To truly live in such a way that prevents and reverses chronic health issues (especially in today’s world) means doing a lot each day. Most people I know think that I do it all because I care about this cause that much. But the truth is, no human can do it all perfectly. We are continuously changing and entering new eras of our lives, and most importantly, we are always learning more.
At the close of 2018, I’m taking time to reflect on the changes I made that had the greatest impact on my physical and mental health. If you’re looking for a place to start making some changes in 2019, give these a look.
It’s not about doing it all, all of the time. It’s doing most of it, most of the time, and never giving up that really counts.
1. Using a Waterpik and Seeing an Integrative Dentist
After interviewing Dr. Reid Winick in late 2017, I decided to become a patient in 2018 and realized a lot more goes into integrative dentistry than a quick cleaning and a pat on the back for flossing. Dr. Winick’s team took a swab of my mouth, and they saw more bad bacteria than they’d like lurking in the pockets of my back teeth (I was a 3 out of 4, 4 being the worst!). I told them I was diligent about flossing, but apparently that really only helps with big pieces of food. They told me that using an electric toothbrush and a Waterpik twice a day would help, so that’s what I began doing! I’m constantly amazed at how many small bits of food the Waterpik gets out, even after I’ve brushed. I’m proud to say I went back to Dr. Winick’s office in October, and am now a 2 out of 4 — aiming for a 1 next time!
2. Finally Getting My Chronic Pain Under Control
As I alluded to above, I still deal with a few chronic health issues, one of which has been a near lifelong battle with chronic pain in my jaw, neck, and back (another is my thyroid — more on that in #3!). I’ve seen countless specialists, but never really had a treatment plan that helped prevent my jaw from “coming off,” i.e. chewing on my tongue, making it bleed, and needing to get put back together by a chiropractor. In 2018, I decided to commit to a just a few things I thought would work to relieve my pain in a more sustainable way. I now see an acupuncturist and a myofascial massage therapist every other week, and I’m proud to say that I have not had a “jaw off, tongue bleeding, need immediate help” situation since April 2018! Though acupuncture and myofascial massage still don’t get to the “root” of my structural issues, it has gotten me out of immense pain, without the need for invasive surgery, side effect-ridden pain medications (OTC or more serious), or emergency visits to the chiropractor.
3. Making My Thyroid Much Worse
Building a company as a sole founder, it turns out, is a bit stressful! Having not been through the experience before, I was unprepared for how to deal with the daily trials and tribulations of charting your own path, having things go wrong constantly, and living with countless unknowns. In the past few months, I started to feel “too busy” to do a lot of the important things that our research wrap-ups, expert interviews, and patient stories have shown help keep stress in check. I also felt “too busy” to keep up with my supplements. I’d been diagnosed with slight hypothyroidism a few years ago, for which I just took Naturthroid and didn’t think about much — but when I had a blood test this past November, it showed that my thyroid was completely out of control. There are a few reasons this can happen, but one is excessive stress or spiking cortisol, which fatigues the adrenals, which control the thyroid. Another is micronutrient deficiencies. It was a big lesson to me that health is never done — it’s constant journey. Our bodies, like gardens, need tending to. If you push aside the things you know keep it healthy, it will let you know by growing weeds. While this change negatively impacted my life, I think it’s just as important to share it with you as the positive things I’ve done for myself this year. Much more on this in 2019!
4. Bringing My Own Products Nearly Everywhere
This year I got pretty serious about bringing my own products anywhere I could (within reason!). At my co-working space, I use my own non-toxic dish cleaner, hand soap, and lotion. At the hair salon, I bring my own shampoo and conditioner, and at the nail salon I bring my own clean nail kit. Though I routinely forget it and need to run back up to grab it (yay steps!), I now bring a thermos with my own organic oat milk to the coffee shop (more on that in #6) to get my decaf coffee (more on that in #5!), and bring my own bags to the grocery store and the farmer’s market. I leave most of these things by the front door in a basket so it’s easier to remember. I don’t beat myself up if I forget, but if I’m going to talk to all of you about the importance of getting plastic and toxins out of our lives, than I better do my very best to get it out of my daily routines.
5. Breaking Up with Caffeine
I love coffee. I love the smell, the taste, the ritual, that it gives me a destination for my morning walk (more on that in #7!), but I found that the stress I had developed (#3) in 2018 made my heart beat a little faster than I wanted it to, even with only one cup of coffee each morning. I did some research and found that people metabolize caffeine differently, and some of us have more of a jittery reaction than others. This stimulation can exacerbate stress or anxiety, so I decided to try giving it up. Because I love coffee so