Feed on Posts or Comments

Monthly ArchiveMay 2010

Health Rincewind on 07 May 2010

Dealing with health problems

When I had severe trouble swallowing, a friend told me not to fixate on my health problem too much. I indeed didn’t do this, and instead of stopping with my study and focussing fully on regaining my health I decided to both continue my study and work on my health at the same time. I regret this decision in hindsight: the problem was so severe, that the longer it took to work on it, the more damage (from all the coughing) was done, the less likely it was that the problem would ever be fully fixed.

A health problem is like a bug in a computer program: when you don’t fix it immediatly, the problem can ruin the whole experience for you, can grow, and can possibly start to interact with other problems which makes it even harder if not impossible to fix. It is wise to overpower health problems immediatly attacking them with your full capacity: that means stopping doing what you were doing and fully focussing on fixing it with everything in your power (time, intelligence, money, relations (with health specialists), etc). Many people are born with good health and it’s relatively easy to lose it – it should be one of everyone’s top life goals to stay healthy.

It’s useful to find out as much as you can about a problem using the internet and books, so you can ask your doctors the right questions. Doctors don’t tend to like it though if you show you’ve done your research, so be subtle. If it is unclear what the problem is exactly you can use the internet to make a list of possible causes to your problem, and exclude them one by one, this might leave you with your actual problem.

If you cannot easily fix a health problem yourself you should take it to a doctor; a general practitioner or a specialist immediatly (if you can arrange this). Every day for your appointment to be earlier is very important (each day without proper care could make your problem worse), and if the problem is severe enough you can take it to the first aid. You can consult general practitioners that aren’t your own for a small price, so you can get a second or third opinion on a problem, if the first consult isn’t to your satisfaction. It’s also possible to consult multiple specialists for the same problem if you pay the bills yourself (and not leave it to insurance). In order to get to good specialists, it’s smart to exploit your own, your parents’, your family’s or your friend’s relations with doctors, this might work better than being referred to a random specialist by your general practitioner.

Besides letting the doctors have a go at it, there are multiple things you can try yourself to fix your problem. First thing is being more manic: try to find out as much as you can about your problem by (if appropiate) by going over it with your hands and listening to feedback from your body, and looking at it closely (maybe with a mirror), and perhaps even comparing it to photos of the past state. This can give you a lot of usable information for fixing your problem. Second, if there is something that surpresses the problem, for example running, increase this activity and see whether the problem will be more surpressed or even disappear. Third, if you have a problem that is a real bottleneck for your functioning, try to frustrate the bottleneck. This mostly comes down to running and sporting a lot. Write your findings down, and expand your activities based on the feedback information. For my swallowing problem this tactic meant eating a lot for me and pushing my body sportwise. Fourth, try to cycle food/drink products to see whether it influences your problem (whether to try someting like this of course depends on your problem), especially fruit and vegetables, take them in relatively big doses of the same to see whether it helps.

Other things you can do to contribute fixing your problem is asking questions on internet forums and e-mailing doctors, this way you can be helped by others who’ve had the same problem or know something about it, and most doctors are willing to provide information over e-mail. Something else you can try is to contact universities and ask a student to help you, if you need cheap help or someone to take a fresh look. If you are in real trouble, and for example have cancer, you could try writing companies letters in order to get experimental treatments, or take part in trials. If you’re really desperate and you are attractive enough, try to get yourself a partner that is a doctor. And last but not least: if nothing helps, and the doctor can’t diagnose, try to self-diagnose using the internet and order medicines online (be careful here).

It’s wise in general for serious health problems to make an attack plan, where you write down a description of your problem, a list of possible causes (or the cause if it’s known), a day log file, where you write down each day how the problem changed, and what you felt/saw, a list of symptoms, questions you want to ask a doctor, and what you are going to do to treat your problem. Especially the log file is important, this can help to fix the problem much better, because it becomes visible what is changing over time and why.

If you have a health problem to tackle, good luck doing so.

Health Rincewind on 05 May 2010

The influence of food on your body

As a child and young adult it was perfectly clear to me: eating is necessary to stay alive, so you eat and go the bathroom, and the only thing you have to watch is not to overeat or else you’ll become overweight. If you’re not overweight and you eat enough, you’re doing a good job supporting your health.

With this mindset I never really thought about what I ate. As a child I ate what my parents cooked, and when I went on to live on my own I decided I could use some extra time and didn’t cook, but instead bought microwave meals in the supermarket. I knew pre-cooked microwave meals increase your chances of getting cancer, but since the meals in the local supermarket looked reasonably healthy and it was extremely easy to prepare them I continued eating them. I also drank a lot of icetea during this time.

This all went well for over a year, but then I started to get health problems. Trouble concentrating, a heavy feeling on my heart, fluid reflux (actually a watery fluid coming back in my mouth – yek!) when lying down, and inflammation of the throat. It took a while before I realised my eating and drinking habits were responsible for this. My concentration went back to normal with better food, and with not drinking any more icetea or other sour drinks my fluid reflux and heart problems vanished. I now only drink water, milk, and fruit juice, and have never had these problems again.

Then I got serious trouble swallowing – I could barely swallow things for over a year for complicated reasons, coughing up my food again straight after it went in. I was quickly losing weight, and the least bit of food counted. I started to get deficits, and for example noticed I could think faster when eating more food with magnesium in it (which temporarily lifted the deficit), and that I needed to eat more fatty food in order to cough less (the extra fat became part of a part of my throat which made swallowing easier), and that I needed more salt.

Because I ate so little, the effects on my body of almost everything I ate was very clear, effects I would never notice if I would eat enough. I started writing these effects down, and now I now know exactly what the effect is of each food type for me, and what my body needs. This made it easy to make a customized diet for myself. I have a list of meals; there are things I have to eat weekly and some things I have to eat each day, in order to stay as healthy as possible.

Something I noticed for example is that white bread gives me a lot more energy than brown bread, which makes it my bread type of choice despite the fact that brown bread holds more fibres. Fibres are important too, but I feel that I get enough of those in the rest of my food, and that energy is a lot more important. If I would have realised this while I was in high school, I might have been less tired eating white bread during breaks.

Some other things I noticed are that rye bread makes my skin look healthy, narrows my veines, and changes my eye glare. A certain type of brown bread thins my blood and makes me less intelligent in a way. Banana makes me more calm and gives me a fuller skin. Blue berries give me more energy and improve my sight. Granny Smith apples aid growth and healing, and provide more energy for the brain. White grapes aid growth, healing and hydrate my skin. Raisins improve blood flow and deplete fat in the brain. Spinach makes me think faster (probably due to the iron), and broccoli makes me smarter in a way.

I also keep a blacklist of food: things that have proven to be bad for my health. Multivit (a vitamin drink) makes my veines stiff and less elastic, which has helped cause a TIA for me. Chocolat causes blood clots, which can decrease or stop the bloodflow through veines. Cup-a-soup beef taste makes me tired, and bread with seeds in it make me misswallow.

These are just some of the things I noticed and I can recommend anyone to write down the effects of food on his or her own body. Maybe it’s an idea even to intentionally run low on food while doing this so the effect of food you do take in becomes extra clear. Good luck!