Naturally Healthy 4 Life's Blog

A blog about health, nutrition, fitness and wellness

The Trinity of Wellness: Body, Mind and Spirit

body-mind-spirit

At the end of each year, like everyone else, I find myself reflecting on the past year and thinking about where I was then compared to today.

Last December, I was in the middle of a long taper Prednisone treatment, following another terrible spike in my flare-up. Hydroxyzine proved to be the magic medicine. I tapered off the Prednisone and each day the hives and swelling were smaller and smaller until they disappeared altogether (mid-February). I have been in remission since. It was the longest stretch of CIU (Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria) that I have ever had, spanning a year and a half this flare.

I am not a sickly person. In fact, I have been very physically fit for the last 15-20 years. While I no longer run (too hard on the knees!), I regularly strength train and do cardio, I practice yoga daily, and I eat extraordinarily healthfully and mindfully.

However, in the years preceding this flare, three of our children left home for college (leaving us with an empty nest), we lost two beloved family pets, my husband and I both changed jobs (with my husband becoming an independent contractor) – all of which caused incredible stress and put a strain on my closest relationships. I denied it existed – particularly to myself. Instead, I buried it all deep inside (“I’m strong – I can handle anything!”). The cortisol in my body continued to build. Cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”) usually fluctuates throughout the day and night, rising in response to a stressful event, then returns to a normal level following the stressful event. However, my cortisol level went up and never went down, causing my immune system to go BANANAS. My body began attacking itself and nearly everything I touched or ingested. Writing about it now actually makes my chest tight. It was a terrible couple of years and I am so grateful to now feel SO good.

The life lesson I finally learned while trying to recover from this flare is that true health is more than just the fitness of my physical body. It includes the health of my mind and my soul, as well. Until this year, I was truly unhealthy in that sense, and it is what ultimately led to this flare.

During the flare, I underwent counseling with a gifted psychologist. I insisted that treatment not include pills. Instead, we talked about how I got here, and he taught me how to listen to my body in response to my emotions – breathing, meditation, and being present – and how to forgive myself for not being perfect.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, but last January, I made a decision that 2016 was going to be the healthiest year of my life.   I think I succeeded.

I know I am not as healthy as I could be, and some days are harder than others, but 2016 HAS been the healthiest year of my life thus far. I will certainly try to top it in 2017.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2017 Posted by | Fitness, Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

But you look so good!

 

Invisible

I have not posted in a while – life is full and I was feeling somewhat lazy.  However, it is a rainy, stormy day and a long weekend, so I feel a desire to think and write.

The fantastic news is that I am officially in remission. The final diagnosis is generally Autoimmune Disease, but more specifically, Hashimoto’s Disease and Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (“CIU”). I take a synthetic thyroid daily and the hypothyroid symptoms improved dramatically within a few months (less hair loss, less joint pain, better sleep, more focused). As I mentioned in my last post, I was prescribed Hydroxyzine in January for the CIU. Within the first week, the giant welting hives started transitioning to small chicken pox-like hives, then NOTHING. I have not had a CIU flare-up in any form since early February and I no longer need to take the Hydroxyzine.

My flare-ups have occurred about every six years since my early twenties. I am hopeful that with what I have learned about taking care of myself in the last crazy year, the cycle may finally be broken, my body will completely heal, and just maybe I can prevent a recurrence. I know now that taking exceptional care of my body is simply not enough – true wellness requires taking care of my mind and soul, as well.

It was initially very difficult for me to tell anyone that something was wrong – I am a very private person. When I reached out to friends and family about my “mystery” illness, I was touched by the responses I received. However, I was also very confused and hurt that so many people that I thought were close friends not only did not respond, but said nothing to me at all when I did see them. It wasn’t cancer, but it wasn’t nothing either.  Didn’t they care?  Maybe they didn’t believe that I was really sick?

The term “invisible illness” is relatively new.   Some examples include other autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, depression and mental illness, digestive disorders like Celiac’s Disease, etc.

People often judge others by what they see – this is natural human behavior. For a long time, my illness was a mystery to me, as well, so when people asked me to explain, I could not and I would often hear, “but you look so healthy” or “you really don’t look sick.” It was also frustrating when people offered unsolicited advice – if my doctors and I could not figure it out, what made them think they had an answer? I had another friend tell me, while I was in the middle of a terrible flare-up, that I should look at it as a blessing. Good advice, but REALLY bad timing to tell me this when I was in the depths of it – excuse me if I don’t feel very blessed right now!  Of course, now that I am moving beyond it, I DO feel that it was a blessing – but that’s a post for another day.

Very few friends or family actually saw the illness because I was often in hiding. I stayed home a LOT and did not accept invitations or reach out to friends. When they did see me, I looked healthy. My husband is the only one in my life that I think truly understands what this last year did to me because he lived it every day – it also deeply affected his life, as well as our relationship. I know that he felt frustrated and helpless, yet was loving, supportive and encouraging to me.

Those friends that appeared to be “fair-weather” are still in my life. They simply did not see sickness. If they did, they certainly did not see it on a daily basis – the symptoms, the frustration, the depression and the isolation.   In hindsight, I think my expectations of their response were idealistic and unrealistic, so I choose to release any judgment of it now and hopefully educate people along the way.

We all are sick on occasion – we pick up viruses here and there.   But what if your virus never went away? In fact, what if it just progressively got worse and days turned into months, with no hope of resolution?  What if your doctors (even specialists) could not pinpoint the cause, provide a diagnosis or find a treatment, and you were told that it could potentially be part of your life forever?  Then try to imagine explaining this reality to your friends and family – when you look perfectly fine on the outside.

Our culture is taught to believe that illness and disease are visible and apparent, and that when we are sick, we go to the doctor, the doctor diagnoses the issue and prescribes treatment. That did not happen to me, nor does it happen to a lot of people, even in our very medically advanced world.

There is still more that we don’t than what we DO know. We need to continue to educate ourselves, let go of the past, manifest kindness and release judgment.

Of course, sometimes, this is easier said than done (especially in an election year).   😉

May 28, 2016 Posted by | Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No news is good news

stability

It has been a while since my last post, as I was enjoying the holidays, during which my symptoms remained quite stable. I had a few flare-ups after going off the Prednisone, but no angioedema or severe urticaria. I credit the stability to the changes I made to my diet, the immune boosting vitamins and minerals I take, time off of work (with no plans to do anything but rest and relax!) and increased yoga and meditation.

During this time, I did some additional research on Xolair. I found some discussion boards online that had mostly good feedback, but some bad feedback, as well. There were a lot of people that found immediate relief (from the chronic urticaria), but after several months of shots, the urticaria eventually returned. I am becoming skeptical that this is the cure for me.

Then a week ago, my insurance provider made a decision on the Xolair. They will not cover it. This is a big deal because it is a VERY expensive shot. Their reasoning is because I have not yet tried Hydroxyzine. When I asked my immunologist why they have not yet prescribed this drug, they responded that “it’s just another H1 antihistamine” so they did not understand how this was a reason for insurance to deny coverage.

SO…

I suggested the obvious – that he prescribe Hydroxyzine anyway. If there is no change, then we can tell my insurer that we have tried it and it was not enough. OR…maybe it will work?

I started Hydroxyzine five days ago in place of the Cetrizine. I take it at bedtime and it knocks me out cold (it is very sedating for me). I still have hives, but they are small and in clusters now – they almost look like chicken pox.  The Hydroxyzine is doing something.

I am hopeful that the stability over the holidays is a sign that I am healing and going back into remission.

The doctors have so far only treated the symptoms – they have done what they could to make me feel better right now, without knowing the source of the problem or how to fix it.

In my next post, I will talk about the lifestyle and dietary changes that I made over the last few months, which I believe have helped.

I intend to start healing my body from the inside out.

Angela

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One step forward and a half step back…

Red wine

As I have posted in the last few weeks, I have been so excited with the possibility that I may be going back into remission – or at least that the handfuls of meds I take every day are working. I felt incredible.

Unfortunately, I am now experiencing another flare up. When I saw the first hives pop up on Friday morning, I thought it might have been the VERY small glass of red wine I consumed on Thanksgiving Day (sulfates – an immune system under duress does not like them). But the symptoms have increased every day and I am now wheezing with giant hives (fortunately, no angioedema). I really do not know what has triggered it this time.

So I am back on a Prednisone taper and will be trying another treatment called “Xolair.” Xolair was developed to treat asthma, but has also proven to be a good treatment for chronic idiopathic urticaria that is not responding to H1 antihistamine treatments.

I will go to the immunology clinic once a month to get an injection of Xolair. My only fear (and there is a real possibility that it could happen) is that I will have a reaction to the Xolair. So after the injection, they will monitor me for an hour or so to make sure I do not have a severe reaction (anaphylaxis).

If someone out there that has had Xolair injections stumbles on this blog, I would love to hear from you.

Angela

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Your Own Body is the Enemy

Autoimmune post 3

I am a self-proclaimed health and wellness nut. I take exceptionally good care of myself, so I should be feeling FANTASTIC, right? Unfortunately, not even close. I am so very grateful, however, that I do take great care of myself – I cannot imagine how much worse this might be if I did not.

What I have discovered through the journey I will describe below is that the most helpful thing to me has been reading message boards, blogs and articles written by others that are going through similar challenges. So I think it is time to share this. Perhaps my journey can provide guidance and insight to others – and maybe even some comfort that they are not crazy or alone. Future posts will be more focused and a much quicker read.

As I sit to write this post, my body is covered in giant hives from the top of my head to my toes – itching, painful, ugly welts and wheals. They explode out of my skin so violently that they actually cause bruising. When they finally flatten out, my skin aches for at least another day. I remind myself how much worse it could be – that my face, lips and eyes could be swelling and I could have difficulty breathing, which was my situation LAST week at this time, necessitating a shot of epinephrine and another round of prednisone.

This miserable condition has flared up about every 5-6 years since my twenties, with each flare-up lasting 4-6 months. The physical manifestation of the current flare-up (the hives and urticaria) started in early May and has been the worst flare up yet. The other symptoms – fatigue, constant hunger, weight gain, muscle and joint pain and stiffness, difficulty sleeping, hair loss, increased anxiety, and other symptoms – started about a year and a half before that, with symptoms continuing to worsen until the hives appeared. In the years between the flare-ups, I have lived a pretty normal life – I have gone for years at a time with none of these symptoms.

An endocrinologist recently diagnosed me with Autoimmune Disease.   An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system decides your healthy cells are foreign and it attacks them. It is genetic (my mother had Hashimoto’s Disease and vitiligo and a sister also has vitiligo) and my autoimmune response appears to be triggered by chronic stress – my body stays in the “fight or flight” mode constantly and for months, and cortisol levels never come down. This has both weakened and interfered with the function of my immune system. In between flare-ups, I have been in remission.

I am grateful that there is a name for it and I wish I could say that the diagnosis means that there is a treatment. That is not the case. The immune system is extraordinarily complex and complicated – even for the specialists. The doctors certainly know what triggers the response in me and how it manifests, but aside from the emergency treatments, they do not know how to treat it.

In addition to the urticaria and hives, I have classic Hashimoto’s symptoms, so was tested for that (Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease related to hypothyroid and it is genetic). While all of my test results were in the “standard” range, they were at the lowest end of the range. The endo told me that 10% of those with Hashimoto’s symptoms are in the standard range on tests, but that they show benefit from taking thyroid medication, so he prescribed a synthetic thyroid two weeks ago. I am told that it takes 3-4 weeks to notice changes (obviously, my symptoms won’t resolve with the thyroid meds unless I do have hypothyroid). However, I do notice changes already – I sleep better, I have more energy (the daily fatigue is all but gone), my muscles and joints do not ache.

Yet the hives and urticarial remain. I am hopeful that they will magically disappear after 3-4 weeks on they thyroid meds, but the endo warned me that it might not do anything to improve the hives. I am going to visit an immunologist next week. Lots of healthcare fun.

We know that the food we eat can cause inflammation and inflammation is disease. Additionally, my immune system is broken right now – I don’t know what is triggering the hives on any given day. So a few weeks ago, I started a very restricted “autoimmune” re-set diet. For 30 days

  • No dairy
  • No eggs
  • No gluten
  • No soy
  • No nuts
  • No seeds
  • No legumes
  • No sugar
  • No nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers)
  • No processed foods

It is Paleo Plus – and I DO feel like a cave woman – hungry and constantly trying to find something that I can eat! However, the cravings for what I cannot have are subsiding and I am finding recipes for some decent things to eat – believe it or not.  If I go out, I look for somewhere I can get a big piece of meat and a pile of approved veggies.

I hope you reach out to me with comments and questions.

Angela

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

More than a Best Friend

Jordyn

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart.  If I live long enough, all the components of my heart with be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”  ~Anonymous

We recently lost one of our beloved dogs, Jordyn (to heart failure).  We miss her terribly.  She brought so much joy, comfort and happiness to our lives – simply with her presence and unconditional love.  This post is dedicated to her memory.

Of course, we all know that dogs are used for service – helping those with disabilities and special needs in a functional capacity, and by law enforcement (police dogs, DEA, searching).  Dogs are used for hunting.   Children love playing with and caring for dogs.  However, many do not realize that dogs help us in other ways that are not so obvious and can make a tremendous difference to our wellness and well-being – dogs are actually good for our health!

Spending time with dogs can improve our mood.  Research shows that petting a dog boosts mood-related brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine.  When dogs are near us, we tend to calm down, and speak more slowly and softly.

Dogs encourage us to exercise and socialize.  Dogs need to be walked, which also gets us out exercising and socializing with neighbors and other pet walkers.  Having a dog with us makes us more approachable (ask any man – dogs are chick magnets!).

Stroking a dog (or cat) can lower blood pressure and heart rate.  Heart attack sufferers recover more quickly and survive longer when they have a pet.

Dogs are companions that can help stave off loneliness.  A study conducted at Saint Louis University in 2006 evaluated 37 nursing home residents who all had high scores on a loneliness scale and who were interested in receiving weekly 30-minute visits from dogs.  Half of the residents studied had dog-only visits and the other half shared the dog with other residents.  All of the residents studied felt less lonely after the dog visits – interestingly, the decrease in loneliness was more significant with those that had the dog-only visits.

Dogs have special instincts.  They know when someone is hurting or needs help.   Several years ago, the Lutheran Church Charities developed the “K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs of Addison, Illinois,” which uses dogs in disaster response situations.  They train golden retrievers to provide comfort, help and hope to those recovering from tragedy.  Several dogs were sent to help residents in Newtown, Connecticut following the shootings there.

So the next time you are feeling low or anxious, spend some time with your pooch (or borrow a friend’s) for a fabulous boost to your heart and soul.

Angela, Friend to the Furry 🙂

References:

  1. “How Owning a Dog or Cat can Reduce Stress – The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership,” About.com
  2. “How Pets Comfort Us,” Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Alert, May 27, 2009
  3. “Man’s Best Friend:  Study Shows Seniors Prefer Dogs,” Saint Louis University, January 4, 2006
  4. “‘Comfort Dogs’ Relieve Emotional Stress in Grieving Newtown,” People Magazine, December 28, 2012

January 1, 2013 Posted by | Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road trip!

“The journey not the arrival matters.” ~T.S.Eliot

Road trips are a great way to see the country and (if all in the car are getting along!) it is also a great opportunity for a family to spend some concentrated, quality time together.  Many of us took road trips over spring break (vacations or college visits) and many will take trips this summer.

I live in a pretty large Midwestern metropolitan area, filled with many options when not eating at home – yes, there are a lot of fast food restaurants, but there are also a lot of really great restaurants that serve healthy dishes.  Of course, this is not the case when you hit the open road and can sometimes go several hundred miles between cities that even have restaurants.

What is worse than sitting in a car, unable to move for several hours at time?  For me, it is sitting in a car AND feeling terrible because I ate a bunch of junk for lunch.

So with some recent experience under my belt, I give you a few bits of wisdom.

The number one thing you can do (and it is super easy) is to plan ahead!  The glory of traveling by car is that you can pack extra things in the trunk or in the back of the minivan, such as a cooler.

  • Make sandwiches and/or salads ahead of time.  Important tips:  don’t put tomatoes or condiments on the sandwiches until you are ready to eat (they will get soggy) and don’t forget to pack napkins, wet-wipes, utensils, etc.
  • Pack cleaned and cut up fruits and vegetables.  If you do not want to spend a lot of time prepping, pick up some grapes, bananas, apples, cherry tomatoes or baby carrots, all of which require very little prep – wash and pack.
  • Protein is really important when you are on the road to keep your energy level up (especially if you are the driver!).  Most handy snacks have little to no protein.  Hard boiled eggs are the ideal compact protein source (6 grams) – easy to make and pack in your cooler.  If you don’t like eggs, string cheese, protein bars and trail mixes are also great sources of protein.  However, make sure you read the ingredients on the bars and mixes; many are no healthier than candy bars – a lot of sugar.  Sugar will bring your energy up for only a short period of time and then you will crash.
  • Pack plenty of water.  If you drink water throughout the trip, you will be less likely to be thirsting for some soda pop when you stop at the gas station to fill up.

If you are not able to plan ahead (or just don’t want to plan ahead), look for grocery stores and co-ops along the way.   You could pick up some cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc.  Grocery stores may also have some prepared foods in their deli area that are not processed, like grilled chicken and healthy salads.   Even some coffee houses like Starbucks® now carry pretty healthy snack packs (like cheese and crackers, fruit).

We have a strict rule in our family:  NO eating or drinking (other than water) in the car.  It helps us keep our car clean and smelling fresh, but it also forces us to stop for meals.  It is nice to take a break and step out of the car – even if only for 20 minutes -and keeps us from snacking for six hours.  When you are done eating, take a few minutes for stretching and a quick walk before getting back in the car.  It will really help your digestion.

Happy and healthy travels!

Angela, Traveling Chick 🙂

April 15, 2012 Posted by | Fitness, Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The gluten-free life

I am now four weeks into my gluten-free life (see my February 5, 2012 post to see how this started).

Physical changes

Sleep!  I fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night.  I now understand what it is like to sleep like the dead.

Energy!  I have consistent energy throughout the day.  I used to feel my energy dip every afternoon – I have not experienced that in weeks.  I have more energy during yoga (I attend a 75 minute hot yoga in the evening, after work).

Mental clarity!  In his book “Wheat Belly” (mentioned in my last post), Dr. Davis talks about “brain fog,” which he believes may be attributable to wheat consumption.  Prior to leaving gluten in the dust, I frequently experienced this.  I chalked it up to the aging process, but in the last several weeks, I have noticed that I think more clearly, I am more focused and my memory is sharper.

Tools

I found a few apps for my iPhone that have been very helpful:

  • Gluten Free Ingredients:  It includes a list of ingredients – gluten free and not – that you can quickly and easily check while you are at the grocery store.  It also offers search tools that let you do Google and Amazon searches with “gluten free” attached to the search.

  • Gluten Free Registry:  It helps you find gluten-free friendly businesses (restaurants, coffee houses, grocers, etc.) using GPS.  It provides location information, reviews and website links.

Lessons learned

I did not experience any additional weight loss beyond the first few pounds.  One big lesson learned is that gluten-free is not guilt-free/calorie-free!  You still have to check the other ingredients and make a healthy choice.  (I am at a very healthy, stable weight, and do not need to lose any weight.)

I do not miss bread as much as I thought I would.  I hardly think about it, but I do notice when I go out to eat that there are very few dishes that are not made with bread, that are not breaded or that do not come with bread.  I tried a few gluten-free breads and I am not impressed; they do not come close to the flavor and texture of bread made with wheat or rye.  Meh…not the end of the world.

I found some great gluten-free pasta!  I tried De Boles Multi Grain Spaghetti Style Pasta, made with rice, quinoa and amaranth.  It is really good (especially with my homemade sauce)!  Interestingly, pasta without gluten does not expand when you cook it, so the noodles are very thin, but very tasty.

Unfortunately, I think it is close to impossible to find gluten-free pasta in a restaurant, so I will likely be avoiding most Italian restaurants (however, Biaggi’s in the Twin Cities has a gluten-free menu – see image above from my iPhone).  I am finding that many, many restaurants have gluten-free options on their menus.  I visited Pizza Luce over the weekend.  I had a gluten-free margherita pizza that was delightful.  In fact, my very picky eater (my 16 year old stepdaughter) tried it and actually preferred it to her own pizza (which was made with a regular wheat crust)!

The most interesting thing I learned is that gluten is hidden in many foods that I would never suspect contained it.  I went to dinner with a friend who ordered edamame.  I am used to edamame being steamed, salted and served – there is no gluten in edamame, right?  However, they had a “gluten-free” edamame on the menu.  Well, I discovered that the restaurant adds a sauce to their edamame that contains gluten.  Additionally, a lot of candy contains gluten.  Another friend gave me a bag of candy for Valentine’s Day.  Since I am still in the learning process, I decided to check the ingredients of the various treats.  SweeTart Hearts Gummies contain wheat, as do a lot of chocolates – even those that appear to be just a straight piece of chocolate may contain malt (Hershie’s Miniatures, for instance).

Everything I have read thus far about giving up gluten stresses that it may be months before I see the full effects of being gluten-free.  But I must say – so far, it has all been good!

Angela, Gluten-free Goddess 🙂

References:

  1. “Wheat Belly,” William Davis, M.D.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Achoo! Still no cure for the common cold, but….

I am one of the many that is battling a head cold this season.  Grrrr.

While usually not debilitating, colds are a nuisance.  You cannot breathe, you are constantly sneezing and blowing your nose.  Your eyes are watery and your throat is sore.  It keeps you up at night and leaves you looking pretty awful – bags under the eyes, big red nose.  Yes, that is me right now.

We all know there is no cure for the common cold.  Obviously, the goal is to try to avoid getting one in the first place.  But if we DO get a cold, what can we do to treat it and get rid of it quickly?

Why me???

The common cold is a virus.  The virus is most infectious in its first three days.  It is spread by people’s hands, and carried to their eyes, noses and mouths, where the virus settles in for its 7-10 day run.  Ugh.  Despite what Grandma told you, you can NOT catch a cold (or any virus) by being wet or cold.  We are more prone to colds in the winter because we spend more time indoors, we are in closer proximity to others, and the low humidity in the winter increases viral transmission rates, allowing the viral droplets to disperse further and stay in the air longer.

Prevention

The smartest way to treat a cold is to not get it in the first place.

  • Keep your immune system healthy!  Exercise and eat healthfully on a regular basis.  Get enough rest and fluids.  Control stress levels, as stress has a huge affect on your immune system function.
  • Wash your hands well and frequently.  Always use soap and warm/hot water, and suds up for at least 20 seconds (try singing “Happy Birthday” – to yourself, of course, rather than out loud – people may think you are a bit nutty if singing out loud).
  • Use antibacterial gels.  You can easily find great little containers and sprays at the drugstore that you can keep in your purse.  Look for gels that contain moisturizers like aloe vera and vitamin E, as these gels can be very drying to your hands.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth (this is a good tip for your skin, as well – touching your face can make acne worse).
  • Stay away from those that are sick.  Since the virus is more of a nuisance than a sickness, and lasts for several days, most people do not quarantine themselves while the virus runs its course.  You will find people sniffling, sneezing and coughing all around you.  Keep your distance.
  • Stay away from others if YOU are sick.  If you are the one that has the cold, PULLEASE wash or use antibacterial gel on your hands after blowing your nose, always cough into your elbow, NOT your hand, and keep your distance from others.

Treatment

Viruses can NOT and should not be treated with antibiotics.  Antibiotics have no effect on viruses.  A virus just needs to run its course.  So here are some ways to make the symptoms less obnoxious, help you more easily rest and hopefully, make the virus leave more quickly.

  • Drink as much water as possible.
  • Take an antihistamine (for runny, itchy nose and eyes, sneezing).
  • Take a decongestant (for nasal and/or chest congestion).
  • Drink hot tea with lemon and honey (very soothing on your throat, sinuses).
  • Take a hot bath (the steam will clear your head).
  • Irrigate your sinuses with a netti pot (it is uncomfortable at first, but really clears your sinuses).
  • Use a humidifier/vaporizer, especially at night (dry air makes you more stuffed up, making sleep more difficult).

Several talked about remedies/treatments are unproven and studies have shown they have little effect, such as Vitamin C (in fact, juice contains a lot of sugar, which is not helpful to your immune system), zinc, echinacea, and nasal sprays (which are actually very irritating to your sinuses).

Obviously, if symptoms worsen or do not improve in a week, then you should see your doctor.

I hope your New Year is a healthy, virus free one!

Angela, Sniffling Soul 😦

References:

  1. “Common Cold,” Wikipedia.org

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Fitness, Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Turn your world upside-down

Before I started practicing yoga, I had not inverted my body in decades – probably not since I was a teenager.  So yoga inversions were scary – not just at  my age, but at my height.  That’s a lot of leg to hold in the air!

Inversions in yoga means putting your body in poses that literally invert it:  shoulder stand, headstands,  handstands, forearm stands, legs up the wall, etc.

The Bennies:

Regular practice of inversions calms the mind, promoting better sleep.  It enhances the ability to concentrate and focus.  While this may not be scientifically proven, those who practice inversions (including me!) agree that they have an incredible effect on your body and mind.

Additionally, inversions have many physical benefits:

  • Cardiovascular/Circulatory.   Inverting your body reduces the effects of gravity, increasing blood flow back to the heart for faster recirculation.  They provide increased circulation in the lower body and legs, relieving pressure in the veins, helping to prevent varicose veins.  Being upright the majority of your day causes the lower lung tissue to saturate with blood.  Inverting ventilates the upper lungs, ensuring a more even oxygen-to-blood exchange, promoting healthier tissue.
  • Muscles.  In addition to improving cores and upper body strength (particularly with headstands and handstands), inversions increase the flow of lymphatic fluid, reducing muscle pain and spasms.  The lymphatic system carries watery fluid throughout your body, filtering wastes and keeping the immune system healthy.
  • Back/spine.  Inverting your body’s weight during yoga postures applies mild traction to your spine, allowing it to elongate and creating more space between your vertebrae, reducing pressure on the disks and nerve endings.
  • Aging.  Increased blood flow creates a healthy, more youthful skin color, improves mental alertness and clarity, and enhances hearing and vision.  It also promotes good posture, helping to maintain your height (height decreases as you age, due to thinning back disks).  I can attest to the practice of yoga (generally) increasing my height – I have grown 1/2 inch taller since I started practicing (not that I needed it, but…)!
  • Hormones.  Inversions (especially shoulder stands) are recommended for perimenopausal and menopausal women due to the belief that the pose stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands, regulating metabolism.  Inversions stimulate your pituitary gland, as well, promoting a positive well-being.
  • Nervous system.  Inversions stimulate cerebrospinal fluid, which flows from the brain to the spinal cord.  In a headstand, the pressure on the top of the skull could also promote elasticity in the cranial bones, increasing the production of cerebrospinal fluid to the ventricles of the brain.

But note – inversions are NOT for everyone

Many health conditions exist for which yoga inversions should be entirely avoided or modified, including pregnancy, neck pain and/or neck injuries, high or low blood pressure.  If there is any question when it comes to an existing or possible health condition, you should always discuss it with your physician FIRST.

However, a good alternative to headstands, shoulder stands and handstands is an inversion called “legs up the wall” pose.  Lie on the floor on your back, with your legs straight in the air.  If you are a beginner and want some support for your legs, scoot your booty up to a wall, resting your legs on the wall.  If your hamstrings are tight, you do not have to be flat up against the wall – you will still benefit from the inversion with the elevation of your legs on the wall.

Angela, Head over Heels 🙂

References:

  1. “Everybody Upside-Down,” Yoga Journal; Yoko Yoshikawa, 2011
  2. “Inversion 101,” Yoga Journal
  3. “Yoga Inversion Benefits,” Livestrong.com (http://www.livestrong.com)

November 13, 2011 Posted by | Fitness, Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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