Skip to main content


Showing posts from September, 2010

Getting Rid of your Pain in the Neck

What if you had severe, chronic neck pain and your doctor didn't have a clue what to do for you? That was the place I was in during my early 30s: typing was agony, I couldn't press the Dictaphone buttons with my left hand hard enough to engage them, and I was too stiff to shimmy in dance class. Most of what I recall of an outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play of that time (the one where they were stuck on an island) regards squirming around trying to get comfortable. (If you were sitting behind me, I apologize.) A friend referred me to a chiropractor, who diagnosed two pinched nerves in my neck and between my shoulders. Nothing was torn or fractured, and IME, when that's the case, doctors who practice traditional Western medicine won't be able to diagnose anything. That's not to say you shouldn't see an M.D. If something is torn or broken, they can help where a chiropractor and the treatments I'm going to talk about cannot. After several chiropractic tre

No Shoulder Pain: This Calls for a New Handbag

A new job and a svelte new figure: what could be a better reason to buy some new togs? How about a shoulder that's as strong and free of pain as it was at age 18? When I was that age, I carried around 20 pounds of photo equipment for a job that lasted three years. After that, I carried 20 pounds of textbooks around a large campus for four and a half years. By my early 30s, I had chronic neck and shoulder pain, sometimes severe, sometimes niggling. I took to carrying a backpack instead of a purse to lighten the load on the shoulder. Besides seeing a chiropractor, which helped a lot, I learned yoga neck stretches from the book Yoga for Americans written in 1959 by Indra Devi. I learned to pop my neck--loudly--at will. Without the exercises, I'd have needed a lot more trips to the chiropractor. In the past few weeks, without thinking about it, I've been carrying my backpack on my left shoulder--the one that bore the textbooks and the photo equipment for seven and a half years

Gas Bloating: The Incredible Shrinking Waistband and Exploding Intestines

If you've been through it, you know the feeling: you get dressed in the morning and all is well. You have breakfast, and maybe a mid-morning snack, and then your pants don't fit. Surely you didn't put on five pounds in two hours, you think. (I had one tweed skirt in particular that became uncomfortable around 10 a.m.) Some days, you even look like you're pregnant. (That was when my big lavender shirt-dress came in handy.) It's gas bloating--but what causes it? Can you stop it? The short answer is that I got the bloating to go away without medication or supplements--and I had tried several. My understanding of the causes of bloating is that certain foods naturally lead to gas, and it's hard for some people to digest various foods. (There may be other causes, but these are the two I'll talk about here.) Which foods lead to gas? According to Heartburn Cured (1) by Norm Robillard, a microbiologist, it's mostly carbohydrates. Fat and protein don'

Healthier, Whiter Teeth

One of my goals is to die with all 32 teeth in my head. So far, I've met the all-32-teeth part. Up until around age 35, I'd had only one cavity. It was so small that the dentist, with my permission, drilled without anesthetic. I brushed twice a day, and usually didn't floss. Being without insurance and low on funds during many of my younger days, I'd go years without seeing a dentist, and have only a tiny bit of tartar on the rare visit. And no, I didn't drink lots of milk. Yuck! At 34, I started on a low-fat, high-carb diet plan that I followed for six years. (At around 180 grams per day, it was high-carb compared to what I'd been eating.) In those six years, I got eight cavities. I had lots of plaque. I got an electric toothbrush, brushed for two and a half minutes morning and night and flossed every day. The cavities and the plaque kept forming--and my teeth were becoming dingy-colored. Around Christmas last year, I found myself in the worst pain of my life:

Less Sit and Scoot

"Poop Van Scoop. We pick up where your dog leaves off. Number one in the number two business." -A long-running ad for backyard sanitation services. Readers, if a post about canine gastrointestinal problems (read: pooping problems) isn't your cup of tea, why don't you read this post about how music made me feel better than the 20 pills a day I was taking at one point in my life. I've always had dogs, but I never had one who would sit and scoot, until Molly. Dogs do this when their anal glands are too full; conventional wisdom says that hard, small stools cause the problem by not pressing on the anal glands enough to empty them. I just knew that every so often, I had to take Molly to the vet to have them drained. Sometimes they even became infected, or "full and stinky" in veterinary terms. For the past few years, I've been fiddling with Molly's diet to help her poop be less like jawbreakers. From what I'd read about digestion, I thought the a

Cardio: A Waste of Valuable Dance Time

"I'd rather hold a girl in my arms than a football." -Joe DeCicco, friend and dancing fanatic Have you heard that it takes a woman 77 hours of exercise to lose a kilogram of fat? (For us Americans, that's half a pound.) That's according to a study cited by Dr. John Briffa .(1) The women who huffed and puffed three hours a week for a year ended up 4.4 pounds lighter than the sedentary women. That doesn't surprise me: my own weight loss involved a lot less exercise than what I'd been doing. I did no cardio workouts, just strength training . I had more time and energy for dancing, which is a stress reliever, helps keep me in shape, and it's a ton of fun. It's not expensive to dance (as long as you stay away from the studios). I've found excellent lessons at clubs where the teachers really care about the students getting it. Here in Denver, there are dancing clubs that are run by nonprofit organizations, where the prices are reasonable and

I'm a Six-Gallon Donor

"That poor soul." That's what I think when Bonfils Blood Center sends me a letter telling me where my donated blood went. One pint of my blood--one of several from many donors--went to a woman who had a childbirth that would have killed her in times past. Bonfils invited her and all the donors to a party to meet each other. A few dozen donors divided by eight pints per gallon means she lost half or more of her blood. A friend and employee of Bonfils told me about another patient--just a kid--who needed over 100 units of blood. Today, I'm feeling a bit puffed up because I got my six-gallon donor pin. (Not too puffed up, though--my father has donated over 20 gallons and a man named Ned Habich has donated 60.) I went to the bloodmobile parked in front of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Denver this afternoon. I answered a questionnaire and Bonfils tested my iron, pulse and blood pressure. At 118 pounds and with an iron level of 42 ( yay !), I barely met their thresholds f

Vitamin and Mineral Absorption: Stop Shooting yourself in the Foot

Do you take vitamins and minerals? I do, and I can see a difference when I take them. When I don't, my skin breaks out and generally doesn't look up to par. I had nosebleeds before taking a big dose of zinc every day, and was mildly anemic before taking iron. But I said to myself, I eat a healthy diet. I don't smoke or drink much alcohol. Why don't I absorb more of the vitamins and minerals I eat? Vitamin and mineral absorption is the problem I'm going to address in this post. There are a lot of everyday foods, drinks, diets and medicines that can make vitamins and minerals pass right through you. I don't want you to give up all your favorite foods and beverages, but consider making some small changes to make the most of your vitamins. Coffee and Tea. I wrote in my last post that coffee and tea interfere with iron absorption. (By "tea," I'm sure that means camellia sinensis , like black tea or green tea or white tea, not apple-cinnamon-vanilla o

Iron Deficiency: Possible Cause

A few weeks ago, I had a mystery to solve: I'd been taking iron and zinc pills, and an iron test done when I gave blood showed the highest iron reading I'd ever had. But in late August, my full blood workup showed iron deficiency. My nosebleeds had returned, too. "Your iron level is low," said the letter from my doctor, "and an over the counter vitamin will help. A low iron level needs to be worked up with a colonoscopy or other GI screening." That sounded not only uncomfortable, but expensive. I looked elsewhere for clues. A search on Google Scholar turned up a study * involving coffee. "A cup of coffee reduced iron absorption from a hamburger meal by 39%..." I downloaded the full text . The study was done on humans, it stated what the subjects ate, and didn't sound like the researchers had any agenda. I'd been drinking more coffee--maybe that was my problem. Seeing if it made me feel any different wouldn't cost anything. So every day

Intermittent Fasting: My Foray into Binge Eating

I've long thought that eating as our ancient ancestors did has some keys to health. The latest research in paleontology suggests that they didn't have a constant supply of food, they might have gone for short periods (like a day or so) without eating. Having read the benefits of intermittent fasting, I decided to give it a try. Today, I put off eating until 6 p.m., consuming nothing but water. The upsides: My blood sugar was in the 70s during the fast(that's the low end of normal). And I had no nasal congestion. The downsides: I was hungry all day! If one of the points of fasting is to avoid thinking about food, it didn't work. I took a nap in the afternoon and dreamed about food. Then I got up, prepared a feast, and ate for two hours. I had two plates of sausage and vegetables, eggplant with cheese, tossed salad and goat cheese. Then a tablespoon of honey, low-carb hot cocoa, low-carb ice cream, and coffee. After taking a break to talk on the phone, I went to the groce

Vintage Starvation Diet is Still Around

Some readers know I love the Golden Era (c. 1920-1963): I swing dance, live in a hundred-year-old house, and grow old garden roses. A recent acquaintance even asked me if I drove a Studebaker. I just finished a book that combined my interests in history and health: The Great Starvation Experiment by Todd Tucker. In 1944-45, a group of 36 American men, all conscientious objectors, volunteered for a year-long study on starvation. Ancel Keys (of lipid hypothesis fame) ran the tightly controlled experiment. Dr. Michael Eades blogged about the book awhile back and noted the macronutrient balance of a typical subject: The men in this study consumed macronutrients in the following amounts daily: protein 100 gm, fat 30 gm, and carbohydrate 225 gm. If you express these intakes as percentages, you come up with 25.5% protein, 17.2% fat and 57.3% carbohydrate. Average energy intake of the subjects in the experiment: 1570 calories per day. (emphasis mine) The men also had to walk 22 miles each wee