Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Giving chiropractors a second chance

After my first disappointing experience with a chiropractor, I avoided them for over a decade. Then one day, instead of the usual stiff neck in the morning, I awoke to pain. I thought maybe it was a muscle spasm. But the next night, I woke up several times at night to neck pain. What in the world was going on??

I didn't go see a doctor for two reasons: 1. They would probably just give me pain meds, but more importantly, 2. My health insurance has such a ridiculously high deductible, it's like not having insurance at all. So I decided to give chiropractic another try. However this time I didn't blindly see the first one that came along. I researched which ones were actually producing good results in people with similar conditions, and then I picked one.

First thing they did? They took an x-ray! This was an obvious step that somehow didn't occur to the other chiropractor I used to see. That's how they can confirm what's going on in the spine. The diagnosis: cervical spine degeneration. :-O In other words, the vertebrae in my neck were starting to degrade and form bone spurs. The cause: years and years of working at a computer and unconsciously leaning my head forward. A normal neck has a curvature of 37 degrees. Mine was down to 9. This misalignment caused some of the discs between the vertebrae to bulge and degrade. Once the padding goes, the bone starts to rub against each other and form spurs. Pain can come from pinched nerves or spurs. Based on the x-ray, they were actually surprised I didn't have numbness and tingling going on.

The chiropractor said that this condition takes 7-8 years to get this bad. The daily stiff neck I suffered from so many years ago, which had brought me to a chiropractor in the first place, was a sign of its beginning. Had she been as competent as this guy, I may not be in the condition I am today. Because it took so long to form, it will take about a year to reverse. I won't be able to get my vertebrae un-degraded, but I can at least get the curve back and stop the degeneration from continuing. The difference between this guy and the incompetent swindler, besides the x-ray, is explanation of what's wrong as well as its cause. When you can identify the cause, you can take steps to avoid further damage. His treatment plan includes teaching me exercises to strengthen and regain the important neck curve. Good practitioners will teach you how to heal and maintain yourself. Bad ones merely tell you how often you need to come back.

One final thing before I end this write-up. I finally learned the point of all the pressing and cracking that chiropractors do. I was told that these maneuvers cause micro-tears in the ligaments and connective tissue, allowing them to be healed in a slightly different position. Even if I were to stop the damaging head-forward positions, my neck would still be held at the wrong curvature by all the connective tissue. The combination of the micro-tears and exercises is supposed gradually move my neck back to where it belongs. Now this makes sense to me!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to make your own whipped butter

Plain butter is great, but it's awfully hard to spread onto toast when it's cold. Instead of smashing your bread, you can either use room-temperature butter or whipped butter. The latter is sold in stores, but you pay more to get less butter. Solution? Make your own! It's actually not that difficult. I'm lazy, so I know easy when I see it.

What you'll need:
  • A mixer (I use a KitchenAid)
  • 8oz butter*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • olive oil (optional)
  • salt (optional)

1. Long before you want to create your whipped butter, take the butter and milk out of the refrigerator and let it sit out for about an hour (this will depend on how hot it is in the room). The closer to room temperature it is, the easier it will be to combine. I suggest you pour out the 1/2 cup of milk you need and put the rest away.

2. When the butter is soft to the touch and the milk no longer feels cold, toss the butter into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch or two of salt if you desire. It brings out the flavor of the butter, which I like a lot on toast, so I add it. Turn on the mixer and beat until the butter is no longer a brick (about 30 seconds).

3. Drizzle some olive oil in. It adds additional flavor as well as softness to the butter, so if you don't like olive oil, you can skip this step. How much you add depends on how much flavor you'd like to add. Turn on the mixer again and beat until some of the oil is incorporated (about 30 seconds).

4. Taste the butter and feel free to add more salt or olive oil to suit your needs.

5. Now add a small portion of milk. You don't want to pour it all in at once because it will splash a lot. It's messy. Turn on the mixer. The butter may harden slightly from the temperature of the milk, but it'll soften up again eventually. You'll know it hardened a bit when some of it sticks to the bowl and forms a smooth surface while the rest of it slides around in clumps. As you mix, the milk will slowly incorporate into the butter and the clumps will start to break up. Add a little more milk and continue mixing. Keep doing this until you've poured in all the milk. You'll know the milk has been fully incorporated when you no longer see liquid in the bowl, and the butter now forms peaks like a thick batter instead of clumpy butter.

6. Find a container to put your newly whipped butter into. It will be a greater volume of butter than what you started with.


* I prefer to use Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter because it's grass-fed (more nutritious) and it just plain tastes better than most other butters.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Juice fasting did not help me at all

Wow I've been lazy. Looks like my last post was 3 years ago about starting a juice fast. As far as you could tell, I perhaps perished from such an endeavor. Luckily I survived, but let me tell you it was a bust, and it wasn't due to lack of willpower. I have amazing willpower when I put my mind to it. After a mere 3 days of juice fasting, I decided to reintroduce solid food back into my diet (my body didn't feel any different, and my significant other had already given up). I did it gradually as recommended so as not to shock my system. I didn't lose any weight (my weight is normal), nor did any of my skin afflictions get better. In fact, after going back to solid food, my skin rashes got worse! Nooooooo! It seems the tolerances I might have built up towards certain food sensitivities got removed. It was a horrifying discovery and I severely regretted trying the juice fast at all. I came to the following conclusions:
  • Juice fasting is helpful if you've been eating crap for a long time. In other words, it's great if you're fat, sick, or nearly dead.
  • If you're in good health and generally eat right, don't bother with any kind of fast.
  • If you have food sensitivities, juice fasting does NOT help, and you may suffer flareups afterwards.
  • If you're already a health nut, then simply add fresh juice to your diet. Don't give up solid food. It's not natural, and therefore not healthy.
If you're looking to get started with juicing and need a juicer recommendation, I like the one I'm using. It's called the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain 700-Watt Juice Extractor. It's pretty fast, relatively easy to clean, and simple to assemble and take apart. I've been using it for about four or five years now, and it's still going strong. It's noisier than it used to be, but it still works well. It's a good middle-of-the-road juicer to get started with.

Friday, July 20, 2012

End of Juice Fasting Day 1

Juice fasting is one of those "your mileage may vary" kinda things. The more things that are wrong with you, the more side-effects and general sense of crappiness you will feel during the first few days. Luckily for me, since I eat pretty healthy already, I didn't experience many side-effects at all. I did feel a little tired with periodic light-headedness, but other than that, it went really well! No headaches or extreme fatigue.

I've heard a few accounts of people having to stay near a bathroom during their first couple days. According to the one lady from the Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead film, she had to poop for an hour. In someone else's blog they said, "You can't talk about juice fasting without talking about pooping. A lot of poop." It was funny, but in my case, not applicable. My digestive system already functions as it should, with at least 3 regular bowel movements a day. So after I excreted what food was left in my system, there wasn't a whole lot left to push out. I did have to pee a lot though.

I expected to feel pretty bad the first day, and maybe even the second, but my first day was fairly uneventful. I did feel hungry now and then, and certainly missed eating. Food is one of the great pleasures in life. It'll taste so good when I resume solid food again! But my will is strong and I was able to resist grabbing a bite of anything. I think I'll have no problems lasting a week.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trying a Juice Fast

When I first heard of juice fasting so many years ago, I quickly dismissed it as a silly diet fad. I imagined the participant languishing away because they were malnourished from doing nothing but drinking fruit juice. How quick I was to judge.

Recently I saw the documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It follows the 60-day journey of an overweight, autoimmune disease-afflicted man as he stops his detrimental eating habits and embarks on a quest to turn his life around, starting with juicing. Equally inspiring is an obese, depressed trucker who follows in the main character's footsteps to turn his life around. It's available on Netflix streaming if you'd like to get inspired.

The important points that I took away from the movie:
  • The juices produced in the juice fast are 80% vegetables and 20% fruits. The high vegetable intake is incredibly nutrient rich.
  • Because the juice you make (as opposed to store-bought) is super-fresh, all the nutrients and enzymes are still there instead of being destroyed by oxidation, pasteurization, preservatives, and other processing.
  • Because there is no solid food during a juice fast, your body can quickly absorb all the nutrients from the juice and go back to "housekeeping". Digestion is a very intensive process and takes away from the body's ability to heal itself.
  • By the end of the two participants' 60-day juice fast (monitored by a physician), they both no longer suffered from autoimmune disease and dropped an incredible amount of weight. Another participant's inexplicable migrains disappeared after one week.
  • After the initial 2-4 day "detoxing" period, juice fasters remarked at an increased sense of mental clarity and focus.
  • The weight loss is seriously impressive, as is the body's ability to heal itself once it isn't being inundated with junk.
All this information has inspired me to give juice fasting a try. I'm going to see if I can do one week, and if it goes really well, I'll stretch it out to two weeks!

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Studies Reveal the Importance of Exercise in Cancer Prevention and Management

Today we have a guest post from David Haas of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, a fellow concerned citizen looking to spread helpful information about your health. He's been researching the profound impact that exercise can have on cancer. So without further ado, heeeeere's David!
Experts are finding new evidence of the benefits of exercise in cancer prevention. New exercise guidelines are being developed for candidates who are in an at-risk group for cancer and patients with cancer, according to Prevent Disease.  With new guidelines, exercise is just as important as nutrition and dietary choices.

How Can Exercise Prevent Cancer?

Through studies, scientists have shown how regular workouts can prevent certain cancers such as endometrial cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. One study conducted in Copenhagen showed how exercise strengthens the immune system. When the immune system is healthy, the body can fight cancer-causing free radicals. Thus, people are protected from development of cancer.

Though there is no conclusive evidence, exercise may also be effective in preventing the on-set of mesothelioma.  This type of cancer may lie dormant in the body for years after exposure to asbestos before actually manifesting in the form of cancer. If exercise is made a regular part of cancer treatment for mesothelioma after exposure, a potential cancer patient may prolong his or her life.

Not only is exercise effective in prevention but also in treatment. One study on the effects of lung cancer and exercise revealed how cancer patients who exercised regularly lowered their risk of dying by 20 percent. Highly fit men were found to have a 60 percent lower risk of dying, according to Prevent Disease. In general, studies showed that sedentary men were twice as likely to die as physically fit men. Apparently, even men who smoked in this study had an increased chance of living.

What Type of Exercise is Effective in Preventing Cancer?

Walking or cycling are both recommended forms of exercise. Exercises must be completed on a regular basis to be effective. Most physicians recommend between three and five days of rigorous activity. Exercises should last 30 to 45 minutes per day. Exercise improves blood flow, energy levels and organ functionality. With increased functionality, the body’s immune system is strengthened and can fight cancer.

In general, any type of aerobic activity will prevent and decrease the likelihood of the cancer spreading in the body. Though studies are inconclusive, experts believe that one-third of all deaths related to cancer can be attributed to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. Exercise is important to improve the longevity of a patient’s life.

Other Correlations Between Cancer and Exercise

People who exercise regularly also engage in other healthy habits in most instances. They are less likely to consume unhealthy foods such as saturated fats or participate in unhealthy habits such as smoking. Highly fit people are less likely to develop cancer and if they do, they are most likely to prevent the spread of the disease through exercise.

Since exercise is a contributing factor in prevention of cancer, experts suggest that cancer is a systemic disease rather than a local disease. Thus, cancer affects the entire body rather than a localized area.

Physicians are recommending holistic care for effective cancer treatment. Physical health, mental health, immune system health and spiritual health are all components of managing cancer. Exercise is an essential component of managing physical and mental health.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cool Whip DOES contain trans fats

For so long, ever since this post about foods that commonly contain trans fats, I've meant to see for myself whether Cool Whip really did eliminate it from their product. People had commented on my post stating that the package says "0 trans fats". If this were true, then it would make for a better product. It still isn't good for you with all its fat and sugar, but at least it wouldn't be making things worse.

Well years later I finally remembered to grab a carton of Cool Whip and take a look. I was right all along. Take a look at this bad photo I took of it:

Please pardon the blurriness, my cell phone wasn't designed for close-ups. If you squint hard enough, you can make out the ingredients list: water, corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil...! Ha! See? Never believe the large and colorful marketing statements on the front of the package. The FDA allows companies to make statements like "0 trans fats" if the amount is under a certain percentage. Their belief is a little bit won't hurt you. Well I disagree. Why not just cut it out altogether? Why do they have to deceive the general public who usually don't read ingredient lists?

All gloating aside, my point is, always read the ingredient list, no matter what claims they make on the front. Even better, read the ingredients especially if they make claims on the front! Then you'll know what kind of company they are. If they like to make legal yet false claims, then they are not to be trusted. Better to just avoid that company's products altogether. Is it a bit drastic? Maybe, but with so many choices when you shop nowadays, why support the companies that don't have your health in mind?