Thursday, July 9, 2009

Better Bellies

Well, after a nice long holiday weekend, it is officially swimsuit time and I can hear the groans from many of you. Not only do you have to pack a billion things (just in case) for a 2 hour stint at the pool, but you need to fit into last year’s suit after a long winter.

Personally I judge myself on whether or not I can see my feet. If my belly is bloated so much I can’t see my toes, I know I need to do a little maintenance ASAP. The secret weapons are….drum roll…….diet and exercise. Okay, Okay, I know, not rocket science, but it’s the kind of diet and exercise that makes all the difference.

Bellies can bloat for many reasons, but two that are overlooked are Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance. Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are both on the rise, and according to Natural Health magazine, some experts believe they’re doubling every ten years. Why? It could be from how wheat is being grown and processed. Genetically altering the crops is taking its toll on our digestive systems.

If you have any of these symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor:
1. Frequent abdominal pain
2. Bloating
3. Bone pain
4. Constipation
5. Diarrhea
6. Fatigue
7. Low moods (even depression)
8. Muscle cramps

Getting tested isn’t a big deal, but you need to do it BEFORE you start eliminating things from your diet so you get true results. The blood test will look to see if you are making auto-antibodies (proteins made by your immune system that attack cells) to gluten. If the blood test is positive, your doctor will want to see if there is any damage that your immune system has done to your intestines. Your intestines absorb nutrients so you want them as healthy as possible.

Celiac Disease = damaged intestines
Gluten Intolerance = no damage, but body can’t break down gluten

I have been told that I have both, so I don’t know which diagnosis is right, but I do know that I need to watch what I eat. My round lower belly isn’t fun and I pay the price for eating things I know I shouldn’t….like the whole weekend over July 4th. Gluten is everywhere! Seriously look at labels for any forms of wheat, rye, barley or triticale. It’s in play-doh, lipsticks, sauces, toothpaste, and many things in boxes and cans. You’d be shocked at how many products use those ingredients as fillers. It’s as bad as high-fructose corn syrup.

But life isn’t all bad. Fruit and veggies are a big GO! I can also have rice, potatoes, corn, soy, tapioca (yeah!), nuts, and a few other grains like buckwheat, millet, and quinoa. You can find tons of stuff at and . I also take a probiotic just to help my digestive system get a step up. Am I good every day? NO. I’m a sucker for bread and brownies like everyone else, but I try to limit what I can.

The other thing that really helps is Pilates and Power Yoga (not meditative yoga). Both forms of exercise use your core abdominals intensely….thus moving around everything on the inside to keep it going in the right direction. With both Pilates and Yoga, you must breathe deep and be precise. Controlled movements are key. You will sweat if you are doing it right, and the muscle gain will be tremendous. Cardio has its benefits, but it’s important to give your mind and core some attention as well. Plus, neither of these really needs any equipment when you are starting out.

You can take a class at your community center, check out a book, or rent a video for home. I happen to really like the Windsor Pilates set of videos, but there are many out there to choose from. The three best reasons to take a class are because the instructor will push you farther than you will yourself, you’re more obligated to go since you paid for it, and people are expecting you to show up. When doing workouts at home there is always something that comes up you could be doing instead. But, I completely understand the time and money factors of taking a class, so books and videos are still great opportunities for you to increase your health.

Make this your summer! You are fabulous, beautiful, smart and sexy. You will have a body and mind at the top of your game because you deserve it first, and your family deserves it second. You just can’t put a price on health and happiness. Go for it all!!

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