My Journey To Health, Doctors 101

Lucy-PsychToday I decided to write doctors 101, which I should probably apologize ahead of time to all my friends who are doctor for having the audacity to write this.

This is going to seem fairly simple to some of you, but for others it will help.  I have found a lot of confusion out there regarding the terms we are going to discuss.

First the MD.  MD stands for medical doctor.  A medical doctor is the one who takes care of you when you’re sick.  At this point in time I have 4 medical doctors.  The first one is my Primary Care Physician, otherwise known as a PCP.  In the past we would use the term family doctor, I have no idea why that changed.  Your PCP takes care of your general health.  A cold, the flu, and your regular aches and pains, blessed is the person who only ever sees a PCP.

We need to take a break hear now and add the PA or The Physician’s Assistant.  A PA can do the things a doctor can do only he does them under the immediate supervision of an MD.  In reality I am not sure how this works in the office.  I, however, see a PA and I have a high respect for him.  He treats me well and thinks of alternatives to regular meds which sometimes really help.

Next you have the specialists.  We are no longer in the days of the Wild West.  Where your town had one doctor and he helped you with your cold and set your broken leg.  After a certain level of treatment your PCP may advise you to see a specialist.  I have three, 1, a podiatrist for my feet, 2 a neurologist for my brain and 3 a psychiatrist for mental health issues.

Now let’s take a look at the PHD.  The PHD is a doctor of philosophy and as many as there are subjects under the sun you can have a PHD.  You can have a PHD in English, Math, Botany, Theology, Religion; Music the list is really endless.  I see one PHD and that is my Psychologist.

As mentioned above a Psychiatrist is an MD and he is.  A psychiatrist takes care of the medical side of emotional and mental illness.  He supplies the medications you may need such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.  I have found that there are two types of Physiatrists.  The first you see for a very brief time, they quickly checks your meds against how you are feeling and alter them accordingly.  These psychiatrists are usually the ones you will find that are covered under your insurance.  The second talks to you for a longer period of time and then alters the meds.  These you will rarely find covered by insurance.

A psychologist is different as he does not provide you with medication but instead helps you with what is now popularly come to be known as Talk Therapy.  Talk Therapy is the type that you see depicted in cartoons where the patient is laying on a couch and the doctor is sitting there taking notes.  This differs from Peanuts where Lucy has a psychiatric both and she sits on one side and Charlie Brown sits on the other.  As Lucy only charges five cents I doubt this is much of an issue.

Talk Therapy, in reality. takes place in a pretty relaxing atmosphere.  There can be a couch present but mostly people sit up and talk.  Comfortable chairs are usually available though I can think of one instance where the office was pretty Zen oriented and had two chairs and wall hangings.

The PHD is going to set up his or her office according to their personal choices as well as the type of therapy that they do.  There are many types of talk therapy.  One where you do just talk and the PHD takes notes and listens rarely giving advice, but giving you the opportunity to figure stuff out on your own.

The other will be more active in the conversation and will challenge you while you are speaking as well as help you set goals.  This is the type of psychologist I see.  He was the doctor that had me come off sugar identifying it as an addiction.

Here is the key with all doctors, both MDs and PHDs.  YOU ARE THE BOSS.  If one of your docs isn’t treating you well, go to another.  This is especially true with the psychologist and psychiatrist.  The guy that fixes your leg can be an ass personality wise, but if he is an amazing surgeon, keep him.  You only deal with him for a short time.

With a psychologist or psychiatrist it is very different.  This becomes a real relationship in your life.  You have to like someone that you have to trust with all your deepest feelings and secrets.  Some will even allow a phone interview before you come in for an appointment just to see if the two of you are a good match.  This relationship may be very short term or long term, but you gotta like and trust the guy, if you don’t, or the relationship goes south, fire him or her.  It is your right to do so.

With talk therapy there are also therapists.  These mostly have master’s degrees.  My first experience was with a therapist and he was brilliant.  He gave me two pieces of advice that I now pass on to you.  The first, is a therapist is not a paid for friend.  You are there to accomplish something together then part company, this is not a person who you hang out with.  The second is, if your therapist and you decide that you are to do something, do it.  If you don’t or you don’t have a very good reason for not doing the work, you are wasting the therapist’s time and your time as well as your money.

One final thought.  Medical Doctors and Doctors of Philosophy work equally hard at earning their degrees.  They, as I understand, get there through different processes, but the time and energy spent are probably about equal.  I want to take a second to pause and salute those who have made this achievement in their lives.  Many of them gave as the benefits that we have today in the 21st century, and those that follow will play a key roll in building a better tomorrow.

The post My Journey To Health, Doctors 101 also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, Sugar Free

sugar-evilI never thought going sugar free would be easy, I have to admit, I never thought it would be this hard either.

I don’t want this column to sound like an ongoing session of whining, and so let’s talk about the legitimate troubles of stopping sugar.

I Think the first one has to be restaurants, and for me that means fast food.  I love McDonald’s and if all of us were honest we would almost all agree.  It’s funny that many people say how bad the food is there.  A few blocks from me there is a Burger King, a Boston Market, a Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell, and an Arby’s as well as a McDonald’s all on the same block.  However it is only McDonald’s that ever seems to have a long waiting line. In the rest you are in and out in a few minutes.  This food is hard to give up.  For now it’s once a week and no soda or dessert is purchased.

Going to the market is hard too.  My supermarket has a great bakery, to be honest it has the best donuts I have ever had and I have congratulated the donut maker several times.  They a make a dessert called a chocolate bomb that should be illegal.  And what is also in the bakery?  All the really good whole grain breads.  I have not touched a morsel of the sugar filled treats but my eyes get bigger whenever I walk through the place.

Then there’s Juice.  I have always loved juice.  Not the things like HI C or Hawaiian Punch but fruit juices like grape, white, grape and apple I also have a weakness for Lemonade, but all of that is gone.  It truly is not much better than sugar and it must be let go.

I have found some alternatives though.  A couple of years ago I fell in love with frozen lemonade.  While going through the frozen food department of the store I noticed frozen strawberries.  I bought a bag as well as a bottle of Simply Lemonade and put both in the blender.  Now that is frozen strawberry lemonade.  I have modified this a bit by putting the frozen strawberries in the blender and some real lemon and a bit of Blue Agave.  This is exactly the same and my understanding is that lemon juice is ok to use.

I have also found that frozen cherries a bit of Blue Agave, milk and two teaspoon of cocoa powder in the blender makes a great shake.  These are satisfying alternatives that I really enjoy.  The shake is very filling to.  I had one by itself last week and did not get hungry for hours.

No, this road has not been easy, but I will not give up. Time will change my tastes as well as allow me to discover new ways to eat and to be satisfied.

The post My Journey To Health, Sugar Free also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey to Health, Short and Sweet

wishes-nighttime-spectaculaToday’s column will be short…and sweet.  It hasn’t been a good day and I hope to be asleep as early as possible.

Today I went into one of the worst depressive battles of my life.  It didn’t last long but it hurt a lot.

I got up at 6:30 and walked the dog.  I knew I was dropping within the hour and by 8:30 all I could do was lie on my bed and stair ahead feeling nothing much more than emotional pain that came from nowhere.

Around 9:30 my father came in the room and told me some news that I was not ready to hear.  It wasn’t bad news at all, but it was upsetting for me.  I put on a face, encouraged him, and as soon as he was gone the tears started to come.  Now I was depressed and dealing with a legitimate emotion at the same time.

The tears and pain continued throughout the day.  I contacted my small group leader and he encouraged me as best he could.  I was relieved someone knew what was happening.  Not long after I sent out a group e-mail asking for prayer and some folks got back to me quickly support doesn’t take it away but it makes it a bit easier to bear.

At 3:00 I called my psychiatrist.  By that time I could not form sentences, I was stuttering and crying at the same time.  I didn’t know what else to do and was getting ready to take myself to the hospital or find someone who could take me.  I tried to write this column but what came out of me was not worth reading.

Around four o’clock I “officially” went to bed.  If I slept there would be no pain, I had slept well the night before so I wasn’t sure I would sleep at all.  But I did.  At 6:30 the phone rang and I answered it.  It was a friend calling to see how I was.  I told him about the day, but I began to realize something was different.  I didn’t want to say anything.  I didn’t trust it.  I hung up and realized I was really me again.  Emotionally I was working well.

And so it is now.

This was a battle and a win, a new win at that.  Never had I had this type of depression lasted this short a time.  Never would this column have been written before.  The only real difference was that I reached out to many people who on my behalf prayed for me.  Believe when I tell you it was not something I could do for myself.

One more thing, something I want to reiterate every chance I get.  If you ever feel like you are going to harm yourself or others GO TO THE HOSPITAL!  I don’t want anyone who reads these columns to ever find themselves in a place where they won’t go.  I want you alive.  So do many others, even at the times you can’t believe that in any way.

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February is National Hot Breakfast Month


Breakfast served in yellow tableware - eggs, oatmeal, orange jui

(PCM) Most so-called food “holidays” are invented holidays, created to showcase (and boost sales for) one type of food industry or another. We’re okay with that: after all, food is life, food is love and, with good choices, food is good for you.

That said, we present National Hot Breakfast Month with certain caveats. For instance, how important is a hot breakfast, really? Despite conventional wisdom, breakfast isn’t necessarily the cornerstone of your culinary day. And while cooked foods are good for digestion (heat makes nutrients more readily available to your body), you can do just fine with raw fruits and veggies, nuts, breads and spreads, or cold juice and cereal.

On the other hand, there are psychological benefits to eating cooked foods. A bellyful of a warm breakfast can be comforting (especially on a cold February morning). We associate warmth with safety and satiety, health and home.

We’re so often in a rush to start the day that we don’t have time to cook: instead, we rely on what’s easy, which means cold, like a box of sugary cereal, or questionable (we’re looking at you, Mr. Eggy McConvenient sandwich). Perhaps the idea behind National Hot Breakfast Month is to encourage more Americans to start the day in a happier, wholesome state of mind.

However, if “hot breakfast” makes you think of eggs, fried potatoes, and processed meats (bacon!), you might want to chill: as much as we love these foods, we can’t recommend an entire month of them. While they offer some healthy benefits (and taste oh so fabulous), they’re high in cholesterol, fats, sodium, nitrates and other baddies you don’t need on a daily basis. Instead, consider celebrating this type of iconic American meal as the occasional “Hot Breakfast Sunday”.

If, on the other hand, “hot breakfast” means oatmeal, porridge, or grits, to you, have at it! Hot breakfast cereals are a healthy source of fiber and carbohydrates. As part of your regular diet, they can keep your cholesterol in check, fight heart disease, and help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you feeling full longer. Skip the sugar and butter, and boost your hot cereal flavor with fruit, cinnamon or spices, honey, skim milk, yogurt, or peanut butter (for added protein).

Some other hot breakfast ideas to consider: warm bagels, biscuits, or toast (bonus points for whole grains) with healthy spreads like preserves, warm fruit compote, low-fat cream cheese, or sliced avocado. Egg white omelets or scrambles are a fast-cooking alternative: add steamed or gently sautéed veggies, onions and garlic, spices, beans, smoked fish, or shredded meats. And don’t overlook non-traditional breakfast options like rice, pasta or quick-cook grains, reheated repeats from last evening, or even a bowl of classic canned soup.

Eating a hot breakfast may not be a necessity, but it can be nice and easy. Fire up your creativity and your taste buds, and be well. Happy Hot Breakfast February!

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My Journey to Health, Maple, A Question and an Update

sugarmaple_treeI love maple syrup.  Not the Mrs. Butterworth pancake syrup, but real straight from the tree maple syrup.  It just tastes better than the others and there is more that you can do with it and it is better for you.  The reason I say this is because I did some shopping today at my local market and in the health food section they had a new drink, Maple Water.

There was no question I would buy this.  I didn’t want to as 12 ounces was 2.99 and that is expensive, but I found it again in the already chilled section and the compulsive part of me won.

Maple Water is the maple tree sap not boiled down for syrup.  When maple syrup is made the trees are tapped with a little spigot and the sap from the trees drips into buckets when the buckets are full they are brought to what I believe is called a sugar house.  There it is boiled down into the syrup you find in the market.  So Maple Water skips the boiling down part and is bottled and sold.  And it’s really good.

I have one small issue and that is the cost.  Since the Maple Water skips the boiling down step and goes right to market it should cost less, but it costs more.  I guess this is the American way.  However if they made the cost less I would buy more, but for now it will be an occasional treat.

In the last column I wrote about exactly what I was going through during a depressive episode.  It did pass yesterday, but unfortunately I can feel it trying to come back while I type.  It may stay where it is and it may get worse or better, I never know.

One question that was asked in the comment section below the last column was, “where was God in all of this?”  I am a Christian so I believe in God and Jesus, but to answer the question, I don’t know.  God seems to disappear when I get in to deep depression.  Mentally I know he’s is there but emotionally he is not.  I pray and ask for help but those prayers seem to bounce off the wall.  I believe, however, that this is why God has placed us in community.

Community is not your town, though it can be, it is more the place that you feel you belong.  The Amish understand community, they help each other out.  A barn needs to be built the whole town goes and builds it.  In our world though we then to have look hard for community, it does not come naturally in our culture, but it should.

I think when you are ill mentally emotionally or physically ill you have to be able to rely on the community around you to help you.  If you belong to a church, ideally this should be your community, the people you can rely on to help to get you through the hard times whatever they may be, and they can rely on you also.  Community is never a one way street; it goes back and forth from every door of the people that belong to it.

I think that is where God should be when I am in a depressive episode, it does not always work out that way, which is why, if you have read my previous columns, you will see me asking emotionally healthy people to reach out to those that are not emotionally healthy on a regular basis.  They need, OK, we need your help.  God dwells in His people and that is where God has to be when I am in a dark place.

Now for a quick update.  Yesterday was the one month anniversary of going off sugar.  Because of the multiple issues with my feet and leg I have not been able to exercise much. I never really described the feet/leg issues.  Both of my feet have no feeling in them at all on the bottom.  The tops are not as bad but are still numb.  My right leg goes completely numb when I stand for more than a half an hour.  After walking for about a half an hour both of my feet swell up, and before you ask, no I am not diabetic, and yes my sugars are checked regularly

I went to see the neurologist that has been following me yesterday.  He is working with my feet and leg as well as my hands, which have slight to violent tremors.  I am scheduled for a second EMG this coming Monday to find out what can be done about my feet and leg.  An EMG was done about a year ago but the results were not conclusive.  The tremors are treated with medication but it does not work all of the time.

While at the Doctors I was weighed.  As you may remember my weight at the beginning of this journey was somewhere between 370 and 390, yesterday I was 360.  So going sugarless has made a difference.  Physically I, in general, feel better.  My mind is certainly clearer now.  So, on the whole I am better than when we started.

The post My Journey to Health, Maple, A Question and an Update also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

February is National Canned Food Month

Senior man looking at canned food

(PCM) Are the short, cold days of winter getting you down? Do you find yourself craving a taste of summer? Wish you could take a big, juicy bite of sunshine? Well, guess what? You can.

February is National Canned Food Month, for good reason. If you live in a cold-weather region, there isn’t much in the way of local, in-season produce right now. What better time to showcase the wonders of canned foods? Here are just a few:

• Cost! Canning is an inexpensive method of preserving foods at the peak of freshness. Canned foods are often cheaper than grocery store produce that’s been shipped cross country (or over oceans) – and more appetizing than food that has wilted in trucks and storerooms for days (or weeks).

• Canned foods are generally as healthy as fresh – sometimes more so , because the canning process concentrates the good stuff. You can maximize the nutritional benefit by choosing brands without added sugars, salts, or preservatives, and/or rinsing off preserving liquids before use.

• Convenience! Since they don’t need to be peeled, pitted, or prepped much, canned foods can save you time in the kitchen. They have a long shelf-life (1-2 years for most fruits and vegetables, even longer for meats), meaning you can access top-quality ingredients whenever you need them. When you don’t need them, they’re compact and stackable and look nifty on your pantry shelf. (They’re also easily transported and fit nicely in food baskets and barrels set aside for the less fortunate.)

• Variety. In addition to fresh fruits, veggies, and tuna, you could feed a family for months on canned food alone – you know, if you were hunkered in a bunker or something. Nuclear winter aside, it’s just good household business to stock up on quick meals and must-haves; think soup, broth, beans, poultry, cured ham, curries, juices, gravy, sauces, chutneys, pickled anythings…

• Cans (almost invariably made from steel) are fabulously energy efficient and sustainable; steel can be recycled without any degradation to the material. According to industry research, more than 67 million cans per day are recycled by American steel companies.

• You too can can! As many a grandmother will tell you, canning is a rewarding do-it-yourself project: save money and savor the satisfaction of your summer harvest with just a small investment in supplies and time. There are many how-to resources for home canning available online or in bookstores, though chances are you know someone whose shelves are lined with their own handiwork. Ask around!

• Whether store-bought or home-wrought, canned food is safe as long as you keep some guidelines in mind. Stow your cans in a cool, clean place away from humidity or extremes in temperature (such as over a stove). Do not use cans that are leaky, bulgy or broken, or eat anything stinky or funky. Abide by expiration dates and follow instructions to a tee if canning from home.

Don’t settle for iffy produce or give yourself scurvy waiting for garden season to roll around: get yourself a can opener and celebrate National Canned Food month today!

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