Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Knowing Your Family and Their Medical History

If you ever feel like you have symptoms of a larger health problem the first person/people you should be taking to are the members of your family (genetic members). You are a member of a vast gene pool. And chances are if you feel like something is going on with you, they too have probably experienced like symptoms. Most health problems, with the exception of those gained from exposure to extreme conditions (radiation, mercury or other heavy metal poisoning as examples), are due to the expression of genes that are you born with and inherited from your family. I realize this sounds really obvious, but I was recently not smart enough to follow my own sage advice and had myself pretty freaked out for a good few months.

Starting around early May I was getting really bad dizzy spells. Right away I started tracking what I was eating, doing, and exposing myself to. I then took the information I collected from observing myself and did some research on what the heck could be causing these new found and incredibly annoying/debilitating dizzies. With the help of WebMd and some other medical websites I had in four months time convinced myself I was diabetic, had cancer, a brain tumor, low blood pressure, a major ear infection, Menieres disease, vestibular neritus, delayed head trauma from a car accident 2 years ago and possibly pregnant.  

The worst part of all of this (other than being dizzy all the d*mn time), was I kept going back to my maternal medical history. My mom bless her, is nearly genetically perfect. No family history of any of these medical problems I had since convinced myself I was suffering from. In fact she is tall, thin, beautiful, has perfect teeth, eyes, no allergies and rarely gets ill. I on the other hand in no way take after her. I look like my dad and his father more than anyone I am related to and much like them, I have terrible eyes, had braces twice, chronic ear infections as a child and am allergic to nearly everything. Yet, even while being fully aware of all of these things, I still did not think for a second my dad and my grandfather might hold the key to my new found vertigo. Instead, it must be a tumor.

It wasn’t. After a surprise visit from my dad a few days ago and a long discussion about how his parents/my grandparents were doing, he mentioned that my grandfathers dizzy spells were getting worse (say what now?!). At which point I had perhaps the world’s biggest “oh-duh” moment. The discussion continued and the prognosis is such: the combination of my genetically defective ears and being allergic to most everything means when I and my grandfather and my father had a severe allergic reaction to something, our inner ears get a tad swollen, which puts pressure on the equilibrium mechanism, which causes seemingly out of the blue vertigo.  The real kicker in all this was, all spring and summer I kept commenting on how I wasn’t having my normal seasonal allergies. I had actually be unknowingly suffering from allergies, but because I have been working so hard to eliminate the things I am allergic to from my life instead of feeling like the flu had stomped on my will to live, my allergies were less sever and more centralized to my inner ear. I was just missing that small little bit about family history that could have helped me figure out the problem sooner.  

So while it took me all spring and summer to pin point was what going on with my head, I did finally get my answers. And I managed to avoid a lot of unnecessary medical exams and expenses, all of which probably would have given me the usual “I don’t know what is wrong, here take this”. My own personal cure of dizzy spells works just fine, one allergy pill and one Ibprophen and a whole lot of water. No more dizzy, no more tumors or diabetes or head trauma. Just a minor bruise in my pride and intelligence and a whole lot of relief.

The moral of the story, if you are feeling symptomatic talk your family. It is also a good idea to keep a medical journal of your tests, levels, ailments, medication, reactions etc. Many times this information can come down to the difference between life and death. The more you know about yourself and your genetic history the better equipped you will be  to lead a long a healthy life.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's TOO Hot

Much to everyone’s delight the summer heat has arrived in Portland. I hate it. 90+ degrees is just too hot when homes don’t have air conditioning or pools. If you are like me and find yourself maxed out and miserable here are a few things I have been doing to try to survive this oppressive heat.

All things Mexican seem to make eating in the heat slighting more appealing. Even better most of it requires very little cooking. I have been living off guacamole and black bean tacos for almost a week straight now. Black beans can be made in a crock pot which hardly omits any heat and can be used while away at work, so you don’t have to be home for the actual cooking process. Black beans are also a great low fat, vegan protein source. Healthy Healthy!

In the past I have gotten a lot of flak for my avocado habits. True the fruit (commonly thought of as a veggie but it’s a fruit) is high in fat. But what people don’t know is that is it one of the most commonly prescribed foods for people suffering from high cholesterol. The fruit contains oleic acid which helps the body regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is also an amazing source of potassium, which is also helpful in guarding again circulatory disease and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Plus its chock-o-block full of vitamin E, K, B6, C, copper, folic acid and fiber. So just because something is high in fat doesn’t mean it should be avoided especially when that high fat item is a plant.

My Guacamole recipe:
1 avocado
1 lime
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup cilantro
chili powder
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Peel, chop and mash the avocado. Add as much lime juice as can be squeezed from the lime, mash more. Chop shallots, garlic and cilantro, add to mashed mess. Add chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Done and delicious.

I love Mexican food…..LIKE LOVE Mexican food. The only thing I missed (other than friends and family) when I studied aboard in Austria was Mexican food. But if you don’t get as excited about it as me, other good things to eat when it’s too hot to cook are cold veggies. It may sound uninspiring but salad, fresh cut cold veggies and chilled fruits will do a lot of help cool your core body temperature while also delivering much needed nutrients to help restore damage done by overheating and sun exposure.  You can also try making your own popsicles from fruit juices frozen in plastic containers with tongue depressors set in for holders. Just try to avoid juices from concentrate and those high in sugar.

Another great heat reliever is cold showers. They are incredibly refreshing and soaking your head (especially if you have long thick hair) in cold water it will lower your body temperature quickly. They are also great for your circulatory system as well as being good for the shine and tensile strength of hair follicles. Taking cold showers have also been known to help boost your immune system and metabolism, detoxify your body, fight fatigue, reduce swelling, improve kidney function, and normalize your blood pressure. Plus it reduces the amount of electricity you are using which will save you a few dollars at the end of the month.

Also don’t forget to drink plenty of water and avoid things that dehydrate you like sugars, alcohol and caffeine. Wear at hat or head covering when in direct sunlight and don’t get sun burned.

Happy weekend all!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pure Frivolity

For about a month now I have been lacking the ability to concentrate on anything serious. It probably has to do with the time of year, the fact that summer heat seems to want to stick around, plus all the everyday stress I have been dealing with lately. So when labor day weekend came around I took the opportunity to get out of dodge. A little canning with my mom (tomato base for the winter months), some early morning beach time, a little haunted house mystery and some good company left me feeling very refreshed. Though it also left with me a new obsession which is in no way health related.

I forced my friends with the promise of coffee and breakfast to get up at 5am and drive out to my favorite beach spot. Despite sleepy eyes and bad hair it was a grand decision. The beach was beutiful and cool, the parking lot empty and the tide low. We poked around the beach a bit and then when appieties overtook we headed out from food.

{looking south at India Head Beach}

{Seaguls at Sunrise}

{My Toms}

I bought my Toms in North Carolina earlier in the summer, Boyfriend calls them my ninja shoes. He wasn’t far off, these things are amazing on slippery beach rocks.

{Terrible Tilly - decomission light house}

{Sea Anenome}

{Surfers at Dawn}


{Low Tide}

After we were all properly fed we went down to Haystack Rock, it was after breakfast at this point so the tourists were aplenty. In fact we got to see the police bust some unruly visitors for climbing around on protected land. Good times!

{Best Friend and Girlfriend}



{Muscels and Barnicles}

The other major event of the weekend was a visit to my favorite house of all time. An abandoned mansion in Astoria with a long and confusing history. With the help of my dear friends, the obsession has grown in to full on research. Which in turn has fueled my curiosity further considering how public the family was and how little information we can find. Hopefully a trip to the historical society will cure to curiosity.

 The house is located on 15th and Franklin Ave in Astoria, it house three generations of the Flavel family, Astoria's first millionaire family. In fact, the family settled in Astoria before Oregon was even a state. This particular house was built for the son of Captain George Flavel in 1901. The current owner is on the run for various things, but currently back taxes and a good deal of money owned to some other families in town. So the house sits and rots into the ground. While nearly the entire town waits for it to go up for auction so it can be restored.

{Maid's Room, top story dormer}

{Under the Eves}

{siding with no paint}

{front entrance glass}

In going through my pictures, I realize and cannot believe I have never gotten a picture of the full house. This particular picture was taken by a woman who lives in Astoria and is equally enthralled by the house. The owners of the house a brother and sister by the names of  Harry and Mary Louise Flavel. Harry was charged with assault in 1983 and which time the pair abandoned the house so he could evade jail time. When Harry died last May rumors swirled that Mary Louise had returned to the house. The black bunting appeared on the railing but the house appears to remain uninhabited.

Back to my regularly schedualed day. Comming soon....some information about soaps and why a person should take great care in selecting body products.