Asthma: No breath of fresh air
Coughing. Wheezing. Tight chest. Shortness of breath. These are the common symptoms of the air restriction condition called asthma. When the bronchial tubes become inflamed, the airway tightens and can fill with mucus. People experience different symptoms at different times and can go a long period without “attacks”. Some people only have asthma during exercise, others only when they have a cold, and others when their allergies are heightened. Triggers can include dust mites, cigarette smoke, molds, pollen, animal dander, and pollen. Asthma is common in people who have low levels of vitamins C, E, and omega 3 fatty acids. Extreme emotional states can also bring upon asthma.
Asthma attacks vary in severity. During a mild attack, the airway will open up and alleviate normally within a few minutes or up to an hour. A serious attack may require immediate emergency medical attention. An attack becomes especially dangerous when the lips start to turn blue and speech is difficult. Prevention of an attack is key as one starts to learn their body’s warning signs. Early warning signs include feeling short of breath, losing your breath quickly, coughing bouts (usually at night), mood changes, feeling more tired than normal, allergy symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing, or when a peak flow meter reads low lung function (less than 50%).
Asthma affects up to 12% of children which makes it the leading chronic illness for young people. This number seems to be on the rise (the causes are unknown).
There are treatments for short and long-term relief. Most people with asthma can use an inhaler which serves as an anti-inflammatory. This is a type of steroid to reduce swelling and the build-up of mucus. Bronchodilators can help relax the muscles around the airway. Most people take these in the inhaler right before exercise. This can help reduce the likelihood of exercise-induced asthma. However, this is not to be used daily. Some people have difficulty using inhalers, such as children. For these people an asthma nebulizer can be used. This is a machine with a mouthpiece or that has a mask which can help the medicine be better inhaled.
The exact cause of asthma is unknown. The exact cure for asthma is also unknown. Learning what triggers an attack can be a learning process for someone. However, asthma should not deter someone from being physically active. Exercise indoors if air quality is poor. Always bring your inhaler. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Uncontrolled crying can impede breathing. Be sure to stop activity when you feel short of breath abnormally (not just from increasing your heart rate). Ask your doctor to help test you to discover what sets off your airways obstruction. When it comes to your health, inhale positivity and exhale negativity. Don’t let any obstruction get in the way of your progress.
Pickles are a food that people either love or hate. Some can eat them straight out of the jar. We hear about pregnant women craving them. Besides their high sodium content, there are actually health benefits to eating these cucumbers.
Pickles contain antioxidants, the same type that are found in many fruits and vegetables. These help us fight free radicals, which are chemicals found in the body that are linked to both heart disease and cancer. In fact, pickling raw foods can help preserve their antioxidant power. Pickle juice has been used to aid muscle cramps. Studies have shown that 1/3 cup of pickle juice works better for muscle cramp relief than the same amount of water. The vinegar in pickles helps stop nerve signals that form muscle cramps. Pickle juice has also been used to help treat restless leg syndrome. Pickle juice has been shown to help reduce the twitching and jerks, and of course cramping.
This same vinegar in pickles also helps with digestion. Vinegar slows the growth of bacteria and when fermented foods such as pickles are left immersed long enough, they grow probiotic bacteria. Because pickles contain probiotics, they can also ward off yeast infections. Pickles promote the good bacteria for our gut. Because of this trait, pickles may help prevent spleen cancer. Pickles have also been linked to lowering blood sugar. Studies have shown that persons who consumed white bread, but consumed vinegar as well (such as pickles), experienced less blood sugar spikes. Pickles also contain Vitamin K. We need this vitamin to help prevent blood clotting and to help with wound healing. One cup of pickles contains the 1/3 the amount of daily recommended Vitamin K for women and 1/5 for men. Pickles are also high in Vitamin A. This helps the cells grow properly. One cup of pickles contains 10% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin A for women and about 7% for men. This Vitamin A is also good for our vision. For those pregnant women that crave pickles, this is because they help ease the symptoms of nausea.
The truth is that eating more than a cup per day of pickles is not recommended because of their high sodium content. They’re diet friendly because they only have about 7 to 10 calories per slice, however, the sodium can negate this once vegetable (cucumber). There are about 300 grams of sodium in the typical pickles slice, which is about 14% of the daily recommended intake. Some brands do carry lowered sodium options for those paying attention. Pickles are full of flavor, crunchy, and a great addition to so many dishes. The benefits are there, but like most foods we enjoy, there is always a catch to maintain portion control.
Sugar. So good but so wrong. The past 30 years we have seen the obesity rate rise to 600 million people here in America and 347 million people with diabetes. Wow. A really great documentary on Netflix called, “Sugar Coated” (2015), disclosed sugar’s evils and exposed the food and health industry’s role to have us eat it.
Dr. Robert Lustig is a big advocate for sugar change, and as a result may not be so popular among his medical colleagues. The problem is that one cannot definitively say that is sugar that is causing obesity or all the diseases. The evidence is ambiguous. Lusting is up front and blunt about the subject. Sugar makes people happy so to talk poorly of it can upset some, especially those who love it. Sugar means affection to some and it’s given to kids. Imagine a 1-year old’s birthday party with no cake. So when Dr. Lusting says sugar is toxic, which he does in his book, Fat Chance, not everyone wants to agree. He goes so far as to say children should be “carded” for Coke, meaning mom and dad have to buy it if they want it.
But sugar consumption has increased by 46% in the last 30 years, so someone has to say something. What does this mean?? It’s the food we are eating now. Food is making us sick. 74% of packaged foods have added sugar. There are 56 different names for sugar so it’s easy to hide this in the ingredients on the nutrition panel. Some of those are agave, malt, and cane. They said everything in moderation is okay. Well if the guidelines say 6-9 teaspoons and the average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons per day, obviously sugar is being consumed in excess. This causes the liver and pancreas to work extra hard. Sugar is composed of glucose and fructose. The body metabolizes glucose all over, but only the liver and pancreas can process fructose, which is what people are having in excess. The liver and pancreas are so overwhelmed that they convert the extra to fat.
The 1960s introduced the concept of dieting. Women soon fell in love with Diet Coke. The sugar was replaced with chemicals so one advertisement went so far as to say that a Diet Coke has as much sugar as eating half a grapefruit. The argument is that it’s all about calories in versus calories out, regardless of what you are eating.
Sugar is a cheap ingredient and it takes good. Once you have it, your palate craves more. It’s a conflict of interest for sure. The food and health industries make money when waistlines are on the rise. Food has lost its true purpose of nourishment. On your fitness journey, sugar is a “sometimes” food, but again know yourself and what you can tolerate to keep sustainable lifestyle choices. Moments of sugar weakness can come and go so keep those goals a priority when it comes to what you put in your mouth.
Sugar Coated (2015) by Michele Hozer
It is practically normal to see people everywhere wearing headphones. Ear buds, ear phones, headphones, Bluetooth devices…. everyone is plugged in. The devices include lap tops, cell phones, computers, MP3 players, video game devices, tablets, and so on. When plugged in, you hear what you want to hear more clearly because the sound is traveling directly to you. You hear every little lyric of the song or conversation. The sound is traveling directly to the eardrums without being distorted. However, the chronic use of these devices can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. This loss occurs gradually and often goes unnoticed until certain signs arise of hearing loss. According to the American Medical Association (2011), the use of headphones and earphones had led to a major increase in the prevalence of hearing loss.
The key to noise induced hearing loss is the volume played. Sound is being produced very close to the ear. This causes the eardrums to vibrate. The vibration travels to the inner ear and reaches the cochlea. The cochlea is fluid filled and contains thousands of small hairs. The vibration from the sound causes the hairs to vibrate and move. The louder the sound, the more affected the hairs become. Over time, the hairs lose their sensitivity to the constant vibration. Very loud noises cause the hair cells to actually bend over and fold over. This can lead to temporary hearing loss. The cells take a very long time to recover. Sometimes the cells never recover. Headphones don’t have to be played very loud for this damage to occur. To the ears, playing music loudly can be equivalent to standing next to a loud motorcycle starting up or standing next to a power tool being used. iPod earbuds at 100% volume on an iPhone can reach noise levels of 112dB, leading to hearing damage in minutes. Earbuds should not be played louder than at 60% (80 db). This is of course liability the user takes upon themselves.
Turning down the volume is the best way to reduce hearing damage. You can also purchase noise canceling headphones to drown out other sounds. These block out external sounds so that the volume doesn’t need to be so loud on your device. Limiting your headphone use is also another consideration. It is recommended not to listen to music higher than 60% of maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes. Headphones that go over the ear versus earbuds that are inserted into the ear are less damaging. We appreciate music, Netflix, gaming, and the ease of communication today being plugged in. The old phrase of all in moderation applies to our listening as well. Louder won’t make the music better, so let your ears enjoy the sound in a non-damaging way. Your hearing will thank you in the future.
On our fitness journeys, we train our bodies, but we also need to train our minds. Inner awareness, focusing, redirecting your thoughts, and developing concentration, are all benefits of meditation. Other positive associations include improved mood, sleep improvement, more self-discipline, and less symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Emotional health is also boosted by the reduction of depression and anxiety. Others say it has bettered their memory and attention span. The list goes on to include decreasing blood pressure, pain reduction, and helps fight addictions.
But to be honest, meditation stressed me out more. Sitting in stillness actually increases my anxiety. As a Women’s Health Magazine Action Hero, I read the magazine from front to back each issue that comes out. And well, I really related to Jenny Everett’s article in the July/August 2018 edition, called “Micro Meditations”. Now this, I can handle. Multitasking meditation is right up my ally.
The alarm clock in the morning isn’t exactly a gentle start to the day. But staying in bed for 2 minutes to take a few deep breaths, listen to the birds, and stretching out the body, is a much better way to ease out of bed. An abrupt jumping out of bed to rush the getting ready process doesn’t set the best tone for the day.
Smell the coffee, and stop burning your mouth trying to get it in. Stop adding sugar and taste the java.
A shower has many scents, sounds, and temperatures. Feel it. Feel the fresh water. Don’t just hop in and hop out.
The make-up routine for women or shaving process for men can be good for focusing the mind for the day. It actually makes you feel good about yourself before getting to work to meet deadlines and hustle.
Even when taking the stairs (which you should), think about each step. A lot of muscles are working in that body to produce movement.
When someone compliments you, be grateful and think about it for a few moments after. Smile that someone said these words to you.
When driving, turn the music off. There’s a lot of noise to the rest of your day. Let the mind focus and be in the present. Listen to sounds of the car and to the road.
When you say thank you, mean it. Explain why you are grateful to the person. So often we say it but don’t mean it. Appreciation and acknowledging someone else’s effort or kindness goes a long way.
Instead of being frustrated while on hold on the phone (because we love the world of automated phone directories), be happy you have some time to just get this task done. Maybe slowing down for a moment is okay.
When on a run or walk, maybe no music, no phone, just you. Be in the zone of that run. Let the body and mind feel good and release those positive endorphins.
And when eating, just eat. No distractions. Take bites, don’t inhale. Smell and taste that food in front of you. Mindful eating helps with portion control and even weight loss.
Finally, when it’s time for bed, scan the body from head to toe. Breathe in and breathe out to just breath. Aches and pains subside when you just sink the body into the bed. Clear and declutter the day.
So these are what I’ve started to do. I think they’re very helpful tips to include on your fitness journey. A little meditation here and a little meditation there feels pretty darn good. Your mind and BODY will appreciate thank you.