Periods suck.

It’s not OK to plan your life around your period, it’s not OK to have to go home from work or cancel plans because of it, and it’s definitely not OK to throw up because your period cramps are that painful. If you aren’t interested in reading about periods then I’d probably stop reading now.

If you’ve followed here for a while you might have heard me mention some issues with my period before. I’ve always had painful periods since I first started them. I did go through a time in university when I developed amenorrhoea, and it was actually a relief to not have periods for a while so I didn’t have to deal with the pain on a monthly basis. However, once my cycle settled down again the pain unfortunately returned, at first it was every few months or so, but it’s now got to the stage where it’s every single month, and the pain is so severe that I can’t function at all, it has woken me up at night, brought me to tears, and I have been sick due to the pain being so extreme, and I have a really high pain tolerance.

It’s pretty frustrating that I can’t figure out what has caused this, and have tried so many things to improve it, but it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I did go to my GP a few months back, who wanted to either prescribe really strong painkillers, or give me hormonal medication (not a route I want to go down, due to too many side effects and longer term issues), and she also told me that my pain would likely go away if I had a baby (actual facepalm) so that was the end of that. I’m pretty convinced due to the whole host of other symptoms I have alongside the chronic pain that I have endometriosis, but getting a diagnosis for that can take years and years, and it’s pretty poorly understood.

Although I previously mentioned how happy I was with how balanced my diet is, and how free I felt around food these days, I don’t think my diet currently is helping me to manage the pain and inflammation. I want to take it a bit more back to basics, reduce my intake of processed foods, sugar and gluten, and omega-6 rich nuts/seeds just to see if it makes any difference in my symptoms. It’s really not something I want to do, but I can’t continue to deal with the chronic pain and other symptoms so it’s worth giving it a shot if it provides some relief. I feel that the symptoms weren’t as bad when my diet was a bit tighter, so we shall see if it helps.

The other issue is exercise, I recently did an adrenal stress test, which shows my cortisol is very dysregulated and considerably higher than in should be in the morning and afternoon. I believe long term endurance exercise has led to this dysregulation. Obviously exercise isn’t something I want to budge on, but I just need to strike more of a balance, so I’ve started going to yoga once a week and I’m going to pick back up my daily meditation practice to help lower my cortisol levels. The link here with periods, is that when the body is under stress, and cortisol levels are increased then more progesterone is used to make cortisol, this can subsequently throw out the balance of progesterone/oestrogen and lead to low progesterone levels which can cause PMS and make endometriosis symptoms worse. I know running has caused my cortisol levels to be out of whack, and ultimately long term it might be something I have to reconsider, which would be pretty devastating, hence why I am trying to get on top of this now, and trying anything possible to see if I can gain any benefits.

I’ve got to the stage, where I now have to plan in advance around the day my period is due, which is ridiculous really, I feel like I’ve suffered for so long with this, and just thought oh it’s only one day a month, or most women suffer from cramps- but it’s become apparent to me, that what I am dealing with is far from normal. The other symptoms I suffer from have got so bad, that it pretty much means for 7-10 days every month, I’m suffering from various things ranging from pain, extreme fatigue, insomnia and bloating amongst others, leaving me feeling wiped out, frustrated, shattered and not myself. Basically the situation at the moment is pretty crappy, but I’m fully aware that it could be much much worse, and I’ll keep trying things to see if I can get some improvement or management of symptoms. It’s been really frustrating because I feel like my lifestyle, diet etc should of been enough to combat this, but actually when I look at it perhaps if I didn’t look after myself as well, then my symptoms would be even worse. I’ll keep posted here on my journey with this, and do let me know if any of you have similar issues and have found anything beneficial.

Sept/Oct Update

I have no idea where this year is going, we’ve just got back from an ultra chilled week in Fuerteventura and it’s apparently mid-winter, I’m usually pretty good with the cold, but I am really suffering with going from high 20’s, to it being not many degrees above 0. Brrrr. I love winter training, but my body is just not ready for it yet!

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Sweatbox holiday gym

I thought I’d just do a little round up of the last few weeks, as I didn’t get round to doing a September or October update. I continued with the heavy weight training, and saw some really good progress in the last few weeks, I can see a difference in my back and shoulders, and more importantly I managed to do my first unassisted chin ups, which is something I’ve been working on for the last few months. I’ve continued to increase the weights I’m using, and have noticed big strength differences between May when I turned my focus to weights from running and now. The only issue I’m having is I am massively in love with weight training, and my love for running seems to have died a sad death! I’m going to change my focus now, and start to increase my running and decrease my weight sessions, hopefully I will still be able to maintain my strength though, I just need to somehow rediscover the love for it.

I’m not following a plan with running yet, which is probably why I’m struggling to get out the door. I am trying to get back into running 4-5 times a week, and running 20+ miles a week, as I’ve pretty much taken the last 6 months off, so I’m going to need to gradually build back up to where I want to be before starting my training plan for 2017. Running was fairly non-existent in the last few months, weekly mileage has fluctuated from 2 miles to 20 last week, but mostly has been closer to the lower end of that spectrum. I’ve found running a real grind over the last few months, I think due to the heavy weight sessions which have left me drained and sore and unable to feel comfortable when running, hopefully once I tip the balance in favour of running this will sort it self out. I’ve taken a week completely off the gym this week- probably not the best timing, as I’ve felt a bit down and angry with all that’s been going on in the world this week and should of channeled that in the gym, instead of moping round the house! I’m going to start dropping my sessions down now, and probably only training 3-4 times a week in the gym for the next few months.

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I took a trip back to Wales with Baxter early in October, and it was nice to have some absolute chill time, and spend time with my family. Nick was in San Fran again for another work trip, and he treated us to another whole foods Vegan junk haul- guess the theme?! The Clif nut butter filled bars are amazing.

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The second holiday of the month, was Fuerteventura, it was a much needed holiday, as I felt really drained and run down for a few weeks before this and needed a recharge. We did a lot of walking, and running along the beautiful beaches there, and it was so nice to get some winter sun, I think holidays are wasted in summer time, this is totally the time of year when we need the sun. I was totally spoilt for Vegan options there, as well as a number of solely Vegan restaurants and cafes, there was also loads of Vegan friendly places, so we ate really well over the course of the week.

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Oh we also had an amazing time at London Vegfest, checking out lots of the booths, and cool new Vegan products, we ate a lot of chocolate and cake, and bought even more Vegan treats, plus some peanut butter doggy treats, Baxter is as obsessed with it as I am.

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Now that holidays are over, it’s time to settle back into my regular routine, and I am looking forward to lots of warming soups, stews and curries, because it’s just too damn cold for smoothies right now!

I’ve finally got my diploma in nutritional therapy, I handed in my portfolio in September, but had to wait a while for it to be marked and everything else to be signed off. I will spend the next few months working on my nutrition business, so busy times ahead, I’m not sure whether I will keep this blog going, or set up a new one that’s solely nutrition focused via my business website, something to think about for future, as I’m not really that motivated to blog here of late, but we shall see what happens.

 

August Update

That month flew by- and it actually feels like we have had a proper summer for the first time in years, I can only remember it raining maybe once all month- amazing, although not so much when it’s 32 degrees and you have to commute on the tube. Ugh.

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Time for a little training, food and life update from the last 4 weeks. I’m really enjoying training at the moment, I am training 6 days a week, with 5 weight sessions push, pull, legs, and 3-4 short runs also. My runs are pretty hard right now, I can’t remember the last time I had fresh legs, I feel like when you weight train so frequently your legs pretty much never feel good on a run. I wanted to start doing some more speed work, but honestly my legs just feel like death on every run, and it’s more than enough work to lace up and get out there right now. So I’m just taking things nice and steadily, doing 2-4 mile runs with the other half, I’ve signed up for the NDW50 next year, so I have all winter for longer stuff. Bizarrely I realised that I haven’t run a marathon in well over 2 years now- it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, I’ve done 2 ultras since then, but it’s been a long long time since I’ve run 26.2- in a race situation that is, I’ve done plenty of them in training. I’m excited to get back into longer stuff, and put the hard work in over the winter, but right now, getting strong is my aim.

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I’ve really noticed a good improvement in my strength over the last 4 weeks, I try to up my weights each week if I can, to continue to challenge and stimulate my muscles. It’s slow progress, but I think I’m a pretty hard gainer, so not matter how hard I work in the gym, how much I eat, how much protein I eat, my body just finds it difficult to build muscle- but it’s challenging and it’s encouraging to see small progress week on week, and keeps me motivated to keep going on this journey.

My goal for the rest of the year, as well as getting my body as strong as possible for winter endurance running, is to get my first unassisted chin-up, I’m regularly practicing negatives and using the assisted pull-up machine, I’m using the lightest possible assist weight now, so hopefully heading in the right direction. All my workouts focus on rep ranges of 10-12 at the moment, though I will change this up to keep challenging myself and keep things fresh over the next few months. I am so in love with lifting right now, running has taken a backseat for a while and I’m totally cool with that.

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August was definitely a step in the right direction food wise, although we still had loads of visitors across the month, and did eat out quite a lot, I feel like the last couple of weeks things have settled down and we have been able to cook a lot simpler, fresher and healthier meals, it’s been fun getting back into the kitchen, and I’m kind of excited to cook again after having a bit of a break all summer.

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We’ve just booked a holiday to Fuerteventura in very late October/November, and I can’t wait for some winter sun, we went to New York in April for a few days, but other than that we haven’t had a break, so it will nice to just have a chilled week in the sunshine, and also there seems to loads of Vegan/Veg-friendly restaurants there which will be amazing.

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I feel like we’ve spent loads of time outdoors this month, and really made the most of the weather with loads of picnics, BBQ’s, and outdoorsy stuff, which has been lovely. We’ve also done lots of cool stuff in London, which we don’t always get the chance to do, sometimes it’s nice to be a bit of a tourist in your own city.  Although we did pretty much spend 2 entire weeks watching the Olympics non-stop so that kind of balanced it out. Nick was in San Fran last week with work and he brought me back an epic Whole Foods haul, the ginger coconut chips are utterly amazing!

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I have just over a week left to hand in my final case studies, and portfolio for my nutrition course, I completely underestimated how much work I had to do for it over the last few months and it’s been pretty draining, but everything is on track to get finished on time, and once I get my diploma through I can finally start setting up my own business and practicing. I can’t believe it’s been 3 years of studying, and I am really excited to see what lies ahead.

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For September, it’s just going to be more of the same on the nutrition and exercise front, hopefully I might be a little closer to that unassisted chin-up, and trying to keep the good balance between home cooked foods and eating out/Vegan treats!

elete Holistic Hydrate

When I first started running, I didn’t really understand the importance of hydration, or the fact that we not only need to replace water lost when exercising, but those all important electrolytes too. When I did my first marathon, I relied on coconut water to hydrate during and after the race, and after the race I had the most severe headache I have ever had in my life- I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t move my head. Little did I realise I had got my hydration strategy very wrong, and although rich in potassium, coconut water is not a very good source of sodium which is mainly what we are losing in sweat. Since that incident, I have been using electrolytes and have never had the same issue, no matter the conditions, or race distance.

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elete Holistic Hydrate contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would like to try out their electrolyte solution, I am always keen to try out the highest quality, and most natural products, so was keen to hear more about elete and utilize it in my training.

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Firstly let’s talk electrolytes. Basically every time muscles move, or your heart beats it is electrical impulses that make this happen, each nerve impulse is dependent on an electrical charge, and a number of minerals in electrolyte form are vital for these functions to take place, these include Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium and Chloride. The charge these electrolytes carry is key for regulating fluid balance and pH balance, and when electrolyte levels are low or out of balance, it can cause muscle cramping and spasms- quite a common issue in endurance sports, particularly as there is an increased need for electrolytes. Unless these minerals are ionically charged, they are not electrolytes, and will not have the beneficial properties such as hydration and cramp prevention.

Key electrolytes:
Magnesium: Essential for all energy conversion, muscle function, nerve conduction, and more than 300 different enzymatic reactions, and it is depleted from the body under times of physical and emotional stress.

Potassium: Should be the most abundant electrolyte inside the cells, and is vital for muscle function, nerve conduction and water balance.

Sodium: Commonly found in modern diets. It’s also key for heat tolerance, muscle contraction and nerve conduction.

Chloride: Most abundant negatively charged electrolyte, essential for oxygen exchange, digestion, water and pH balance.

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elete make 100% natural ionically charged electrolyte products, organically derived from solar evaporation of the great salt lake in Utah. It contains all four key electrolytes mentioned above, in an ionically charged form together with other beneficial naturally occurring trace elements, vital for maintaining hydration, sustaining energy and enhancing mental focus, both during training and events.

Unlike most sports drinks on the markets, elete contains no sugar, no sweeteners, preservatives, flavourings or colourings. It comes in a concentrated form, which is really handy as it can be tailored to your individual needs. Most common sports drinks contain only one or two electrolytes in an non-ionic form which are not well assimilated by the body.

elete can be added to water, juices, smoothies and soups. I have been using the 25ml bottles, which make up to 10litres of electrolyte solution, so would be ideal for multi stage races, or traveling, as they are extremely light and handy to pack. elete also sell refill bottles. It’s ideal for adding to your hydration pack for long training runs or races, as it doesn’t leave any residues and is simple to clean after.

I’m not doing any endurance stuff at the minute, but I’ve been using elete daily just for general well-being. Most people tend to be low in magnesium, so it can be taken for general health anyway. I’ve been taking it alongside my lemon water first thing in the morning, to replenish after waking up, and do feel better hydrated throughout the day. I will be keen to see it’s benefits when I start doing more endurance training again.

You can purchase elete products from their website. They have also kindly given me a 10% discount code to offer to you guys, just type BLOGGER DISCOUNT into the coupon box at the checkout.

Coming Full Circle with Food

When I first started to study nutritional therapy, I was a tiny bit concerned that it might flare up some tendencies and habits around food that I had worked hard to move away from. I think it’s difficult when you study nutrition to not become slightly obsessed with food, and to create food rules, depending on what you have read/seen/been taught. I know from having talked to other students along the way, how hard it is to not get caught up in all of this and all of a sudden to find yourself developing some unhealthy habits and an unhealthy relationship with food.

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I’ve certainly been through ups and downs while studying, and there have been times where maybe I’ve had a lecture, done some research after, and decided I needed to avoid X/Y/Z. However, I can happily say that after 3 years of studying nutrition, I think I’m in a place where I’ve probably felt more freedom around food than I have at any other point over the course of the last 10 years.

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What I’ve discovered from seeing clients and observing cases, is there is no one size fits all case with nutrition, we are all unique, and thus what is going to work for us and suit us personally is going to be totally different from the next person. I think it can be trial and error, and you have to really be in touch with your body, and discover what does and doesn’t work for you.

What really really frustrates me, is when I see so called “wellness gurus” demonizing certain foods or food groups, and suggesting a blanket removal for everyone. Yes, certain foods might not suit some people, but I don’t believe that suggesting removing gluten/dairy etc is something that should be applied as a first port of call for every single person regardless of their symptoms or health issues. We want to create sustainable changes long term and creating restrictive rules around food is not the way to put that in place.

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Studying nutrition could have made me obsessive and restrictive, but it’s actually left me freer than I have ever been. I’ve reintroduced foods that I previously had avoided for a long time, and though it doesn’t mean I eat them all the time, I don’t feel guilty for having them when I want them. Let’s be honest being Vegan in certain places can be restrictive enough, without declaring that you don’t eat gluten/sugar/fruit/grains or whatever else is on trend. It’s not sustainable and I think it alienates us even more. It’s about embracing each and everything that is Vegan, whether that be a delicious raw cake, indulgent smoothie or massive pizza. Of course just because something is Vegan, doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy things that can nourish us and be healthy in other ways.

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So I guess my journey from here on out, is about how I can show how easy, balanced and accessible a Vegan diet is, and can be. Veganism is not something I see as restrictive. or a way of cutting things out of my diet. It’s a lifestyle, it’s how I define myself, and it’s about so much more than my food choices, and actually it’s about being part of something much bigger than myself. I could never eat animal products again, and that’s my choice, but it doesn’t mean that it would work for everybody, and I respect that too.

Definitely not paleo.

I think I’ve totally over-complicated health and my relationship to food over the last few years, so it feels so good, to actually eat in a really simple, affordable and nourishing way. Health to me has become about listening to my body, eating what I crave, eating food that’s not only good for my body but good for my soul. I’ve found my wellness, and it was actually in the place I least expected to discover it.