Health


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A few months ago I transitioned to a gluten-free diet.  That’s when Whole Foods entered the picture, moving me up from a part-time shopper to a seriously full-time, once, twice or thrice a week shopper who brings her own bags to save the planet.  Whole Foods had the organic produce I was always too stingy to buy.  But my priorities changed.  It became important that I invest in the one body I have and feed it nutritious stuff free of man-made sh-tuf.  My friends laugh at me for it, but they’ll get it soon enough. 

Life Lesson 1: I laughed at my sister who said organic eggs TASTE better.  But she was right, and I am a convert. 

But, Whole Foods, I haven’t visited you lately, have I?  While I was busy getting nourished with the yummy goodness you offer, you stole my wallet!  You see, I started writing down the cost of my purchases and comparing to the local nutrition store just a 7 minute walk from my very own home.  The health food store won on many, though not all, of the products.  And even when Whole Foods offers the lower price, the gas I would waste alone to get there would make up for the difference.  Plus, in addition to the cheaper alternative, walking to the local store would be the healthier alternative that gets the body moving, the more social alternative greeting passerbys, the environmentally responsible alternative that leaves less carbon footprints, the support local business alternative that pays rent in the downtown area keeping it lively, and also offers the feeling of a slow down, take one step at a time and enjoy your life kinda lifestyle.  I like it.    

Life Lesson 2:  Realizing my priorities helps me make decisions.  Making decisions I believe in can lead to unintended delights. 

Life Lesson 3:  Tend your own garden first.

Happy Friday 😉 

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Following an example

Image by ktylerconk via Flickr

When you care for someone you want for them what you think is best.   So it becomes tempting to tell someone they should try to pick up healthier activities or food options.  For example, when I first started seeing the many benefits of practicing yoga years I go, I tried to introduce yoga to others I cared about.  It caught on for those who are open to new things, but not so much for the more reluctant and even defensive.  I didn’t realize there was a much more powerful way to go about it other than being direct.  NOT SAYING ANYTHING would work in a way I couldn’t imagine, while avoiding hurt feelings and defensive reactions.   JUST LEAD BY EXAMPLE.  Ultimately, when we choose to change or try something new for ourselves, a real transformation can result.

To “lead by example” is a common saying in our language, but it’s preciseness is not credited to the degree it should be.  But I never understood the power of the example until the last couple of months when a firestorm of change swept over my entire local network of family and friends. 

In late 2010, someone close to me told me she was going to cut down her gluten intake.  At the same time, my husband and I were considering doing a detox sometime in early 2011.   We were both having digestive issues and thought a good old-fashioned healthy raw diet would help us out.

A week before the detox, my close friend’s example made me realize that perhaps I should lay off the gluten and see what happened.  That week I felt much better than usual.  After the detox, I ate something that made me feel horribly sick, and after putting some pieces together, I realized I probably have candida albicans overgrowth in my system.  I remain on this candida detox diet today.

During this time, a friend of mine decided she needed to lose weight and started a program with a hospital in late January.  Her husband was supporting her by doing it himself.  Her coworkers observed her progress and commitment and within two weeks, two of her coworkers were ready to start the program themselves.  Her mother, father, and uncle also decided to begin eating healthier.  Our friend’s mother asked her in detail about what she eats, because she wanted to start eating healthier as well.  One by one, people around her began to FOLLOW HER EXAMPLE.    

Others close to me who have been dealing with major digestive distress saw me change my eating patterns as I remain on a candida detox.  Curious, one of these individuals bought a book on detox and is going to begin in the coming week.  She called me with questions.  I WANTED to suggest to her that she try a detox, but I was afraid that verbalizing it would make her pull away.  So she learned by MY example.

It’s all very magical.  Your wishes for others come true in their own time.  When I started practicing yoga in 1997 my mother thought I was crazy and even selfish for not eating breakfast with the family before my practice.  Since then, with a little encouragement from my sister she has tried yoga herself and is extremely encouraging of me to become a certified instructor.  And this chain of practicing yoga is longer than I realize.  Imagine how many lives will be changed because of one person learning from another’s example and not their suggestion. 

 How all of these events happen in conjunction is powerful and uplifting.  It’s pure magic.

In preparation for our first detox fast, I drove on snow covered roads to Whole Foods.  I met a gentlemen looking for watercress, something  I searched for earlier and had given up.  “How do you eat watercress,” he wondered? 

“We eat it, like rabbits, stem and all,” I answered wondering how else you’d eat it.  Wacko!  He must be new to watercress, I thought.

Or not!!!  This man, once medical student turned minister, juices watercress with other superfoods as an effort to treat his chronic fatigue syndrome.  He took me to the juicing carrots and explained how fat carrots have more nutrients than skinny ones.  We talked about peeing on ph strips to test our body’s acidity and he showed me the huge superfoods list floating above the bulk foods.  So far, his quality of life has changed. 

Returning to Whole Foods today to get the goods for our 3 days of straight-up juicing!!

Today's first lunch

Doctors can be admirable people, but they can be the dog we kick too.  When my 9 day old son died this September, I learned that nurses and doctors might be able to do some good, but when they do not listen, when they ignore signs that they are given, their humanness shows.  They believe they know everything.  They have confidence in the answers to your questions, even though you doubt them.  Still, you want to believe they know the answers.  And because we are taught that nurses and doctors DO know everything, as they themselves believe, we don’t kick and scream.  We don’t tell them we think they are wrong.  We don’t say they need to think harder and do their research.

Recently my almost 3-year-old son had a visit to the doctor for a check-up.  Two days later the doctor called me to inform me that he is anemic.  She stated he must have iron supplements.  I had to stop her when she was ready to hang up so I could ask questions, for example, about how anemic he was.  “Kids his age should be at 11, he’s at 10.6,” she says.  Wow, and I was ready to freak out?  That put things into perspective.  But because he used to throw up after I’d give him liquid iron supplements and vitamins when he was a baby, I was hesitant to try it and instead tried to cut down his dairy intake and up his iron through food.  When I finally decided to give it to him, he reacted in a similar way, throwing up and then running a fever through the night.  I called the Doctor the next day and left a message.  We played phone tag.  She and the nurse left me messages that he needs to take his iron supplement and this was just a coincidence.  That’s what she said when he was a baby.

It got to the point where I told the secretary what I thought.  Along the lines of:  Nobody in your office is listening to me.  I KNOW this was not a coincidence.  This is what they told me when he was a baby and I had to learn for myself it wasn’t coincidence.  If your doctors don’t take me seriously I will be looking for another office.  Someone there needs to research this if they don’t already know about iron supplements making some people sick.  The Doctor thinks her knowledge from 20 years ago is always the answer?  No!  If no one is going to look into this, I don’t want to take my son there!   And when she asked which doctor I wanted to speak to, I said, WHICHEVER ONE WILL LISTEN TO ME AND TAKE ME SERIOUSLY.   And when I got the call back from a different doctor moments later, she agreed that YES, some people have stomach issues with iron supplements.  Change his diet.  Then she tested me to see if he was still on the bottle or the sippy cup!  What?  Then, have him lower his dairy.  Have him eat things like spinach.  Interesting, I thought, since I read that spinach like dairy inhibits iron intake, which I confirmed with my brother who is studying to be a dietician.  What about red meat, I asked?  “Oh, red meat and children are like enemies,” she replied, “They don’t like red meat.”  “Well, my son loves it,” I said, thinking this doctor really thinks she knows it all.  I tested her about iron, and she gave surface answers.

Maybe I have anger towards doctors that think they know everything, but I think I’m also breaking out of the blind faith in doctors that society has engrained in us.  Neither doctors, nor nurses, nor surgeons, nor any medical professional is all-knowing in their specialized field and especially not in other fields.  Doctors should not talk about nutrition if they don’t know that spinach does not supply iron.  They should refer us to a dietician.   And while I admire the dedication that one must have to their profession in the medical field, with the grueling schooling and the long days of work, I admire that they are no better than I am.  And so, I, like anyone else, should have trust in my own intuition, my thoughts, my feelings.  I should be able to question a doctor.  If they do not listen, I will kick and scream until they realize that there are answers to questions that they just don’t have.  Refer or please, please, do your research.

“I did something to my finger.  Can you help me straighten it?” one of my twin uncles would say, trying to alter the “Pull my finger” bit so we would fall for it.  It worked 80% of the time.  But does that mean their digestive systems were not working to full capacity?  I wonder.

Apparently, irritable bowel syndrome plagues about 30 percent of the world’s population, where women are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from the digestive disorder.  But do you have to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome to have problems with gas, bloating, constipation or other digestive problems that we don’t like to discuss?  Of course not. 

The mouth is where digestion actually begins.  When food or liquid enters your mouth the brain (your hypothalamus to be exact) tells your digestive system to “LOOK ALIVE!  FOOD IS COMING YOUR WAY!”  Saliva is released in your mouth with enzymes to help break down and lubricate the food.  The food goes down your esophagus to your stomach where muscles contract, further breaking down the food.  Now the story gets good.  Hydrochloric acid in the stomach gets rid of bacteria in the food.  Resulting from this process is a product that is thick and pasty, called chyme. 

Be thankful for your amazing body and it's infinite wisdom

Chyme goes through the duodenum where muscle contractions help the food travel to the small intestine.  That’s where the nutrients are absorbed, right into the lining of the small intestine.  For this to happen, the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas make a delivery of bile and more enzymes to the small intestine to help further break down the food particles into “usable molecules”, ridding the particles of toxic or useless chemicals.  Leftovers are sent to the large intestine, which takes a bit more of whatever it needs and then pushes the rest out through your rectum, and voila!  Poop!

  According to Linda Sparrowe, author of The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health, from where I simplified the above explanation, THINGS DO GO WRONG.  Gastrointestinal problems could be driving you crazy because your central brain is “ignoring or overstimulating your gut brain.”  So if your brain malfunctions in this digestive process and not enough or too much of the signals are sent to the various digestive organs, the process is affected along the way. 

Sparrowe says “If your brain is preoccupied by stress, nerves, and fear, it may “forget” to send the right signals to your gut brain that food is on its way.  Similarly, a sluggish thyroid can mean a sluggish digestive system.  If your liver is weakened or on overload because of stress, drugs, alcohol, environmental toxins, or unhealthy foods, it may not produce enough bile to break down food particles.  Undigested food particles, according to the ayurvedic system, cause myriad problems.”   The Ayurvedic approach to health is a philosophy and healing system which is a product of thousands of years of development in India. 

Although many of us look to certain foods as the culprit to our inability to digest properly, ayurvedic medicine says what we eat isn’t as important as how you eat and digest food.  Negative emotions like anger and resentment can offset the balance needed for digestive organs to function well.  Sure, food allergies are totally possible, but imagine another possibility that can be hard to believe at first:  Western ideals of women’s flat bellies. 

While western ideals of women’s bellies are flat six packs, other places in the world sees a woman’s belly as the center of “creativity, power, and intuition.”  Sparrowe says “[a] bloated belly, chronic constipation, or excessive tension in the abdomen may signal a woman’s inability to assert herself, to establish her voice i the world.”  Holding your tummy in and hiding it under tight clothes can actually keep the blood in your digestive tract and reproductive organs from flowing!  Hence, disorders.

What I will call “flat belly syndrome,” can be emotionally damaging resulting in a body image struggle that put stress on your systems.  “It becomes a vicious cycle – you struggle to hold your stomach in; it reacts by bloating, cramping, and distending; you punish it even more by withholding nourishment, in the form of either food or soothing, healing breath; and your stomach rebels even more, making sure it gets your attention,” Sparrowe contends.  I’ve had “flat belly syndrome” and thought that was the way we should be and the only way we can fit into tight shirts.  Now that I don’t have that option, I’ve let go of the ideal.   

Besides a whole new mind-set, which takes time to come into, what can be done for gastrointestinal problems?  Here are some ideas from Sparrowe and the ayurvedic tradition.

Love your tummy

For constipation:  Lay off the bread and cheese, processed food, partially hydrogenated oils in food, white flour and white sugar foods.  DO Eat more fresh fruits, green leafy veggies, fiber-rich grains and cereals, seaweed, essential fatty acids like flaxseed or flaxseed oil.  Drink lots of liquids, particularly warm water. 

For gas:  Watch the breads and dairy products.  Don’t eat simple sugar or starches which encourage intestinal yeast.  Restore your body’s GOOD bacteria with probiotic supplements as that’s the only way to replenish them, particularly acidophilus and bifidobacterium.   Especially for foods you think you can’t tolerate, add spicy, carminative herbs to your food, like ginger, fennel, cumin, garlic, rosemary, and cardamom.

For Spastic Colon or IBS:  In general, herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, and hops help release tension and a spastic colon and can be made into a tea to sip before bed to calm your stomach and aid sleep.   Five to ten drops of peppermint oil and caraway seed oil in an 8 oz glass of warm water helps relive IBS symptoms in 90 percent of sufferers according to a German study.  Siberian ginseng can help nervous exhaustion or stress-related digestive problems, it works to balance your body, both stimulating and relaxing as your body needs.

There are also sequences for IMPROVING DIGESTION, RELIEVING DIARRHEA, and IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME.  Stay tuned for a full list on the poses that Sparrowe details in her book.  If you can’t wait, contact me!

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not take some pharmaceutical that a medical doctor may prescribe.  The symptoms, if not diseases like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis which require medical attention, most likely have underlying causes that in the end, we can control with our MINDS AND BODIES.

Conclusion: Dear Uncles, I think we pulled your fingers way too many times. 

***The author takes no responsibilities of the information above.  Most of this information was extracted from Linda Sparrowe’s “The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health.”  ***

The 89-year-old man next to me took his clothes off and tugged at his catheter. Bringing myself to the emergency room was a difficult decision that took a good hour of pain. The pain started a couple days ago and at first I thought it must be ovarian cysts. But after waking up at 2:00 a.m. the next day the pain had worsened and grew in my abdomen. I woke up nauseous. Paranoia set in and I looked up ecoli symptoms, then appendicitis, and I remembered when my dad had his removed and the episode of Modern Family where the Al Bundy guy takes himself to the hospital and his Latina wife doubts he has anything wrong. His appendix is then removed in an emergency procedure. My Latino husband doubted me too. All the more reason to get up and go. As I drove on black ice to the hospital I knew I was crazy. I don’t care. The pain was too much to sleep. Still lying here, waiting for a test. The naked old man was moved upstairs. He was too much trouble. My blood tests are normal. That’s always a good feeling. Sometimes you have to look like a paranoid jackass to make sure your appendix isn’t about to explode.

Oxford

Paranoia is setting in as the weather chills, the heat cranks, and germs have parties for the holidays.  With closed doors and sealed homes we are waiting with fingers crossed and hopes for a not so unhealthy winter.  When did this germophobia make its way into my life?  When my son was born two years ago, that’s when!  As a parent, it’s not the compassion that you give to your child in need that’s difficult, when you smell like vomit after the volcano erupts.  The tough part is watching your child, who has no idea what’s going, suffer.  The second toughest part is knowing that the virus is BOUND to circulate in the house and bring the rest of us down. 
 
A stomach virus has circulated our house, but something amazing has come to my attention.  My husband went down first, locked away in the bedroom for 48 hours.  We took every precaution.  He had a sanitizing wipe in his hand each time he charged the bathroom.  I sanitized and re-sanitized, I washed my hands constantly, CONSTANTLY.  We wouldn’t let my son see his father unless he was 10 feet away!  This took a lot of energy.
 
But then, nothing happened.  Until 2 days later, when as my son and I were stirring our brownie mix, he stopped chugging his water and BLLLAAAHHHHH, he threw up all over himself, me, the kitchen floor, and yes, the brownie mix.  There were a couple more episodes, but I’ll tell only of one so those of you who don’t have children think I’m crazy.  He just chugged a cup of water and started heading to the family room when BLLLLLAAAHHHH all over the floor and he kept walking as if nothing happened!  I thought if he caught this stomach flu he would be just sick to his stomach, but aside from the short eruptions, he carried on all day like nothing was wrong! 
 
And magically, I only feel queasy, probably more from hunger pain since I’m being conservative on the food JUST IN CASE.  But, I’m okay, I’m fine!  Why?  Why?  I’m going to hand it to my chiropractic care and to my revived love for yoga.  I’ve also been taking my vitamins daily.  I think my nervous system is doing alright and so my immune system is kicking butt.  I feel like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable where he finds out he’s this superhero who never gets sick or injured from totally fatal episodes.
 
For the remainder of this season, I’ll be meditating on my healthy state, my healthy state, my healthy state and I dare any germ to cross my path.  (Just kidding germs).  I am unbreakable.