wellness…

It might seem to some of you that I’m forever making reference to certain failings of mine.

Why is that you ask?

Some time ago I read a small, thin paperback on how to write well. One piece of advice stood out from the rest.

Write what you know. That’s just what I’ve tried to do.

For some time now I’ve had health concerns…from chronic inflammation…to digestive issues.

A firm believer in alternative medicine, I see a massage therapist monthly and a chiropractor as needed.

Within the last year or so, things have gone haywire.

naturopath

naturopath (Photo credit: mugley)

I chalked it up to old age and moved forward as best I could.

I sought help from everyone in my bag of medical practitioners….family doctor…hand orthopedist…gastroenterologist…chiropractor…massage therapist…physical therapist…and most recently, a naturopath.

I credit all of them for bringing me along physically, mentally, and even emotionally.

What I’ve learned from all of them…and from my daughter, a professional dancer…is that life makes perfect health...impossible!

The experts do their best to get my body functioning again. However a resumption of my normal activities eventually erodes the progress made.

That’s life…in a nutshell!

Every now and then, however, there are “aha” moments.

Today I had a followup appointment with my naturopath. I left her office with a lot of good, useful information.

I discovered I’m sensitive to certain foods…almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sesame, wheat, eggs and egg yolks (from chickens…I can eat the ones ducks lay), pineapple, green beans and lima beans, cauliflower, mushrooms, garlic, both baker’s and brewer’s yeast, cheddar cheese, and yogurt.

How will I ever forgo…peanut butter slathered on a slice of bread? Asian food cooked in sesame oil? The occasional glass of wine or fruity martini?

Only time will tell, I guess.

Then there’s the fact that the level of the good bacteria in my stomach is too low to offset the effects of my bad bacteria. As a result, sugar intake increases the growth of the bad bacteria.

Oy vay!

These lips will never taste sugar again. It’s a good thing I got my fill of holiday candies and cookies when I did.

My thyroid is slightly elevated. “Why the concern?” I asked. “It affects your metabolism.” I was told. No doctor had ever…in my 63 years…mentioned my thyroid. Let alone test it.

Now for a little good news. The ratio of my good cholesterol to my bad cholesterol…HDL to LDL…is 1.8. Well within the acceptable range of 0.0-3.2.

As a result of what we learned from my blood tests, we discussed the diet I should follow over the next several weeks. After that I’ll check back to discuss how it affected my overall health.

If the news is positive, I’ll  reintroduce some of the questionable foods to see how well I tolerate them. Eggs being the first challenge, according to my naturopath.

Following that eye-opening appointment, I had another one with the chiropractor.

Since my favorite practitioner had the day off, I was treated by a doctor who had recently joined the staff.

After an adjustment that took roughly 20 minutes, I left the office talking to myself.

“WOW!!! Oh, my God! I feel great! My back feels great! My hand feels great! My hips don’t ache! I feel taller! I can stand up straight! I don’t feel so fatigued! My head isn’t fuzzy!”

On and on I mumbled, unable to fathom that all my symptoms could be completely cured in such a short time.

Upon “returning to earth,” I knew it’d take a day or two for my body to settle into the adjustment. Another visit with the chiropractor on Monday will ascertain whether or not he needs to do any tweaking.

Chiropractor

My faith in alternative health practitioners has grown steadily over the years. They have helped me understand my body. From them I have learned to take precautionary measures to ensure…quality of life…as I continue to age.

…i write about…what i know…

………hugmamma.

“hallelujah!,” for not “going white”

Am here to spread the word about a newfound “partner in crime,” Zoriana, my new hair stylist. Where has she been all my life? Obviously not where I was. But circumstances beyond my control finally caused me to seek her out. And I’m very happy I did!

Baby-boomers like me, and those slightly older, and perhaps some who were still toddling around when I was in high school, know that a woman’s “crowning glory” is literally on top of her head, her hair, her hair, her hair! So when our “crowns” start to tarnish, some of us “hit the bottle,” literally. The bottle of henna rinse, that is, or whatever they’re calling it these days. I’ve been guilty of “hitting the bottle” for quite a few years. How old was I when I started? Who knows. And at 61, who cares?

I think I began by doing the job myself, maybe in my 40’s. I couldn’t tell you exactly when. As with age, graying hair snuck up on me. Like all things novel, dyeing my own hair back to its original color, or almost, was okay, no big deal. In my 50’s, it was getting irksome, especially when I’d spatter color on the floor tile, the bathroom wall, my clothes. Then the task became a bigger project, cleaning up after myself. Of course, trying to find the right hair color product was a job in itself, trying to imagine me in the picture on the front of the box. It required a lot of imagination since the models are Caucasians, and African-Americans, never Asian.

When I moved with my daughter so she could train for a professional dance career, dyeing my hair in the bathroom of our rented apartment, convinced me I should have it done professionally. The space was small, and I feared permanent stains might jeopardize the return of our security deposit, when we moved out. At least that’s what I told myself. But I’ve never looked back on what’s become a habit. I consider it part of my housekeeping salary, and I’m sure my husband likes that I don’t look like his grandma, although she was a very lovely woman.

My friend Katy “kicked the habit” a number of years ago. She now has a gorgeous head of hair in shades of “salt and pepper” gray. Unfortunately my head would look like white cabbage. It’s not a bad look, if the body matched. My vision of that person is like Ellen de Generes, cute and perky. A month-and-a-half ago, I thought I had no choice but to “go white.”

The hairdresser I was seeing for several years developed an allergy toward dark hair color. To contend with the problem she washed my hair before applying the color, where previously she use to do the reverse. Perhaps that caused my scalp to react badly the last time I saw her. As she began applying the color, a burning sensation developed in one spot. I think she quickly smoothed on a lotion to counteract the burning. But for the remainder of the appointment, the stylist proceeded very gingerly. When my hair was done, we weren’t sure how we’d proceed in the future.

The burning sensation abated, but that area of my scalp was red and itched. The next day my scalp scabbed, and over the next few days returned to normal, except for some residual itching. But I was left in a quandary as how best to resolve the issue of going “au naturale,” or finding someone with whom I could discuss my dilemma. Having clipped an article about Zorianna from the local newspaper, I gave her a call. Best decision I’ve made in a while.

To our great relief, I experienced none of the scalp burning as in my last appointment. Hallelujah! I’m young again! At least my hair is. I know I’m delaying the inevitable. I definitely plan to “kick the habit,” sometime. But in this case it’ll be later, rather than sooner. We’ve all got our weaknesses. While I’m fine with the rest of me, I’m vain about my “crowning glory.” I know I’m not the only one.

for seniors trying to hang in against all odds, and Zoriana, huge hugs…hugmamma. (www.zorianasbeautique.com)

massage “therapy”

I’ve had an unusual last 6 months, with allergies and fibromyalgia taking its toll throughout the spring season. Luckily it was after I’d tended to my garden, preparing the beds for the growing season, weeding and laying bait to minimize the slug infestation. Summer was a busy time with travels to Venice, Italy and Irvine, California. And during the last couple of months I’ve criss-crossed the country to be with my daughter. So it was with great anticipation that I saw my massage therapist,  yesterday.

Under Jennifer’s very capable hands, I felt the knots in my neck and shoulder muscles begin to loosen and relax. I winced in pain when she worked one particular spot in the crook of my right neck area. I’d never done that before, so I knew I’d been in desperate need of a massage.

An “old soul” at 27 years of age, Jennifer is not only good for my aches and pains, but is also someone with whom I commisserate on just about everything. Like the rest of us, she has had to sort out her life. Married, with her own business, I think my massage therapist, and friend, should be congratulated for “making lemonade, out of lemons.”  

Jennifer is such a home body. Having had a bountiful garden this year, she’s been busy canning sugar pumpkins, and making apple butter and blackberry jam, and turning squash into homemade soup. And she was understandably proud of harvesting 20 ears of corn, for neither the deer nor the raccoons had ravaged the stalks. Contributing to their winter stockpile, Jennifer’s husband will soon be hunting elk with friends. She indicated that at least 500 pounds of meat can be had from one animal.

I’m amazed at the thrift and frugality in such a young couple. And yet it doesn’t seem to be founded only upon economic concerns. Jennifer chooses to live a simpler life in terms of material acquisitions. Her passions lie elsewhere, a horse with which she is training, and a determination to become a licensed practitioner of myofacscial-release. These do not come cheap. But they are meaningful and fulfilling goals, for which Jennifer is willing to make sacrifices.

While my body is grateful for my massage therapist’s skill, my soul is graced by her youthful wisdom.

for Jennifer, hugs…hugmamma.

“good for you” foods

Ever wonder why doctors, nutritionists, exercise gurus, and others, tell us to eat certain foods, that they’re good for us? Well someone who works with my husband passed along the following list, which takes the mystery out of their recommendation. And so I post it here for you to incorporate into your life, and share it with those you care about, just as… I care about you…hugmamma.

  • Apples – protects your heart, prevents constipation, blocks diarrhea, improves lung capacity, cushions joints
  • Apricots – combats cancer, controls blood pressure, saves your eyesight, shields against Alzheimer’s, slows aging process
  • Artichokes – aids digestion, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, guards against liver disease
  • Avocados – battles diabetes, lowers cholesterol, helps stops strokes, controls blood pressure, smooths skin
  • Bananas – protects your heart, quiets a cough, strengthens bones, controls blood pressure, blocks diarrhea
  • Beans – prevents constipation, helps hemorrhoids, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, stabilizes blood sugar
  • Beets – controls blood pressure, combats cancer, strengthens bones, protects your heart
  • Blueberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, boosts memory, prevents constipation
  • Broccoli – strengthens bones, saves eyesight, combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure
  •  Cabbage – combats cancer, prevents constipation, promotes weight loss, protects your heart, helps hemorrhoids
  • Cantaloupe – saves eyesight, controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Carrots – saves eyesight, protects your heart, prevents constipation, combats cancer, promotes weight loss
  • Cauliflower – protects against prostate cancer, combats breast cancer, strengthens bones, banishes bruises, guards against heart disease
  • Cherries – protects your heart, combats cancer, ends insomnia, slows aging process, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Chestnuts – promotes weight loss, protects your heart, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Chili Peppers – aids digestion, soothes sore throat, clears sinuses, combats cancer, boosts immune system
  • Figs – promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Fish – protects your heart, boosts memory, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Flax – aids digestion, battles diabetes, protects your heart, improves mental health, boosts immune system
  • Garlic – lowers cholesterol, controls blood pressure, combats cancer, kills bacteria, fights fungus
  • Grapefruit – protects against heart attacks, promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol
  • Grapes – saves eyesight, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, enhances blood flow, protects your heart
  • Green tea – combats cancer, protects your heart, helps stop strokes, promotes weight loss, kills bacteria
  • Honey – heals wounds, aids digestion, guards against ulcers, increases energy, fights allergies
  • Lemons – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Limes – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Mangoes – combats cancer, boosts memory, regulates thyroid, aids digestion, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Mushrooms – controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, kills bacteria, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Oats – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, battles diabetes, prevents constipation, smooths skin
  • Olive Oil – protects your heart, promotes weight loss, combats cancer, battles diabetes, smooths skin
  • Onions – reduce risk of heart attack, combats cancer, kills bacteria, lowers cholesterol, fights fungus
  • Oranges – supports immune systems, combats cancer, protects your heart
  • Peaches – prevents constipation, combats cancer, helps stop strokes,aids digestion, helps hemorrhoids
  • Peanuts – protects against heart disease, promotes weight loss, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol, aggravates diverticulitis
  • Pineapple – strengthens bones, relieves colds, aids digestion, dissolves warts, blocks diarrhea
  • Prunes – slows aging process, prevents constipation, boosts memory, lowers cholesterol, protects against heart disease
  • Rice – protects your heart, battles diabetes, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, helps stops strokes
  • Strawberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, boosts memory, calms stress
  • Sweet Potatoes – saves your eyesight, lifts mood, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Tomatoes – protects prostrate, combats cancer, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart
  • Walnuts – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, boosts memory, lifts mood, protects against heart disease
  • Water – promotes weight loss, combats cancer, conquers kidney stones, smooths skin
  • Watermelon – protects prostate, promotes weight loss, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, controls blood pressure
  • Wheat germ – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Wheat Bran – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Yogurt – guards against ulcers, strengthens bones, lowers cholesterol, supports immune system, aids digestion (Lemon yogurt is the only one that is a natural anti-biotic with NO side effects.)

As with anything, proceed with caution. The information provided appears to be valid, but we must each consider our own diets, allergies, restrictions. One size does not necessarily fit all. I think I’ve heard that grapefruits should not be consumed by someone on Lipitor, a statin to lower cholesterol. Honey increases energy because it contains sugar. Tomatoes belong to the “night family” of veggies, along with green peppers and its relatives. Some people are allergic to them. And not all fish are created equal. The best options seem to be salmon, tuna, sardine, and halibut. Peanuts consumed in great quantities can be fattening because of its calories. (Something I must be particularly wary about.) A friend feasted on seedless grapes and aggravated her diverticulitis. Evidently the seed piths were still present, so they lodged in the lining of her intestines causing excruciating pain. So beware!

I’ve concocted my own diet of sorts based, in part, upon information gleaned from “The Perricone Prescription” by New York dermatologist, Dr. Nicholas Perricone. I read the book cover to cover on a flight home from spending 3 weeks with my daughter at a dance program in Martha’s Vineyard. By the time my plane landed, I was a believer in Dr. Perricone’s theory that “Inflammation is a probable culprit, a contributor to most major diseases and degenerative conditions, from cancer to Alzheimer’s, arthritis to stroke. Proinflammatory diets, exposure to sunlight, environmental pollutants, and a host of other agents assault our cells and cause them to generate inflammatory chemicals. This subclinical inflammation goes on day after day, year in and year out, leading to numerous disease states as well as the disease of aging. Yes, aging is a disease–a chronic, uniformly progressive, inflammatory disease that is always fatal. …I explain how inflammation occurs on a cellular level and detail my search for powerful anti-inflammatories–antioxidants that stop inflammation and repair the damage. If you can prevent and stop inflammation, you can prevent and stop the signs of aging.” Dr. Perricone goes on to say that “Sugar causes inflammation…”

I tried Perricone’s diet for 3 weeks, but couldn’t remain on it because it was so restrictive for me. Nonetheless the information he imparted made a lot of sense, and so I’m still a believer. Sugar causes inflammation; extra-virgin olive oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory food; trans fats are dangerous to my health; the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers can be lowered by eating fish, and their omega-3 fatty acids reduces the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. And green tea does ramp up my metabolism, as does alpha-lipoic acid supplements.

Along with Perricone’s book, I’ve adapted much of what is contained in “The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet” by California neuroscientist, Dr. Vincent Fortanasce. Because of him, I eat blueberries most days, fresh or frozen. “If free radical damage causes aging, then ingesting antioxidants in high enough quantities should be able to slow aging. Ironically, you don’t have to eat tons of foods high in antioxidants to slow down brain aging! For instance, studies have shown that eating just 3/4 cup blueberries per day can turn back the clock dramatically.” Fortanasce adds “Berries, including blueberries…are filled with anthocyanins,…that…sweep out, harmful free-radical molecules that trigger inflammation…studies show that antioxidant filled berries help fight against aging problems, such as short-term memory loss. Dark blue and purple berries also are linked to a significant reversal in motor dysfunction that correlates with aging and dopamine deficiency.”

hoping this may help…hugmamma.

bump and grind

Returned to exercise class this morning after weeks of sporadic attendance. At 8:15 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, it’s a real challenge for me to get myself up and primed for moving. I’m an habitual night owl, never have been the early bird, at least not willingly. I’ve long since chucked the routine of rising at 4:30 to dress and breakfast before schlepping to the office to make a buck. I’ve tremendous respect for my husband who goes to work like the mailman, in rain, snow, hail and thunderstorm. Regardless of how he may feel, though I’ve never known him to be anything less than passionate about work, his mantra is “The show must go on!” I guess it’s true what they say. Introverts blossom on stage, and my husband’s job is definitely where he takes to the spotlight, and shines.

My shining moment is in the gym during exercise class. When the music starts, so do I. My surroundings are transformed into an imaginary club, and I become a dancing fool. When my daughter’s been home and accompanied me, she lovingly recaps my butterfly arm movements as I move from side to side. She’s just jealous, I think. Her career has already caused the beginnings of arthritis, so she can be as stiff as me sometimes. So she might be wishing she could move like her 61-year-old mom. Although I don’t think that’s really the case. She just thinks I’m goofy,loveable, but goofy.

Thank goodness our class is comprised of mostly seniors like me. Nobody competes; we just try to survive. The instructor, a Brit in her 50’s, is a dynamo. She’s a role model for all of us, but we could never be her equal. She’s been teaching classes for 20+ years, and was a student herself before that. She also subs for the senior center classes, and is a personal trainer as well. I believe she also works with a trainer, and attends refresher classes. Her life is exercising; mine is avoiding it whenever I can.

Thankfully, my mind has been dragging my body to exercise class for several years now. My body would rather remain on the memory foam mattress; my mind wants to harness the sun and be up and at ’em. Unless I’m suffering with allergies, a sore ankle, aching back, sleep deprivation, or the day is overcast or rain is threatening, you get the drift, I drag myself to the gym. Once there, I have a blast bumping and grinding with my fellow weight conscious friends.

There are 2 very important benefits to be reaped from sweating until it hurts, it counteracts the effects of Alzheimer’s and the camaraderie is priceless. Doing step on Wednesdays must stave off the disease that robs one’s memory. (Back from a time out. Sitka, my mixed-breed Maine Coone, wanted to give me hugs and kisses.)  My brain cannot wander for a second, otherwise I’m completely out of sync with everyonelse. And I have to bring my entire focus to bear to get back into moving with the group, for they, of course, continued without me. Fortunately no one laughs; they’re too busy making sure they keep up. However, I do chuckle at my own mistakes. It’s either laugh or cry. I’m way too old to cry over “spilled milk,” or a misstep. Besides it’d take up precious seconds which I desperately  need to get my groove back again.

Coffee with the ladies afterwards is always fun. Conversation runs the gamut from talking about deadbeat husbands or kids, to sagging body parts. We’re not brutal, just honest. Venting with others going through similar experiences helps us realize that we’re living in the same world. We’re all trying to get through the day, the week, the month, the year, and the rest of our lives with as much vim and vigor as possible. We all get a good dose of positive reinforcement while sipping a cup of flavored coffee, soy latte, or green tea. “Sisters” in exercise; “sisters” in life.

take a “step”, and sip some coffee…hugmamma

medical mystery

Preparing  to head to my exercise class, I felt my throat start to constrict. Standing still, I focused upon what was happening inside my mouth. My tongue felt “thick” and slightly swollen. My throat was beginning to exhibit similar symptoms. “Don’t panick. Don’t panick.” I thought. “Calm down. Calm down. Think. Think.”

Feeling like my tongue is “thick” is not new. I’ve felt it for several days, chucking it up to my voracious downing of shelled peanuts for more than a week. Having a few handfuls a day didn’t seem like a crime, although I’m very aware that nuts are high in calories, extremely high. There, you’ve discovered my Achille’s heel.

While I thought the salt intake might be the culprit, a niggling thought sat menacingly at the back of my brain. Because I was drinking water to salve my swollen tongue, was I actually on the brink of moving from pre-diabetes to full-blown diabetes? My common sense said “no,” but the self-diagnostician in me said “might be… could be…you think?”

So I whipped out one of my many self-help books, “The Doctors Book of Home Remedies-Thousands of Tips and Techniques Anyone Can use to Heal Everyday Health Problems” by the editors of PREVENTION Magazine Health Books. It wasn’t a visit to my doctor, but hey, it’d do in a pinch. And I felt my throat starting to “pinch.”

Scrolling down the list of headings under “Asthma,” my eyes fixed upon “Watch what you eat.” Among other things it stated “…foods that trigger asthma are…nuts…” This didn’t register as too worrisome since I’ve never had a problem with them before. Yes, I know, there’s always the possibility my sensitivities can change. As age has crept up on me, so have the countless things I can’t eat or do anymore. But another section did catch my eye.

“Be Salt Sensible.” It maintained that “In a study conducted at the Department of Community Medicine of St. Thomas Hospital in London, researchers discovered that table salt could have a life-threatening effect on your asthma.” They found a strong link between salt purchases and asthma mortality for men and children. “Buying the salt wasn’t killing people; eating it was.” You think my gender might save me? Something to think about. Further down the page, another section peaked my interest.

Use nonaspirin pain relievers.” Allergist Richard Lockey, M.D., director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine said ” ‘If you have sinusitis and nasal polyps and asthma, I wouldn’t recommend any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen because it could make your asthma worse or even kill you.’ ” Allergist Sidney Friedlander, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at the same college adds “This aspirin sensitivity could just suddenly develop, so it’s best to stay clear of aspirin products altogether,…’ The problem doesn’t happen when you use acetaminophen,…’ ” I don’t know if I have nasal polyps, but I have had chronic sinusitis in the past, and I have mild asthma, so I’m 2 for 3.  Something else to consider.

And finally, the last paragraph “Listen to your lungs.” offered the wisest advice yet. “Of course, the best way to fight an asthma attack is not have one in the first place.” So while  willing myself not to have an asthma attack, I got a second opinion from the best source of all. I phoned my husband, at work, of course. He’s always “on call” for me there.  Himself an asthmatic for many years, I reviewed the mechanics of using my inhalant. Rarely needing it, I had to refresh my memory as to how I should administer the puffs, and how often I could use the inhalant during my episode.

During my “attack,” I had calmly gotten my purse and removed my inhalant, put it to my open mouth, and sucked in my breath while inhaling a quick “puff.” I repeated this a second time. Consulting with others was to confirm what I already knew, including no peanuts (for a while anyway) and cutting back on my salt intake. (Did it contribute to my “thick” tongue?) I’ll have to ponder the aspirin piece. My physician prescribed it as a daily regimen for staving off strokes. Difficult to choose between having an asthma attack or a stroke? Maybe I should ask my doctor?

hmmm, something else to consider…hugmamma