Thursday, June 27, 2013

Food As Medicine, Part 5: The Bladder (or: To Pee or Not To Pee?)

This is the fifth entry in a series

In addition to being the culprit behind huge restroom lines at concerts and coffee shops, the human bladder is a source of numerous diseases and ailments.  A healthy bladder means a much happier you (trust me on this!!), so do not take bladder problems lightly.

The urinary bladder's main job is to store urine for excretion.  It's a stretchy thing, so if you gotta hold it, it can handle the extra load without causing a lot of internal pressure.  There are two sphincters in the bladder.  One is controlled automatically by the body, and the other is controlled voluntarily by the body's owner to allow for urine to exit (or not exit, as the case may be).  Any loss of control of either of these sphincters can leave you hung up to dry (see what I did there?).  Childbirth, nerve damage, some medicines, age, obesity, smoking, chronic coughing, surgery, trauma, and age can all cause the sphincter muscles in the bladder to weaken. 

A lot of bladder control issues can be solved by doing-- yeah, you guessed it-- Kegels.  You can also follow the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease' guidelines for men and for women.

Some other more common diseases of the bladder include interstitial cystitis, bladder cancer, and urinary tract infection (although UTI's do not pertain directly to the bladder, I thought this would be a good entry in which to include them). 

INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS does not currently have a cure, nor does it have a known cause.  However, there are some things that can be done to help mitigate the symptoms.  These things won't work for everyone, since the origination of the disease can vary, but at least some of them may provide relief.

Hyaluronic Acid has shown promise in relieving IC when injected directly into the bladder.  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)  I cannot find any studies on oral hyaluronic acid and IC, but it's worth a shot.

Avoiding trigger foods.  Most people suffering from IC have specific trigger foods that make it worse.  These are often acidic (tomatoes, coffee, citrus, Vitamin C), alcoholic, or spicy.  As a general rule, avoid any foods that do not make you feel good, even if you don't have IC.

Reducing stress.  Flare-ups are often stress-related.   Find ways to mitigate stress, including meditation, breathing exercises, physical activity, and other relaxation exercises that work well for you.

A combination of aloe, dry Vitamin D, and turmeric:  Since IC is an inflammatory condition, I felt sure that my favorite anti-inflammatory, turmeric, would have good results for alleviating symptoms.  I could not, however, find any scientific studies on this.  What I did find was someone's blog regarding their experience with the above combination of supplements.  It seems to have worked wonders for her, and knowing what I know about each of the individual ingredients, I'd say this is definitely worth a shot!

BLADDER CANCER According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 72,570 new cases of bladder cancer in 2013, and 15,210 of those will result in death.  A very clean, organic diet high in vegetables (especially green leafy ones) and absolutely minimal in extra sugars, refined flours, processed foods, and ingredients that are bothersome to you in addition to maintaining a healthy body fat mass, avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and drug use (prescription or otherwise) can go a long way in keeping cancers of all kinds at bay.  However, if the cancer has already manifested, there are steps you can take to try to reverse or at least halt its progression.

Raw Broccoli, above all cruciferous veggies, seems to have the most promising defense against bladder cancer

Cranberries appear to be strong bladder cancer weapons.  (1) (2)

Green Tea seems to improve the 5 year outlook significantly for bladder cancer survivors. 

Herbs and Spices have proven to have excellent anti-cancer properties

Genistein, a property of soy, has shown to inhibit bladder cancer growth.  (1) (2) (3)

Cordyceps, Maitake, and other Mushrooms are excellent anti-cancer foods, and have shown to be effective against bladder cancer.   (1) (2) (3)

Turmeric, once again, shows to be very useful for helping fight bladder cancer.  (1) (2) (3)

URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS are very not fun, and could lead to serious complications if left untreated.  It is important for women in particular to practice good hygiene when using the bathroom (wipe front to back) and when being intimate to avoid getting a UTI.  Drinking a lot of fluids helps mitigate symptoms, too.   

Cranberries are the most famous natural treatment for UTI symptoms, and have been proven scientifically to work.  (1) (2) (3

Several studies have found a very large percentage of retail meats and honeydew melon to be infected with E. coli bacterium, which can lead to UTI's.  (1) (2) (3)

In short, eat clean, drink lots of water and green tea, up your veggies, don't eat irritating foods, do your Kegels, and alleviate stress, and your bladders should last you quite a while.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Turning S**t Into Sugar

A lot of people have been asking me how things are going, so I figured it was time for a new blog post.  As you may or may not know, I was in a bit of an accident last week.  I spent the night in the hospital, got out around 1PM the next day, and went back to work at 4:30PM that same day.  I started training the next day (I have the doctor's OK to do any lifting not involving the injured fingers).   I performed with my band twice that Saturday.  People keep praising me for this like I'm some kind of hero.  I'm not a hero.  I'm a woman who made a really dumb mistake that cost me some body parts, and  I am too stubborn to give up my passions.  So from adversity comes creativity.  I'm training hard and making do with what I have.  Today, for instance, would have been bench day.  Here's what I did:

One-arm KB bench press:  12kg x 10/10, 16kg x 5/5, 20kg x 1/1 x 4, 16kg x 5/5, 12kg x 10/10.
The kettlebell is perfect for pressing right now because I can keep my fingers out of the mix easily. 

Close-grip pushups:  isometric for 5 count in 3 positions x 5, followed with 5 full close-grip pushups.  I used pushup handles for these to keep my fingers free. 

Bodyweight pullups using straps, 5 x 3.  I found a strap I can fit my hand through so I don't have to grip.  I used a second strap for my other hand so I could keep the heights relatively even.  The strap over my wrist is scratching the hell out of my skin, so no weighted pullups till I figure out a solution. 

Pinky-and-ring finger holds with 10kg bell.  I do these throughout the day to try to strengthen my other fingers.  Sometimes I use 12kg, sometimes I use 8kg.  I just keep using them, and holding the bell as long as I can stand it. 

I'm pretty positive most of the time.  Honestly, I am so, so lucky that this is not any worse than it is.  I'm going to make a full recovery after the skin graft, and I will have 80% sensation and 100% functionality back after around 3 months.  That's awesome.  Seriously.  I am so, so grateful for it.  But I'd be lying if I said I was a bowl of sunshine 24/7.  I'm frustrated and more than a little mad at myself for being in this situation.  I'm left-handed (you know, only left-handed people are in their right minds! :) ), and it was my left hand that was affected.  This has thrown the way I write, eat, and generally go through life a major curveball.  I got a leash splitter, so I can walk my two dogs at once.  That's worked out well.  I love to cook, and I am very efficient at it.  Cooking one-handed is a whole new thing, and very frustrating.  Yesterday, I got sauce all over one of my bandages, and I just about lost it. 

I saw my fingers for the first time since the accident on Wednesday.  The surgeon cut the bandages off.  My middle finger is worse than I thought.  It's ground down more or less to the bottom of the nail.  The index finger is a little better than I thought.  On the bright side, I can give people the finger and REALLY MEAN IT now, with my ugly middle finger.  :)

Emotionally, it is difficult.  I welled up when I saw my fingers on Wednesday.  I have to change the bandages daily now, and today was the first day I didn't cry a little doing it.  It is really hard to look down at your hand and see part of it not there.

I bump my fingers a lot.  It hurts like crazy when I do.  My dog knocked my laptop into my hand the other day and I saw stars.   So far, no problems have come of these events, but it worries me.

I'm fighting with my insurance company over keeping the surgeon (who is out of network) who started my treatment so that all this does not bankrupt me (it's already going to cost me around $5,000 even with an in-network surgeon, which will pretty much kick my ass financially). 

But I am, and will be OK.  That is the important thing, and the main thing to focus on.  I will be getting new fingertips that will work just as well.  Maybe I can talk my surgeon into giving me bionic ones-- super fingertips!!!  How cool would that be!!!  I could shoot lasers from them!!!  Ooooh.  In any case, we'll see.  I'll keep on pluggin' however I can.  And I may just invest in an array of finger puppets to amuse myself in the meantime. 

Thanks to everyone who has shown support and concern for me through this time.  It's meant a lot.  I'll keep you updated.

Rock n Roll don't need no fingertips!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

I'll start this story with an explanation.

You see, I love to cook.  And one of the must-have implements I have in my house is a food processor.  I use the thing pretty much every day.  One day, one of the parts fell and the brake popped off.  I was planning to replace the part, but my roommate sort of jerryrigged it so that it could still work in the mean time.  Only thing is, it did not have a brake any more, so when it was turned on, it would run whether or not the plunger was in it.  Yesterday, I was in a hurry to make dinner.  I had not planned to make dinner that day, but I wanted to use up some greens before they went bad, so I changed my mind at the last minute.  While I was pushing them in, I wasn't thinking and all of a sudden something felt very wrong.  What was wrong was that 1/3 of the index and middle fingertips of my left hand were now somewhere in the greens. 

I started yelling OMYGODOMYGODOMYGODOMYGOD, dripping blood profusely into a towel (and the floor, and the sofa...) while my roommate called 911.  I have never been in an ambulance before, and the whole thing was so surreal.  They wanted to inject morphine into me.  I said no.  I was strapped into a gurney (protocol, I guess?) and wheeled into the ER.  My roommate actually fished my fingertips out of the greens and packed them in ice and brought them to the hospital.  Yeah, he's pretty awesome. 

While I sat in the ER feeling sorry for myself, a woman in a black burqa came by my room and asked me why I was crying.  We got to talking and she told me her story.  She is a Muslim-American USA military vet.  She's been raped, attacked with knives and guns, and lost 17 of 18 children close to birth (the 18th is an addict and has disappeared).  People see her burqa and threaten her here.  She has severe PTSD and agoraphobia.  She looked around, lifted her burqa mask, and showed me the tattoos she has on her face. She got them to cover up knife wounds.  She has 4 degrees in aerospace, law, and more, and speaks several languages.  She had just gotten a biopsy.  And she was worried about me and my fingertips.  I thought she was one of the most amazing people I have ever met.  Things like this really put your own crap in perspective.

I had my blood pressure checked a million times, peed in a cup twice, had my oxygen saturation checked over and over (100%, baby!).  They put me in a wheelchair against my protests and wheeled me up to another room.  Finally, around 10PM, I went into surgery.  It went well.  The surgeon said I would need two surgeries, the second being a skin graft in 3 weeks.  He said my fingers will look fairly close to normal, but would not be quite the same as before.  I will have full functionality but about 80% sensation. 

If you need a peace sign or bunny ears, I'm your girl.

For the next 3 months, I am not allowed to do much involving the injured fingers on my left hand.  I have to drop out of Powerlifting Nationals in July, which I have been training really hard for.  That was a big disappointment.  But I will come back stronger than ever.  My workout plan in the meantime is:
-Heavy sled pulls in my yard with the straps over my shoulders, waist, or ankles.
-Good mornings
-Squats, lunges, step-ups.
-Pushups and isomatric pushups on kettlebell handles so my fingers aren't involved
-One-arm swings
-Ab work

I will be doing my segment of the Steel, Stone and Sugar workshop one-handed.

And hey, maybe I will get really good at one-arm pullups.  You never know.

Oh-- and I'm getting a new food processor.  I will never, ever make this mistake again.

Love and appreciate your fingertips.  They're very nice to have.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Gots Me A FitBit. Here's What I Think.

So a few weeks ago, a very awesome client of mine gifted me a FitBit One.  For those of you who don't know what this contraption is, it's one of these.  Essentially, it's a very fancy pedometer.  It uses more or less the same technology as the Wii to track movement, elevation, and sleep cycles.  I decided to wear it nonstop for a few weeks and see what happened.

Here's what I liked about it:  
-It made me very aware of how much I was moving throughout the day.  I am a very active person, but this made me more so, I think.  For instance, on the days when my steps did not reach the daily goal, I would often go out of my way to try to walk more that day to try to get closer to it. 
-It tracks sleep.  I know I don't sleep well, and this helped me see what's happening.
-It links up automatically to an internet app whenever it's near my computer, and it sends me progress reports.
-It says fun stuff like, "ROCK ON, MELODY!"
-It's small, so it's relatively inconspicuous and does not get in the way of activities.

Here's what I think could be improved: 
-You have to enter a lot of things manually, such as weight, diet, workouts that aren't walking-related, etc.  Now, obviously, there's only so much a device is capable of.  However, I honestly don't have a ton of time to be entering in all that information on a daily basis.  You can backtrack and enter it for previous days, too, but again:  there are better ways to spend my very limited free time.  I rarely entered any of the manual information.
-The calorie total is only a ballpark figure.  I don't believe the FitBit calculates speed of movement (although I could be wrong about that), which will affect how many calories are burned.  It also has no idea how much muscle mass the user has, which will absolutely affect the caloric total.  In fact, there are many, many factors besides step total that will affect how many calories were burned.  The calories burned estimates on the prefabbed activity entries in the manual online system are also gross generalizations.  "Weight training" is bunched into a category with "powerlifting" and "bodybuilding" and other such things, and takes into account only the amount of time spent doing it-- not the exercises used, how much weight was lifted, and so on.
-If you want to wear the thing all the time, it does not go well with slim-fitting dresses/outfits.  Not that I'm a fashionplate or anything, but I do like to look presentable now and then.
-It's easy to forget it's clipped onto your clothes.  I almost sent it through the wash a few times.

Here's what I learned:
-My sleep sucks.  I knew this already, but if the FitBit is even remotely accurate, I get, on average, around 6 hours of sleep and wake up about 12-18 times per night.  No wonder I need a nap in the afternoon.  This did not improve when I was away at a hotel, so my "it's the cat's fault" excuse is only partially valid.  In any case, I know now that I really need to address this issue and find out what the cause is.

My conclusion:
I like it.  I'll probably keep wearing it.  It does make me walk more than usual, and the stats are fun to see.  I might upgrade to the bracelet model at some point, though.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!