“Garden Yourself Back to Health”

“Garden Yourself Back to Health”

IMG_6206.jpgThe image of our body as a garden is one that originates in traditional medicine.

This phrase is a quote from a physicist by the name of Larry Smarr who spoke at last week’s annual conference of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM).   Science is slowly catching up to centuries-old concepts and people like Mr. Smarr are at the forefront of getting the word out, beginning with decades of tracking and de-coding his own microbiome health data.

The hope is that this sort of information-gathering will one day be a tool easily available to all of us so that we can make targeted pro-active choices about our wellness.

Imagine: instead of “weed-wacking” or clear-cutting our way out of illness, with this kind of data we all have the potential to be the master gardeners of our own health. Intentional self care with our own personalized data can help us strategically plan against the overgrowth of invasive species.  We are learning increasingly how much our gut microbiome has to do with our overall health.  It may be that our gut is in fact the forest floor.

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Alternative and traditional health care is based on creating and fostering a healthy and balanced “garden”.  Now these concepts are going mainstream.

Collaboration and True Health

It’s impossible to fully convey what an exceptional week this was with the AIHM in San Diego and Mr. Smarr’s presentation was only a drop in the bucket.  This was a gathering of roughly a thousand health care practitioners from 19 different professions and 23 different countries.  We were there to stand for a trend in healthcare that not enough people are talking about.  That I myself didn’t realize was in such full force.

Integration of “mainstream” Western medicine with alternative and traditional healing methods is happening on a global level. Did you know: that the World Health Organization (WHO) has, since 2014, been calling for member states (countries) to submit standards of care specifically to include alternative and traditional methods?  This is known as the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 . It’s the first I’d heard of it and it blew my mind just a little bit.

People are noticing at the institutional level that alternative and traditional methods of healthcare are indeed effective and in fact, corner an enormous part of the market with literally billions of dollars spent by patients out of pocket just in the US alone.  It makes good governing sense to embrace it and bring it to all people – not just the financial elite.

Walking the Talk

Politics aside, this conference served as the perfect primer for me to return to my own health again.  If you know me or some of my writing, you know that I am liberal with the concept of “beginning again”.  There is nothing more human than hopping on and off the proverbial wagon – whether your wagon is about reigning in addictive behavior or simply an ongoing quest at self improvement.  There is no shame nor failure in falling.  It just is.

Getting up and starting again is where it’s at.

Another speaker at this conference addressed that very same concept in a different way.  Not only is there no shame in it, the falling is where we do our growing and learning – literally. Research has shown that neuro-chemical brain changes associated with  meditation happen not from staying focused, but from practicing repeatedly the act of choosing to: re-focus, return to the task or get back on the “wagon”.  Just like strength training in the gym.  You need repetitions to get stronger and build muscle. Why wouldn’t then this concept of starting again and again hold true therapeutic benefits for us in all aspects of life?

Is Your Idea of Optimal Health Falling Short?

Each day of this retreat style conference, I noted to myself: “Oh, NOW I’m really relaxed.” And yet each day my senses were reminded of even greater relaxation potential that I forgot I was ever capable of.  Not unlike this progressive shift in perception of my actual relaxation level, I suspect the experience of our own health status might be similarly more skewed than we can know. It’s not until we find relief from a health crisis that we remember what it’s like to not be sick or in pain.

But how many of us strive to go farther than this?  Do we all think that “not sick” or “not in pain” is the best we can hope for?  Have we all forgotten what optimal health really feels like?  I suspect the answer is yes more often than not.  As a practitioner, I find myself unwilling to accept mediocrity on behalf of my patients.  Part of my role is to hold the space for and reflect to them their full potential health and yet apparently I let the awareness and memory of my own true optimal health slip away. How easily that happens and especially when my “out of balance” self is, in comparison to so many others, the epitome of well being.  d6

By the fifth day of my time away, with my eyes newly re-opened to true ease of mind and body (albeit temporary), I believe I started to glimpse something I hadn’t felt since I was a child; a sense of remembering deep well-being,  a cellular belief that everything is as it should be and will truly continue to be okay within my cells and every electromagnetic energetic connection outward.

It’s easy to get lost in our struggle to exist in the attempt to get through the minutia of our day-to-day. But let’s remember every so often to get back on the wagon, re-focus, rejuvenate in even the smallest of ways.  Every little bit really does count.

Tending our physical, emotional and spiritual gardens is the way to optimal wellness.  It’s not a straight path, it may require help from others and at times it may veer far off course.  Reach out. Reach within. Begin again and again and again.  Therein lies the cure.

 

Stay tuned in weeks to come for more musings and reports about my time with the AIHM crowd…


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Taking My Own “Medicine”

Taking My Own “Medicine”

Dobbins'_medicated_toilet_soap,_advertising,_1869When you’re a chiropractor, what does it mean to “take your own medicine” ?

“Walking my own talk” consists of more than just making sure I receive chiropractic care myself.  It’s about seeking balance in all areas of health.  With balance in sight, the need for professional treatment decreases.

My motivation is maybe a bit more intensely fueled than for most people because my body is my essential work tool.  If mechanical, biochemical or emotional balance is off, it directly affects the ability to fulfill my commitment to patients which in turn could potentially risk my livelihood.  This is an intense interdependence that I would never trade for anything but it can be more than stressful to be even just a little bit laid-up.

In last week’s post I alluded to a recently renewed return to health by restoring balance to my own life, after a year of pushing to get my book out, followed by the release and adventures in promotion.

Block Quote 4I cannot emphasize enough how much this pursuit of balance can differ from person to person.  I am taking a moment to briefly outline what this looked like for me at this particular juncture, to give you a very general idea of the factors to consider when thinking about your own balance in wellness.  In particular I want to illustrate some of the principles outlined in my book (Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain, Volume One – Put Out the Fire). Don’t wait until you’re in pain to find your true healthy balance. The everyday variety of pain is always a sign that something has fallen by the wayside in one of the three main categories (mechanical, biochemical or emotional) but things can be “off” long before pain strikes.

In my case, this time I needed first to focus on returning to a more regimented sleep/wake schedule.  I’ve learned that my body and mind operate optimally with 6,1/2 – 7 hours of sleep per night and this means I need to exercise a little discipline about getting to bed on time because I am not willing to get up late.  The morning hours are treasured time and important to my emotional well-being.  I’m very lucky to have good sleep hygiene and my body cooperates well when put to bed.  For times when that’s not the case (as everything ebbs and flows), I reach for homeopathic remedies, herbal teas or magnesium to calm the nervous system before bed.  A controversial trick that isn’t advisable for everyone but that works well for me, is to have a small bite to eat before bedtime as well.

Test tubes science backgroundRe-balancing my biochemistry is something that I dedicated the better part of two consecutive months to. Resetting my organ systems and aiding the natural detoxification, involved some herbal and food therapy.  I returned to eating simply by avoiding my known sensitivities: dairy, all animal protein, simple starches (sugar), nightshades and a few other specifics that I’ve come to recognize over the years as taxing to my system.  I’ve since then slowly returned to more variety based on what my appetite dictates.

Block Quote 2Some signs that will tell you about your sensitivities can be as subtle as an increase in heart rate within 1/2 hour of eating. Sometimes it’s just a little tickle in the back of the throat that passes quickly but is still a significant sign of intolerance.  Other times it can be a generalized increase in mucous production and that might be harder to spot.  The need to clear your throat or blow your nose in the morning might be signs of excess mucous production in response to a food trigger from the day before.  The point is that foods (sometimes very delicious food), not overtly considered as “allergenic” like peanuts, can still be considered by your body as a burden for your biochemistry.  So, it’s always important to pay attention to subtle reactions.

When I commit to helping my body unload excess waste, I also utilize dry sauna sweats, infrared if possible and pay extra attention to optimizing kidney and bowel function.  This makes a big difference in the associated discomfort of “detox”-related headaches and body aches that can happen when large amounts of waste are mobilized throughout the body for elimination.

My herbal and nutrient based regimen was also targeted, in part to facilitate elimination via the kidneys, liver and colon.  There are many different philosophies on which herbs are most appropriate and this is something that is best done with the advice of a natural health care doctor.  Focusing on aiding natural elimination is the best way to help decrease your body’s chemical burden from exposure to complex molecules in our air, food and water.

Balancing RocksFor me, restoring mechanical balance can’t happen without first adequate rest and attention to nutrition.  After re-setting sleep and nutrition I found my energy returning and started to increase activity based on that, but not until then.  If fuel or rest and recovery are lacking, then the exercise output ends up adding stress to the system instead of strengthening it.  This is why sleep and nutrient intake is first priority. It sets the stage for successful return to exercise.  Without this in place, workouts are pointless and counterproductive, potentially resulting in inflammation-causing stress.

Block Quote 3What my body and mind are willing and able to do changes with the seasons, years and stages in life.  This Spring, yoga was the doorway back to physical empowerment.  It helped me begin to feel able to return to swimming and weightlifting.  Now, my routine includes one yoga class per week and two other days of gym workouts which consist of a warm-up swim followed by an upper body or lower body weight resistance workout.  That’s three days a week of 1-2 hours of exercise. They are strategically spaced from my days with patients so that I am not too sore to be effective in the office, but also to avoid muscle fatigue related injuries.

There’s nothing rigorous about this current exercise schedule which is what makes it completely sustainable.  When starting a new routine, being consistent is more important than making a huge impact.  Come wintertime, it’s possible that my needs will change and I will change my exercise accordingly.  Perhaps in a future post I will take some time to address the how of tuning in to your own changing needs from season to season or depending on life and work situations.  It’s mostly a lifelong process of trial and error.

It can be tricky to walk the fine line between the intended exertion of exercise and inescapable demands of work life. But as you slowly increase physical activity, what always holds true is that you increase your body’s capacity for emotional, chemical and physical stress to keep from rebounding into exhausted inactivity.  It must be done in a loving way. Self-care routines are best implemented with gentle caring instead of harsh reprimands.  If you’re someone who thrives on hard line tactics for motivation – find a trainer or someone outside of yourself to play that role.

Even though it’s not an easy daily practice for many, being loving and yes even permissive with yourself makes room for healthy choices.  Remember real health can and does exist in imperfect bodies everywhere.  It’s about balance, not perfection.

Block Quote 1Lastly, you should know that it takes at least two full months – often three months – of consistent activity in order to surpass the “transition reaction” of new exercise.  When introducing a change in routine or physical demands, the brain and body will express themselves by exhibiting physical sensations that aren’t always 100% comfortable.

Sometimes the transition to a better balance in life includes re-visiting old pain that might feel like re-injury as we work to strengthen around these old vulnerabilities.  This is why it’s important to line up some outside help during these transitions either via massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic.  It’s the time when I see the greatest need for support in my patients.

Food for thought while you consider your own healthy balancing act: When we act in reaction or opposition to an idea or a feeling, we set the stage for inevitable failure. When we act out of caring and acceptance for the imperfection that is, we make good and sustainable choices.


Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Fotolia

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A Return to Writing (Health)

A Return to Writing (Health)

IMG_3980What an encouraging 3-4 month-long “trip” this has been since the release of my first book Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain Volume One – Put Out the Fire.  You may have heard that it’s now available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, at the book website StopEverydayPain.com and for bookstores and libraries through the major distributor Ingram.

That first volume lays the important groundwork behind the reasons and causes for our everyday aches and pains. Now it’s getting to be time that I start piecing together the much anticipated Volume Two – Fix the Fire Damage.  This next book will continue striving to mirror the ideal experience of a typical patient under my care.  The next step after gaining an understanding of the pain is to repair and rehabilitate.  Everyone’s path looks a little different based on their individual situations but there are some common principles that apply to all of us, based on what is revealed in Volume One.

I’m excited to share those insights with more people now that I see and hear how helpful this first book has been.  There are more photos to organize and action steps to share with readers.  Another exciting feature to this next volume will be interview material that I am preparing to gather from outstanding complementary healthcare professionals.

To truly reflect the multi-pronged approach to everyday pain that I advocate for in my practice, there is just no way that I could consider moving forward with this project without reflecting the voices of a larger healthcare community.  Stay tuned for how that unfolds through some fun video sneak-peeks of my progress with willing participants!

There is also a wealth of experience and perspective that I gained while doing a short publicity tour of podcasts and radio shows over the past several months.  I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts about those in this blog feed throughout the next year or so.  The many gracious hosts who took an interest in myself and my project inspired me to elaborate further on some book matter and I’ll be addressing some of that here as well as in my next two volumes.

I am discovering how much I love wearing these new hats: Indie Publisher and Indie Author.  Creatively speaking, it’s extremely rewarding to me and I never shy away from the challenge of hard work – which it has definitely been. IMG_4113A steep learning curve but, much like what classroom teaching offered me years ago,  this process provides invaluable perspective to my one-on-one time with patients and vice versa.

The whirlwind of the past year took its toll on my self-care as can be expected.  But now I’ve had my turn at returning to my own health by applying some of the principles in my book – restoring my physical, chemical and emotional balance – I live fervently by the conviction to “begin again” without judgement or guilt any time I stray from healthy routine.  Ups and downs are such a part of life.  I embrace it all and I hope you will too.

I’m ready now, to buckle down with the creation process again and return to writing.  Thankfully this stage won’t take 5 years like the first book did.  My publishing team is firmly in place and the book production path has been forged.  It’ll be easier to find again during the next round.

Onward.

Book Pick of the Week: Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain

Book Pick of the Week: Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain

Such an honor! Feeling humbled.

Gotta Love It

Pain

None of us can escape getting older, but we certainly can minimize or even eliminate many of the aches and pains we experience, simply by learning how to understand and work with our bodies.

Dr. Y-Ling J. Liou, D.C. offers a user-friendly guide to getting rid of the hurt in her just released book, “Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain.”https://www.facebook.com/everydaypainguide/

How you move throughout your day greatly impacts the amount of pain you experience, and Dr. Liou does an excellent job of explaining the relationship between inflammation and pain, with plenty of practical suggestions (illustrated) to take the reader to a new normal of less “ouch” and more “aah”.

Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain – Gotta Love It!

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Are Your Fitness Goals Really Working For You?

Patricia Flavel (AUS) finish line Athletics 2000 Sydney PGBeach body. Spring makeover. Baby fitness machine. Squeeze into that wedding outfit.

I hear it all.  And good for you for resolving to get fit.  We’re all motivated by different things.  I think whatever gets you motivated is great….as long as you realize that this kind of goal-setting is completely unsustainable for the long term.

Short term thinking is not going to do it.  Long term thinking on the other hand will more likely lead to completely sustainable health and wellness. But are you able to do this?  What would it take?

Shooting for long term goals and big picture planning requires quite a bit of letting go.  We have to forget about our preoccupation for radical change, dramatic improvement and sensational headlines.  We have to welcome our own imperfection while allowing ourselves to believe we deserve the best.  But we’d better not  be afraid of some hard work and loving self discipline along the way to achieving our best.

Consistency is key.  Joy is also key.

If you workout and eat as a form of punishment for all your bad past behavior or your current health condition which you disapprove of and have been made to feel ashamed of, then you might as well just be sitting on a couch and spooning pure unrefined sugar into your mouth because if you’re not happy, there’s no point to the supposed “good behavior” you’re anxiously forcing yourself to engage in.

If you take a wide angle lens to your life using a long term mindset, then your occasional (supposed) transgressions day to day don’t really mean that much in the grand scheme of things.  The more you lighten up on yourself for slip ups or deviations from “perfect”, the more room you leave for joyful healthy choices. This doesn’t mean you suddenly become overly permissive with your poor choices, but with the big picture in mind, you realize that there are many more chances ahead of you to choose good health habits to make up for the extra beer you had last night or the extra slice of pizza you had last week.  There’s much less self flagellation necessary because these instances are now only minute drops in the bucket.  This new-found freedom from self judgment will allow you to spend less time feeling guilty and “bad” and much more energy can be spent towards the long term goal of happy longevity.

What’s my workout program? It includes dog walking, yoga, swimming, resistance training  3-4 days a week.  Frequency, intensity and type of exercise depends on the amount of sleep I’ve had, the type of nutrients and the timing of my meals and my work schedule.  I happen to feel the most sore two days after my workouts, so  I coordinate my exercise sessions accordingly because my work as a chiropractor is physical and if I’m not careful, the quality of my work will suffer if I’m too sore or tired from exercise. Sometimes I don’t get the six and a half to seven hours of sleep that is optimal for me and so I will choose to go to yoga instead of working out at the gym because that can be more restorative.  Or I may decide to sleep an extra hour and skip the exercise that day, knowing that I’ll get to it the next time. Once in a while my sinuses get tired of the exposure to chlorine so I decide to skip swimming and use the elliptical trainer for my workout warm up instead.

During exercise, I’m not terribly invested in pushing into high intensity intervals unless I feel a burst of energy during a workout because perhaps I happen to find myself in “the zone” and / or because I’m well rested and I’ve had all the right nutrients in the 24 hours preceding my workout.  If it happens – wonderful.  If not I’ll listen to my body for that again next time.  I’ve got my whole life to interval train. I make sure to do something three to four days a week but primarily I listen to my body as well as the week’s demands personally and professionally in order to decide what combination of things I will do for exercise.

I give you these details just as an example of the thought process that goes into the week’s exercise plan.  For now it’s what I’ve decided works best for me.  I’m sure it’ll change as the seasons change and years go by and that will be okay.

Abends_am_MeerWhat works for you will have to be based on your own individual needs for joy, rest, fuel and life circumstance day to day.  If aging well is what sounds good to you, give yourself permission to explore this sort of big picture planning for a long, moderate and comfortable life.  Stop punishing yourself for not meeting other people’s standards.   Start tuning into what standards are best for you and learn to pace yourself for long lived success.

Remembering to stop and appreciate the health you do have at this very moment, can help to let go of all the pressure-filled ideas of where you think your health should be and how you think you should look.

I know it’s not easy but you’re not alone in the struggle of striving for the ever elusive life and health balance in an unbalanced world.


Photo Credit: Australian Paralympic Committee [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: “Abends am Meer” by Joe Sarembe from Pfungstadt, Germany – Abends am Meer. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abends_am_Meer.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Abends_am_Meer.jpg