Monday, September 27, 2010

Kisses to the Kat - My Last Day at the Co-op!

Today is my last day as the Marketing Director of Our Health Co-op.

It's been bitter-sweet day. I'm excited for my new adventure, but already miss my Co-op family. Thankfully I'm not going far (virtually speaking, anyhow); I'll continue blogging and reading from the kat, I just won't be leading the charge.

As I reflect on the nearly 6 years total that I've worked for the Co-op, I feel both gratitude and sadness in leaving. Immense gratitude for all that I've learned about health and aging; the extended look into all the things people wish they knew in their 20s.

Sadness because the Co-op is something special -- it represents a world where eating healthily is "cool," silly pet humor matters, and values like honesty and sincerity are honored without a second thought. Such a rarity, and I feel fortunate to have been part of it in such an intimate way during such formative years. This community has shaped me.

As for what's next for me, tomorrow I start in the Human Resources department of small startup technology company here in Seattle. It will be a stark contrast to join a bunch of techy guys who live off pizza and beer and avoid vegetables like the plague, but I'm confident I'll have them eating vitamin C out of my hand in no time (especially once cold season hits). They're a very friendly and funny bunch, and it's been made explicit that part of my job will be to "mother" them a bit. :-)

As for what's next for you, you're in good hands. Our new Chief Community Officer, Chris Harding, is a gem and members will be lucky to have him. Chris's dad used to boil fresh slippery elm when he had a sore throat and his family grew most of their own food during his childhood. He learned the lessons of good nutrition early, and has been an avid Constant Health fan for years.

Chris also offers years of experience in the entertainment business and leading organizations through culture change initiatives. Among his big dreams for the Co-op are finding more ways for the team and experts to communicate better with ya'll through videos, teleseminars, webinars, and community boards. Chris is committed to seeing the Co-op become a community resource in addition to a provider of great supplements and service.

Personally, I can't wait to see what happens. I care deeply for the Co-op and all our members I've gotten the chance to speak and write with over the years. Now it's my turn to be one of the meowy members keeping the team on their toes. I can't wait. ^..^

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raw Cat Food Health Benefits After Two Months

I've had my little guys on raw food for nearly two months now, and I've been delighted with the results. Diddy already requires less of his inhalers, and his hair has all grown back in beautifully (he had some hair loss last year). Even better, his "sensitive stomach" is sensitive no more. He's had no trouble keeping his food down.

Their coats are beautiful and shiny; their bodies sleek and muscular; their energy vibrant and enduring. Shockingly, their feces have no odor whatsoever (I know, I still can't believe it), and they use the box far less than in their dry food days. I honestly couldn't imagine putting them on the dry stuff ever again, and I'm not sure they'd stand for it anyway!

I'm looking forward to seeing how Diddy does with the moist, oxygen-rich Seattle air, but thus far getting his system back to good health is a big success.

The Wisdom of Stress + The Antidote to Exhaustion

I've been a firm believer that stress = impending sickness. For most of my life, whenever I've been "burning the candle at both ends," sickness awaits me at end of the wick.

So when all you-know-what broke loose a few weeks ago, I kept bracing for the oogies. My best friend decided to move to Europe, I needed to find a new apartment, my college semester was ending, and I lost my kitty, Dante, to a chest infection right after getting Diddy's asthma stabilized. I was stretched thin, and rest was nowhere in sight.

Apartment hunting, something I usually enjoy, felt like a drag. I dreaded appointments to see new places and felt discouraged even looking online. I attributed my lack of enthusiasm to stress, but I knew something else was up when I found the perfect place and felt panic, not relief, every time I started the application.

See, I'm the poster child of easygoing, all the way down my "happy feet," so I was intrigued by this panic. Then I woke up with unwelcome tightness in my throat announcing enemy takeover. I felt I was being slowly strangled from the inside and braced for the sickness I'd learned to associated with stress.

Before I went home, tail between my legs, I started exploring with a friend what might be going on with the apartment application panic. Practically dictated I just fill out the application and get on with it. I didn't want to keep looking and this was a golden opportunity. However, something I had not confessed, even to myself, was that I didn't want to stay in Utah. When I started talking, words came like "Seattle" and "I just can't see staying here, even if it seems rash." The more I talked, the more I realized I was being strangled -- not just by germs, but by my unwillingness to acknowledge my feelings.

Interestingly, I had just been reading Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer, who writes that often the most significant moments are those we can't explain and may make no sense whatsoever to anyone, even us. Perhaps that passage gave me a little more courage to explore what was actually going on and not just chalk it up to general stress. It was stress all right, but most of the stress was caused by my not wanting to acknowledge what was actually inside clammoring to get out.

The more I talked about what I saw for myself in Seattle (community, holistic learning, a culture that supports integrative health strongly, the ocean, etc.), the easier I could breathe. The tightness that had gripped my entire day was nearly gone, and a big smile had crept onto my face. I never did end up getting sick, and my energy surged back in a way that shocked me. Here I was actually taking on more, and feeling energized, not depleted.

One of my favorite poets, David Whyte, writes, "The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, but wholeheartedness." When I look back at the times stress actually did take me down, not only do I see an overall weaker immune system, I see how I felt there was no way out. I didn't know how to listen to myself, and I would push myself until my body forced my hand. Poor bodies, so easy to ignore sometimes. Not this time, thankfully!

So I'm off to Seattle in less than three weeks with a full heart. I couldn't wait to get apartment hunting, and I found myself an apartment overlooking Puget Sound. I'll be spending time with the naturopaths at Bastyr University, the integrative medicine students at the University of Washington, and our integrative pharmacist friend, Mike Ciell, who travels to Seattle regularly. Note to self to keep exploring the wisdom of stress.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Update: Supporting Cat Health Naturally

Things are looking up since my last post. Way up.

Saturday I took Diddy to the veterinary heart specialist. You can only imagine his excitement. Thankfully, his vicious protest was nothing more than a soft, pouty meow and a pathetic squinty look that seemed to say, "But why?" He soon discovered a clever hiding spot under the towel on my lap while we waited for the doctor.

The specialist was excellent, and a "cat person" to boot. His staff appreciated Diddy's compliance and even opted to carry him around between tests rather than sticking him in a cage.

I waited patiently in the exam room trying to prepare myself for the news to come. The vet soon re-entered, asking me to come on back and take a look at the digital x-rays. Diddy reached for me like a toddler, and I let him perch on my shoulder while I heard the results. X-rays showed trouble in Diddy's lungs, not his heart. Irritated lungs were affecting his heart, but main problem looked asthmatic. Phew. A serious problem, no doubt, but far less scary than heart failure.

Siamese are prone to asthma, this I knew, but Diddy's symptoms were so mild considering the serious inflammation inside, it's no surprise we didn't catch it sooner. Interestingly however, Diddy's always had a "sensitive stomach" and I've been through several foods over the years to find one he'll keep down. The vet explained that, like humans, most immune cells are located along the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and the skin. So, just because Diddy hadn't been coughing long, his tummy trouble says his system has likely been irritated for ages. Poor baby.

While there's no "cure," for asthma, there are many ways to manage it, like most any other inflammatory condition. Drugs are always the first option presented, but a purely pharmaceutical approach won't suit me for long. Changing his diet, improving home air quality, removing obvious irritants, and adding supplements will all support a overall healthier Diddy, and thus a stronger immune system.

My goal is to get Diddy to where he relies on as little medication as possible. That said, with a little medication, Diddy's already stopped coughing completely, has more energy, and is breathing better at night. So, I am grateful for pharmaceuticals when it comes to acute care. They can work wonders in a pinch.

I spent most of Sunday morning reading about kitty health, and discovered the site of a cat-loving veterinarian who has had amazing results switching all her cats to a "raw food" diet of chicken thighs and supplements. While I'd always heard dry food is better than canned food because it promotes better dental health, turns out dry foods can bring a whole host of problems.

In addition to issues like contaminated ingredients that caused the deaths of numerous pets back in 2008, dry foods are also prone to molds, bacteria, mites, and other unfriendlies while they're sitting in warehouses and stores. Dry foods are also grain-heavy, which cats don't need (and actually contribute to stinkier, bulkier stools -- ew).

Everything I read made sense, and I've committed to slowly switching my kitties over to a homemade diet. Just like we humans, who aren't meant to fill up on processed foods, cats have had to try to adjust to less-than-healthy processed diets that aren't what thousands of years have trained their bodies to eat.

My little carnivores devoured the half-cooked chicken thighs like lions on the plains of Africa. They were also discernibly more content after dinner. So, of all the things I never thought I'd have in my house, I'm ordering a meat grinder. It's very important to feed bones as well as meat for calcium, and a grinder to offer up bones easily. Supplements are important, too, says the site creator, especially taurine. I'll be adding a few anti-inflammatory supplements, like fish oil, as well. If my cats weren't already spoiled, they'll be crossing a new threshold here shortly.

I look forward to seeing how my own health improves as I make changes that benefit the whole pride. For example, the dust and fragrances from clay kitty litter can cause a whole heap of irritation, for humans too. Living beings are living beings, and no system thrives on a sub-par nutrition, environmental toxins, and poor air quality. Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Sad Day: Furry Friends in Sickess and Health

Today is supposed to be Happy Friday.

See, several years ago one of the Co-op's manufacturer's had never heard the saying "TGIF." Cindy and I tried to explain to him that we weren't talking about the restaurant, we were simply wishing him a Happy Friday of sorts. The phrase stuck and has since lived on for years now. Sun, rain, travel, days in the office...very few Fridays have passed without one of us wishing the other a Happy Friday.

Today, the sun shines bright in Salt Lake City, but it doesn't feel like a Happy Friday. This morning I took my Siamese cat, Diddy, to the vet with a cough. While we waited for the vet, Diddy took to his usual post on my shoulder and busied himself trying to get his face as close to mine as the laws of physics would permit him. He's such a good baby, even when he's stressed.

My heart sunk when the x-rays revealed an enlarged heart. Diddy is unlike any cat I've had and as is often true with Siamese and their humans, we're tight. I tried to keep myself together as the vet scrawled the name of a specialist down and sent me on my way, x-rays in hand.

The appointment with the specialist is tomorrow, thankfully. As soon as we have a firm diagnosis, I'll get him an appointment with a holistic practitioner to see how to best support him. I've already ordered heart-friendly taurine, l-carnitine, and fish oil to get him started nutritionally.

My hope is that holistic healing is in my blood. I'm pretty sure my grandmother deserves the Guinness World Record for keeping dogs alive the longest after their "death sentences." One dog diagnosed for kidney failure and given "three months, tops," lived another happy, healthy 7 years. Another dog had heart problems for ages, but lived well-past 14. Her current dog, Lilly, has been living with an enlarged heart for most of her, now long, life.

Skeptics may say that because they're Jack Russell Terriers they just stubbornly refuse to pass on, but I know better. I know she's given them all various homeopathic tonics and other supplements. She's never been a big fan of the allopathic system and she likes nothing more than to see the astonishment on their faces when her dogs keep on truckin'. I'll be calling my grandma later today. I'll be sure to pass along whatever she tells me.

In the meantime, I'm just going to keep enjoying my Diddy kitty. No matter how long I have him, he pretty much insists that I enjoy every minute of him I get. Diddy is a retired show kitty, and while he's well-socialized, I don't think he got nearly enough direct adoration in his previous life so he doesn't want to miss a drop. Good thing he picked the right human.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Suffering - A Blessing in Disguise?

Yesterday I had lunch with a good friend who recently had his gall bladder removed. He's learning that while humans can survive without the little gall buggers, it takes some adjusting. High-fat, high-carb, and extra spicy foods are out for my friend, yet he doesn't always "remember" this until it's too late.

We soon started chuckling about how even though there are all kinds of things we know we shouldn't eat, we find a way off the hook. I, for example, really shouldn't eat wheat. Ever. No really, I shouldn't. I sneeze, I itch, I suffer. A lot. Yet when a neighbor blessed my front door with a moist, truffley chocolate cake...well...I cracked.

I rationalized that I'd just have a little bit and that I'd take the Co-op's Pancreatic Enzymes to aid my system in processing the irritant (they work wonders in this way). Unfortunately, the next morning I could still feel the effects. Enzymes help minimize the damage, but they're not miracle workers.

See, I have lots of ways of letting myself off the hook. I tell myself I'll just have a little; or that I've otherwise been really good about wheat that day; or that whatever I want surely can't have that much wheat; or that I'm really hungry and don't want to suffer a growling stomach all afternoon. I'm just so darn clever, but my rationalizations don't fool my body at all.

Dr. Rodier is often quoted saying of his patients, "They haven't suffered enough yet, they're not ready to change." And it's true. My friend didn't think too much about changing his wicked ways until his gall bladder complained enough to require surgery.

I'm not so different sometimes, I'm ashamed to admit. As soon as I feel my immune system struggling, it's amazing how easy it becomes to say no to the golden grain. Yet, when I'm feeling out of harm's way, my resolve suffers. I've heard the same confessions from others trying to be more healthy; whether it's wheat, sugar, bacon, alcohol, or some other something they shouldn't have, it's tough to be good.

If pure, unbridled willpower were all it took to change, the world would be a very different place. So where to turn instead? Here are a few ways I've discovered to support myself.

Personal Resolve: Getting clear that I actually want to stay away from wheat always helps a lot. Knowing that I "should" isn't enough. It's too easy to feel rebellious and reckless.

Network of Support: Telling the people in my life that I'm staying away from wheat works wonders. My father's widow (who serves pasta, sandwiches, and other temptations for big family dinners) said, "I didn't know you couldn't have wheat. That's all I've been feeding you!" I didn't want to inconvenience her, but turns out she was happy to be more accommodating. Confessing my wheat-free wish to friends helps, too. They help me shy away from choices I'll regret and suggest places to eat with lots of friendly options.

Keeping in Touch with the Body: When I pay attention, my body has so many ways of telling me what it likes and doesn't. The sneezing is obvious, but more subtle cues include having to pry my lifeless body out of bed in the morning, dry skin, puffiness, slight bloating, and itchy ears. Charming, huh? The truth is when I tune in, I don't even want wheat. I love it when my body feels good, but when I'm not so connected to feeling (good or bad) it's easy to tolerate a lot of these symptoms.

Keeping Friendly Choices Handy: I confess, I don't plan. I fly by the seat of my pants, much to my mother's horror. However, magically, when I keep the fridge stocked with friendly foods and don't pick restaurants I know will push my resolve, it's not hard at all to keep from sneezing.

So, when I suffer the itchies and sneezies, I take it as a reminder that I need to return to better practices like the ones above. I try not to scold myself, but instead look at how I can better support myself.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's in a Diagnosis? And, Making Caring Contagious

I'm often overlooked as biased when it comes to health information because I work for a supplements company. Despite the fact that I spend most of my day every day absorbed in nutrition and health knowledge, people assume I'm just looking out for my own bottom line. Clearly they're not familiar with the Co-op's philosophy or pricing structure (not to mention that sales is not my forte)!

Anyway, I'd be tempted to take these dismissals personally, but I've seen health care professionals meet the same fate. When they deviate from the traditional medical model, they're called quacks, charlatans, witch doctors, and other flattering monikers. What makes me sad is how often genuinely valuable information is ignored because of these biases and stigmas.

Take my recent conversation with a family member. She's only 29 and has begun to suffer from extreme pain, fatigue, and sleeplessness -- to the point that she cannot work (she's a nurse) and spends her days at doctor's appointments and in bed. She's already on multiple pharmaceuticals because none of the specialists can agree on a diagnosis.

"Chronic fatigue is a result of depression, try these anti-depressants," says her psychiatrist.

"It must be a nervous system issue, try this anti-inflammatory," says her neurologist.

"Sleep deprivation can't be helping, take these sleeping pills," says her internist.

All the pharmaceuticals bring plenty of undesirable side effects, too. Restlessness, cravings, exhaustion, headaches. And still, nobody knows what's "wrong" with her.

When I listen through an ear that isn't just searching for a finite diagnosis, the conversation gets more interesting. Sure, she's not overweight and her skin looks reasonably healthy, but I hear about her poor diet, and how she eats few fresh foods, gets no exercise, and has plenty of stress. Not exactly the recipe for wellness, but not considered "symptoms."

When I began talking to her about cellular health and the gut, she got curious, but another family member (who's older, heavier, more stressed, and a veteran sufferer of fibromialgia and chronic fatigue) completely cut me off and assured the youngster that the drugs will help some, but not to expect that much will change. Basically, just trust the doctors and get used to feeling like crap. I was shocked. I was also grateful that the sheer speed at which my jaw dropped wasn't too noticeable.

When the nay-sayer left the table, I offered my young family member the telephone numbers of a couple practitioners that would help address her issues more holistically. She seemed appreciative, but when I saw her a few weeks later she was still feeling terrible and hadn't contacted either one. She was still hoping for a diagnosis and pharmaceutical treatment that would magically restore her health.

As I continued to reflect, very troubled, I thought of Dr. Rodier who has literally thousands of reputable journal studies and clinical results to support his work. Yet patients continue to get angry with him and put him down when he asks them to make nutrition and lifestyle changes over trips to the pharmacy.

So I'm finding myself very curious today about what it would take to open more people to integrative methods. I care about the future of this country and our larger global society. I care about my generation being able to support ourselves and our parents (which is looking dismal these days). I care about education with good information. Now if I can just make that care contagious. At least I care about a good challenge, too!