Food for Thought:

It's no coincidence that four of the six letters in health are "heal". ~ Ed Northstrum

A Travel First!

So I know I don't always post about health related things (yes, it's a bit of a hodgepodge, variety is the spice of my life! Winking) but that is very good news because my health is no longer ALL I think about! You can imagine how thrilled I am to be able to move forward in my life on to other things...

Health is still the biggest moderator of every day for me. I just spent the past 31 days traveling around the country, 3 trips for work and 1 for vacation, to Colorado, Vermont, Boston, and Florida. Last year I did "only" 3 trips in this time period and I had a cold for four weeks straight! :/ So my ONLY goal this winter was to Not.Get.Sick. How'd I do? I am home as of this weekend, and remained well for the duration, hurray! For me, this is a huge accomplishment, and certainly the most I've ever traveled to different places. I run programs for work that are so rewarding, but entail very long days and often reduced sleep, so very different than just a business trip.

I find that the strategy of setting a low bar goal and keeping it really simple (i.e. 1 goal: DO NOT GET SICK) really works for me.

I don't normally get colds (always thought it had something to do with the immunosuppressant I'm on for Crohn's) but with all that stress and plane time it was tough to avoid last time.

Traveling has always been complicated in my world - I have long emulated a Cathy cartoon when it comes to pre-trip packing frenzys. All-nighters are a given (because I have to try everything on... Happy), and delirium doesn't help! My family and friends know all about this unfortunately and have suffered through many an episode traveling with me. Since traveling the past 6 years for work, I have gotten much better with streamlining my packing, both packing less and taking less time. It still takes me all night/day, but I am carting around less so that is progress.

The time consuming part is sorting all my daily supplements/meds and packing all my powders and potions. With 4 back to back trips in one month, this was especially challenging this time.

I had just a couple strategies to survive this beast of a winter: eat foods that I knew would agree with me, move as much as I could, and stay hydrated. I now know the simple foods I do well with and are easy to find on the road, so I stocked up on those when I got to each of the 4 destinations- for breakfast, Kind Vanilla Blueberry granola, Greek yogurt, and ripe bananas. For snacks, Vega sport protein bars, Mary's gone crackers, cheese. I try to also eat very safe on the road, as boring as that is, so turkey, spinach, cheese GF or paleo sandwich/wrap, guacamole and chips, bunless burgers, Kombucha. Protein. I also drank very little alcohol and just chugged water, Ultima electrolytes, and coconut water every chance I got.

I am very happy to see that the effort I've been putting into working out pre-travels definitely contributed to me staying healthier this time around. It is usually very hard to find time to exercise during these work trips, but I managed to do more over this month than I did last time, a couple hikes in the snow, a visit to the gym, and I made a big effort to just get as much sleep as I could. Still not enough, but more than last time!

The other thing I was able to do because of the scheduling this time was have a week of mostly vacation to Vermont in-between trips, so while I was still traveling, I had some down time and cut down on more plane trips by staying up north until my next program, and I know that really made a difference. Quality time with dear loved ones was so helpful as well- hugs decrease our cortisol and strengthen our immune system Happy I was also lucky to take a day off at the end of my final program last Friday to enjoy the ocean!

I did still experience several migraines, and most were due to frequent altitude changes, which was unavoidable. I supplemented with oxygen this time in CO which helped my head a great deal on the days I was able to do it. I also had a couple stomach upsets, after Indian food (something I can normally east most times but was probably a little risky on the road) and Mexican (which also is normally OK but given other stress factors, not this time). Overall I probably interacted with, hugged or shook hands with over 200 people directly, and I am very proud that I came home healthy!

Then there is the aftermath of a stint such as this... sigh. The overflowing inbox, voicemails, and to dos piled up while away, and the new work generated from these programs to now complete.

I need to work my post-travel game just as hard as I did my travel plan so that I STAY well- the time returning home from a trip is the best time to implement and do new things, as our day-to-day routines are disrupted, so I am capitalizing on that. I spent the weekend unpacking, cleaning, and some relaxing time with good people and the earth. Will continue to bite chunks off each day of progress in this next beautiful month of March!


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Peaceful hike at Seven Falls in CO, and packing pretty light for 2 weeks up north!

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Lap full of love with these sweet girls, and heavenly sunrise in Amelia Island, FL

healing tea.

I struggled with some elevated liver enzymes this winter, and went through a battery of tests and procedures to figure out what was going on. I do have fatty liver, which can be from years of IBD (and thankfully is reversible), and discovered I have a benign cyst on my liver as well, but all else was clear. The elevated ALT and AST were concerning, so I set about troubleshooting. I take Tylenol only occasionally for my migraines, and drink alcohol very infrequently.

I was drinking some herbal teas by Pukka, particularly one called Cleanse that I loved and felt helped my gut and head every afternoon. I stopped that, as well as most all of my supplements to see if it could be the combination of things that might be doing it (I was also taking oregano oil a lot during the winter due to lots of travel and colds). My levels were down after six weeks, and six to eight more after that things were back to normal- hurray!

During that time I had been exercising regularly several times a week and had lost about 5 or so pounds, and I started drinking Organic Turmeric Ginger Green Tea by Republic of Tea daily. I really believe this tea helped my liver! I love supporting my body with turmeric (curcumin), which is one of the best things you can do to reduce inflammation in the body, and proven to help with so many other things as well: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/04/curcumin-turmeric-benefits.aspx I am looking into the source of the tea I drink as well as the tea bags which I drink mostly for convenience in the morning, as both of these things are important in a clean tea routine. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/03/green-tea-benefits.aspx

The tea's ingredient list is super simple, and didn't contain a bunch of herbs that I had to worry about potentially elevating liver levels. The ginger is great for my digestion, and the cinnamon and honey are wonderful healthy additions. I can't say enough good things about this tea! It is so affirming to find something that works, (not to mention tastes good) since I need all the help I can get! Happy


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probiotics, gut health, and the immune system.

Check out this research on probiotics helping to improve behavioral symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases- some excerpts:

"Probiotics are essential in improving digestion and immune function. They are fundamental in supporting proper microbial balance and optimizing gut health. Previous research has demonstrated that probiotics can have beneficial effects on mood and cognition. I recently shared a human study four months ago, published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, where researchers found that multispecies probiotics had a positive effect on mood after four weeks of supplementation. There is definitely a gut-brain relationship between nutrition and the gut microbiome and their support of brain health and function. The gut and brain communicate through the nervous system, immune system, and hormones, while the microbiome can also release neurotransmitters."

"According to a new study just published last week in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers demonstrated that probiotics may improve the behavioral symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases by altering the communication between the immune system and the brain."


I've taken a variety of high quality probiotics for years, and am currently taking Dr. Ohhira's Propolis Plus, which is terrific for travel as a shelf stable capsule, and also Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete Powder when I'm home, which is refrigerated. I recommend them both highly- I cannot go a day without my probiotics!

Aspertame and Mexican Coke.

When I took over managing a cafe in Austin, TX, I had to take a 40 hour food manager course. The main thing I learned from the instructor in that course was something out of the scope of the material, no doubt, but had a profound impact and has stuck with me ever since. He said that studies/autopsies have shown that our bodies don't know what to do with aspartame as a foreign substance, and so it just collects as a white film on our brains! Um, that was enough for me to stop drinking it back then, and now there is even more research being done to correlate it with serious health problems: http://now.uiowa.edu/2014/03/ui-study-finds-diet-drinks-associated-heart-trouble-older-women and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8939194

This link does mention some of that brain interaction that I had heard about all these years ago, around 2002: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx It is scary to really dig into this and see that it could be a huge cover up involving the FDA, huge sums of money, and Monsanto early on, the GMO food giant. The "60 Minutes" television program (15 minute segment, really worth watching) in December of 1996 pointed out that the alarming rise in brain tumors in the United States was in direct proportion to the rise in the use of Aspartame in the United States since Aspartame was allowed to be introduced into foods and beverages by the FDA around 1981. Check out this crazy thread on FDA's website: http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/03/Jan03/012203/02P-0317_emc-000202.txt

It is well documented that when the temperature of Aspartame exceeds 86 degrees F, it coverts to formaldehyde, which is toxic to us in many ways and known to be a human carcinogen. I personally became allergic to formaldehyde when exposed to heavy Ecolab chemicals at the cafe I was managing, and have had a whole host of skin issues because of that. I had to completely remove formaldehyde releasing chemicals from the daily personal products I used, and it was in many things (but this is fodder for a separate post).

The bottom line is it is worth reading into and making up your own mind based on what evidence is out there. I sometimes feel helpless about things like this, knowing best way to make an impact (and knowing people who still consume Aspertame and not wanting to impede on their choices), but then I remember that it only took this one person mentioning this to me for me to have awareness and change the way I lived.

When I need a soda fix, I go for a Mexican Coke, which, besides being trendy and cool, is sweetened with cane sugar instead of corn syrup or Aspartame. And there's something so satisfying about those glass bottles!

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stats.

So this was my original idea for the site, to track my well-being and how I'm feeling, what and how I'm eating, sleeping, moving, etc. and see what is what. I've started this many times over the years, in many various journals and notebooks and have never been able to get a consistent rhythm going, because usually life gets busy and overwhelming, especially where my health has been concerned. I have the data and eventually want to track it over time to see what trends I notice and continue to puzzle out my complex health state, which can feel like multiple mystery novels at times! I am my very own Chief Health Investigator and I have the power to deduce, learn and evolve.

I'm keeping this entry here for now as a reminder, as I may want to come back to it at some point. I've been keeping a calendar for a couple years now, tracking migraines, gut health, and other things I've added or changed regarding my health. Always searching for the best way to track these things and haven't found a solution that works for me yet. Will keep working on it!