Physical Health 2023 – Phase 1

proactive not reactive

I went to the doctor last week about the increasing issues with my right hand/wrist/arm and got a referral to see a hand therapist again. At that appointment we determined that my carpal tunnel is definitely getting worse and that surgery is probably in the near future and that I also have symptoms of cubital tunnel which impacts the nerve running down the outside of your elbow and causes issues with the pinky and ring finger. Fun times.

I was also put back on steroids and they are definitely helping with the tingling/pins-and-needles issues, which is nice, but I can’t stay on steroids indefinitely. The biggest issue for me is they totally mess up my ability to sleep, and getting good sleep is so important for both my physical health as well as those pesky mental health things I’m trying to manage. Depending on how the physical therapy goes and the reaction to the steroids they may do some imaging but only if it will impact our next stage of possible treatment. I am trying to be proactive and find ways to get the benefits of the steroids without the actual steroids, and I am on them to reduce inflammation so that is my goal – reduce inflammation.

I have more searching to do about ways to reduce inflammation, but my goals for the immediate future are committing to an anti-inflammatory diet, getting a better handle on my sleep, getting serious about meditation, and being very purposeful with my exercise. You may notice that all of those overlap with my goals for getting a handle on my mental health, so I am not going to be adding anything new into my life, just being more focused. The biggest change will be dedicating myself to eating anti-inflammatory foods, and just as importantly (maybe more), eliminating pro-inflammatory foods.

I am not a nutritionist and a lot of people with far more knowledge on the topic than I have, have said a lot about healthy diets. Here is the link to my number one resource, The Paleo Mom, and here is what I am planning on eating for the next three months:

Nate and I have been following some variation of the “paleo” diet since 2011 so this isn’t that different from how we have been eating (most of the time). The biggest change is going to be cutting out the processed foods that are generally considered “paleo friendly” (depending on what paleo diet person you ask). Those include things like arrowroot, tapioca starch, coconut flour, almond flour, etc. As I write this, I am realizing this is pretty close to the Whole30 diet with the exception of the meat and fats. Because the goal is to minimize inflammation, I am trying to focus on getting more omega-3s and less omega-6s and in general grass-fed beef is a better choice than poultry and pork. Fish would be a great choice, but I have two issues with it. First – sourcing fish that is actually (a) the fish it claims to be (b) caught in an ethical manner both in terms of environmental impact and humane working conditions and (c) doesn’t have high levels of other bad things like mercury in it from our extremely polluted oceans is really hard to do and is made even harder when you live in a landlocked state. Second – I don’t like fish. We have been buying grass-fed beef halves from Stone Bridge Beef, a local farmer, for years now; so I feel good about it in terms of quality, environmental impact, and humane working conditions. Also I really like beef.

The other really big thing for my physical health (and mental health) is getting my vitamin D levels up. They are currently very low. 

Standard western medicine says vitamin D should be between 30-80 ng/mL, though some of the sources I look to say it should be more like 50-70 ng/mL. In 2015 I had my vitamin D levels tested and it was 23.5 ng/mL which is low, so I started occasionally taking a supplement. In January 2020 I got tested again and it was at 9 ng/mL. That is not a typo, it was a single digit, nine. That is bad. I have been actively supplementing since then and three years later it is now (there should be a way to do a dramatic pause but I can’t force things like pagination on you so this parenthetical will have to do) 14 ng/mL! Which is technically better, but still way too low; and this is with active supplementation. I’m stepping up the quantity of vitamin D that I am taking plus I am trying to get it from a variety of brands/sources in case there is a quality issue as well. I’m also trying to eat more vitamin D rich foods, the problem is mushrooms and egg yolks are the only ones I really like. Sunlight of course is also a great source but there are all the SKIN CANCER concerns out there, and my skin really hates the sun. I never tan; I turn red, then itchy, then pasty again – plus if my skin is exposed to sun it is also exposed to bugs and we all know how I feel about that. The light therapy bulb I am currently using is technically for reptiles and is supposed to be a full spectrum light that also provides the UVB needed to produce vitamin D so we’ll see if that helps.

I am starting to wonder if my extreme vitamin D deficiency might not be the root cause of many of my other mental and physical health issues. I’m hoping that being super aggressive with supplements and diet can get those vitamin D levels up and maybe make a difference in everything else, but I am also wondering if there might be something else underlying the vitamin D deficiency that is the real root cause. I’m hoping my doctor will be willing to retest in three months to see if my work has paid off.

In the meantime – mushroom omelet anyone?