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 much, I allowed myself to switch to decaf and, amazingly, I’m a few months in and really don’t miss it. My heart is beating at a much more normal rate and my stomach is more settled in the morning! When I was in Europe in November, it was hard to find decaf, so I drank caffeine. Though it was espresso, which has less caffeine than drip coffee, I still immediately noticed the difference in my heart and stomach. Since returning to the states, I’ve kicked caffeine to the curb again and am loving the feeling. Full disclosure, it took a week for my bowel movements to adjust since caffeine is a diarrhetic, but now all is good!
6. Trading a Cow for an Oat
My favorite organic coffee shop switched from organic milk to non-organic milk — and, after my initial shock and horror, I decided it was time to finally get away from cow dairy on a daily basis. I’ve read a lot about the issues with dairy, and in particular cow dairy, but I don’t have any particular allergy or sensitivity so I hadn’t made the switch. I bought some organic oat milk (having heard that it’s creamier than other non-dairy milks) and started putting it in my thermos and taking it to the coffee shop. I can happily report that while it’s not as creamy as whole milk, it’s a close second, plus it tastes good and has gotten dairy out of my diet apart from periodic sheep or goat cheese indulgences.
7. Blocking Blue Light in the Chicest Way
After reading some blue light research and seeing a member of Team WellBe with a pair of cute blue blocker glasses, I decided to give them a try. I now get out my glasses each time I use my laptop, and most of the time when I watch TV. In addition to fulfilling my elementary school fantasies of having to wear glasses, I’ve also noticed the benefits of the blue light blockers. The squinting lines between my eyes have diminished (natural botox?) and I know I’m lessening the detrimental effects blue light can have on my sleep, eyes, and mental health.
8. Getting My Walk on First Thing in the Morning
As I mentioned in #6, this summer I started a new morning ritual of getting out of the house as soon as I can after waking in order to help regulate my circadian rhythm and give myself a natural morning boost. When it was warmer, I would put my feet in the grass in a nearby park for some grounding, but now that it’s cold I just make sure I take a few laps around the block after my coffee shop visit. I can happily report that I feel more awake in the mornings and I’ve had some of my best sleep of the year since the summer!
9. Adopting Plant Babies
After our Indoor Air Pollution Panel at ABC Home in April, I decided to get serious about my succulents and make sure I was filtering my New York City apartment air. We also have an air filter, but that uses up energy and I have to remember to turn it on enough! So, my husband and I visited a nearby plant store last spring and brought home as many succulents as we could fit on the window sill. We’ve historically been terrible about keeping plants and flowers alive, so we thought we’d start out with plant children known for surviving even the most negligent parents. I am proud to report that it’s been nearly 6 months and all are still alive! They get a weekly watering but otherwise are quite self sufficient and provide us much air filtration and joy.
10. Doing My Best to Block that Radiation
When I filmed my interview with Dr. Joel Gator (coming in January 2019!) this fall, what he told me about the radiation from our cell phones blew my mind. Immediately afterward I ordered a timer, which I connected to my WiFi router. It allows me to turn off the WiFi in my apartment certain hours of the day, like when we’re sleeping, and has different settings for different days of the week. Though our router is not in our bedroom, it’s still close enough to our sleeping bodies that I’d rather not have it emitting radiation to our cell phones all night, especially since we’re not using it! I also moved my cell phone away from my head and will hopefully move it completely out of the room if I get the new alarm clock I asked for this Christmas! My last phone-related change has been grabbing my headphones whenever I’m making a phone call. Before I would use them for longer calls, but now I do it for nearly every call. My brain health is way too important to me — today, tomorrow and in the distant future!
I hope some of these things that I’ve experienced and impactful changes I have made for my health over the last year inspire you to try a few new things in 2019, and show you that we’re all dealing with something! As always, I’d love to hear from you. What impactful changes did you make in 2018 and/or are hoping to make in 2019? Write and let us know! You can also message us on Instagram! (Curious about the 10 most impactful change I made last year? Read them here.)
All my best for a wonderful 2019 full of health and happiness,