Before we get to the good stuff, a short(ish) health update; I am not feeling 100% but I am definitely feeling much better than I was two weeks ago. I have been digging a little deeper into why I ended up with a bacterial infection in my gut (still self-diagnosed) and what I should have been doing to prevent it. Having a pre-existing autoimmune disease puts me at a much greater risk for exposure and infection than someone without but there seems to be a whole litany of factors that play a role in whether or not your good flora rule the roost or are over taken by bad bacteria. I use the term “bad bacteria” lightly as there’s a good possibility that I simply have an overgrowth of one kind that was previously amicably contributing to my everyday systems and functions or I could have something more serious like an H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) infection. I hope to have a more concrete answer after my testing this month.
I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping a detailed food journal in this scenario. There have been days where I forget until 5 or 6pm to make my entries and it can be very confusing trying to rehash when I felt good or bad and what may have triggered a reaction. I have been following FODMAP closely and my doctor has sent over a list of some of her dietary suggestions as well until my appointment. Right now my meals include more or less of the following with a few alterations if Jake and I go out or are not eating at home.
Breakfast: 4-6 eggs & whites, smoked salmon or roasted turkey, veggies like tomatoes, arugula, avocado (only a half) and 1 cup of coconut yogurt with a small amount of oats, a scoop of whey protein, and a handful of either pecans or almonds (no cashews).
Snacks: FODMAP approved veggies with almond or peanut butter, nuts, protein shakes, tuna salad, smoked salmon, or homemade protein bars/fat bombs.
Lunch: Roasted veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, and carrots with chicken or ground turkey, lemon dressing.
Pre Workout Snack: Shake, FBomb, or homemade protein bar.
Post Workout Snack: Shake, Fbomb, or deli meat with nuts (no cashews).
Dinner: I was almost solely eating eggs for a week in the beginning because it was the only thing that didn’t make me feel like I was about to explode. Since I started on the HCL pills I have been able to eat steak and chicken with veggies and quinoa (and tacos with a few substitutions, yay!). No brussel sprouts, potatoes or sweet potatoes.
So far onions and especially garlic have been the hardest items to give up, I didn’t realize how often I was spicing my meals with each and I can immediately tell when I eat something with garlic in it, I blow right up.
Besides the HCL pills with every meal I have been taking oregano oil capsules, a daily multivitamin, and magnesium.
I’ve had quite a few questions on Instagram regarding the HCL pills but I would not recommend them right off the bat. I had an inkling that if my theory about the bacterial infection was correct that there was a high probability that I also had low stomach acid based on how my body was reacting to food. I found a few articles online detailing the “Baking Soda Test” (google the details if you are going to try it) where you mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cold water and drink the solution first thing in the morning when you rise. A healthy reaction would be to burp within 3-4 minutes. Well… I got NO reaction and after 10 minutes gave up on waiting for the burp. I did this three mornings in a row to make sure it wasn’t a fluke and got the same result each time. The next step was to either wait to speak with my doctor or I could just try it myself. I bought this one at Whole Foods in the probiotic section- HCL with Pepsin
I took my first pill with dinner after a Thursday night FlyWheel class and I couldn’t believe that I finished a meal without any bloating or discomfort… NONE. It blew me away to see just how badly I had been feeling these last few months when the bloating and irritation was finally eliminated. I didn’t want to get too excited since it was only the first time so I took it as a small victory. The following day I took two pills with every meal and felt amazing, these things were magic. It sounds so simple and yet it took a lot of trial and error to get to this point. I am so happy to have found a temporary solution nonetheless. Temporary meaning I should not have to continue taking these forever and there is still an underlying reason that my stomach acid is so low. I’m hoping that with some diet correction and maybe antibiotics if necessary I will be able to stop taking them without suffering through every time I eat.
This week I am going to take my calories back up from 1,500 to 2,000 and start lifting a little heavier. I feel good about being in recovery mode now, I was pulling my hair out not knowing what was going on. Now, I have a plan.
(UPDATE: As I was editing this on 5/31 my doctor emailed me and had a cancellation- I can now get in early next week, YAY.)
Onto the fun stuff! Here are three of my favorite trails in the Phoenix-Metro area. Feel free to leave your favorite trails in the comment section below so I can check them out!
Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon Trailhead
I’m sure most of you could have guessed this one but I still get tons of questions about the difficulty and the length, so here are the cliff notes.
There are two different trailheads at Camelback, Echo Canyon and Cholla. Each trail has its own degree of difficulty and they both differ in length. I would like to preface this with the simple but severely understated “BRING WATER”…but seriously bring more water than you think you need. I have given water to complete strangers more than once because they assumed they would be fine without it. I hike this in 115+ degree temperatures because I have conditioned my body, I know when to rest, and I know how to hydrate. That still doesn’t mean that something extraneous couldn’t happen to me but I am typically an overly prepared hiker. You don’t want to be on Scottsdale’s 5 o’clock news because you thought your flip-flops, jeans, and 20 ounces of water would get you to the top. It’s embarrassing, expensive, and there have been fatalities. Okay done with the PSA!
Echo Canyon is my favorite, it has 1,280 feet of elevation gain in a little over a mile; 1.23 to be exact. There is little to no shade except for some of the small caves once you make it over the saddle which is right before the halfway point. Depending on the time of year bees inhabit the caves so seek the shade at your own risk! There are two sections of the trail that have metal railings for hand support. In the middle of the summer they are definitely too hot to touch with your bare hands (If it’s over 105 degrees outside I tend to wear fingerless gloves and yes, the tan lines are super sexy).
There are a few false summits and it can be hard to see the top until you round the last corner. Once you’re at the peak the views are some of the best in the valley. The way down is just as steep as the way up and if you tend to be an unbalanced hiker I would recommend a hiking pole or two since the trail can be hard on your joints.
Another word to the wise, the parking lot is very small and even after the 2013 expansion the weekends can prove very difficult to find parking so plan ahead. Occasionally there are rattlesnakes along the trail and they very easily blend in with their surroundings. I tend to keep my headphones only in one ear so I can hear them if I get too close. There are both bathrooms and drinking fountains at the beginning of the trailhead but no dogs are allowed. (Actually, no dogs are allowed on any trails by City of Phoenix law if the outdoor temps are over 100 degrees.)
Camelback Mountain, Cholla Trailhead
The first thing to note; there are NO facilities on this side of the mountain so come prepared! If it’s your first time hiking Camelback I would highly recommend starting with Cholla, the trail is slightly longer at 1.5 miles but that means your elevation gain is a little more spread out. There are more open spaces for breaks along the trail (better for larger groups) and you will end up at the exact same peak as you would from the Echo Canyon Trail. Once you reach the saddle and pass the helicopter pad (used for rescues) there is about a quarter-mile scramble to the peak and you will need to use both arms and legs (again, if it’s blazing hot outside I would suggest gloves) to reach the top.
If you are really feeling crazy and have a good handle on your fitness there is a small subset of hikers that “yo-yo” Camelback, meaning you park on one side, ascend that trail, descend the opposite trail and once you reach the bottom you hike back up and over to your original starting point. This is a winter activity, summertime is just too damn hot!
If you are a runner and want more miles tacked onto the hike I sometimes park at Cholla, run to Echo via McDonald Rd., hike up and back down Echo, and then run back to my car. However you choose to enjoy the trails please stay hydrated and know your limits!
Tom’s Thumb Trailhead
This trail is a little further off the beaten path unless you are staying at the very North end of Scottsdale but it’s worth the drive from anywhere else in the valley. I used to live 10 minutes from the trailhead and it is also an awesome spot for mountain biking if that’s your preferred method of travel. The trailhead moved a few years ago as the housing developments expanded so some outdated versions of maps can take you to the wrong location. You’ll drive down Happy Valley Rd. until you see a sign on the right for “Tom’s Thumb Trailhead” and you’ll take a right onto Ranch Gate Rd.
This trailhead has a conversation outlook and restrooms with drinking fountains where you can fill up bottles and backpacks. I would suggest bringing a few snacks on this hike since it’s a bit longer and I always end up with a noisy stomach by the time I am on the descent. There are plenty of different trails to choose from, open desert to bike through, and plenty of rock climbing routes. I personally take the main trail until I reach the first rock climbing route, hike down into the valley, and back up the side of Tom’s Thumb through the caves (I’m not going to make it too easy, explore a little!). Once you’re at the top you’ll be able to see McDowell Mountain, Gateway (another great running/biking spot), and the rest of Greyhawk/Fountain Hills.
The wildlife at Tom’s Thumb far exceeds most other trails in the valley. Depending on the season I have seen all kinds of lizards, jackrabbits, birds, hawks, bobcat, deer, tarantula, and even a desert tortoise after a rainy day. Just remember that you are in their home, leave everything as you find it.
40th & Shea Trailhead
This trailhead is actually relatively close to Camelback’s parking lot and is smack dab in the middle of Paradise Valley. It might be nostalgia that always has me feeling at home here but I love how wide open it seems once you start walking. There are tons of trails that zig and zag all over the preserve and plenty of smaller peaks to choose from. All are great for walking, running, or mountain biking. Whether you want a 15 minute jog or a 3 hour trek it’s perfect for anything in between. Depending on the weather there are typically quite a few species of lizards and rabbits, rattlesnakes, and I have nearly stuck my hand in a Gila Monster’s mouth scrambling on the East side of the preserve so watch your step. Most of these trails will not be nearly as strenuous as Camelback but I would still recommended snacks and at least a gallon of water per person if you plan on hiking around for a few hours in warmer temperatures (plus you’ll get an extra workout carrying that around!).
I have a quite a few trails and climbs further out of town that I love but I will save those for a later post. Leave your favorite hike in the comments below!