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!
There is a lot to cover for my August Health Journey! Pictured above, I revisited the grounds of my high school, where my illnesses of interstitial cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome became chronic and chronic pain started. It was a conflicting experience for me, which I'll discuss below. Also, we'll check in on my exercise progress, my sleep status, another DEXA I had, and that I finally found a spot on my schedule to begin my 17th water fast that's continuing into August. Of most importance, we'll examine my unprecedented pain-free time streak that continued rolling on all the way from May, but how I was in surprisingly higher pain on most days when the pain was present. Did my streak survive--read on!
Returning to the Source
On my 53rd straight day of pain-free time, I returned to my high school. Twenty-six years ago marked the time in my life when my chronic pain and symptoms began. I was in the area, so I took a moment to drive there and walk the grounds.
I never experienced such mixed emotions upon returning to a place. It felt like the building was screaming: "chronic illness!" at me. I was reminded of all the apprehension, anxiety, and pain I used to feel when I was younger and coming to grips with my constantly ill health. Back then, I kept it all hidden inside from my classmates out of fear I'd be teased for my seemingly inexplicably bad health, a tactic that was dreadful for my self-esteem and ability to connect with others.
Yet those unpleasant feelings quickly washed away. This happened when I realized that I feel better now than I did back then and that I now help others to achieve their best health despite their unfortunate health circumstances, and what a triumph that is! That realization brought the above smile to my face in a place that once was so negative for me. So, here's to feeling the best yet, and overcoming those old symptoms to return as a conqueror!
Surviving the Toughest Challenge to the Streak
Steadily, my pain rose in the first half of the month. My nerve pain was considerably higher when it was present and much of each day was time with pain, which was a big change during the streak.
I identified two causes. The primary one was that since June, I'd been running circles around a pool and hopping over a low diving board every lap. It only took 10 seconds to do a lap, and I'd run every other day in such a manner for 20-45 minutes. The second, of all things, was winding down at night while playing an excellent video game, Hades. I had a blast with the game. It was a surprisingly clever and heartwarming story of familial reconciliation.
The impact from jumping so many times while running, whereas I usually didn't jump at all during exercise, was too stressful for my body. In addition, the little bits of repeatedly tensing my muscles during the intense action of the game were too much as well. They combined to cause bladder and abdominal tension, which aggravated nerve pain in my abdomen, shoulders, neck, and face. I ceased both and began to feel a bit better, but midmonth faced a grave threat to the streak: travel.
Traveling is never easy due to the shifts in my routine, and to this point, on top of how I'd been feeling, was the greatest danger of ending my run of painless time over the past couple of months. I knew the stage was set to potentially end this unprecedented streak of mine.
I wasn't going to go down without a fight. To compensate, I decided to skip all exercise for a few days, double down on stress management outside work hours, and not have any social engagements each evening. I also used CBD oil and my massage gun more regularly.
My adjustments paid off! My baseline pain started dropping, and once I felt back to normal for how I felt during this streak, I went bouldering and managed this tough (for me) wall! I chose my moment well. The workout was marvelous and brought my pain down. Had I gone a day or two earlier, I have no doubt the climbing session would've had the opposite effect and potentially been the streak-breaker. I proceeded to cruise toward the end of the month.
I have developed many foundational health habits that I never change that have gotten me to this wonderful point of my recovery. However, much of my ability to manage my pain and symptoms during my recovery has required on-the-fly adaptations to my routine when circumstances change like this. I've become an expert at knowing what causes my symptom flare-ups and when to pull back to not cross the line into flare-up territory. I also have so many tools to bring myself back to balance that I can reliably know what to turn to when times get tougher. Building this kind of personalized health toolkit is what I help every client of mine to develop so that they can have a recovery like mine where they're back to doing what they love!
Lifting and Bouldering Update
There's not a lot to report on the exercise front for me this month. First, the increased pain led to me taking more days off during the first half of the month than I'm used to. Then travel took me away from my weights, and the fast at the end of the month necessitated only gentle walking for my exercise since I didn't want to tear muscle fibers with no food source to rebuild them!
I'm also still retrenching with my strength after my lifting form changes from last month. That said, I still set new personal records on biceps curls, deadlift, calf raises, squats, overhead press, triceps extension, and chest flys, so I'm pleased! It'll take a while to get back to the weights I was doing on every exercise when my form wasn't ideal, but I'll get there.
When I went bouldering in the middle of the month, I managed some challenging intermediate walls with long reaches and dynamic moves.
A Breakthrough with Sleep
Due to the additional pain, travel, and fast I started at the end of the month, I didn't have a chance to improve my circadian rhythm or have an opportunity to titrate off the sleep medication I'm on. I'll work on that more going forward.
Still, there was a most welcome sign on the sleep-front. I now rarely wake up to go to the bathroom anymore. This development is wild, considering when my interstitial cystitis was at its worst, I used to need to urinate over 40 times per day, including several times each night. Also, I discovered that I can now sleep ten straight hours without head pain increases. For over a decade, the nerve pain from my occipital and trigeminal nerves would increase when my head had any pressure on it. That has been steadily improving over the last 5.5 years, but even in the best of times, I couldn't lie down without pain unless I was utterly exhausted. I also couldn't sleep more than eight hours without waking with increased pain and tension all over my head, no matter what pillow I used. That changed this month when I was trying to give myself the best chance to recover on the days mid-month when my pain was higher. I woke up well rested after nine or even ten hours and had no neuropathic or tension symptoms anywhere on my head!
DEXA: More Body Composition Progress
I had my third DEXA scan, which you can see to the side here. I scheduled it for two reasons. First, to measure how my body changed in the categories of lean mass, body fat, and bone density. Second, so I would have a close data point for comparison at the end of my extended water fast to see what effect the process had on me. I'll post about the latter DEXA next month. This scan was my third DEXA--the other two were in March and November of 2021.
The results were interesting but not as dramatic as the changes from November to March. I lost 1.1% body fat since March, 5.9 pounds, but I also lost 3.3 pounds of lean tissue. My only gain was in bone mineral content, which is now up from 6.0 in November to 6.2. At the DEXA, I was told that lean mass loss can not just be muscle loss but also loose skin that tightens up. I suspect it was more muscle loss than anything since I had long layoffs from lifting due to a nasty bout of food poisoning in May and vacation and form resetting, which caused me to considerably drop the weights I was lifting.
Looking at all three DEXAs, my body fat is now 15.4%, which is down from 16.5% in March and 22.4% in November. The drop-off in fat loss doesn't surprise me too much. I was lax on my diet in May, eating maintenance calories rather than a 25% deficit as I had been. This change was largely due to reseeding my gut after food poisoning and going on a moderate carbohydrate diet to do so. Also, I had mostly maintenance calorie days for two weeks in July while on vacation. Since I began the scans, I have lost 13.2 pounds since 11/17/21, 13.5 pounds of fat mass, and gained .2 pounds of lean tissue. I'll take that for cutting weight! I'm leaner, my bones are stronger, and I have gained a little muscle.
I find the results of these scans to be excellent motivators. Seeing objective progress is great, as it's hard to visually tell how much my body changes without this data. Seeing that I didn't lose as much body fat as I'd hoped has me retrenched in my intention to get my calories into a 25% deficit more regularly going forward.
At the end of the month, I began my 17th 5-day water fast. It's my first in 14 months. During the middle of my recovery, I did these extended fasts monthly. They were game-changing for my chronic pain levels thanks to the stem cell generation, autophagy benefits, and many other beneficial cellular activities. Before too much longer, I'll release an in-depth how-to guide on preparing for and succeeding with extended fasting.
I've been doing so well in the last year and was on such a long streak of days with pain-free time that I put off this fast for 14 months, but I plan on doing a yearly extended fast from now on. I started the fast so close to the end of the month that I was still on it at the time of this writing, so I'll post the results in the next health update.
I was excited to see how this fast would go since it's the first time I've been in ketosis going into a fast, thanks to my keto diet. Typically, I feel about 80-85% of my usual self during much of the time on one of these fasts. I suspected it would go better with this foundation, along with a few changes I made this time.
For this fast, I had several new products to better support myself. The star of the show has been Fasting Drops from Keto Chow (use this link for 10% off an order!). I added 1/2 a teaspoon to each 16-ounce glass of water I had each day to keep my sodium, potassium, and magnesium up so that I didn't get into the dreaded keto flu with achy and tight muscles I got during previous fasts. Since the fasting process triggers intense detoxification, I helped my body get those toxins out with three staples from Microbe Formulas: TUDCA Complete, BioActive Carbon Biotox, and Formula 1. These three products, along with Mimosa Pudica Seed, also from Microbe Formulas, helped my body clear multiple parasites last year. And to keep my muscles loose, I used my Olsky massage gun twice daily.
I also tracked my ketones with my Keto Mojo (this link gives you 15% off the device), which I've found to be a fabulous tool for measuring my blood glucose and ketone levels. I'll post those results next month. As of this writing, the ketone readings are still climbing into advanced ketosis, indicating that I'm running on fat for fuel.
To this point, my suspicion about how the fast would go was right! The fast was still going well as I entered the fifth and final day without food. For much of each day, I felt like 90% of my usual self. I was occasionally a little tired and would take breaks from working to walk slowly to re-energize, but I was able to put in full workdays! I also had some increased nerve pain. At brief times on the third day, minor pain in my legs, pelvic floor, shoulders, and base of my head crept up. However, the pain was the least I've ever had triggered during a fast, which is likely related to how well I've felt these past months and the measures I took with the supplements, using my massage gun, stopping intense exercise, and reducing my daily steps. This is the first fast where I'm not going to need to get a massage due to my low muscle tension.
To my amazement, my pain-free time streak continued to this day and is up to 71 days! With the roll I've been on with my health, I'm eager to see what my pain is like on the other side of all this stem cell generation.
If I can survive these challenges to my pain level and keep a pain-free time streak through a fast, I think even better health is ahead of me! Next month, I'll report on the weight loss, body composition change from the fast, and ketone status, along with the second DEXA scan to see what fat loss and lean mass changes came with such a powerful intervention as a five-day 100% calorie deficit. I'm eager to see how much longer I can keep the pain-free time streak alive!