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Category Archives: Health
If I know anything for sure, as I become older, it’s that somewhere along the way, I will need to come to terms with the accumulation of my years, and the losses that come with it.
It must be the departure of summer that has nudged this part of me—the place where I’m acutely aware of the passage of time.
It’s another summer of living, and I’m grateful for that, of being able to savor each sunny day, of living fully into autumn, and then experiencing all of it again through my memories.
Why do some experiences become memories, to be savored again and again, while others slip unnoticed into the dark recesses of our minds? It’s a question we don’t often consider as we go about our lives, and it isn’t until later, when we try to recall something, that we realize it might be completely gone.
We had this discussion last week, when my adult children came to Thanksgiving dinner, and the subject of childhood memories came up. As we compared notes, it was clear that each of us had a different ‘take’ on some events we all experienced.
We are experiencing a change of seasons here in the Pacific North West. A few mornings ago, I saw the first sign, a covering of dew on grass that has been as dry as dust for five months. It’s a welcome change for the earth, since the trees and gardens have been craving moisture.
We humans too, can’t help but react. There’s a mild feeling of excitement as we anticipate the events that arrive with winter—more connections with family and friends, more social events, indoor activities like cozying up to the fire, reading new books, going to movies, and of course, Christmas.
It has been a tough year. We’ve had shocking election results. We’ve had the re-emergence of Nazism, We’ve had the threat of nuclear war, we’ve had unprecedented natural disasters, and now we may witnessing our closest neighbor self-destruct.
Magazines, newspapers and books are rife with hateful articles, we don’t dare turn on the television news, and social media is exploding with angry posts.
We are suffering from insomnia like never before, therapists report a steep increase in new patients and we hear that millions are taking antidepressants.
I’ve always been interested in herbs, even before Simon and Garfunkel sang about Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme in their evocative song, Scarborough Fair. In 1999, I took a course from Don Ollsin, who created The Herbal Healing Pathway and once owned an herbal dispensary, Self Heal Herbs, in our city. From him, I learned to recognise herbs, appreciate their healing properties, and even make medicine.
All that winter, while taking lessons, and searching fields and forests for healing plants, I dreamed about developing a second career in the field of herbal medicine. But that wasn’t to be. Corporations had just discovered that there was serious money in making and selling herbs. Within a couple of years, pharmacies and grocery stores were selling these products as fast as they could shelve them. The world of herbs, carefully nurtured by teachers like Don, had become commercialized, never to be the same again.
In a few weeks, I’ll be lining up, along with about 35% of the Canadian population, to receive the flu shot. In doing so, I’ll be ignoring the bad press, the less than 50% prevention rate, and the physical discomfort to do this. Why? Because, as I grow older, I’m discovering that I can’t rely on my immune system to do the splendid job it did in the past to protect me from the millions of pathogens that come my way all fall and winter.
Up until 2 years ago, I never gave the flu a thought. Ominous suggestions that the ‘elderly’ were susceptible to illness and disease seemed at best, ageist, and at worst, insulting. I was in excellent health, I looked after myself—a weakened immune system couldn’t happen to me.
By now, if you are over 65, you might be experiencing subtle changes in your health as you age. You might find that you are taking longer to recover from a cold or flu, and you need to rest longer after you exercise or do a chore. You may notice other subtle changes, like patches of eczema on your skin, or ridges on your fingernails, or pervasive physical and mental fatigue. Normally, you shrug off these symptoms—you’re just grateful that you are not suffering from some drastic illness, and decide to leave well enough alone.
If you are one of the shoppers who breezes past the organic section of your local grocery, opting for crisper, fresher looking produce at a cheaper price, you are not alone.
Yet organic food, once the domain of ‘hippies’ and other edgy groups, is slowly drawing in more and more consumers. Despite the claim that organic is not necessarily more nutritious, (and certainly costs more than conventionally produced food), consumption of organic produce is skyrocketing.
The main attraction in many cases, is a desire for optimum health—that feeling of energized well-being and vitality we all strive for. Unfortunately it’s a state often disturbed by allergies and food intolerances, a weakened immune system, and a vague, hard-to-pinpoint awareness of feeling “not quite right”. We know now that toxins exist in our food, enter our environment and remain in our bodies for years. And it’s increasingly harder to ignore studies (Is Buying Organic Worth It? Columbia University, May 31, 2013) that say that the presence of pesticide residue is five times higher in conventional food than in organic food (38% versus 7%).
Pattern dystrophy. It’s a strange name for an ocular condition, sounds more like a fashion accoutrement, but it’s real, and I have it.
I first learned about this rare disorder thirty years ago, while in my early forties. I noticed that edges of objects had become wavy, and letters of print were crooked, as if chunks of them were missing. I’d check it out by looking at the edge of a doorway or wall. Sure enough, there were tiny bites in the straight lines!
A disastrous diagnosis
My first diagnosis, which was given on a Friday (never a good idea), sent me spiralling.
If you are still tossing and turning at 3:00 am., you are not alone. It may seem that you are the only person in the world who is awake, but you have lots of company—the latest statistics say that more than 30% of the population suffers from some form of insomnia during their lifetime. Many have progressed to chronic sleeplessness. People over 60 are especially susceptible, with between 40% and 60% unable to regularly sleep well.
You have probably already done some research online about what to do. Don’t be surprised if you find it eats up hours of your time. And it’s frustrating as well, when you come across the same websites over and over!