This post is for me. Read on if you want, but I did the research for myself. Every spring, I go off sneezing like a tommy gun for about two weeks. It's uber annoying to me and all those around me, and my patients. Who likes getting sneezed on when they're getting their neck worked on? Me! Meeee!
For some reason Farmington gets hit worse than others. Maybe it's a combo of all the energy production chemical waste in the air, and the fact that we're pretty windy and dry; but we get hit with the dirt and pollen like those test dummies in Alamogordo get dropped with nukes. It's wild. If in about 12 years you want to make a lot of money, start going to graduate school with the intent of getting your MD and then specializing in allergies with a target on setting up shop in Farmington. You'll have customers lined out the door.
If you don't want to be one of those customers, try these things:
1) Order a RAST test. See if there's anything you're eating that's tipping off your allergic reactions as well. Eliminating wheat or dairy may prove to help your hay fever during the spring. The technical name for this food allergy and hay fever connection is oral allergy syndrome.
2) Change your house's filter. Check the air filter in your house, buying a $6 filter may be the difference in circulating all those air borne allergens and cutting them down dramatically. Try it. Worse case scenario is that you wasted $6, but have cleaner air in the house.
3) Consider buying some indoor plants. This is related to number two. The principle is to keep your house's air cleaner, thereby reducing the load to your body whenever you're at home. I.E. control the variables you can control. You probably can't afford to go around and burn every pinon tree down to the ground in hopes that you'll stop sneezing (that would be bad for the environment as well), but you can have a small impact on the air that circulates in your home. NASA did some research (here and here) on which plants are the best at cleaning air. Due to various energy producing industries around here, I've been told that we have more problems with the famed BTEX compounds than other areas. As such, Farmingtonians may want a plant that is good at getting rid of xylene. May I suggest a "Red-Edged Dracaena" (dracaena marginata)? This plant is fantastic at dealing with the harmful organic compounds floating around out there, the only downside is that it requires a lot of light, so you can't put it in places that may need it that don't have a lot of windows.
4) If dealing with a plant isn't your thing, and you have disposable income that needs disposing off, you could consider an air filter. Consumer reports has already done most of the research here, you can read what they have to say about the products available here.
There's three simple tips to help you ward off the nasty onset of allergies that seems to hit a lot of us this time of year. Keep healthy, keep sneeze-less my friends!
We have a sick kid.
Our poor little sick kid, he won't be able to . . .
You don't know what it's like to have a sick kid, you must have to . . .
If I went to the store and was shopping in the milk aisle, if there was a large red and black sticker with a skull and crossbones, I would do a double-take on that. You can be sure as hell I wouldn't buy that particular carton of milk. Such is the power of a label. That label told me, even without directly telling me, that there was something wrong about that milk, as a result, I treated it differently.
Labels extend far beyond the poison control into our health destinies. Does this sound familiar? ADHD. OCD. Dumb. Slow. Dyslexic. Short. Weak. And the one I hate the most: sick.
We've become a culture that labels sickness as a part of who we are instead of recognizing it as a state in a dynamic system. My boy had a food allergy that we were unaware for some time, on top of that he contracted a virus (hand, foot and mouth) that made him flare up and develop extremely sensitive skin. Luckily, he had a great allergist who gave him medication to get him over his extremely inflammatory slump, and -- I'm going to toot his parents' horn here -- then he had a couple of parents who understood health enough to provide his body with the raw materials it needed to be able to be healthy.
But, a label has stuck.
I've heard this more than once, and it drives me bonkers. How's your sick kid?
Let me tell you the ways that question is wrong. First off, the wording. I am always careful to say Your child is fighting a sickness, not Your child is sick. It's a subtle change that can have big effects. Calling a young, developing mind a "sick kid" over and over again, and that label becomes a part of them instead of accurately describing a passing phase. That label can even come so much a part of a young mind that he/she begins defending that label of sickness because they have come to identify themselves with it. You've met those people that are in this phase, those people that gladly own their sickness and wear it like a merit badge; these are also the same people that -- despite seeing the most expensive doctors around the country -- can't find "help" for their "illness", because deep down inside they don't want to be cured. Being cured would mean losing a part of them that they believe makes them unique and special from everyone else, and everyone needs to feel unique and special -- but holding on to a disabling label isn't the healthiest way to do this.
On the flip side, you can witness the exact opposite in those stalwart soles who have an honest-to-goodness challenge in their life that can't be worked away with healthy lifestyles, and you see these people thriving because they refuse to accept their "label". People like this guy.
Truth be told, my "sick" boy is far from sick. Many occasions I think he's too healthy, and I wish he'd back off a little bit on the vibrant life energy. Sheesh. He has more energy than a caffeinated chihuahua, picks up more words than should (What did you just say?!), and can operate an iPad. The foods he are allergic to are mostly foods that you shouldn't be eating. Period. Imagine a child that only ate fresh fruit and vegetables, and wild, organic meats? Umm, that's my boy. His sensitivities to dairy, peanuts, and soy have only forced our family to eat healthier. Our boy is a blessing.
Oh that poor soul, he can't eat that diabetes-inducing ice cream like all other healthy children?
Yeah, you nailed it. Watch those labels.
I get this question almost every day. When studying, I find it important to understand principles, then the details seem to fall right in line. Although tailored, specific exercises prescriptions work wonders, there is no "one size fits all" program for, let's say, tension headaches. The best thing one can do is learn the principles behind how exercise works to alleviate pain and muscle knots.
Exercise Principle For The Day: Motion is medicine for your brain. The brain craves bodily movement and the barrage of electrical firing that comes with it. A cool side effect of moving your body is that is helps to regulate pain levels of all sorts because it helps create a healthier brain that will probably be more apt to not express pain. (I spoke on the subject that pain is a brain output not an input last post.) Therefore, it's more important that you move than how you move. Let's take the person with a tight neck from working at the computer for all hours. If this person does a google search for "stretches for tight neck" she'll find a ton of cool youtube videos. These may or may not help. Instead of looking for the absolutely perfect stretch for that one muscle at the top of your shoulder blade, try setting a timer on your phone or watch for 30 minutes. Every time this timer goes off, stand up from you desk, and move you head around gently (not spasmodically... please) in all different ways: looking far to the right and left, looking up and down, and giving a good yawn (relaxing the front neck muscles). Then, go back to your desk and reset the timer.
Just moving around and avoiding the stagnant postures we frequently subject our body to day in and day out will work wonders for your pain levels. Worry less about the miracle exercise and/or stretch, and focus more on making sure you give your brain enough movement.
There... you have one of my secrets.
Your heart. What more ironic and appropriate than to talk a little bit about the organ of your existence. Sadly, much of what you know about it is false. It does not look like the silhouette of buttocks with pointy, arrowhead underside. I have no idea where this symbol came from.
It's a hard worker. Approximately 42 BILLION beats per year, give or take a million. It never sleeps. Its going when you're not going.
And, statistically, its failing is the reason you, as an American, will die. Way to be a bummer for Valentines, Josh! I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer, only trying to illuminate the possibility that your heart may need some extra love.
So I leave you with a thought and a book: 1.) That soda pop is probably more dangerous to your heart than the hamburger. 2.) The Cure For Heart Disease.
I hope you have a great rest of the day, that you eat some chocolate sugary goodness today (even if it isn't the best for you), and that you take better care of your heart in the year to come.
With perfect timing, even more research was recently released looked at gains in life expectancy with those who are active with their spare time. The study examined life expectancy increases and decreases according to whether or not participants in the study followed the following recommendations:
• 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week (moderate defined as activity vigorous enough that one can talk, but not sing), or
• 1.25 hours of vigorous activity per week (vigorous defined as activity where one can only get a couple of words out before getting out of breath)
Now, these recommendations aren't that difficult. Basically, at least one time per week, for the take the time one would take watching a movie, and go do something physical instead. 2.5 hours, if you parcel this out for the week, is 21.42 minutes per day; if you take the weekends off, this is 30 minutes per day. Now, if you're really short on time and went and exercises vigorously, it's around 11 minutes per day, 15 minutes if you want to keep your weekends exercise free. Not too excessive, no? Well the gains were excessive! Those who followed the study gained an estimated 3.4 years to their life; those who went for the gold and doubled this recommendation added an estimated 4.2 years to their total life expectancy. In medical statistics terms, this is huge. If a drug could do this, you know nearly every doc would be considering getting on this. 3.4 years!
The good news for us that aren't the driven, even doing a measly half of the recommended requirement for physical activity (think of only a ten minute walk!) added an average 1.8 years to life. This is great news for us looking to make a change. Even little increases in physical activity will yeild dramatic results. In business terms, the ROI (return on investment) is huge and cannot be overemphasized.
What happens this month is difficult, though. Things get busy. They already started getting busy with Halloween, then there's Thanksgiving, and Black Friday, then Hannakuh, Christmas, and New Years. We have a lot going on.
Personally, my activity level has been put onto "weekend warrior" status as of late, and I'm feeling it: decreased energy, mental fatigue, lack of happiness. Playing a crazy game of paintball on the weekend isn't enough to keep my system at its peak all weak.
So, publicly, I'm repenting of my former follies and returning to full activity status, and I invite you to come along. Enjoy the added years to your life, as well as the added life to your years. Don't let the cold weather be your excuse.
"The current system is not working. We don't need more debate about who should pay for healthcare, we should be debating what kind of healthcare we should pay for." -Dr. James Chestnut
There is a subtle shift happening throughout healthcare. Like most advances in thinking, it is illuminating past errors. I want to discuss why we get sick, what we used to think about this subject, and contrast how this is different from present truths. This subject is broad, but I will try to simplify it as much as I can. As a result, I will be looking at general rules, not the rare exceptions to the rules.
Behold my simple lists of awesomeness:
OLD THINKING NEW THINKING
Genes cause my diseases Genes are heavily influences by environment
Sick because missing right medicine Sick because missing the right nutrition
Body is separate from mind/brain Body is intricately connected with mind/brain
Infectious diseases kill most people Lifestyle diseases kill most people
My health is the responsibility of the Dr./insurance company/mom & dad
My health is no one's responsibility but my own
Do you see the contrasts between the two modes of thinking? I would encourage every consumer to do their research, and ask yourself, Why am I sick? What is making me sick? Most likely, the answer you'll write down will point to either:
a) There's something your body needs, that you're not giving it. This is all the stuff you already know, that you hear on the nightly news and The Doctors every week. "You should eat your vegetables." "Exercising 30 minutes a day cuts your risk of stroke by more than half!"
b) Or, you're sick because you're giving your body too much of the bad stuff. "Trans fats are bad!" "Eating refined sugars will give you diabetes." Or, the one you've been hearing for years "ZOMG! Stop SMOKING!!! It'll kill you and your babies!"
We all know these things. Now, there's a few you may not know about (What?! Diary is bad for me?), but for the most part, I haven't told you anything new. The question is: do you directly correlate that delicious soda pop with diabetes? Or a sedentary lifestyle with early onset dementia? Probably not.
You now know a little bit more about what gets us sick, and that it's probably a result of poor health habits. Let me show you one of my favorite slides that I frequently show at the end of lectures I give. On the far left is the number zero, which is death; on the far right is the number ten, which would be absolutely vibrant health -- health so awesome that it couldn't get any better, Jack-Lalanne-type health. We're all somewhere in between, according to our choices. Every time you pick the apple over the donut (or the exercise over the couch, or the moment of gratitude over complaining), you're making yourself healthier; every time you choose the donut over the apple, you're moving closer to death a little bit quicker.
It's important to note that it's OK to have a donut every now and then. There's something special about breaking the rules and splurging every now and then. Just as long as you're choosing the apple far more than the donut, you'll have a good life.
Now that you know, you're responsible. Go choose "healthy."
Many things we do to get The Winning Edge take money. I'm going to talk about things you can do that don't take money, yet are 110% good for wellness.
FIRST, AND THE ONE I AM WORST AT: SLEEP
Sleep takes nothing but time. Honestly, it doesn't take the perfect mattress, pillow, Lunesta or lavender scented candle. Most humans sleep on dirt floors. You don't need a Tom Cruise bed; you need the commitment. Sleep will be more important than watching all four seasons of Breaking Bad tonight. The longer you make sleep a non-issue in your life the bigger of an issue it becomes, and the harder it becomes to fall to sleep naturally, like a baby. (Then, and only then, you may need some fairy dust from that glow-in-the-dark butterfly.)
Do you need sexy Lululemon pants to get your fitness on? Hells no. You need you, maybe some shoes, and preferably some clothes (although the original olympians thought otherwise). Go outside, move. It's free.
WHAT ABOUT FOOD?
Well this isn't free, you should know that some of the best foods don't have to be expensive. You know what's expensive? My MONSTER energy drinks, or the 12 pack of Dr. Pepper I can't get over. Over 50 cents for sugar water, that's expensive. (Especially when I factor in my insulin shot later.) Look at this picture from the health talk I did on Paleo recently. This was a meal of a group of islanders.
What do you see? Some root vegetables, squash, maybe some banana, and fish. Is this expensive? No. What are the body yields from eating like this?
Not too shabby. I'd be ectstatic if I looked like that, I might even be asked to be on one of those Hot Bod fragrance commercials. Finally!
... retract those blades, keep that joint in a secure position.
When benching, don't bench too much. And don't EVER bring your arm forward, if you feel your scapulae sliding sideways and forward, you're pushing too far forward.
It should look like this:
The picture on the right is correct, see those shoulders being pulled back.
Good luck making those pecs summer ready!
I've been reading an often horrifying book called "Our Daily Meds: How The Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs." From the title, it is fairly apparent what this book is about. It's also fairly apparent that it's not pro-Big Pharma.
With its biases aside, the book is still a scary read. The fact that USA is one of only two developed countries that allows direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs is scary. The fact that a new drug gets unlimited chances to prove its worth in clinical trials is scary (meaning that if a drug failed scientific testing 7 times out of ten, as long as three tests showed it did something, it can be produced and sold). The fact that a new drug does not have to prove efficacy beyond meds currently available is scary. Yeah, that three dollar bottle of Aspirin may still be better than the expensive scrip for the new anti-inflammatory in a shiny color . . . but you or your doctor just aren't aware of it.
I'm a capitalist, so I don't blame these companies for trying to make a profit, but there's something unethical about literally making up diseases to sell a product (overactive bladder, anyone?), or marketing Ritalin to 6 year olds (remember, Ritalin is basically cocaine's slightly less lethal little brother).
Luckily, tides are changing. More and more people are taking efforts to stay away from this multi-billion dollar marketing trap that steals dreams and crumples lives – have you ever tried to reach your potential while hooked on oxycontin? Be aware of this. Realize drug companies are trying to make money like the rest of us, and sadly, their product doesn't generate profits when you're healthy. In most cases, your doctor most likely wants to work with you get rid of any long-term drug dependency – make them your ally, not your enemy.
Frequently, especially with the recent depression our economy has gone through, we're reminded the importance of planning and self-reliance. We've been reminded that it is often us that must pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and that it is also our duty and blessing to help others once we've gotten to our feet.
Most of the focus of this collapse has rightly been on money, but there are parallels elsewhere. When one thinks of "self-reliance," one thinks of personal bank accounts, the ability to pay ones bills, of spending less than one takes in, and avoiding unnecessary debt.
What's crazy is that these lessons not only are applied to the realm of money, but in our health.
Are we physically self-reliant? Are we investing in our health? With regards to our bodies, are we taking actions to limit health deficits (fast food, sedentary lifestyle), and maximizing our health assetts (exercise, eating vegetables and fruit at every meal)?
These are important questions to ask, because one way or another, we all pay for our health. I'm not an economist, but I believe we are on the upswing of the financial depression, but that a severe depression of health is slowly mounting. Yet, I am an optimist; we can still turn things around. Therefore, I want my health costs to be minimum, proactive, and even enjoyable. I want to invest in prevention. I want to invest in my physical self-reliance in preparation for the coming storm.