staying healthy while travelling

Gentle Reader,

I just spent two glorious weeks in Portugal. I will get on an airplane and fly off to other time zones several more times this summer and fall.  Staying healthy while I travel is of upmost importance.  You probably have the same goal:  staying healthy while travelling.

Jet lag is one of the most difficult challenges of travel.  You can lose a day or two of alert engagement with your new surroundings; the very sites and tastes you paid all that money to enjoy.

I found great information from Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, on USAToday, March 1, 2015.  He consulted the folks at the Mayo Clinic who define jet lag as a “temporary sleep disorder that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones.” In other words, you don’t have to go to Europe to get it!

We already know that, right? The real question is how to prevent it, or cure it once you’ve got it. I’ve got some answers which I will add to Rick’s.  In addition to the Mayo Clinic, he talked with experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the non-profit National Sleep Foundation, plus some remedies from veteran travelers. His “Wild Card” suggestions are entertaining and I will share them here. I hope some of these 15 ideas work for you.

Before You Fly

A little planning goes a long way.

  1. Take care of yourself: You know the drill, eat right, sleep right and exercise. Now for the hard part: You’ve actually got to do this! Most of us get a little hectic just before a trip. I like to zip up a week ahead of time and maintain my normal exercise routine. The better you feel overall, the lighter the jet lag.
  1. Move your bedtime: Several authorities say you should gradually change sleeping patterns before departure.
  • If heading east: Try to go to bed one hour earlier each night for a few days. • If heading west: Try going to bed an hour later, again for a few days before you leave. This is super hard for a person with a busy schedule. I did manage to get to bed early the night before I left. Try it the next time you go east.  I haven’t been to Asia for a while, so I do not have any recent experience there. I’d love to hear from you if you have tried this and made it work for you.
  1. Pack a pillow: You can’t bring your mattress but you can bring your pillow. Nothing wrecks a night’s sleep like trying to settle your head on a puffed-up piece of foam when your noggin cries out for your pancake-flat feather pillow (or vice-versa). I don’t do this. I find the transatlantic/transpacific airline pillows sufficient and when flying domestically, I use my sweater or jacket just fine. I see people sleeping with those blow-up pillows.  Whatever works.
  1. Pack your headphones: My noise-canceling headphones have kept me smiling in the face of wild 2 year olds and often help me nod off. Earplugs can help, too. Others recommend sleeping-masks but not all of us can drowse with something draped across our faces. I use earplugs and find they work great.
  1. Wild card:No night-before bon voyage parties, the kind were everyone raises a toast to your travels and you gulp along with them (we’ll assume those glasses don’t contain ginger ale). In fact, no night before anything except for a good night’s sleep. Here’s how: All packing is done, period. Get it done at least 24 hours before departure, with everything you need (electronic tablets, passports, medication, maps, pre-printed reservations, boarding passes, etc.) ready to go alongside your suitcase. If begin your trip in a stress-free frame of mind, that’s half the battle.

During Your Flight

Do’s and don’ts for a long plane ride.DVT

  1. Set your watch: Move it ahead (or behind) to destination time, the better to start syncing the rest of you. I always do this immediately upon taking my seat.
  1. Watch what you eat: Don’t fall into the, “I’m on vacation, I can eat or drink anything” trap, especially on the plane. Super important. I carry this mantra through my entire vacation, packing my protein powder for a shake at breakfast and my vitamins packed in snack zip lock baggies for each meal exactly as I ordinarily take them when at home.  I have my baggies and protein powder, a cup and spoon for stirring, plus food for the next meal I’m planning to eat in my carry on.  For the overnight flights to Europe, I sit down, eat my dinner—the stuff I brought along, take a sleeping pill, put in my ear plugs, get settled for a long night’s sleep.  I usually get a pretty good sleep and wake up ready for the day.

I stick to my diet as best I can while traveling.  It is hard to get as many vegetables while traveling, so I take some anti-oxidant supplements along.  I stay away from breads, pastries and go for the eggs, fruit, dried prunes and nuts.  Enjoy tastes of the local specialties, but there is no reason to add sugars and white flour to your diet while away if you avoid them at home.

  1. Plenty of water: Plane rides can be dehydrating and this can worsen jet lag. Drink up.

I take a rehydrating powder with me and add it to my bottled water.  You lose one cup of fluid for every hour you are in the air. So you have to disturb your fellow passengers.  You get up and they have to get up.  Good for them. Do not buy your extra water before you go through security; wait until you are on the other side. I carry my own empty bottle and fill it from the water fountain.  If you have a bottle with a wide lid, you can easily add powders to the water–protein or hydrating.

  1. Try to sleep:Don those headphones or earplugs you packed and try to fall asleep on the plane especially if you’ll arrive in the morning (and this is often when U.S. flights to Europe arrive). See my remarks on #7.

 

  1. Try to exercise: No yoga moves, just a simple stroll down the aisle every now and then but only when you won’t disturb meal or beverage service and only when seat belt signs are off. When you return, buckle up no matter what the sign says (turbulence can come out of nowhere). I really do exercise.  Kinesthetic moves:  clench and unclench your butt, holding the clench for several seconds; alternate up and down top/heel while sitting; reach your hands out in front of you and push/pull your shoulders;
    Airplane exercises

    Airplane exercises

    role your head to stretch your neck; do pelvic clocks as you sit, first one direction and then the other; drop first your left and then your right arm to get a good stretch with your head going in the opposite direction.  These exercises can help prevent pulmonary thrombosis which is a danger, especially in older adults. 

    moves to prevent DVT

    moves to prevent DVT

  2. Wild card:Ever hear of the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag Diet? It was developed years ago by a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and is said to be effective but “difficult to stick to.” I don’t doubt this since it involves alternate days of feasting and fasting before departure. Another approach calls for no food at all for 12 to 16 hours before breakfast time at your destination. Note: The Mayo Clinic says no anti-jet lag diets have been absolutely proven to work but give them a whirl if so inclined (though you should talk to your doctor first).

At Your Destination

  1. Don’t make important decisions first day: I think this CDC tip is meant for those who suffer extreme jet lag but if you’re flying in for a business meeting and know you won’t be super-sharp, consider arriving a day ahead of time. I arrived in Paris in the morning, checked my luggage at the hotel and immediately went walking. I wanted to take in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore (I was on a writing retreat in southern France). I got sloppy with my cell phone and it was gone when I wanted to take a picture minutes later.  Keep your wits about you for the first couple days.  Check and double-check all the important things: since that experience, I keep passport, money, credit card and phone in my money belt at my waist under my pants, especially when in key tourist attractions.  On this recent trip to Portugal, our guide spotted pickpockets and gave us a warning.  Train stations are particularly bad.  If you carry a backpack, bring it around in front of you anytime you are in a crush of people.
  1. Sync up with local time: If you arrive at your destination at 9 a.m., don’t go to bed. Get into the rhythms of the city and stick with it. If you must nap, lie down for no more than 20 minutes or so, otherwise you may have trouble sleeping at night. A friend of mine who travels to the UK all the time tells me, “No! No afternoon naps. Walk around the city, stop for coffee, go for a hike and stay up at least until 9 p.m. local time.” Absolutely. When traveling with a twelve year old grandchild a few years ago, she suggested stopping at a swim facility (I gave her the book, Ireland with Kids and she found the place).  This took care of her jet lag completely. We had an on time week of sleeping and waking pleasure after that.
  1. Get some sun: According to the Sleep Foundation, daylight is “a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.” Staying indoors, they add, will only worsen jet lag. My rule: walk outdoors no matter what.  I remember arriving in Mumbai mid morning after hours in planes.  I walked my feet off, wandering into a cafeteria-style restaurant where the locals ate during their lunch break from a factory.  I sat between a gaggle of women.  When I couldn’t stand up another minute, I found a church and asked if I could sit down for a few minutes.  It finally got dark so I could go to bed.  The following days, I was alert and enjoyed each full day in crazy India.

15. Wild card tip: According to an Australia-based travel blogger, you can get rid of jet lag quickly by putting your bare feet on the ground (or the grass or the sand). Apparently, you just wiggle your toes around for a while. I can’t vouch for this, but probably couldn’t hurt and probably feels great. All fine and good as an idea, but I seldom end my plane travel in a place where I would want to put my bare feet directly on the ground. It is helpful to visualize grounding yourself in the earth.  Those Aussies are more direct!

One thing more. Whether you are a vitamin taker or not, this might be a good time to take an immune booster.  I carry Vitalized Immunity by Shaklee.  Emergen-C Vitamin C Fizzy Drink Mix is popular.  I used the pop-in-water-and-drink supplement several times while in Portugal.

Happy travels.

Be well, Do well and Keep moving.

Betsy

For detailed blog and pictures of my Portugal trip, check in at www.Empoweredgrandma.com.

 

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How about Stinging Nettles?

Gentle Reader,

If I could tell you why some days I wake up with no pain whatsoever– like today– and catalog the food I ate yesterday, the stretches I made, the delicious sleep, the supplements, the aerobic activity—why surely I would have a recipe for a pain free life.  I cannot. I cross country skied on Wednesday; stayed up too late fussing over numbers; ate on the run, albeit extra nutritious homemade vegetable-drawer soup; got tied up in knots over the traffic delays.  You know the drill.  I took no herbal pain pills today and no Aleve.  Instead of analyzing the good things in life that seem to happen randomly, I suggest robust all out celebration and thanksgiving.

I will offer you some spicy advice that came to me from a good friend who faithfully reads these pages and a few others from the web which she passes on to me when relevant.  I especially appreciated her reprint from NaturalNews.  Since I harvested stinging nettles on my walk Tuesday, being careful to wear gardening gloves, I am eager to eat them and see what they do for me. See the article below for details.  Stinging nettles are abundant in the northwest right now, small plants with tender leaves.  All the sting goes away with cooking.  If you try it, let me know how it goes. It’s inexpensive to try these natural remedies from the kitchen cupboard, way-side and grocery store.

Relieve arthritis and joint pain with home remedies

 (NaturalNews) Homemade remedies for arthritis, gout and other joint pain are never farther away than the kitchen cupboard or the refrigerator. Joint disease is the result of various causes ranging from aging, to over-use and autoimmune diseases that attack joints and surrounding tissue. Pharmaceutical companies have designer drugs that reduce inflammation to help relieve pain and often cause significant side effects. The ingredients for homemade remedies can be purchased at grocery and health food stores and many may already be stocked in your pantry, offering significant savings over costly pharmaceutical drugs.

Anti-Inflammatory triad

On their own, turmeric, ginger and bromelain work as effective anti-inflammatory agents. Each works to relieve pain, stiffness and swelling. In combination, they provide a powerhouse of natural medicine. The three substances are synergistic to one another, each boosting the other’s effectiveness…

Stinging nettles

Homemade remedies from stinging nettles are numerous. A traditional herbal treatment, stinging nettles are used to relieve symptoms of joint pain, arthritis and gout. A tea can be made from the dried herb or the fresh leaves. Use caution and wear gloves if harvesting fresh nettles. As their name implies, the little hairs on the plant can cause serious skin reactions including hives and other painful outbreaks. These are neutralized when heated into tea or when the plant is dried. The tea can be consumed hot or cold or used as a topical soak for painful joints.

Cayenne pepper

Found in most spice cupboards and known for its spicy-hot taste, cayenne makes an excellent topical ointment that relieves joint pain. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, tricks the brain by causing local irritation to skin where signals then travel along nerve pathways, distracting the brain from the true source of pain. In time, repeated topical applications of cayenne pepper will reduce arthritis pain significantly. To make topical homemade remedies, mix 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper with 1/2 cup of cocoa butter, lanolin or coconut oil. Apply it directly to the sore joint. Alternatively, mix 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and add to a foot bath with warm water. Soak hands or feet for 20 minutes, then rinse. Cayenne pepper can cause skin irritation.  (I have not tried this, so go forward at your own risk.)

Pectin Grape Juice

Homemade remedies made from fruit pectin and grape juice can relieve joint pain, and reduce swelling and stiffness. Pectin is found in the cells of many plants and acts as a thickener in preparations such as jellies. Grape juice is loaded with antioxidants, among them, anthocyanins, noted for its effect on reducing inflammation. Pectin regulates the flow of fluids in plant cells and is believed to act to relieve fluid buildup in the joints of arthritis sufferers. The best pectin is found at the health food stores and is free of MSG and other additives. Mix 1/2 cup of juice with 2 tablespoons pectin. Add water if needed and drink twice daily for 6 weeks. Reduce the frequency as symptoms disappear.

Sources for this article include:

DermNetNZ: Capsaicin
http://dermnetnz.org/treatments/capsaicin.html

Holistic Online: Tumeric
http://www.holisticonline.com

Science Daily: Turmeric Prevents Experimental Rheumatoid Arthritis, Bone Loss
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061030071152.htm

MotherNature.com: Arthritis and Alternative Medicine
http://www.mothernature.com/Library/bookshelf/Books/42/1.cfm

Joint-Pain.com: Natural Arthritis Treatments
http://www.joint-pain.com/natural-arthritis-treatments.html

The People’s Pharmacy: Pectin for Arthritis Pain
http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2009/08/31/pectin-for-arthritis-pain/

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving

Betsy

Betsy Bell’s Health4U

206 933 1889

www.HiHoHealth dot com

www.TiredNoMore dot com

 

 

Go ahead and dig in the garden

Dear Gentle Reader,

With the strains of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons setting the tone, spring has finally come to Seattle. While so many of you are enjoying unseasonably warm weather, we have seen snow flurries, much rain and the thermometer has not climbed into the upper 50’s. Until the last couple of days.  The parking lots at the nurseries were full this weekend.  I came home with 11 bags of top soil and 6 roses.  Getting these in the ground usually means an aching body.  My friend, after a day of digging, complained that she couldn’t bend down to tie her shoes.  What’s a person to do who nurses osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis?

Here are some suggestions:

On your hands and knees.  Perhaps you, like me, are most comfortable crawling around on your hands and knees.  My friend, catching sight of my knee pads hanging from the wall, asked what sort of art object that was.  Those are my knee pads.  I have them hung right by the back door so I grab them when I head outside to do a gardening chore, however small or brief. If they are hidden away in some garden shed, you won’t put them on.  You’ll be in the garden and you’ll bend over to pull a weed and there goes the back.

A garden stool  I love my garden stool made of sturdy plastic. Upright I can sit on it to work in the barrels and containers, harvest pool beans and fava beans.  Inverted, I can kneel on it and use the legs as handles to lift me up.

Stretching i didn’t mention this first because I stretch everyday first thing in the morning, first on the Back2Life machine and then a few Feldenkrais hip opener moves followed by yoga down dog, runner’s lunge and plank.  Then while the oatmeal cooks, the seated routine with Jennifer Kreis. I blogged about Jennifer’s seating wake up exercises last Feb. 12, Yoga and Arthritis. I just checked her website: The DVD I love so much is now part of a set of 4 and they are currently discounted to $29.95.

Time limit  Don’t over do it.  The minute I sense a strain, I stop.  Manana es otro dia.  Tomorrow is another day.

I found this delightful forum on gardening which I’d like to share with you.  Enjoy the comments of these women as they share how they keep their bodies moving. http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/accessible/msg091943101715.html  Together we will achieve more, and more comfortably.

Thanks for reading, and please send your suggestions so we can learn from your techniques.

Be well, Do Well and Keep Moving,

Betsy

Betsy Bell’s Health4U

206 933 1889

www.HiHohealth.com

I enthusiastically forster a person’s business development in the health and wellness field.

It comes down to what we eat

Gentle Reader,

A friend sent me a TED talk by Dr.Terry Wahls  on MS this past week.  In the 5 minute screening she recounts her productive life as a research scientist up to the debilitating onset of MS.  Seeking the best care medical professionals had to offer, her condition worsened.  Driven by her inquiring mind to know as much as she could about her disease, she began to experiment with different foods and supplements.  As her condition improved, she increased her dependence on whole plant foods, greens, reds, yellows, blues, purples and lessened or stopped eating altogether all refined foods, meats, dairy, sugars, grains.  Exercise became possible.  Brain function and mobility returned to better than normal.  All drug intake stopped.  Take a minute to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc

Arthritis caused by spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis is not Multiple Sclerosis.  I realize this. I would challenge anyone suffering from the pain and loss of mobility caused by arthritis to eat the diet Dr. Wahls describes and discover how much this pain lessens and mobility increases.  Every other system in the body improves with this diet.

Now, most people will not be able to eat this way day in and day out.  I don’t. For instance, yesterday I ate 1 meal on the run, getting off for choir practice with a protein shake in my car.  The next two meals I ate in the company of church members, lunch with a homeless community meal; dinner with the group of people I traveled with to Nicaragua in February.  My defense is supplementation.  The Carotanoids, Flavonoids, the Liver Cleanse, the pre and pro biotic do their best to take the place of the diet Dr. Wahls recommends.  When I am home, like today, I will eat this way.

You may have decided this blog is becoming too much of a harangue about diet and lose interest in following my Monday posts.  Before you go, just think outside the box, if you will, and consider the value to your health of a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, natural oils and proteins from plant sources.  Think of the future you dream of with your children and grandchildren, of travel and gardening, of skiing and hiking, of knitting and sewing without pain well into your 80’s and even your 90’s.  What is the price you are willing to pay for a pain free future?  We pay for our health sooner or later.  A wholesome diet and supplementation put the money up front and could lessen the cost of healthcare in our later years.  Think about it.

I am too harsh and unforgiving.  I love you just the way you are and would gladly listen to your stories about ways you have found to alleviate your arthritis pain.  If you do experiment with the Dr. Wahls diet, let me know how it goes.  If you want to fill in the gaps with “foodlet” supplements that are guaranteed to make you feel better or your money back, let me know that, too.

Be well, Do Well and Keep Moving.

Betsy

BetsyBell’s Health4U

206 933-1889

Seattle, WA 98116

I

But I have to have an operation!

Gentle Reader,

I was talking with a guy last night who had to have an operation for his hip.  The osteoarthritis had become so advanced into the hip joint that various movements were impeded.  A long time supplement user, he fortified himself with various supplements in order to tolerate the operation well and heal quickly.  He is a little disappointed with how long it has taken to get back to a range of motion he hoped for.  He is apprehensive about the operation waiting for his other hip.

As a wellness advisor, I have counseled many people about steps they might take to prepare for surgery, all kinds of surgery, whether for cancer or for arthritis and bone issues.  I thought I would share with you the document I have developed over the years.  Please add your own thoughts if you have had surgery and found alternative supplementation and actions that have helped with healing.

Before Surgery:

Soy protein 2 x daily  (if taking chemo, increase to 3-4 x daily)

Vita-Lea 3-4/daily  (Shaklee’s multivitamin-mineral supplement)

Fiber Tablets or Mix:  Soluble fiber (bloodstream), insoluble fiber (gut)

Herb Lax:  Cleanses gut, blood

Vita. C Sustained Release w/bioflavinoids:  anti-inflammatory, new cells grow faster, immune system support, helps w/pain.  Take a minimum of 3-4 of 500 mg./da – up to 10,000 mg.  (gradually decrease since body has to adjust to excreting excess)

B-Complex:  aids in good digestion.  Depleted by stress.  Take 8/da – space out

Zinc:  Helps w/pain, healing, no more than 50-60 mg./day except when there is trauma like a cut or incision (up to 120 mg./da until healed).  Body can’t make new cells w/o zinc, protein, & C.

Immunity Formula I:  2-8/da (A proprietary Shaklee supplement to enhance the immune response.)

Carotomax:  Cleanses cells, reduces inflammation (swelling), makes mucous membranes healthy.  Especially helpful if using breathing machine.

Vitamin E:  Oxygenates cells, gets rid of toxins of anesthesia.

DO NOT take GLA, E, OmegaGuard (fish oil), Garlic or lecithin before surgery. Stop 1 week prior.

Alfalfa (vitamin K):  10-20/da to reduce bleeding during & after surgery.

Garlic:  Helps flora, antibacterial agent. Not before surgery as is a blood thinner.

NutriFeron:  Take 4 for 2 weeks. (A proprietary herbal blend that stimulates interferon production.)

OsteoMatrix:  Coats nerve endings, helps repair them quicker, helps you relax so you can sleep deeper (can take w/Gentle Sleep Complex). (This is Shaklee’s calcium product.)

Iron:  Need blood test to know if needed. (Shaklee’s comes with vitamin c to help absorption.)

After Surgery:

Performance:  Dilute more than usual, make ice chips out of it, & start taking slowly as soon as feel like it. (Shaklee’s rehydrating drink, perfectly balanced for absorption.)

Protein:  Take as soon as can drink but don’t feel nauseated.  Alternate with Physique. (Physique is Shaklee after workout maximize, excellent for healing sore muscles.)

Liver DTX: 2 at night (Shaklee’s detox milk thistle product to help restore normalcy after the medications of surgery.)

Stomach Soothing complex:  Helps calm digestive system if feeling queezy.  Made with peppermint and ginger, can be taken as a tablet or dissolved into hot water for tea.

Vita-Cal:  Helps reduce gas bubbles. (A chewable Shaklee calcium product)

Fiber:  Start w/very small amounts to start cleansing.  A Fiber Blend tablet or ¼ tsp. Fiber Blend.

Vitamin E 400+:  4-6/da.  Prevents blood clots, oxygenates.  Start slowly if high blood pressure is an issue.

Lecithin:  Helps build sheath around nerve endings which helps reduce pain. 6 daily

GLA:  Up to 6/da, anti-inflammatory. (Shaklee makes their GLA from borage oil for best absorption and least contamination)

Omega Guard (fish oil):  If you digest it well.

Alfalfa:  Diuretic, liver cleanser, reduces swelling, helps kidneys, etc. start working again. 20 daily

Herb-Lax:  Start slowly. Very helpful after surgery as elimination slows down so much from the anesthetic.  Take to the hospital.  From personal experience, this is super important.

Purified Water:  very important

B-Complex:  Promotes healing, increases energy level.

Ginseng:  Helps energy & supports adrenal glands.  (Shaklee’s CorEnergy)

Dandelion leaf:  Swelling & inflammation. (Not a Shaklee product)

Optiflora pills and powder is strongly recommended to rebuild the flora. 1 serving daily of this pre and pro biotic made by Shaklee

This is a tall order when you may not be used to taking so much stuff.

The minimum pre-op is Energizing Soy Protein,  Vita C, Optiflora, Vita lea Gold and Alfalfa

Post op:  Physique, Vita C, Vita E, Optiflora, Vita Lea Gold, Alfalfa, Herb lax, Lecithin.

I have gleaned this information primarily from Carol Dalton, a nurse practitioner in Colorado who, during her long practice, has found the Shaklee supplements to work best for her patients.  People who have followed this protocol have had remarkable healing and suffered the least from the trauma of surgery.

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving,

Betsy

BetsyBell’s Health4u

206 933 1889

http://www.HiHoHealth dot com

 

Nicaragua: How it went from the body perspective

Dear Reader,

From yoga to Central America and back.  I am happy to report that I needed very few of my Shaklee herbal Pain Relief tablets.  I packed about 18 in my little emergency pill-box, plus 6 Aleve.  In the airport back here in Seattle after sitting on the airplane for 10 hours and hauling the 2 rolling suit cases along miles of hall ways, I swallowed the last herbal remedy.  There are still 4 Aleve in my box!  I was amazed.

Exercise: practically impossible to get the usual exercise.  Unconventional exercise opportunities came along frequently.  In Managua, we all stayed in various homes clustered around the Cultural Center in the barrio of Batahola.  After a 36 hour trip (we missed our plane leaving Seattle and had to re-book 18 hours later), Alicia (my granddaughter of 13) and I joined our group for tours of two collectives in which Nicaraguans produce products from local materials for sale locally.  From there we headed for our home stays where, after meeting the family and unpacking my suitcase, I showered and washed the clothes I had on so long. This is the first exercise.  One washes standing over a double sink, the washing side of which has an old-fashioned rubbing surface.  You wet the clothes by dipping water from the larger of the two tubs and splashing it over the clothes and then scrubbing.  Of course my delicate ExOfficio sports clothing wouldn’t tolerate that kind of treatment.  I used my laundry soap from home and gently got the sweat and grime out, rinsed over and over with dips from the water tub and finally hung the clothes on the lines strung in the patio over the concrete floor and potted plants all around the edge.  Open to the sky, everything was dry in the morning.

There was no early to bed for us.  Around 8:15 after dinner of rice and beans, fried bananas and steamed beets and a strange new root vegetable that had been boiled and mashed with butter (yummy), the family announced they were going to a concert.  Would we like to come?  Exhausted as we were, we chose to go along.  We walked–three children, grandma and grandpa and daughter–to the main road (about 1/2 mile) and hailed a cab.  Four adults and 3 children sat in the back seat with Don Encarnacion Nicaragua in front with the taxi driver.  What a ride!  The concert was a first gig for a talented young group with a clear, warm tenor; a rich sultry contralto and our family’s friend, Ana, the back up singer, violinist, flute player, castanet shaking beauty.  The rhythm section included every sort of Latin drum and vibs, acoustic and electric guitars.  The music rocked.  The audience knew the words of all the popular songs from the Misa Campesina and their original tunes were haunting and worthy of a CD.  The place was an outdoor bar, tables and people filling the concrete slab just below the stage area which was right in front of the serving bar.  We were a bit late at 8:45 and sat at a table on the dirt slightly sloping floor along side the stage and right in front of the powerful sound system.  No chance of nodding off.  Huge bottles of Tona, the Nica beer, fried cheese and fried bananas and coke for the kids arrived.  By mid-night I pleaded total exhaustion and the mother and children took us home in a cab while the seniors, Mr. and Mrs. Nicaragua stayed to the end.  Amazing.

The next day, real exercise presented itself in a dance lesson at the cultural center led by probably one of the best group class exercise leaders I have had.  We practiced the salsa, merengue, and several other steps I can’t name.  She had us stretching.  Washing out those clothes and showering all over was a necessity after that work out.  And no pain.

Was it the heat?  Was it the vacation?  Was it the clean diet of corn, beans, rice, vegetables and no wheat at all?  Who knows.  I was grateful.

Not to give you an entire travel log, but I want to mention a couple more exercise moments.  We stayed a night in the lovely hill city of Matagalpa, where like Seattle, to get anywhere you have to walk up and down.  At one moment I was able to take off alone and walk up hill.  We would never permit that steep an incline for normal driving.  On my way back down from a high point in front of a lovely house, I passed a woman about my age carrying 2 sacks of groceries, her face contorted in pain, breathing hard and resting often.  I thought how fortunate I am to have all the self-care and practitioners to keep me in such good shape.  I can elect to walk the hills of Matagalpa.  She cannot.

Our group of 10 from Saint Mark’s Cathedral was organized through Matagalpa tours.  We spent two nights in the campo, staying with farm people, members of the fair trade coffee collective, Cecocafen.  Two from our group and I walked over a mile to get to our farm stay, again on gravel/dirt road that rolled with the hills up and down.  At the house, visiting the bathroom was an athletic even.  At night the doors were bolted with heavy iron bars which I had to lift and move, then removing a heavy beam holding the upper half of the door shut.  Then I had to navigate a steep stone stair case down to a dirt slope that descended to the outhouse, being careful to duck under the clothes wire set to smack me right in the eye balls.  A few stone steps up to the heavy wooden door to the two hole latrine.  I scoped out the outhouse trip during the day light and wore my head lamp.  Oh, did I forget to mention that going down the outside stone steps included trying not to disturb a pile of dogs who slept there.

I was glad I had tucked in a therma-rest mattress to help me sleep on the 2 inch thick foam pad on a ply wood sheet on 4×4 legs of a bed.

Several in our group climbed an active volcano outside Leon, the colonial city in the western part of the country.  I chose a city tour with two of the other older participants and we got to climb to the roof of the cathedral, a classic Spanish structure.  The ring of fire around Leon is impressive and most residents have experienced ash in their homes and on their faces.  It makes for very fertile soil and beautiful vegetables and fruits are produced on the mountain farms.  We learned about the complex mixed farming of shade grown, organic coffee, tucked in with bananas, fruit trees as the upper story.  Beans were ready for harvest, pineapple had just been planted, corn was bagged and carried by a yoke of oxen to a high place for winnowing the chaff.  A little mechanical help from a small John Deer tractor would ease the hardship of these farmers’ lives.  They rise at 4 to shower in the dark, make tortillas and get their children ready in their blue trousers or shirts and spotless white shirts to walk the 1 1/2 miles to school by 7:30.  What a pleasure to watch the children gather from the scattered farms to form a river of blue and white, each with their back pack, the 5 year olds holding hands with the older sisters and brothers.

At night, returning from our day exploring the area as a group, we walked home to our farm on a moonless clear night. Seldom have I seen such stars, the Milky Way so brilliant as to light our way with Orion leading to the south.  Everyone was in bed by 8:30.

Our Saint Mark’s group returned to Seattle last Monday and Alicia and I stayed another 6 days, she with her father and his family; I with a welcoming couple and their 40-year-old son living in Batahola, across from the Cultural Center.  Here is a link in English where you can read about this remarkable place.  I signed up for more of Carla’s dance classes and met a great group of women who come twice a week to learn about nutrition, health (mini lectures between the merengue and salsa) and exercise.  They were very welcoming and chatted me up with questions about the US and plenty of sharing about their work, families and home life.  My Spanish was up to it, I am pleased to say.

My host mother is interested in prevention and nutrition and we had wonderful long conversations about herbs and vitamins and foods that help with her aches and pains.  She is 61 and not taking any medications.  She was #5 in a family of 12 and her parents both lived into their 90’s.  Her grandmother lived in the mountainous countryside until her death at the age of 115.  Besides keeping visitors for a small sum (room and 3 meals $20 a day), Dona Cony made helado, a fresh popsicle sort of fruit ice cream.  She made 5 flavors: one, chopped mango, banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, and something else, vanilla and cinnamon poured into 1/2 cup sized plastic bags and tied by hand and frozen. Other flavors are coconut, cocoa, cherries ground fine and mixed with milk, and a slightly fermented concoction of pineapple and some other fruits that she first cooks to get the acid out and then skims, added a bit of rum and other flavors and largish pieces of banana.  I didn’t get to try this one and had to content myself with helping.  They sold for 5 cordobas.  23 cordabas = $1.  She doesn’t advertise.  There is no sign.  People come from all over the neighborhood and beyond to buy one or a dozen at a time.  I explained that such cottage industry would require an enormous amount of red tape here in the States.  They let the buyer beware and the seller maintains a spotless kitchen. One bad batch and she’d be out of business.  News travels fast, especially when it is bad.

I’ll get back to the wonderful topic of preventing and managing arthritis next Monday.

Be well and Do well and most of all, keep moving!

Betsy

BetsyBell’s Health4U

206 933 1889

www.hihohealth.com

Yoga and arthritis

Gentle Reader,

My morning routine of lying on the floor, legs over the Back2Life machine, followed by several gentle yoga poses gets my body functioning.  I am then ready for the chair chi gong exercises, free weight lifting both standing and the lying on an ethafoam bolster and more stretches with a theraband, emphasizing the IT band with the leg slightly drawn high across the body.

Yoga, what I call the essence of Yoga, is at the core of all this early morning routine.  Mary Sue Corrado, my Pilates instructor, worried that I would overdue yoga and increase the damage to the L5 disc, that I would exacerbate the osteoarthritis slowly worsening at age 68.  I was training to climb Mt. Shasta, the 14000 ft peak in northern California.  I was part of a team climbing to raise money for The Breast Cancer fund, whose aim is to prevent breast cancer by advocating for the elimination of human causes of environmental pollution.  All the training materials recommended yoga for core strength.

If you would like to climb mt. Shasta with the best support you could imagine, get in touch with Connie George at the Breast Cancer Fund today and GO FOR IT!  It was a top experience of mine and could be yours.

I asked for a private appointment with an instructor at the 8 Limbs yoga studio, only a 1 mile walk from my house in West Seattle.  I needed a private lesson and assessment because I required guidance on how to modify any program to take care of my weaknesses and physical vulnerabilities.  The early morning class led by Amelia Gailey taught me how to center with my breathing, gently move to wake up the body and slowly build to a strong powerful series of poses.  Over the next 5 years, I practiced at 8 Limbs and gained tremendous core strength.  Pain management took care of itself.

A couple years ago, pain increased with a full yoga session involving all the asanas and I had to discontinue a full practice session.  I know that it would be beneficial for me to find a gentle class.  Instead I found Jennifer Kreis’s Hot Body/Cool Mind DVD and use her yoga routine, and seated chi gong for a morning workout.

My own exploration resulted in using yoga for pain management.  A recent study conducted by the Arthritis Foundation found that arthritis patients who maintained a regular routine of range-of-motion and low-resistance exercises (like yoga) showed less pain and better mood over the long term. Studies also show that people who start a regular routine of gentle yoga exercises are less likely to drop out than people who start other kinds of exercises for arthritis. Over 50% of people who start other kinds of arthritis exercise programs drop out after six months. Studies show that because yoga is more fun and more pleasurable, people are more likely to stick with it as an exercise for arthritis.

Whether you go to a studio (the very best) or learn a few moves you can do at home, yoga is an outstanding over all mind, body and spirit healer.

The following comes from the study.

Health benefits in general

“Yoga is more than an arthritis exercise. Yoga, which comes from a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘yoke’, is designed to bring all body systems into proper alignment so that the entire system functions correctly. Health benefits of regular yoga practice include increased energy, better posture, weight loss, deeper relaxation, an ongoing sense of well being and calm, greater flexibility, lower blood pressure, healthier diet, and increased alertness and mental functioning.”

“All yoga practice includes deep relaxation techniques and an emphasis on proper breathing, both of which have been shown to improve mood and reduce pain and anxiety. Many types of yoga teach healthy diet as well. Regular yoga practice is often recommended for heart and cancer patients because of its usefulness in a healing aid and an aid to relaxation.”


Benefits for arthritis

“Yoga is one of the very best exercises for arthritis because it directly treats the main problems arthritis sufferers face: pain, swelling, joint stiffness and lack or flexibility, depression, and anxiety. Yoga is very gentle, so arthritis patients can learn the stretches and poses at their own pace, making very gradual progress that improves well-being rather than causes pain. The long term effect is increased flexibility and reduced or eliminated pain in the joints, as well as better general health and mental functioning, and better, healthier sleep and positive mood.”

Finding a yoga class

“Yoga classes are widely offered across the U.S. at YMCAs and YWCAs, through hospitals and community centers, at health clubs, and at senior centers. The websitewww.yogaalliance.org maintains a list of yoga teachers and yoga centers where classes are offered. Arthritis sufferers will probably be able to locate a class specifically for people with disabilities or for older students, as these are becoming more and more popular as yoga becomes a more and more popular arthritis exercise.”

There is so much variety in the classes offered and you want a teacher who will understand your limitations and goals and help you not over due.  If you are a type “A” person, like me, you have to be careful not to overdo.  Not all instructors and classes are equal.  I have tried a lot of them and for my body’s problems; I need the slow, gentle routine with held poses rather than the faster movement of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.  Above all, if you have arthritis, please get a private consultation first before launching into a full scale yoga practice.  Learn what helps your particular condition and gently pursue it.

The Arthritis foundation of course recommends discussing with your doctor the use of yoga as an exercise.

“Your doctor probably has a list of resources and an opinion about where your needs would be best met. Ask for a note describing your physical limitation that you can give to the yoga instructor before starting your first class. Yoga instructors are trained to take disabilities and limitations into account and work individually with students at their own level, not matter how limited that may be.

“No matter how disabled you may from arthritis, or how much pain you may be experiencing, you will be able to start a gentle yoga routine based on your abilities and begin to move forward. That is why many yoga classes specifically for older and disabled persons are springing up through hospitals and wellness centers. Yoga is one of the few exercises for arthritis that absolutely anyone can do.”

A Happy Downward Facing Dog to you!

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving.  Betsy

PS:  I’ll be traveling in Nicaragua for the next 2 weeks.  Watch for a new posting after March 1st.