This is a post from My Health Journey, an ongoing series where I document my health progress. Follow along to see, month after month, how I implement my recovery protocol, handle stressful situations, eliminate food sensitivities, incrementally train my nervous system to handle more stress, and ultimately, how my method continues to allow me greater and greater freedom, happiness, and health!
It’s time for my May health update! This month had dramatic ups with a lengthy streak of time without pain, and I reduced time between weightlifting sets with no consequences for pain. However, the month also had an extraordinary down when I had the worst case of food poisoning of my life. So let’s examine everything and how I dealt with the illness.
I was cruising for the first couple of weeks of May, feeling better than ever. I had 15 straight days with pain-free time and was well on my way to breaking my record of 18 days from earlier this year until I got food poisoning and the streak ended. To that point, I was setting lifting highs on nearly every exercise with each workout. And my heart rate continued to decrease from last month’s low.
I came down with food poisoning for about 36 hours after I had a meal that had my stomach feeling a bit queasy. I suffered from cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and a 100.7 fever. It was easily the worst such incident of my life. I lost a whopping 8.2 pounds in the first 24 hours when I couldn’t even keep liquids down. After that initial period of awfulness, I developed muscle aches and tremendous head tension from lack of movement. I am typically incapable of napping, but I ended up in bed for 30 of 36 hours and slept about 25 of those hours.
Recovering from the Ordeal
I knew I would have to slowly build back to normal from a traumatic digestive upset. So I used a drawn-out version of my extended water fasting refeeding rules. I couldn’t handle anything on the first day. So it was a day of zero calories, just like a fast. Halfway through the second day, I was able to have some fluids. When I realized this, I brought them back with some gentle solids for the gut in kefir and white rice. On the third day, I had a couple of meals of kefir, eggs, rice, and a minimal amount of vegetables. I also returned to some movement with gentle walking. On the fourth day, I had a third meal of the same foods and reintroduced meat. The meat felt incredibly heavy, so I only had a small portion.
On the fifth day, meat was still very filling, and each meal had me feeling full to burst. I used my massage gun for over 30 minutes on all the achy spots I had developed from inactivity. It worked wonderfully to relieve all the achy areas. I should’ve remembered to use it sooner. Finally, I felt like myself again on the sixth day, went on a completely normal diet, and got outdoors. I was even able to run a 5k, and my pain-free time resumed. I started another streak of time without pain! Interestingly, a few days later, my allergies were the worst they’d been in several years, making me wonder if my gut microbiome got significantly shifted for the worse from the episode.
It’s amazing to see the episode’s effect on my resting heart rate. As my recovery from chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, and severe chronic pain has shown, it can take a while to calm the body back down to a normal state. My resting heart rate shot up from 57 beats per minute to 74. Before the acute incident, I was having difficulty getting my heart rate above 110 when jogging. For nearly ten days after, a brisk walk kept me in the 115-130 range.
I noticed an interesting psychological and emotional reaction to this ill health. As the days rolled on with intense gut pain and other symptoms, I felt some fear creeping into my mind that this could last a long time, as it did for so many years of my disability. Even after working on my mindset for years, that’s my initial reaction to any strong symptom. Usually, the feeling passes almost instantaneously. This is becauseI’ve done a lot of mental work and had it proven through my many health successes that I’m not falling chronically ill again. However, gut symptoms are my most significant psychological trigger to ruminate negatively.
Those symptoms can bring a feeling of general unease, and mental background of dread can start to creep in. This is because a swarming spasm around my navel was an ever-present companion during my worst 15 years.
When I noticed this uneasiness washing over me, I went to my go-to tool for these feelings. I did some deep breathing. I also reminded myself that I got out of that horrid state by employing my four pillars method assiduously and continuously. Then I moved to what solutions I needed to implement to fix the situation. Having answers for these kinds of symptoms is an essential part of living with chronic health problems. It is something that I help all of my coaching clients to learn to handle.
In this case, all I needed to do to break through was take it easy for a couple of days with movement. So I walked 1,500 steps per day instead of walking and running 10,000 or more, drank kefir daily for a few weeks, and brought back some starchy carbs like white rice before returning to my keto diet.
The relief of getting back to my new normal of feeling great on the 18th with pain-free time renewed my appreciation for the state of health I’ve managed to achieve.
The food poisoning occurred during the middle of ten days of a semi-working vacation for me in the middle of the month. Despite that, I didn’t let it spoil my time off. I’ve been working harder and more this year than ever and have been keeping a careful eye on my energy to see if I’m overstressing myself. I seemed to be doing quite well, so this was a preemptive break. It was a lovely time! I took a break touring Kansas City with a dear friend. You can see various photos of my adventures below.
A particularly interesting trip was to revisit my college campus at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. It had been 19 years since I’d been there. The experience gave me some interesting perspective as I realized that I feel better now than I did when I was 23! I wish I could’ve felt this great back then, but I am delighted that I got to this point and can enjoy my life and the years ahead.
All of these experiences dwarfed the food poisoning episode in meaning, and I got back out touring as soon as possible.
I’ll remember the locations I visited and the values I took in, rather than the transient badness of illness. It is empowering and pleasing to have the confidence that ill health is now the aberration rather than the expected. I’ll never stop appreciating that.
I think that refueling physically and mentally like I did on this vacation is an essential part of life. If one’s reservoir of values runs dry, so does motivation. When that happens, life loses that irreplaceable magic that makes every day a unique, unrepeatable experience. That is one reason why I recommend my clients fill their days with values even when their health is poor.
After the time off, I’m even more excited to be back at work, helping my clients, and working on my book to help even more individuals with chronic health problems.
Despite the health difficulties this month, 80.6% of my days had pain-free time! That’s a new personal best. Last month was my previous high with 73.3% of the days with time without pain. So, the food poisoning ended up a minor blip in my trend toward betterment with chronic pain. It’s a shame the incident broke up my streak, as it had no indication it would stop, but I’m back on a new seven-day stretch with pain-free time, so it appears that I’m sailing along like I was before. Perhaps before long in these health updates, I’ll be tracking pain-free weeks instead of days!
Weightlifting and Bouldering
I was rocketing ahead with weightlifting progress until the food poisoning incident. I cracked 250-pound sets on my deadlift and succeeded on 195-pound squats and 145-pound bench press. The bench press progress was particularly important since it set me up for a significant lifting milestone: successfully bench pressing my weight (roughly 147.5). I was all set to lift that weight the day the food poisoning set in, so instead, I ended up having a long break from lifting due to my vacation and travel.
Once I got back to lifting at the end of the month, it had been 19 days since my last weighted workout. I attempted a set of 147.5, but I had lost a bit of strength from the layoff and didn’t get the eight repetitions for progress on the Leangains program I follow. It’ll likely take a bit into June for me to get my strength back and reach this new threshold.
I also ended up limiting myself to one bouldering trip due to how poorly I’d been feeling.
To my surprise, I did the best I ever have! It was challenging to pick which wall to feature here since I managed five difficult orange walls in the V3-5 difficulty range. I did 23 walls total, which was a record for me in one session.
Fifteen of those walls were V0-2s without any rest to burn out the rest of my energy once my hands were too sore for more aggressive moves and holds.
In June, I will do my yearly 5-day water fast to help with pain and detoxification. So stay tuned for that health update, plus a comprehensive video guide on how I manage these fasts!
I’m also going to look a little deeper into my gut health in the coming month. Having both food poisoning and some powerful allergies convinced me to take a closer look, along with some household testing for mold turning up significant candida growths. Candida is usually shed from a person or a pet but can also come from overwatered plants. I have a few possible symptoms that make a gut investigation worthwhile. However, they could just be residual workout soreness from the intensity of lifting and running I do when I still have the potential for chronic pain.
Next month, I’m going to take Megamycobalance for a bit to see if I have any die-off reactions. Even though a gut test cleared me for candida last year, it did not check my small intestine, so it’s still a possibility worth considering. After that, I’ll bring in Megasporebiotic given my past histamine problems.
Perhaps I’ll be feeling even better as a result of these products!