I’m glad you came back for part 2!  If you haven’t seen part 1 from last week, and I do recommend it, I started by describing a healthy-living presentation I had been to last week.  The doctor spoke about the five areas where most of us could improve our health:

Movement  

Eating Healthy

Supplements

Stress response

Nerve interference

In the previous post, I talked about movement and healthy eating, and today I’ll do my best to share what the doctor said about supplements, along with my own elaborations here and there, and then touch on what he said about the stress response.  I tend to get a bit wordy though, and since I haven’t been very successful at toning this down, I think we’ll all benefit if I save the last point of “nerve interference” for a Part 3 next week.  You’ll be glad I did!

Last week we heard that even the healthiest eating plan may lack some necessary components, so supplementation can be a good thing.  The doctor suggested we might benefit from a multivitamin and a clean source of omega 3s (DHA and EPA), and possibly some extra antioxidants such as C and E.  But before choosing your supplements, be sure to consider quality.  The doctor told the story of research that was done to find out if vitamins were absorbed by the body, or if they simply passed through a person’s digestive system.  Sounds like research I don’t mind letting others do… Anyway, it seems that at least two popular brands were found… well… you-know-where… intact most often (one of which claims to have you covered from A to Z), implying that those hard-packed coated ones do little more than some internal sight-seeing before making their exit mostly unfazed.  Soooo what would be the point?  Exactly.  Instead, choose a multi that is more like a loose powder in a clear capsule.  Makes sense to me.  I recommend one made from whole foods rather than laboratory-created, and you’ll see why in just a minute.

The doctor also pointed out the value of an omega 3 supplement.  Of course, many people include fish in their eating plans to cover this, but contamination of most commercial fish with mercury and endocrine-disrupting PCBs is a considerable problem.  Instead, we can supplement with fish oils, but these may be contaminated as well since the cheaper brands are obtained from the commonly contaminated fish.  To avoid this problem, the doctor suggested getting a brand of fish oil whose label stated it was cold-pressed or distilled. This should avoid the problem of contamination, but some reports suggest that it may not remove enough.

In this case, omega oils from another source may be our best bet.  Some people prefer foods like flax seeds or even flax oil, but the ALA omegas found here may not be fully converted into the EPA and DHA that our brains need for good functioning, making fish oils seem like the better choice.  But what about all that contamination of the fish oil capsules?  Sounds like a real trap.   There is a third choice, though.  We can always use algae oil.  After all, fish get their omegas from the algae they eat.  What??  Fish don’t make omega 3s???  Well, no… they eat them, just like we do.  So why not simply bypass the middle-man, or in this case, the middle-fish?

The third type of supplement the doctor said we may want to use was extra antioxidants.  These would be things like single-vitamins C and E, and I think we can all agree that these are important.  Better, though, to get antioxidant supplements that are made from whole foods, rather than the chemical kind.  The reason for this is because studies have shown that lab-created supplements can actually increase chances for diseases like lung cancer. No thanks!  Better still, then, is to get our antioxidants from brightly colored whole foods.   In other words, try putting some romaine or spinach leaves on that burger instead of iceberg lettuce, and some blueberries in that oatmeal instead of chocolate chips!

The antioxidants in whole foods can even help with mental stress.  But just as importantly, and I think likely more so, is learning how to create boundaries in our lives that minimize the stress response.  By boundaries, I mean healthy boundaries with our friends and family members.  I suppose everyone has to do this with someone, but my most memorable relationship that needed tweaking (well, ok, ditching) was with a dear friend.  Somehow our patterns of interaction changed, and the change was so gradual that I almost didn’t notice.  What I did notice was that anytime I was about to see my friend, or talk to her on the phone, I would feel my anxiety start to rise.  Eventually I came to dread any interaction with her, and I finally realized that we just didn’t click anymore.  As much as I needed freedom from that relationship, I didn’t want to hurt her.  I suppose it was unavoidable, and that’s another story, but I did the best I could.  After it was all over, my stress level went way down and my life improved much more than I ever thought possible.  I had been carrying that stress into every other part of my life without realizing it, and once I stopped I really noticed the difference.   The doctor pointed out that relationships with others, especially spouses or significant others, can be both the most important and also the most stressful relationships we have.  Taking care of our relationships, and ourselves within those relationships (even if it means leaving someone behind), can reduce our stress and help us to be healthier.

See?  Wordy!  I hope you’ll come back next week when I discuss the doctor’s last point: nerve interference.  This happened to be the most fascinating part of the presentation, but unfortunately it was also the shortest.  Granted, keeping my nerves operating freely is largely my doctor’s job, but I still want to know about it and I hope you do too.  See you next week!