Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
Alexis Asquith struck a chord during a recent interview for a “What are you eating?” segment to be published Saturday in WNY Refresh.
She got ulcers in her stomach and intestines when she was 15, and used a combination of yoga and sensible eating to vastly improve her digestive tract.
Asquith told me she doesn’t have food allergies, but has an intolerance to some foods that seemed to be the root cause of her gastrointestinal distress.
I have family members with similar issues, as well as several friends in their 40s and 50s who also suffer with gastro woes. Most of them have used a regimen of doctors and drugs to treat their symptoms, and almost all of them have struggled with getting to the bottom of the root causes of their conditions.
Asquith took a different approach to her treatment. She decided there were two causes to her ulcers – stress and food – and she decided that addressing both would be in her best interest.
“I’m a curious 22-year-old who chooses food over medicine,” she told me last week during an interview after teaching a yoga class to kids at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. (see story here and photo gallery here).
“I don’t believe that medicine is, or should be, a quick fix for a lifestyle,” she said. “People want instantaneous results without doing the work and I want to experiment as much as I can, test it out. I literally test things out and wait for a reaction.
“What causes these discomforts? Is it what I’m eating? Is it what I’m thinking? Turns out (the ulcers were) a little bit of both – mostly thoughts, stress.
"I got really deep into yoga. I started to meditate and I started to feel a little better. Then I thought, ‘What is the next step?’ And I started to get curious about food, different vegetables, different herbs, different homeopathic remedies.”
Here’s some of what else she had to say:
What have you discovered when it comes to food?
There is some crazy stuff out there. Basically what I’ve discovered is that any food that comes from the earth has health benefits. Something I just learned: cinnamon is great for balancing out your blood sugar. My grandmother used to always tell me if I had a sore throat, ‘(Take) apple cider vinegar with honey and water.’ Don’t tell her this, but she was right.
What foods have you found the most healing?
I gave up eating all meat except fish. I felt a shift happen over four or five weeks. I can’t process a lot of vegetables, which is difficult for a vegetarian, so juicing is very easy on the digestive system. I make these crazy smoothies with ingredients you probably never heard of before.
Spirulina, which is a blue green algae and a complete protein. Flaxseed, hemp powder, cacao powder, maca powder. And in all the smoothies I try to keep a 3:1 balance, with three vegetables to one fruit. In my diet, I wanted to eliminate as much acidity as I could and restore my pH level. Acidity can lead to inflammation, which can lead to a lot of digestive problems or skin problems.
What are the staples of your diet?
Juicing. I never strive for perfection. There are days that if I want a piece of chocolate, I’m going to have it. I just strive for consistency. I have nobody to answer to but myself. If I’m going to eat something that’s going to make me feel bad, I’m going to feel bad, not mentally bad, but physically bad.
I eat a lot of veggie burgers, and a lot of restaurants have become really accommodating. Just about everywhere you go, there’s a delicious piece of fish, or a veggie burger or a fish taco, something like that.
You have to be mindful and smart. There’s a lot of temptation. You say, ‘I want a juicy hamburger or hot dog,’ but you just can’t.
I eat a lot of soup because that’s a good way for me to eat vegetables.
What’s your favorite soup?
Gweneth Paltrow’s Beet Green Soup. She just came out with a new cookbook. It’s called, ‘It’s All Good,’ and it has a recipe for a beet green soup. The beet greens, the top of the beets, are almost more beneficial than kale, than the beets themselves. It’s amazing. They have a lot of calcium in them, and other vitamins and minerals. They’re a little milder than kale and a little more flavorful than spinach.
Is there a food you can’t resist?
Honey Nut Cherios, with almond milk. I don’t touch any dairy. I try to keep a very low-glycemic diet – nothing white, nothing processed. I try, try, try.
Gluten is a killer to me. It’s not an allergy, it’s just an intolerance. It’s not for any fad or diet – I hate that word, ‘diet’ – is just that I know I will be doubled over in pain if I eat a piece of white bread.
Then I have to backtrack, see what I ate.
It sounds like for you, a combination of yoga and better eating made a difference in your health. Do you do any other exercise?
I used to be a dancer and I love doing that. I love being outside and hiking. I go for a walk almost every day. Riding my bike, so I just do whatever I can, but yoga mainly.
I do a lot of self-reflection, a lot of life reflection. I really and truly believe that emotional weight is just as heavy as physical weight. You can’t have a healed body without a healed mind. There’s no way I could have done one without the other.
The yoga brings a lot of stuff up. You can’t hide when you’re on the mat. If you eat like crap, you’re going to feel heavy on your mat. If you’re going through something in your head, you’re going to have it come through on your mat.
It sounds like you’ve kept track of what you’re eating.
I have to, for my own life. How do I know how to avoid something if I don’t know what I ate. So I try foods with very few ingredients, food in its natural state. I try not to eat anything packaged – except for Honey Nut Cherios, and I drink a lot of water. I tend to only drink water and an occasional glass of red wine.
I’ve found that Twitter is a huge portal of information if you follow the right people.
Who are some of the people you follow on Twitter?
Huffington Post; they have a healthy living account. Dr. Frank Lipman. Tiny Buddha is great for meditation.
Asquith also is now following us on Twitter at @bnrefresh.