Monday, December 20, 2010

My Recovery "Kit" Power Players

"I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more."

- Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

At "CrossFit," working on dynamic back-squats with chains :)

Most days of the week I like to pull what I call "doubles." If I'm lucky with my schedule, I may be even able to pull a "triple." A "double" might look something like this: an a.m. workout, then a p.m. workout (ex: run/climb, "CrossFit"/"Bikram", bike/hike). A "triple"? Well, you just add a third activity to the mix :)

People ask me all the time, "How can you do that? Don't you get sore?" Of course I do. I don't think there's any fool-proof way of completely eliminating DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), what I am sure of, though, is that there are effective ways of doing "damage control," or lessening the soreness.

Ask any athlete, and they'll have their chosen recovery "favorites." Everyone has little tricks that work for her/him. There is no one "bullet" system, just as there is no one fool-proof diet for everyone. I just give suggestions on various nutrition principles that seem to work for the general public in weight management, increased energy, and better health. There's always the "special" diet that someone is on: gluten-free, vegan, macrobiotic, ayurvedic, raw foods, what have you.

The bottom line: its pure trial and error. Unfortunately, the learning curve is more steep for some people than others. I won't bother going into detail on my giving "CLIF" shot blocks a try during a trail race, or trying some new electrolyte product while hiking in the Himalayas. YIKES! Those items will work for some people, but not for others. I've found, that my stomach is extremely sensitive to sorbitol, which is in many "GU" & "NUUN" types of products. For others, they will have zero effect on them.

Due to my occupation in Oriental medicine, I've long had a fascination with the martial arts. If there were only several more hours in a day... :) I find the Shaolin monks fascinating: their training protocols, and astute medical texts, containing sparring/energy/recovery formulas. These active monks, really honed the world's first sports medicine (acupuncture & herbal formulas) in remote region monastaries. There they could experiment in the uses of these herbs and their interactions. You might say a Shaolin monastic was really a combination of monk-physician-athlete.

There were no emergency rooms back then. No one to treat sparring injuries that included deep injuries inflicted by weapons. While the majority of us are just looking to ease our quads or hamstrings after a hill run, the principles are the same: rebuild muscle tissue, strengthen it, reduce inflammation.

There are a hundred new "recovery" formulas and products available now. There's one I use that's an over-the-counter product, which you can purchase online, at REI, or at most running stores. That's the "HAMMER" product called "Recoverite." This is an excellent product, which my sensitive "petri dish" stomach has tested, tried and true. Its an L-Glutamine rich formula, that should be taken directly after hard exercise. The rest of the products are products that are referred to in ancient martial arts texts as being "bullet proof" in speeding recovery. The combination of liver (due to its extremely high amino-acid profile), seaweed (highest magnesium source in the world, better than chromium in stabilizing blood sugar levels) and the spice turmeric (nature's aspirin, not to mention anti-biotic). The three act as a synergistic blend to increase the body's natural capacity to heal itself rapidly.

"NEW CHAPTER" Turmeric Force may be purchased at your local health food store. *Consult your local acupuncturist or naturopathic physician before taking turmeric if you have low Vit. K levels and/or are on any type of blood-thinning medication

This is a picture of seaweed, the laminaria, species to be exact. I take a particular seaweed product, which I order from a Chinese medicine apothecary. Its therapeutic-grade, and very potent. If you have questions about this product, feel free to contact me, and we can see if this is the right product for you. *Consult your local acupuncturist or naturopathic physician before taking a seaweed product if you are hyperthyroid.

"Dr. Ron's" has the highest quality New Zealand, humanely-raised, organic, grass-fed liver available. Its not cheap, but its worth every penny. www.drrons.com *Consult your local acupuncturist or naturopathic physician before taking liver if you know you are pregnant.

recovery product called "Recoverite." www.hammernutrition.com

Acupuncture, in addition to the above suggested supplements, can also greatly assist in releasing "trigger points," reducing inflammation, and healing torn muscle fibers. Massage, with various, anti-inflammatory essential oils, can also be of benefit in soothing strained muscles, and aiding relaxation. Also, having a regular yoga and/or stretching routine is imperative. Its best to think of it as a "non-negotiable." That way it doesn't get ignored ;-}

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Looking Back Over 2010...

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman

Snowshoeing, "Tumalo Mountain," Bend, OR., 11/2010

Reception Party thrown for Stan & I, by Liz Coleman & Tom Herron, 11/2010 ;-}

Married the love-of-my-life, Stanford Davidson, at "Dillon Falls," Bend, OR., 11/12/2010

Rope-climbing at the "CrossFit" Halloween Party! 10/2010

Hiking/Climbing, "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, OR., 10/2010

Handstand Push-Ups, "CrossFit," Bend, OR., 10/2010

"Flagstone," slab climbing with Liz & Randy, 09/2010

"Providence Bridge Pedal," Portland, OR., 08/2010

"Night Climbing," Bend, OR., 08/2010

Rafting "Big Eddy," Bend, OR., 08/2010

"Oyster Urban AR," Portland, OR., 08/2010

"Trek" Dirt Series, Women's Mtn. Bike Camp, Bend, OR., 07/2010

Surfing, Short Sands, Cannon Beach, OR., 07/2010

"HERA Climb 4 Life/Climb 4 The Cure" event in Boulder, CO., 06/2010

"Spring Chicken AR," Redmond, OR., 05/2010

Yoga, 03/2010

Bouldering, "Waime'a Bay," N. Shore, Oahu, 02/2010

Surf trip to the N. Shore, Oahu, 02/2010

Sierra, My Alaskan Malamute, passed in Jan. 2010. She'll always be my best girl...R.I.P., sweet girl...xoxoxo

Monday, November 29, 2010


Almine Barton & Stanford Davidson, married at "Dillon Falls," Bend, OR., 11/12/10

"There is no salvation for the soul but to fall in Love.
Only lovers can escape out of these two worlds...
This was ordained in creation.
Only from the heart can you reach the sky:
The Rose of Glory can grow only from the heart."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

High-Altitude Allies: Plants that help prevent and treat high-altitude sickness

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings." ~John Muir

When I was doing undergrad. research in medical anthropology, my travels took me to far (and high up) places. I spent time not only in the Himalayas, but in the Andes mountains as well. I loved my time in the east, but always felt at home in the Andes. To me, there is nothing else like them. I still long for them, and contemplate often my next journey back to them.

Several of the researchers, from not only the FDA, but also doctoral students from the University of Pennsylvania, crossed our path in Puno, Peru, which is 3,860 m (12,421 ft.) above see level. As we conversed with some of these researchers at a local cafe, it became apparent to me that they had not traveled up to this elevation before. This had me concerned, as some of them were describing onset symptoms of altitude sickness that were beginning to set in amongst the group members. As I inquired more about their research, and where they were headed, it was becoming apparent to me that they were heading up to the altiplano behind us. Our destination research site was at 16,330 ft. I was beginning to feel concerned for their well being.

2 days later, 2 of the FDA researchers had to be life-flighted down to Cuzco. Both of them had severe altitude sickness. Their colleagues had to postpone their time-sensitive research, and fly back to the states.

I wondered, in the back of my mind, since we were studying cultural ethno-botany in Peru, if there was anything that couldv'e assisted or prevented the altitude sickness. Felicia, one of the Uros native yerbarinas (herbalists) said to me that there was. She asked if I would like to go high into the mountains with her the next day to harvest roots that were specific for prevention and treatment of altitude sickness. She also kindly offered to share with me how to prepare them.

Yerbarina, altiplano, 16,330 ft., Peru

2 months later, after having collected all the plant samples and data that we needed to for our anthropology dept., we came back to the U.S. I missed the Andes, the culture, the people, the food, the air. I missed those mountains. I knew I would not only be called back there again (only to return a year later), but also to other high places of the world. From rock faces to mountain passes, my life has been about seeking the high places of the world, where the birds are free, and the quiet is the only "noise" you hear.

The information that I learned, not only in the Himalayas, but in the Andes as well, as to what plants can be used to assist with altitude training and sickness, I now pass on to you.

Quechua native boy, holding a newly harvested Maca root (a botanical "cousin" of the radish), altiplano, 16,330 ft., Peru

The following plants you want to have in your "arsenal" of training supplements/altitude sickness kit*:

-Maca Root
-Yerba Mate
-Suma root
-Ling Zhi mushroom
-Rhodiola root
-Astragalus root
-Adrenal Glandular (org.)
-Kidney Glandular (org.)

Some of the above herbs/roots are considered "adaptogens," or "adrenal tonics." Interestingly enough (and this is a completely separate blog, in and of itself), caffeine, and caffeinated beverages are very helpful in altitude adjustment. Hence the yerba mate included above. Coca leaf is also used in Peru, which is a caffeinated tea leaf. In fact, the coca leaf is what the maker of "Coca-Cola" derived his original recipe from, because it was so highly effective in helping him adjust to altitude during his travels throughout the Andes. I'm not suggesting you use "Coca-Cola." The sugar and carbonation are not a good combo. to assist with the nausea that comes along with altitude sickness. In fact, they will prolong the symptoms.

What I do in the clinic is custom-make "high altitude training formulas" for my traveler patients, and athletes-in-training. They are highly effective, and my patients report wonderful results using them. My suggestion is to seek an acupuncturist to assist you in your area, at least several weeks in advance to your trip, or onset of your training regime, so that you may begin the formula 2-3 weeks before increasing altitude. You'll also need to take the formula consistently while you're there, and for several days after, as you come down in altitude to allow the body to adjust.

I would not suggest going to a health food store and purchasing the above herbs on your own, and beginning to take them without supervision. There are drug-supplement-herb interactions that may occur, if you're already on medication. You will need assistance with dosage per sex, body weight, how many days your there, how hard you're training, etc. This is something that a clinician should assist you with.

When people take either herbs or supplements because they "read about it" somewhere, they usually are not taking a proper dosage and/or they are taking the wrong herbs. Then people say, "Well, they really don't work." They work. They've been tested throughout the centuries to work. They need to be worked with, however, a skilled practitioner and his/her experience.

Tibetan refugee camp, Himalayan foothills, India

In addition, the clinician will recommend a list, based on your particular constitution, of foods that will help to strengthen your immunity, and keep you healthy during your travels and/or training. In eastern medicine, there is no "one size fits all." There is no BMI index or magic "bullet" list of foods for you to eat. Whether you're a female vs. male athlete, where you're at in your life cycle, how much you exercise, and even what time (& season) you're training/traveling, is all taken into account. This is why this list is customized to you and your goals.

Please call your local acupuncturist or Naturopathic physician for further information on high-altitude training formulas. A clinician whose practice is focused in sports medicine, and working with athletes, is your best bet.

*Of course, you'll want to consult your doctor before taking any of the above supplements, in conjunction with exercise or training. For the glandulars, you should get them from a grass-fed, reputable, organic source. Quality counts.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spine Health: The gauge of overall wellness, & why its important

~Doing a 'lil "triangle pose" with the "Bikram Yoga" crew before kayaking on the "Deschutes River"

"The spine should be as supple as a baby, as flexible as a willow tree..." ~Eastern Proverb

When you walk down the street, how many elderly people do you see hunched over as they move? Their shoulders rounded, their posture appearing uncomfortable? In our culture we seek chiropractors to help our spines "get aligned" or "adjusted." While this is a viable option, certainly, we must ask ourselves what our personal responsibility is to maintaining proper spine health. How can we best achieve this? Lets explore, first, the importance of the "staff of life," as the ancients referred to the spine. How does it affect our every movement, our sense of well being, and our emotional status?

We first can all attest to the fact that when we're experiencing pain our emotional well being is affected. It affects our state of mind, and how we feel throughout our day. When we look at the majority of musculo-skeletal complaints, we can typically trace them back to a spine that is in a state of dis-ease (& possibly has been for awhile). The way we walk, run & move about our day is all contingent upon an operable spine. One that is doing what its supposed to do, which is maintaining an upright, balanced posture, allowing the body to adapt to variances in surface change or environment (i.e. hills, pavement, gravel, sand, uneven surfaces, etc.).

In every culture around the world, spine health is emphasized in the health care system. I've had the opportunity to travel the globe, studying indigenous or traditional methods of medicine since 1994. My undergraduate degree was in Medical Anthropology. From yoga in India and Tibet, to Pilates in Germany, from capoeira in Brazil to Tai Chi in China, for centuries systems have been put into place to maintain the proper health of "the tree of life."

The spine, referenced as a tree, gives us the sense that if we nourish it with the same foundational principles, that it can bear fruit for many years to come. The question is how to go about doing this? While all of the above systems of spine health, from yoga to Tai Chi work, it will be the most effective if you find one that you know you'll be compliant with. It does little good, I tell my patients, to have a bottle of herbs on your shelf, if you do not take them. To find a system or methodology to maintain, with consistency, the well-being of your spine is the most vital.

There is a re-surgence in the running community of making note of postural alignment while running to prevent pain, and to give "the upper edge" in running performance. Concepts such as the "POSE Method," "Chi Running," "Barefoot Running" are all answering a call within us to evaluate the motion of injury-free running, and how we can affect this ourselves simply by the way we move. By "body sense-ing," as Danny Dreyer calls it, we can become in tune with the rhythm of the breath, how our feet touch the ground, and how it really all comes back to the postural alignment of the spine. Danny combines his knowledge of working with the ancient art of Tai Chi with his love of ultra-running in his book, "Chi Running." A fascinating read, weaving the principles of the east with the knowledge of the west.

Danny invites us to look at the notion of viewing nature: this includes watching the suppleness of the spine health of children at play, to the magnificence of a cheetah running. What do these things tell you about the flexibility of their spines, and how that affects the movement of the appendages?

A large majority of yoga asanas (poses) are named after animals: "the locust," "cobra," "downward dog," "cow pose," "the cat," etc. Various systems of Tai Chi & Qi Gong are named after animals. An example: "Soaring Crane Qi Gong." What is the meaning of this? Ancient rishis (sages) throughout time have observed that animals move fluidly, not with rigidity. Even when an animal is about to pounce on its prey, and is rigid in body, the sages say, "they're 1000 times more supple than a human being relaxed." The above poses or styles of movement from the east are to assist us in re-gaining the suppleness of our youth. Another example of reference to the state of suppleness that is exhibited by children in the system of yoga is the "child's pose." Again, the way children move is light as a feather. When they run, they run with lightness in their being, not a sense of gravity pulling on them.

The maintaining of proper spine health and alignment is not a one time thing. It is like tending to a garden. There is no end to it, and the joy is in the journey. When this is performed regularly, people need practitioners like myself less. Backs don't just "go out," injuries recover quickly, muscles are well-developed, and posture is maintained. I invite you to find a system of spine health, and treat it as the cog in the wheel to your exercise regime. The spokes coming out of the cog are additional activities which bring you joy: biking, hiking, climbing, surfing, dancing, running, skipping, jumping...

It is never a bad thing to have periodic "tune-ups" from a chiropractor that you trust. Particularly when one is very active. My chiropractor in Bend, Dr. Jason Kremer, said to me upon my last check-up: "Your spine is in such good health, I don't even know what to say, except for keep doing that yoga. There is no need to adjust anything." I was in and out of his office within 5 mins.

Eastern wisdom suggests, "When there's yin, you do yang. When yang is predominant you do yin." How does this seemingly esoteric advice apply to the concept of spine health? We walk upright and bend forward all day. To maintain perfect yin/yang balance, we must cultivate movements opposite in nature: a variety of backward bends, inversions such as hand/headstands, defying gravity like a bird.

The latest statistics prove that cardiovascular health is best maintained for longevity when inversions are done on a regular basis, thereby providing "additional assistance" to the heart to move blood more readily towards the brain. In addition to cardiovascular health, studies also prove that "brain power," cognitive thinking skills & memory is improved by the above mentioned movements. This has been said in the east for thousands of years. Assist the body in pumping blood and lymph more efficiently through proper spine health, and you will be rewarded with a long, happy, and healthy life.

~Rehearsing prior to a bellydancing performance, Oct. '09

"The spine is the key to all. Maintain it well, and chiropractors will come to you." ~Bikram Choudry

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Karma Yoga: Turning Action Into Benefit For Others

“In Karma-yoga no effort is ever lost, and there is no harm. Even a little practice of this discipline protects one from great fear [of birth and death].” ~Bhagavad Gita

"Suck My Kiss," 10a, "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, OR.

In Sanskrit, the literal translation of the word "karma" is action. The word "yoga," also a Sanskrit term, means "to yoke, or to become one with." Therefore, the two words, "Karma Yoga," indicate that right action leads to a "yoking" with, or a union with the Divine, or the inner self.

Throughout the week I read the blogs, posts, & "tweets" of athletes the world over. The ones that have left an impression in my mind are the ones who take their given sport of choice, and choose to benefit others through their action. The first person that comes to mind when I think of the practice of karma yoga, or taking an action and turning it into benefit for others, is my dear friend Lisa Shannon (see the link to her blog, "A Thousand Sisters" below). She has taken a beloved action (trail-running), and has used it to benefit thousands of women in the war-torn country of Congo (DRC). She was named "Runner's World" philanthropist runner of the year. Her epic story, of how right action (karma yoga) was reached in her life through pounding the mud-beaten "Wildwood Trail" in Forest Park (Portland, OR.) can be read about on her website at: www.runforcongowomen.org

When the notion of climbing entered my life, I was instantly drawn to it. It was a metaphor for not only seeing the earth from a bird's eye-view, but also it provided a lense with which to view my inner world; to see what heights I could reach inside myself. Climbing continues to provide me with the opportunity to conquer my fears, push my mental abilities, and see the world from a new perspective. I feel the breeze that the birds feel on their face from on high. I hear the stories of the people on the path below me. I wonder, how may I use this modality, this practice, as a way of benefitting others...of creating right action in my life?

This Thurs., June 10th is my birthday. Normally, I embrace any excuse to have a celebration or a party. I enjoy laughter, and the sense of comaraderie I feel at social gatherings. However, this year, I decided to use my birthday as a way to incite myself to think beyond the typical birthday theme. I wanted to combine elements in my life that I love most: climbing, non-profit work, and raising money for a cause bigger than myself.

This year, over the weekend, I'll be "Climbing For Life." "Climb For Life" is to ovarian cancer what "Race For The Cure" is to breast cancer awareness. I will be wearing my grandmother's name, Jo Ellen Barton, on my back as I climb. Although Grandma Barton passed of cervical cancer, she nonetheless will be present in my heart during the event. She lived a life of mental toughness. She raised 4 children on a houseboat in the middle of the icy waters of Alaska. She hunted dinner for her children, learned how to fly a bush plane to search for her pilot husband in the arctic storms, and become an avid runner in her later years. She ran along her beloved beach trail, up to 10 miles a day before she passed at age 55. I honor her, and all other women and families who have been affected by reproductive cancer of any kind (ovarian, cervical, uterine, etc.) I'm honored to be climbing at this event with such climbing masters as Jason Kehl and Olivia Hsu. I look forward to spending time with them on the rock for this great cause.

I'd like to take the time to thank the following businesses for supporting and/or donating to my climb this weekend (be it through donation or product):

-Dr. K.E. Edmisten, N.D., L.Ac., Newport, OR.
-Mario Riquelme, Attorney At Law, Bend, OR.
-Amy Mendenhall, L.Ac., M.Ac.O.M., Portland, OR.
-"PGC Building + Design", Bend, OR.
-"FootZone", Bend, OR.
-Kerri Duncan of "Holistic 4 Pet," Portland, OR.
-Bonnie Povolny, L.Ac., M.Ac.O.M., Portland, OR.
-"Emerald Smoothie," Bend, OR.
-"Oregon CrossFit," Bend, OR.
-"Redpoint Climbers Supply," Terrebonne, OR.
-Misako Yamamoto, L.Ac., M.Ac.O.M., Portland, OR.
-Dr. Jason Kremer, D.C., Bend, OR.
-Dr. Lisa Shaver, N.D., L.Ac., Portland, OR.

***Thank You For Your Generosity, & For Being A Part Of My Fundraising Climb***

10c crack, "Meadow Camp," Bend, OR.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fats: Friend, Not Foe

In years gone by, the coconut has waxed and waned in the eyes of the public. Rumors of saturated fat being the "lethal" ingredient to all that ails us colored our view of this nutritional powerhouse. We were lectured by the food industry to stay away from this innocent culprit. What drove such vehemence against this life-saving food, and why do we still consume it with fear in the backs of our minds?

If we look at cultures whose primary fats are saturated, versus the consumption of trans-fats (which America is the biggest consumer of in the world), we will find very little heart disease, obesity, and cancer in general populace studies (read: "Nutrition & Physical Degeneration," Weston A. Price). Americans revel in single-handed "food blame": we're overweight because of... (insert word here: stress, sugar, fat, etc.). In truth, the public is pining for more sound, independently conducted studies, those which are not funded by a vested party.

Coconut oil is one of the most powerful nutrient-dense allies for the body. It is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. It is used internally, and for topical reasons, such as rashes, burns, etc. It is one of the easiest fats for the liver to process, and is typically thought of as a "satiation bullet." What this means is that when you include coconut oil in your diet, you will feel fuller, faster.

You may see on the internet, hear on "Oprah," and read in popular women's magazines about the "thermogenic effect" (ability to speed up metabolism) of coconut oil. This statement is accurate. It nourishes the thyroid, from a Chinese medicine perspective, thereby taking care of this vital endocrine gland which helps normalize weight.

There are two things which "activate" CCK (cholecystikinin) in the gut, the "satiation hormone": fat and fiber. If you're deficient, or low, in one of these two areas, your body's metabolism is sure to slow down. You give the opportunity for the body to feel full often, by feeding it healthy fats and high fiber foods (throw some good, high-quality protein in there), your body will be constantly re-reminded that it has no worry of starvation. The effect? A healthy, metabolism, which functions at optimal peak condition.

One of the biggest reasons for type 2 diabetes in this country is over-eating. Other countries call this disease, "the rich man's disease," as it typically is western industrialized nations that eat the portions that we do. Why are we not satisfied with the portion-size served to the French, Italians, Indians, or Thai? Yes, this is a complex problem, which has many issues as contributing to the problem. One is that we don't take time to enjoy the pleasure of our food. We don't allow CCK to kick in before we stop eating (statistically, this takes 20-30 mins.) Having a healthy amount of good fats in the diet, combined with fiber-filled food, will be the winning combination to create a sense of satiation early on within the meal.

By including such fats as coconut oil in the meal, you will notice your portion sizes decreasing without you even trying to do this. You will feel satisfied, and not hungry.

Coconut oil is one of the few oils that is heat-stable. What this means is that it may be used for high-heat baking, sauteeing, cooking, frying, etc., without losing its therapeutic or medicinal components. Olive oil is NOT this way. It should not be thought of as a cooking oil. In European countries, butter is used for high-heat baking and cooking. Olive oil is used for salads, and bread-dipping. Omega-3 oils such as olive oil, flax seed oil, borage oil, and cod liver oil should all be used for condiments only, and should be refrigerated at all times. If you purchase flax seed oil (or any other omega 3 oil) in capsules from your local health food store, and they're not refrigerated, you're not getting your money's worth. Only purchase these oils refrigerated. Once open, refrigerate them immediately. They are medicinally worthless not refrigerated.

(notice the color of the olive oil: dark green, not white or "greyish", this is what you're looking for in high-quality olive oil)

When I managed supplement departments around the country, during my undergrad. in college, this was the first thing I would change: out with all the un-refrigerated oils, put all cod liver oil, flax seed oil, etc. in the refrigerator. Patients say to me, "Almine, I don't notice any difference from the flax seed oil capsules I take daily." I ask them if they bought them on the store shelf. 99% of the time the answer is "yes." No wonder. We'd like to think that the "nice" people at the supplement companies have our backs in us wanting to feel a difference from their products, but the reality is, that as supplements, organics, etc. become more "mainstream" large agri-business companies are buying them up at a rapid rate. For instance, "Coca-Cola" recently bought the organic label "Cascadian Farm." What does this mean? Quality control goes down. When people don't feel a difference from their supplements, they typically keep buying more of the same supplement, because "I'm sure I'm just not taking enough." Its a vicious cycle.

I ask my patients to bring in the supplements that they're on. You would be shocked that I have several patients per week who will dump out 1-2 grocery bags of bottles on my desk. I ask them if they feel a difference from taking all of these supplements. Generally, the answer is "No." I'm assuming they aren't feeling what they want to be feeling, or they wouldn't be in my office.

(the best fermented, high-vitamin cod liver oil around. "Blue Ice" fermented cod liver oil can be purchased from: www.drrons.com)

Healthy, high-quality fats actually assist the body in absorbing proper nutrients, and breaking down plant cellulose fiber. This is crucial, as otherwise, your body is ill-equipped to do this on its own. Your grandmother knew exactly what she was doing when she fried up those collard greens in lard and poured a little vinegar on top. This is why our ancestors realized that oil was crucial to the nutrient absorption from raw vegetables (hence salad dressing). Acid plus oil equals the ideal "solvent" for proper plant cellulose break-down (but we'll save the topic of acids for another blog).

A low-fat diet is not the best option. Even for those with gallbladder issues, or even for folks whose gallbladders have been removed. The type of oil is to be considered, and my recommendation would be coconut oil.

When purchasing coconut oil, my recommendation would be extra-virgin, fermented coconut oil. You may purchase this at: www.wildernessfamilynaturals.com or www.tropicaltraditions.com

Coconut oil is an ideal oil for the athlete. I take 6 capsules per hr. for endurance events. Past 2 hours of vigorous, ongoing exercise, your body is in need of a more long-term fat source for fuel. Dean Karnazes, the "Ultra-Marathon Man" prefers vials of olive oil, 1 per hr. He learned this trick from the "Navy SEALS," as they've tested this fat source out as fuel in the most rugged of conditions.

I would experiment for yourself to find your ideal oil source for endurance sports. Coconut oil seems to be easier on my digestive system. The digestive system goes into "hibernation" mode, so that all necessary fuel goes directly to the muscles during exercise. Coconut oil seems to not bother my stomach, make me feel nauseated, and gives me long-lasting energy.

A question I get often is, "How do you take coconut oil when you're exercising? Isn't it cumbersome and messy?" I take it in capsules (see brand below). Your local health food store may carry this product. If not, you can order it directly online.

I would highly recommend reading up on coconut oil's benefits, incorporating it into your cooking, baking, and other high-heat activities. Melt it like butter, and put it in a smoothie. Its a versatile oil whose health benefits will be felt within hours.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sports Drinks Simplified: Which One Is The Right One For Me?

We've all heard about the importance of fluid hydration during exercise. Hydration for the athlete is a topic that is consistently being debated upon. From exercise physiologists to personal trainers, everyone has an opinion on how to deal with the issue, and what products to take.

While there is no one simple answer to this question, I do have some ideas for you to explore and play with. Ultimately, like nutrient intake, it will be a question of trial-and-error. You will need to go through the "gauntlet" of figuring out proper proportions and what products are right for you.

A tip would be to begin asking various athletes what they recommend, their personal favorite hydration products or beverages, and then give them a try. In addition, you will need to calculate how much hydration will be needed for your given event, and plan accordingly.

Unfortunately, I figured out the hard way, last year, during the "Xterra 10k" trail-run that I had drunk not only too much fluid before the race, but was also carrying way too much liquid in my "Camelbak" pack during the race. It weighted me down, and was unnecessary for me to be carrying that much while I ran.

So what is the "magic formula" for how many ounces to drink per hour, what product to take, etc.? The simple answer is: there is none. There are some guidelines and suggestions I may make, however, as I continue upon my own quest for the "perfect" hydration beverage for me (if there is one).

First and foremost, I am an advocate of getting your fuel from as natural a source(s) as possible, as often as you can. This is sometimes not possible, nor is it practical. For instance, I have 2 "natural" electrolyte replacement beverages that I choose from, and 1 powder-form electrolyte replacement to mix in with my water when needed. Why have this variety? One of the products that I like (will go into more detail below) comes in a glass bottle. It contains apple cider vinegar (ACV). ACV (or any other acidic juice, such as lemon, lime, etc.) should not be put in plastic. The acids "eat away at" or "leach" the plastic, thereby extracting potentially harmful compounds from the plastic into the water, which you then ingest. That's counter-productive. Also, a bunch of glass bottles can add up in weight if you're carrying a heavy pack, running a long-distance, etc. I keep that beverage for when I do "Bikram" yoga, because its easy to transport to the yoga studio. I keep my powder-electrolyte mix in a bag with a scoop (which is light in weight to carry) for backpacking trips, long climbing days, camping, etc.

I also suggest rotating sports beverages of choice (have an "arsenal" of 2-3 to pick from), so that you don't get bored with the same taste. Many people have an aversion to drinking something when they either don't like the taste, or get tired of it. So, think variety, yet consistency in electrolyte profile.

While there is no bullet-proof formula, "Hammer Nutrition" has put out a "guideline" that is fairly good to follow. It, at least, will get you started:

*FLUIDS: 20-25 oz. hourly
*SODIUM CHLORIDE (salt): 300-600 mg. hourly
*CALORIES: 240-280 cal. hourly

Again, if you're interested in a particular sport (ultra-running, Adventure Racing, cycling, etc.) talk to experts, friends, and folks who have put various electrolyte-replacement beverages to the test, and ask them for advice.

Here are my top 3 Favs.:

*"Amy & Brian's Coconut Juice" (this comes in a variety of flavors, & with/without the "pulp"). Check out the following link on this beverage: http://amyandbriannaturals.com/pdf/Coconut_Natures_Sports_Drink.pdf

*BRAGG'S Apple Cider Vinegar Drink. Check out the following link for this beverage: http://bragg.com/products/bragg-organic-apple-cider-vinegar-drink-honey.html

*"Hammer Nutrition" HEED electrolyte-replacement powder drink mix (comes in a variety of flavors). Check out the following link on this beverage: http://www.hammernutrition.com/products/heed-sports-drink.he.html?navcat=fuels-energy-drinks

There are very few over-the-counter sports drink mixes that settle well in my stomach. I've never had a problem with any of the "Hammer Nutrition" products. They pay meticulous attention to using such natural sweeteners in the products as stevia and xylitol, which in turn, keep your blood sugar nice and steady. Products such as "Gatorade," or any of the other myriad sports beverages you purchase at the grocery store cause excessive spikes in blood sugar, thereby setting the body up to "crash" during your event. The body doesn't process rapid jumps in blood-sugar all that well. The mantra to keep in mind is "slow and steady wins the race." Keep your hydration levels and nutrient levels at a nice, consistent "hum" throughout your day, and all will be well. Achieving this may take some time to figure out. Be easy with yourself, and realize that every new product is "on trial" by your gut until it proves itself one way or another. Many trails have been "christened" by athletes as they undergo this process of figuring out what works for their body. Its great if we can avoid this part, and skip to knowing exactly what works for us during long days of activity, but not always possible.

To look more closely at the nutrient/electrolyte profile of each above mentioned beverage I suggested, I recommend going to the links I provided and searching more on the internet about the benefits of each product. A blog post could be done, in and of itself, on the various benefits of raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar.

I hope today's blog was helpful to you, and that it sparked interest for you to undergo the process in finding a good electrolyte/hydration source for your body's needs. ***ENJOY***

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm Climbing For Cancer On My Birthday...Please Join Me In Supporting The HERA Foundation

Me climbing on "Super Slab," 2nd pitch, "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, OR. 2009

This year, for my birthday (6/10), I've decided to do something a little different. I'm going to turn my passion, climbing, into something of benefit to others. I'll be going to Boulder, Colorado to climb for the HERA "Climb For Life" fundraising event. HERA is a non-profit that invests 85% of the money raised to find a cure for ovarian cancer. Please assist me in raising money for this great cause. I'll be climbing the beautiful spires of Boulder thinking of my grandmother, Jo Ellen Barton, who died of cancer. Below is my personal donation page. I invite you to visit it, & make a tax-deductible donation today. *Thank You*


"Super Slab," 2nd pitch, "Smith Rock," Terrebonne, OR., 2009

Monday, April 26, 2010

PASSION: "The Fire of Life"

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman

Route Name: "Carla The Stripper," Smith Rock, Terrebonne, OR., Apr. 2010
(I'm leading this route on the arete in the picture. I look like a little ant on the rock. My friend, Julie Z., is belaying me below)

It seems that outdoor climbing season has finally descended upon Central OR. Fri.-Sun., unless I'm treating patients up in Portland, I'm now out climbing. This will last until it gets too cold to climb outside again.

It feels good to see all the hardwork and training I put into "CrossFit" and "Bikram Yoga" over the winter pay off with my passion. I feel more confident about my strength, balance and flexibility this year than I did the year before. My endurance feels better, and my mind feels more focused.

What is your passion? Do you have one that draws you back to it, over and over again? Do you have several that overlap and accentuate one another (an example may be: dancing/acting/singing)? Is there a passion that has always nagged you to be expressed, but hasn't been given a voice yet?

When you give expression to the latent talents or tendencies within you, you'll find that a host of wonderful things will come your way. From new friends to new opportunities, you'll find that when you go after what's important to you, new adventures ensue. I have a friend who once said to me, "I just go after what I'm interested in. The Universe handles the details." How I interpreted her statement was in light of the following:

We all have hidden talents, or latent seeds that want to flower. When we "follow our bliss" its like the Universe gets "in step" with us, and does what it can to help us express those talents. We meet the "right people," are put in the "right situations" to help "nudge us along" in that direction. Its a wonderful cycle of expressing your passion, and being "rewarded" for it through a flood of abundant new experiences and people that come into your life.

Perhaps you've always wanted to be a dancer. All of a sudden, as you put thought-energy into wondering what it would be like to pick out your dancing costume, find a dance studio, or purchase your new dancing shoes, the lady on the bus turns around and says to you, "Are you a dancer? I thought I saw you in a performance last week." Or, "Hey, did you watch 'Dancing With The Stars' last night?" These "little things" are clues: clues that are affirming your intent with your new-found passion. Urging you to express it, hone it, love it, cherish it.

Passionate people are what this world needs. "Doers," not "talkers": "doers" make their passions come alive, and thereby inspire others to do the same as well. Passionate people make the world a better place. They inspire change, action and enthusiasm. Ask yourself what your top 5 passions are. Write them down. Ruminate on them, meditate on them, see yourself in your mind as not only doing them, but being successful at them. Pretty soon, you'll find the Universe "conspiring" with you to create all the right circumstances for your passion to find an outlet. Ultimately, that outlet is you...

Route Name: "Carla The Stripper," Smith Rock, Terrebonne, OR., Apr. 2010

"One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested." — E. M. Forste

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Vertical World: "With The Vision Of An Eagle, You May See More"

"But What Really Interests Me Is The Struggle. And I Like To Be Interested." ~ Steph Davis, Climber, Author

"Waime'a Boulders, N. Shore, Oahu, 2010"

A friend of mine once said, "Almine, why would you climb? Its the fastest way to get to nowhere." While there may be some accuracy to this statement, what I'm interested in, as Steph Davis said, is the struggle. There is a place for resistance in life. We've been taught to not resist anything. That to "resist" is a negative thing. Women, in particular, have been taught to yield to all things. To please everyone around them. Saying "Yes" to everything denotes a kind of benign mother image. Yet isn't resistance the very power behind how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly? Isn't that how a baby is born? "Through contraction (resistance) and expansion (non-resistance) we experience the Tao", the great philosopher, Lao Tzu has said.

Climbing, for me, is a way of experiencing a natural cycle of frustration and accomplishment, which internally, makes me strong. Strong enough to encounter obstacles in my life and barely give them a glance. There is a dance of chaos and order in this universe. A delicate balance of yin and yang, as the Chinese say.

To actively dive into one's own process of experiencing the art of letting go, and resisting when appropriate, is the stuff of champions. "The body may be used as a platform for the mind," says centuries old martial arts wisdom. One may liken the body to a stage, where the drama of contraction and expansion plays out on the most minute level. From the opening and closing of the heart, the eyelids, and the lungs to the opening and closing of the mind itself. Notions, ideas and thoughts, become the "stuff" that allows us to be creators. Creators of our own reality.

I use my body as a stage to move through the landscape of the vertical world. In this vast sky matrix I experience the opportunity to master fear, and see with the vision of an eagle. I experience the joy of seeing how tiny we all really look from the heavens. When you see people, the size of ants below you, you marvel at how the birds must see us. Our lives, our conversations, those close to us all walking along the hiking trail next to the river. They cannot see you, but you hear their stories. Stories of sorrow, pain, joy & wonder. You understand how tiny and insignificant we all really are, yet what an impact each one of us can have on the eco-system at large.

Though you may not feel drawn to the sport of climbing, think about taking 5 minutes out of your day to contemplate what "With The Vision Of An Eagle" means. What does it mean to you? What if you were a bird, in its nest, peering hundreds of feet down below? How would you see the earth, its creatures and people on the ground? When life is seen from a bird's-eye view, a deep sense of compassion for the human plight ensues. You see the precious, delicate thread that weaves us all together. The mind switches into a place of tranquility realizing that really, deep down, all creatures just want to experience love. Everything that takes place on the ground, from a higher vantage point, is a result of some deep need to love and be loved. All else is commentary.

"I'm always inspired to work really hard and get better at those things that I'm not naturally good at. That is usually what drives me-if something isn't easy, if I flail a little bit." ~Steph Davis

Almine, & her friends, Julie & Brian, "Smith Rock", Terrebonne, OR. 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Heat, Steam, Yogis & Curry: My journey to India & How I Came Upon "Bikram Yoga"

"If you can keep your mind calm and focused while moving the body in intense heat, that is meditation. It will trickle into your daily life and everything else will seem easy. You will be unmoved by the adversities of life." ~Bikram Choudry

Really, I've been playing peek-a-boo with "Bikram Yoga" for years. Unknowingly, its been tapping me on the shoulder since 1994. When I was 12 years old, I found the classic work "Autobiography of a Yogi" in a box in our garage. I was enamored with the man on the cover. I picked it up, took it to my bedroom with the rusty old flashlight I found next to it, and read through the night.

The next morning I asked my mom about the author, Paramahansa Yogananda. We were having a quiet breakfast of scones, tea and rose petal jelly. My mom's eyebrow raised, and said, "How do you know about him?" I told her that I found his book in the garage, and had stayed up all night reading it. I explained to her my fascination with the contents of the book, and asked her what prompted her to buy it. "I didn't buy it," she replied. "It fell on my head, off of a bookshelf, in a bookstore. The owner of the bookstore said, 'Well, I think you were meant to have this.' I took it home and put it in that box you found it in last night."

-Paramahansa Yogananda

I told her that instead of having the family vacation this year in "Disneyland," I wanted to go to India instead. "India???" she gasped. "Do you think you would like it there?" I looked at her simply and said, "I know I would. I've already lived there." She began to laugh and started to clear the table. Nothing more was said after that.

In 1994, I told my parents it was time for me to go to India. "Alone?" my dad asked me. "Yes," I said. I don't want you or mom to go with me. "We're concerned about your safety, honey," my mom said softly. "I want your dad to go with you." "No, I need to do this for myself," I stated.

To fastforward, I had the experience of a lifetime. I primarily stayed in the south, but would meet fellow pilgrimage-travelers along my journey who would drop the names "Bikram," "Bishnu Gosh," and "Paramanhansa Yogananda." Every time I would hear these names I would get what I called "truth bumps," i.e. "the tingles."

In 1996, I began to have dreams of going back to India. I would wake up in the morning, covered in sweat, not understanding why. All I knew is that it was time to go back, and this time it would be to the north, and to the Himalayas. So I did in 1997. I can only describe my several month journey there as wondrous. I did several internships in Ayurvedic hospitals in Varanasi (Benares), Rishikesh, and outside of Delhi. I came to see the workings of an ancient system of medicine that was brought forth from the minds of the highest sages at the time: Ayurveda

-Bishnu Gosh, brother of Parmahansa Yogananda

There are expounding works on Ayurveda that are too numerous to count. Deepak Chopra, M.D. the renowned Indian Ayurvedic "transplant" has made it a household word in the U.S. now. Like in Western medicine, there are many areas of specialty. For the sake of efficiency, I'm going to share a bit about my exposure to "yoga therapy," as prescribed in Ayurvedic hospitals throughout India.

The first Ayurvedic medical ward I had the opportunity to intern in was in Kerala, South India. It was during my first trip. I was astounded at how the simple combination of heat, humidity, and various yoga postures (asanas) were used effectively to treat a variety of ailments: arthritis (of all kinds), paralysis, bow-leggedness, all manners of anxiety-related disorders, poor digestion, musculo-skeletal complaints, and as an adjunct therapy for cancer and hepatitis patients.

I asked one of the Ayurvedic physicians about it, and he said, "Heat and yoga have been the preferred combination for thousands of years to treat all manners of disease. To have one without the other can actually be detrimental to the body. The Yogis of India were sage-physicians. The body was their scientific laboratory. They have meticulously honed, for thousands of years, the science of physical therapy before it was even heard of in the West."

An old therapeutic adage, found in a 6th century Unani (Islamic) medical text reads, "For all manners of joint ailments, bury the patients body in hot sand to promote sweating, leaving face above the ground. Allow the patient to sweat in the heat, and the disease will flee the body."

Upon my second trip to India, I realized that I "just so happened" to live about 2 blocks from Lahiri Mahasaya's old house. Sri (a term of respect) Mahasaya was in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda, whom I had read about in the book I found in the box when I was 12 years old. Intrigued, I went down to visit his home, now a shrine, on a lunch hour break in Varanasi. There I met a strange little man who too was walking around the home viewing the photographs on the wall. It was just him and I in the house. He looked at me and sighed under his breath..."Tsk, tsk, he said. You've always been a naughty girl, but in your heart so devoted." I whirled around to look at him, "I'm sorry, are you talking to me?," I asked. Don't you recognize your home?" he said. "Its been waiting for you here all this time. Why did you stay away so long? We've missed you!" his eyes twinkled. My jaw dropped. I stammered, "Sir, I've never been here before. I'm sorry, have we met?" "You sure about that?" he laughed. Then walked out the front door. I never saw him again. I just shrugged, and thought "How odd," as I tried to rub the "truth bumps" off of my arms. I felt warm all of a sudden.

I went back to the hospital that day, and heard about "Bikram Yoga" for the first time. I watched post-stroke and "Parkinsons" patients do yoga in a "hot room." I asked the Dr., Dr. Mahendra, how this would help them. He said, "This is like doing physical therapy everyday for themselves." Their bodies will begin to feel supple, their ligaments will become strong, and the sickness will run from them. In one years time, of doing this 5x per week, chiropractors will come to them to ask how they got their backs so strong. Wait and see."

I said, "It seems like there's a particular order to this. Is that true?" Dr. Mahendra replied, "Everything moves in cycles. All of nature moves in cycles. The ancient sages saw a rhythm, an order, that the body should be properly warmed up, and cooled down. You do not put the car in reverse before you've put the key in the ignition. Nor do you put the car in "park," before you've stopped it." Yes, the body must be kept at a proper temperature during the postural exercises to prevent cold-contraction of the muscles, fascia and ligaments. You warm-up or cool-down the body out of order it gets "confused." Its like asking a rabbit to give birth in the winter. It is out of order with nature. Rabbits give birth in the spring. For every backward bend, the next will be a forward one. For every left-sided bend, there will be a right-sided one. The new fangled yoga of today is out of harmony with the body. It does not take into account natural laws and cycles."

From my perspective as a health care provider, I've been exposed to many yoga practices. The heat is an essential element for the body to stretch properly, without over-stretching. To practice in a cold room is a detriment. Many winter fitness enthusiasts come in to see me for what we term "cold-contracted syndromes." This is particularly noted in the Pacific N.W., where the dampness sets into the bones and creates what we call in Chinese medicine, "Bi Syndrome." The main herbal ingredients in the formulas used to treat "Bi Syndrome" are "venting" herbs (i.e. herbs that make you sweat or diaphoretics: peppermint, cayenne, ginger, garlic, "hot" spices, etc.). Why not do this for yourself by engaging in a yoga practice such as "Bikram?" You do not need to have an ailment to practice this yoga, although I do think of it as a "medical yoga," because of its incredible value on all vital organs and fascia of the body. It should be practiced with the mindset of prevention as well. This goes for acupuncture. My Oriental patients come to see me 1x per month in Portland to "stay well." They know that acupuncture has been proven to boost (and maintain) a healthy immune system. They don't have the western concept of "only fix it when its broken." They don't let it get to that point. We westerners can learn a lot from considering the concept of prevention.

Like any exercise or activity, there is a "hump" you have to move through. They say, statistically, it takes 3 weeks to get into a habit. The body may put up a bit of "a fight" as toxins are released more rapidly through the bloodstream, and excreted through waste (i.e. sweat, feces, saliva, urine). You may feel dizzy, nauseated, get headaches during the initial process. "Why would I want to put myself through that?" you may ask. Let me ask you this, "Would you prefer for those toxins to build up in your system, quietly 'sleep,' and then one day you wake up with a diagnosis of something more severe?" That's how toxins function: they build up over time, like dust in between floorboards. The dust doesn't constantly try to get your attention asking you to sweep it. You must have a cleaning schedule to keep up with it. Like weeding a garden. No one will do it for you. Its about taking responsibility for yourself, tending to your own inner garden. It actually is a very empowering process when you realize that your health is in your own hands. Take care of it. Nourish it. Allow your body to experience the scientific process behind warming it up and cooling it down in a proper way.

The rest of my exercise world is one of change. This is purposeful on my part. I keep things varied, prevent my body from experiencing a "plateau" effect. I enjoy the experience of moving my body in different ways everyday. I enjoy watching it dance, jump, run, cycle, climb, surf, and lift things. But, I also enjoy coming home to an old friend. That's what the 26 yoga asana (postures) provide for me in my life. A nice stable foundation, allowing for the playful way my body likes to move the rest of the week. Its like a comforting pair of slippers. You put your feet in them, and just feel at home....

-Bikram Choudry

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Mentor: "A Reflection Of The Moon On Water"...

"A true mentor is like the reflection of the moon on water. When you see the beauty of it, and are awe-stricken, you're actually seeing your truest nature." ~Kundun

This week there has been a lot of snow in Bend. Rain, then sun, then grey skies, then snow...the weather seems to be changing by the minute. The Celts referred to spring as "the season between all seasons." Change is in the air. Mother Nature seems to be trying to make up her mind, with one foot still in winter, and one already in summer. I'm doing my best to be grateful for the beautiful snow, but I must admit, I'm ready for outdoor climbing season to arrive. I'm itching to improve my climbing skills this year, and am looking forward to many wonderful climbing adventures with Stan and my friends. I feel lucky to live in Bend. There is an abundance of beautiful rock here to climb: sport, trad., face, cracks...its all here, within 1/2 hr. of my doorstep. I'm grateful for the spiritual lessons climbing brings into my life: facing my fears, trust, the art of letting go, learning to quiet my mind during a climb, the beauty of friendship, the exquisite experience of the vertical world...the list goes on...I'm grateful for all the wonderful, empowered women, in particular, who have influenced my life as a climber.

I want to honor my dear friend and climbing mentor, Janet Linebarger. Janet is the epitome of strength and power, in my mind. She is an example of a woman, in her 60's, who has the strength of a 20 yr. old, and the grace of a seasoned dancer. To watch her effortlessly move on a rock face, silent...focused...skilled... is a wonder to behold. Janet is moving from Portland, OR. to Bellevue, WA. While I'm excited for Janet, and the new opportunities that are being presented to her, I'm selfishly very sad. I will always consider Janet my first climbing teacher. Its not that I won't ever see Janet, but our visits will be farther and fewer between.

Almine & Janet, "Club Sport," '09

Each month, when I've gone up to Portland to treat patients at my Portland office, I've gotten a lesson from Janet. If the weather is nice we climb outside. If its rainy we've climbed at "Club Sport." Each time I've walked away with more of a deep appreciation for what climbing has become to me: a metaphor for the inner world. It is because of Janet that I've faced some of my darkest fears with climbing. She's influenced me enough to want to do that for myself. Janet seems to have the wisdom to know when to push me when I need to be pushed, and to allow me to figure things out for myself when appropriate. The power of a mentor in our life is a blessing. One whose lessons seem to soak in a little more each day. I'm honored to call Janet my mentor & friend. I hope to be just like her when I grow up someday... ;-} I'll miss you, Janet...

Almine Climbing At "Smith Rock," '09