I have two little health problems I need to fix. One is “funny”, the other, embarrassing. Both, like most health issues we have, can be fixed with diet.
Let’s start with the lighter of the two. Longtime readers will remember that I have Raynaud’s. Know someone that has cold hands all the time? They probably experience the same phenomenon as I do.
For me, it was no big deal, until three years ago. It was in the middle of November 2011 that I noticed two of my fingers had become swollen. Nothing I did would eliminate the swelling until it finally went away on its own in March. It happened again in 2012 and then again last winter. Finally, I’d had enough. I thought I had a recurring infection, so after icing my fingers for a few days (that’s the worst thing I could have done, ha!), I went to the doctor.
Within two seconds he diagnosed me. “Oh, you have Raynaud’s,” he said, “It’s a problem with the blood vessels in your fingers. Because you don’t have good blood flow in the cold, your fingers try to compensate by getting more blood to the area, and they swell up.”
My first thought was, “Wow, I’m 37 years old and already need to retire to Florida!”
The second thought was, “How does my nutrition influence this?”
After talking with a few doctors, I realized that eliminating wheat (gluten) and possibly dairy would help, as would eating more beets (they are a natural ‘vaso-dilator’ – meaning they help with blood flow). I was also told to supplement with arginine and magnesium.
My diet is almost entirely gluten-free (although these days, with all the added fillers in foods and hidden ingredients in products like lip balm and toothpaste, it’s almost impossible to be truly gluten-free). I also limit my dairy intake. Fortunately I found something called Paleo Protein Powder to replace whey protein.
I’ve also made some remarkable changes to my diet in the last few years. Growing up, I was an incredibly picky eater. Foods were not allowed to touch, let alone “mingle” on my plate. Back then I also avoided so many vegetables that are now part of my daily meal plan, such as beets, brussel sprouts, onions and garlic. And believe it or not, I had sauerkraut for the first time – that’s right, the first time ever – in my life last month. Now I’m a huge fan, and I even eat Kimchi.
Last month I moved into a new short-term rental apartment in Toronto. One Saturday morning I realized it was time to load up on groceries. Now I love going to Whole Foods and buying exotic things, so I threw on my ratty old jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirt (except for food, I’m pretty frugal), and rode the subway up to Yorkville, one of the wealthiest parts of town. What follows is my odd, but healthy, grocery list. I know that you’ll find at least 10 food items here that should be on your grocery list, too. Enjoy!
Here’s what I bought at Whole Foods, starting with produce…
– organic apples
– organic blueberries
– organic broccoli
– organic brussel sprouts
– organic mushrooms
– organic spinach
– pickled beet kimchi <= yes, I’m a kimchi connoisseur
Quick Tip: When to go organic? When you eat the ‘outside’ of a fruit or vegetable, you should pick organic, otherwise you get a load of pesticides. With bananas, for example, where you throw away the peel, nutritionists tend to agree that you don’t need to eat organic.
And then I loaded up on Superfood Snacks, such as:
– raw almonds
– naturally decaffeinated Green Tea (because I try to avoid caffeine)
– Cacao nibs (in America, watch out for the ones coated in sugar!)
– Chia seeds
– no-calorie Zevia grape soda (sweetened with Stevia)
I’m also a “Whole Foods Sucker”, and made a few embarrassingly expensive impulse purchase of snacks, including:
– Simply Protein Pea Protein Chips (not worth it)
– Savi seeds (an acquired taste, I discovered)
– and 5 healthy snack bars for upcoming airplane ride food emergencies
NOTE: One of my snack food choices was a BIG mistake…details below…
Then for superfood cooking…
– Extra virgin olive oil (choose one in a dark bottle and store in cool place)
– Tomato sauce without added sugar (difficult to find in America!)
I only eat meat once per day, and when I do, it’s typically:
– Organic eggs (I know, not meat, but this is the best place to list them)
– Chicken breasts and thighs
– Pork or Chicken sausage with NO fillers (cheap sausages contain fillers that have gluten in them)
– And grass-fed beef (steak or ground-beef for one of my favorite big skillet dinners)
Finally, I bought a lot of ‘natural’ or ‘green’ household products, like:
– Kiss My Face shaving cream
– natural bars of soap
– ‘green’ laundry detergents
– natural toothpaste
Whew, that’s it. How much? Don’t ask.
Alright, now to get to my embarrassing health issue…you see, things haven’t been as, *ahem, cough, cough* “regular”. And it’s frustrating, because I follow 9/10 of the right steps to avoid constipation, such as:
1) Drinking lots of water (at least 8 cups, preferably more, per day)
2) Eating more than 25 grams of fiber per day for women, and 38 grams per day for men (no problem, as you can see from my grocery list)
3) Exercising (it improves gastric motility)
4) Avoiding caffeine (caffeine can either help or hurt you here, and for me, it has a strong dehydrating effect, so I must avoid it)
5) Taking a top-notch probiotic
6) Eating fermented foods (like sauerkraut, Greek yogurt, kimchi…)
7) Eating smaller meals
8) Not eating too close to bedtime(try to eat 2-3 hours before, as this will help you sleep better, too)
9) Eliminating artificial sweeteners (controversial, but probably helps)
10) And avoiding this ONE type of beverage…
This was my mistake (and might be YOURS too)?
After shopping I met an old friend, who happens to be a doctor, at Mill Street Brewery in Toronto for lunch. He explained that a common culprit in constipation is carbonated beverages because it slows gastric mobility (the speed at which things move through your digestive system).
The slower things move, the more water gets pulled back into the body, and that makes waste harder to pass.
So…the Zevia grape-soda, even though it is sweetened with Stevia, was my biggest purchase mistake at Whole Foods.
Guess I’ll be giving that away on the streets of Toronto today.
So…avoid carbonated beverages, switch to water and herbal teas, consider reducing your caffeine intake, always get enough fiber, and make sure you are exercising at least ninety minutes per week.
I hope this helps you make healthier choices, improve your digestion, lose fat, and breakthrough your health struggles.
It’s a little embarrassing to share my problems with you, but if it changes even one person’s life, it’s worth it.
Keep on pushing on. I know you can do it. Proud of you!
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