Tag Archives: Health

This Incredible Machine

In my last post I wrote about the magic and wonderment of learning and being in awe of everything around me. I am thoroughly enjoying myself learning about nutrition. Even though I am not vegan, I want to learn about these options and how to apply different diets so that they fulfill the nutritional needs for those who choose them. I am fascinated by the effects of food and our environment has on our bodies, even changing the expressions of our genes. Not only are we what we eat, but everything has an effect on us, good or bad. Learning how our bodies change and react constantly to all the forces on us convinces me that there must be an intelligence behind us. I find these internal mechanisms too sophisticated and beautiful to come about by chance.

Our bodies are incredible machines, evolving and adapting every moment. The more I learn, the more amazed I become. I am not only learning this for my own health and satisfaction, I truly want to share this new found health with those that might be hurting. I am a long way from being able to provide any professional services and I hope that the passion for this does not wane.

Do you want to see something incredible? Look in the mirror. You are an incredible creation. You are an incredible creature adapting and changing every day. I hope that you like where you are today. If not, you can change it. No one knows the future, but it can be more assured if you take the steps to get to the future you want.

I know there can be tough circumstances, we all have had them. But think about how you came through those circumstances, usually stronger and wiser than before you faced them. You are an incredible machine, a living miracle. Have an incredible life. I wish happiness, love and health to you.

Why I Give Blood

I participated in a blood drive recently. When I was done donating, I rested, as instructed, with a small can of cranberry juice and a small bag of raisins. The manager asked me why I give blood. This was my second donation, my first donation took place on 4/25/2014.

I would have started much earlier. I first entertained the idea of donating blood in late 2005. I was told that because I have a heart condition, I was not eligible to give. What prompted me to consider giving is that my father was a cancer patient and required occasional blood transfusions. I wanted to give back to the community and have a chance to help others, like my father. I was disappointed that I could not donate.

Then earlier this year, I read an article that pointed towards a study in Europe that showed that men who donated blood reduced their own risk of heart attack and stroke, and not by an insignificant amount. So, I think of this as a gift of life, not only for those who might receive my blood but for myself as well. And being a gift of life, it is also a gift of love. I will never know who might benefit from my donations. I am not looking for them to thank me personally. It does make me feel good to know that I have helped, and possibly saved someone’s life.

On April 25th, 2014, I decided to walk into a blood collection drive location. I read the literature there. I asked if I would be eligible. I had also read that the requirements are reviewed time and time again to protect the blood supply. The receptionist recommended that I go through the screening process and I would learn for sure if I was eligible or not. I followed her suggestion. Much to my surprise, I was eligible. There was some concern, but after checking their computers, they decided that my condition did not prevent my donation.

Now, why didn’t I consider it before 2005? I am not sure. I probably was: too busy; afraid of the needle; afraid of the process; not concerned with mortality. None of these were good reasons then or now. The procedure is safe. I don’t like needles, so I just don’t watch. I take a book with me and read during the donation process.

Each donation of a pint (you have 10), can help or even save up to three persons. Blood is constantly needed. The Red Cross Blood services began in 1940, and now supplies about 40% of the blood needed in the US. 41,000 blood donations are needed each day. 38% of the population in the US are eligible to donate blood but less than 10% actually do.

So think about giving the gift of life. You can visit RedCrossBlood.org to learn more. You never know, someone might be alive tomorrow because of your gift today. The need is constant. If you are eligible, it is a gift for them and for you.

A Walk in the Park

I was on vacation this week and had the opportunity to take an extensive walk in our local canal park. Our canal park features Holley Falls, Salt Port pond, a playground, pavilions and grass areas for picnics and sunning. There is also a gazebo that features music on Friday nights in July. I have been in various parts of the park before but I took advantage of my renewing health and walked the major paths in and around the canal park.

The length of the trails that I walked was 3.24 miles. My son tells me that it would be rated a moderate to strenuous hike. Except for a small portion on the actual canal, the rest of the trails are hilly. He belongs to a hiking group and visits various parks and trails in Western NY. I sometimes accompany him as his guest. I am slowly building up my strength and stamina for these adventures.

Exercise is important. Even though my current diet was not purposed for weight loss, I am taking advantage of this wonderful side effect. I find that losing additional weight has been easier when I exercise. There have been occasions where hiking with my son wipes out all the calorie intake I had prior to the hike. This helps to speed up my metabolism, strengthen my muscles and add to my energy.

I am fortunate to live in an area with lots of green space. Not only do we have parks in many of the towns, there are trails that follow abandoned railway lines. These create segmented paths between roads establishing very visible start and end points.

Walking the greenways is a calm and relaxing way to exercise. I enjoy looking at all the different types of plants and trees along the path. The sounds of nature surround you. Whether walking alone or with others, you still get the benefits of the creations that abound. It is nice to feel the breeze when it kicks up as it rustles through the leaves. I may even be fortunate enough to see some wildlife.

So put on your most comfortable shoes and take a walk. It will be good for your health. It doesn’t have to be a long walk. If you are not use to walking, then start slow and work your way up. Walk for 10 minutes and then turn around. Do that for a week, then increase the time to 15 minutes out and 15 back. Before you know it, you will have reached the 30 minutes of daily exercise recommended by most health practitioners. Even if it isn’t every day, you can work up to that too.

See you on the trails.

Carb Sense

Carbohydrates are essential for good health. They give our body energy. But, we must be aware of how carbs effect our body. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are absorbed quickly into the blood stream, whereas the body has to work at releasing the carbs in their more complex forms. Both enter the blood as glucose. How quickly they raise blood sugar is behind the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load numbers.
The increase of sugar in the blood stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, which is a hormone that the body uses to regulate the blood sugar by informing your body it is time to store the sugar as glycogen and fat. Simple carbs cause a higher sugar load and causes a higher insulin response.
But aren’t their good carbs? Yes. Eat more fresh vegetables, more fresh fruits and less grains and cereals. Vegetables have sugar but it is harder for your body to get to it and causes a gradual absorption into the blood stream. Fruits have more sugar, in the form of fructose, which usually has a higher glycemic load than vegetables. Nature usually pairs these sugars with fiber.
Fiber is not digested by your body, so these carbs basically pass through you. These can be subtracted from the total carbs to get your “net” carbs, also sometimes called impact or effective carbs. If you eat something with a Total Carb count of 16g, with 4g of fiber, then this food would have 12g of net carbs.
You may notice that the fiber and sugar carbs listed on the label do not add up to the total carb count. For instance, a sweet potato, 5” long (130g) has 112 calories. It has 26g of Total Carbohydrate, 4g of fiber and 5g of sugar. So what is the other 17 grams? Those are complex carbohydrates or starches. It has a medium glycemic load of 11. Foods with a glycemic load of 10 or less are considered to have a low glycemic load. High glycemic load (20 and higher) foods increase blood sugar the most.
Keep your net carb count low by using fresh vegetables, supplemented by fruit. Not only do fresh vegetables offer complex carbs, they are usually packed with lots of nutrients. Foods such as raw cauliflower, broccoli, tomato, and even celery are very nutrient dense, make you feel full and accomplish all this with limited calories.
Happy eating. You don’t have to necessarily count carbs, just realize where they come from. Stay away or limit obvious starches as they quickly turn to sugar and increase your insulin (storage hormone) response. Good health to you.

What’s Different?

What is the difference between my current diet and the ones that I tried before? First of all, only time will tell how successful this diet will be. The purpose of this diet was to improve my digestive symptoms. I am currently in my tenth week of Gluten free dieting which includes a month without any grains. My stomach is finally beginning to feel better.

But one additional effect of this current diet is that I am losing weight. I again, emphasize, this was and is not the main focus of this diet. But, hey, I will take it. Since I need to lose weight anyway, it is a most welcome addition.

My previous diets were just a lessening of the volume of food and calories that I was eating before. Even increasing whole grains and fiber were part of those diets. I now understand the effect of glucose spikes in the blood caused by wheat and other grains. Two slices of whole grain wheat bread raise your blood sugar levels higher than a Snicker’s bar. This in turn creates an insulin reaction that ends up storing the sugar as fat.

Even though I was tracking my calories and eating less of them, I felt deprived. The wheat and grains caused me to be hungry and stimulated my cravings for starchy foods. I would lose weight for a short while, but as soon as I began eating again, the weight would come back on, and sometimes even more. I was caught in the same endless cycle that many people are in.

So what makes this different? Removing the wheat and grain from my diet has caused me to seek out other sources of nutrition, namely fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Vegetables, especially, are low in calories but high in nutrition. You can consume several cups of baby spinach and broccoli and barely break 150 calories. I have purposely tried to keep my carbohydrates below 100g per day. I am eating between 90 – 150g per day.

Again, what’s different? Because of the food that I am eating, I feel fuller on less calories. I am not hungry as often. Since my blood sugar is being kept stable from the naturally low glycemic effect of most of the foods I eat, I avoid the sugar crash and subsequent cravings that come with it. I am simply not hungry all the time as I was in the past. That is be big difference when it comes to hunger.

My past diets made me hungry or feel deprived. I really didn’t feel much better, even when I did lose some weight. Since I have stopped eating grains, I have experienced many benefits, many unexpected. I knew about the brain fog, as it happened to me before almost after every lunch. I did not expect my energy levels to go up as much as they have. I did not expect my arthritis pain to go away. I did expect my stomach pain to go away, but it did not while gluten free, but is now much improved as I am grain free.

Yesterday, I took a 5.5 mile ‘forced march’ hike with my son. My joints did not bother me. I was a little sore when I got home but it wasn’t arthritis pain, it was a ‘dang, that was a hell of a workout’ kind of pain and it felt good!

Benefits so far: more energy; more alert; no arthritis pain; less hungry; less cravings; fresher foods; cooking adventures; better mood; and better sleep.

When I tell people that I am grain free, they sometimes ask, “Then what do you eat?” That is a very fair question. It is a question that I would have asked myself if someone told me they were grain free. Wheat, corn, soy and rice is in the majority of foods in the American diet. The diversity in the store is actually based on a limited set of ingredients. So once you explore the outside aisles you can begin creating vegetable and meat dishes that are not only delicious but very nutritious and healing to your body.

Is there a difference this time? You bet there is. I am feeling better in so many different ways; it is absolutely amazing how diet affects your overall wellness. Of course we know what you eat is important, but until you experience such a change in your life, you will never understand just how important.

My wish is for a better health, better foods, and a better life for you.

Gluten Free Adventure – Part 2

Like many things in life, plans morph into something unexpected. My overall pain and arthritis pain has greatly subsided on the weeks of avoiding wheat, barley and rye. However, my stomach was still very much bothering me. Always being the inquisitive one, I began seeking information as to why my digestion discomfort continues. On this information search, I discovered a short video as to the number one mistake people make on a gluten free diet. Well, of course, that piqued my interest. The mistake was to not avoid all grains. The doctor spoke of a condition called Leaky Gut, or more clinically, intestinal permeability. Since my gut was not feeling any better on the GF diet, I decided that I would go on a Grain Free (GrF) diet. So I am now making it a point to have no grains, no nightshade vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant), no peppers, and very limited legumes. I am also cooking all vegetables so that they will be easier to digest.

My current goal is to eat no more than 100 grams of carbs per day, mostly from vegetables and consuming low glycemic index foods.

Is it working? I have been on this diet for two weeks and my stomach has calmed down a little. More time will be needed to see if this is the right path. In the meantime, my wife and I are having an interesting time preparing very low carb meals that are satisfying. What we have discovered though, is that our cravings have subsided. We are less hungry even though we are consuming less calories. A side benefit is that we are losing weight.

Losing weight was not the plan or purpose of this adventure. The plan was to feel better and gain more mobility as well as heal our guts. My wife has digestion issues as well, but not the very same issues. Her gut is actually reacting better to the diet more quickly than mine. I am so very glad for her.

I am becoming more and more convinced that inflammation is generating a large host of problems for individuals. I am glad that the science is beginning to accumulate to help people find the answers they need and are right for them.  Body chemistry differs so blanket answers are difficult to form. Just like persons react differently to medications, the same can be true for foods.

One group of professionals is telling me that they have no answers and yet I seem to be finding them.  The internet is a wonderful tool to seek out those who looked for answers before. Are they all right? No. What works for them might not work for me. What works for me, might not work for you. Each of our bodies is unique. Differing blood types, differing sensitivities, and metabolic profiles require differing approaches. I believe the best way to achieve success is to try these different approaches, paying close attention to what our bodies tell us. There are so many diet ideas out there. The A to Z Diet study compared four popular diets showed that the subjects reacted differently to the same diet. So far, on my current path, my body is reacting positively, so much so, I do not want to do anything to reverse the progress.

I will gladly listen to a hundred differing opinions and seek out a common thread and test it for truth then to listen to just one voice which has already proven to me that it just isn’t working. But even with that said, I want to give thanks to all the friends, family, professionals and internet contributors that are accompanying me on this journey. It isn’t over yet and just may last the rest of my life.

My Gluten Free Adventure – Part 1

In late August of 2013, I suffered a terrible pain in my abdomen. It was on a Friday. I suppose that I will blame my gender for not having it checked out right away. I went to work, but didn’t last very long. I ended up going home sick. Resting during the weekend did not help because I asked my wife to take me to the urgent care center on Monday morning. Urgent care directed me to the emergency room of the hospital.

The doctors at the hospital and my own doctor could not determine what my issue was, but after taking an anti-spasmodic drug for a week, my stomach reached a tolerable plateau of pain. In December, I expressed to my cardiologist that I did not feel up to taking the scheduled stress test because of my stomach and arthritis pain. They did an echo-cardio instead. My cardiologist suggested I try a gluten free diet, just for a month, to see how I would feel. He had other patients that expressed improvement while on that diet.

On January 4, 2014, I began my gluten free adventure. I had decided that I would try the diet for two months instead of one. This is my fifth week on the diet. My stomach still bothers me, maybe relief will come later, maybe not. But, my arthritis pain has greatly subsided. The numbness in my right foot (neuropathy caused by statins) comes and goes instead of being constantly numb and painful. Overall, I am feeling much better.

I removed statins from my life a couple of years ago. Statins caused my entire body to ache and my joints almost too painful to move. It became a struggle to move. I was using a cane to walk around and thought that I would soon need a wheel chair. After reading anecdotal articles on the internet about statins, I announced to my doctor that I would no longer take them.  In 2 -3 weeks, my mobility returned, my pain levels dropped but still had evidence of arthritis. The numbness in my right foot never improved. I thought I had lost that forever.

The gluten free diet has changed even this. It is not an easy diet, especially when one such as I love the tempting treats at Dunkin Donuts. I am not a Celiac. I certainly appreciate how hard it is to avoid gluten completely. Celiacs have to avoid cross contamination, which is extremely difficult. It restricts where they can eat. Dining out is even more difficult. I can clearly see how this is a very real burden.

I am not even sure that I have a gluten sensitivity. But one thing I know for sure, is that eating gluten free for the last 5 weeks has drastically reduced my overall pain. I just saw my doctor. My cholesterol numbers, especially triglycerides has fallen and my good cholesterol HDL has gone up. I have no doubt at all that gluten raises cholesterol in my body.

My wife has joined me on this adventure, even though she did not have to do so. We have been experimenting with stir fried vegetables, fruit salads and parfaits, using meats as a flavoring and adding fresh fruits and vegetables to all our meals. Our Wegmans store has a Gluten Free (GF) section. It is quite nice. But I am not sure that gluten free necessarily means healthy. The GF items seem to be loaded with sugar and high in calories. I suppose they did that to make them taste as good as the gluten containing food.

When I started the diet, I actually gained weight. I believe that the gluten was inhibiting my body’s ability to take in nutrients. After three weeks, my weight had begun to plateau and now for the last two weeks my weight is beginning to fall slowly.

The other challenges are getting enough fiber and nutrients usually obtained from gluten foods such as enriched flour. I have been using supplements to make up the difference.

The pain reduction has convinced me that I want to stay on the GF wagon for the long haul. And my experience with statins is to never take them again. I am convinced that gluten and sugar cause inflammation throughout the body and raise cholesterol levels. The GF diet helps in areas that I would not have considered connected.

Wishing you well. Wishing you peace. Take care.

Dental Phobia

According to the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation, 30 percent of the population avoids the dentist due to fear. I actually thought it would be a higher percentage. I am one of these people with ‘dental phobia.’

It may be irrational, it might even seem silly, but I am petrified of dental work. I have nothing against dentists, they are professionals doing important work. But I am very squeamish when it comes to the potential pain that accompanies dental procedures. Yes, I am a wimp – a card carrying wimp, at least when it comes to the dentist.

I found a wonderful sedation dentist who provides sedative drugs which allows me to be awake but unawares. I find it works wonderfully for me. The dentist can do lots of work that might take several visits all in one session. I have no memory of the session, as if I was asleep through the visit, but I am told that I maintain a level of consciousness that allows me to cooperate with the dentist.

Having a driver to take you home after the procedure is important. I am often still under the effects of the sedation until after I arrive home. On my last visit, I became unaware on my way to the dentist and regained my awareness after I was home. I had no recollection whatsoever of the dental surgery.

The dental hygienist at this particular dental center deal with phobic patients such as myself all the time. For cleaning, I forego the full blown sedation but the hygienist does provide extra topical anesthetic and nitrous oxide to raise my pain threshold.

Are you afraid of the dentist? I hope not, but if you are, like me, you can still take care of your teeth by seeking out a sedation dentist. I had stayed away from dentist for years unless a dental problem forced me to go. Now I maintain regular appointments. Be aware that most, if not all, insurance does not cover the sedation portion of the dental service. Even though my insurance does not cover the sedation, I find it well worth the expense and better for my well-being.

Take care, and keep smiling.