Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Conclusion about chiropractors

I know, I know, I disappeared for months and forgot all about this blog. No I didn't forget, I just got busy. You know, life happens sometimes. Anyway, I stopped seeing the chiropractor. After a month of seeing her 2-3 times a week, I wasn't feeling all that different, to be honest. The best part of each visit was back massage by the on-site massage therapist. My always-tense shoulder muscles needed it.

The whole neck-cracking and spine straightening I'm still doubtful about. Occasionally I would feel some pain in one hip joint, which would go away when she adjusted my pelvis, but that's about the only helpful thing I noticed. I totally think the frequency of the visits was just a scam to get more insurance money out of me because I happened to have a carrier that would cover chiropractic care. After that first month, she said once a week would be enough. Again, too much, I think. Even the insurance refused to pay anymore because they were suspicious. I read somewhere that once or twice a month was sufficient for maintenance.

My conclusion? I can't generalize for all chiropractors since I do believe some actually are good and actually do care about your health instead of your insurance money. But as far as this particular one is concerned, lay off you greedy witch! I got really annoyed at how pushy she was about getting me to refer others or to make future appointments whether or not I wanted it.

I think chiropractors should be judged on a case by case basis. Give them a chance, but definitely beware of the greedy scammers. I let this one take me for a ride for too long, which is my fault really. I kept thinking, "Well maybe it takes time for these treatments to make me feel completely normal." But the fact that I woke up feeling stiff in the neck and shoulders all over again every day was a testament to the contrary. Something else was causing my problems, and it wasn't my spine, as this chiropractor led me to believe. I mean, she didn't even take any x-rays, so accurate could her diagnosis be?

It's been a couple months now since I stopped seeing that chiropractor, and I don't feel any worse. I feel a bit like a sucker for having tried it, but at least now I won't wonder about it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fruits are our friends (and veggies too!)

The new recommendation for an optimal healthy diet includes 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables. I don't know about you, but that's kind of a tall order considering I tend to eat only three -- lunch, dinner and maybe a snack. I'm trying, but it means a change in eating habits.

Snacking is probably the easiest place to start changing our habits. I'm keeping more baby carrots around to munch on, which are very easy to grab and go. The key is to stock your fridge with the things you're supposed to eat, and have them ready to go when you need them. Costco sells a three-pack of organic veggie platters complete with organic Ranch dressing for only $9.99. I drag them out when I watch TV so I'll munch on those instead of M&Ms or chips.

Fruit is another handy thing to keep around. Right now it's summer and fruit is bountiful. Later on they'll be more scarce and expensive, so one way to stock up is to use your freezer. Strawberries, blueberries, and peaches all freeze well. I like to sclice up the strawberries and peaches into useable portions and put them into baggies in the freezer. Later on I can take them out and throw the frozen fruit into a blender to make a yummy fruit smoothie.

We tend to grab what's available and snack on that. If we can make sure we have the right sorts of snacks on hand, then we can help ourselves meet that goal of 5-8 servings a day!

Friday, June 22, 2007

2 weeks and 6 visits later

I'm still waking up extremely stiff from the shoulders up. The chiropractor emphasized the importance of doing the stretches she showed me 2-3 times a day. I'm also endeavoring to find an ideal sleeping position (it would be quite convenient if my head were detachable).

I just got back from one of my visits, and I feel extremely loose and relaxed. It's such a rare feeling for me these days. Too bad it doesn't last more than a day yet.

One thing that I've been experiencing that I did not mention to the chiropractor is a pain I had in my hip. In the last month or so a pain has been developing in the hip joint of my right leg. I would move it a certain direction and a sharp pain would result. I thought maybe it would go away as inexplicably as it appeared, so I didn't bother seeing a doctor about it.

During the course of the treatments that the chiropractor made during my visits, she would sometimes include tapping on my hip bone in a certain direction and checking on the alignment of my feet (to see that they were even with each other). If they were uneven she would make a few more adjustments. Well, believe it or not, that pain is slowly starting to recede. It's not completely gone yet, but it definitely isn't as sharp as it was before I started seeing the chiropractor. Perhaps there is something to the proper alignment of your bones.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The right pillow

I finally did remember to mention my daily stiff neck and if changing pillows would help. She said it was likely my head was at an angle while I was sleeping. If the pillow is too tall, the head could be pushed up too far. If it's too flat, the head could be angled down when I'm on my side. The goal is to maintain a straight neck that is even with the rest of the spine so that the muscles around it can properly rest.

My pillow situation could be easily solved if I would sleep only on my back or only on my side. But the fact is I switch back and forth during the course of the night. What's ideal for back sleeping isn't great for side sleeping, and vice versa. It seems what I need is a pillow that will correctly support my head in the right place regardless of what position I'm sleeping in.

In my case, it needs to be flatter when I'm on my back, and higher when I'm on my side. Can any pillow do that? Not sure, but I'm about to give one a try. I found one called the Mediflow Water Based Pillow. Supposedly it provides continuous support as it adjusts to your movements. You can also set your preferred firmness by adjusting the amount of water inside. Will this actually work for me? No idea, but I will definitely be posting my thoughts about it here once I get it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Starting to have doubts

It's been about a week and a half now, and to be honest, I don't really feel any different. I've been told it's a gradual process, so it may just be too early. Here's what the process is when I go in for treatment:

  • She asks me what levels of pain I am feeling (there isn't usually pain, just a lot of stiffness)
  • She puts these "muscle stimulator" electrodes onto the trouble spots on my back
  • After 10-15 minutes of this, I am sent to another room where a massage therapist works out the numerous knots around my shoulder blades.
  • Finally the chiroprator "aligns" my spine by either manually pressing or using a little device like a hand-held jackhammer (not really a jackhammer, since it's manually operated at a much slower rate). The most alarming part is when she twists my head to either side, usually producing numerous loud cracks.

I'm still trying to think through the logic...

For the past several years (about 10!) I've woken up with a stiff neck and shoulders. It's worse if I try a pillow that is a little more elevated than usual. If a misaligned spine were the cause, wouldn't a couple weeks of treatment start to show at least a tiny bit of gradual improvement in the morning neck stiffness? Wouldn't the rest of my body feel more beat up and stiff, not just my neck?

To be honest, I feel very limber and relaxed after the chiro visit, but I think it's because of the massage. The massage therapist really works hard at the knots, and it's really the muscles that are stiff. If I'm waking up with stiff muscles already, then it means they did not get a chance to rest all night like they were supposed to, which indicates some sort of incorrect sleeping position.

Come to think of it, the chiropractor has never asked me what kind of pillow I use or how I prefer to sleep. She's only recommended rolling up a towel and placing it at the base of my skull and putting a pillow under my knees (or if I'm on my side, between my knees). That towel was really uncomfortable and was not a reasonable solution since I couldn't sleep at all.

I keep forgetting to mention that the towel roll doesn't work, hopefully I'll remember when I see her later today. If she just keeps on doing the same thing, then I'm going to start thinking she's not really dealing with my problem at all. In the meantime, it occurred to me that I might be using the wrong kind of pillow. If certain pillows make my condition worse, then there has to be one that makes me feel better, right?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Chiropractors - valid medicine or not?

Because of my daily prolonged computer use at work (and sometimes at home), my shoulders and neck feel like they're constantly tense and tight. My neck has become weak and gets tired easily. I know frequent breaks are the key to not getting repetetive stress injuries, but it's easy to skip when you're in the middle of something, or lots of somethings.

Someone suggested I see a chiropractor before I get some kind of damage from all this. So I went. According to the chiropractor, some damage has already been done. My neck seems to have lost its natural curve and is on its way to further degeneration, which would involve worn out spinal discs and bone spurs. She evaluated my range of motion and indicated that my neck was the most limited, due to my constantly tense muscles. She also said that I had mild scoliosis, which is a sideways curvature of the spine.

This was news to me, but it's possible that that this unnatural curvature was my spine adapting to constant muscle stress. I'm scheduled to see her 3 times a week for a couple of months to realign everything, then I will need to change my habits in order to prevent this from happening again.

Most medical doctors don't recognize chiropractic as a valid form of treatment for health problems. They consider it to be "alternative medicine" like accupuncture, herbalists and homeopathy. Many consider alternative medicine to be nothing more than quackery. I say how pretentious can you be? Such blatant displays of snobbery serve no one, except maybe the medical doctor hoping not to lose patients to other forms of treatment.

I'm willing to give alternative medicine a chance. Standard treatments for scoliosis are back braces and surgery (where they fuse pieces of your vertebrae together). I don't know about you, but these seem very backwards to me. Why not see if manual manipulation has any effect? I'm going to try the chiropractic treatments and see how my neck feels afterwards and post my results here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Since I started to go to the gym during my lunch break instead of after work, I've been able to go fairly regularly. When you go around the same time every day, you start to notice other people who are there the same time as you. I don't particularly care who these people are because they're doing their own thing while I do my own thing. But I have been noticing this elderly lady who is always there.

She doesn't look to be in particularly good shape. She's a little chubby, is slightly stooped over, and her walk is more of a shuffle with a slight limp. I don't know if it's arthritis or what it is that has caused her decrease in mobility. She looks uncomfortable as she shuffles from one weight machine to the next, yet she persistently goes at it day after day.

Maybe she got a late start on her commitment to fitness, but she's committed now. It would be easier for her to sit in a rocking chair, knitting. But she's decided she's not going to go down without a fight. She's a picture of determination. It doesn't matter what age you are, it's never too late to be dedicated to your health.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Good use of badly cooked salmon

You probably already know that salmon is a great source of omega 3s, which is vital for healthy cell walls and other things. You hear all these great things that salmon is good for health-wise, but they don't tell you how tricky it is too cook it.

Salmon is really yummy when cooked just right, but it is very easy to overcook, whether you are baking it, grilling it, or pan-frying it. Overcooked salmon, like most overcooked fish, becomes dry, rubbery, and generally unpleasant to eat.

Over the weekend I found a great use for accidentally overcooked salmon. Instead of tuna salad, make salmon salad. The mayo (I substitute half the mayo for ranch dressing because I love the flavor) eliminates the dryness of the fish, and after you mash up the fish meat, you don't really notice the rubberyness of it anymore.

You'll usually have already seasoned the fish when you first cooked it, so that means you don't need to do anything other than chop up some celery to throw in with the mayo and dressing. Mash it all together and it's done. It turns something that you were likely throw away into something you actually want to eat.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cleansing with lemons, maple syrup and cayenne pepper

I said some time ago I'd look into some kind of a detoxification program. One that's surfaced recently and gaining popularity is known by various names, such as The Lemon Diet, The Lemonade Diet, The Maple Syrup Diet, Lemon Cleanse, and Lemon Fast. Whatever you want to call it, they all come from Stanley Burroughs' book, Master Cleanse. (This book was written in the 70s, but made popular again as a reference by Peter Glickman's book, Lose Weight, Have More Energy & Be Happier in 10 Days.)

Lots of people are using this formula to lose weight, but make no mistake about it, it's a fast, not a diet. A diet is restricting yourself to certain quantities or types of foods. A fast means no solid food whatsoever. (And how can you not lose weight if you eat nothing?) I used to be very skeptical of fasts because it's not natural. Your body needs fuel. However the vast majority of food we eat nowadays is unnatural, full of chemicals, hormones and who knows what else.

I read a little more on the ideas behind fasting, and it seems to make sense. When you stop eating solid foods for awhile, your organs don't need to crank so much to process it all. This gives them the opportunity to clean house a little bit, get rid of toxin buildup or whatever. I was able to get ahold of a free copy of Master Cleanse but haven't had the chance to read it yet (I've put it on my server for you to download, just click the link). I'm interested in what it has to say about detoxifying and hope it has clear explanations on how everything works. I like to know why and how a plan works before putting my body through it. I don't trust anything that simply tells you to take this or do that and you will magically feel better. (Kinda like Herbalife.)

If I decide to try it, I will definitely post my results here!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Deodorants and rumors about cancer

I've wondered off and on about deodorants and whether they have any harmful side effects. First let's make a distinction. There are deodorants, which deal with the odor and not the sweating; and there are antiperspirants, which keep you from sweating in the first place. The vast majority of the products you see on the shelf are antiperspirants. They will say so on the front, usually in small letters. If you look on the back you will usually see an active ingredient, usually some form of aluminum. The most common is aluminum zirconium.

Considering it's some kind of metal compound, I wonder if it causes anything bad. I mean, we get lead poisoning and mercury poisoning, might aluminum cause something similar? So I did some quick online research to see what I could find.

It turns out that there are a lot of rumors about antiperspirants causing cancer or Alzheimer's. However these rumors don't seem to be backed up by any kind of research or evidence. I can see the line of reasoning... if you block the sweat from coming out, you have a buildup of toxins right by the lymph nodes under your arm, which could, according to this line of thought, increase the risks of cancer there. However it seems to be mostly heresay. This discussion contains a few links to research articles discussing the matter, if you'd like to read more details about it.

My conclusion? I think it's safe to continue using antiperspirants, but maybe sparingly. You never know what's going to come up in research later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The importance of having alternatives

Someone brought donuts to the office. Again. I usually have no problems resisting, but they seemed to be calling more loudly than usual today. Every time I passed by them I would hear their call and stare longingly into the box. "Just one," I would think. I haven't had one in years.

It's hard. There is no doubt that junk food is habit forming and easy to succumb to. I finally managed to tear myself away from the donut box by repeating to myself that I have cookies in my desk. Cookies that do not contain trans fats. And although it just wasn't the same, it was enough to pull me away from the evil donuts.

One of the easiest way to avoid succumbing to bad foods is to not keep them stocked. But this doesn't mean depriving yourself altogether. Buy foods that are free from trans fats and high fructose corn syrup and keep them handy. You never know when someone (who obviously doesn't know any better) will bring something tempting yet evil to share.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Girl Scout Cookies and Trans Fats

By now I hope you know that trans fats are evil -- they increase your bad cholesterol, lower your good cholesterol, and there's nothing natural about them. I'm not exaggerating when I say the stuff is worse than lard.

Most cookies you see on the snack shelf contain trans fats. The same goes for Girl Scout Cookies, although they have made improvements. According to this article, they've lowered the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil used in their cookies to the point where they are legally able to use the "Zero Grams of Trans fat!" label on their packaging, as allowed by the FDA.

This is a great improvement, but bear in mind that this is a misleading label. "Zero" in this case does not mean none. If you look at the ingredients list, you'll still see "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" listed there. Under FDA rules, less than half a gram per serving is allowable. Shame on the FDA for caving in to food manufacturers' whining. Shame on the Girl Scouts for not making this an even higher priority. Why not cut them out altogether? As always, it's about profits. And I think that's sad.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Getting sick? Cut out the sweets!

Remember when you were a kid, when you got sick your mom wouldn't let you have any candy? Well whether they knew it or not, there was a very good reason behind this. Sugar actually impairs your immune system.

According to this article, sugar slows down immune system activities. There are certain white blood cells called neutrophils. These things specialize in destroying cold viruses and other unwanted intruders. However the neutrophils become lethargic when you eat sweets.

In one study, researchers had volunteers consume 100 grams of sugar, the equivalent of two cans of soda. Then they took blood samples from the volunteers. They found that neutrophil activity in the volunteers had plummeted by 50 percent after consuming the sugar. Five hours later, neutrophil activity still remained substantially below normal.

Anything that contains any form of sugar-including sucrose, fructose, and corn syrup -- can impair neutrophil activity: The worst offenders are candy and sweets, which are almost pure sugar and have virtually no nutritional value.

So if you're tired of getting sick so often, do your immune system a favor and cut down on the sugar-laden junk food. You might find yourself fighting off the colds more effectively.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Moving - the most odious form of exercise known to man

I haven't been to the gym in weeks. I have also been neglecting this blog for about as long. Moving can do that to you. The whole process of collecting boxes, searching for an affordable place to live and then actually moving all your garbage to the new place is physically and mentally exhausting. It makes a day at the office like a day at the spa in comparison. Just wanted to let y'all know I haven't abandoned this blog!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Detoxifying foot pads?

I noticed in the little rectangular ad space on my blog that there was a link to something called "detoxifying foot pads". Curious, I clicked on it to see what it was. They claim that it's a product developed in Asia that contains some natural ingredients that combine to naturally draw toxins out of your feet.

Considering your feet are one of the major sweat outlets, I could see how it might possibly work. They claim that you wear these pads at night, and the next morning you'll find gross, brown, sticky goo on the pads, supposedly the toxins it drew out over the course of the night.

I'm open-minded, but skeptical when products make unscientific claims. So I researched them. Apparently there are many companies selling these things and they all make the same claims. Could they all be wrong?

A couple of forums I found had people de-mystifying some of the "magic" around these foot pads. This one took the fancy names for the foot pad ingredients and basically said that it was sand, sugar and wood vinegar... which will turn brown when wet. Your feet are always sweating, so of course it will turn these pads brown. And the sugar gives the "brown goo" its stickiness.

I came to the conclusion that these pads do nothing other than make your feet sticky and gross. Your naturally occuring foot sweat triggers the pad to turn colors, and that's it. Sounds like a scam to me.

In my next post I'll see if I can find methods for detoxifying your body that actually have a scientific basis behind them. Methods that actually work you can usually do on your own, and not with any kind of fancy product being peddled by shysters.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Giving saunas a try

I decided to give the sauna a chance, since it's so helpful for ridding your body of toxin build-up. I think I lasted about 10 minutes. I wish they had a thermometer in there so I could know how extreme the heat was, but it was slightly more bearable than last time. I would guess around 120 degrees or so, but I don't really know.

After getting out I felt woozy and had to sit down. My friend did too. I guess this is normal? Initial research about saunas and dizziness merely said if you feel dizzy to get out of the sauna immediately. I didn't feel dizzy until after I got out, so...?

After feeling well enough to walk, I then felt extremely tired. I felt like this wasn't normal at all, but then my friend said he always feels tired afterwards too. I later read that saunas help the blood vessels in your muscles dilate and increase blood flow, thus helping to clear out built-up toxins. The muscles are then able to relax, and I guess that's why you feel tired? Whatever the case is, I just wanted to take a nap. Zzzzzzzzzz...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Are saunas good for you?

A friend of mine likes to bake himself in the sauna after working out at the gym. He claimed it helped to cleanse your body of toxins. I had my doubts since neither of us were doctors, so I decided to research it for validity.

It turns out he was right. After a good workout, your circulation is going pretty good and stirring up a lot of toxins. One of the best places for your body to send these toxins is out through your pores in the form of sweat. The high heat of a sauna tells your body to open up the pores and start sweating. Out go the toxins.

Some people claim they feel rejuvenated after a sauna session. Tense muscles will also become more relaxed in a heated environment. I'm a little more encouraged now to try it, provided I can stand the heat levels the gym has it set at.

Different people will have different levels of tolerance in terms of temperature and duration that they can withstand. Always listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard. A word of caution: Saunas are NOT recommended for pregnant women, people with heart conditions, or those under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Replacing a missing tooth

If you've had a tooth removed, it's usually in your best interest to have it replaced, usually with a bridge. If you don't, the tooth above it will start to extend out into the gap, and the neighboring teeth will start to drift into the gap as well. Teeth aren't exactly fixed in their locations. They drift according to the pressure around them, so your perfect smile may start to shift into something a little less perfect.

Most people get bridges done. This is where they file down the two neighboring teeth and put the replacement teeth across them, thus bridging the gap. It's cheaper than implants, but destructive to those two neighboring teeth.

Ideally, if you can afford it, dental implants are a great way to replace missing teeth. There are mutliple steps involved to get one "installed" in your mouth, so you want to make sure you have a dentist who knows what they're doing. There's a directory available to search for Dental Implant Dentists in your area, complete with descriptions of their areas of specialty. Do your homework, then get the procedure done before your teeth start drifting too far.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Returning from a break

I took a little break from posting stuff here. I also took a little time off from the gym as well. I'm sure most people did. I start again today, but in the 1.5 weeks of very little physical activity, here's what I've noticed:

  • I get more pinched nerves in my back when I don't exercise. I used to randomly feel sharp pains in various locations due to pinched nerves. After going to the gym on a regular basis (with each visit lasting about an hour or more), I no longer experienced the pinched nerves.
  • After nearly two weeks on hiatus, I felt a pinched nerve again just this morning.
  • I feel more tired all the time.

I'm looking forward to renewing my gym routine. I'll feel better, and not just physically. There's the emotional pride that I'm making an effort to take care of myself. There's also the removal of that guilt of paying for membership and not going. Heh, any source of motivation to get your butt into the gym is a good one, right?