A Different Kind of Doctor – Week 28

Since the beginning of the year I have been learning how to live a more holistic, simplistic and natural way of life. Knowing that healing begins on the inside, I decided to start the journey by addressing what was most obviously unhealthy in my life – with my diet and exercise. First, I began my learning about and incorporating more organic, clean, whole foods into my diet. Then, I began looking into specific foods to help with my specific health issues. One day, my mom drove past a sign with the number for a clinic of natural medicine and she passed on the information to me. Weeks later, I finally called and scheduled a consultation with a naturopathic doctor. At the initial meeting, she did a physical (and emotional) exam; we discussed my concerns, my treatment goals and a planned course of action. She explained how naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. She described how certain foods can harm your body, while nutrients from other foods can heal your body. She also talked about using food to help manage your moods and emotions. After a thorough discussion about my symptoms, she recommended some steps I could take immediately. These included beginning some vitamin supplements, making some drastic changes to my diet according to my blood type (including adding healthy protein, fruits and vegetables to my menu while eliminating soda, sugar, processed foods, cow’s dairy and red meat) and a homeopathic remedy.

I was able to make most of the dietary changes without too much trouble and started the supplements and remedy as suggested. At my follow-up visit about 3 weeks later, my doctor was impressed with some signs of internal improvement she could see from a second physical exam. It has now been about 5 weeks since I started this new regimen. It really is a lifestyle change – learning how to feed your body instead of your emotions or inner child – and some days are better than others. I can’t be sure if it is the vitamins, the food, the homeopathic remedy, or any combination of these and other steps that I’ve been taking to improve my health and happiness, but most days I feel like something is working. I feel myself getting stronger, feeling healthier and more hopeful, excited, and happy. I have days that I’m not so strong. Days I feel like giving up or just screaming at the world. But I know I didn’t get like this overnight and that I won’t achieve the level of success I desire overnight. Slowly but surely, though…one day at a time, I am becoming more the person I am meant to be.

A New View on Nutrition – Week 27

                A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I still don’t have a clue what foods I “should” be eating in order to be healthy. Yes, I know fruits and vegetables… but, to be honest, I don’t really like all that many. Yet, I insisted that I needed to change my diet in order to maintain a healthy, balanced life. Knowing that I need to eat healthy but not being sure exactly what “healthy” means for me, I thought about what I hope to achieve by changing my eating habits. I decided that what I really want to work on are all the symptoms that prompted me to begin this Holistic Challenge in the first place. So I began researching which foods and other natural methods are recommended for each of my particular complaints. I am hoping that combined with trying some other natural suggestions, changing my eating habits will begin to have a positive effect and relieve or ease the following symptoms:

            • Migraines
            • Anxiety/Depression
            • Acne
            • Unwanted hair growth
            • Stained teeth, unhealthy gums
            • Eczema and dry skin, frizzy hair
            • Stomach/GI issues (constipation, diarrhea, irregularity)
            • Anger/irritability/mood swings
            • Pregnancy symptoms – nausea, heartburn
            • Back pain
            • Fatigue, lack of energy
            • Poor appetite and sleep quality
            • Low libido
            • Low attention span

(Yes, I know we’re getting pretty personal here… but c’mon, we’re all human. And really, isn’t that the fun of an online journal anyway – talking about all the nitty gritty details of life with a certain degree of anonymity?)

I started by looking up which foods were best to consume for folks dealing with the above listed symptoms.

Chronic Headaches/Migraines

[  Water

Alternatives*: unsweetened herbal tea or decaf coffee and fat-free or 1% milk
Water rich foods: watermelon, berries, cucumber, melon, soups, oatmeal, tomatoes* and lettuce

[  Salmon

[  Eggs*

[  Olive and canola oils

[  Lean beef*

[  Whole grain fortified cereal

[  Mushrooms

[  Broccoli

[  Spinach

[  Sweet potatoes

[  White potatoes

[  Swiss chard

[  Fresh amaranth

[  Quinoa

[  Almonds*

[  Sunflower seeds, other seeds and legumes

[  Bananas*

[  Avocados

[  Dried apricots

[  Brown rice

[  Whole grains

[  Plain fat-free Greek yogurt*

[  Sesame seeds

*Conflicting opinions argue some foods, such as these, may actually trigger headaches instead of relieving them.

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Practice stress management and relaxation techniques

[  Get plenty of sleep

[  Exercise and stretch daily

[  Pay attention to your body’s alignment (while working, standing, sleeping, etc)

[  Explore manipulative therapies (chiropractor, acupuncture, Reiki, Feldenkrais, the Alexander Technique, a personal trainer, etc)

[  Avoid caffeine, alcohol, dairy, sugar and processed foods.

[  Stay hydrated.

Depression/Anxiety

[  Water

[  Whole grains & seaweed

[  Potatoes

[  Blueberries

[  Acai berries

[  Almonds

[  Pure dark chocolate

[  Maca root (powder)

[  Cheese

[  Peanut butter

[  Nuts

[  Sesame seeds  

[  Oats

[  Milk

[  Poultry

[  Bananas

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Herbal supplements such as kava and passionflower

[  Avoid processed foods, refined grain, sugar, caffeine and alcohol

[  Meditate

[  Exercise

Acne

[  Water

[  Salmon, mackerel and sardines

[  Walnuts, beans, flaxseed oil

[  Nuts

[  Avocado

[  Red grapes

[  Fennel

[  Artichoke

[  Brown rice

[  Garlic

[  Broccoli

[  Alfalfa sprouts

[  Green and herbal tea (burdock root, dandelion greens, milk thistle and red clover)

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Practice relaxation and stress management techniques

[  Stay hydrated

[  May need to avoid dairy

[  Supplement** with apple cider vinegar, aloe vera juice

[  Green food supplements** (chlorophyll, spirulina and barley greens)

[  Tea tree or jojoba oil and/or oil cleansing

[  Baking soda, milk of magnesia, aloe applied to skin

[  Herbal steam facial

**Always consult with your health practitioner before using herbs and supplements. 

Unwanted hair growth (Hirsutism)

[  Black cohosh**

[  Saw palmetto**

[  Spearmint and green tea

[  Romaine lettuce

[  Onions

[  Tomatoes

[  Whole grains

[  Potatoes

[  Cinnamon

[  Crimini mushrooms

[  Apricots

[  Sunflower seeds

[  Licorice root

[  Wheat germ

[  Tuna

[  Barley

[  Skinless Chicken

**Always consult with your health practitioner before using herbs and supplements. 

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Plucking

[  Shaving

[  Body Sugaring (Natural Wax)

[  Threading

[  Avoid dairy

Stained teeth, unhealthy gums

[  Pineapples

[  Ginger

[  Carrots

[  Basil

[  Cheese

[  Sesame seeds

[  Skitaki mushrooms

[  Onions

[  Salmon

[  Broccoli

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Avoid coffee, tea & colas

Eczema and dry skin, frizzy hair

[  Salmon

[  Watercress

[  Apples

[  Sweet potatoes

[  Fish roe

[  Carrots

[  Turmeric

[  Red wine

[  Broccoli

[  Red grapes

[  Cherries

[  Citrus fruits

[  Raspberries

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Eliminate food allergens from your diet (can include dairy, corn, eggs, shellfish, wheat (gluten), citrus fruit & food additives and preservatives)

Stomach/GI issues (constipation, diarrhea, irregularity)

[  Water

[  Oat bran

[  Cabbage juice

[  Carrots

[  Lettuce

[  Pears

[  Yogurt

[  Fennel seeds

[  Flaxseed

[  Peppermint

Other Natural Alternatives

[  Eat smaller meals

[  Eat slowly

[  Exercise

[  Practice deep breathing & relaxation techniques

[  Take a hot bath or apply a heating pad or hot compress

[  Drink between meals instead of with them

With each new symptom I researched, I started to realize what this “holistic” journey actually is — an active and conscious process of changing each and every aspect of the way I live. This is more than changing what or how I eat, sleep and work out. It is developing an awareness of the self down to the very core. Physically, this means learning how my body works; it’s discovering what is lacking, where I am overindulging and how to use my strengths to my advantage. I am not any particular symptom; I am a whole person: a body, a mind and a spirit unified. This means there is no special food or fitness routine or relaxation technique that is going to help me with any individual symptom. No. Instead, I need to pay attention to what is going on with me as an entire being and then respond accordingly. Looking up these foods is great, but looking into why they are good for me is even better. I soon began to notice a link between the foods that were being recommended and their particular nutrients and vitamins. I also noted a pattern in the additional suggestions being mentioned for each symptom. Relaxation techniques, yoga and meditation, focusing on hobbies and positivity were all recommended. And one word in particular kept repeating in my search results: stress. While I recognized that I was picking up on a pattern, what I didn’t realize was that I was about to stumble upon a whole new part of my holistic journey…

DISCLAIMER: For informational purposes only. Always consult your health professional before making any lifestyle changes. 

Sources

Nutrition & Fitness – Week 1

I have a terrible diet, high in processed foods, caffeine, sugar and salt. My workouts mostly consist of juggling an infant with chasing a toddler. To correct this, I need to address a couple of different issues. My first challenge is to change the way I think about what I am putting into my body. Instead of merely eating whatever I feel like, I’m looking at food in terms of its nutritional value. Food is energy. Water is hydration. I need to make sure I am consuming the right types of foods in the right quantities to meet the demand of energy I use throughout the day. This is going to require making a lot of small changes to the way I eat.

Usually when I start a “health kick,” I clean most of the junk food out of the house and replace it all with food I think I should be eating. My logic is that when I am hungry I will reach for one of the better options. But the truth is that none of the healthy options are appealing, so I wind up leaving my good-for-me food in my organized and pretty kitchen and head to the nearest drive-thru. And if I won’t eat the healthy food in the house, you can be certain my husband won’t! This is clearly not setting the right precedent for our children. So, instead of trying to do a massive overhaul of our pantry and refrigerator in the beginning, I am slowly incorporating more “clean” whole foods into our meals, watching how much of the “bad stuff” I consume and increasing the amount of water I drink. My hope is that over time I will begin to acquire a taste for some healthier foods.

My second challenge is to use these better foods to make meals both my family and I will actually eat. Right now I am doing this by creating healthy “junk” food options. Basically, I make the same meals I normally do but replace some of the unhealthy options with healthier choices. For instance, this week I have made stir fry for dinner using brown rice instead of white and making my own sauce instead of a store bought sauce high in sodium and MSG. For breakfast this morning, I made omelets with coconut oil instead of margarine, real cheese instead of processed cheese product and had a whole-wheat pita instead of white toast. I know I’m not eating perfectly, but I also know I am eating way more nutritiously than I was last month!

Tools can be incredibly useful if you find the right ones. To help me get on the right track with healthy eating, I have started to use the Fooducate app for Android phones. I love this app! Simply scan the barcode of any product in a store or in your kitchen and the app will give you a grade from A to D. The grades are based on the nutritional content of the food as ranked by scientists, doctors and nutritionists. It also lists nutritional information, ingredients, alternate options, and reviews from other users for each food item. And if you scan an item that is not in the database, you can take a few pictures and send them on their way to Fooducate headquarters in an automatically generated email. It’s definitely a fave!

On top of eating better, I needed to start moving! I purchased a membership to my local park district and now have access to a swimming pool, gym and on-demand fitness classes. I also borrowed the P90X system from a friend. While I am certainly far from being able to complete the program in its entirety, I really enjoy using some of the DVDs in this collection to guide workouts at home when I have trouble getting to the gym. My goal is to spend at least 20-30 minutes a day, 5-7 times a week doing some sort of physical activity.

In addition to paying attention to the foods I’m eating and how much I’m moving, it’s crucial to have motivation and a good support system. My family has been amazing in this journey so far. My husband, younger brother and toddler son have taken to the changes in our eating habits with minimal resistance. My mom has been awesome at encouraging me to stick to eating healthy. In fact, she has even joined in on the journey with me! It has been fun seeing the whole family become a bit more active, too. All the boys have been to the gym at least once or twice this week, including our little guy.

After family and friends, the media is a wonderful resource for finding motivation and inspiration. Blogs, such as The Healthy Diaries and Thrive Style, are awesome places to learn great tips, spark your creativity, ask some questions, share your experience and/or just connect with similar minded people. And while it may seem like media is all about sex and violence these days, it is in fact still possible to find some positive messages out there, too. One such movie I’m watching on Netflix this week is called Hungry for Change and it has really inspired me to continue following the healthy eating path I’m on. I am also utilizing some nutritional knowledge acquired from watching Dr. Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I know these are only baby steps and I have a very long way to go, but I am feeling good that this week, I at least got started. It’s my life, and I am making things happen.

 

Determining where and how to start this project has been quite a challenge itself. I decided to begin with what I felt I had the most control over, my body. As the first week progressed into the second, I realized that I am not going to be able to isolate different areas of my life anymore. The idea of ‘holistic’ healing is that I am taking my whole being – body, mind and spirit – into consideration. Any change I make in one area of my life is going to affect me in other areas as well. If I am truly going to heal, I need to learn how to accept and acknowledge who I am on all levels, at all times.