Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ramblings on exercise, chronic pain, diet--a whole bunch of stuff really

Alright, I've been too busy to blog lately & not really in the mood either.  But in the middle of my very stressful week (it is an EXTRA stressful week this week) I feel the need for a distraction & I've had these thoughts rolling around in my head lately & feel the need to get them out, whether anyone is interested or not.

I started working out when I was 19.  It all started for health reasons--I always have people asking me for workout advice & their questions are centered on the physical looks they want to get.  And I have to admit I'm not the person to ask about that sort of thing.  My goal is to be strong & healthy.  Sure, I do appreciate the physical benefits that come along with it, but it's not my goal or my focus. 

When I started working out I didn't know ANYTHING about working out.  I learned everything the hard way--ok I know it's hard to believe, but there was no internet back then, no you tube & other web sites chock full of info pouring into your home.  And looking back it is absolutely amazing to me how resilient the young body is.  I never ate an athlete's diet back then, it took me a few years to realize the importance of stretching after a workout, etc.  But as I entered my 30s I started noticing my body didn't recover & bounce back as easily after a workout.  If I got injured it didn't heal up & recover as quickly as it used to.  Now by this time I did have internet & learned about protein shakes to be used after workouts.  Somewhere in my early 30s I started the protein shakes (initially soy, but I had a bad reaction, so then I stuck with whey) & I've never been able to live without them since, at least as long as I'm working out regularly.

Last August I made the decision to return to my vegetarian ways (I had been a vegetarian from age 15-25) for a long list of reasons.  And as time passed several reasons have pushed me to make the move to a vegan diet instead.  I can't remember exactly when it happened, it was so gradual, but it's been a few months now I'd guess. Along with the vegan way of life I ditched my whey protein shakes for brown rice protein shakes.

I recently had about a month (maybe 2 months?) of horrendous neck/shoulder/upper back pain.  I went to a chiropractor, but the benefits didn't last, even though they sent me home with exercises to do (& I did them faithfully).  The pain continued & became worse & worse.  It was becoming unbearable.  Driving was becoming unsafe because I couldn't even turn my head in either direction.  I was praying for wisdom.  It seemed to me that it was more muscular pain than bone pain, so I didn't bother to rush back to the chiro right away.  (I was taught in physical therapy years back that tense muscles were the major cause of my problem at that time & that I could go to a chiro all I wanted & get adjusted again & again, but if I didn't deal with the tense muscles the tense muscles would just keep on pulling the bones out of place.)  I started wondering if I was lacking something, nutritionally speaking.  I found some info on magnesium, but it didn't sound like my issue.  I found some info on hormones, but again didn't quite sound like my issue. 

On my own (most likely God whispering my ear, I am not trying to take the credit for this myself) I started wondering about protein.  Being a vegan I couldn't return to a whey protein source.  And I had to admit that the brown rice protein shakes never really helped much after my workouts.  So I started doing some research & found a soy protein shake that I really, really like.  Now those who know me well know that I am a bit anti-soy.  It's not that I think soy is a bad thing, but I do think moderation is important & since soy (& corn) is in absolutely EVERYTHING moderation is hard to achieve.  So I do try to avoid it as much as I can.  Plus I've had a bad reaction in the past to both soy protein shakes & soy milk, so that makes me hesitant as well. 

But I was really happy to find one that is made of FERMENTED soy (and the ingredients pass my requirements!).  In my research in the past I've learned that fermented soy products (soy sauce, miso, tempeh) are much more healthy for you than non-fermented soy (tofu) is.  So to find a shake that is made from fermented soy really made me happy.  And then the day after I drank my first shake my pain was less, not gone, but less.  I've drank a shake every day & my pain decreased & decreased until it was completely gone.

So this led me to wonder about people who struggle with chronic pain.  As a nurse I've seen plenty of it, it's a huge problem in the world.  Even though I've had my own injuries & struggles with pain I have always refused to turn to pain meds, which is usually what docs want to do.  Doctors always want to start with medication &/or surgery to solve problems.  But I've seen so many people who have been on the pain meds for years & they are so addicted & depressed & still in pain because they've built up such a tolerance to the meds.  It's a really sad situation & I've seen it over & over & over & swore to myself that I wouldn't end up like that.  And I've always admired my stepfather because he lived with horrendous debilitating pain (caused from a WW2 injury) & he didn't end up like that, relying on pain meds.  And I know there are people who, if they heard my thoughts on this, would insist that they have an injury that is causing the pain, that there's no way it's diet related.  And maybe this isn't the case for EVERYONE, BUT I have to say that I have a pretty major injury myself, a couple actually (neck injury & compression fracture in my lower back).  And it is those areas in my body that seem to be weakest & when things aren't right they are the first place to hurt.  So that still leads me to wonder if people with chronic pain couldn't lessen (or eradicate completely) their pain through diet.  Maybe not everyone, but I would venture to guess that at least some of them could.

Now maybe not everyone would be needing protein (& even then if they are consuming lots of protein I'd say try different forms of protein, there's plenty out there to choose from), it could possibly be something else they are lacking nutrition-wise.  But the fact remains that our country continues on a path of being over-fed & under-nourished because so much processed food & junk food is consumed.  So it does stand to reason that that this theory could be correct, eating so much processed food & junk food could easily lead to a deficiency in any number of things that the body needs.

Anyways, that's all I have to ramble about today.......


Danielle-Marie said...

I began having unexplained back and neck pain, similar to what you described...being unable to turn my head back and forth. Actually it's been hurting just to roll over in bed. My diet isn't very protein rich... I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian...but I'm going to try to eat some more protein rich foods because at this point it's just so painful to lift Hannah, I'm willing to try anything. Well, not ANYTHING. An ER doctor prescribed me some pain killers but I don't like to use pain killers for anything then lets say Tylenol or Advil for a headache. I find them really hard on my stomach. I don't know that I'll be able to fine non-fermented soy milk but I'm gonna check out the health foods store downtown after Ry gets home from work. Thanks for this blog!

Frau Guten Tag said...

I doubt that everyone is the same & that everyone would need or benefit from the fermented soy protein powder. Prior to trying to give up animal products I was using a whey protein powder & wasn't having the pain issues. There is always a huge debate about vegans/vegetarians getting enough protein & where they get their protein from. And there are lots of people saying it isn't an issue at all. But for me it is obviously an issue. I wasn't getting enough on my own from my vegan diet. Now granted I do workout a lot, & I push myself pretty hard, so I do need more protein for muscle repair than most people. So I suppose for some people protein is a non-issue, but for me it's not obviously. And I know there are plenty of professional athletes that are vegan & doing just fine. I think it's just a matter of listening to your body.

But I would say that if someone is having pain issues they should explore some different protein sources & see if it helps or not.