Take Care of Yourself

Quick Update on the Benefits of Drinking Water

Posted on April 30, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , |

Today is about Taking Care of Yourself

I wrote a post about ten reasons why drinking water is good for you based on my experience with drinking more water. I want to update you about a recent article in the NY Times (my favorite source for scientific and health information) which reported results of a review of clinical studies on the benefits of drinking water.

They found there were few benefits except:

  1. Drinking water helps the kidneys to clear sodium, which can reduce the risk of dveloping high blood pressure, and
  2. Drinking water could help control weight gain by decreasing your appetite.

So is water the magic elixir that will solve all of your health problems? No. But the studies do show some benefits for weight loss and reducing risk of developing hypertension. In addition, my own experience tells me that it helps my skin, my digestion, and improves my exercise tolerance. Relying on clinical studies for evidence of the benefits of water assumes that the studies have been done. I think clinical studies on skin texture are not likley to get funded, nor likely to be done by researchers interested in finding cures to more critical health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

So all of this is to say that while drinking plenty of water may not be the panacea cure for serious medical conditions, but It does help you to maintain good health and well being–and we all need more of that.

Anne

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Physical Therapy for Runner’s Knee

Posted on April 15, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , |

Today is about Taking Care of Yourself

I have started physical therapy for my runner’s knee and was told that it will take me about four weeks to build enough strength and flexibility to get back out and running.

Although there was a recent article in the NYTimes which reported studies that found stretching does not reduce your risk of injuries, most of what they have me doing right now focuses on stretching with a little bit of strength.

I am listing the procedures that are part of my physical therapy, and will report back whether they help or not. So far, my pain is diminished and I can now go down the stairs without pain.

  1. Apply warm pack to knee for 10 minutes
  2. Massage the patellar tendon and the iliotibial band.
  3. Stretch your quadriceps muscles, that is the thigh muscles in front of your legs.
  4. Hamstring stretch, the muscles in back of your thighs.
  5. Stretch the iliotibial band.
  6. Piriformis stretch.
  7. Using a soccer ball held between your knees, go up into the bridge pose and hold for 30 seconds, Repeat three times.
  8. Do leg lifts. Lay on your back with one leg bent with your foot on the floor. Straighten the other leg along the floor. Now lift your straightened leg being careful not to lift it higher than your other bent knee. Do three sets of ten on both sides.
  9. Side leg lifts. Do three sets of ten.
  10. Balance on each foot for thirty seconds. Repeat three times
  11. Using a leg press, press away from you with both feet. Then return to your starting position using one leg, the one with the affected knee.
  12. Ice your knee for 10 minutes.

So this is my routine, and time will tell if it helps my runner’s knee.

Anne

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What Are the Medical Uses for Honey?

Posted on March 25, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Today is about Taking Care of Yourself

Photo by toutersebee.jpg
I like to use natural substances for healing as much as possible. However, I need proof that they work–particularly when they are expensive. Honey is a natural remedy and has been touted as good for treating lots of ailments. I first thought of its medicinal use after reading about a study that reported on honey and its effectiveness in treating night time cough in children.

After looking more into honey’s healing properties, I found there was lots of evidence showing that honey has good antibacterial qualities, and can be used to help heal wounds and burns. It has even been reported to be effective against staph aureus which causes a lot of wound infections, including the antibiotic resistant strain of staph called MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus).

Apparently, honey works to help heal wounds because it provides high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, killing bacteria. The high sugar content (scientifically known as high osmolarity for you chemistry buffs) also kills bacteria. So the healing properties of honey are well described and well known.

But what are the drawbacks?

There is lots of variation in the strength of the healing properties of honey, and it depends a lot on what were the floral sources for the honey. Whatever source you use, it would be wise to make sure it is organic and does not contain pesticides or other contaminants. One type of honey that is reported to be created for medicinal use is Manuka honey from New Zealand. While the Manuka people insist nothing else will do, I am not clear on why it is so much better than a good organic honey. Many of the studies I saw used this honey, while others did not specify that it was Manuka.

I also have concerns because I’ve recently seen news stories about CCD, or colony collapse disorder, which is a condition where the worker bees in a colony suddenly disappear. The cause of this is not known, but the experts think it may be due to a combination of viral infections in beehives, exposure to toxins, or some immune problems with the bees. Since CCD has now been observed in Europe, North America and Taiwan, it would be important to make sure that any honey you use (even for your tea) does not come from a hive with CCD until the experts know the cause and risks to people.

So the bottom line is honey seems to work well not only for coughs, but for healing wounds and skin infections. It may provide alternative or supplemental treatment to antibiotics, and reduce our need for them (which contributes to antibiotic resistance). It is also effective against MRSA, a type of bacteria that is becoming harder to treat with current antibiotics. If you are going to use it, make sure it is free of impurities and pesticides, so invest in organic honey.

Anne

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Stopped by Runner’s Knee

Posted on March 13, 2008. Filed under: Running, Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , , , , |

Today is about Running and Taking Care of Yourself

I mentioned before that I signed up to run the More half marathon as a way to keep me motivated to run through the winter. Well after several Sundays of long runs, early mornings on the treadmill, and lots of time devoted to training, my body just quit.

After a Sunday run two weeks ago my knee started to hurt. It went away with ice and rest. Then during the week, I did my usual shorter runs, but noticed that my knee hurt when I walked down the stairs. By the following Sunday, I couldn’t run because of my knee pain, and found that it was swollen. Over the next few days, I found I couldn’t walk. At first I hoped that the pain would go away with ice and Motrin, and I could still walk the race. However, my knee still hurts me everyday, even though I am not running. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt until the afternoon, other days it doesn’t hurt until the evening. What is clear is that basic daily walking is about all my poor knee can take. And 13 miles is not a basic daily walk.

I have runner’s knee, which is a common overuse injury from so much running. Part of the cause is weakness in my thigh muscles. So I will need to be serious about weight lifting, lunges and squats if I want to do this again. But for right now, all I can do is ice my leg and wait until it stops hurting.

I am bummed. All of that training and I cannot run the race! Maybe I can walk it if I continue to rest. Otherwise, all I got for this effort was a tee shirt, and I don’t feel like I can wear it since I won’t run the race.

Well, at least I can go watch the race, and cheer on my running partner.

This stinks!

Anne

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Why is Fish Oil Good for You?

Posted on February 5, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Tuesday is about Taking Care of Yourself

Photo by adactio61382913_6aa559409e.jpg
I’ve heard of the benefits of fish oil for years. One friend swears it cleared up her son’s eczema, another says she uses it to prevent colds, I read that runners should take it to protect their knees, and doctors prescribe it in Europe to their patients with heart disease. So I decided to do a little research and learn more.

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. Since our bodies cannot produce these fatty acids, and can only get it from our food, these are called essential fatty acids. The three types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The major actions of omega-3 oils are to reduce inflammation, which helps combat a number of medical problems. Another important fatty acid is omega-6, but it is common in most of our diets since it is found in meat. People with a good ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to have a variety of medical problems including heart disease, cancer and arthritis. However, the best ratio varies according to the condition you are worried about. Since most of our diets have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, taking fish oil is a great way to supplement your diet and achieve better 6 to 3 ratios.

So my bottom line assessment of the benefits of taking omega-3 oils is WOW!

As I looked through the medical literature, I saw LOADS of studies that have shown the benefits of increasing omega-3 oils in your diet. Some of the conditions that have been studied are listed below with the links to the research that shows the benefits. This is not a comprehensive list, but is a great start.

In terms of the evidence for preventing colds and treating runner’s knee, I couldn’t find anything. But after seeing all of these other benefits, I put some fish oil (that has had the scent removed) into my 4 year old daughter’s juice. She has eczema and I hope to see an improvement. I will write about it after she has taken it for 2 weeks.

Anne

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    Motivation to Run in the Winter

    Posted on January 22, 2008. Filed under: Running, Take Care of Yourself |

    Tuesday is about Taking Care of Yourself

    Photo by Powi winter.jpg

    I can now call myself a runner. I started by walking three years ago. Then I began to run for one minute at a time, then three minutes, and then five minutes. I kept going until I built up my stamina and clearly remember the first time I ran for 30 minutes without stopping. So now I am a runner.

    Although I enjoy the benefits that come with running—like feeling less stress, it’s easier to lose weight, enjoying time alone–I do find that it is harder to run consistently in the winter. The cold outside, and the fact that it is still dark when I get up to run, both make me want to roll over and stay in bed when the alarm goes off.

    Then after Christmas I got on the scale, and saw how much damage I had done with all of the eating and drinking over the holidays. I needed to recommit myself to my running. So I called a friend (who had also just gotten on the scale) and we agreed to run together and keep each other motivated. However, in our enthusiasm, one thing led to another and we talked ourselves into registering for the More Half Marathon in April.

    A Half MARATHON? Thirteen miles? The longest I’ve ever run was six miles.

    The following day, I jumped out of bed when they alarm went off and went out for a run without thinking about the cold. I have discovered that fear is a great motivator. I am afraid of not being able to finish the race, afraid of coming in last, afraid of embarrassing myself in front of the crowds, and afraid of the pain I may experience on race day. All of this fear motivates me to run and train for this race. When it is cold, when it is dark, when I am on the treadmill and feeling bored, I keep going. Not because I am committed, but because I am afraid. Afraid of performing horribly at this race.

    After we signed up for the race, we went out for a long run on the first weekend and did six miles. Last weekend, I ran nine miles, and I am getting in early morning runs before I go to work during the week. I think I will be glad I did this. I am already glad that it has motivated me to stick with my running this winter. However, next winter I will be looking for motivation to keep me running that does not involve fear.

    Anne

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    How to Get Rid of a Cold, Naturally

    Posted on January 15, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , , , , |

    Tuesday is about Taking Care of Yourself

    Photo by Crystl
    ginger.jpgUgh. I have a cold and had to leave work today to come home and get into bed. I am one of those people who is guilty of presenteeism and I go into work where I won’t be productive, won’t give myself a chance to get better, and could infect my coworkers with the germ du jour that I am sneezing and coughing up.

    However, as part of my commitment to taking better care of myself, I am pledging to not work through colds and allow myself the space and time to be sick. While work is important, we need to get a handle on what is truly an emergency or critically important. The truth is no one is laying on a table with their guts hanging out waiting for me to put it all together. And if they were, they wouldn’t want me coughing and sneezing all over their innards. Otherwise, most things at work can wait a day or two, or be delegated to someone else.

    How to get better? Well being a geek, I have looked up a bunch of research for what does and doesn’t work. Being a mother of three, I have also had a lot of practical experience treating colds. So based on those sources of information, here is my 10 step plan for getting rid of a cold:

    1. Nip it in the bud. Start to take special care of yourself as soon as you feel that first tickle in your throat or sniffle in your nose. Don’t wait until you need to crawl into bed before you need some rest.
    2. Take zinc. More specifically, take zinc gluconate. This is a homeopathic remedy that is backed up by studies which show that taking zinc as soon as you start to feel symptoms of a cold will shorten the time you are sick. Studies have looked at both nasal gels and lozenges, and found both are effective.
    3. Drink. Lots. Most experts recommend drinking lots of fluids when you are sick, but don’t say why it’s good for you. There are lots of benefits to drinking water in general, which I have talked about before. When you are sick, you need to be well hydrated because your body is producing lots of excess mucus, snot and phlegm (they are really all the same thing) as a way to get rid of the viruses that are attacking your body. When that stuff is thin and liquid, it is easier to cough or sneeze it out. When you are not hydrated, it is thicker and more viscous and harder to get out. It’s just that simple. It’s also why a humidifier helps. It loosens the mucus.
    4. Rest. Sleep. Snooze. Do whatever it takes to give your body a chance to heal. The restorative powers of sleep are magical, and I always feel substantially better after I’ve slept. If there is only one thing you can do for yourself when you are sick, sleep would be the most effective.
    5. Blow your nose. Other people may be better at this than I am, but I actually hate to blow my nose. So I will sit all day and sniffle. But the mucus your body is producing is how it is getting rid of the viruses. So blow your nose, and get it out.
    6. Use a neti pot. I have a handheld shower and once accidentally shot some water up my nose when I was sick (not one of my more coordinated moments). After coughing, gagging and blowing the water out of my nose, I realized that my clogged sinuses were completely clear. This is when I learned about the ancient yogic practice of nasal washing, and the use of the neti pot for delivering a saltwater solution into the nasal cavities for cleansing. There was a recent article in the NY Times about the growing popularity of this practice for colds, allergies, and chronic sinusitis. I can say from personal experience that the practice definitely does help.
    7. Drink ginger tea. I haven’t been able to find any research supporting the use of ginger for treating colds, but I do know it tastes great and I always feel better after I have had some. I take some ginger root, slice it up and simmer it in water. Then I add honey. Speaking of which…..
    8. Take a teaspoon of honey. Tea with honey has been touted as a cold remedy for years. However, a recent study found that honey is an effective cough suppressant for children and worked as well as dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in cough medicine.
    9. Drink some tea, or coffee. Actually, drink anything that contains caffeine. Some people get a dry hacking cough that doesn’t produce much mucus, but causes coughing spasms. I get this and it is worse when I talk or laugh. Studies show that caffeine is similar to medicines used to treat asthma, and is an effective bronchodilator that makes breathing easier, and can relieve this type of cough. Obviously, if you have asthma, or are wheezing, you will need something stronger than a cup of coffee. Also, caffeine is a natural diuretic so drink extra fluid to stay hydrated.
    10. Say no to drugs. Most cold medicines are suppressing the symptoms and not really fighting the cold. Those symptoms–excess mucus and nasal congestion, and cough–are how your body is fighting the cold. So suppressing your body’s response is just prolonging your agony. Fever is an important part of the body’s immune response for fighting a cold, and should not be treated if it’s low grade (less than 102 degrees). However, if it goes higher, or you feel particularly miserable, fever is easily treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

    So that’s my 10 point plan. I have a cup of ginger tea waiting for me, and am ready to get some sleep. I hope to be better by tomorrow.

    Anne

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    Ten Reasons Why Drinking Water Is Good for You

    Posted on January 8, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , |

    Tuesday is about Taking Care of Yourself


    Photo by norasunwater2.jpg
    I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions, but instead am doing small changes over the year to take care of myself and make things easier for myself. My first “promise to self” was to drink more water. I have been able to do this by making three changes:(1) drink one glass of water before each meal, and then one more with each meal; (2) drink a glass of water in every meeting or conference call at work; (3) drink a glass each evening when I take my vitamins. These small changes quickly add up to 6-8 glasses of water per day.

    Now that I have been doing this for a couple of weeks, I can say there are definite benefits to drinking all of this water. Based on my own personal experience, here is my list of the Ten Reasons Why Drinking Water Is Good for You:

    1. It helps you lose weight. Maybe it’s because I drink a glass of water before each meal, plus while I am eating, but I’ve noticed that I definitely get full faster and am taking in less food without feeling deprived. This has been an easy way to kick up my weight loss efforts.
    2. It’s easier to be hydrated for exercise. Since I am always drinking water, I start my runs already hydrated and don’t have to take in as much water to stay on top of my hydration. When I am well hydrated, I run better–my times are better, I don’t feel sluggish and it takes longer for me to feel tired. I did not expect simply drinking water would be so beneficial to my running.
    3. Your skin texture improves. I’ve read that your skin gets plumped up and dewy because you are hydrated. I don’t know about that, but I am definitely breaking out less and generally having fewer skin problems since I started drinking more water.
    4. Drinking water helps maintain digestive health. I have definitely noticed that water helps with digestion, and (this is probably an overshare) helps to keep you “regular”….with your “evacuation” processes by making things easier and more frequent. If you don’t know what I mean, then email me and I can send a more graphic description if you’d like.
    5. Drinking water helps flush out toxins. Although most people refer to the benefits of drinking water to flush out toxins that come from our food and the environment, the best proof I have is how water helps to prevent hangovers and minimizes the effects of alcohol. This is probably more of a hydration effect than a toxin-flush effect. I noticed before that whenever I had a glass of wine the night before a run, I used to feel pretty sluggish and drained during my run. Now that I am taking in extra water, I can have a glass of wine and still feel fine for my run the next day. Being able to drink more alcohol is definitely not one of the benefits I expected from drinking water….but I’ll take it!
    6. Speaking of exercise, I definitely get more exercise as a result of drinking water. This is because of all of the bathroom breaks I need to take during the day. I have to go about 5-6 times while I am at work, and the bathroom is at the end of the hall. If I wore a pedometer, I bet this would add a couple of thousand steps to my daily tally.
    7. Taking in more fluid helps reduce fluid retention. Like many women, I retain fluid and get some swelling around the time I menstruate. However, I’ve noticed that I am now less swollen since I began drinking water.
    8. You have more energy. I don’t know why, I just know that I feel more alert and have fewer days when I hit the afternoon slump since I started drinking more water.
    9. You save money. Bottled water is definitely cheaper than most other drinks, and tap water is free! Most people in the US have access to good, clean, safe tap water. In my opinion the water in New York City is some of the best in the country. If you want to learn about the quality of your local tap water, the Environmental Protection Agency monitors and publicly reports the quality of tap water throughout the US.
    10. You know the location of every bathroom. Have I mentioned how much you go to the bathroom drinking all of this water? Let me just say that a benefit to the popularity of Starbuck’s is you are never very far from a bathroom. If you are stuck, with no Starbuck’s in sight, a good back up is a nice hotel. Most of them have bathrooms somewhere in the lobby.

    So this is the list of benefits of drinking water that I have observed in the past few weeks. I think there are worth making the effort to drink more water (aside from the excess bathroom breaks) and would encourage you to drink up!

    Salud!

    Anne

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    Time to Run

    Posted on January 1, 2008. Filed under: Running, Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , , , , , , |

    Photo by fdecomitetime.jpg
    I love running on the weekends because I can sleep in, wait until the sun comes up, have a little breakfast, wake up, wait until it gets warmer outside, and can run without worrying about how long it will take because I don’t have to get ready for work. Since today was a day off from work, I approached it like it was a weekend run. That means it was my long slow run. Since I have been slacking off on the running for the past few weeks, I was concerned about how I would do with a long run. Also, it’s been cold outside and I have been on a treadmill, but today was warmer (47 degrees) so I ran outside. I wondered how my legs would feel on hard pavement after being on a treadmill for a few weeks. My goal was to do a 45 minute run. I took it really easy and ended up doing 4.85 miles in 55 minutes—that’s REALLY slow, over 11 minutes per mile. But I felt great, ran longer than I planned and felt like I could have gone even further.

    As I have slacked off in the past few weeks, I found that whenever I went back to running I felt really great. So I guess the rest has been good. When I started running, I was trying to get out there at least five days per week and experienced a lot of injuries. Then I read an article in Runner’s World about the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) and their training program which includes only three days per week of running. Basically, they recommend three days of running, but that each run be hard—a tempo run, intervals, and a long run. They also recommend doing non-weight bearing aerobic exercise such as swimming or cycling on other days, and include at least one day of rest each week. When I have really stuck with the program my schedule has been:

    Monday-Rest

    Tuesday-Intervals (a 3mile run with 4-5 1 minute intervals at top speed)

    Wednesday-30 minutes of cycling and weight lifting

    Thursday –Tempo Run (3 mile run with middle third run at a faster pace)

    Friday-Rest

    Saturday-Total Body Fitness Class with Weight Training

    Sunday-Long, Slow Run (between 4-6 miles)

    As I said, this is when I really stuck with the program. Most weeks I could not because of work, travel, kids’ events, just life. However, I found that this schedule worked best for me because it was more forgiving of my real life and allowed me to not do everything, but to still see improvements with my running if I could just get out there three times per week. Plus the schedule required only two days during the work week, if I needed to cut back (and cut out my cycling session) Over time, I saw my running speed pick up. I am still a slow runner, but when I was on the treadmill last winter, my regular pace was 13:30 min/mi and I sometimes pushed it to 12 min/mi. I followed the FIRST regimen over the summer, and find that my regular comfortable pace is now 10:50 min/mi, and I can comfortably maintain a 10 min/mi pace.

    So all of this is to say, that I am really pleased with the program. The main thing is the schedule is less strict, and provides adequate time to run within my life schedule. It is also great to see improvements in my performance, even with this little bit of effort. I probably could improve more, if I stuck to the recommended schedule more closely. But my goal is really to just get out there and see some improvements. I am also happy to say that I have not had any injuries since starting the program, and generally am less sore and achy than when I was running five days per week.

    I think it is the ideal running program for a busy working mom.

    Anne

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    Christmas Day Workout

    Posted on December 25, 2007. Filed under: Running, Take Care of Yourself |

    Christmas Shoes

    Photo by orangeacid

    Now that Christmas day is over, I am facing an entire week without having to go to work. As a result, I have the time to focus on myself and am planning to get back into the groove of working out and running.

    Last week, I talked about not running during this time of year because I was too busy, and decided to take some time off. After ten days of not running, I had a chance to run this past weekend and it was GREAT. I felt rested and better able to face my run—both mentally and physically. It was a treadmill run, which I usually find boring and hard to finish. However, since I was coming back from a break, I was able to do a 45 minute run without a problem. I’ve read from sources like runnersworld.com that it’s good to take a break from running if things are getting stale. I think they are right and I’m glad I gave myself some time away. A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me if I was interested in running the More Half Marathon in April. Now that I’ve taken a break, I may be up to it and will blog about my progress if I decide to enter and train.

    Anne

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      Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

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