Treat Yourself Like Your Best Friend

My patient Anna was in the office today and she shared with me that a few weeks ago she was feeling poorly.  She was on vacation and had a day where she really didn’t feel well.  On further questioning and on exam it was obvious that her symptoms could have signaled a serious problem.

She took some OTC meds and rested, but didn’t seek medical care.

The problem is that medical professionals work very hard to teach people about what symptoms they should watch for and what symptoms may signal a serious problem.  For instance, suppose you twist your ankle and can’t walk on it AT ALL and it is obviously deformed? You would need to see the doctor ASAP to have it checked.

What if Anna’s best friend had been on vacation with her and had the exact same symptoms she was experiencing? She wouldn’t have thought twice about taking her friend to the emergency room to be checked out.  But because it was her own symptoms, she minimized them and chose not to seek care.

Why do we DO that?!  I’m not exempting myself from this sense of frustration.  This time last year I worked almost a whole day in the office with worsening abdominal pain that turned out to be appendicitis (see this post for more information).

We can easily minimize symptoms of illness or injury. Sometimes we don’t want to inconvenience others.  Also, nobody WANTS to be sick or hurt.  However, ignoring symptoms of illness can be very dangerous.  Illnesses are often easier to treat if they are caught early.

How do you know if you should see the doctor if you’re sick or hurt?  My best advice is to treat yourself like your best friend.  Look at your situation as if your best friend was feeling this way.  If you would take your friend to the emergency room or to the doctor, then you should go.

Many people die every year because they think their chest pain is heartburn.  Even though they KNOW chest pain can be heart pain.  Or they convince themselves the severe headache is just sinus trouble. The dizziness and numbness is just a pinched nerve.

YOU are important!  YOU deserve to be treated with care and respect, and have your symptoms taken seriously.  Especially by YOURSELF.  Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.  You deserve it!

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How To Exercise In The Heat

Summer is finally here, for real!  We’ve had some really hot days over the last few weeks and workouts have been a challenge for me.  The heat just really seems to sap all your energy and leave you a soggy, sweaty mess with half your workout left to complete.

Credit: physiqueft.co.uk

You can get amazing workouts in the summer but, like when it’s super-cold, it takes more planning.  Here are 3 tips to help you safely exercise in the heat.

Work Out Indoors

I know, I know, it’s beautiful and you want me to stay INSIDE?  No, not necessarily, but if you find yourself skimping on your runs or hikes or whatever your exercise of choice is, moving the workout indoors can help you stay a little more comfortable so you can push yourself a little more.

If you’re a runner, give the treadmill a try, or do some cross-training in the weight room.  It’s only for a few weeks until the weather cools off.

Work Out Early Or Late

If you absolutely MUST work out outdoors (for instance if you’re like me and take your life in your hands trying to run on a treadmill, LOL!) shift your workouts to early mornings or late in the evenings when it’s cooler and the humidity is lower.

I personally LOVE running early in the morning.  It’s quiet, you have the trail to yourself and you can enjoy the rest of your day knowing you’ve done good for your body.

Stay Hydrated

If you play a sport like baseball or soccer where you don’t get to pick your workout times or where you practice, the key is staying hydrated.  Drink copious amounts of water to replace what you lose by sweating.  Watch for symptoms of dehydration like dizziness, muscle cramps and nausea.

If you play a sport where you sweat a lot in the heat, consider using an electrolyte replacement drink.  Electrolyte replacement drinks maintain better blood glucose levels than water alone, and also replace salts and minerals lost in sweat.

Be careful which electrolyte replacement drink you choose.  Many of them have artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners (yuck) that definitely don’t contribute to health or optimal sports performance.

I recommend Shaklee’s Performance which has been proven to hydrate better than water alone, is completely free of artificial ingredients, and was developed for NASA to keep the astronauts well-hydrated in space.

Through the end of July, Shaklee is running a summer athlete special on Performance.  When you buy 3 canisters of Performance (or Physique, Shaklee’s muscle recovery shake) you get 3 canisters at 50% off.  If you’re interested in this promotion please let me know – it’s only open to members but I can make some magic happen if you’d like to take advantage of it 🙂

If you’re struggling to get your workouts in because of hot weather, there are a few ways to make them safer and more comfortable.  Change up the time and/or place you work out.  Stay well hydrated, and consider adding a good electrolyte replacement to keep your stamina up.

We’ve got quite a bit of summer left!  Get out there and have fun 🙂

QUESTION: Are you having trouble getting your exercise in the hot weather?

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Shingles

You’re a woman in your mid-forties, generally healthy but under some stress with work and your family.  Going about your business every day as usual, you wake up one morning with the right side of your neck feeling stiff and sore.  No worries, probably just slept wrong, right?

Nope.  As the day goes on the pain gets worse.  Then the outer side of your shoulder starts to hurt, and the pain spreads into your upper back and then into the upper chest, which makes you a little nervous.  That evening you find what looks like an insect bite on your back.

After a restless, uncomfortable night in which Tylenol and Motrin are of NO help at all, you get up the next morning and find this:

Credit: www.zostavax.ca

You’ve got shingles.  And you’re miserable.

So what is shingles anyway?  Shingles, known as herpes zoster, is an illness caused by latent chickenpox virus.  Chickenpox is a herpesvirus, like the viruses that cause genital herpes, cold sores and infectious mono.  When a chickenpox infection clears up, the virus doesn’t go away completely but lies dormant in the cells of a particular part of the spinal cord.

When you’re under stress, sleep deprived or nutritionally depleted, or your immune system is depressed for any other reason (like old age or chemotherapy), the virus can reactivate.

Shingles is found on one side of the body, in a stripe of skin that is served by one or two spinal cord levels.  This is what’s known as a “dermatomal distribution.”  In the picture above, the affected skin is all served by one spinal nerve.  This is the nerve that is sick and being attacked by the reactivated chickenpox/shingles virus.

Shingles hurts.  It is a burning, electric pain.  The combination of pain and a blistering rash should make any medical person think of herpes and specifically shingles.  There’s no test needed to make the diagnosis of shingles, it is based on symptoms and the presence of a typical rash.  Sometimes if the rash is located in the area of the body covered by a pair of shorts, a culture needs to be done to distinguish shingles from genital herpes, because the treatment is different.

Treatment for shingles consists of a week of antiviral medicine to stop the virus from replicating.  Unfortunately, stopping the virus doesn’t make the rash or pain go away – they will slowly subside over several weeks.  We don’t have good treatment to relieve the pain of shingles.  Narcotics don’t work, and medication that relieves nerve pain can be very sedating in the doses needed to relieve the pain of a shingles outbreak.

Is shingles contagious?  In general the answer is no.  If someone who has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it touches the shingles rash, they can catch chickenpox.  Keeping the rash covered is all that is needed to protect loved ones if they are not immune to chickenpox.

We have a vaccine to decrease the risk of shingles, called Zostavax.  It is given at age 60 or thereabouts to adults who have had chickenpox.  If you have had shingles, you still benefit from the vaccine to boost your immunity.  If you are in your 60s and haven’t had the vaccine, talk to your doctor about whether this vaccine is right for you.

One of the biggest benefits of the shingles vaccine is that it really decreases the risk of permanent nerve pain after a shingles outbreak.  Yes, that’s right, this severe electric burning pain can be permanent.  This is called postherpetic neuralgia and it is a horrible problem that is so difficult to treat.  Much better to prevent it.

It is estimated that at least 25% of adults will have had shingles by the time they reach age 85.  YOU can decrease your risk of this terrible disease that can leave you in permanent pain.  Ask your doctor about the vaccine.

If you get shingles, what can you do to help it heal as quickly as possible?  The first thing to do is see your doctor as quickly as you can.  If you can’t see your doctor within 48 hours, go to the urgent care, because the antiviral medicine needs to be started within 48 hours of the rash starting.

As with other illnesses, you want to do everything possible to support your immune system.  This means getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy food and drinking plenty of fluids.  In addition, there is evidence that micronutrient deficiencies play a role in not only shingles outbreaks but in increasing the risk of postherpetic neuralgia, particularly zinc, calcium and vitamin C.  So taking a high-quality multivitamin is a good idea.

Shingles is common, it is serious and can have severe long-term consequences.  Recognizing it, getting it treated quickly, and taking steps to prevent it are important ways to protect your health from this major medical problem.

QUESTION: Have you or a family member had shingles?  What was your experience?

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The Nutrient We Miss The Most

I spend most of my time (in a professional sense) talking to people about nutrition.  I encourage them to eat right.  To get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  To skip the processed food, junk food and fast food.  To take a good-quality multivitamin.

But most people still skimp on one very important nutrient.  What is it?  What is the nutrient we miss the most?

It’s WATER.

Think about it.  Your body needs about one ounce of water per day for every two pounds of body weight (up to about 100 ounces per day).  For the average person that’s 60-80 ounces of water, or a half gallon or more.

Not coffee, not iced tea, not soda or lemonade.  WATER.

Water helps keep your blood pressure down.  It removes toxins and improves your digestion.  It fights fatigue and keeps your mind sharp.

When you’re a little thirsty, this can be interpreted by the brain in as hunger.  So staying well hydrated helps control appetite and promotes weight loss.

Every organ in your body depends on you staying well hydrated.  From your kidneys to your digestive system to your brain, water is critical for normal function.

So why is it so hard for us to get enough water?  I can’t speak for you, but I know why I have a hard time staying hydrated.

First of all, the most plentiful source of drinking water is the kitchen tap.  And tap water is NASTY.  Have you tasted it lately?  Ew!  It doesn’t help that I know more than is good for my mental health about what is actually in our tap water.  Pesticide runoff, pharmaceuticals, chlorine and other chemicals interact to make me not want to drink straight from the tap (or from the garden hose, but that’s another story…).

Your local water department has water quality reports available for download at their website, for those who use city water.  Cleveland’s water quality report for 2016 is available here, if you’d like to see.

The second problem I have with getting enough water to drink is that when I drink the water I should, I have to pee.  A LOT.  When I’m in the office that’s inconvenient but manageable.  When I’m traveling or pressed for time it becomes difficult for me to get all the water I need.

Honestly, there isn’t a good fix for this problem, I just tell myself to suck it up.  Every time I go, I think of all the toxins being washed away and that makes it easier to just do it.

The last problem my patients report with drinking copious amounts of water is that it’s BORING.  “I don’t like water, it doesn’t taste good.”  Which is silly, because fresh clean water has no taste at all.  It’s clear and cold and wet and refreshing!

What people are telling me when they say they don’t like the way water tastes is that they have trained themselves to expect flavor from everything that goes in their mouth, whether it should have flavor or not.  What I tell them is that their tastebuds may not like it (for now) but their bodies certainly do like water.  In fact, they NEED it, and they do NOT need all the sugar and flavorings and additives in their usual beverage of choice.

So if our tap water is so gross, what water should we be drinking?

Bottled water?  No, that’s not a good choice.  For one thing, it’s expensive.  It also puts tons of unnecessary plastic in the landfill and isn’t necessarily cleaner or safer than drinking tap water.  Often we don’t know where the water comes from or what testing was done.

My choice for lots of fresh, clean drinking water is Shaklee’s tabletop pitcher filter.  It is certified to remove lead (most tabletop pitcher filters, including Brita and Pur, are not) and has a replaceable carbon filter so that everything else is reused.

Do you have a water filter at home?  You can check the Water Quality Association’s website to see what your filter is proven to remove from the water you drink.

And it’s CHEAP!  Just did a price check on Deer Park spring water at Giant Eagle.  Buying bottled water (this brand, anyway), costs $2.25 per gallon and leaves you with lots of plastic bottles to deal with.  Shaklee’s Year of Get Clean Water costs just 52 cents per gallon.  And after the initial investment of the reusable plastic pitcher, replacing the carbon filters gives you clean, fresh water for only 25 cents per gallon.

So what are you going to do about your hydration problem?  For me, there’s only one choice.  Saving money, drinking fresh clean water, and avoiding putting unnecessary plastic in the landfill is a win-win situation!

QUESTION: Do you drink enough water?  How do you get your drinking water?

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