The Circle of Healthy Living

They say what goes around comes around, or is it the other way around? I can never remember. In any case, it’s a circle. This is true in every area of our lives, how we treat others, good or bad, and even how we treat ourselves. And it is never truer than in our health. I recently discovered this in my own life.

I’ve always been a bit of a health nut, but lately, due to food and pollen allergies, I’ve pushed my healthy living up a few notches. I am determined to one day see my allergies disappear, or if nothing else, at least make them less severe. But even if they never totally go away, this healthy lifestyle is sure to benefit me. How do I know? Because of the circle.

Three weeks ago, after seeing the doctor, I tossed the remaining processed foods from our home. I made homemade tomato-less ketchup, nut and seed bread, chicken stock, and carob fudge. My eating became all clean, whole foods. And this is what happened. . .

I lost a few pounds. My husband lost some weight as well (because he is forced to eat whatever I eat, and being the good sport that he is, he does it without complaining). We are both sleeping better, feeling better, and waking up a bit more energized (often before the alarm goes off).

You know what? I love having energy. Because when I have energy, I exercise more. And when I exercise more, I want to eat healthier. And when I eat healthier, I have more energy. See how that works? A circle.

Jump on the circle with me. You’ll love the ride. Pick one thing to jumpstart your health. It doesn’t have to be big. Just one small change will lead to another, which leads to another, until soon, you will be on your own circle to a healthier life.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Drink more water.
2. Cut out processed foods.
3. Don’t eat out as often.
4. Add more veggies to your diet.
5. Walk daily.
6. Do push-ups, or sit-ups, or lift a few weights.
7. Do yoga.

Happy Healthy Living!

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Learning to Adapt

Some of us are better at adapting than others. I can adapt to weather changes, changing my furniture around, even moving 1900 miles from where I grew up wasn’t hard. But changing the way I eat? That’s a different story.

It began soon after my brain injury. Within one month, I visited the emergency room twice and urgent care once (or maybe it was the other way around, and maybe it was more – this is where my brain gets confused). It seems I had acquired chemical allergies and a whole host of food allergies, which were revealed to me later by my doctor.

Allergies, along with all kinds of bizarre symptoms, can appear after brain trauma, though it’s hard to say if they are lurking in the system, and the injury causes them to come out, or if they are the direct result of the brain injury. (www.holisticprimarycare.net) In any case, I had a new list of items I could no longer eat.

I’d long been allergic to dairy, and avoided it best I could. When I was given this new list, I listened to my doctor, and stayed away like a good girl. But I am human, and a girl, and I have cravings. Like yeast. And sugar. I wanted French bread, and I wanted the sugary cupcakes at the birthday parties we attended. It wasn’t long before I gave in. Nothing major happened when I ate sugar and yeast, just a few little patches of red skin, and an irritated throat. Warning signals I chose to ignore.

Do you know what happens when you don’t listen to your body? It rebels. Within time, I developed a host of symptoms: hives, dark circles under my eyes (known as allergy ‘shiners’), nasal congestion, joint pain, muscle aches, and wheezing. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? As bad as those symptoms were, it could have been worse. Allergies can also cause fibromyalgia, asthma, headaches, and fatigue, and of course, anaphylactic shock.(www.recipe4wellness.com)

Over a month ago, I went back to the doctor, and I am happy to report, I am the proud owner of a beautiful list of 31 foods I can no longer eat.

It’s hard to say exactly why my list grew. Some professionals say that allergies increase due to malabsorption problems, some claim IBS or leaky gut. But in my research, what I discovered is this, new allergens are sometimes born when we ignore the ones we have.

I didn’t listen to my body. I refused to adapt.

Adapting isn’t always easy, and not always fun. But when it comes to health, it is a true necessity. Our lives depend on our ability, and our willingness, to adapt.

If you think you have allergies, I strongly encourage you to see a doctor. Your body will thank you for it.

Here are a few facts about food allergies:

1. Allergies can get worse, or change, over time. What may appear as a ‘shiner’ one time can turn up as nasal congestion the next time, or worse. Never count on a food allergy reacting the same way twice. http://www.allergy-clinic.co.uk

2. 80% of the immune system surrounds the digestive system. Your body sees food coming in, and says, “Is that safe?” When you are allergic to a food, your body becomes more sensitive, and sometimes more allergic. www.olsonnd.com

3. Getting rid of food allergies could have helped me better fight my environmental allergies. I suffered this winter and early spring with outdoor allergies. They may have been less severe if I’d been eliminating the foods on my ‘don’t eat’ list. www.olsonnd.com

4. Some people are ‘atopic,’ meaning they have a tendency to develop allergies. (I was already allergic to dairy and dust mites before the other allergies occurred.) www.nhs.uk

5. If you are allergic to one food, you may react to other foods with a similar structure. This is known as cross-reactivity. (I was allergic to cranberries, and now I am allergic to blueberries, part of the cranberry family.)

6. There is no scientific evidence, but there are claims that if we don’t rotate our foods often enough, we can become allergic to them. Being a daily chocoholic, and a constant consumer of bell peppers, I can testify there may be some truth to that (as I can no longer eat either).

What it comes down to is this, I should have adapted the first time around. Now I am paying the price. We can adapt to anything, if we want it bad enough. I want my health. This time, I’m determined to follow my allergy list. I really don’t want a longer one.

I guess the good news is this, I learned a few things, and in turn, I hope I can help you.

This is what I’ve learned:

*Health is important. Yeah, I already knew that. But when it’s taken away, you realize how good you had it.

*I’m lucky (most of) my allergies aren’t super-severe. And if I stay away from my allergens, I can’t give them the chance to morph into a life-threatening monster.

*Allergies do affect the body. In one weeks’ time, after eliminating my allergens, my aching, tight muscles are limber, my wheezing has improved, and I have more energy.

A tough way to learn lessons. A tough way to learn to adapt.

**I am not a medical professional. If you have any medical concerns, or think you have allergies, please see a doctor.

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Allergic to Life

Sometimes I feel like I am allergic to life. If you have allergies, you know what I mean. I’m pretty sure my first allergy arrived when I was a teenager. I sneezed constantly, was sick a lot, and suffered many headaches. But it wasn’t until my early twenties that a doctor would discover my allergy to dust.

Next was dairy, something that occurred after my second child was born. Cheese was hard to give up, but it was nothing compared to the allergies I would have to deal with later in my life.

 

*** Story:

It was spring. My husband and I wandered the aisles of a local garden store, enjoying the pink tulips and yellow daffodils that lined the tables. As my husband stopped to admire a few roses, I wandered to the clearance section at the back of the store.

On one of the shelves, I spotted a pretty metal can labeled “Soft Peach Room Spray.”

Sounds nice, I said to myself. I sprayed a light mist into the air and leaned forward to sniff the mellow scent. Then it hit. I dropped the can and ran to find my husband.

I grabbed his sleeve. “I can’t breathe,” I said.

“What?”

“I can’t get air.” By now, I was gasping. Everything in the room began to spin, my ears were ringing, my palms filled with sweat, and worst of all, my tongue was beginning to swell.

We ran to the car and my husband quickly drove me to the clinic. I was in a panic, and so was he. When we arrived, he found a nurse who immediately brought me to a room. I don’t remember much after that, except receiving a shot and an epi-pen before I was released. I do remember the first real breath that came back, and how I had never been so thankful for air.

***

It was a dramatic moment in my life, one I will never forget. It was also the first of many. It seems my brain injury triggered something in my body, which I guess can happen to brain injury victims. I developed many allergies after that, mostly foods, some of which I discovered on my own, some found during allergy testing.

Allergies are scary. Some are mere nuisances (like the sniffles and headaches I get from dust), or minor inconveniences (like tummy issues from dairy), but then there are those that are life-threatening (like the spray, and for me, cranberries).

It’s those life-threatening ones we worry about. But any type of allergy is a problem. Allergies wreak havoc on our systems. They make us tired and cranky. They cause joint pains, headaches, hives, breathing problems, sneezing, diarrhea, and a host of other problems. They wear on our immune systems and make us more susceptible to other illnesses.

If you have any type of allergy, you need to stay away from that allergen, because some, especially food and bee stings, can get worse over time.  Check out this article on WebMD.com

But some allergens, like dust and pollen, just can’t be avoided. If you suffer from these, stay tuned, I just may have a few things that will help you.

I swear my allergies to pollen and dust get worse every year, and this year, I was so listless and foggy brained some days, I felt pretty worthless, so I decided it was time to fight. I have tried everything you can imagine. And this is what I found.

*Himalayan Salt Lamp:  I have to be honest, this has something to do with negative ions, and for the life of me, I have no idea what that means. Many people swear that this lovely little lamp has improved their health. Honestly, I didn’t notice a difference. But I still keep one in our family room – it’s pretty, provides nice ambiance, and maybe somehow it is helping and I just haven’t noticed.

Moso Bags: Bamboo charcoal. It’s supposed to trap particles in the air. Again, not sure if they have helped, but I do like the looks of them. The only thing you need to know is that they need ‘recharging’ in the sun approximately once a month.

Air purifier: One of the best things I have done. We removed our purifier from our bedroom for a few months. I noticed a huge difference, especially when we brought it back. I know it is working because the filter gets filthy each month, and I breathe so much better with it. I would recommend this for anyone with allergies.

Humidifier: While I love the moisture in the air, the filters get disgusting, and molds gather inside quickly, which isn’t healthy for anyone.

Diffuser: Love, love, love this. This is what saves me at night. I gave up the humidifier for reasons stated above, and bought a diffuser on Amazon. Each night I fill it, add a few drops of Eucalyptus oil (peppermint also works well for allergies, but is a little strong for me), and turn that baby on. It’s amazing. I can breathe.

Vicks: Yup, the old-fashioned Vicks rub. I put it under my nose often. I am that geeky girl.

Vacuum: If you have dust or pollen allergies, you must vacuum often. Even better, go without carpet.

Shower: I am assuming you are already doing this. If not, well, we won’t get into that. In any case, I added an extra shower to my day. Every evening I take a shower and rinse off the pollen. Especially necessary after walking. I couldn’t believe the yellow pollen on my husband’s and my clothing one evening when we got back from our walk. As long as we are talking about showers, I need to mention my filtered shower-head (another item I don’t regret purchasing). It is amazing how much better my skin feels since I started using it. I know when it’s not working because I can smell the chlorine in the water, and my skin begins to itch. While we are talking about water…

Laundry: Wash your clothing when you’ve been outside. And wash your sheets weekly.

Scented candles, perfumes, etc.: Smell nice, but these things just make allergies worse.

Now to the good stuff – food. I truly believe food is medicine (unless you are allergic to it). I’ve seen the benefits of healthy food in many areas of my life. I still struggle with allergies, after all, I can’t cut down all the trees and plants in the area, and dust will always be floating in the air, but I have found a few food remedies to make my allergies a little more tolerable.

Ginger– Ginger is medicine. It fights tummy problems and infections. Its strong scent and taste clear the nasal passages. It’s great in tea or in an orange and carrot smoothie or juice.

Peppers- Admittedly, not my favorite. But if you can include some jalapenos or anaheims in your salsa, that capsicum just may fight off some sniffles.

Tea- I am addicted to tea. Great stress reliever, not only mentally, but physically as well. Tea has many benefits. I drink green or black in the morning, often with lavender or mint, and a concoction in the evening which includes nettle or Echinacea. Add honey or lemon.

Honey- Local honey if you can. Some claim local honey helps fight against local pollen. Honey is great in many things, but my favorite is in my homemade chocolate recipe, adapted from Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. (Recipe at end of article.)

Smoothies- I start each day with a mixture of banana, berries, coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk), hemp, flax, spinach, and make extra for a small one later.

Juice- I should say ‘juicing.’ Fresh juice is always the best. The versions at the store have been pasteurized, removing the enzymes. If you can make fresh juice, even occasionally, you will feel the benefits.

Water- Plenty of it. Filtered. Pure. Add lemon if you wish.

Food- Healthy foods, preferably organic. No junk food, because, as the old adage goes, “You are what you eat.”

The problem with allergies, especially dust and pollen, is that we can’t remove them from our lives. They are all around, every day. It is a daily fight to stay healthy. But isn’t life worth fighting for?

None of these remedies are perfect. Some will work wonders for you, some will not work at all. For me, I think it is a combination of everything that has prevented me from seeing a doctor this year. And that alone is worth the fight.

Happy allergy season! I hope this article helps you find a tiny bit of relief. If you have any other suggestions to share with fellow allergy sufferers, I would love to hear them.

And now for the promised chocolate recipe:

1 cup raw honey

1 cup raw organic cocoa

1 cup coconut oil, melted

Stir fast and really well (because the sooner you get done, the sooner you get to eat it). I love adding extras to this recipe, any combination of these things: Chocolate nibs, cinnamon, cayenne, sea salt, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and (my favorite) coconut.

Place in large baking pan (8×12, or whatever you have handy) lined with parchment paper.

Place in freezer. Note: This fudge needs to be kept frozen.

Enjoy! (Perfect served with a hot cup of tea.)

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