This past winter was the most miserable winter I can remember. Not only was it Polar Vortex cold, with dozens of inches of snow, ice, sleet, rain and slush piled on top of one another, but from mid-October until late April, I could have counted on one hand the number of days when I actually felt 100% healthy. Thankfully I was never bed ridden with the flu or stomach bug or anything along those lines, but I spent most of the winter with a runny nose, achy head, dry eyes, drippy throat and virtually no energy, and no matter how many antihistamine’s, Mucinex’s or Advil’s I took, nothing seemed to help. Making matters worse it wasn’t until early spring I finally went to see an Allergist to see if they could find the cause. After two hour long sessions of pricking and injecting me with every allergen known to man, they found a grand total of … nothing. I was totally fine, allergic to nothing that they could see with the 30 plus needle mark’s on my now sore and half-deformed right shoulder. I was almost begging the Allergist to find something, anything wrong that they could treat with a nasal spray or some sort of medication or injection, but beyond a possible acid-reflux issue (which, notably, has improved in recent months with a little help from Prilosec) I was back to square one. So with no visible answers to my woes, I decided to embark on a personal wellness journey, one that will hopefully make me feel better without any more doctors or extra pills. Ever since that Allergist appointment, I have been on what I call my Quest for Health.
I think this quest actually began informally last summer, in 2013, after a series of stomach issues that became so problematic that I knew I had to make a serious change in my diet. The quest has included multiple consultations with nutritionists, numerous grocery store runs for items and herbal medicines that I had never heard of, countless hours of blog reading and Twitter scrolling on the latest trends and topics in food and nutrition, giving up some of my most favorite foods and meals, some of them for good, and causing my household grocery bill to skyrocket to mortgage-like proportions. And do I feel amazing? Fantastic? Alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic, every day? Well, no, not really. But do I feel better? Absolutely, and here are a few things that I did:
- I figured out my Vitamins — If you go into a Whole Foods store, CVS, or even a grocery store, there are entire rows of shelves devoted to Vitamins and Minerals, all touted as being able to boost your immunity, restore your health, provide energy, etc. But how many vitamin supplements do you really need? Based on my chats with nutritionists and reading online, not many, so I pared my Vitamin list down to three: Omega 3’s, Probiotics, and Vitamin D Why? Simply because I wasn’t getting enough of them with my regular diet. And that’s the key. Vitamins shouldn’t be your diet they should be a part of your diet. If you have a diet that is well rounded you might not need to take vitamins at all, only where you are deficient.
- I figured out my dosage and timing of vitamins as well — When I first started taking Omega 3’s and Probiotics, I discovered that I wasn’t taking enough. According to research, you need over 1,000 EPA + DHA per day of Omega 3’s, and at least 10 billion cultures with your probiotic. All of this information can get confusing and frustrating (especially for my wife who does most of the searching) while rummaging around in the Vitamin aisle, but you might as well get the most bang for your buck. I also learned that Omega 3’s need to be taken while eating other fats so they can be more readily absorbed, and Probiotics should be taken in the morning and/or at bedtime, when (theoretically) there isn’t too much going on in your stomach. Little tips, but very helpful and useful.
- I got allergy and blood Testing — I actually went to my primary care doctor for blood testing on my Thyroid because I have a history of low Thyroid in my family, but it turned out that while my Thyroid was fine, I was deficient in Vitamin D. This was surprising given the amount of time I spend outdoors, but not uncommon. As I stated above, my allergy tests revealed next to nothing except a bit of reflux, which was very frustrating, but also lead me to do all of this research on my own. If you have any sort of doubt that you aren’t getting enough of a certain vitamin or you think you might be allergic to something, it’s worth it to get checked out.
- I gave up Peanut Butter, Cashews, Cereal, and Milk — I think between the ages of 20 – 32 there wasn’t a day that went by that my diet didn’t include most or all of the items above. They were my staples, go-to meals and snacks, but after a series of stomach issues which didn’t respond to small changes, I decided to go cold turkey on those foods, and I did. While all of those items can be super beneficial for some people (good fat, protein, nutrients, etc.) they can also be very inflammatory, which in turn can lead to stomach distress and sickness. Exactly what I wanted to avoid, so I did what I had to do. Not fun, and a bit depressing, but worth it.
- I started stretching. A lot — My blog last month detailed how I am learning more about functional mobility and movement, and why asymmetries, imbalances and weakness can be so debilitating over time. I decided to apply these lessons to myself, so now my own training sessions are devoted mainly towards correcting myself in as many ways as I can. It’s an ongoing process, but the aches and pains from years past are slowly, slowly, starting to go away, and I don’t plan on stopping until they do.
I guess my Quest for Health is a sort of mid-year new year’s resolution, but I’m not the most patient person so I figured the best way for me to do it was to dive in and go all out. And I have, and it’s been well worth the effort so far.