Sunday, December 9, 2012

BAG LADIES: "What's In Your Gym Bag?"

My colleague, Amy Moll, & I sat down one day in our clinic staff room.  Sometimes we compare FAQ's of patients, so that we can get one another's opinions on a variety of topics.  The funny thing is, we realized, we keep getting asked the same funny question:  "What are your gym bag essentials?"

Amy & I both train hard every week.  6 days a week, that is.  We both have different goals for our training, but we share a lot of the same gym bag "essentials," and utilize some of the same products (both being acupuncturists).  Amy & I both do "CrossFit."  We both run with our pups, and row our hearts out each week.  Amy trains in "Mixed Martial Arts."   She is one fierce lady, who trains like a champ, morning, noon & night (when she's not owning/running 2 clinics).  For more info. on Amy's fighting, be sure to subscribe to her blog at:  http://fullmetalfighter.com/

I always have vertical spaces in mind for my training, whether it be on rock or ice.  I'm also a "CrossFit" coach, and certified fitness trainer, so do enjoy lifting heavy, gymnastic rings and a good sled pulling.  I love to move my body in as many diverse planes, climates & ways as possible in nature.  I thrive in constant diversity of movement, which really puts me in the category of a born Adventure Racer.  I like being tested in the elements, whether it be in wave, on rock, on trail or snow.

We've decided to team up for this month's wellness blog post, and share with you some things that we carry with us in our gym bags.  Both of us won't do without these few "must haves."


  • "Wet Wipes" (need I say more?):  Yeah, they pretty much get used for everything:  wiping bloody "skin flappers," from both pull-ups in "CrossFit" and climbing, to cleaning off my hands after a climb, so I can actually eat with them.  :-)
  • Beef Protein Powder:  Easily assimilable, hypo-allergenic, BV (biological value) of an incredible 90%, and high in the amino acid alanine, the basis for much of the body's protein structure.  Alanine is needed for the metabolism of glucose, allowing the body to generate more fuel for an intense workout.
  • "Quali-Patches" (both cold & warm):  "Quali-Patches" are topical adhesive patches you can put on over an area of pain.  Should I have an acute injury I would use the "cold" (instead of ice).  A chronic "tweak," I would use the "warm."  These patches are wonderful, because you can still be active while wearing them.  They have Chinese martial arts Rx.'s contained within them for a topical anti-inflammatory action.
  • Sports Tape:  For climbing, pull-ups, you name it.  
  • Sunglasses:  You never know when you'll need them.  I tend to buy "cheapies," as this is something I typically lose.  Sometimes, if I find cheap ones, I'll buy 4 or 5, & have them in different places, so I always have them available (in my car glove compartment, climbing bag, gym bag, "Camelbak" etc.)
  • "POCKETFUEL NATURALS":  This is now my on-the-go fuel of choice.  Its high calorie...full of delicious blood-sugar stabilizing fats, such as nut butter & coconut oil.  :-)  I love the convenient (((squeezable))) containers, and they come in a variety of flavors (my favs. are "Chocolate Espresso" & "Chocolate Smackaroon").  Check them out, & inquire where they're sold in your area.  In Bend, they're sold at the following shops:  "Mountain Supply," "Pine Mtn. Sports," & "FootZone."  They're a local OR. company, & source organic ingredients.  www.pocketfuelnaturals.com
  • "Garmin":  Every once in awhile I'll get "Type A" with my runs or road rides.  Sometimes I'll record them, sometimes I won't.  Sometimes I'll time them, sometimes I won't.  I do like having the option, however, so always carry my "Garmin" watch with me.
  • Long Socks:  My legs can tell some good stories.  They've taken me to beautiful places around the world, and move my body daily.  However, they often take a beating, with crack-climbing, surfing (just got some nice new scars from eating it on a "wipe-out" in Maui on a coral reef.  OUCH!), mtn. biking, trail-running, you name it.  However, the scars I "wear" the most are from rope-climbing in "CrossFit"...sans long socks.  *Double* OUCH!  That's called "rope burn Central," people.  Carry long socks.  You never know when you're going to be rope climbing at your box, and your legs will thank you.  :-)
  • Shaker Bottle:  For a pre &/or post workout protein shake while driving home.  Scoop that beef protein in there, mix with water, and drink up.  Your muscles will soak it up like a sponge.  :-)
  • Moxa Stick:    See previous blog post:  http://alminewellness.blogspot.com/2012/01/acute-injuries-most-effective.html
  • Arnica Montana (homeopathic):  See previous blog post:  http://alminewellness.blogspot.com/2012/01/acute-injuries-most-effective.html
  • Liver Caps:   See previous blog post:  http://alminewellness.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-recovery-kit.html
  • Reflective Vest & Headlamp:  Often I enjoy a quiet night run along a favorite trail, or even the road.  I'm a "safety girl," and this means wearing reflective clothing, and a vest with a headlamp.  Several times, I've gone out trail-running, only to get caught out in the woods without a headlamp.  No fun.  Leave the house prepared for anything.
  • "Traumanex":  A Chinese martial arts Rx. for soft tissue injuries.  We sell this at our clinic.  A must have for any athlete.
  • "Hotties":   Hand, feet, body & toe warmers.  You can get these at "CostCo" by the box.  When you're standing there, belaying someone "projecting" a route in the cold, are doing winter sports, etc. these are great.  I'm starting to use them already on my trail-runs, soon for ice climbing & for snowshoe-running.
  • A Tube of *RED* Lipstick:   My "war paint."  If I have to explain this, then there's a problem.  :-)

~ Almine's Gym Bag Essentials ~


When my colleague Almine Barton suggested we collaborate on a blog about what’s in our gym bags, I was stoked. I haven't done show & tell since kindergarten. Back then my gym bag was full of Care Bears. Now, it's full of boxing gloves, MMA gloves, hand wraps, mouth guard, shin pads, head protection, wrestling shoes, New Balance Minimus weight lifting shoes, flip flops for quick trips from the mat to the water fountain, and Ugs for a comfy and warm ride home after I'm all gross and sweaty. But there are a few other items that may be of more interest to you, dear reader.

The Trifecta
The Trifecta
Amy’s Ultimate Shake MixBeef Protein + Coco Hydro + Green’s First. This concoction tastes great, doesn’t need a blender, and provides amazing nutrition. Let me break it down for you.

     Beef Protein (Olympian Labs): 23 grams of protein in 1 scoop

     Coco Hydro (coconut powder from Big Tree Farms): “the equivalent of 25 young green coconuts in the palm of your hand” supplying potassium, magnesium, nitrogen, zinc, calcium. Great for staying hydrated and avoiding muscle cramps.

     Greens First (available at our clinic, Healing Response Acupuncture): The alkalizing power of 49 different super foods and antioxidant equivalent of 15 servings of fruits and veggies in 1 scoop. And it makes every shake I make taste minty-fabulicious.

Zing Bars or Justin’s Almond Butter packets: For quick re-fueling post-workout, these are my favorites, and gluten-free. Mr. Justin must be making a killing. Why didn’t I think of mixing almond butter with chocolate and selling it in individual serving-size packets? Check 'em out: Zing BarsJustin's.

Shen Tong Shu Yu Tang: This is my Chinese herbal medicine replacement for ibuprofen. According to Chinese medicine, trauma blocks the flow of Qi and Blood in the body, thereby causing pain. This formula strongly moves Qi and Blood. When I’m hurting, I notice a decrease in pain within 20 minutes of taking this formula. And it doesn’t destroy my stomach or liver like OTC pain meds do.
Super Glue: works great for deep cuts, in fact, it’s what they use in the E.R.  So next time you see a charge for $300 on your medical bill for 2-octyl cyanoacrylate, just offer to buy them a $2 tube of Super Glue instead, it’s the same thing. A quick disclaimer: if you are sealing an open wound with Super Glue, make sure it’s clean first.

Nail Clippers: You will never find me with long beautiful nails. My jiu jitsu training partners would hate me, and also be buying stock in Super Glue. Enough said.

Kinesiotape (and scissors!): I was first introduced to Kinesiotape in 2006 when I was training for a trail marathon and dealing with achilles tendon inflammation. I noticed an immediate decrease in achilles pain after getting taped and was hooked. I use it personally for low back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain, thanks to years of abusing my body and always testing my limits snowboarding, wakeboarding and mountain biking. I’ve gotten smarter now, and stick to more mellow activities such as boxing, wrestling, and jiu jitsu...

Note: The tape will not stick to sweaty skin, so you have to apply it at least 60 minutes before working out, or on dry skin post workout      and shower. Anyone interested in trying out kinesiotape can e-mail me at amy@healingresponse.net.

LaCross Balls: Laying on top of a lacross ball is self-healing-torture at it’s best. I roll out knots in my upper and lower back, work on range of motion in my shoulders, and realign my sacrum and pelvis with these bad boys. Free physical therapy.

Stretchy Bands: I use stretchy bands for rotator cuff strengthening exercises. Since I’m supposed to do them daily, I carry my bands around like a safety blanket.

Yoga Strap: I use a yoga strap to help compress my first rib and lengthen the connective tissues in my neck. It also comes in handy for working on posture for my overhead squats.

Tiger Balm: Muscle relief after a good workout.

Business cards: I get asked all the time during training!
I'm sure many of you have equally interesting items in your gym bag. We'd love to hear about them!

You Can Make An Appointment With Either Almine or Amy at "Healing Response Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine"


Monday, November 12, 2012

"Q & A" With Almine: "Can Women Be Sexual & Taken Seriously?"

Dear Almine,

Thanks for your uplifting, informative and funny posts. I get up in the morning, & look at your "Facebook" pg., and read it with my coffee. I have a question for you. Do you believe that women can be sexual and tak
seriously? I'm asking for a few reasons, because, when I went to law school, I felt the need to wear "drab" or dark "serious" colors, to be taken seriously. While that was okay, I also missed putting a dress on, once in awhile, and felt that I had "shut down" areas of my sexuality or femininity. I felt like I sacrificed them for intelligence. Now, I'm looking to find a balance in my life. I enjoy being feminine, and also a partner in a major law firm. I don't know if Chinese medicine has an answer for this, but I did notice, when I didn't give attention to my sexuality or my "feminine side," that I started to experience OB/GYN symptoms. Its like my body was telling me I was denying that part of myself. Is that weird? What do you think about it? Is there a connection between female health issues, and a woman "shutting down" parts of herself to play in "a man's world." I like that you do rough sports, but you also seem very feminine.

Calgary, Canada

The Goddess Aphrodite or Venus, The Goddess of Love, Sexuality & Beauty

Dear Gisele,

First and foremost, I'm honored that you asked my opinion on such an interesting subject.  The question of women embodying intelligence, sexuality and strength has been long debated for thousands of years.  Some cultures are more comfortable, with one or more of those aspects of femininity, than others.  I do believe that cosmology, philosophy and ethos play an integral part in how any one person could respond.

Throughout history (and let us examine the word "HIStory") women's sexuality has been to blame for the demise of kingdoms, the cause of famine, and the Biblical fall.  The very word "Sexuality" is a scary word to many.  The beauty of woman has inspired poetry, music, film, art and architecture.  It cannot be contained.  It is illogical.  It cannot be put into graphs, charts or neatly filed away.  Its wild, free, bold, soft, gentle, strong, and holds qualities of both water and fire.  It has been veiled (literally), and exploited.  Either way you cut it, its a thing that can incite passion, and this, I believe we are afraid of.

Early cultures, and some polytheistic societies, were/are comfortable with feminine archetypes.  The theology behind their cultural outlook on women acknowledged there was a yin to the yang.  A feminine nature that governed laws of our world.  The Native Americans called the Earth "Mother."  The Greeks had many faces that described the feminine...and not just the sweet, "Mother Mary" aspect.  They understood the nature of womanhood was multi-faceted, not to be contained, and ever changing.  From the sexual Goddess Aphrodite to the benevolent mother Hera to the fierce Goddess Medusa.  They simply accepted and acknowledged the different faces of the feminine, without judgement of any of them.  They simply were.

The Goddess Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, the Forest & Animals

Patriarchal traditions are neither good or bad, but they are incomplete.  They leave little room for young girls to understand their place in the cosmos.  There is no face of the Divine Feminine.  If you were dealt the hand of being raised Catholic, you got a "get out of jail free" card by adoring Mary.  Mary, however, is only one face of femininity.  True, she is benign, compassionate, kind.  And yes, these qualities are important to embody, but do you feel benign, compassionate and kind everyday?  Probably not.  Its unrealistic for anyone, and it sets a standard that is impossible to attain.  Does that mean you shouldn't strive for it?  Absolutely not.  We all should.  Everyday.  But, its important to not judge or suppress the other sides of your femininity as well.

I often joke about embodying the comic book character, "Catwoman."  I like her, because she is good with who she is.  She doesn't judge herself for it.  Some days she helps Batman.  On occasion, she'll cavort with the "Penguin" or "Joker."  She is good with her "dark" and her "light" side.  She makes no apologies.  She is who she is.  When you can step away from judging yourself for your various, interesting aspects, and begin to embrace every one of them, you become more of who you truly are.  Catwoman is strong.  Catwoman is intelligent.  Catwoman is sexual.  Catwoman is good with all sides of herself.

Me, "Halloween," 2012

I think young girls of the "Disney" era (which is still in effect) are primarily fed "the Good Witch" and "Bad Witch" persona.  In other words, "Disney" asks them to choose which one they're going to be, and to think the other is "bad."  Inevitably, the "Bad Witch" gets...well, the "bad" wrap.  Its an emotional conundrum that can never be resolved.  Everyone has both sides within them.  The less you judge any side of yourself, the more you can embody all of the various archetypes within you.  And they do exist within you.  Carl Jung was a master of deciphering these roles within his patients, and utilizing them for the betterment of everyone he worked with.

The problem is a society that is uncomfortable with these qualities:  the dark, sexuality, powerful women who have a voice, women who stand up to injustice, etc.  Those qualities are indeed great catalysts of change. Change can be scary, and chaotic. We are frightened of it.

Regarding can a woman be strong, sexual and intelligent?  Well, I sure love to "Olympic Lift," I love lipstick, tight clothing, heels, animal-print and a *fun* running skirt.  I also graduated with a 3.89 GPA, B.A. in Medical Anthropology (with honors), and hold a 4-yr. clinical Master's degree.  Do I apologize for any of those aspects of myself?  Absolutely not.  I relish in them, and am very proud of what I've accomplished.  It was a lot of hard work, and being a female self-employed business owner, and athlete, continues to be.  Its work I enjoy very much.  :)

Hamstrings and Quads built by "CrossFit," climbing, cycling/running hills, laps in the pool & yoga
They're super strong...and I love all the things they do for me.  Nope, I'm not apologizing either. :)

I think, as women, we're taught to apologize for it all:  being sexual, having sexual needs, being "too pretty," "not pretty enough," "too smart for her own good," an "airhead."  We can't win for losing.  Either we're too smart and "scare the boys away," or we're a "dumb bimbo."  Either way, you'll never please everyone, so I suggest we stop trying.  A remarkable thing happens when you stop trying.  You find your voice.  At first, it can be scary to use, but, like anything it takes practice.  Practice then becomes habit.  Habit then becomes a vehicle for change, and a way to inspire others.

Me, climbing in Moab, UT., Oct. 2012

My passion has always been to empower young girls, adolescent teens and women to find their voice.  Does this mean that they're "anti-men?"  Not even close.  It means that they can stand up for the whole community, and that includes men.  Women are powerful agents of change, but in order to bring about change, we must find our voices.  This can take a long time.  Especially, if a woman has believed the stories about herself that she's "too this" or "not enough this."  Somehow, we must let go of those stories.

My clinical specialties are sports medicine/acupuncture orthopedics and G.I. tract disorders.  Those are two things I do really well.  Does that mean I haven't seen a correlation (over 8 years of practice) between women's beliefs about themselves and the health ramifications of those beliefs?  I have seen it.  I will say this:  there is no hard and fast evidence to support what I'm going to say, but a vast majority of women who have come to me with OB/GYN disorders have either experienced a lack of respectful touch, and/or have been violated sexually.  In Chinese medicine, we would explain this with the diagnosis of "Qi & Blood Stagnation in the Uterus or 'Chong Meridian'."  A lack of movement, sexually speaking, is unhealthy for a woman.  We kind of ignore the clinical statistics on how positive an orgasm is on a woman's health, because frankly, as a society, we really aren't comfortable with talking about those things.  In comparison, cultures such as Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, etc. are known as "Romance Countries," and are quiet comfortable.  They don't judge their sexual desires.  They create music, art and poetry about them.  They sculpt statues and create feats of architecture dedicated to them.

There are some very intelligent women, who are also sexual and/or strong out there.  "Academy" and "Golden Globe" winner, Natalie Portman, is also a Harvard alumni.  The only woman to earn two acting "Golden Globe" awards in one year, Sigourney Weaver, graduated from both Stanford and Yale.  Another one of my favorite examples of sexual, strong and intelligent? (she's kind of one of my heroes)  Dr. Mireya Mayor, PhD.  Once a former Miami Dolphins NFL cheerleader, turned "Fulbright Scholar," turned field biologist.  She is now a "National Geographic" researcher, and the current star of "Nat Geo WILD’s: Wild Nights."  She discovered a new species of lemur in the jungles of Madagascar...yes, in *PiNk* hiking boots.  :)  She's smart, she's beautiful, she's athletic.  She's comfortable with all of those things about herself.  Check out the great "National Geographic" video "Pink Boots and a Machete."  Its one of my favs.  :)

The fun part about being a woman is that we really do get to do it all.  Embrace everything about yourself.  Play out all aspects of yourself like characters on a stage...and *Enjoy* it.  Its such a treat to be able to wear a dress (or not), wear make-up (just because its fun sometimes, and we can)...or not. Relish in your unique beauty, your intelligence, your strength...all your skills.  You then give other women the courage to do the same.

In The Spirit of Wild WomanHood,

She Walks in Beauty
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

~ Lord Byron 


Saturday, November 10, 2012

MOAB Trip Report

I was hoping to get this trip report out last month, but we were waiting on a few pictures to insert in the trip report to give you a better sense of where I was, the landscape & what I was up to.  A big "Thank You" to Chris Hunter, from "Hunter Imagery" (http://www.hunterimagery.com/) for the beautiful pictures.  Chris was able to capture the desert light like I've never seen, and from angles that would've been challenging for the rest of us.

First and foremost, I have to say what a complete honor it was to climb with one of the women, who I  admire most, in the world of climbing, Ms. Steph Davis.  Steph's legendary feats in the world of climbing and BASE jumping are awe-inspiring:  Here is an excerpt, from Wikipedia, about Steph's record-breaking accomplishments:

"In 2003, Davis became the second woman to free climb El Capitan in one day. Two years later, she became the first woman to freeclimb the Salathé Wall, on El Cap, and to climb Torre Egger, a difficult summit in Patagonia, of which she made the first one-day ascent, with her then partner Dean Potter.[3]
Davis has soloed routes on Colorado's Long's Peak's east face, The Diamond, a thousand-foot granite wall at 14,000 feet. In the summer of 2007, she free-soloed the Diamond four times, with the final solo recorded by Peter Mortimer, of Sender Films. Soon afterward, she free-soloed and BASE jumped Castleton Tower, in Moab, Utah.[citation needed]
Davis has made first ascents around Moab including the Tombstone. In 2008, she climbed Concepcion, one of the hardest pure crack climbs in the world. Steph has been on successful international expeditions to climb new routes in alpine, big wall, and solo styles, including in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Baffin Island, Argentina, Italy, and Patagonia. Davis was the first American woman to summit Fitzroy in Patagonia and to summit all seven major peaks of the Fitzroy Range."

To have a mentor, such as Steph, give me instruction, tips & pointers, in a medium where she eats, sleeps and breathes climbing and BASE jumping was a treat.  One that I plan to repeat in March 2013.  In addition, I was lucky enough to receive instruction and gear placement feedback from her climbing partner, Lisa Hathaway.

The desert was a new medium for me.  Yes, I live in the high-desert of Central OR., but I had never placed gear in "soft rock" before (sandstone), and was intrigued at the art of doing so.  I primarily climb on the volcanic tuft of "Smith Rock," and on local basalt crack columns.  I was not only thrilled at the opportunity to work on a new rock medium, but to experience crack-climbing in one of the world's renowned "meccas" for it, Moab, UT.

Me, On A *Fun* Off-Width Crack in Moab

Moab is known as a crack-climbing "proving ground" & paradise for the best-of-the-best.  The "splitter" crack columns there have been the "playground" for some of the world's elite trad. climbers.  Steph is one of them, as is her partner, Lisa.

The smoothness of the sandstone was something I was surprised at, and quickly had to "shift gears" into climbing, like I do on basalt.  The smoothness of basalt is a quality that I like about climbing it.  It lends well to smearing, and gear placements.  I found the sandstone to be similar.

Me, Climbing In Moab

The majestic light of the desert is something that simply cannot be put into words.  The lightning and spectacular desert towers lent itself to some of the most scenic climbing I've had the opportunity to do.

Steph is a master at finger cracks.  Finger cracks often lend themselves well to small fingers and hands.  Even though women tend to have the advantage in this department, the stamina and technique is not easily conquered by either gender.  It is an art.  One that I'm new to.  A "fist jam" is my favorite size crack hand placement technique (#3 & #4 "Black Diamond").  A "double fist stack?"  Even better.  Its where I feel most secure and safe, but Steph could see that I needed to move outside my comfort zone, and had me work on a 5.12 finger crack, which I only got a little over half-way up.  Finger cracks take small gear, and "ring lock" finger placements, often being quite strenuous on the digits. But if you work certain techniques consistently, which Steph shared, a sense of ease with them will ensue.

Mock-Leading Exercise With Lisa Hathaway Checking My Gear Placements Behind Me

The comraderie I experienced with my fellow climbers there was priceless.  Climbing is a sport based on trust.  Trust in your belayer.  Trust in yourself.  Trust in your gear.  Trust in your gear placements.  This is something I love about the sport.  It brings people into your "circle of trust" very quickly.   When you come down from a climb, with someone, and look at one another with a deep sense of satisfaction, there is an established trust between you two that cannot be broken.  I had the opportunity to climb with some phenomenal people in Moab.  People who live for the thrill of the vertical world, the sights that they will behold, the friendships they will make along the way, and the knowing that they got to the top of the climb through their own effort.  It is a thrill like none other.

Mock-Leading Exercise, Take 2  :)

 You walk away from a climb with a different view on life.  You see the world "from up above," or from the "bird's eye view."  This can help put things in our lives into perspective.  It can put the problems in our lives into a framework of understanding and knowing that they really are small in the grand scheme of things.  You also look down upon the beautiful earth with a sense of humility, and wanting to assist the creatures who inhabit it.  You gaze at it, wanting to make it a better place.

Steph Davis clip, free-solo of "The Diamond"

Every time I travel somewhere to climb I come back feeling this way.  I feel grateful for climbing in my life.  It is a moving meditation for me, in the "playground" of nature.  It makes me feel small, insignificant...like an ant crawling on a rock.  I believe its important to view ourselves that way, from time to time.  It helps us understand how small we all are, but what a big impact we can still make.

I look forward to continuing my learning with Steph and Lisa, and am excited, already, for my return trip there in the spring....xoxoxo,  Almine

A Big "Thank You" Goes To "POCKETFUEL Naturals" for fueling my journey

Sunday, September 30, 2012

FASTING: Is It Beneficial For The Athlete?

"To Lengthen Thy Life, Lessen Thy Meals."  ~Benjamin Franklin

Often, around the spring and fall, athletes ask me this question:  "Almine, would it be beneficial for me to do a fast?"  Its like, at the crux of those two seasons, people instinctively know that a 'lil "R 'n R," or "deep cleaning" for the body is necessary.

The answer to this question is "Yes."  Fasting is beneficial for not just everyone, but in particular, the athlete.  Why is this?  There are a few simple explanations, but the easiest one I can articulate is that the athlete accumulates a lot of free-radicals in the body, on a constant basis, and that a "deep cleaning" is necessary from time to time, of these inflammation causing intra-toxins.

We all know there are "good stresses" and "bad stresses."  What is a "good stress" for the body?  Building muscle.  You must break muscle down to create stronger muscle (what a great metaphor for life, right?).  This process, however, does cause inflammation.  This inflammation has to go somewhere, and unless its "evacuated" promptly through one of the body's waste removal mechanisms (feces, saliva, urine or sweat) it will accumulate in the muscles and "hang out" there.  This is not what an athlete wants, or needs.  This is called DOMS ("Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness").  DOMS, if exponentially accumulated (workout after workout), without proper "housecleaning" through the body's waste mechanisms, can overwhelm the system.  This can cause nausea, headaches, hormone imbalances, premature greying of hair, dry skin & nails, constipation and/or diarrhea, gastritis, ulcers, poor training performance/recovery, to name a few.

As inflammation compounds, through multiple workouts, without the athlete assisting it to be removed from the body, free-radicals build-up.  Free-radicals are burdensome on the liver (a paramount organ in muscle building, metabolism and blood sugar stability).  Therefore, the athlete must place as much emphasis on free-radical elimination as s/he does to training.

Me, cranking out 100 back-squats for time at "CrossFit"

Hence, my emphasis of certain "power" foods and herbs (see previous blog posts) that aid in recovery, nourish the body, and increase evacuation of free-radicals rapidly.  In addition, I constantly tout the benefits of stretching in the heat (i.e. "Bikram Yoga").  You all must be thinking "Geez, Almine, enough already about the 'Bikram Yoga'."  The reality is, however, saunas & "Bikram Yoga" studios are invaluable in removing waste, rapidly from muscle tissue and fascia.  Stretching in heat (above body temperature) only increases free-radical elimination.  It relaxes muscle fibers enough for them to release inflammation/free-radicals, so that they can be excreted via the pores through sweat.

"Bikram Yoga" can aid elimination of toxins, built up by the body
through training.  This will accentuate your fast.

Want to play hard?  You must "deep clean" your body of the built-up waste that is accumulated from doing so.  Injury is soon to ensue if you don't.  Make stretching in heat a regular part of your training regime.  This should be a non-negotiable for every athlete.

Where does fasting fit into sports nutrition and training regimes for athletes?  When is it appropriate to do a fast?  What type of fast should I do?  Is there a better time of the year to do a fast vs. any random time one feels inclined to do so?  All good questions.  I will lay out a few "bullet points" for fasting that can be understood in a "101" manner:

-Fasting is best done at the crux of the season (spring/fall are the best times of the year) to ensure maximum immunity for the season ahead.  Have spring allergies?  Fasting at the beginning of spring should be a "must" for you.  In other words, if you're going to do a fast, consider doing it at/around the spring/fall equinoxes.

-Fasting is done best in either 1, 3 or 7 day blocks of time.

-Fasting during summer or winter is not recommended.  

-Do NOT exercise during fasting.  What I mean by exercise, in this case, is "cardio.," lifting weights, swimming, anything that requires your muscles to break down & cause inflammation.  "Active recovery" exercise during fasting is okay:  yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong.   As Bikram Choudry says "Yoga is the only exercise that gives the body energy vs. taking away from it.  Its the gas station, where the body fills itself up."

-The 3 best fasts:  air, lemon-water, vegetable broth.  Air fasts (no food or water) is the most powerful & deep-cleansing.  Lemon-water only is 2nd runner up & vegetable broth is 3rd runner up.  If you're choosing to do "Bikram Yoga" during your fast, you will increase the deep-cleansing attributes of the fast, but you will also lose valuable electrolytes.  Then, a lemon-water or vegetable broth fast is recommended to replace those electrolytes lost through sweat.  I would not recommend an air fast if you're choosing to sweat in saunas or at "Bikram Yoga" during your fast.

-The first 24 hrs. in a fast can be mentally challenging.  Your tummy will rumble for a couple of hours, but then it WILL settle down, & the mind will begin to become calm.  My favorite fasting period of time is 3 days.  By day 2, I feel like I can take on the world.  

-Fasting around the full moon is an ancient tradition to remove toxicity from the body.  Why does the full moon matter?  Is it just an "Old Wive's Tale?"  No.  It isn't.  Your body is made up of 70% water.  The moon governs all water on this planet, from the tides of the ocean, to the water in your body.  You are a microcosm of the macrocosm.  Water is a powerful medium used to flush out toxins.  Work with nature's cycles, not against them, & you will find your fasts more powerful and effective.  I would recommend doing a fast the day before/day of/day after the full moon.  When you become experienced at feeling what a fast can do for your body, you will notice the increased benefits, if you do it around the full moon.

The Full Moon Is A Powerful Time For The Water In Your Body 
To Assist In Cleansing Itself

-If you're a woman, do not fast while on your menses.  Your body is already cleansing.  Its too much to do both at the same time.  Also, do not fast while you're pregnant or lactating.

Fasting was a mandatory practice for warriors from the East:  Ninjas, Samurai and Shaolin martial artists.  It enforced discipline of mind, mastery over the body, and increased health benefits.  The first couple of hours of a fast your "monkey mind," as one of my teachers calls it, will go crazy.  "I want food, I want cake, I want broccoli, I want, I want, I want..."  This will settle down.  Your mind will begin to slow, and your breathing will become more calm within several hours.

Japanese Samurai Warrior

My advice is to set aside fasting for some type of retreat atmosphere.  Go to a hot springs, a secluded cabin, etc.  This is a time for rejuvenation and resting of the tissues, so that they may replenish themselves.  I would not recommend a "daily life" regime while fasting (work, picking up kids, training the way you normally do).  This would be retrogressive to the fast. 

There is some type of purification of the body amongst every warrior caste in various cultures.  Take for instance, the sweat lodge amongst the Native Americans.  To sweat, fast and purge the body was an annual ritual 1-2x per year (depending on the tribe).  They knew this enhanced longevity, gave vigor to the body for the coming season ahead, and quieted their minds to re-align themselves with the tribe's needs and goals.

Traditional Native American Sweat Lodge

In addition, there is not one spiritual tradition that I'm aware of that doesn't advocate fasting.  The world's greatest sages, from a variety of traditions, have fasted:  Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, John The Baptist, Ammachi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Mohammed, Anandamayi Ma,  Meera Bai, Lao Tzu, Ramakrishna, Milarepa, Hazrat Babajan, Hildegarde of Bingen, St. Teresa of Avila, Rumi, Joan of Arc, St. Francis of Assisi, Ghandi, Mother Meera, etc.   Each of these great masters have changed our world for the better, dispensed wisdom, and have been a beacon of knowledge to those of their era...and to us today.

~ Sri Anandamayi Ma ~
(This picture was not adulterated in any way.  It was taken of her, while she was fasting for 40 days & 40 nights.  Note the amount of "Chi" generated by her, commonly known in the West as an "aura."  This is often depicted in paintings of Christian saints or icons as well)

If you're new to fasting, and feel that you need some additional support/nutrition/electrolytes for the body, herbal teas can greatly assist.  Here are some herb suggestions for you, during your fast:

  -Amazon warriors fast on a strong concoction of yerba mate tea, 2x per year for 1 wk.

Yerba Mate Farmer, Paraguay

-Alfalfa leaf tea was used by medieval saints in Europe to assist with their fasting.

Ground Alfalfa Leaf Powder

-Tibetan monks fast on nettle tea, during meditation retreats.  In fact, Milarepa, the great Tibetan Buddhist yogi was said to have a "green hue" to his skin from drinking so many nettles.  :-)

Stinging Nettle

-Hindu sages have taken "Triphala" (see "Spring Detoxing:  The Ins & Outs" blog post), while fasting.

"Triphala"  (meaning "3 Berries")

We're at the beginning of fall now, this is a great time for a fast.  Remember to take the time to rest, soak in hot springs and/or do active recovery exercise to enhance your immunity for your coming fall/winter sports.  You do routine maintenance on your car.  Your body is more precious.  Treat it well, and allow it the time to heal itself.




Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why The "3 Wise Men" Had It Right: Frankincense & Myrrh, Anti-Inflammatory Wonders

"Who is this coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?" ~ Song of Solomon, 3:6

Frankincense and myrrh. The words conjure up stories of the Bible, images of the "3 Wise Men," and visions of the Middle East. The two resins are almost always named together. As if they're inseparable.

Are they given importance due to their references in holy texts, or are they actually medicinal? It turns out, various cultures have employed the uses of these two substances for the myriad medicinal properties they offer. From Egypt to China...India to Tibet...the Middle East to Indonesia. These two powerful mendicants offer some of the most potent blood-vitalizing, anti-inflammatory compounds the world has known.

Why were they deemed important enough to be given to the baby Jesus? Why do we see them referenced so many times in various texts? Its because their value as medicine is unparalleled.

Lets explore some of the known, scientific benefits, and look more closely at what they offer. In Ayurvedic medicine they are considered to be the following: immune-enhancing; antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic; and wound-healing, with pronounced anti-inflammatory effects on the musculo-skeletal system.

Frankincense & Myrrh

Sound like substances that can benefit many people from all walks of life? From the athlete to the immuno-compromised, frankincense and myrrh, can offer hope for aching muscles, enhanced immunity, to the rheumatic and arthritic.

In addition, the two in combination, are seen time and time again in Shaolin Kung Fu sparring injury liniments, salves, poultices and internal formulas in Chinese medicine. These centuries old formulas are of great benefit to the modern athlete. They have the same properties of "moving Qi & blood" (READ: highly anti-inflammatory) as modern day pharmaceuticals, without the toxic and harsh side-effects. If you're an athlete in training, you know that anti-inflammatories are a must. They allow the body to recover faster, ease aches and pains, speed recovery and prevent DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). However, the modern medical establishment has yet to produce anti-inflammatories, without lecherous side-effects. These side-effects can derail an athlete, and prevent him/her from performing at one's best. From G.I. distress to headaches to muscle weakness, western pharmaceuticals and drugs have yet to rival frankincense and myrrh's potent anti-inflammatory nature, without toxicity or upset to the system.

Frankincense in the Dhofar region of Oman

Myrrh Tree In Somalia

Dr. Keith Stevens, DAOM, L.Ac., and myself sat down recently and decided to co-blog about these two "wonder resins." Why? We want to expose the myth that these are substances of the past. We both use them in our sports acupuncture orthopedic practices, and hope to encourage you to consider them as vital parts of your immune-boosting and high performance "medicine cabinet."

Dr. Stevens and I are both athletes. We're avid climbers, mountain bikers, runners, hikers (not to mention Keith being a certified skydive instructor and an alpinist of 35 years). We both utilize ancient martial arts formulas not only in our practices in Bend, OR. and Salt Lake City, UT. (two "hot spots" for world-renowned athletes), but on ourselves as well.

Dr. Stevens and I both enjoy utilizing frankincense and myrrh in different ways. We both share a love of herbal formulas, external liniments and internal herbal concoctions, but I have a love of therapeutic-grade essential oils as well. I utilize essential oils a great deal in my practice. I like to do what I call "Aroma-Puncture." This is where I may dip a one-time use, sterilized acupuncture needle in an oil, & then perform acupuncture with the essential oil saturated needle. This has a powerful effect of delivering the benefits of frankincense and myrrh into an inflamed muscle, quickly. Relief is felt almost immediately by my athlete patients.

In addition, I'm a fan of steam inhalations. The olfactory (smell) sense is the most primal of all the senses, traveling to the limbic (primal) part of the brain at the speed of thought. Ever smell something and have it invoke a memory connected with it? That is how primordial a smell can be. This can be used to our advantage, in the realm of healing. Utilizing frankincense and myrrh via steam is a safe, speedy way to imbibe their therapeutic properties into the lungs (immune system) within seconds. Here's how to perform a steam inhalation:

What You Need:
  • Filtered water

    Steam inhalations are helpful for headaches, sinus congestion, cold & flu symptoms
  • Tea kettle or pot
  • Glass or Ceramic bowl- medium to large
  • Essential oils (see chart below to help you chose)
  • A bath towel
  • Tissues
  • Washcloth
  1. Boil filtered or spring water in a tea kettle until it steams.
  2. Turn off the heat and remove the kettle using a potholder.
  3. Take care to slowly pour the steaming water into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add a few drops of essential oil to the water.
  4. Place the towel over the top of your head so that it drapes over the sides of your head.
  5. Close your eyes, lean over the bowl allowing the sides of the towel to create a tent over the sides of the bowl.
  6. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
You will notice the scent fades in about 3-5 minutes. You can perform this treatment over again if you like.

Add essential oils to your steam for added benefits
As mucus loosens from steaming, clear your sinuses by gently blowing your nose into the tissues and discard them. As the water begins to cool down from hot to warm, place your washcloth in the water, ring it out and place it on your chest or the back of your neck. The warm compress will help release chest tightness and congestion, relaxes and loosens your neck muscles


Frankincense and Myrrh, also known as "Ru Xiang" and "MoYao" in Chinese medicine are classified as herbs that invigorate blood.Frankincense or Boswellia (botanical name), is acrid, bitter and warm.Myrrh is bitter and neutral. These two herbs promote blood circulation and alleviate pain through application of these qualities. Acrid materials disperse and stimulate body functions. Bitter materials reduce inflammation, cleanse the blood, are antibacterial and decrease pain. Both of these herbs help eliminate the spasms, rigidity, swelling and throbbing associated with acute injury. Their mechanism of action is relaxing tendons and sinews and relieving swelling. Frankincense also helps promote tissue repair for slow healing wounds, cuts and lacerations. This process is known as fibrosis or tissue formation. For these kinds of issues Frankincense can be applied topically. You may be familiar with Frankincense from reference to one of its active ingredients known as Boswellic acid.
These two herbs are found in acute injury formula prescriptions because acute injury always has three components: heat, pain and swelling. Tissue damage from acute injury involves the following inflammatory chemical mediators: histamine, prostaglandins andkinins. These inflammatory compounds affect the endothelial cells of the surrounding tissues. This process creates stiffness, limited range of motion,compromised blood circulation and bruising in its initial stage. These two herbs are used to enhance the body’s ability to recover by promoting blood circulation. The promotion of blood circulation allows blood to carry inflammatory compounds out of the injured region and bring fresh nutrients to the injury site. This process allows the body to recover and heal more quickly from the application of these herbal compounds. Of course diet and water are also major factors as fresh nutrients in this healing process. Water is the compound that allows this entire process to occur.
The elegance of herbal medicine lies in understanding how to combine their elements. I am happy to share this understanding with you. 

Best Wishes For Good Health,
Dr. Keith Stevens, DAOM LAC

Frankincense & Myrrh:  two ingredients of the martial arts injury liniment called "Dit Da Jow"

An Additional Informative Video On The Therapeutic/Medicinal Properties of Frankincense & Myrrh, by David Crow, L.Ac., founder of "Floracopiea"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"The Art of Grieving"

"The Wound Is The Place Where The Light Enters You."  ~Rumi

(Sarnath, India:  1994)

"What are they doing?" I whispered.   Chuktong Rinpoche looked down at me, his eyes soft...kind.  "They are meditating on the impermanence of life, child.  All that you see in life is like a mirage of an oasis in the desert.  It is but a dream.  You think it is real, like a nomad, thirsty.  You want to believe it is real.  That the mirage is really a source of water, but it is not.  All that you view with your eyes will pass away.  It is the law of impermanence."

I stood and stared.  Dumbfounded.  My privileged, western, Judaeo-Christian upbringing, had never prepared me for the sight I was beholding.  I was 18 yrs. old.   As I looked up at the sky, full moon permeating the blackness, like a great lantern...I heard only silence.

What my eyes were beholding was a scene that changed my life forever.  I was drinking in the vision of hundreds of Buddhist monks and nuns, each meditating on a corpse in front of them, dangling by a hook.  The corpse's flesh, falling off in chunks, off of the skeletal frame.  Nothing but silence, and the concentrated, unflinching gaze of the renunciates, on the decaying flesh.  Unwavering.  No emotion.  Just observing.  There was no fear in their eyes at the decaying body in front of them.  No judgement.  Just acceptance.

"I want to be disciplined like them, Rinpoche.  Maybe I should become a renunciate too," I ventured.  Rinpoche just laughed at me.  "Child, that is not your role in this life.  You are to go home, to the west, and tell your tales.  You will heal and inspire others.  You will miss your home here, because really, India is your home.  You are to help inspire the downtrodden in your country, and bring smiles to the ailing.  You may come back to India, from time to time, but will not stay here," he said kindly.

"Rinpoche, if everything is impermanent, and will die or pass away, why love it?" I wondered aloud.  "Because that is the privilege of being a human being," he answered.  "You get the opportunity to love at a capacity that breaks your heart open.  It is a gift, indeed.  In addition, you get free-will, and the opportunity for choice," he continued.  "A broken heart is a contrite spirit.  If you utilize this gift of the broken heart, it can advance your internal progress greatly.  You see it as an annoyance.  Something that hurts so badly you want it to go away.  If you can hold fast, in the fires of its purification, you will be molded like a blacksmith's sword in fire," he whispered.

(Thalheim, Germany:  1997)

"Mother, I don't understand how a broken heart can bring one closer to the Self,"  I inquired.  "Pain becomes joy, when it is offered and understood,"  she said quietly.  "Understand pain, so that you may alleviate it.  Like a surgeon on yourself.  Then, you may assist others with their pain."  She walked away, silently, colorful sari glistening in the sun.

Mother Meera

(Amritapuri, Kerala, South India:  1997)

"Amma, how can I transform pain?  How can I offer it?"  I asked.  "Crazy girl, she laughed, a broken heart is the most beautiful thing you can offer on the alter of the Self.  It is a magnificent opportunity for you to make roses out of compost, but you must not avoid it.  It is a guru.  It will be a guide to the deepest, most inner recesses of your heart.  A broken heart brings up the normal human emotions, at first:  shock, anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.  But, you must watch those emotions as the Observer.  Do not let your mind cling to anyone of those emotions.  They are like waves on the surface of a great ocean.  Ocean dive deeper.  To the black, silent depth of the sea.  This will allow for the flow of tears to come up.  These tears are the tears of purification.  Embrace this process, and yet, do not become attached to the tears either.  Just observe them, as they come up, then let them go.  Do you understand, crazy girl?  Compassion is then bound to ensue."  She pinched my 2 cheeks between her fingers, patted me on the head, then walked down to the beach in silence.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi ("Amma")

(Bend, OR.:  6/23/2012)

6am:  As I woke up to a torrential downpour, I felt as if the Earth was crying too.  That had become my routine, as of the past 6 wks.:  cry until I fall asleep.  Wake up tired from doing so.   I looked at the grey, cloudy Oregon sky, and sighed deeply.  My eyes hurt again from crying last night.  I walked into the bathroom, and washed my face.  The eyes that looked back at me in the mirror looked tired and puffy.  I'm not physically tired.  I'm emotionally tired.  Crying, continuously, is exhausting.  Just when you think you're done crying, it starts all over again.  "Purification, purification, purification..."  I muttered, under my breath, this morning, as I fixed my coffee.

As I sat down to meditate, I squirmed.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda.  What if circumstances were different?  What if he was different?  What if I was different?  What if, what if, what if...  My mind jumped back and forth:  past, present, future (rinse, repeat).  When will it end?  "Put your 'monkey mind' to rest, Crazy Girl," I could hear Amma say.  "The mind is like a monkey, jumping back and forth between the trees of the past and future.  Put the monkey to rest."  As I began to observe my breath...in...out...in...out...the thoughts of "what if," and the pain in my heart began to silence.

9:30am:  The tugging at my running shoes, as I put them on, alerted me to two eager dogs.  The drizzle outside was beginning to let up, but the chill in the air, told me, they wanted to run.  As I drove out to my favorite trail, I began to sob again.  I parked the car, and put my head down on the steering wheel.  I could not stop the uncontrollable heaving of my lungs.  They burned.  They ached the deepest ache I've felt.  I dreaded the run.  I contemplated driving home, but the eager "woo woo woo'ing" of the dogs prevented me from doing so.  

The start of the trail is uphill.  Today, the hill seemed daunting.  Unfriendly.  It almost felt like a foe.  As I trudged up it, my foot got caught on a rock.  I fell face-flat on the ground, biting my inner cheek.  I began to taste blood, and felt it trickle out of my nose too.  I just sat there, in the mud, covered in tree needles, sobbing.   Divorce?  Why?  Why?  Why?

I picked myself up, and dusted the dirt and blood off my face.  I began to run slowly again.  Two curious dogs ahead of me on the trail, sniffing the fresh summer grass.  As the tears flowed from my eyes, and the blood from my nose, I remembered the words of my teacher, Amma:  "Pain is a guru."  I began to repeat this with every step on the trail.  The heaviness in my legs began to disappear.

Me, On My Trail-Run

As I rounded the corner, I could see the sun peering through the trees.  A sense of assurance filled my heart.  A deep tranquility.  The smells of the earth, having just been touched by a summer rain, permeated my nostrils.  I began to cry again.  I cried for the next 5 miles.  I tripped, I ran, I jogged, I ran some more.

As I looked at the "Deschutes River," down below me, I remembered the words of my friend Philip Robert, on the phone this morning:  "As a kayaker, sometimes I need to go with the flow of the river.  But, there are times that's a bad idea.  Those times call for paddling like hell to save yourself.  Going with the flow then, would not be a good thing."

I contemplated this wisdom.  This is not the time for me to "go with the flow."  Its a time for me to "paddle like hell to save myself."  What am I saving myself from?  The mental trap of seeing pain as anything but a guru, a teacher of wisdom, and a transformer of my life.  The trap of victim mentality.  Yes, it is time to "paddle like hell," I decided.

Rivers rage.  Rivers flow gently.  Rivers provide protection for animals, and a thriving eco-system.  They never judge, however, who paddles them, swims in them, plays in them, or fishes in them.  They simply "observe," like the monks in Sarnath, India.  They don't resist the paddle of the kayaker, piercing their surface.  They allow the process to occur, without resistance.

As I observed these thoughts, I began to see that there is an art to grieving.  Its to be like a river.  Let the tears flow, never judge the process, observe all those who choose to float in/out of your life, and accept the bends and curves that nature provides.  There will be rapids, and rocks to flow over, but in the end, you will reach the sea, where you can "ocean dive" down to the depths of the Self.  Unwavering in the knowing that the sea is all there is.

"The Cycle of Impermanence:  The Tibetan Buddhist Art of Sand Mandala Making & Annihilation"

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Top 10 "Power" Training Foods

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease." ~ Thomas Edison

I get asked a lot what my favorite "training foods" are. Yes, I do have some, and I highly recommend any athlete incorporate these foods, regularly, into their diet. I will offer information on the therapeutic qualities of these foods, from both a Chinese dietary perspective, and also a western nutrition background. These foods have been used over the centuries by athlete-warriors of the day, from different cultures. Their time-tested ability to increase endurance, power, and muscle mass are tried and true.

1.) LIVER: You be hard-pressed to find a better nutritional "powerhouse" of B-complex. In combination, its one of the top sources of B12, B6 and folate in the world. It provides over 388% of the daily recommended dose of vit. A, and could be considered one of the highest anti-oxidant foods in the world. In addition, its packed with heme-iron (ladies, ever been told you're low in iron?), and amino acids, the building blocks for strength and metabolism.

From a Chinese dietary therapy perspective, beef liver is said to strengthen the liver organ itself, in the person who eats it.  Its commonly used in the treatment of eye conditions such as blurred vision, night blindness, glaucoma and optic nerve atrophy.

 Its traditional use, in a variety of cultures, from the Plains Native Americans to the Masai in Africa, cannot be underestimated. It was considered the food par excellence for the warrior and games athletes of Greece and Sparta.

Masai Warrior Eating Liver To Prepare Himself For The Hunt (Narok, Kenya)

2)  Royal Jelly:  What's good enough for the queen bee is good enough for you.  Royal jelly is considered just that, a food for the "royals."  Its the food of infant bees and the sole food of the queen bee.  Bee pollen is often touted as a staple for energy.  Royal jelly is an energy nutritive also, but to a much more substantial degree than pollen.

It is considered an endocrine tonic unrivaled, and thereby has a tonic effect on all endocrine glands (thyroid, adrenals, and reproductive).  Its reputation for its anti-aging, libido, and endurance producing effects are known across the globe.  Its loaded with a broad spectrum of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

In Chinese medicine, royal jelly has been used for centuries  in the treatment of malnutrition in children, for arthritis, leukemia, and wasting diseases.

Modern naturopathic medicine has found it to be powerful in stimulating the growth of glial cells and neural stem cells in the brain.

Royal Jelly

3)  Eggs:  Like most things in western cuisine, the American public have formed a love/hate relationship with eggs.  You no longer have to.  Eggs are one of the best protein, fat-soluable vitamin, and amino acid sources available.  The way you can get maximum benefit from your eggs are by following these tips:

-Cooked white, runny yolks (over-easy, or very lightly soft-boiled)
-Buy organic, free-range, farm fresh

I eat a lot of eggs every day.  In Oregon, the winters can get dark and dreary.  The fresh, brightly colored yolk is a wonderful way to get an edible dose of vit. D in your diet.  The farther north of equator you live, the more you need edible vit. D., since you're not getting as much from the sunlight as you actually need.

Vit. D is now being touted as the "anti-cancer vitamin."  It regulates hormones, mood, gives hair, nail and skin a lustrous shine, and prevents S.A.D. ("Seasonal Affective Disorder").  For a woman trying to conceive, vit. D is vital to conception, and proper neurological and bone health of the baby.

Ancient bodybuilders, the world over, have put raw egg yolks in their protein supplement shakes.  As long as you source your eggs well, this should not be a problem.  I've been doing this for years.  I also take painstaking measures to ingest the best eggs possible.  Quality counts.  I would not consume raw egg yolks from a factory-farmed egg.

In Chinese medicine eggs have a "neutral" thermal nature, thereby not aggravating any condition of heat (hot flashes, fevers, etc.) or cold (chills, poor circulation, etc.).  Eggs are used as a blood and yin tonic (builder).  They are recommended to "secure" the fetus (when there has been a tendency to miscarry), and are said to be calming for the fetus demonstrating excess movement in the womb.  Eggs are said to moisten the upper body, specifically, and are therefore, also recommended, for dryness of the lungs, throat, and eyes.  Eggs have been used, for thousands of years in Eastern medicine for the person with a dry, thin or anemic constitution.

The protein in eggs is consistent, and dense in such a small item.  In addition, the lecithin in the egg yolk is "built-in" to help the body absorb the vital fat-soluable vitamins within the fat of the yolk.  Lecithin has been shown to assist with neurological/brain health, and to benefit the following disorders:  ADD/ADHD, prevention of/post stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and M.S.   So, eat those eggs, and enjoy the many benefits they bring to your training.

Over Easy Eggs

4.)  Sweet Potatoes:  Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite staple foods.  They're filled with fiber (and therefore fill you up quickly!), are versatile to cook/bake with, and are loved by young and old alike You can make desserts out of them, main dishes, potato salads, and even use them as a base for smoothies.

Sweet potatoes have been used as a low-glycemic answer to the high-carbohydrate white, "Russet" potato by athletes for years.  You will feel more satiated with a sweet potato vs. a "Russet" potato, and will notice your portion sizes decreasing, when you add them into your diet.

In Chinese medicine, sweet potatoes are said to "promote Qi," and to "cool the body."  This can be useful, during the recovery phase of training, when the body has been overheated, for a period of time, during training.  Sweet potatoes rejuvenate the body, and build the yin capacity to tonify the adrenal glands (the endocrine glands responsible for cortisol, your "fight-or-flight" hormone").  They benefit inflamed, dry conditions (eczema, psoriasis, dry, itchy, scaly skin, etc.).  Sweet potatoes are also used to treat the perpetually thin, frail, convalescent and/or geriatric individual.  They can increase quantity of milk in lactating women, if there is a decrease, and also strengthen the spleen-pancreas complex (responsible for insulin regulation in Eastern medicine).

Sweet potato is a nutritional powerhouse of vit. A., and has been used in western and African folk remedies, in combination with liver (see food #1) for night blindness.

Two Young Japanese Girls Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

5.)  Quinoa:  Many people think of quinoa as a grain, but botanically speaking, it is a seed.  Quinoa is a virtual powerhouse of nutritionIt has grown in the South American Andes for thousands of years, and thrives in high, cold altitudes.  It was the staple food of the Incan warriors, and is a cousin of the amaranth seed (staple of the Maya and Aztec warriors).

It is considered "warming" in nature, from a Chinese dietary therapy perspective.  It is therefore useful for the frail, cold constitution, or for the person inhabiting cold climates.  It is considered strengthening for the whole body, and specifically tonifies the adrenal "yang Qi" (your source of will, drive and power).  It has as much protein as turkey, and is an excellent source of phosphorous, iron and vit. E.  In addition, it has as much calcium as milk, and is quite high in omega-3 fatty acids (which are anti-inflammatory).

It comes in many color varieties, and can be made into a "gruel," ground into flour, or prepared like a grain.

Red & White Quinoa

6.)  Watermelon:  Watermelon has long been known as a "hydration fruit."  For the overheated, overexerted athlete, nothing sounds better than a slice of watermelon after a long, hot run or athletic event.  

Watermelon, and its various parts, can be prepared in a variety of ways.  The rind is rich in silicon, and can be juiced or made into a tea to effectively reduce high blood pressure (1 ounce, 2-3x daily).  

The seeds, when dried, can be decocted and made into a tea.  They are a natural diuretic (assisting those with kidney issues), and contain cucurbocitrin, a compound which dilates cappillaires, also assisting high blood pressure.

Watermelon is said to be "cooling" to the body, in Chinese medicine, and has been used for centuries to "remove heat from the pericardium" (preventing sudden heatstroke, or even "unexplained death" during an athletic match in young people).  Watermelon removes edema from the lower body, diminishes canker sores, lifts depression, and effectively treats kidney and bladder infections, such as nephritis and urethritis.

Watermelon is often used as a food, for the athlete-in-training, to soothe carbohydrate cravings.  It offers a healthy dose of vit. C (39% of your daily value), and an abundance of potassium, magnesium, and manganese (all vital electrolytes).

Watermelon, Cool & Refreshing

7.)  Pistachios:  Many experts, in recent years have touted the "Mediterranean Diet."  Looking at the lean meats, fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts they eat, has proven to promote longevity in Adriatic regions.

The pistachio comes from this part of the world.  Long a staple of Syria, the Middle East, Crete, and Greece, the pistachio was to be found in the knap-sacks of weary travelers coming/going to the "Holy Land" on pilgrimage.

Pistachio nut trees were said to be found in the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon" in 700 B.C.  We can trace its ancient roots to Bedouin tribes of the Middle East, and northern Africa, eating it for fuel during their long desert treks in the blistering sun.

Pistachios are considered an important tonic for the entire body, and all vital organs, in Ayurvedic medicine.  They have a particular tonic effect on the liver and kidneys, and are said to assist with regularity.

Iran is the highest cultivator of pistachios, and prize pistachios in their national cuisine.

In December 2008, Dr. James Painter, a behavioral eating expert, professor and chair of School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University, described the Pistachio Principle. The Pistachio Principle describes methods of "fooling" one's body into eating less. One example used is that the act of shelling and eating pistachios one by one slows one's consumption, allowing one to feel full faster after having eaten less.

Pistachios Being Grown In Iran

8.)  Buffalo:  Buffalo is a traditional food of the Plains Native Americans.  It is a lean meat that is easy to digest, and loaded with protein.  

Due to the fact, that buffaloes are not factory-farmed animals, and are regulated by strict hunting/raising laws, they are a clean, good meat source to add into one's diet.

"Wasna" (meaning "all mixed up") was the traditional "trail-mix" or "pemmican" of the Lakota Sioux and Arapahoe natives.  Renowned for being fierce warriors, and great hunters, the Native people packed "wasna" into buffalo horns to be eaten, during the long sojourns for the hunt.

"Wasna" was a combination of dried berries (the "choke berry" of the Plains was most commonly used), pounded and mixed with dried buffalo meat and buffalo kidney fat.  This perfect combination of fat/protein/carbs was enough to sustain the greatest warriors of the Plains.

The Plains natives, were chronicled by early explorers and Medical Anthropologists as being some of the "greatest in stature, healthy, long-lived people you will meet."  Their robust frame, strong bones, and hardy countenance were said to be from the adequate protein that the buffalo specifically provided them.  

The buffalo is so important to the Plains Native Americans that their mythology, stories, and dances are cultivated around its calving and hunting seasons.

Lakota Sioux Hunting Buffalo

9.)  Avocados:  Avocados are largely thought of as native to the Polynesian or Caribbean islands, but in fact, they are from Mexico.  Avocados are a rich source of mono-saturated fat (80% of its caloric content), and are a higher potassium source than bananas.

In addition, they are rich in vits. E and K, and are a good source of soluble fiber.

In Chinese medicine they are said to build/tonify the blood and yin, "harmonize" the liver, and lubricate dry lungs and intestines.

Avocados are rich in copper, which aids in red blood cell formation.  An easily digestible protein source, avocados are good for people with weak digestion.  They're also indicated in intestinal inflammatory disorders:  IBS, Crohn's, ulcers, gastroenteritis, diverticulitis, etc.


10)  Seaweed:  If you come from Celtic, Saxon, Norse, Welsh, French or Pict ancestral lines, then your ancestors ate seaweed...and a lot of it.  Most Americans associate seaweed with being an Oriental food, but it was a staple of Viking warriors from long ago.  Carried in vats, on the powerful Viking ships, to replenish precious electrolytes and salt, seaweed is often known as a "sea vegetable."

Seaweed stabilizes blood sugar (probably pretty important for those powerful Viking rowers!).  It curbs cravings, re-establishes electrolyte balance, and normalizes fluids in the body (think edema).

Seaweed is said, in Chinese medicine, to detoxify the body of all excess radiation and heavy metals, clean the lymphatic system, stabilize metabolism, alkalize the blood (vital post-workout), heal the thyroid, and regulate endocrine/hormonal balance.

Seaweed contains a mucilaginous, soothing gel-like substance that heals the G.I.. tract, and inflammatory conditions associated with it (similar to avocado in this regard).  All varieties of seaweed are a wealth of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, and are exceptionally high in iodine, calcium and iron.  In addition, seaweed is also one of the few good sources of flourine, a halogen that boosts the body's defenses and strengthens the teeth and bones.


I hope you consider using my top 10 favorite "powerfoods" in your nutrition plan.  You will notice an increase in energy, athletic endurance, and overall health.

"The sages follow the laws of nature, and therefore their bodies are free from strange diseases.  They do not lose any of their natural functions, and their spirit of life is never exhausted."

~"Huangdi NeiJing, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine,"

*Excerpts from "Healing With Whole Foods," by Paul Pritchford, "Chinese Dietary Therapy," by Chi-Lin LiU & "WikiPedia"