The world of nutrition is a complicated one. Head to the Health and Wellbeing section at your local Chapters and you’ll see what I mean. There are literally walls of books telling us what to eat, what not to eat, how to cook it, and when to eat it. This would all be well and good… except that they all seem to contradict each other in varying ways. So how are we expected to make it through this life with a healthy approach if the so-called professionals can’t even agree?
I pride myself in being able to read nutrition advice with an objective eye. I gather what I have learned from past resources and make my own judgments on what is truth and what is fad. Are all of my ideas surrounding health accurate? Probably not. Nutritional information is so vast, how could I possible know it all? But, I don’t feel too bad about it, considering that even world-class scientists haven’t got it all figured out yet. It is an ever-growing body of knowledge. That’s part of what I love about the industry. Things never get old.
However, as confident as I am in my own journey, if I’m not careful, I too can find myself feeling muddled by over exposure to information. I start to give in to the confidently worded, persuasive writing offered up by some health guru, meditating on a beach in California. I begin to question what I know to be true or effective. Although questioning your awareness and constantly building upon what you already know is an important part of learning, it isn’t always necessary, depending on your information source.
A few days ago I posted the intimate details of my digestive journey thus far (there probably should have been a TMI alert or two in there somewhere. Oh well). If you recall, I mentioned that my naturopath was sending me for candida and parasite screening.
Well, the scan has been completed and my report card has been written.
Last week, I headed into the referred clinic to complete an Electrodermal Screening. Basically, this is a non-invasive screening done through stimulating an acupuncture point on the skin using pressure and medal rods. It’s a little difficult to explain if you’ve never experienced it, and it might sound kind of hocus pocus, but I have to say—I’m a believer. There are many people (even those in my own life) who choose skepticism when it comes to this kind of testing. And that’s fine too. But when you experience chronic digestive problems, I think you eventually arrive at a place where you’re ready to explore any plausible explanation—particularly when the dots begin to connect. The testing device used is licensed by Health Canada which I feel, in and of itself, offers a certain level of credibility. That being said, if you are unsure of this testing method, a blood test is always the way to go. So I recommend that route if you want a second opinion on your scan results, or if you know you will never truly be able to trust in the screening process. While searching up various reviews on the web, I came across a quote offered by a medical practitioner in reference to electrodermal screening. She said, "If you look online for references to electrodermal screening you'll find all kinds of naysayers, good and bad. But I think the utility of any test, the reliability of it, depends on how it's used and how the results are interpreted.” Touché, doc. So with that, pick your side, and let’s move on.
The doctor completing my screen was a 65-year-old Australian man named William. Let’s call him Dr. Will, because I think that’s classier. This guy really took his job seriously. Throughout the entire process, I felt that he was deeply invested in understanding my gut health, which I appreciated. His clinic itself left a little to be desired. He was in desperate need of an office manager, as there were piles of folders and paper in every corner. He also seemed to have an odd obsession with cat figurines. I could tell he wasn’t interested in putting on a show for anyone. Dr. Will was all about the results. I actually had to hold back fits of laughter on several occasions throughout the appointment. Not because he was funny in a “ha ha” kind of way, but because the excitement he exuded for his practice came through at every point during my screening. I found it comical that my digestive problems could elicit so much enthusiasm from a complete stranger. More on Dr. Will later.
Before I get to the results, I should outline why I was here in the first place: the candida screen was due to a round of aggressive antibiotics I took in 2013, and the parasite screen was in response to a stomach virus I contracted on a trip to Mexico around the same time.
I would now like to reference a direct quote from my original post (yes, I’m quoting myself): “Keeping my fingers crossed that I dodge the candida bullet,” …
Well, it might be karma, but you will probably not be surprised to hear that I did not dodge the candida bullet. In fact, when my numbers came through, I turned to Dr. Will and said, “Ya, but that’s not too bad, right? Like, it could be a lot higher?” His response was, “No. That is in the high range, I’m afraid.” Sure enough, he even proved it to me with a very legit chart. It was laminated and everything. It’s difficult to dispute laminated literature, in my opinion.
Ok, fine. Candida. I can deal with that. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power. But before we get into treatment options, maybe I should explain what candida is to those not currently in the know.
It isn’t really accurate to say, “I have candida,” because, actually, everyone does. Candida is yeast that lives in the gut. We have a certain amount of good bacteria, bad bacteria, and candida. The problems arise when your gut creates an environment that candida can thrive in. At that point, you develop too much yeast (that’s what’s going on over on my end). So, how does this yeast overgrowth take place? Well, there are a number of factors that can influence it. Generally speaking, too much candida is a result of an imbalance in your gut flora. When this imbalance takes place, the colonies of candida expand. Antibiotics, in some cases (including my own), kill bad bacteria but also kill off the good bacteria in the gut. This creates a breeding ground for yeast. In fact, a quick look at thecandidadiet.com suggests that antibiotic use is the most common cause of candida overgrowth. It’s as though the candida feels like its annoying roommates have finally moved out and starts to take over the joint. However, this isn’t the only way to develop a candida problem. Yeast feeds on sugar, so those who eat a diet high in sugar are at risk of developing a candida overgrowth. Stress can also cause yeast to spread (which could explain why many of my digestive issues are worse during the work week).
Now, I would just like to point out that my particular scan tested for 35 different strands of candida (the other 34 that I passed are mostly related to skin health). So I’m taking that as a win. Just sayin’.
Here’s the good news: candida can absolutely be controlled. Identifying it as the problem is the first step to success. Number one on the treatment plan will always be to adopt a low-sugar diet. This is sad, I know, but does make sense. Take away an organism’s food source and it cannot survive in its environment. Now, this doesn’t just mean cut out the candy and chocolate bars—things that aren’t in my diet on the regular. This also includes most grains, dairy, fruits, starches, and even a handful of vegetables. However, once the yeast is under control, you can loosen the reigns a bit on those restrictions. Many doctors will also prescribe a probiotic, as well as an anti-fungal supplement (my screening was able to detect which of these supplements my body would respond best to. Very cool).
Ok, the second screening: parasites. There is good news and bad news. The good news? I am parasite free! The bad news? I have three different kinds of angry Mexican bacteria living in my gut. However, these results mean that there are no worms living inside of me (the definition of a parasite), so I think we’ve found the silver lining here.
Dr. Will confirmed the presence of three bacteria strands that should not, by any means, be taking up residence in my gut. I’m about to hit you with some scientific names to keep things fancy: campylobacter jejuni (a.k.a. animal feces. No, for real—animal poop. Super), dientamoeba, and dentamoeba fragilia. Now, when I Googled those last two (because you know that’s the first thing I did when I got home), the definition that turned up did refer to them as parasites. But Dr. Will assured me that they are microscopic bacteria. So let’s go with that.
As disgusting as these sound, again, they are very treatable. When I return to my naturopath this week, she will designate my treatment plan to get these bad boys under control. It’s all about identifying the source of the problem so that it can be treated accordingly. With something as complex as digestive health, it’s difficult to treat something that you do not know is present. Unfortunately, screening also confidently confirmed my gluten intolerance, so I will continue to snack on rice cakes until further notice.
One final story to leave you with. Being the inquisitive (nosey) person that I am, I asked Dr. Will many questions about the electrodermal technology. I also inquired about his past experiences and history of the practice. He told me a story about a family friend. This friend is a holistic doctor. The doctor’s wife had been experiencing severe digestive problems for 16 years. He had tried everything he knew possible, but her illness persisted. Eventually, knowing about electrodermal screening and the services Dr. Will provided, he sent his wife to the clinic. Dr. Will tested for every bacteria strand and parasite available through his technology, which included many not found in North America. Finally, with a touch of the rod to her hand, the bar on the computer screen shot sky-high into the red zone, indicating the presence of foreign bacteria. Recognizing the name and origin of said bacteria, Dr. Will proceeded to ask the woman when she had last travelled to Egypt. She turned to look at her husband, whose jaw dropped. Her response was, “On our honeymoon, 16 years ago.” Eleven months later, after adopting a fairly simple treatment plan specifically designed to combat the bacteria specified, the patient’s chronic digestive issues were non-existent.
My point is this: there is a time and place for medical and natural intervention. I truly believe it’s important to incorporate both into your personal healthcare plan so that you can benefit from the various lines of practice. Don’t limit yourself to one treatment plan and be open to new wellness experiences. There are too many talented and knowledgeable professionals in the world of health to pick just one.
Protein. It’s difficult to consult any piece of nutrition literature without reading about the importance of it. Well, there’s a reason for that: protein is really important.
What is it?
When speaking in terms of food, protein is one of the three macronutrients that we consume through our diet (its two counterparts being carbohydrates and fats). If you’re looking for a more scientific explanation, proteins in the human body are made up of complex chemical compounds called amino acids. There are two categories of amino acids in the body: essential and non-essential. Our bodies are unable to make essential amino acids, and therefore, we need to consume them through our diet. Protein plays many important roles within the body, but let’s talk about it from a nutrition standpoint (otherwise, we could be here all day).
Why is it important?
Most women I talk to have similar goals when it comes to changing their bodies: they want to lose fat and look ‘fit.’ It is important to realize that looking fit tends to come from building or maintaining lean muscle mass. There’s a stereotype often associated with the so-called ‘gym rats’. You know the picture I’m talking about: the one with a 250lb body builder drinking a watery chocolate drink from his shaker bottle. As much as this visual may make you roll your eyes a bit, there’s something to be said about it. When we complete a hard workout, we put our muscles through the ringer and tear them down. In order to prevent a loss of lean muscle (that lovely material that gives us the nice toned look), it’s important to feed them with protein so they are able to repair and rebuild themselves.
Growing up, eating was always pretty easy-breezy for me. I didn’t suffer from any digestive issues and could basically eat whatever I wanted without experiencing any complications. Because I had an interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as a general rule of thumb, I worked to sustain a ‘healthy’ and ‘balanced’ diet throughout my young adulthood. But, overall, I didn’t need to worry about any negative repercussions, digestively speaking.
Well, I guess I should have knocked on wood or something, because about a year and a half ago, that all changed.
In September of 2013 I began to experience chronic symptoms of digestive discomfort. Every day, around 2 or 3pm, my stomach would become extremely bloated and crampy. This discomfort was generally accompanied by excessive gas (for the sake of transparency, I felt it was necessary to include that). This would last until I went to bed at night, but I would usually wake feeling like my normal self again. My symptoms persisted for several months. And I mean persisted. Every single day, like clockwork. I always described it as my stomach being angry with me. I was stumped as to why this was happening. Nothing significant had changed in my diet, or my life.
The only time that I would experience some relief was on the weekends. That was the first indicator that whatever was going on was agitated by stress. Now, I don’t mean the heavy stress that we experience from traumatic life events. I’m talking about the normal, every-day, work week kind of stress. I hadn’t moved schools, nor was I teaching a new grade. Everything was as it should be. If anything, my work life should have been more relaxing than it was the year prior!
My first thought was to try to sort this out on my own. I decided to eliminate all gluten and dairy from my diet--common causes of gut inflammation. Perhaps, for whatever reason, I had developed an intolerance of sorts. In about two weeks time, my symptoms had completely disappeared. I had done it! I felt like a normal person again. It was something I hadn’t experienced in months. It may not sound like much, but I was on cloud nine! I had forgotten what it felt like to make it through an entire day feeling well. Slowly, I started to reintroduce a limited amount of dairy (mostly yogurt), and found I could tolerate it just fine. So I pinpointed gluten as the culprit. Yes, I jumped on board with all those gluten-free hippies that annoy everyone so much. But whatever. I felt great and was ready to ride that wagon, front row, for the rest of my life if I had to.
The idea of writing a blog is, I admit, a daunting one. The first hurdle, in my opinion, is getting over the narcissistic nature of it all. “I think this” and “I believe that,” and “here’s what I ate today,” and “aren’t these workout leggings cute? And they don’t even fall down when I squat!” Who am I to say that my opinion matters or that anyone cares to hear it? The second hurdle: embracing authenticity and accepting vulnerability. Before even sourcing a web host for this blog of mine, I made a promise to myself: I would only acknowledge the desire to begin this project if I remained genuine throughout and vowed to be myself from beginning to end. With that, of course, comes the very real fear that you will be putting yourself out there for the world to see (and judge). Well, that is, if anyone gives a crap about what you have to say. However, after weighing the pros and cons of these worries, ultimately, the opportunity to embrace my passion that writing a blog presented was too enticing to pass up. So here I am, world: a self-proclaimed fitness and nutrition nut, ready to share my love of healthy living with the general public. Judge away.
My name is Lindsay. I live in downtown Toronto with my amazing fiancé (whom I’m sure you will hear more about later). I am an elementary school teacher by day, but fill much of my free time in the gym and by educating myself on health and nutrition. I often treat myself as my own guinea pig (Tim Ferriss styles, minus 1000). I enjoy testing various nutritional theories on myself, and watching my body respond (sometimes positively, sometimes not so much... and sometimes not at all). I am a Precision Nutrition Certified Nutrition Coach, and am looking forward to sharing my experiences of that journey throughout.
I have been active my entire life. I spent the majority of my childhood and adolescence in various arenas across the province as a competitive figure skater. The level of commitment required to be successful at such a sport, along with an inherent competitiveness (surely passed on by my dad), helped me to become the person I am today. After graduating university, I was thrust into an unknown world where skates were not required. My figure skating career had come to an end, and I was ok with that, but… now what? With so much free time, I needed a new hobby. I began to think very hard about what I enjoyed so much about the skating world and where my interests lay. Ultimately, it was the desire to be better. I always wanted to improve, no matter where I stood in the sport. That quality, I realized, was easily transferred into anything I decided to do in life. Although I had been working out in the gym for years, I didn’t truly understand what I was doing, or how to improve my performance (minus the odd tip I took from reading a Women’s Health magazine). I knew that staying active was important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and that I valued healthy living and the benefits it provided, but beyond that, I kept it quite simple.
Fast-forward six years, and I am on a personal health and fitness journey that I tackle with intension. I am hungry for knowledge, and always strive to be better than I was yesterday. Do I always succeed in this mission? Hell no. There are days when I go to bed thinking, “Well, I didn’t make it to the gym today,” or, “I told myself I would go for a run…” or, the ever-so-familiar, “I probably shouldn’t have eaten that.” But if I have learned anything over the past few years, it’s this: every day is a new day. If we let ourselves dwell on the things we have done or left undone, we will never find the ability to move forward. Make goals, create an action plan, and set out each day to achieve those goals. We will never be perfect, but we can always be better.
Now, I would like to preface this blog by stating that I am, by no means, an expert on anything. How’s that for a selling feature? My passion is, and will always be, to be a student of my craft. I love to learn and to apply these lessons to my own life. My friends and family know about this hobby of mine, and thus, often come to me for advice or with questions. I love to share what I have learned along the way. If I can help others adopt a healthy lifestyle, then I will. That is the primary goal of Eat. Move. Live. Sometimes I don’t have the answer, but I will always look for it from someone who does. This often sends me to one of the many health and fitness professionals that I follow and look to for knowledge and growth on a regular basis. I know that, throughout this project, I will be referring to many of them. There are some seriously skilled people out there in the world of healthy living, and I am excited to expose you to a handful of them. It is this community of talented professionals that help drive my desire to be the best me. They inspire me daily.
When I was completing my Master’s degree in Education, my very first professor provided me with feedback on an assignment that stuck: she told me that I needed to control my writing. Point taken. Therefore, I am going to wrap it up for today. I am excited to be on this creative journey and to share what I know/think I know/want to know about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living. Come along for the ride.