Common Health Problems

Health problems may come from many different areas and may be hard to diagnose. Your medics will need your help in diagnosing, since they don't feel what you feel. Only if you tell them what you feel and where and preferably when and under what circumstances. It is very helpful if you can pin point when it occurs or what causes it to occur. Also taking your temperature and your pulse is something you need to learn to do. When you are having specific problems, your doctor may tell you, also taking your blood pressure or your blood sugar.

Some of these problems are the result of 'abuse' of our bodies, others the result of aging, others are the result of environmental exposure and in all of these our inherited DNA make-up has something to do with it as well. There is never a single cause.

Obviously, we all will search for methods of prevention, a healthier life style and nutrition that will post pone the aging of our bodies. Yet, we can never escase the attacks totally and at some point in time, our life will run out ...

I will try to list a few common health problems and what you must or can do before you go to your doctors office. There is no way I can or will address all diseases.

To date we have covered:


Head Ache
Nocturnal High Blood Pressure Events
Insomnia
Stomach Ache, Acid Reflux
Belly Ache (Constipation, Gas, Diarrhea, Appendicitis)
Muscle Pain, Leg Cramps
Obesity
Computer Effects
Joint Pain, Arthritis (Tennis Elbow, Knee Pain, Knuckle Pain)


Head Ache

Let me start with saying that headaches can be caused by many things, most are not serious but some may be. Therefore it is important that you have a good handle on it. Did you fall on your head? Then certainly see a doctor immediately. Or does your head ache at odd spots for no apparent reason, then have it checked out. And if you have a fever, you can expect a headache and need to find out what else is ailing you.

But if you were a smoker or coffee drinker who stopped suddenly, you can expect a headache for a day or more. Smoking widens the blood vessels in the brain, but those will narrow, when you stop smoking causing a craving, which makes you feel elated again when the bloodflow resumes after a smoke. Coffee does the same, but to a much lesser degree and much more gently.

There are two reasons why most people have headaches: Stress and low blood sugar. I have discussed this already in some detail in other chapters. But I will repeat some of it here and leave you reading the back ground later.

Blood sugar is the nourishment of the brain. If it drops, your brains starve and get a headache - simple as that. Excess sugar in your diet may cause LOW blood sugar, by calling up an excess of insuline. Similarly, if you take insuline for diabetis, and 'overdose', you can end up with a headache too.

Stress can do two things: The breathing becomes shallow, or you may hold your breath for long periods at a time. It shoots adrenaline into the blood, which then redirects the blood to make more flow into the brain at the cost of less blood flow elsewhere. Also it stimulates the consumption of blood sugar. Moreover, it tightens muscles, including those of the jaws and those of the forehead and eyes.
After a period of intense stress, the blood sugar has dropped and the muscles around the jaw and forehead are tired. By clenching your teeth, you can often notice that they have been (ab)used. Stress headaches therefore are usually found right over the brows and near the temples. So, at the same time you will suddenly feel hungry, which you did not notice during the stress episode.

Headaches in the morning when waking up may have different causes to, all related to sleeping. You may have had insufficient sleep or a disturbed sleep. Sleep depravation can cause headches, but so can waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle. (Sleep cycles are periods of approx 1.5 hrs starting with a REM sleep and ending with a REM sleep and with a deep sleep in the middle). Setting your mind to wake up a few minutes before the alrm clock goes off can help prevent this situation. Most people require 7.5 - 8 hrs of sleep per night, depending on their daily activity. The more stress, the more sleep one needs. Physical activity makes one sleep better, but requires less sleep than mental activity.
If you sleep in a very warm environment, your sleep quality will be less and you may get a headache too. Worse is sleeping in a very bright room. It causes the eyelids to squeeze shut to keep the light out. The stress on the eyelids can cause a headache as well. And also low blood sugar may cause a headache in the morning. If you have something to eat before bed time, that may solve the problem.

Aspirine, Advil and similar pain killers are not much real help here since they do not cure the condition, merely remove the pain. The way to combat this is taking deep breaths, relaxing all the muscles by progressive relaxation, fluttering of eyelids, wiggling of fingers etc., and eating complex carbohydrates while keeping away from sugar. Remember pain means that the body is telling you that it needs help! Killing the pain is killing the messenger, not the cause!

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Nocturnal High Blood Pressure Events

Some men over 40 and most men over 60 may experience waking up at night to go to the bathroom more and more frequently.
This is in part due to hardening of the bladder wall, thus not allowing the bladder to expand to collect more urine when it is full.
When we are young the bladder is more like rubber and will expand if we don't go when we should, allowing us to collect as much as a liter of water in it.
As we get older this amount may be less than 1 or two cups.
Because we have been trained early in life, not to water the bed we now wake up in the middle of the night to relieve ourselves.

If we are light sleepers, this is no problem.
If we sleep a little heavier, we may experience 'washroom dreams' in which we, in vain, search for a washroom until we finally wake up.

If we are very tired or have been drinking too much alcohol, we may have trouble waking up. Then our body invents a different approach to prevent us from wetting the bed. It will slow down our breathing. In doing so, it will lower our blood oxygen and raise our blood pressure. This is turn will swell up and stiffen our fingers and penis which then puts more pressure on the urethra and prevents accidental loss of urine. Ultimately breathing may almost stop. Meanwhile to rid itself from the excess fluid, the body will start sweating. We may wake up feeling hot and 'sweating like a pig'.

If we wake up and restart our breathing the blood pressure will drop again.
Then we rush to the bathroom where we find that it is still hard to urinate as everything is still clogged up.
Drinking some water and breathing deeply will help to relieve us.

If we don't wake up, we could experience secondary effects such as an aneurysm or heart palpitations.

Obviously, we need to prevent this from happening.
The immediate action to remember is to breath deeply as soon as you wake up and notice that it is happening. That will instantly reduce your blood pressure and bring your body back to normal. Then drink a cup of water and urinate. Thereafter go back to sleep.

For prevention, we need to understand the following. If we drink enough during the day, then at night the need to urinate will be less severe, because most of the salts have been expelled during the day.

Drinking water is needed to flush our kidneys and to expell the salts our body doesn't need.
6-8 cups of water during the day is usually enough.
A good rule is to drink every time we urinate at least the same amount of water.
Also, we must avoid excess salt in our diet and keep the daily intake below 1500 mg/day.

Initially high blood pressure is often caused by a too high ratio of sodium over potassium salt.
That means that we get too much 'kitchen salt' and too little 'vegetable salt'. Cutting down on kitchen salt and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables will correct this. Bananas and most other fruits are rich in potassium. Potassium is also a diuretic, which means that it helps flush the kidneys. Doing this is much better than taking 'high blood pressure' pills, such as 'statins' prescribed by doctors, which are also diuretics but have serious undesirable side effects.

In the initial stages, it can all be corrected by proper diet and a good life style, without having to resort to prescription drugs.

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Insomnia

Insomnia is most often caused by stress. Relaxation techniques will therefore help getting to sleep. Worry falls into the same category. Worrying about insomnia will undoubtedly result in insomnia. In that case, you must tell yourself that you are in bed on time and that you are getting your rest anyway. Moreover, it has been proven that some people who were thinking that they were 'awake all night' were actually sleeping, while dreaming about being awake and not able to sleep.This phenomenon is not unusual.

Other reasons for insomnia include 'jet-lag' and other 'time shifts'. It is very dificult for our bodies to immediately respond to a time shift. We are creatures of 'habit'. Our bodies function best when we treat them the same every day. Get up ate the same time, go to bed at the same time. If we make a sudden change our body has a problem adjusting. During the last 20 years, some people have been using a 1 mg tablet of melatonin. If taken 24 hours before your new sleep time, you will easily fall asleep at that time. Melatonin is better than a 'sleeping pill', because the latter often contain strong drugs that may affect the nervous system. These can become addictive and require increased dosages as time goes on.

On the other hand there are others, who don't need it. They stay up as long as they can and then just go to bed at the new 9 PM and fall asleep, because they are tired. Then they set their alarm at the new 6 or 7 AM and off they go. Similarly, some people can set their mind so that they wake up 5 minutes before the alarm goes of, while others will sleep through the alarm no matter what. The standard treatment for insomnia is called sleep restriction therapy. If you go to bed at 10, fall asleep at 12, wake at 3 and then sleep from 4 to 7, you have slept 6 hours and should go to bed 6 hours before you want to wake up. If you want to wake up at 7, You should not go to bed until one. If you still feel tired in the morning, go to bed 15 minutes later each night until you feel fresh in the morning.

What is the secret? Mind control! We have greater ability over our minds than we give it credit for. Meditating at night before bet time, can be a great help in sleeping and awakening, if directed properly.

Some of the more obvious reasons for insomnia are consumption of excess food or alcohol, just before bed time. Watching TV in bed or less than one hour before bed time, especially shows with strong emotional tension. Smoking can be a cause and so can me consumtion of cofee or tea for those who are not used to drinking these in the evening. On the other hand, a light snack can help you sleeping and anything that relaxes you including a small amount of alcohol or meditation or relaxation techniques.

Of course, we are all different and what works for one may not work for someone else. Some people will wake up to the slightest noise, while others are not affected by noise but wake up to any bright light. One may sleep through the thunder while waking up to lightning and vice versa.
The above may help you to get you know your strengths and weaknesses and find a way for you to combat insomnia!

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Stomach Ache, Acid Reflux

Stomach aches can be sudden because we ate something that did not agree with our system. If you know this, you can purge or take an antidote.
Sometimes it is spoiled food. One cannot keep food in the fridge or freezer for an undetermined amount of time!

Over-eating may cause pain. So can to much ice cream, which cools the stomach and cause cramps.

Also food that cannot be digested properly. If we miss certain enzymes, we develop a non-tolerance condition. e.g. Many people are lactose-intolerant. They can get severe stomach ache from drinking milk or milk products such as cheese. Only fully fermented yogurt and cheeses can be toelrated.
This is usually known by the person before the age of 20. Also this is periodic, dependent on what he/she eats. Once you know that, you learn what to eat/drink and what not. Smoking may also cause a stomach ache, and eventually peptic (stomach) ulcers.

Acid reflux is not uncommon. It may be caused by consumption of too fatty food. In that case do not drink milk, which may aggravate it, but water. Then take a peppermint (calcium bicarbonate). If it persists, take a teaspoon of 'milk of magnesia'. Do not take any tablets containing Aluminum. And do avoid taking drugs, such as Nexium, Prilosec or Pravacid, they are not really safe.

However, if it occurs periodically or frequently, see your doctor! There can be several causes for chronic acid reflux:

1. You may have a stomach infection.
There is a condition called stomach (peptic) ulcer. People used to think it was caused by coffee, but it turned out to be caused by milk. A bacterium called helicobacter pylori is by far the most common cause. Of course it is possible that there is a tumor. So in any case that would need some checking up by the doctor.
Unfortunately, there are still too many doctors who rather operate the ulcer than looking for and getting rid of the helicobacter pylori. So, keep your eyes and ears open!

2. Insufficient (This is NOT a typo!) stomach acid (hypochlorhydria). In that case taking an antacid will make the situation worse. Instead a bit of apple cider vinigar may of more help. As people age, often the acid production reduces. That's when chronic acid reflux may occur, because the food is being rejected from passing on, as it is not digested well enough in the stomach. We do need the stomach acid to digest our food and to defend against bacterial and viral infections. The reflux uccurs because the food ferments instead of digesting and the gases burp the acid up. Over-use of antacids may lead to pneumonia. We seldom have too much acid - even if we have acid reflux! We need to prevent the reflux, not the acid. How do we prevent it?
a. Take some apple cider vinigar or lemon juice with your meals.
b. Try taking digestive enzymes (e.g. "Beano")
c. Make sure you get enough of all B vitamins.
d. Don't avoid proteins. A high protein diet can often help solving the problem.
e. Instead try a low-carb diet! (i.e. 20 grams/day). It will reduce gas, often cure acid reflux and be better for your generalhealth.

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Belly Ache (Constipation, Gas, Diarrhea, Appendicitis)

Eating raw food usually does not affect the stomach but can give trouble farther down in the belly. Please learn to understand the difference between the stomach, which is the first station of digestion and the intestines, which are located in the belly, below the midrif, i.e. below the navel. Unfortunately, too many people have very little knowledge of the functioning of their own body and call everything 'stomach'. That can be very confusing, when you try to explain to a doctor where the problem is. It is more problematic if you want to understand yourself what is going on there.

The 4 main causes of a belly ache are constipation, gas, diarrhea and appendicitis. So, don't immediately assume that you have bowel cancer.
In addition you can have kidney stones and kidney infections, but those tend to cause more discomfort while urinating.

If you are a woman, you also have to contend with your uterus. The latter can give you menstrual pains if you are not on a birth control pill.
But most women know their cycles well and the associated cramps.

Now say you wake up in the middle of the night with a stinging pain in the belly. What do you do?

First you go to the bathroom and sit on the throne. There you gently massage your belly and listen and feel what is under your skin.

- If it sounds very liquidy and bloated, you probably have diarrhea. Keep massaging until you go and verify your diagnosis. The take a tablet of a bismuth compound (e.g. Peptobismol) and soon your troubles will be over. Take your temperature too. If the diarrhea does not go away it may be caused by a an intestinal flue or other infection - The latter often goes together with a fever, in which case you should consult a doctor immediately. Be conscious of what you have eaten and where. There is always the danger of salmonella infection, which can come from un-hygienic food management in the kitchen or food processors.

- If on the other hand you feel a lump under the skin on the left hand side, like a hard cigar, you probably have constipation. make yourself a hot water bottle or heating pad and keep it warm, until it dissipates. If you find that this happens rather frequently, check out your water consumption. You may be dehydrated.
Also check out your nutrition. Do you eat enough veggies? Do you get enough roughage. If you're not sure, try taking a tea spoon full of psyllium in a cup of cold water every night after dinner. The first few days it may cause a belly ache as it tries to purge all the stuff stuck in the intestinal walls. But after three days that should clear. Psyllium is also good to combat diverticulitis, which is the embedding of small grains and corn bits in the intestinal walls that can get infected. If you ignore that, it could result in the need for removal of part of the intestine.

- If the pain is on the right side and very localized, press on it. If the pain goes away while you are pressing, you most likely have appendicitis and need to go the the hospital immediately.

- Excess gas may be caused by eating too much carbs (white bread, white pasta, rice), sugar or fruit or beans. Smelly gas is best absorbed by bismuth (e.g. Peptobismol), gas from beans is best controlled by taking Beano (an enzyme) at the first bite of the beans. The hot water bottle helps to relieve the pain, while the enzyme is preventative and will not cure the pain.

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Muscle Pain, Leg Cramps

Leg cramps can happen under many conditions. While exercising or while relaxing.

The most common form is when waking up, when our breathing is very shallow and our heart rate and blood circulation is slow.
Hey you can't expect to jump out of bed and be 100% active or can you? You stretch your leg and ... bingo, your calf hurts like the dickens.

It can be very painful and needs to be addressed immediately.
The first thing to do is to inhale deeply. Often this will already reduce the pain a lot.
Secondly
, you need to pull up your toes. That will stretch your calves. Now the muscle will get blood flowing through with fresh oxygen, removing all the old lactice acid.
You can do the same when swimming or any other exercise. You are combatting the same phenomenon: Lack of circulation and lack of oxygen.

As a preventive measure, you can take 250-300 mg of magnesium (citrate) every day. Personally, I find that excess calcium may cause cramps, although not everyone seems to have that same experience.

Side stitch is a special case of runners pain (right side of the body just below the mid-rif). It is caused by the bands that hold the liver being stretched too much. It usually happens during running. You then need to stop and push up the liver, while inhaling and very slowlypressing the air out of the lungs. After the pain subsides, you can continue running.

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Obesity

This condition is becoming more prevalent these days because of our sedentary lifestyle. It is really caused by an imbanance between the caloric intake and output. In other words, eating more than we can burn. It is already noticible in our children. When I was little we used to walk to school, play socker, tag or order active games when we came home. Our children sit watching TV or the computer. They get loaded with home work while Phys-ed programs have been cut.
As adults we don't do much better. Our food often is high in calories (fats and sugars) and low in vegetables, while we eat more than we need for the little exercise we get. Exercise alone will not help, if we gorge ourselvees there after because it made us hungry. Eating lots of vegetables and keeping down the fat, sugar and salt will help reducing the calories. But in the end, we can eat whatever we like as long as we learn to reduce the total intake. Some suggestion to help reduce food intake: Eat with company or with the radio on, take an effort to smell the food thoroughly. Eat slowly and chew it slowly. All this may make you body feel like it is eating more. Also start with eating some protein, then the other food. Have something sweet (a fruit) last.

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Computer Effects

While I am at it, it may be good to mention a few things about the impact of computers on our health. We need a break from sitting at least once every hour for about 5 - 10 minutes. We need to move our fingers around, because often we end up with carpal tunnel syndrome, where the nerve in the wrist is squeezed between the muscles. It can render the hand useless and painful. Our eyes need a rest from staring at the screen. That would cause 'dry eye', where the tears don't flow any more to lubricate they eye. We need to breath again, because our breathing gets very shallow while working at the PC. That will result in free radicals which are not good for our health either. Our neck muscles may get tensed up, like they do in any stress situation.

So when you feel stiff and stressed out from working at the PC all day, learn to relax, before you rush to the doctor and ask for something to pep you up.

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Joint Pain, Arthritis (Tennis Elbow, Knee Pain, Knuckle Pain)

While occasionally younger people may suffer from this condition, usually this is reserved for the over 40 crowd. It happens in finger joints, foot joints, elbows and knees, as well as hip joints and shoulder joints.
In general, there may be several causes:

Often pain is the result of a combination of some of these. Some high impact sports, such as tennis and squash are known to cause knee problems, not just elbow problems. Sometimes shoulder problems as well. Often the pain is aggravated by moist weather. Among the types of weather that may increase joint sensitivity and arthritic pain are:

Taking calcium supplements though very often prescribed for osteoarthritis does not necessarily help and may aggravate the pain as calcium deposits increase.
If it is solely a matter of lubrication, today there is a gel available that can be injected into the joint where it remains for about a year.

Often people take Glucosamine (sulphate) supplement, which helps stimulate our natural lubrication. It takes about 2 weeks to take effect. However, a mixture of Glucosamine (sulphate), Chondroitin and MSM seems to work better or helps in more severe cases. Chondroitin works similar to and sometimes better than Glucosamine (sulphate). MSM is a special agent that reduces the inflammation. In some cases, MSM is all that is needed. A homeopatic doctor can help set the dosages and help monitor the progress.

'Runners knee' can be recognized by being more painful going down than going up. If that is the case, some specially designed orthodics (shoe inserts) may help reduce the pain, as these will reduce the knee from bending out.

If all fails, replacement of the (knee or hip) joint with a stainless steel joint may be an option. The latter is only recommended in advanced cases, since the joint is only good for 17 years and is hard to replace. Also there are many things the joints cannot do. So they are far from perfect!

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Other topics, to be discussed later:

Breathing Problems

Skin Afflictions

Vision Impairment

Hearing Loss

Balance, Dizzyness

Hand and Foot Problems

Memory Loss


Back to where we left off in QOL, Action to Improve the Quality of Life

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