Example of common inflammation published on strong-woman.com

Nutrition and inflammation – how are they related and why should I care?

Inflammation sounds alarming and serious, and it definitely can be, but it’s also common and normal.

It’s your body’s way of protecting you from bad stuff: stress, infection, injury, a cold or flu, pesticides, airborne allergens, etc.  For example, if you Mosquito_biteget a mosquito bite, your body detects a foreign, potentially harmful substance and your immune system is triggered and sends defenses to protect you, so may get a little puffy and itchy at the site – inflammation.

Now imagine that inflammation inside your body.

You wouldn’t be able to see it like you would a mosquito bite, but you would feel it in other ways.

A few years ago I had several health issues, like bloating, indigestion, and rosacea, to name a few, and I started looking for answers about what could be causing these problems. I don’t like going to the doctor or taking medicine and I didn’t like the idea that it could be happening because my 50th birthday was approaching.

Then I heard this notion that the food I was eating could be causing inflammation, which could cause some of the symptoms I was experiencing. It sounded crazy to me at the time.

“Certainly they wouldn’t sell products that could be harmful,” I thought.

I first heard about this idea one Sunday afternoon and I came across a show with Dr. Mark Hyman lecturing on the subject of nutrition and talking about his book, “The Blood Sugar Solution”.

At first, his message sounded outlandish and conspiracy theory-like and I don’t much buy into any of that stuff, but he piqued my curiosity about the possibility of being able to help myself feel better by changing the foods I ate.

Food and inflammation?

In a nutshell, he says that inflammation causes many symptoms of illness we experience when we don’t eat good food, which is plant based non-GMO, organic fruits (limited amounts) and vegetables (green), nuts, “good” fats, and some lean meat. This leaves out caffeine (What!?), grains, sugar or artificial sweeteners, dairy, and alcohol. He also recommends supplementation.

My “Elimination” experience

I felt so crappy and confused about what could possibly be causing all the discomfort and annoying symptoms I was experiencing. I decided to give it a try. For a week, I eliminated the foods that might be causing inflammation. It was tough.

I got headaches, which may have been withdrawal from caffeine and sugar, but what I discovered through 7 days of eliminating these things from my diet was huge for me.

I don’t know for sure because I never got tested for any of this, but I must have been a hot-bed of inflammation and the primary causes for me were grains and sugar.

That was the beginning of my education of how good food can change one’s health,

how our bodies do what they’re supposed to do to keep us alive and healthy. How food plays a huge role in how well we feel.


I became more aware of preservatives, added sugar, over-processed grains, food coloring, pesticides and other chemicals in food and my sensitivity to them. I eventually learned about quality supplementation to help fill the gaps in my nutrition and that’s made a huge difference for me as well.

What are some things you can do to ease inflammation?

  • Understand that almost all food is processed

When people talk about making good food choices, they often recommend staying away from processed food. Unfortunately, unless you grow your own food, your food is processed. The question is how many processing steps has it undergone. Generally speaking, the closer it is to its natural state the less processed it is.

  • Eat more whole food 

Minimally processed; in its natural state or as close to it as you can getVeggies

  • Eat organic

This helps limit exposure to pesticides; check out the Dirty Dozen list and always wash fruits and vegetables before eating

  • Read food labels

Do you recognize the ingredients? Does it have added sugar, food dye, or chemicals? Select minimum ingredients.

Believe it or not, you can purchase a jar of peanut butter that looks like peanut butter and doesn’t have peanuts in it at all! For more information about reading a food label, read “How to Read a Food Label.”

  • Try eliminating foods, like grain, sugar, or dairy for 7 – 10 days, then gradually add them back into your diet one at a time.  You may discover a sensitivity to a food or ingredient.
  • Take a quality supplement, including a probiotic. I’ve had great results using supplements by USANA Health Sciences.

Being conscious of how our food choices can give us more of what we need and less of what we don’t can help us stay strong and well. It can take a while to figure out what works best for you, so stick with it and know that

your health is worth it.


Ruby in mud published on strong-woman.com

5 Things I Learned While Running an Obstacle Course Race (OCR)

Reveille Park in Burnet, TX – a beautiful, picturesque place, especially in the spring. Delicate yellow, red, and violet wildflowers paint the landscape. Huge granite formations, steep hills, prickly pear cactus, massive oak trees and rough Mesquite are pure Texas. Such a great place. Add hundreds of volunteers, thousands of participants, a few dozen obstacles, lots of mud, and running water and you have The Austin Spartan, an adventure Obstacle Course Race (OCR).

How did I get myself into this?

I signed up for the run a few months ago because I had nonchalantly told my friend, Nicki, who had already signed up, “Yeah, I’ll do it with you.” My husband and another friend, Luke, were doing it and I had some experience with a Spartan race so I knew what I was getting into.

Mark and me at Sprint finish

Last year, a big group of us did the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles and about 20 obstacles) and I had trained for that one. This year we were doing a Spartan Super (8+ miles and 24 + obstacles) and I hadn’t done any special training for it. At the age of 53, one should commit purposefully to this type of event, but I felt kind of wishy-washy, not 100% committed, even as the race date got closer.

And then, just 6 days before the race, I tweaked my back while jumping rope and I couldn’t move without it hurting. I massaged, applied heat, and visited the chiropractor twice that week to re-gain mobility, but it hurt. I was on stand-by for race day.

The day of the run, I felt well enough to do it.

Out there on that muddy, rocky, wet course, I had some real-time life lesson reminders that I do my best to live by, but sometimes fall short.

Here are my top 5 Life Lessons from the OCR Trail

1. Keep moving forward.

One foot in front of the other. It’s tough to be at mile 2 and know you have at least 6 more miles to go and think, “I can’t do 6 more miles. I

just can’t.” Just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t think about how far you have to go because the only way you’re going to get there is to keep moving forward. One step at a time.

It wasn’t pretty, but I finished.
2. When you think you can’t, you won’t.

There was at least one obstacle that I decided to skip and do the penalty because I didn’t want to risk a hard jolt to my back, but when I looked at the obstacle more closely, I saw how I could’ve done it pretty easily with a little help. Had I taken a minute to look it over more carefully, I would’ve been able to figure it out.

3. Don’t be too proud to ask for help or to receive it.

One of the really cool things about the Spartan is that people help each other. Mark helped me by giving me a boost up a wall and once even carried me through an obstacle (I think that may have been illegal help) but even strangers offering a hand up out of a mud pit can make a big difference when you’re tired. Sometimes I want to try obstacles on my own to see if I can do it and that’s ok too, but to stubbornly refuse help when you need it can keep you stuck in a mud pit longer than you need to be.

Smiling Luke
Our friend, Luke, flashing a smile
4. Have fun along the way and smile; it’ll improve your experience.

At one point, there was an event photographer right at the edge of a creek

and I was tired and just wanted to be done and all I could think about was how much I wanted to get out of the mud. But my poopy attitude and refusal to smile for the camera didn’t get me out of the mud any faster. When I laughed at myself for mad-muggin’ the photographer, I instantly felt better and enjoyed the whole experience a lot more.

Our friend, Nicki, showing her great attitude
5. Run your own race.

It’s tempting to compare yourself to others, to compare your own progress with the progress of others, but your only competition is you. You’re the only one who can keep pushing or stop yourself. If you’re putting in the work, moving forward, doing your best, finding solutions instead of excuses, getting over obstacles, that’s the true measure of your progress.

Mark at End
Mark’s jubilant finish

Lessons learned

When we crossed the finish line, I had such a tremendous feeling of euphoria, absolutely happy to be done. Even though I was tired and hungry, I was also very thankful for the challenge, for being able to be there with Mark and our friends and for the good health to be able to be out there at all. I don’t know if I’ll do another OCR but I’m thankful for the lessons I got from this one.

What keeps you going when you want to quit?