Taking My Vitamins

It started with my neck pain. Which led to an MRI, which led to being told I have degenerative disc disease and arthritis because I’m an old, young woman. The MRI also led to a physical and additional blood work at my GP, which led to a referral to a specialist. A specialist called a hematologist, also known as an oncologist.

No one wants to go to an oncologist, but the office I went to was nice – the people, the setting – and I kept reminding myself I was there because he’s a BLOOD doctor, not a CANCER doctor. More blood draws, more tests.

Along the way, I felt a little weak, tired if I worked out, tired if I didn’t work out (both of which I blamed on the activity or lack of it) and was regularly turned away from donating blood for low hemoglobin, the last attempt showing the lowest levels I’ve ever had.

Then finally last week, a nice call from the nice PA I was set to meet with that afternoon to tell me he could save me an hour and a copay because all the blood work showed was that my iron was low, which is what the guess was at each step along the way and that I needed to take a supplement, probably stop donating blood to build back up my iron, hemoglobin and red blood cells and come back in six months to retest my levels. Thank him on many levels.

I also learned that iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, and in discussing my 90% vegetarian diet with my doctors, they believed that had something to do with it and said eventually that diet might give me anemia (the whole time it’s just been that my iron is low but not anemic levels at this point), but if it was my preference, there really is nothing wrong with keeping it up and just supplementing my diet.

He told me to take the iron supplement with food to avoid an upset stomach, but not dairy and with a chewable Vitamin C, which helps the absorption, but not with Calcium, which blocks the absorption. And thus began my cannonball into the world of supplements. I researched the what, the when and finally ended up with this schedule:

In the morning I now take a Vit D + Calcium, the two are paired in one pill because Calcium helps the absorption of the D, and I take a B-Multi. Both help with energy, so that’s why I take them in the morning.

At lunch, I take my iron tablet and a chewable C.

After dinner/before bed, I take my multi because in the past this one has made me nauseous, so I figure taking it before bed allows me to sleep through it, and I take my flaxseed oil so my multi is not lonely (obviously).

And I keep them all in my AARP-approved daily pill organizer. See? OLD, young woman. And actually each day is too small for all six, so I started leaving Sunday empty to put a few Cs in there.

Now that the vitamins I’ve taken off and on for a while have a purpose and a schedule, for some reason it’s easier to take them. So far I haven’t had any adverse effects from the iron pills (you know the ones…these supplements don’t have the best rep) and I hope that it starts to work so my energy levels go up and my blood starts pumping through my running legs again so they don’t feel so dead and slow!

A Busy (Healthy!) May

Oh hey. Guess who hasn’t been working out? Me! I’m not actually excited about that and I’m not sure why it required an exclamation point.

I was totally all, I got my mojo on, but then life got in the way. I went to Las Vegas, which was awesome, and I have not one bit of guilt for the delicious food I ate, alcohol I drank or time spent by the pool, at the tables and on the massage table.

I got back on Sunday and on Monday, things got busy. My company is ramping up for our big national conference in early June and some responsibilities in my personal life are shifting too.

Each day in May is planned just about morning to night and, while the days themselves are not CRA-zy, the sum of the parts is intimidating to me.

So, how did I celebrate on May Day? Cookies for breakfast, Cheetos (with a sammie) for lunch, attempting to get back to the gym, but forgetting pants and DQ after dinner (it was delicious). Eek.

I know it’s totally mental at this point and that I’m tougher than this, but I am slipping a bit. It doesn’t help that I emptied my fridge out before Vegas and haven’t had the time to restock with good stuff.

Having good options to grab for snacks as well as easily reheatable lunches and dinners is the best way for me to mindlessly eat well (because it’s so easy to mindlessly eat like crap). It’s as simple as that! I know I’ll feel better if I’m not crashing from sugar and caffeine highs and my early mornings and late nights won’t hit me so hard.

Part of my May planning was pre-scheduled workouts on 29 of the 31 days. Granted, I only skipped the first two days (and that’s important to remember that you can always bring it back on track…one bad day does not equal total ruin), so it’s still possible to fit them all in, but in those two days I’ve realized I need to adopt a something is better than nothing workout mentality – just for the month – then I can get back to my live to sweat mentality.

Instead of a hard and fast training plan, I’m taking on Caitlin’s workout guide she came up with during her pregnancy. (NO, I’m totes not pregnant, I’m going to leave that up to EVERYONE else in the blog world and a lot of women in my real life.)

My goal is to work out five days a week whenever it fits in, doing at least one run, one swim and one yoga class each week. You know, to keep me sane. I finally got back in the pool last night and it felt great!

Anyway, I had a roommate in college and ALL she EVER talked about was how BUSY she was and how TIRED she was and you know what? It was obnoxious. I’m excited about everything I’m busy with, and I’m not complaining!

How do you stay healthy and active when you’re busy or stressed?

Gua Wha?

So, my back looked like this last week:

Nope, it’s not road rash.  No, I haven’t been secretly dating Chris Brown.

I sought out a chiropractor for my neck issues that have been going on for at least a year at this point and found an integrated wellness clinic practically in my backyard!  They do traditional chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, gua sha (which is what I had done), allergy elimination and tie everything together with a big emphasis on nutrition.

He’s the fifth chiro I’ve been to and have also tried massages, physical therapy and other forms of stress relief.  One of the many reasons I started yoga was the thought that it would loosen up my back muscles.

None of that has really helped, but I’m very happy I found this new chiropractor.  He diagnosed – as I’ve considered before – a disc issue and I’ve been doing spinal decompression.  That misalignment in my spine has been pulling my muscles, so that’s where the gua sha comes in.

The gua sha tool, just a smooth-edged piece of plastic about the size of a credit card, but stronger, is scraped over the skin to bring stagnant blood to the surface, releasing the knots. It’s like intense myofascial release.  It also is useful in releasing toxins, and I’m crunchy enough to be excited about that.

He scraped all over my upper back and neck (except the spine), so the strange pattern is a result of where the stasis actually was. The color of mine was pretty uniform – and red is pretty normal and healthy – but I found out that it can range from pink to a more bruise-like blue/purple/black depending on how long the blood has been pooling.

And for the record, it looks terrible, but feels great.  Well, the actual therapy doesn’t feel good or bad really, but the quick results feel great and the “bruise,” which is more like a rash, doesn’t hurt like a bruise.

The first session on my back helped a lot and an additional session on my neck two days later has started to ease things that have been out of whack for a long time.  And the sha (rash) was gone in about two days.

The most important part of fixing my issue is sticking with a doc and a plan through feeling better and a little beyond and I’ve always known that, but I haven’t found the right combo until now.  I ran eight pain-free miles tonight, so I think we’re definitely on the right track.

Once this issue kind of subsides, I think I’ll even look for a gua sha practitioner for monthly all-over back muscle treatment (I get way too tight) – it’s that good!

Have you discovered any alternative treatments that really work for you?  Would you go out in public looking like you got smacked with a two-by-four?

Bad Habits

Last week, I found this What’s Your Yoga? flow chart and found that “my” yoga is vinyasa, which I practice, which led to the question…do I prefer it because it’s available or is that what I practice because it’s what I prefer?

I’ve tried Bikram (dislike) and Ashtanga (like) and would like to try Power, but for the most part hadn’t heard of many of these different practice styles…so wouldn’t you know it, my favorite Saturday instructor was out sick and her sub worked in one of these different styles – Kundalini.

He didn’t go into much about the philosophy, just mentioned that a certain posture was from Kundalini, but from Wikipedia, “Kundalini yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline for developing strength, awareness, character, and consciousness. Considered an advanced form of yoga and meditation, its purpose is to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others.”

Just from the few asanas and kriyas we did from Kundalini, the feeling was very meditative – repetitive, quick actions and breath with eyes closed – which is something that scared me off from yoga for a long time, so I’m not sure I would enjoy a whole class of it, but I enjoyed getting a small preview of a different yoga style.

The sub normally teaches restorative, yin and intro classes and pulled in a whole lot of everything to the class, but not in a messy way, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. My favorite part of it was just moving…you know, like our bodies are supposed to?! Getting back to that and breathing is so important.

A lot of the class was about reversing the bad habits we have developed that wreak havoc on our bodies…sitting at desks and being too sedentary or conversely, going too hard on our bodies. There’s a reason occupational therapy and ergonomics careers are on the rise…our bad habits are hurting us!

So, this week I’ve been better at getting up from my desk to stretch out, particularly my hip flexors, which are terrible from sitting for so long and moving my neck and shoulders from the stare-at-screen position. I know my body will thank me for breaking these bad habits eventually!