Archive for the ‘wellness’ Category

Gardening Ergonomics: Pull Those Weeds Without Pulling Your Back Out

May 3, 2015

Now that Spring is here, many of my Monday aquatic therapy clients come to me complaining of aches and pains from a weekend of gardening. I’ve found that gardeners are like artists in that they become so focused on their work that they ignore their bodies and pay for it later.

So for all of you out there who enjoy making your gardens bloom and grow, here are some tips for keeping your aches and pains in tow:

Warm Up

Most gardeners, even if they are regular exercisers, don’t warm up before pulling weeds or tilling their soil. This is a big mistake in that gardening is physically demanding and utilizes many muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments and challenges balance and coordination. Basic yoga sun salutations make a perfect dynamic warmup, but you can also walk around your yard briskly, swinging your arms and perhaps performing some gentle squats and overhead stretches.

Take Regular Breaks

Avoid maintaining the same body position for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Transition to a different task and above all, take regular breaks to stretch your body and walk around.  Gardening tends to put the spine in a flexed position, so after you’ve been rounding forward planting or weeding, stand up and do a few spinal extensions (hands on your hips, eyes gazing upward, slowly and gently lean backwards).

Pad Your Knees

Consider investing in a good pair of kneepads “kneeling pad” or use a pool noodle to cushion your knee joints. However, even with good padding for your knees, I don’t recommend your remain in a kneeling position for more than a 10-15 minutes at a time.

Don’t Over Do It

The first time out in the garden is like shoveling snow after the first snowfall – so ease your way into it and don’t overdo it. You don’t have to tackle all of the weeding and planting in one day or even one weekend – so pace yourself!

Stretch and Shower Afterwards

After you tend to your garden, tend to your body. Stretch (sun salutations work well after gardening, too), take a hot shower and use Traumeel on any aches or pains.

Be Well,

Carolyn

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For Optimal Wellness Apply a Pro-Active Approach with These Tips

March 1, 2015

I get frustrated sometimes when people want  instant results from working out and eating right. Wellness doesn’t just happen overnight – you  have to work at it over time. It requires that you take a pro-active approach to health on a consistent basis. Eating nutritiously, exercising regularly, sleeping adequately all necessitate forethought, planning and follow-through. Here are some tips to help you:

Tips for Pro-Active Eating

– Pack a nutritious, energizing lunch (and snacks) for work.

– Keep healthful snacks and bottled water in a cooler in your car (small bags of unsalted almonds or walnuts); hardboiled eggs; apples).

-look up restaurant menus on-line before dining out so you can plan the most healthful choice ahead of time.

-Shop for groceries on a full stomach and don’t bring anything home that you can’t eat just one or two of.

Tips for Pro-Active Exercising

-If you exercise in the morning, lay out your gym clothes the night before.

-If you exercise after work, don’t go home first. Head for a track, a gym, a park and keep your exercise clothes and shoes and a yoga mat in your car at all times.

-Keep your Ipod or other MP3 player with you so that you always have fun, upbeat, motivating music to exercise to.

-Schedule exercise sessions into your daily calendar and program alarms to remind you in your smartphone.

-Make dates in advance to workout with friends or socialize doing a physical activity you enjoy. Bowling, ice skating, even miniature golf or bocce ball will get you moving and having fun in a social setting.

Tips for Pro-Active Sleeping

– Avoid caffeine more than 6 hours before retiring.

– Use a sleep mask to shut out as much light as possible.

– Turn off all electronics at least an hour before sleeping.

-Don’t exercise less than 2 hours before sleeping.

Commit to a healthful lifestyle with pro-active rather than re-active in your approach and wellness will be yours.

Be Well,

Carolyn

FAST Action is the Key to Surviving a Stroke

December 29, 2014

During the holiday season when we’re surrounded by loved ones of all ages,  it’s always a good idea to make sure everyone is schooled in CPR and in recognizing the signs of a stroke. CPR training is available everywhere by the American Heart Association and the Red Cross. F.A.S.T. is a fast, easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can recognize the signs outlined in the F.A.S.T. acronym you’ll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away.

Post this FAST acronym on your refrigerator and put it in your smart phone:

Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “There are 7 days in a week.” Can they repeat the sentence correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. The sooner they receive medical attention, the  better the chance of preventing permanent brain damage.

Be Well,

Carolyn

There’s Nothing “Humerus” about Fracturing your Funny Bone!

July 30, 2014

Five weeks ago my life changed in an instant when,  while running fast downhill on an uneven rocky trail, I tripped on a rock and tumbled down hard, landing directly on my left elbow on a rock. The impact felt like someone had struck a hammer against the back of my elbow and I sensed something snapped off in the impact. Sure enough, a few hours later x-rays revealed that I had fractured my olecranon – the infamous “funny bone”. Fortunately it was a “clean, simple” break rather than a compound one, but nevertheless the solution for healing the injury turned out to be anything but simple.

It turns out that most olecranon fractures require surgery because they typically displace (the fragments separate too much for the bone to rejoin on its own). The fragments of the bone must then be reduced or returned to their normal position until healing occurs – usually in six weeks. Surgery involves reducing the bone fragments with some type of hardwire – usually a plate and screws. If there are multiple fractures or the bone is shattered, wires and pins may be used. In my case the bone fragments were reduced a little less than an inch so a plate with one long screw was inserted into my elbow and running down my forearm (part of my ulna bone). Like most patients, my arm was immobilized for a few days with a heavy splint and ace bandages wrapped around the dressing of my surgical wound (which I kid you not was four inches long and held together with about 16 staples). Three days later a plastic, removable splint was molded to my arm and I was encouraged to wear it day and night for the next five weeks, with the exception of removing it 4-5 times daily to perform extension movements (bending and straightening of the arm)  to encourage range of motion.

The recovery from surgery, however,  proved much more painful than the original fracture. In particular the first two days after surgery I was in a lot of pain (not helped by the fact that I refused to take a narcotic – in this case Vicodin- choosing to stick instead with Advil. My entire left arm and especially my left hand was very swollen and black and blue. I was instructed to elevate it as much as possible which was only really possible at night, but which made sleeping virtually impossible. Fortunately, my clever husband rigged up a pulley system from our bedroom ceiling which was attached to my arm and allowed me to elevate comfortable and shift positions as well.

To be honest, until this happened, I never gave my elbows much thought. I took for granted that they worked well and that my relatively strong triceps allowed my elbows to extend and to some degree even hyperextend.  That has all changed now that four weeks after surgery my stiff left arm is still far from straightening. I am, however, finding some improvement every day. Today when I washed my hair I was able to wring it out using both arms and I can now floss my back molars without too much discomfort. Just yesterday I was able to scratch my right shoulder and tonight I even made a salad and was able to toss it myself. Ahhh, the little victories are sweet as I slowly get my life and independence back. I really miss my yoga classes and it’s been five weeks since I’ve been able to swim laps, but I’m back in the pool with my clients which I know is really helping my healing process.

UPDATE I:  I had a great PT session yesterday and I was told I’m a week ahead in terms of healing and range of motion (ROM). She said I can go without my splint except in situations where I can’t control my environment, such as in a crowd. I will see my surgeon next week for a follow-up and hopefully he will tell me I can begin a strengthening program. Last night I slept without my splint and I’m just about to go for a run without it – can’t wait!

UPDATE II:  It’s now been 10 weeks since the injury, 9 weeks since surgery. Saw my surgeon this week for my final post-op. He was thrilled with my ROM and strength and lifted all restrictions. The only glitch was that 10 days ago I developed a grape-size “seroma” (a collection of subcutaneous fluid) on my forearm at the end of the incision where part of the plate is. He assured me it was harmless – just the body’s reaction to irritation at the plate, but he decided to aspirate it anyways and withdrew 3.5 ml (about a thimble-size) of light red fluid – mixture of blood and plasma. He said if it comes back we may want to consider surgery to remove the plate and that he didn’t recommend that until at least 3-4 months after surgery. I just figured I would be living with this thing the rest of my life and would really rather not go through another surgery to have it removed, but he did assure me that the recovery time for plate removal surgery is much less than the insertion was. Hopefully that’s the end of it, but stay tuned….My PT also gave me my walking papers this week, so while the healing process continues she says I can do the rest on my own :)….My downward dog is slowly coming back and now I’m able to swim without even being aware of my left arm – even as I turn to breathe to the right side (where I have to fully extend my left arm) – which was painful for awhile. Now, if I could only have Summer back…..

UPDATE III:  It’s been almost 13 weeks since the injury, 12 weeks since surgery and yesterday I finally had the courage to run to the place I fell. Previously every time I thought about doing so I became both nauseas and nervous. Yesterday I was still a bit nervous – not that I thought I would fall again), but I felt ready to face it. Interestingly I discovered the way I fell wasn’t what I thought. rather than fall downhill, I actually fell on an uphill slope. I realized and remembered that I slid on loose rock, my feet coming out from under me, and I landed to the left the way the hill sloped on a rock. I saw so many large rocks sticking out of the ground yesterday that I’m not sure which was THE ROCK, but it’s clear that it could’ve been any number of them.  I felt a real sense of relief afterwards and strangely fatigued as well as though I was able to put down a burden I’ve been carrying for the past few months. When I do run on that trail again I will be extra cautious as I can see now how rocky it is and how easy it was to fall in various places. Overall my elbow is doing well. I’m working on getting the final degrees of extension (straightening the arm) and my strength is almost there in most ways. For example, I can now pull the hatchback trunk of my car down completely with my left arm with no pain and with relative ease.

UPDATE IV: It’s now been 15 weeks since my olecranon reduction surgery and my elbow is doing great. I’m even back to doing power yoga and though my left side plank is still a little shaky, I can even do wheel pose and “flip my dog”! But….I went to see my surgeon last week because my forearm, (not where the injury was, but where the metal plate and screws are)  still gets very irritated when I place it on a table, or even on my leg when doing side angle pose in yoga. I wanted to ask the doctor about having the hardware in my arm removed. He said that because I don’t have much padding there I will always be irritated by the hardware and that I’m a good candidate for removal surgery. So I’ve scheduled to have my plate and screws removed 3 days before Christmas. The recovery is supposed to be much faster and easier than the surgery to have the hardware inserted, plus I won’t have a broken bone and torn muscles to mend this time. However, I will have to avoid any heavy lifting for about 5 weeks. I’m excited to have my arm eventually return to it’s previous pre-injury, metal-free state. When the hardware is removed I will initially have holes in my ulnar bone where the screws were, but with time the bone will fill in. All for now….stay tuned.

UPDATE V:  12/23/14…Yesterday I had surgery to remove the titanium plate and six screws in my left arm. It was definitely a case of deja vu in returning to the surgery center – almost exactly 6 months to the day from the first surgery to have the hardware installed. I’m very happy to report that so far my pain is far less than the original surgery and very manageable. In fact in 24 hours I’ve only taken one 200mg Advil when I got home yesterday (and I probably could’ve done without it but they keep telling you in recovery to “stay ahead of the pain”). I’ve not needed to take anything else – even last night when I thought the pain might kick up in my sleep. The other main difference is that, unlike last time, my arm and hand are not at all swollen or discolored despite the fact that I haven’t been elevating them as much as I probably should be. I have a huge, bulky temporary cast from my shoulder to my wrist that doesn’t allow me to straighten my arm, but fortunately I only have to wear it for 2 days after which I will transition to a sling for a week or so. The only complication with my surgery was that the bone had started to grow around the plate at the elbow requiring the surgeon to dig into the bone to remove it. Hopefully that won’t delay my healing. This is another reason I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to have the hardware removed as apparently the longer it’s left in, the more likely bone can grown around it, making it more challenging to remove. All in all, I’m very relieved to have had the hardware removed. I asked for it as a souvenir and it’s a bit eery to see what I’ve had inside my arm for almost six months, but his was my Christmas gift to myself and I’m very glad I did it.

UPDATE VI 12/24/14…Saw my surgeon today for my 48-hr post op appointment and it felt like an early Christmas gift. He removed the bulky temporary cast and was very pleased with what was underneath – so much so that he said I didn’t need to wear a sling. Additionally, he said I can get back in the pool next Monday, a week earlier than he’d previously said I could. I’m now wearing a light dressing over the incision and a “sleeve” to protect it. My pain remains very manageable and I haven’t had to take anything for it. My elbow is a bit swollen and stiff and tender to the touch (feels like I’ve scraped and bruised my arm), but really not that bad. I have to be careful for the next 4-5 weeks (no pushups or significant twisting motions), but once I get the sutures out I don’t have to go back to the Dr. unless there’s a problem.  Hallelujah!

Be Well and Happy Holidays,

Carolyn

 

Mesothelioma: The Deadly Lung Cancer that Now Plagues Many Women

May 11, 2014

In honor of National Women’s Health Week I wanted to put a spotlight on Mesothelioma, a rare, deadly form of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. This deadly disease, which destroys the lining of the lung, was once thought to plague mostly men who work in construction and manufacturing, but now is becoming more common in women because of second-hand exposure.

Though the EPA banned certain asbestos-containing products and any new uses of asbestos in the late 1980s, rates of mesothelioma have continued to increase since then. Furthermore, much of the construction that used asbestos is still around and the removal of asbestos can also cause exposure. Homeowners can come in contact with asbestos while working in their attic installing insulation, or by disturbing existing insulation when doing renovations. In most cases mesothelioma results from chronic exposure such as individuals working in a factory or demolition construction workers destroying old buildings on a regular basis.

Family members can be exposed to asbestos second-hand from a worker’s clothing if it is brought home. The clothing can pick up asbestos “dust”, which contains tiny fibers or particles that can then become lodged in the lungs as irritants. It is critical that protective face gear is worn by those working in at risk jobs or when working on home construction projects. Clothing that has been worn at an at-risk site should not be taken away from the work site.

For more information on this deadly disease, please visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance’s website and for one woman’s courageous battle with mesothelioma, read Heather Von St. James’ touching story.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Staying Fit on Vacation – Part I

April 11, 2014

In this two-part post, travel expert Kendra Thornton and I will discuss ways to stay fit and healthy while traveling. In this first part, Kendra offers her tips for healthful family vacations:

My family’s health is of utmost importance to me. At home, I regularly pack healthy snacks for the kids to take to school. The entire family exercises regularly, and each of my children is involved in sports. When we go on vacation, our routines are different, but I always make sure that we get healthy nutrition and plenty of exercise wherever our travels take us.

1. Checking In

Hotels today offer several amenities to fit the active, healthy family. I make sure to book hotels with well-equipped fitness centers because this is a great way for me to be able to get a quick workout completed in the mornings before my kids wake up. Some hotels offer other fitness amenities such as running trails or bike rentals. I was able to find one for our upcoming trip to Orlando. With so many hotels in Orlando sites like Gogobot can make the process a little easier. I also always refuse the key to the minibar to help my family avoid the temptations of midnight cravings. To combat high-calorie indulgences at the vending machine, I often stock our hotel fridge with healthy snacks such as fruit, fresh veggies or low-fat yogurt snacks.

2. Playing in the Water

Water sports offer lots of high-energy fun for families on vacation. My kids love boating, and we’ve enjoyed a variety of water-faring vessels as a family. Paddleboats and canoes are great for building muscle and getting an aerobic workout. Water sports such as skiing, surfing and parasailing also burn calories. You can even burn calories sailing or enjoying time on a Wave Runner. For fun without a boat, swimming or splashing in the water can provide plenty of activity.

3. Eating Out

You will eat out when you travel, but you can take steps to make adventures in eating out more nutritious and less caloric. I like to research local restaurants before going on vacation. I find places that serve local produce because I know the cuisine here will be healthier for my family. I also look for restaurants that feature lite-and-fit menu options or vegetarian fare. Mediterranean restaurants almost always have healthy offerings for my family to enjoy.

4. Playing Games

There are many ways to have a good time on vacation. My family tries to focus on staying active. Most popular vacation destinations have a wide variety of venues for getting active. You can play horseshoes, badminton, shuffleboard or catch at a lot of parks. On a vacation by the beach, you can have fun with Nerf items. Running foot races together is another way to work some healthy activity into your vacation. Depending on the age and fitness level of your family members, you might even enjoy a vacation centered around physical activities such as hiking or climbing.

Staying healthy is important for every family. I know my family has more fun on vacation when I take active steps to keep them healthy throughout the trip. We enjoy spending time together away from home, and sticking to a healthy routine helps us more easily return to life as usual when we come back. I hope my tips and tricks have inspired you to have a more healthy vacation with your family this year.

Join us next time for more healthful travel tips.  Until then….

Bon Voyage and Be Well,

Kendra and Carolyn

 

Wellness is a Choice

February 13, 2014

Last year my family held a surprise party in honor of my Father’s 80th birthday. The fact that my father reached this milestone is no small thing. His family history is rampant with relatives who died early deaths from heart disease. My Dad has outlived his own father by 20 years and to our knowledge he is only the second one in his family to reach 80; and,  in fact when asked to say a few words at his party, the guest of honor sheepishly admitted that he never  expected to reach 80.

In my mind it’s no accident that my Dad remains healthy at 80. When he was in his early 40s he made a pivotal shift in the way he approached his health. I’ve never asked him, but I suspect it resulted in part from the fact that his father had his first heart attack in his 40s. My Dad began running almost daily and shifted from largely meat-based meals to ones focused on seafood, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Our family steak dinners became salmon Sundays and his daily bacon and egg breakfasts were replaced by Grapenuts. In no time, Dad’s beer belly disappeared and he became very lean.

I bring up my Dad’s history to illustrate the point that wellness doesn’t just happen. Other than a very small percentage of the population who are genetically blessed and/or  genetically cursed  no matter how poorly or how well they take care of themselves, the vast majority of people are the product of the lifestyle choices they make. Sure most twenty-somethings can get away with late nights, a poor diet and irregular exercise for awhile, but by the time most are in their 40s, these unhealthful choices will likely be taking their toll.

Would my Dad have made it to 80 without the lifestyle changes he made in his 40s? Possibly, but I doubt it. Today he’s as active as ever, running  4-5 days a week, swimming 3 times a week and riding his exercise bike daily.  He’s not as careful with his diet as he used to be, but he watches his weight like a hawk and cuts back his calories or steps up his exercise if he puts on a few pounds.

Many people bemoan the lack of control in their lives, but our wellness is one thing we really do have jurisdiction over. So don’t fret if you’re over or under 40, as it’s never too late (or too early) to choose wellness.  This blog is dedicated to helping you make better wellness choices, so browse through the list of posts and arm yourself with information on adopting healthful lifestyle habits and make your own wellness a priority today.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Sodium: An Essential Mineral that Gets a Bad Rap

June 26, 2013

While we don’t need that much of it (a minimum of a quarter teaspoon, or 500 mg daily), sodium has many vital functions in the body. Excess sodium consumption from processed and fast foods is definitely a problem in the average American diet, but researchers are now questioning sodium’s role in causing high blood pressure. A recent research review found no cardiovascular benefits from dropping below 2,300 mg of sodium per day – the current maximum dietary recommendation.  Furthermore, many older adults who fear high blood pressure avoid sodium to the point where they can become dangerously deficient – leading to muscle cramps, brain fog, lethargy, weakness and even osteoporosis, since sodium helps make bone hard. Many health advocates also point out the high blood pressure more often results from a potassium deficiency than excess sodium, since most adults consume too few fruits and vegetables – one of the best sources of potassium.

One of sodium’s primary functions is regulating the water content of the body. Without sodium, you wouldn’t be able to retain the necessary fluid for all of your cells as your body is made up of 80 percent water. Salt also helps balance blood sugar levels and is vital for the generation of energy in cells. Sodium is also alkalinizing to the body, so it is important in the prevention of excess acidity from the cells in the body. It is also necessary for absorption of food particles through the intestinal tract and in the prevention of muscle cramps. This is especially true for athletes training and competing in hot climates such as the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon where it is common for triathletes to consume salt tablets during the long, hot race.

I always thought it was strange that many people living in the midwest and the south salt their watermelon. My mother always claimed that it made the melon taste sweeter, but I’m wondering now if it served a need to help their bodies retain the water from the melon in those hot summertime climates. Salt does indeed bring out the flavor in many foods, but as someone who doesn’t crave salt, I often have to remind myself to salt my food when I’m training hard in hot weather, or taking a lot of Bikram Yoga classes as I don’t eat processed foods.

In fact 77 percent of the sodium consume most Americans consume is in processed foods and restauarant meals – not the salt shaker. On the other hand, if you eat a predominately whole foods diet, you may need to use your salt shaker –  as most unprocessed foods in their natural state contain very little sodium. Natural sea salt is a much preferably alternative to refined, processed table salt. It contains many trace minerals which are normally stripped in the table salt processing. One note of caution, however, be sure to buy a brand that contains iodine – as not all of them do.

So the bottom line is sodium is not evil and in fact it has an important role in your health. Too much of it can be harmful, but a moderate consumption, ideally from sea salt and not processed foods, provides a healthful, delicious accent to a nutritious diet.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Can Eating Healthfully Hurt? Oxalate Consumption and Pain

May 28, 2013

A few years ago a client of mine with fibromyalgia asked what I knew about the connection between joint and muscle pain and eating foods high in oxalate. She had read that eating foods high in oxalic acid can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms. She felt discouraged in that she had been making such an effort to eat healthfully to help improve her condition and her overall health. Ironically, many of the nutritious foods she was consuming may have turned out to exacerbate her pain rather than relieve it.

Oxalates are naturally occurring molecules found in some plants. Normally our bodies are able to excrete oxalates in our urine and feces, but if not, oxalate can bind with minerals – especially calcium- and form oxalate crystals, which are sharp, jagged edged objects that can lodge themselves into joints, muscles and mucus membranes and trigger pain and inflammation.

Most people have no problem metabolizing moderate amounts of oxalate in their diet. For those that do accumulate high levels of oxalates in their joints and soft tissue it can be due to:  Hyperoxaluria, a genetic defect which predisposes one to kidney stones; or  the lack of good bacteria in the gut – often resulting from the overuse of antibiotics ); or a vitamin b-6 deficiency; or a deficiency of magnesium  which binds to soluble oxalate and make it insoluble; or a high consumption of oxalate containing foods.Any or all of these causes can result in the accumulation of oxalate crystals in joints and tissues over time and can lead to problems, such as:

  • painful or inflamed joints
  • achy muscles or muscle cramping
  • burning urine or bowel movements, anal itching
  • vulvodynia – external female genital pain or irritation
  • eye irritation
  • kidney stones i.e. oxalates combine with calcium to form these
  • developmental disorders in children, including autism

In researching the answer to my client’s question, I wondered in the back of my mind whether my lingering hamstring and pelvic pain might be due to my own oxalate consumption which had recently escalated.Six months before my fiance moved in with me. We eat a lot of salads and he loves beets (very high in oxalates) so I started including them. In addition, as the weather grew warmer I began a nightly ritual of eating frozen blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and sometimes strawberries (all high oxalate) with my lactose-free milk. Because they’re so naturally sweet and delicious, I would often have two or more cups of mixed berries. Turns out, combining the high-oxalate berries with the calcium-loaded milk further encourages the crystallization of the oxalates. We were also eating more kale since it was becoming so much more available in stores. And while I’ve used turmeric (also high in oxalates) on my cooked veggies and salads for many years, recently I’d been adding more to my diet thinking it would help the joint and muscle pain I was experiencing because it’s an anti-inflammatory without realizing itI  was fueling the fire. Furthermore, overconsumption of oxalates (or the inability to excrete them) is often responsible for delayed healing as oxalates more easily bind to injured tissues. This might explain my lingering pain even after pursuing my usual healing modalities, including massage, aquatic therapy, acupuncture and rest.

As I dug deeper into the subject of oxalates I discovered that those with a leaky gut resulting form celiac disease or Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome are more susceptible to oxalate buildup and crystalization. A person with a healthy intestinal tract is able to process oxalate and excrete it in their feces. When someone has a penetrable gut, however, oxalate can “leak” into the bloodstream and travel wrecking havoc throughout the body. I think the fact that I had undiagnosed Celiac Disease for so many years has made me susceptible to this condition. So my problem with oxalates is not necessarily a recent development but one that has progressed over time to the point where my recent increase in oxalate consumption finally overloaded my system.

Figuring out which foods are high in oxalates can be confusing as many of the oxalate food lists on the web offer conflicting information. Oxalate levels can also depend on whether a food is raw or cooked. For example, some vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and especially kale and collard and mustard greens are lower in oxalate the more they are cooked (i.e. boiled verses steamed). Here’s one of the most comprehensive and reliable sources I’ve found.

CAUTION:  If you suspect oxalates may be triggering your pain, don’t eliminate all oxalate-containing foods from your meals in an effort to decrease pain.  There’s something known as “oxalate dumping” that can occur when a person abruptly ceases consumption of high oxalate foods and consequently their body starts to excrete stored oxalates at a rapid rate. This can cause an increase in symptoms.  Instead, cut back gradually starting with foods containing the highest oxalate levels.

Read below for updates I wrote after publishing this initial post on the subject back in 2013.

Be Well,

Carolyn

UPDATE:  7/11/13  Well it’s been exactly 8 weeks since I lowered my oxalate consumption – primarily by eliminating beets, berries and collard greens from my meals and reducing my kale and celery intake. I’ve also been eating apples mostly without the skin and boiling my broccoli and brussels sprouts instead of steaming them. I turned a corner this past week and my pain is noticeably less. In fact this week I’ve been able to run as far as I want to with no negative repercussions. I also went hiking for a couple of hours with my sister this week and for the first time in awhile I didn’t even notice my body on the hills – I was able to focus completely on our conversation.  My left hamstring and gluteal muscles are still tight but much better than they were when I began the oxalate reduction I’m also experiencing less pelvic pain in general. I’m still a bit uncomfortable driving or sitting in a car for extended periods, but even that’s improving. Like many people, I did experience a brief honeymoon period when I first reduced my oxalate consumption (perhaps too drastically) and then my pain increased for a few weeks, so I must admit that it was difficult sticking with it when I wasn’t sure if it was helping – and seemed to be making me feel worse. So if you’re reading this and you’re experimenting with lowering your oxalates, be patient, have faith and give it time to see what unfolds. I’m glad I hung in there.

UPDATE #2:  9/28/13 It’s been about 6 weeks since my last update and I’m happy to report that my joint and muscle pain have continued to decrease. I did have a bit of a setback with my Haglund’s deformity in my right foot after I stupidly did a toe stand in yoga class – something I hadn’t done in a long time and was excited I could still do, but I paid for it within 36 hours. My pelvic pain is almost gone and I was even able to sit in the car for a 9 hour car ride to Bend, OR twice in 5 days. The only other strange symptom I’ve had recently is some eye irritation after passing some small granules in the inside corners of my eyes. Apparently you can secrete oxalates through the fluid in your eyes. As a result, my left eye has been bloodshot (something that never happens to me – even after swimming without goggles). I’m guessing it is oxalate-related as my body is probably slowing releasing it through various avenues.

UPDATE #3 4/26/14 I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I’ve updated this post. I’m happy to say that it’s been almost a year since I drastically reduced my oxalate consumption (on 5/10/14). Things are much better than they were a year ago. I still get my “oxalate dump” days, but they’re more manageable and they don’t last as once. One product that has helped me tremendously is Magnesium Malate (I take capsules by Source Naturals). When I feel my symptoms coming on, the magnesium malate really helps reduce or eliminate them. I also still get some oxalate deposits in my eyes in the morning, but not as much as I used to. The best part is my pain level has greatly decreased and I’m back to being able to take long runs and bike rides without pain and without having to urinate frequently.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Get Fit by Fifty for a Longer, Better Life

November 24, 2012

I’ve always told my older clients that it’s never too late to begin exercising to reap the rewards. According to recently published research, however, it may benefit you more to get fit by fifty. The study found that those who are fit in mid-life not only live longer, they live better in that they avoid chronic diseases longer than those who are sedentary in middle age.

Back in the 1970s researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute in Dallas assessed the aerobic fitness level of healthy men and women in their late 40s. Later, between 1999 and 2009, when subjects reached their 70s and 80s, researchers assessed their Medicare claims reports to determine their health status. Those who had been fit and healthy in their late 40s remained healthier, (i.e. free from chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes) later in their lives than those who were healthy but unfit in the mid-life assessment.

On a personal note, my Dad just turned 80 – only the second person in his family to reach that milestone. Despite a family health history of heart disease and cancer, my Dad is disease-free, looks at least 10 years younger than his age and even has all of his teeth and most of his hair. Interestingly, while he runs, swims and rides his stationary bike daily, he didn’t start exercising seriously until his mid 40s – an age when his own father had his first heart attack. But since that time he’s been a dedicated runner and swimmer, adding the stationary cycling when he stopped riding his bike to work about 10 years ago.

Unlike my Dad, I’ve been very physically active all of my life. Yet in some ways I feel more fit at 45 than I did at 25 because now I participate in a wide variety of physical activities rather than focusing on just one or two. It also keeps it interesting and challenging for me to try to maintain a sufficient level of fitness in multiple activities. I believe cross-training is essential for middle-aged adults. Doing multiple physical activities prevents injuries by avoiding overusing any one muscle group.

For some men and women, training for and maintaining fitness in mid-life is just part of their lifestyle. They take being fit in their 40s and 50s to another level. These competitive athletes know it’s never too late to pursue and achieve their athletic dreams. Let their stories inspire you to get moving.

Be Well,

Carolyn