The greatest wealth is health

“To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”  ~ William Londen

Today is International Self-Care Day. It is really important to look after yourself. If you don’t feel great, investigate (the cause). 

You owe it to yourself to live the best life feeling good, even great. You may need only tweak your self-care by eating more healthily, drinking more water, taking a multi-vitamin, getting 15 minutes of sunshine daily while adding exercise to your routine. Or, you may need to demand to see a specialist to confirm your hunch that there’s something amiss.

The best way to get your health issues heard is to track your symptoms so you can take something concrete to a GP and discuss the next step.

FoodDiaryI use Health Storylines Food Diary and Symptom Tracker tools for that. You don’t have to suffer from a chronic illness to take advantage of this easy-to-use tracking system. It you have any food intolerance, or just generally don’t feel up to par, tracking what you eat and when may be key to shaping a new way of living that can optimise your health.

Who wants to go through life feeling unwell. By tracking your reaction to foods you consume, you will discover which products trigger symptoms (bloating, gas, nausea even constipation or diarrhoea).

It takes about two weeks of monitoring what you eat and how you feel to see a pattern. It is easy to do, just take five minutes at the end of your day to write down what you ate (via the Food Diary) and how it made you feel (Symptom Tracker). 

There’s good reason for the saying food is medicine. If you need a kick along, follow The Australian Dietary Guidelines, which has information about the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to: promote health and wellbeing; reduce the risk of diet-related conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.

Your GP can refer you to a dietician and exercise physiologist if you want to tackle two issues together.

For those suffering the same condition as me (NETs), this video provides a quick snapshot into avoiding food triggers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45uK0yWEbEQ

In no time you’ll be on your way to feeling great. Happy International Self-Care Day!

Hope you join me on the fitness journey to track food and symptoms. Just click on this link to get started.

The author has used the Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.

Take a walk on the scenic side

Walking meditation is a way to practice moving without a goal or intention. Mindful walking means walking while being aware of each step and breath. — Gaiam

There’s lots of statistics explaining how exercise makes us happier. We’re fitter because of it, the feel-good endorphins released improve our mood and, yes, it boosts our immunity.

So what about simple walking. How does that fit into the exercise equation? Glad you asked. Like daily exercise, just going for a stroll has heaps of health benefits. And what better way to get to know your neighbourhood.

Within five minutes of going for a walk, you’re guaranteed to feel happier.

Now take it to another level by introducing mindfulness into your walk. You need to become aware of all the nooks and crannies you didn’t noticed previously. Like the bird on the branch, the rustle of the leaves, the wind touching your face, even the hard surface under your feet.

How does that make you feel? Calm springs to mind. By allowing yourself to be present you’ll really notice your surrounds and bring the beauty of your neighbourhood to life.

What matters is the walk, what you see, feel and hear with each step. In turn you reap the health benefits of walking as an exercise, as well as gaining mindfulness by being “in the moment” and discovering an ability to just let everything else go.

Now add breathing to the mix. Swing one arm back and forward, and rest the other on your abdomen. Feel your tummy go in and out and you’ve mastered the art of breathing deeply.

It feels great. It’s like you’ve never breathed properly until you learn to move the breath away from your chest and into your diaphragm.

With each step and breath oxygen awakens your senses allowing your heart rate to drop as you walk, not increase (no matter how fast you go).

Once you’ve signed on to Health Storylines, select tools and under Physical Activity you’ll find the Exercise Diary. Just add it and get tracking!

This Health Storylines challenge can be done daily, or weekly but as usual you need to track it. Use the Exercise Diary tool to record your efforts. It allows you to set a date, the activity and length of activity. As part of your circle of support, you can also include family and friends who have joined you on Health Storylines. It’s a great way to expand your support to achieve your goals.

It’s all about introducing fitness into your day. The aim is to build on this so you can introduce more intensive exercise for up to 30 minutes. Next you’ll be ready for the challenge of walking daily over 5 days. Once you’ve achieved that, who knows it could become a daily meditation for you, as it has become for me.

Hope you join me on the fitness journey of walking each day to enjoy your surrounds. Just click on this link to get started.

The author has used the Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health. 

Water offers a great way to feel good

Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired. mayoclinic.org

Here’s a snapshot of my week using Health Storylines to track my water intake and exercise goals. Notice I missed my target here and there? No matter I just got up the next day and tried to reach my goal again.

Did you know the more fluids we drink the more energised we feel?

Water equates to energy.

And the way it energises us may not be what you think. Basically water combined with fibre works together to keep us regular and avoid constipation. It nourishes our digestive system by helping us to digest soluble fibre, according to Medical Daily. 

This function boosts energy. To get more fibre in your diet, click on this link from Nutrition Australia which shows the three different types of fibre and their functions and health benefits.

WebMD Consumer Network’s OnHealth explains further how water dilutes waste and helps eliminate toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. When we’re dehydrated stools become hard, dry and more difficult to pass. But when we up our water intake, it works with fibre to bulk up stools and make them easier to pass. See a previous post on Stool Health and the Bristol Stool Chart

BrainHQ says even slight dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume that makes the blood thicker and more difficult to pump. That can slow blood flow to the brain and body and make us tired.

The bottom line is staying hydrated ensures we’re getting adequate fluids daily to stay regular, feel good and be more active. 

Did you improve your water intake over the past few days? If you’re still doing the Health Storylines Challenge, return here when you’re done to complete this poll.

If you haven’t begun the challenge to Drink 8 cups of water every day for 5 days, now is your chance. Click on this link. It is never too late to get started. 

Next Health Storylines Challenge is even easier, all you need do is “get out in the open and go for a scenic walk in your local area”. And, yes, there are great health gains to be made.

Join me here soon.

RoamingRave, aka Judy Wilkinson, has used the Health Storylines app since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health. 

Health benefits of drinking water

Now that we know how important water is for our health, the next burning question is how much water is really enough. It can be difficult to achieve eight glasses a day.

The Mayo Clinic suggests our fluid intake is probably adequate if we rarely feel thirsty or our urine is colourless or light yellow.

That’s an easy marker to track given we can combine drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water to achieve our daily target.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking all fluids are equal.

A 2016 study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics provided proof of the power of “water over other drinks if we want to control weight”. ScienceDaily said researchers from the University of Illinois examined the dietary habits of more than 18,300 US adults, and found the majority of participants who increased their consumption of plain water by 1 per cent reduced their total daily calorie intake as well as their consumption of saturated fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol. 

That’s a great benefit for doing something so simple.

And there are even more health gains.

If you haven’t begun the Health Storylines Challenge to Drink 8 cups of water every day for 5 days, now is your chance. Click on this link. It is never too late to get started.

Return here tomorrow for the final chapter in the wonders of water.

Judy Wilkinson has used the Health Storylines app since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health. 

Still waters run deep

Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate.  — EveryDay Health

If you’re not convinced about the health gains from drinking water, here’s some more compelling reasons to increase your intake.

Did you know it can help improve mood and energy levels? In recent studies, dehydration has been associated with increased, anger, and confusion as well as mood problems. It all comes down to the fact we need to be well hydrated for our cells to work properly.

WebMD Consumer Network’s OnHealth explains that drinking water also helps maintain a healthy heart rate and blood pressure. It says we need adequate fluid to produce lymph, an important bodily fluid and component of the immune system.

In 2017, Medical News Today suggested having a few glasses of warm or hot water each day might offer even more benefits. It said tea may reduce the risk of strokeheart disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.

In February this year, it reported most of us are still not consuming enough fluids each day, even though we know keeping hydrated is crucial for our health and well-being.

So how can we fix that? Why don’t you join me in monitoring how much water you drink via the Health Storylines challenge to Drink 8 cups of water a day for 5 days.

It’s easy to do. Just use the app to take a five-day snapshot of how much water you consume. Don’t try to drink more, just track your daily water intake to find out your normal.

Click on this link to get started. If you haven’t already, add the Health Routine Builder tool under the Organisation and Reminders category.

In no time, you’ll be enjoying the benefits of the effects it has on your insides.

Return here tomorrow to find out more about the wonders of water!

Judy Wilkinson has used the Health Storylines app since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health. 

Why mind over health, matters

The human brain is ‘Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones’. —Psychologist Rick Hanson

Did you know humans have a natural negativity bias? Apparently we remember on average seven times as many negative things as positive ones.

With such odds stacked against us, how can we turn that around? Glad you asked. It’s as simple as paying attention to the present moment, or being “mindful”.

Monash University’s clinical psychologist Dr Richard Chambers says mindfulness techniques train our mind to unhook from unproductive thought patterns.

Is being mindful hard to do? No. It just takes practice using cognitive behavioural strategies (CBT) that teach us to be kind to ourselves, as opposed to being critical or judgmental.

Adopting a mindful life is about paying attention to “what is” and not “what if”.  It’s having the ability to distinguish between what our imagination is telling us and reality. That is, when we get caught up in “what-if” scenarios we allow ourselves to become stressed, angry or even sad. Our imagination takes over and instead of looking at hard cold facts, we fill in the gaps. It’s a recipe for disaster mentally, emotionally and physically.

So how does this negativity bias manifest?

Say you have a health goal, you’re trying to be healthy like eating well and exercising, or trying to lose weight or get a good night’s sleep … have you noticed when you focus on the negative what-ifs you fail?

For example, we tend to ask ourselves:

  • What if I can’t sleep tonight, and then we begin focusing on the fact we can’t get to sleep.
  • What if I don’t reach my goal weight, and then we decide we may as will give up and eat unhealthy food to comfort us.

The way out of it is to focus on the here and now. Paying attention to what is going on around us is a first step in cultivating mindfulness. The practice teaches us to live each moment as it unfolds and accept what’s happening.

As part of my journey with Health Storylines, I’ve noticed since adopting a mindful approach to life, I can reduce stressful thoughts. I find tracking my progress on things such as symptoms, weight, mood, documenting health concerns, or writing in a journal brings me back to “what is”.

After I was diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours and had surgery, I used the Health Storylines app every day. It became my greatest support in helping achieve peace of mind and later providing encouragement to reach my health goals.

It helped me track symptoms so I could calm myself with “what is” instead of going into meltdown over “what if”.

Using the Health Routine Builder, I went from walking as little as 2000 steps a day to 10,000, and using Guided Meditation, I learnt how to master mindfulness in an instant.

As previous Self-Care Ambassadors have written before me, the purpose of Health Storylines is to help people improve their quality of life through their own data.

It’s a really powerful tool so I have accepted the challenge to encourage family and friends as well as readers of this blog to monitor their health through the app.

PAPER TRAIL

So if you’ve got a health challenge in mind and you want to come along with me on this Health Storylines ride and face “what is” and leave the “what ifs” behind, then my first challenge to you is not only to track your health via Storylines but also to track your stool health using the Stool Diary tool.

Yes, not the most glamorous of first challenges but an extremely important one as it is a window into understanding digestive health. It tells a story of an individual’s wellbeing.

My symptoms manifested this way but I didn’t realise the importance of how our digestive system regulates the body’s inflammatory and immune responses. So it is especially helpful to track your stool if you have experienced symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, or irregular bowel movements.

Bistol Stool Chart
Here are more detailed steps to start tracking your stool:
1. Open the Health Storylines app on your phone, or click here to use the online version
2. Click on the ‘Tool Library’ in the menu (if using the app version, simply scroll left on the top of the screen and click “add tools”)
3. Click on ‘Stool Diary” and add it to your home screen
4. To document your stool, simply click on the picture which most resembles your stool, followed by the colour
5. Click done, and repeat regularly (you can also share your results with your doctor)

Once you start tracking your health you can compare your stool to the Bistol Stool Chart (pictured) and find out what’s your normal.

If you notice anything amiss, like blood in your stool, or very dark stools, experience diarrhoea or constipation over long periods of time, make sure you mention it to a health-care professional.

Of course, if you’ve switched to a healthier diet you’ll notice changes here (more frequent movements or more formed stools that are lighter in colour). Walking will also get you moving, in more ways than one, so let’s end this challenge with a poop poll! 

The author has used Health Storylines app since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she was approached to become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health. She gleefully accepted the challenge. Show your support by tracking your health using this link: https://judyw.healthstorylines.com/app/#/register

You can run but you can never hide

“There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet.” ~William Frederick Halsey, Jr.

There are some events in life that take you on a journey you never expect. When that happens some of us drop off the planet, the rest shout out loud.

I took the first option, hence why it has been been two years since I posted on RoamingRave. Now it’s time to move to phase two and become a self-care ambassador.

I’ve been invited to help create a community where individuals encourage and empower each other to take care of themselves.

WHY ME, WHY NOW

To explain, as a major health issue beset a sibling, it then targeted me. I didn’t see it coming, nor the long road back to recovery.

Sadly my sister didn’t make it. She joins another sibling and our father to succumb to cancer in the past 10 years.

Because of my siblings’ cancer journey I constantly got checked but my diagnosis was very different to theirs. It’s called Neuroendocrine tumours, or NETs for short. This uncommon, some consider rare, cancer develops from hormone producing cells, the symptoms of which mimic lesser conditions like abdominal pain, allergies and fatigue.

Diagnosis is difficult. Carcinoid.org explains it typically takes five to seven years to receive the correct diagnosis because there are many different types of NETs. It doesn’t help that few GPs ever see a patient with NETs over their working lifetime.

In the USA in 2016 there were only 115,000 diagnosed with the condition, far fewer in Australia. And there is no cure.

Thankfully the tumours are often slow-growing, and surgery is an option. So I guess you could say I got lucky. Lucky mine were found, and lucky I was a candidate for surgery.

Like a lot of NET patients oncology wasn’t part of the discussion but when they opened me up from the breastbone to the pubic bone the surgeon found the tumour had spread to my lymph nodes.

That said, there is no “active treatment” for my stage 3b midgut NETs, only “wait and see”. Chemo doesn’t work well on NETs and reserved for those whose stage 4 tumours have spread to the liver, lung or bone. But there is targeted hormone treatment for sufferers of carcinoid syndrome.

So since my surgery in September 2016 I have sat and waited, worked hard on recovering physically, mentally and emotionally and researched the pants off this condition.

Seeking a second opinion, November 2017

Prognosis has improved and patients can live for many years with NETs as a chronic condition. So rest assured, because mine metastasised, I will be checked by an oncologist for at least 5-10 years to ensure there is no recurrence. My “new normal” post-surgery involves six monthly blood and urine tests and an annual nuclear scan.

It has been, and continues to be, a scary ride, made harder by the fact that I look fine. My external scars are covered up and out of sight but the scars on the inside are the ones you can’t hide.

Since being diagnosed I have found great comfort from wonderful NETs organisations such as http://www.unicornfoundation.org.au in Australia and http://www.carcinoid.org in the USA/Canada. Next blog I’ll share my Health Storylines challenge. I hope you will join me.

This post is dedicated to my sister Belinda, who passed away nine months ago. She showed amazing strength of character in the last six months of her life. Her concern for others was astonishing. It never mattered how sick she got, she always wanted to know how everyone else was.