Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Better Health

Several years ago one of my former landlords who had recently turned 30 was ruminating about how when one approaches that age in life they start noticing all sorts of aches & pains which weren't there before and weight gain starts creeping in. Having passed that age milestone myself more recently I have to say that he wasn't lying. My pants have been getting tighter again, my digestion has been getting a little problematic and I am a bit more achey. Whether this was due to age or simply the fact that I've been more sedentary than usual this winter is a moot point. It was still enough to make me reevaluate my lifestyle and amp up my activity level.

Having started taking probiotics and probiotic foods such as kefir and upping my intake of yogurt, it is a small lifestyle change which has netted good results. One interesting thing I've read about probiotics such as the cultures in these foods is that they are microscopic competitive excluders and they help to keep the beneficial flora/bacterial cultures balanced in the intestinal tract to enhance digestion as well as keeping yeast-overgrowth in check. Somewhat random side fact: when I worked as a LNA, one of the facilities I was working at used to give patients generous portions of yogurt while they were on strong antibiotics which tended to kill off their digestive flora and cause nasty, yeasty rashes all over as well as diarrhea and in many cases an accompanying clostridium difficile infection. Without getting into further blunt descriptives I'll tell you that the yogurt worked for most folks 90% of the time.

Another habit I've adopted is reducing my intake of coffee and drinking LOTS of tea. I use a 5-gallon soup pot to brew large batches of home-made iced tea, usually consisting of around a 50:50 - 70:30 mix of green tea:black/herbal/oolong tea, sometimes with bergamot & fresh mint thrown in because I have an insane amount of it growing along the stream running by my home. I usually cut it with about a third fruit juice to improve the flavor.

Winters often take a lot out of me and I tend to get really low & depressed during this season. Many folks have told me that I likely suffer from 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' and they may be right. On the good advice of a friend I started taking a vitamin D3 supplement during the winter months and what an incredible difference that has made! I still get a bit low once in a while but it is far less dramatic than in past winters and I am usually able to snap out of it pretty quickly with a short hike or excursion in the woods.

Speaking of which, lately I've also been forcing myself to get out and do more things outdoors. My friend Mark G. and I have been going out on lots of snowshoeing & cross-country skiing excursions in the hills and mountains in my area. Both activities are a great full-body workout and the natural world around here has been stunningly picturesque with fresh-fallen snow covering the trees, which sort of gives the sense that mother nature is napping until springtime, occasionally opening one eye to see what is going on but promptly falling asleep again. When Mark isn't around to go out on one of our crazy hikes I fall back into my usual habit of going out with Pepper & looking for sets of snowshoe or X-C ski tracks to see if the maker of them knows any good trails or sights which we've not yet been made aware of. This is how I have found some of my best hiking trails.

Another trick I've used to stay in better shape this year: when harvesting firewood last Spring I intentionally left half of the log chunks unsplit to ensure that I would stay physically active via the lugging & chopping in wintertime. Have you ever heard that old colloquialism stating that ,"Wood heats you twice, keeps you warm when you are chopping it and again when you feed it to the stove."? It's not bullshit.

With these lifestyle changes I feel considerably better than I did months ago, am in better shape than I was all of last year and the digestion issues went away. Despite numerous friends and coworkers being taken out for days at a time with various contagious illnesses over the last few months I've only gotten the sniffles a couple times. It would also seem that my lactose-intolerance has almost completely disappeared, ostensibly due to the cultures in the kefir and yogurt staying resident in my system. I'm more alert, energetic, less caffeine-dependent and my pants fit normally again. Big blessings are lovely but the small ones are what currently puts spice in my life and keeps me in good spirits.

1 comment:

Sazji said...

Kefir is great; like buttermilk but better! If you like kimchi, it's another great probiotic source. I make it through the winter when Chinese cabbage is available here.