Art by DestinyBlue
I had always intended to write a post about depression. I continually put it off because it isn't really something I like to talk about. I'm thankful that it is more out in the open, that people are talking about it, bringing this disease into the light, because for all the years I have been battling it, it was something to keep hidden because to everyone not affected by it, it's not a real thing. It's something in my head, not a real disease. When you grow up this way, you learn to keep quiet, to fight your battles silently, to smile at the whole world on the outside while inside you're screaming and wishing for an end.
Today I read a post on Facebook. I was going to just leave it be, but afterwards I went into the garden, and as I was working away, what I had seen started eating away at me. It occurred to me that although the guy in the video thinks he's helping, and maybe even people who are sharing the video think they're helping, it's actually belittling the disease. It is a classic "just get over it" mentality, which has long plagued depression and kept it in the shadows. So as I stewed I realized that this is almost a case of 'one step forward, two steps back', here we are, dragging depression, and mental illnesses of all kinds, into the light, trying to help those affected, and someone pops up giving some terrible advice to drag us all back to the stone ages. Telling someone with depression to just wait until it passes is essentially treating acne by bloodletting, which they actually did in the seventeenth century.
See the video here.
The comment is what actually set me off. Because he's actually saying that you need to get over it. That, ladies and gents, is the two steps back I referred to earlier.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, there is a difference between opinion and basically giving medical advice. In your opinion, I am sad, so I should just wait for it to pass. In reality, I have a medically diagnosed illness that requires medication, and actually will not 'pass' if I just wait long enough (trust me, I have tried). The 'depression' that he is talking about in his video is not the real thing. Everyone gets sad sometimes, and he is right, that will pass. Even heavy sadness following the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship is extreme and weighs you down, but it is a temporary feeling, and you will eventually get past it.
I do think the analogies he uses in the video are actually correct - just not in the way he intends. Yes, the sky (you) is always there and the clouds (depression) come and go, but if you look around, you'll probably see more clouds, even if the patch of sky right above you at the moment is clear. Sometimes they're even angrier than the ones that just passed. And that is depression. Real, clinical depression. Look up at the sky. More often than not there are clouds. The patches of clear sky are much fewer. So it is with depression. You have clear days. You have days when you can function as a regular human being. You can get up in the morning and have a full day of just being a person. Not exhausted, not sick, and it's glorious. Then the clouds come back. And they always do.
Second analogy, same thing. The remote control is in the picture, then it's not, then it is. Again, it comes back. Only this time he's proving my point even more: He never lets go of the remote. He's holding it the whole time. Depression is like that. It's always there, even when its not, except that it holds you, not the other way around.
Art by 113-nk
So let's take a look at depression, what causes it? I want to talk about it in the clinic sense, not my fiancee just left me at the altar and I'm going to eat ice cream until my tears are done. Medical science is not exactly sure what causes depression, their best guesses are that many factors are at play, environmental, psychological, and biological. For the sake of this post, I only want to focus on the biological factors. In other words, I want to tell you what goes on inside your brain that can cause depression. Why? Because I want to show you that those same things going on in my brain that are causing the depression that you may not see as a real disease are actual, real things that I can't just wait until they pass.
One of the biological factors that lead to depression is low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical in your body which carries signals along and between your nerves. It's a neurotransmitter which is mainly found in the brain, bowel, and blood platelets. Symptoms of low serotonin levels can include:
Having low serotonin levels doesn't necessarily mean you automatically have depression. In fact, it could actually be worse. Other illnesses and conditions associated with low levels include: fibromyalgia, TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and asthma. Let's not forget OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), anxiety, and addiction issues. Lowered levels also increase your risk for heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's.
Art by Vesuvia
The second and third biological factors are also associated with neurotransmitters: Norepinephrine and Dopamine. Norepinephrine is "what most of us think of as the “fight-or-flight” hormones. It functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter and is produced by the adrenal gland, postganglionic neurons of the sympathetic nervous system, and part of the brain called the locus coerules. From the locus coerules, noradrenergic neurons branch out and form a system that enables norepinephrine to be delivered to different parts of the brain. In a similar fashion, the postganglionic neurons enable norepinephrine to be delivered directly to target organs and cells in the body. The adrenal glands dump norepinephrine directly into the blood. These mechanisms usually come into play when we are under stress." (from breakingmuscle.com) - I tried to understand it so I could paraphrase for you, but each subsequent definition I read got more and more technical, so I opted to copy and paste instead of giving you incorrect information. Lowered levels of Norepinephrine are associated with:
Most of us have heard of Dopamine, its a neurotransmitter released by the brain and has a hand in movement, memory, behavior and cognition, sleep, mood, and learning. Conditions associated with low levels include: chronic fatigue, RLS (restless leg syndrome), excessive sleep, lessened libido, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and Parkinson’s disease. There's a lot of great info to be found at medlicker.com.
So basically, symptoms of neurotransmitter imbalances or neurotransmitter deficiency include:
Do you still want to tell me that my depression is just a phase, or that I should get over it, or just wait for it to pass? I have been battling it for as long as I can remember, since my early teens. And make no mistake, it is a battle. It's a battle to get up in the morning, to get washed up and leave the house. To go to work, take care of your children, put on a happy face and deal with the world. All while you're screaming and crying and dying inside. Battling the side effects of the medications, trying to figure out if they're actually worse than the disease. It's a battle not to let it take you. It's a battle to try to remember who you were before you were sad all the time. To not burst into tears for no reason at all, because if you start it won't stop. Battling that tightness in your chest when you have to go anywhere - even just outside your bedroom door.
Art by VGgirl607
I don't talk about it. When I do, I get the eye roll from people who know me. They don't understand that those of us coping with this are phenomenal actors. You don't know there's anything wrong with us unless we tell you - or try to kill ourselves. To you we're just lazy, tired, anti-social. According to my family and friends I'm in perfect mental health, because that's what I let them see.
And this is why people like Prince Ea and those who share his video with notes like "someone has to say it" are actually doing more harm than good. Maybe you thought you were being helpful, trying to tell someone they can lift themselves out of their fog. Your intentions are good, but dangerous. I wouldn't tell a person with cancer to just hang on until it passes, so don't tell me the same. And let's be very clear - depression does kill.
Art by emprinsesa
All jokes aside, RLS, or Restless Leg Syndrome is actually more prevalent than you may think. True, many articles and reports I have read about the condition mainly say that it is a new made-up disease. I disagree totally, it is not a disease, nor is it made up. I suffer from it, and have for over a decade, and I'm not sure how it started poking it's head into the light of day, but I am thankful that it did. I was able to put a name to this thing that plagues me at least one night a week, and sometimes as many as four or five.
If you want to skip through all my explanations and ravings, just head to the bottom of this post (after the drumroll) where I'll tell you what simple fix is calming my restless legs these nights.
For those of you lucky enough to not personally know what I'm talking about, or those who don't know what to call that thing that is keeping you up at night, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is defined as "a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder" (from webmd.com). It is not painful, just really, really annoying, and the urge can last anywhere from a couple of minutes to all night long. Take it from someone who has experienced the long ones, it is not a fun way to stay up all night.
So, are there ways to combat RLS, to treat, cure, or keep it in check? The good news is that there are. The bad news is two-fold. This includes side effects and lifestyle changes, along with a growing number of studies showing that RLS may only be a symptom of a larger medical issue. When we're treating only the RLS, we're not looking at the bigger picture. I would guess its akin to drinking Buckley's to quiet the cough and ignoring the emphysema.
Firstly, let's take a look at the first option most people choose: medication.
US: "Doctor, my legs feel weird at night and I can't sleep."
DR: "Here's a prescription. Check back with me in 3 weeks."
Don't even try to pretend that that is not the way most doctor visits sound. So what types of prescription medications are available?
That's what came up when I goggled "RLS medications". What came up when I clicked the actual link was even crazier. A two page document listing no less than TWELVE categories of drugs including opioids, hypnotics, and anti-depressants that can be prescribed for RLS. The side effects, as with many new drugs oddly, seem worse than the actual condition we're medicating and they run the gambit from headaches and dizziness to hallucinations and compulsive behaviors. Scary.
There are also some natural ways to deal with your discomfort, from supplements to exercise to quitting smoking. RLS seems to have something to do with mineral imbalances, so some suggestions are to take some magnesium, calcium, and potassium supplements to calm your leg nerves. Lengthening your legs, pointing your toes, and massaging your calves is also recommended, but that did absolutely nothing in my case, it only seemed to prolong my torture. Also worth noting is that smokers have a higher instance of RLS, and cutting down on caffeine and alcohol before bed is apparently helpful. I'm guessing my nightly cup of coffee is probably not helping my situation. There is also mention of avoiding cold and sinus medications, but I don't know how helpful that advice is when you're suffering from a cold or sinus allergy. Pick your battles, I guess.
One last thing to mention before I get to my "cure". A warning from rlcure.com. If you have RLS, or if you are interested in reading more about it, I highly recommend you read this, it's an interesting look at what RLS may be trying to tell us. Maybe my legs are trying to tell me that I'm going to die early, but I think my cigarette pack has dibs on letting me know which terrible disease is the most likely to kill me.
Here is what you have all been waiting for, and what some of you skipped my whole post to see: how did I stop my RLS?
A bar of Ivory soap.
Yes, you read that correctly, a bar of Ivory soap. No, wait, don't go! Just hear me out. I'm not crazy (well, I might be, the test results aren't back yet), I read something crazy on pullingcurls.com about the author's mother using Ivory soap to cure her RLS. One night a few weeks ago it was particularly bad. I was exhausted, I had a migraine, and of course my legs decided to get in on the action. After an hour I was desperate for relief. I asked my husband to go into the laundry room and get me a bar of Ivory soap. He gave it to me and I unwrapped it, tossed it between my calves, and hoped for the best. Hubby gave me some strange looks, but he's pretty used to my weirdness by now.
It worked. Hallelujah, the legs stopped the party and I fell asleep almost instantly. I used it for a week straight with no re-occurrences. The next week I did not sleep with a bar of soap. My legs betrayed me. So now I sleep with a bar of Ivory every night whether I think I'll need to or not. Is it psychological? Does the urge to move my legs stop when I have soap in my bed because I think it's helping me? I don't know, maybe. Truly, I don't really care why it works. All I know is that I can sleep through the night without taking medication, getting acupuncture, or having to give up my nightly cup of coffee, and it cost me less than a dollar.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you left just a smidge more informed.
It has been a long, long time since my last blog post, and before I get into it, I wanted to thank those of you who are still reading my old posts, whether you're just checking up on me periodically or find me another way, I appreciate when you spend a little bit of your time with me.
Why haven't I posted in so long? It's a long story - multiple ones, actually, and I may get into them at some point, but for now, I'm just going to jump right in as if I never left and the very first thing I thought I'd start with is this story I heard on the news this morning:
The above links (which will, as always, open in a new window) take you to 2 articles talking about what the Royal Society for Public Health is proposing as a new way to label food because of the growing epidemic of obesity in the UK.
Speaking as someone who has struggled with weight my whole life, I think this is a fantastic idea. Whenever I am on a "diet", I often use as motivation just this idea, and I can tell you from experience that it works way more often than not. Other times you just want that bag of chips, and you're going to eat it no matter what the label says.
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, is proposing a simple infographic on foods to give consumers a better understanding of what they're consuming. Let's face it, nutritional labels on foods are chock full of information that most of us just don't understand, nor can we put it in perspective. I don't know what the numbers are in regards to how many people actually read labels on food before they buy, but I actually do. I want to know what's in that package. More often than not, it makes me put it back on the shelf and head over to the produce aisle, but I feel that I may be in the minority.
I think this style of labeling may change that. Picture this for a moment: You're shopping at the grocery store and pick up a Reese chocolate bar. (I picked that because I found the nutritional label online and that makes my life easier.) When you look at the label it tells you this:
It makes sense to me because I read labels all the time, and so I would put it back on the shelf and keep moving. Someone who hasn't counted calories like a crazy person previously could look at this and think, "hey, 210 is not so bad - I can definitely eat this. Peanuts are healthy, right?"
Say that same person picks up that same chocolate bar and sees this alongside the nutritional info (which, I am only assuming, they will keep on the packaging):
Now that 210 doesn't sound so great - not if I have to run for 19 minutes to burn it off.
There are millions of people struggling with their weight for a number of reasons. They include lifestyle, income, genetics, and illness, or any combination of factors. One of the major contributors, in my humble opinion, is our society's love of the convenient packaged food. I understand it, I really do. Life is hectic and it is really difficult to cook and clean up after an actual meal. It's also really expensive to eat real food, which is really sad, but a post for another day.
Since we're all eating out of boxes, cans, and packages, why not add a little more information in a really easy to understand format? It may help someone who is struggling to make a better choice. To pick up a box of frozen veggies which will take 9 minutes of running to work off rather than a box of Twinkies which will take you 47? I'm only guessing at the actual times, but you get my point.
Let me get personal for a minute. I am currently on a diet, since I have a big event coming up in September and I want to look better and fit into my dress. My food intake is restrictive, but I have kids, and I am still feeding them the same as always, which includes full dinners and dessert. Whenever I really, really want to eat something that I'm not supposed to, I go upstairs and step on the scale. One of two things is going to happen; either I'm happy with what I see and I don't want to jeopardize my efforts, or I don't like what I see and I am motivated to work harder. Either way, I really don't want that food anymore.
Another way I circumvent my need for foods I can't (and really shouldn't) have is to look up their caloric value. As I mentioned earlier, I have been an avid calorie counter in the past (it helped me shed 60 pounds), so seeing those numbers helps me gain back my self control. Putting simple pictures on a package letting you know how much energy you need to expend to work off that particular food should have the same impact.
Of course, there are always multiple opinions about everything, and this is no different. Although I do not remember who it was, and when I tried googling the topic I couldn't find it, I did hear during the newscast that there are some who do not find this idea appealing, as all calories are not created the same. Although I agree that the calories from an apple and the ones from a Reese cup may be equal numerically but never nutritionally, I still think I like this new idea and would definitely like our Canadian health experts to look into it. Why would you be wary of a picture of a stick figure on a bike, but okay with a number?
What do you think? Would a system of labels such as these make you think twice before eating certain foods, knowing the amount of time you'll have to spend on the treadmill to burn it off?
Yesterday I gave the lowdown on two drinks our family have incorporated into a healthier lifestyle, along with the recipe for lemon water and a promise that one for golden milk would soon follow.
I won't give you the whole why this is awesome for my family spiel again (you can read yesterday's post here), instead here are the benefits of golden milk, and my own personal recipe.
This is another drink that is causing a lot of buzz on the internet. South Asia has known about the powers of turmeric forever and we in North America are just catching on. Turmeric is the spice (or root) that gives golden milk it's rich colour and one of the components that make it so great for your body.
Google 'golden milk' and you'll get a plethora of hits, most giving you the standard recipe of: coconut milk, turmeric powder and honey. On it's own, this combination has some benefits, but with the addition of a few simple ingredients, you can pack so much more punch into your evening drink.
About 90% (if not more) of the recipes call for turmeric powder. It is a fantastic spice and can be used that way if you prefer or if you do not have access to fresh. I will always choose the fresh option, picking up a whole bag of the root whenever I find it, however I do have ground turmeric in my spice cabinet and will use it when fresh runs out. Same goes for the ginger, although it is really easy to find in most stores.
A note about the ingredients: feel free to use cow, goat, coconut, almond, soy, or whatever type of milk you prefer. We started out with coconut milk, but we moved to cow's milk, as I find that we get a richer, creamier drink. The black pepper is added in because with it your body is able to absorb an astonishing 2000% more of the available curcumin in turmeric. Shocking, I know, what that little tiny addition will do. If you read yesterday's post you'll already know this, but I'm saying it again just in case: it is really important to mix the honey in after the milk has cooled slightly. High temperatures will kill the beneficial bacteria in it. Also, try to use raw, unpasteurized whenever you can. The difference in benefits is astounding when you remove the pasteurization (high heat...) process. To see yesterday's chart regarding this topic, click here.
2 cups milk
sliver fresh ginger
1/2" chunk fresh turmeric
2 whole black peppercorns
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsps honey
1/4 tsp maca powder
1/2 cinnamon stick
(*note* I use a nutribullet for the first part. You can forgo the blending part and just chop smaller pieces and put everything together in your saucepan as is)
Add 1 cup milk to blender.
Add ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne and maca. Blend for 30 seconds.
Place this along with remaining milk and cinnamon stick into a saucepan.
Allow to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about a half hour. Do not boil.
After a half hour, remove from heat and allow to cool about 10 minutes.
Strain into 2 cups and stir in 1 tsp honey each. Drink warm.
Why drink this? Once you read all these benefits, you're going to wonder "Why am I not drinking this?"
Yesterday we learned about the benefits of ginger and honey:
Ginger improves the absorption of essential nutrients, helps relieve gas, bloating & nausea, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Honey helps prevent cancer & heart disease, reduces ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders, has anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties, reduces coughs & throat irritation, regulates blood sugar, gives you great skin and is a probiotic.
In addition to those benefits, in each cup of golden milk you'll get these boosts also:
Turmeric boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, & analgesic properties, boosts immunity, is an anti-carcinogenic, helps maintain cholesterol levels, promotes digestive health, detoxifies livers, regulates metabolism, lowers triglycerides, helps give you beautiful skin, and can help with high blood pressure, and improve memory & brain function.
Maca is rich in vitamin B vitamins, C, & E. It provides calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous & amino acids. It can boost to your libido, balance your hormones & increase fertility. Can alleviate cramps, body pain, hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings, & depression. Energy levels may increase, along with an increase in mental energy & focus. It helps restore red blood cells, which aids anemia & cardiovascular diseases. May help clear up acne.
Cayenne has the ability to ease upset stomach, ulcers, sore throats, spasmodic and irritating coughs, and diarrhea.It's an anti-cold and flu agent, has anti-fungal properties, can help prevent migraines, anti-allergen, digestive aid, helps reduce atherosclerosis, detox support, joint-pain relief, anti-bacterial properties, boosts metabolism, help balance LDL cholesterol & triglycerides, & helps prevent tooth & gum disease.
Cinnamon helps with heart health, blood sugar regulation, better brain function, & improved motor function.
So I ask you again, why aren't you drinking this? Trust me, your body will thank you!
As I move my family towards a healthier home little by little, we've also started to drink 'concoctions' (as hubby calls them) in the morning and evening as a small step on that path. Currently we drink honey lemon water each morning and golden milk each evening and we've seen a few changes since this has become routine. Hubby has lost a few pounds (ten at last count, I believe) and I have had some success in that area also. To be more specific, at the beginning of this year I caught a particularly nasty bug - one that had me wishing I could just die - and over the course of the four days that I feared leaving my home without wearing an adult diaper (I know, TMI), I lost sixteen pounds. Crazy, right? Well, that's what happens when you're petrified of putting anything into your body (like food), but your body still feels the need to get rid of everything that is still in there. Usually after such an illness, I'll put it all back on (and then some because I'm so happy to be able to eat again) but that was not the case this time around. Four pounds returned, but here I am, a month later, and that is all I've put back on.
We're not eating any differently than before and definitely not getting more exercise (although we both know we should), so we're laying this good fortune at the doorstep of the honey lemon water we drink each weekday morning. Yes, I said weekday. On weekends we all wake up at different times (my teenager just in time for brunch, usually) and since you can't have coffee for an hour after the lemon water, it makes for a tricky situation. So we forgo our 'concoctions' on the weekends. We've been taking our honey lemon water since before Christmas last year.
The second one we drink each weeknight is golden milk. I found out about the health benefits of this drink and a pretty good recipe online and we've been drinking this for about a month. I've tweaked the standard recipe slightly and will give you my version tomorrow. There is one really glaring benefit we've found with this one, and I can only attribute it to the golden milk because we did not have this benefit while drinking only the lemon water, and it happens within days of starting it. We smell better. I know that seems a really odd thing to say, but you don't realize what a benefit it is until you live it. No one likes to talk about personal odor issues, most of us are embarrassed by it, and do our best to mask it. Hubby didn't have much of an issue to begin with, he is blessed to only have to wear deodorant on the stickiest of summer days. I am not so blessed, and my poor son got my genes in this respect. Since he hit puberty, it has been a major issue. People may think he doesn't bathe or wear deodorant, but he does and it still doesn't help. My body is so good to me that I have to put on deodorant the second I get out of the shower or I already smell. Not fun, and not good for a person's self-esteem. I am quite aware of the correlation between deodorant and breast cancer, but it came down to do I want to lose one or both boobs later in life or stink to high heaven now. I did think about it every time I applied deodorant. It sucked.
Here's the fantastic change: we don't stink anymore! I can (and do, lol) actually go an entire weekend without showering or putting on deodorant. I now know freedom, people. It is quite liberating.
So, enough about our family's bodily functions, weight loss and level of stinkiness. I wanted to share my two daily drinks, but there are quite a few new ones that I'd like to try out over the course of 2015 and I may do another post like this one with my happy results.
I'll start with this one because it's pretty much the most widely known drink with health benefits and also because its the one I start my day with.
There are many different variations of this one, and we started with the basic: Hot water with a half a lemon squeezed in. If you google this one, you'll find recipes galore. My suggestion is to start with water & lemon sweetened with some honey. Next, add some mint. Lastly, try out the recipe below.
**note** It is really important to add the honey AFTER the water has cooled slightly. Hot water will kill the beneficial bacteria.
**note** Due to the acidic nature of the lemon, do not drink coffee or brush your teeth for one hour after consuming.
2 cups water
1 lemon (organic if you can, otherwise, wash it with soap & water)
2 tsp honey (organic, raw, unpasteurized is best)
sliver fresh ginger
4 leaves fresh mint
Toss mint leaves into a saucepan and muddle slightly.
Slice lemon and add along with ginger.
Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Mix in honey, pour into glasses (use a strainer) and consume warm.
(Quick, simple recipe for busy mornings at the end of this post)
Why drink this? Seriously, this one glass packs a punch!
Lemons are known to replenish body salts, aid in the production of digestive fluids, maintain eye health, helps prevent wrinkles & acne, help balance calcium & oxygen levels in the liver, potassium levels nourish brain and nerve cells, help reduce pain and inflammation in joints, help prevent common cold and some infections & diseases by helping slow the growth & multiplication of bacteria, balance pH levels, flush out toxins, and is a great source of vitamin C, citric acid, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Ginger improves the absorption of essential nutrients, helps relieve gas, bloating & nausea, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Mint relieves indigestion, gas, morning sickness, menstrual cramps & pain, anti-bacterial & anti-inflammatory properties help fight oral infections, great for skin & clearing up acne, Helps prevent asthma & allergies, boosts immunity, fights stress & depression and helps fight cancer.
Honey helps prevent cancer & heart disease, reduces ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders, has anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties, reduces coughs & throat irritation, regulates blood sugar, gives you great skin and is a probiotic. Whenever you can, go for raw, unpasteurized honey, there are way more benefits. If you can, find a local beekeeper and purchase your honey from them. You are supporting your community and you know what you're getting. Just so you know, honey technically cannot be called 'organic' in Ontario (I'm not sure about other provinces) because the bees are flying around and can ingest pollen from anywhere.
I have included a graphic I found online which gives you an idea why raw is better:
I highly recommend that you incorporate at least a basic version of this drink into your morning routine. I know it's not easy - we're all so busy and time is at a premium - but it's such a simple way to do something good for your body.
Some mornings are busier than others, and a way to make this quickly (which I do some mornings) is this:
Boil water in your kettle. Pour water into each glass & add juice of one half lemon. Add enough cold water to cool slightly. Mix in 1 tsp honey. This method is per glass.
Here you have the basics: honey & lemon, and it's quick. Don't give up your health to save ten minutes!
Come back tomorrow for my Golden Milk recipe!
Around 100,000 people have laser eye surgery each year. Since this number is growing, and I haven't personally heard any horror stories, I have to guess that it's highly successful for most. I also have to guess that I am one of the unlucky few for whom it just doesn't stick.
Let me start at the beginning.
I have worn corrective lenses (eyeglasses and contact lenses) since I was in the 7th grade. Back in 2010 I decided to go in and get the free screening done at Lasik MD in North York. I went through all the various eye exams and was told that due to my age and level of eye health, I was the 'perfect candidate' for laser eye surgery. I'm relatively sure that somewhere between 95-99% of the people who come in for the free screening are told the same thing.
During the last exam, which is the one we're all familiar with and consists of reading letters off of a chart, I informed the tech that my prescription changes with each visit to the optometrist. He told me that was "impossible" - his exact words. He went on to elaborate that factors such as eye strain, tiredness, headaches and any number of normal day-to-day things could be the cause of my apparent prescription fluctuations. I still wasn't convinced, mostly because I was petrified something would go wrong and I'd go blind after surgery, but my husband thought it was something I should do, so I guess that was settled.
So we went in, signed the papers and paid $4000 for Zyoptics, Lasik's upgraded surgery (at the time) with lifetime enhancement. The whole 'lifetime enhancement' should have raised a red flag, but I guess hindsight is 20/20.
My first surgery went well. Dr. Bashour assuaged my fears about blindness and the procedure was over quickly. I walked into the office with 20/100 vision and walked out with 20/10. It was a fantastic feeling to see so well. I couldn't even remember the last time I was able to see so clearly without my glasses or contacts. In hindsight, I wish that I knew then that even the possibility that this vision would fade in just a few short years because that would definitely have had an impact on my decision of whether to undergo the surgery or not.
After my eyes healed and the time dedicated to medicated drops and weekly eye exams was over, I started to notice issues with my eyes that I did not have before. The worst I think is my sensitivity to light. I've always been a little sensitive, I've read it has something to do with light eyes, they let in more light than dark, but the last four years have been particularly terrible. I cannot go outside without sunglasses. If I do forget them I can barely open my eyes when its sunny. For the first year after my 2010 surgery I actually had to wear sunglasses when I drove at night. Yes, you read that correctly. At night, the brightness of headlights of oncoming traffic could blind me. I am not exaggerating. I was actually temporarily blinded. Since I left my house at 4:45am to drive an hour to work in the dark, you can imagine I spent a whole lot of that trip using the force. I was also temporarily blinded by the glare of streetlights on wet pavement. Although it has subsided (I no longer have to wear the sunglasses) it is still blinding and seems to be something I'm going to have to get used to for the remainder of my life.
My eyes are dry, itchy, irritated and feel like they have sand or an eyelash in them about 75% of the time. It feels like that right now. Eyedrops help for about 5 seconds after I put them in. Then its back to rubbing, squinting, closing and excessive blinking. Until you have to deal with this every day of your life, you don't realize how painful and downright irritating it can be to have the feeling that something sharp is scratching your eyes almost all of the time. I have floaties and eye boogies on a regular basis. I know those are highly technical medical terms, but that's just how I roll. I'm sure this has something to do with the near-constant irritation. It's really embarrassing sometimes when you're having a conversation with someone and you can see the floatie cross your vision. Do they see it too? You just have to deal with it because you can't start rubbing your eye in the middle of a conversation - and it doesn't help anyway. You can't seem to get rid of them until they randomly decide to go away on their own. As for the eye boogies, it's always awesome when you look at yourself in the mirror after an important meeting or job interview and there they are - making it look like you couldn't be bothered to wash your face that morning.
So maybe you're reading this and still thinking, okay, small price to pay for 20/10 vision. Well, here's the kicker: it didn't last. Not for me, at least. Within a year my vision was already worsening and at the two year mark I was already way overdue for corrective lenses. Thanks to the constant dryness, contact lenses are no longer an option. If I can even get them into my eyes (sometimes it felt like I was putting shards of glass in, even if it was a fresh lense straight out of the package), I could only wear them for about an hour or two. No matter how much solution I squirted into my eyes, the dryness and pain was too much and I had to remove them. I couldn't even think about wearing them two days in a row. The pain was intense, no matter how well I cleaned & sanitized them or how long I soaked them.
So in 2012 I went in for a second enhancement. Since the flap that they cut never heals, all they do is peel it back, laser off a little more from the surface of your eye, slide the flap back and Bob's your uncle. After a few follow up exams I was told that I had 0.03mm of scar tissue (cell growth), but that was minimal and nothing to worry about. I had 20/10 vision again.
Fast forward to 2014 and my vision is blurry again. I go in for my eye exam (which cost me $200 now that it has been five years since my original surgery has passed - not sure how that math works) and they inform me that since I'm 40 now getting another enhancement could trigger near-sightedness. That highly technical term pretty much means that I could be trading regular glasses for reading glasses, which I do not currently require. Their solution was to enhance only my right, dominant eye, and force my left to work harder to compensate. They gave me contacts (which were useless thanks to the discomfort and pain) and set my surgery for a month hence.
The day of my third surgery I decided not to get the sedative, which was a bad mistake. Although I had already done this twice before and knew what to expect, when its actually happening and you're fully aware, well let me tell you that your blood pressure skyrockets. So my advice - take the sedative.
After waiting for about two hours, I was brought into the surgery. Up until this point I had been told by every single person I came in contact with at Lasik MD that scar tissue was nothing to be concerned about. I sit down for Dr. Bashour to have a last look at my eye before he lasers it and he proceeds to scare the living shit out of me. My husband's theory is that he did this so that I'd think twice before I came back for more 'free' surgery. Anyhow, he looks at me and starts to tell me how dangerous any cell regrowth is and that with each subsequent enhancement the chances of me getting more goes up and it becomes more serious. He tells me that some people have to come back and have it scraped off multiple times or have their flap sewn shut to prevent future growth.
After looking at my eyes, he tells me that mine is minimal and I have good genes. As soon as I lay on the table I regretted not taking the sedative. I think that my anxiety was worse because I knew what was going to happen and was fully aware of him pulling back the flap, feeling the heat of the laser and the smell of burning flesh. I don't really know what burning flesh smells like, but there was a very distinct, unpleasant odor that I can only assume that was what burning eyeball smells like. I am thankful that it was over in mere minutes.
I remained there, getting my eyedrops put in and getting checked on for the next 45 minutes. I was a little surprised when they called me about an hour after I left to see how I was doing, considering they hadn't done that before. The receptionist who called told me that with each subsequent enhancement the pain is worse, so that's why the doctor wanted her to call to check in with me. She wasn't lying about the pain, either. By the time she called, I was sitting outside the Shopper's Drug Mart as they made me wait a half hour for four bottles of eyedrops, and my right eye was on fire. That pain lasted for a few days, but I didn't get the migraines that lasted for a week, which I did get with my first two surgeries. I only had one really bad one - when I tried to go to work two days after enhancement. After a few days there was no more pain and no more migraines.
The day after my surgery, I went to my post-op checkup and was told yet again what a minor issue scar tissue was and that it was nothing to be concerned about. Interesting.
The next three post-ops I asked about the scar tissue. I had some new cell growth (she did not tell me how much) and each time reminded me how it was definitely nothing to worry about.
In the time since, my vision has improved (20/20 when using both to look at the chart) and my eyes don't burn, but since they only did the one eye, I do have some issues with focus. I think it's my left eye wanting to do what it always does and my right taunting it to give up and get with the program.
Hindsight is 20/20 (pun intended) and had I known then that all of this was a possibility, I would not have undergone the enhancement. Yes, I can see without glasses or contacts, although I do have a brand spankin' new prescription for glasses so that I can see well enough to drive at night. With everything that I have gone through, with everything I will have to deal with for the rest of my life and knowing that I'll most likely be wearing glasses again in four years, it just doesn't seem like a fair trade-off.
Why did I write this post?
It wasn't to deter people from having their own vision enhanced by way of laser surgery. I wanted to get my own story out, so that you can know what I didn't when I was making my decision. When someone has more facts, it's never a bad thing.
I also wanted to let you know that sometimes, not everyone is the 'perfect candidate'.
I thought I'd write a post about the top foods you should avoid and why. I figured the best way to do this was to google it, and see what the top hits tell me. I wasn't really surprised by most, I was saddened by some (bacon... I'm going to cry) and was a little taken aback by others. I've posted links to the actual articles I used at the end of the post.
I am mainly focusing on foods to avoid for health reasons here. I didn't want to focus only on foods that make you fat, but some of the ingredients you're ingesting through these foods may be causing weight gain. I also didn't mention environmental or ethical reasons to avoid certain things (like bottles in landfills or terrible living conditions at large dairy farms), I am only giving you the lowdown on the way these foods affect your general health.
A note to the Men's Fitness webmaster: I would love to have included your point of view, however, where the hell do you get off telling me I have to watch a video ad before I can read your article? No, I will not watch the video, and quite frankly, I will never click a link that will take me to your website ever again. You know that old saying about fish in the sea? Have you googled any subject on your site recently?Just a note.
This was on every single list I found. You're basically drinking a fantastic cocktail of empty calories, diabetes and tooth decay. All sodas contain phosphoric acid, which can cause kidney problems, muscle loss and osteoporosis. The colas contain an artificial caramel colour that has been shown to cause cancer in animals. Citrus sodas contain BVO which can cause memory loss, nerve disorders, behavioral problems, infertility and lesions on heart muscles. The aluminum cans are lined with BPA which is a well-known hormone disruptor and has been linked to infertility, diabetes, and some reproductive cancers. Most of the ingredients in your soda are made from corn, and most corn is now exclusively GMO. The jury may be out on what effects they have on our bodies, but I'd rather pass if I can. Full sugar sodas can build up fat around your liver and muscles, dehydrates, increases cholesterol and damages the heart with too much sugar, sodium and caffeine. Diet sodas are doubly dangerous due to the addition of artificial sweeteners, which you will read about shortly, and the addition of mold inhibitors and a pH of 3.2 on average, compare that to a lemon which has a pH of only 2.
Just a note as you're reading this: HFCS is an acronym for high fructose corn syrup, and when I talk about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) I am referring to the ones that have been messed with in a lab. Farmers have been messing with the genetics of crops for as long as we've had agriculture by cross-breeding crops with the most desired traits. That is very different than when a scientist goes in and turns on one gene and turns off another or inserts cactus DNA molecules into a strawberry.
( includes bacon [sorry!], sausages, hotdogs, cold cuts and any other cured meat)
Although a staple of lunchboxes and the Italian countryside, cured meats are known to cause cardiovascular disease and cancer. There are high instances of bowel cancer in people who consume large amounts over long periods of time. Processed and cured red meats are high in saturated fat, sodium, sodium nitrite and often, MSG. Before you begin to shout about how healthy Mediterranean people are even though they eat large quantities of cured meats, remember that their lifestyle and the majority of their diet is way healthier and more natural than in our Western culture.
Vegetable oils & margarine
Originally I was only going to put margarine in this category, but the more I read about it, the more I realized these had to be put in together because margarine is made from vegetable oil. Wellness Mama has some excellent, eye-opening information and links that I found really interesting.
Vegetable oils often come from GMO crops, contain harmful chemicals and are known to cause heart disease and cancers, among other things. Aside from the vegetable oils they contain, the process that turns margarine into a solid and the fact that even trans-fat free versions can still contain up to 0.5g, studies show that excess consumption is associated with many serious diseases, including heart disease. About 5 years ago I read that margarine was one molecule away from being plastic. That was when I decided to never buy it again. Whether that is true or not is meaningless to me at this point because there are so many other reasons not to have it in the house.
*note, cold-pressed oils such as olive are excluded.
**Flow chart found on youniquenutrition.com
Potato chips & french fries
(includes corn/tortilla chips, cheetos, pretzels, etc.)
Aside from the whole 'fried in oil thing', chips may contain chemicals like BHT, transfats, excessive salt content and empty calories - all leading you down a path of weight gain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Also, new studies are showing that frying potatoes triggers a process which can contribute to cancer - that's whether you're buying them that way or frying them yourself.
(includes milk, cream, cheese, etc.)
In this case I'm just going to tell you why you should be consuming organic and you can draw your own conclusions.
Organic dairy comes from animals that are handled and fed more humanely. There is no risk of mad cow as they're not being forced to eat ground-up chunks of their kin. No antibiotics, pesticides, GMO feed or hormones. Those reasons may make you pony up that extra $2.00 for the organic stuff.
Processed baked goods
(includes donuts, toaster pastries, anything baked that you purchase in packages and boxes)
They're loaded with artificial colors, preservatives, refined white sugar, enriched flour and in the case of yummy, buttery croissants, tonnes of margarine and/or other highly processed vegetable oils. Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients list on the side of a package, do you really still want to put that in your body?
Processed baked goods have no nutritional value, can be loaded with trans fats, GMOs and carry all the associated health risks such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's.
First off, anything you're 'cooking' in a microwave is bad for you. I admit that I am guilty of using mine, but I do it sparingly and I always loathe myself during and after. However, microwave popcorn always seemed to me like eating chemical-laced corn - and I was right. The bag itself is coated with a toxic chemical. They often have trans fats, artificial flavors and preservatives. Although the actual corn used for the kernels is most likely non GMO, the oils and additives most likely are. A really great link about the horrors of eating microwave popcorn is written by the food babe.
I was a little surprised to find this one on so many lists. Yes, bagels pack a whole lot of calories, but I didn't really know how many. Anyone realize that the serving suggestion we're basing the calorie total on is 1/2 a bagel? Yeah, seriously. Who eats only half a bagel at a sitting? No one I know. Aside from the high calories, the refined flours bagels are packed with is a no-no and it turns out that even the 'whole wheat' bagel you thought you were being so good switching to contains only about 50% whole grains. The rest are of the refined white kind.
Here we're talking about the bowl-o-sugar types like Honeycomb and even the 'healthy' types like 'Raisin Bran' or Kashi. Aside from the seriously high levels of sugar in pretty much all types of cereal, there's also the fact that they're loaded with GMOs and HFCS. If those two things don't bother you, there's also the process called extrusion - this is how your GMO grains become your morning bowl-o-sugar. The grains are mixed into a slurry with water, then shaped by high heat and pressure (effectively rendering them completely devoid of nutrition and possibly toxic) and coated with oils and sugar to make them keep their shape and stay crispy for those heavenly 30 seconds after you add milk. Although they do add vitamins and nutrients after, that bowl of cereal is not really nutritious until you add your milk and some fruit. You're better off with steel cut oats or home-made granola.
(includes ketchup, mayo, relish, mustard, salad dressings and any other shelf-stable condiments)
This category is filled with high fat, high calories, high sodium, high sugar content (usually in the form of HFCS) and in most cases, preservatives. Even when you see 'low sodium', 'low fat' 'calorie reduced' or any other buzz word for the food processing industry's 'diet' lines, you're often getting more chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavors and you'll probably use more than usual to get the same flavor you're used to. As with the cereal category, you can enjoy alternatives (such as salsa instead of ketchup) or you can try to make your own. Here is a site with an amazing compilation of replacement recipes: divinehealthfromtheinsideout.com
Diet/low fat food
(this is anything labeled 'diet', 'low fat' or anything along those lines)
When manufacturers remove the fat from food in order to make it low fat and/or low calorie, they also remove all flavor. What they add instead is a whole whack of chemicals in order to trick your palate into thinking that you're eating the real thing and trick you into thinking that you're eating healthier. You may actually be sabotaging your diet with these foods because you may be consuming more sugar or salt (in addition to the other additives and preservatives) than with the regular, full-fat version of the same food. You should also be aware that it may be lower in calories because the portion is smaller. Eating smaller portions is a good thing, but you may actually eat more this way, thinking the calorie count is lower, so you can have two packages instead of one. Click here for more specific info.
I wrote this list in order of how often these foods showed up on lists of stuff to avoid. Imagine my surprise when I realized how low on the list artificial sweeteners ended up. I have to admit my bias to this particular one because I have an allergy to it, and it is so prevalent in our (pre-packaged) foods that I often consume it without even knowing (until later, that is) and sometimes I just consume it (gum) and wait for the consequences. The reason I was so surprised that it didn't score higher on this list is that it's just pure chemicals. Studies are showing time and again that the chemicals that make up artificial sweeteners like Equal and Sweet n' Low can cause you to overeat because they mess with our taste buds - they're so overly sweet that you get accustomed to that level and regular sweetness found in fruit and other sweet foods is no longer enough. They mess with our brains and gut - they think that a high calorie, thick and satisfying food is coming their way. When that doesn't happen, they crave more, leading to over eating. They're almost always made from GMOs. They also mess with hormone levels (namely, insulin), leading to diabetes, and diabetics are the ones who use 'fake sugar' as I call it because they think it's better for them than actual sugar.
Image source: authoritynutrition.com
(includes various granola, energy and protein bars)
Many people think that these are a healthy snack for breakfast, pre or post workout, kids lunches or any time we need a quick snack on the go. Unfortunately, they mainly contain much of what you've already heard: HFCS, GMOs, chemical preservatives, high calories, high sugar content, are surprisingly low in nutrition, high in saturated fat, artificial sweeteners and lastly, 'natural ingredients' aren't always what you think. Companies are allowed to put that on the label if an ingredient once came from something that was natural - like, unbelievably, beaver anal glands. Safest bet is to make your own, there are plenty of great recipes online. You can read more about the dangers of eating protein bars at the Globe and Mail.
The following foods are getting a quick mention because I saw them on the sites I visited, they just weren't mentioned on more than one: swordfish/tuna, ribs, maraschino cherries, frosting, non-organic celery, soy sauce, canned soup/instant noodles, biscuits & gravy, bagel breakfast sandwiches, non-organic apples, beer/alcoholic beverages, sports drinks, sugary fruit drinks, pizza, canned tomato sauce, burgers, ice cream, frozen dinners.
I know, it's a long list of honorable mentions. You wouldn't believe how much 'food' we really shouldn't be eating to stay healthy.
This post took so long because Weebly has decided to force all us bloggers into a beta for their new design. I'm having issues with it and it is totally frustrating me, but I'll tell you about that tomorrow.
Until then, take care of your health. I hope that my research has opened some eyes - I thought I knew a lot about this topic, which is why I wanted to blog about it, but I certainly learned a whole lot more!
I'm always reading articles and books trying to find the healthiest foods around. Everyone knows (but doesn't often adhere to) the notion that the healthiest foods are the freshest fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meats you can find. Nowadays you also have to think about organics, GMOs and sustainable farming methods, but that's a post for another day. Today I'll let you know about some of the most unusual and beneficial superfoods I've come across, and I don't mean the usual acai, gogi, chia and salmon. I'm talking about foods you've probably never even heard of, I know I didn't when I followed a web of links and articles from place to place, foods like kefir, apricot seeds, maca powder and moringa oleifera. I'll give you the lowdown on the benefits (and warnings) of each one, along with links to articles found on the web and where you can buy it. I also recommend reading the following article. I stumbled upon it last year and was totally amazed and inspired by this guy and the changes he made so late in life (he began at 40), when it's common thinking that you can only get yourself on a healthy path while you're young. This guy shows you that is incorrect - anyone can do it at any age, all it takes is some commitment to positive change.
All links open a new window so you won't have to leave my page.
Any and all reports of any of these foods being used to combat diseases are for reference only.
Always consult a medical expert when dealing with any serious health issues.
Apricot kernels are the bitter inside pit of an apricot seed. It is also one of the most hotly debated "cures" for cancer on the internet. Google 'apricot seed' and 'cancer' and you'll see what I mean. Read the articles and judge for yourself, but make sure that if you are eating the kernels for whatever health reasons, they should be organic, bitter and raw - sun dried or roasted kernels have lost all the beneficial enzymes.
Health benefits of apricot kernels include:
High amounts of vitamin B17 can help lower blood pressure, alleviate arthritis pain and cure cancers stage 3 and lower. Yup - I said cure. That is where all the controversy comes from. Here are some sites on the pro side of this fence:
Side effects of apricot kernels include:
Well, death from cyanide poisoning. Some places say that no more than 2 kernels a day are safe, while most proponents of apricot kernels want you to work your way up to 50 per day. To be fair, here are some sites on the con side of the fence:
Where to buy raw bitter apricot kernels:
Our Father's Farm
If you're interested in more information about the benefits of eating (raw & cooked) apricot flesh, and not just the seeds, a great blog came to my attention filled with some fantastic information about the health benefits of this delicious fruit. There are also some really delish sounding recipes your can try at home. I am personally looking forward to trying the apricot cheesecake!
Here's the link: jenreviews.com
Thanks Jacky M. for the heads-up - great post!
Aronia berries are the re-branded, better known, black chokeberries that are starting to gain some footing in the superfood race for supremacy. These berries have the highest concentration of anti-oxidants found in any berry to date. Eating the dried berries makes the most out of all this little purple berry has to offer.
Health benefits of aronia berries include:
Improves blood circulation, anti-inflammatory, urinary tract health, improve blood circulation, strengthens blood vessels, eye protection properties and weight control. Has been shown to lower blood pressure and has a protective effect on the gastrointestinal tract.
Contains vitamins A, C, E and folic acid.
May help treatment/prevention of: cancer, heart disease, kidney problems and suppression of viruses.
Side effects of aronia berries include:
No side effects have yet been reported.
Where to buy aronia berries: (it is really difficult to find anyone selling these in Canada)
Upaya Naturals - powder form
Aronia Berry Inc - juice + frozen berries
Native Plants in Clairmont - buy the shrub & grow your own
For more info on the web:
Camu Camu Powder
Camu Camu is a berry which grows in the South American rainforest and is super high in vitamin C, among other things.
Health benefits of camu camu include:
Improves lung, eye and heart health, improves muscle tone, supports healthy ligaments, collagen and tendons, helps prevent viral and bacterial infections, boosts immune system.
Contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, C and calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron.
May help treatment/prevention of: cancer, degenerative brain disease and depression.
Side effects of camu camu include:
All side effects reported consist of too much of a good thing. Taking too much camu camu powder will give your body way more vitamin C than it can handle and you may experience any of the following: rapid heart rate, iron poisoning, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, diarrhea and difficulty with digestion.
Where to buy camu camu powder:
Truly Organic Foods
For more info on the web:
Kefir is a probiotic-rich drink which is made with grains and milk from cows, goats or sheep or water kefir, which is made with other sugary liquids such as sugar or coconut water. Both versions are good for you, with the water kefir being only slightly less potent. Once you get the first batch started, you have a pretty much infinite supply, as long as you keep a new batch going from the old. In that respect it's great because you're only paying for the first batch of grains, and it's not even that expensive.
Health benefits of drinking kefir include:
Promotes your body's healing and repair, anti-tumor effects, regulates immune function, beneficial to bone health, may lower allergic response, promotes bowel movements and reduces flatulence. It also has a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system.
Contains vitamins biotin (H or B7), B12 and K2 and minerals thiamin, calcium, folate, magnesium and phosphorus.
May help treatment/prevention of: colitis, gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, sleep disorders, depression and ADHD.
Side effects of drinking kefir include:
Constipation and intestinal cramping when first starting out - start slow to combat these effects.
Where to buy kefir:
Upaya Naturals - I highly recommend this website. They have a huge selection of organic and raw foods. I have previously ordered from them with no issues. They also have a convenient pick up location in Toronto.
Cultures for Health
Kijiji - I entered 'kefir' in the search box and got quite a few results. However, remember these are just average people selling their own kefir grains.
For more info on the web:
Maca Root Powder
Maca is a Peruvian root ground into powder form which can have adverse effects if too much is taken too soon. It's important to start small and slowly to allow your body to adjust, otherwise all the benefits you're looking for will actually become the adverse effects. For example: you're taking it to clear your blemishes. If you take too much, you'll actually end up with more acne!
Health benefits of maca powder include:
Improved libido and sexual endurance for both men and women (yes, I listed that one first!), balances hormones, increases fertility, increases stamina (ahem, for athletes) and energy levels, helps to clear acne & blemishes, helps with memory, alleviates stress and mood swings, helps with menstrual pain and symptoms of menopause.
Contains vitamins B, C, and E and minerals calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium and phosphorous.
May help treatment/prevention of: depression, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, erectile dysfunction, tuberculosis and leukemia.
Side effects of maca powder include:
Most of these side effects are associated with taking too much or starting off too quickly. Acne breakouts, heart racing, sleeplessness, nausea, upset stomach, heartburn and headaches. Also, hormonal imbalances in women (too much testosterone). If you are on a low-sodium diet there is an increased change of developing goiters.
Do not use maca if you have Thyroid Disease - it contains too much iodine.
Where to buy maca powder:
Truly Organic Foods
For more info on the web:
Maitake mushrooms are an edible fungus grown and consumed primarily in Asia as food and used medicinally. They also grow in North America and are often called 'king of mushrooms' and 'hen of the woods'.
Health benefits of maitake mushrooms include:
Everything I'm reading about this mushroom indicate that it is being researched by the medical community in regards to treating/prevention of: cancer (notably breast, liver and lung. There have been some promising results with tumors shrinking), diabetes (helping to control blood glucose levels), HIV/AIDS (through immunostimulation), high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Side effects of maitake mushrooms include:
When eating the fungus - none unless you're allergic. As for the supplements, well it's either absolutely none or doom and gloom, depending on which article you read. The side effects read the same as the benefits list on some of the websites.
Where to buy maitake mushrooms:
The Mushroom Patch - grow your own!
Vitamart - supplement
Upaya Naturals - whole dried
For more info on the web:
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Moringa oleifera is also known as the 'Tree of Life' because it contains more nutrients and antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables combined. It's been used in the Himalayas for centuries for it's numerous medicinal values, using every part of the tree except for the toxic root.
Health benefits of Moringa oleifera include:
Increased energy, stress reliever, improves mood, mental clarity, anti-aging properties, weight loss, anti-inflammatory, improved circulation, acne relief, promotes healthy digestion and protects stomach lining.
Contains vitamins C, D, K, E all Bs, minerals calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. It also contains numerous amino acids.
May help treatment/prevention of: high blood pressure, cancer, gastric ulcers, asthma, diabetes and kidney stones.
Side effects of Moringa oleifera include:
Most of these side effects are associated with taking too much or starting off too quickly. Nausea, diarrhea and heartburn.
Where to buy Moringa Oleifera powder:
For more info on the web:
Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans and may take a little getting used to due to it's reported powerful smell like strong cheese, a savory, salty, barbecuey (?) bean taste and apparently the slimy texture of boogers! You can buy it at Japanese shops (in the freezer section) and you can also try to make it at home yourself.
Health benefits of natto include:
Increased circulation, better skin, purifies blood, promotes longevity, healthy heart, strong bones and a sharper mind. Prevents and breaks up blood clots, beneficial for the intestine and stomach.
Contains vitamin K2 and PQQ.
May help treatment/prevention of: heart attack, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, stroke, senility, intestinal diseases.
Side effects of natto include:
There are no known side effects to eating natto (unless you have a soybean allergy), there are risks such as lowered blood pressure and blood thinning if you decide to take the Nattokinase supplement.
Where to buy natto:
Japanese Traditional Foods Inc.
Cultures For Health
For more info on the web:
Pu-erh tea is also called aged tea and comes from Yunnan Province in China. It is available in green (raw) and black (cooked) forms. This tea is fermented and generally gets it's signature taste after 5 years, but is drinkable after 3 months.
Health benefits of Pu-erh tea include:
May reduce blood sugar levels, aids in digestion & fat breakdown.
Has high levels of vitamin C.
May help treatment/prevention of: Diabetes, arteriosclerosis, colds, bleeding and hepatitis.
Side effects of Pu-erh tea include:
Only those associated with any excessive intake of caffeine.
Where to buy Pu-erh tea:
The Chinese Tea Shop
For more info on the web:
These are 10 very interesting superfoods I've come across that I find extremely interesting and thought I'd pass on to all of you. I actually have found more on my travels through the web (don't we always find one more article we want to read?) and will most likely do a similar post with those listed at a later date. In the meantime, I wish good health to you all!
Above: Yesterday's box with cherries, corn, tomatoes, fennel, cucumber and a pineapple.
I subscribe to Farms & Forks (formerly organicfooddelivery.com) and I have never been disappointed. Although they offer a fantastic policy in regards to over-ripe or damaged foods, I have yet to find one piece of fruit or vegetable that wasn't absolutely perfect in my box. Customer service is second-to-none, questions are answered and issues are dealt with quickly. They started out small, but are growing quickly, something that usually means the death of such fantastic customer care. However, with the Farms & Forks team, this is not the case. They put you first and deliver fantastic food with many more options offered each week... growth looks good on them. And my delivery person, Roxanne, is so friendly, always waiting around to say hi when I come outside to pick up my box after she rings the doorbell.
Supporting your local farmers by using their CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes is a great option, but we do live in a country with winter, so these are only an option during the growing season. Therefore, I like to subscribe to a year-round box and visit farmer's markets during the summer and fall months.
Farms & Forks delivers all across the GTA, and if this is something that sounds interesting to you, I urge you to give them a try. They offer three box sizes (see pic for examples) and you can choose fruit or veggie only, or the combo box with both. If you don't like them, cancelling after your first box is easy. Start small and see how it goes. They also offer a 'one time only' deal, so you can try it out before you commit. Their website is http://organicfooddelivery.com (clicking this link will open a new window) and if you do decide to try them out, I ask that you enter my name (Sonja Pecnik) in the referral area, I do get $5 toward my next box if you do! Please let me know in the comments section if you decided to give it a try and what your experience was.
Above: Last week's box with basil, beets, bananas, zucchini, purple (!) sweet pepper, oranges, red cabbage and strawberries. Also, our dessert featuring the super-sweet strawberries from Ted Eng's Farm.
All opinions expressed in this blog are my own, unbiased after testing the product. The product was fully paid for by myself. The subject of this blog entry has no expectation of a review, favorable or otherwise.
I have to admit that I didn't really notice the issue before. I had the same doctor since I was 16 and I honestly don't even remember how it was that I first came to start seeing her. She was a good, caring doctor who was always a little overbooked, so the wait was long, but hey, if your doctor is listening to your health concerns and genuinely seems interested in helping you, who am I to complain?
Things, sadly, always change. My doctor moved to a large clinic facility, which is great because you have access to everything in one place, but she started to double book each 15 minute appointment, so that if your appointment was for 1:15, you probably wouldn't get in to see her until 3:00. And that's only if you showed up on time for your slot. God help you if you were late, you could be there until 4-ish. She was also getting older and taking many, many more vacations a year than an average person. Plus she was Jewish and did not work on any of their numerous holidays. Factor all of this in and you have to book your appointment 3-4 weeks in advance. Hopefully you get a heads-up as to when you're going to actually get sick. So I went to see her less and less frequently because, quite frankly, I just don't have the time nor patience for this type of waiting game. After I moved to Oshawa, it was even more difficult to get out to Toronto to see her. Plus, any specialists she sends you to will be in the Toronto area, and that was a can of worms I did not want opened.
As for pediatrics, my children's doctor was located in Richmondhill, which also became something of an issue after we moved. Sure, regular checkups and immunizations aren't an issue, but when your child is really sick (but not emergency room sick), you want to be able to get to the pediatrician as soon as possible. His office was also always packed and waiting upwards of 45 minutes after your appointment time was the norm. He suggested we find a doctor closer to us in Durham, but had none to recommend. I did some internet searching and found one accepting new patients. We saw him a couple of times. After a few months under his care, I called to make an appointment for a checkup for the boys. Imagine my surprise when I was told that the doctor retired! I don't know about his other patients, but I did not receive a phone call, letter or email letting me know that perhaps I should make other arrangements for my children's medical care. The receptionist there also had no suggestions for a new pediatrician.
Off to the internet I went to begin my search anew. A word of caution: just because the internet says that Dr. A is accepting new patients, pick more than one and don't hold your breath. Unfortunately, not all information online is always up to date, and sometimes you run into snags. Always have a backup. Or two. From experience I can tell you that it is not easy to find a pediatrician. My boys aren't little anymore, so I just found some GPs and started making calls. I found them a doctor. Not the greatest, mind you, but at least they have a doctor. She's the type that doesn't take much time with you and usually says things like "it's fine" and "I wouldn't worry about it". If you're the sort of person who believes that the medical professional knows what they're talking about, you'll say "great" and go home. I, on the other hand, can be a bit pushy when I need to, and I always make good use of the internet and spend some time looking up symptoms on multiple sites so that I feel that I'm a little informed about what I could possibly be facing. I can then decide whether or not to take "it's fine" at face value, or push for a more thorough examination and possibly a referral to a specialist. Case in point: My husband had a mole on his face which grew, changed shape and colour frequently, and bled.
Now, I have absolutely no medical training, but even without the internet I can tell you that is not normal behavior for a mole. I have lots of moles, and not one of mine behave that way. I went with him to see her and she took a quick look at it (at the time it was crusty because it had been bleeding on and off that week) and proclaimed it was nothing to worry about. I did not agree, so I pressed her for a referral to a dermatologist. A month or so later they removed and tested it and lo and behold, it was malignant. The lesson here is that you should always do your own research and use your own judgement. Push if you have to, it's your health you're dealing with. So we have a shitty doctor, but good luck finding another.
My own search for a new family doctor has also not been a barrel of monkeys. My kid's and husband's doctor (she is one and the same) is still accepting new patients, however, I wanted to try to find a better one for myself, and then try to bring the boys over to mine. I have been going to an urgent care clinic these past two years whenever I am very sick, but that also means that I have not had a regular checkup in almost three years. Since I am no longer a spring chicken, it seems necessary to have a family doctor you're comfortable with, who is close enough that you can see them regularly for checkups and illness.
I hit the internet again, this time spending some time on ratemds.com which is a great resource for people looking for a new doctor. They have information about whether the doctor is accepting new patients, patient reviews and often whether they are male or female, which can make a difference with comfort levels. So I found a fantastically rated doctor located in the very medical center that houses my kid's doctor. I called to make an appointment and was told that she is on mat leave and (obviously) not taking appointments right now. Ugh, I felt dejected. The only other highly rated doctors were in Whitby and male. I really wanted a doctor in Oshawa. I took a chance and asked if the receptionist knew of any other doctors in the building who were accepting new patients (it's a central booking system, so I rolled the dice). Third time's the charm, I guess. She did have another doctor she could make an appointment with for me. In two weeks. Wow. In regular circumstances I wouldn't mind. It's been over two years, what's another two weeks, right? Only problem is that I have been having some disturbing symptoms recently which cannot be attended by a walk-in clinic. If I am correct, there will be tests and medication and on-going appointments, all of which warrant regular visits to one doctor. I could go to my Toronto doctor in the meantime, but I do not want to have to start over again in the middle and explain everything again and go through testing a second time with a new doctor. I'd rather start with one and follow through. Also, it would probably take three weeks before I get an appointment with her anyway. Could be longer if she's on vacation. So, whatever, I decided to take the appointment and wait the two weeks. That was a week ago. My appointment was scheduled for next Thursday, June 20th. I say was because I received a call from the clinic yesterday cancelling my appointment because this doctor is also going on maternity leave and will not be seeing any more patients, new or otherwise. It should not be this difficult to see a doctor.
So I asked her, again, if there were any other doctors in the facility accepting new patients. She told me another one and set an appointment for the end of June! So I waited a week for an appointment two weeks away just to have that one cancelled and another made two weeks from now? I informed her that it was kind of important that I see a doctor soon, I've already waited a week. I have medical issues, which is pretty much the reason I made an appointment in the first place. So she "fit me in" two days earlier. It's still two weeks away, but really, what choice do I have? Oh, and this doctor seems to have an even worse rating than the doctor I'm currently trying to avoid. I checked if there were any others available to see new patients... two. And one of them has a terrible bedside manner (apparently) and the second is just as apathetic about your medical problems as my kid's current one. Pick your poison, I guess.
So there you have it: my commentary on what I didn't actually think was broken until I had to use it!
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