea was to reduce bloating. I did feel like overall the diet was a good "break" for my intestines, to reduce inflammation and I was able to go back to AIP + Low Fodmap feeling like it was more tolerable and with less bloating.
  • I suspect that the treatment for chelation was very agitating for my system. I was symptomatic the entire time and was not strict about diet (more paleo than AIP or low FODMAP). This elemental diet was a good way for me to "reset" my system. Also, if my stool test comes back positive for SIBO again, it will also have been a good jump start to getting rid of it.

IBD info...

My miracle anti inflammation drink. Homemade bone broth and juiced turmeric.

My miracle anti inflammation drink. Homemade bone broth and juiced turmeric.

My follow up with Dr. Lalezar for my SIBO and Array 2 results are in later this month. In the meantime, I had the fortune of coming across this podcast that Dr. Ruscio did on IBD! In it he speaks with Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis about his approach for IBD: supplements and diet etc. They discussed that the most useful diet for IBD, in their opinions, is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (which I've mentioned here) combined with a Low FODMAP diet. They also talked about some supplements/nutrients that I take occasionally but not regularly, like curcumin (the anti-inflammatory component found in  turmeric root).

I've been doing AIP (cross referenced with SCD, GAPS, low FODMAP) for the past 2.5 years. So scaling back to just SCD and Low FODMAP would mean re-introducing some foods that I had an instinct weren't causing an issue for me but I wasn't quite sure and was too nervous to truly re-introduce them. I did not do what would have been the most thorough method, which would have been to try one food for 3 days to see how I react. I just jumped in. 

It's important to mention that during Chelation I was not super strict. Since i was so symptomatic from the treatment and chemicals floating around, I ate more liberally, fodmaps and some non-AIP friendly foods that I thought "were fine". I also think, that my wishful thinking about eventually being paleo in the future (which is so much easier than any of these diets, in my opinion) that I wasn't seriously considering FODMAPS my main issue. I think now, that I was wrong.

Last week, I converted over to SCD combined with Low FODMAP, the IBD specific diet. The symptoms of IBD really resonate with my experience and it seems like if that is the real underlying issue (now that mercury/lead are removed as toxins) then this should be the right track. I also had experiential evidence that tomatoes and spices had never really caused a reaction that I'd been aware of. So this was worth a shot.

Within two days, I wasn't completely not bloated but I definitely felt a difference. My pants felt lighter/less restricted, even after eating. My exhaustion didn't disappear but it receded (by about 2hrs less sleep). It seems like, FODMAPS and really focusing on fermentation in my gut could be the key to healing my leaky gut and also figuring out the "right for me" lifestyle and diet. I also noticed a new symptom that I hadn't before, either because it was lumped in with general un-wellness or I was confusing it with my monthly cycle. Intestinal cramping is happening to me if i have FODMAPS, like onions in my Chipotle Guacamole for instance (which, if you know me, is a TRAGIC symptom to discover). It feels like period cramps, despite not being on my period.

Over the past week I've been able to hone in on some things that are true for me, right now:

  • I cannot have any FODMAPs, even Avocado
  • I must stay strict on SCD (no starches of any kind that aren't "legal")
  • I can tolerate tomatoes
  • I can have (approved) drinks ONE night a week, two is pushing it, three is fully symptomatic.
  • I can only have dry farm wines right now, if at all.
  • I can have tequila or potato/corn vodka ONLY as liquour
  • Eggs, on occasion may be fine. Not pushing it.
  • I can have ONE glass of Kombucha a day
  • I can have coffee if I dilute it but 1 or 2 a day max
  • I definitely still have parasites. Doing another cleanse in april. Organic Olivia's is out now!

I do think I mentally blocked fermentation and FODMAPS as being the true possible culprit. For me, it's way easier to just eat tons of vegetables and proteins rather than a Low FODMAP diet. SCD already doesn't allow starches: grain is out, potatoes are out, sweet potatoes are out. Low FODMAP cuts out a ton of fruits and vegetables. This diet is very similar to what I'd already been doing but I can add back in things like: Eggs! Seed Spices! Some Nightshades! In hindsight, my GI doc, prior to my colonoscopy, mentioned they tried to get patients with Crohn's to go on a low FODMAP diet but it's hard for people to stick to. The podcast I linked to above also talks a lot about the science behind the digestive system, IBDs and FODMAPS/fermentable prone foods. Like AIP, this doesn't have to be forever! It can be a tool to help heal up the inflammation/ulcers and then you can re-test (by careful introduction), if over time you can tolerate more FODMAPS.

AIP, SCD, Low FODMAP, GAPS and Paleo friendly dinner: Kabocha Squash, Duck, Wilted Chard.

AIP, SCD, Low FODMAP, GAPS and Paleo friendly dinner: Kabocha Squash, Duck, Wilted Chard.

So, with renewed vigor (and a little bit of disappointment about avocados and Chipotle). I am committing to SCD and low FODMAP. It's my way of doing field research before paying someone to tell me what to try next. Beyond that, I'll circle back with my Docs (and possibly may even re visit my GI doc to check in) to see about how to move forward with treatment. 

UPDATE 3/30/16

I spoke with Dr. Ruscio today and followed up with Dr. Lalezar this past Monday. The plan going forward is to focus on IBD therapy. That will include a specific probiotic therapy protocol, changing up the digestive enzymes that I take with each meal, experimenting with a semi-elemental diet from time to time (see Absorb Plus, above) and some other Crohn's/ IBD support supplements. In a month we'll check in to see how it's going. I'm also to experiment with a low fiber diet and see how I fare. Some people with IBDs have a hard time with insoluble fiber (see the podcast mentioned earlier for more info). We talked about FMT being a sort of "last resort" but it exists as an option and has been proven to help many people with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. That's a little further down the road at this point.

What 2015 looked like, in $$$$.

I know some of you have been waiting to see what 2015 (healthcare) actually cost me.

Keep in mind that my discovery started in 2014 when I met Dr. Ruscio for the first time and had already done AIP/Low FODMAP) for almost three months on my own with only an 80% improvement.

So, In order to set myself up for maximum progress in 2015 I consulted with our insurance broker (a life saver, truly) and set up an HSA health care plan. I knew 2015 was the year of probably hitting my deductible. So, I wanted to chose the plan that would provide me the most coverage at the least expense. Since the health care plans in our budget were roughly the same premium with pretty crappy benefits, we chose an HSA plan. With an HSA you can deposit money pre-taxes to be spent on specific medical costs that may fall outside your insurance coverage. (see how an HSA works here)

Here's my breakdown by general category:

Healthcare Premiums: (this only counts mine, not Brahm's)

$2,349.00

I have the Bronze HSA plan. Which gives you a $4,500 deductible and a $6,500 (after meeting 40% co-insurance) out of pocket limit. It does, however, actually grant you discounts on things like lab work and expensive tests, which I knew I'd be getting a lot of.

Lab Fees: (after insurance, what I paid)

$1,058.93

This includes: Blood work, SIBO breath tests and re-tests, Stool Tests etc.

Doctor Fees: (after insurance, what I paid)

$7,930.81

This includes: Doctor visits, fees for surgery, Chelation treatments (paid for at the Doctor's office), tox screens (paid at the Doctor's office), supplements (also ordered via their office).

Pharmacy Fees: (after insurance, what I paid)

$1,871

This includes: prescribed supplements by a healthcare professional, integral to my healing process and other prescriptions.

Total: $13,209.74 (this was roughly 40% of my income)

Just for reference: According to this article in March of 2015 average healthcare costs for Americans last year were $9,596. With the average income in 2014 at $53,657, that's healthcare accounting for 6% of their income.

 

This number doesn't include what we spend on food, which is critical (in type, source and amount) to the healing process and also damn expensive.  

I did end up hitting the deductible on my plan, but not hitting the out of pocket maximum til the very end of the year. Out of network doctors or procedures aren't covered at all and therefore don't contribute towards your deductible. (I'm looking at you Chelation.) They also don't get a discount when you hit your deductible and then pay 40% co-insurance until you hit your Out of Pocket max. The HSA came in handy up to the part where we'd spent it all ($3,350 is the individual limit you can claim in a year) by June. The rest we're figuring out as we go. 

 

Insurance Qualms:

Having insurance is like buying into a discount club. You pay per month to obtain special pricing between you and the doctor/lab etc. There's no documentation from your insurance company OR doctor explaining the calculations but you end up paying less than you would if uninsured. It's one of the problems I have with the health care industry. While I love a discount, I think all the prices should be up front, explainable and reflective of actual cost to the provider. (I also don't agree with healthcare being a for profit system but that's something else.) The insurance adjustment is just the discount, not what insurance PAID the doctor for the service, it's just a special-for-them discount. It leads me to believe that the numbers are made up to either recoup cost from uninsured or non-paying customers or perhaps just to make a profit. Southern California Public Radio has been doing an on going report on costs of services.

If the entire country is required to have insurance (which I think is a great start), then it should be affordable and cover things that make us well. That last one, unfortunately, is a subjective topic. For example, Acupuncture is now covered pretty widely on most plans (with a limit, depending on your plan). Therapy, however is not universally covered, neither is chiropractic care. I could have spent another 15 years going in circles with general practitioners (who are covered by insurance) or I could have gone the natural health route (with some assistance from Western Doctors) and learned what I (finally) know today. So, what would end up to be my path towards wellness wouldn't have come from an MD (and therefore not covered by insurance) unless my body had deteriorated far past what I was already noticing as abnormal for me. But I digress, this is about finance and not about preventative care.

Here are some confusing and irritating examples of the agreements between insurance pricing and doctor pricing. Please keep in mind, if I didn't have insurance, I would have been responsible for the TOTAL amounts below.

Surgery Center Facility Fees for the Colonoscopy/Endoscopy: $15,000

  • Adjustment by BS of CA (blue shield) $-14,400
  • I owe: $600

My Doctor Bill for the Colonoscopy/Endoscopy on the bill was $10,370 

  • "insurance adjustment" was $-9609.42
  • I ended up paying: $760.58

My Capsule Study (swallow the pill, it takes pics all through you) was $7,200.00,

  • insurance adjustment $-6514.15,
  • (as I'd hit my deductible by June of last year, they also owed co-insurance)
  • Insurance Paid: $411.51 and $276.94 (Separately, as I asked them to re-run the claim. They didn't pay in full the first time.)

These are the "grandest" examples I have. With my plan, any Doctor fees are the patient's responsibility until you hit the deductible is met, so I just paid all of those. OR, if it were for Dr. Ruscio, I just paid it out of pocket because he doesn't take insurance.

Prepare if you can, and take it all with a grain of salt.

The point is, this journey can be expensive. I did my very best to prepare for what will (hopefully) be the most expensive medical year I ever experience. (Not counting the time in 2009 I didn't have insurance and was hospitalized twice but that's another story completely and I learned my lesson. ALWAYS have insurance.)

Do your own research. I've had plenty of practitioners recommend prescriptions to me that I ended up waiting on actually purchasing or taking. Those items, while prescribed with good intentions, may or may not be right for you. You hold the most information about your body and how you feel. Lab work isn't perfect. Don't be afraid to ask questions, stick up for yourself, wait to take medications or have procedures, get second opinions and ask for discounts!