Sprinkle A Little Of That Goodness…

When you have Type-1 Diabetes, you have the unfortunate requirement to pay attention to everything you eat, everything you do and the activities in which you participate and monitor your body closely. Most things tend to hit us harder, and we’re not only hit with a shorter life expectancy but our organs all tend to play Russian roulette with life.

Luckily, some of the things we need to watch for do apply to non-Diabetics as well. One of these things is the intake of salt. For many years, it was believed that the best course of action was to eliminate your intake of salt as much as possible. This is a flawed logic and including salt in your diet is actually important.

First of all, let’s clarify: there’s a difference between salt and sodium. Salt is the combination of sodium and chloride, as well as trace amounts of other minerals. Sodium is a stand-alone mineral, and is usually what is measured in terms of dietary and daily intake requirements.

Salt, as I’ll refer to it for the remainder of this post, is a catch-22 seasoning. Too much can cause a score of health and medical issues. But believe it or not, completely eliminating salt from your diet can cause a number of issues for you, as well.

But since people in general tend to think that salt = bad, let’s examine some of the benefits of including salt in your diet. Some of these healthy uses of salt include:

  1. Dental Hygiene: Swishing a teaspoon of salt in a half cup of water can help with good oral health by helping with infections, mouth sores, wounds and some forms of gum disease. It’s also a dentist-recommended natural treatment to help heal canker sores, which are a real sore spot for me (see what I did there?);
  2. It’s a natural disinfectant: It’s no mystery that salt has been used for centuries as a curing and/or preserving agent, as salt prevents certain bacteria from growing and spoiling food. But soaking certain wounds (especially those on your feet) in warm salt water can help with healing;
  3. It eases sore throats: Gargling with salt water can ease swelling and irritation caused by sore throats;
  4. It can ease cramps and dehydration: I know that most people tend to think that salt dehydrates you. And this may be true, if you consume heavy amounts of it. But healthy amounts of salt will actually help you to stay hydrated and by proxy, eliminate muscle cramps during physical activities. Salt is an electrolyte and is required in order to keep you hydrated;
  5. It can help clear your sinuses: Using a saline solution can help to alleviate sinus issues caused by colds or allergies. You can find over-the-counter saline bottles at any pharmacy or if you want to be totally disgusting, you can use a netti pot to pour salt water into your sinus cavities to wash them out.

There are a few good posts that cover further benefits. WebMD has a good one and can be read here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-salt-uses. HealthLine.com also has a good one and can be read here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-good-or-bad

As far as eating salt is concerned, the average person pretty much consumes their maximum recommended amount of salt through most of the foods they eat. But if you drink plenty of water throughout your day and are not faced with any outlying medical conditions that prohibit the use of salt, sprinkling a lit bit of goodness on your food is not a big deal. It’s one of those “happy medium” situations where too much is bad, but too little can be just as bad.

According to the HealthLine.com link I provided above, reduced sodium intake can lead to an increase in heart issues, LDL and Triglyceride counts as well as an increase in insulin resistance. So one would likely not want to cut out salt COMPLETELY.

Last but not least, when it comes to choosing your salt, natural salt wins over common table salt. Like most things you find in a consumer’s world, table salt is processed and has a negligible mineral content. Natural salt includes types such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.

With salt, much like everything else in life, moderation is key. Although you don’t want to be pouring that stuff freely onto everything you eat, you certainly don’t want to eliminate it completely either. Your doctor or health practitioner should be able to tell you if you need to reduce or increase your sodium intake and as with everything else, drink plenty of fluids along the way. ☯

To Be Born Twice…

When I take stock of my life, I realize that through time and circumstance I have experienced something of a rebirth on more than one occasion. In my youth, the path of my life and how I grew up was determined by a single diagnoses of Type-1 Diabetes at the age of 4. I’ve often reflected on how differently my life may have been had I not been diagnosed as such.

Later on, I would start my training in karate; a move that I would ultimately come to see as a rebirth. The person I became and the health I gained showed a marked departure from where I began. It also helped define the kind of drive and ambition I would have in almost everything I’d do in my life.

My chosen career, although started later than most, was most definitely a rebirth. It was almost like being under water for so many years, only to finally come up for air. When you finally find what you were meant to do, it seems like a perfect fit and everything else seems to melt away.

But sometimes, these rebirths don’t happen on their own. Sometimes you have to take yourself in hand in order to make them happen. I’ve often said that life doesn’t are about our plan. Things will happen in due course, but this doesn’t mean you should just sit back and wait for it happen.

Change may be organic to life, but POSITIVE change requires your active involvement. You can’t remake yourself by hiding away from the outside world. You are part of the living organism that is the world, and the only way to have a positive impact is through positive thinking and positive action. ☯

Doing It Wrong Ruins It For The Bunch…

For the past two centuries or so, many instructors of the martial arts have made a go of teaching their art as a career. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, so long as you do it properly. Realistically, as soon as you start teaching something that you’ve spent a lifetime mastering, you’ve established yourself as a professional in that field. And any professional who teaches their trade should be compensated. Makes sense, right?

The unfortunate reality is that some of these “professionals” are anything but, and they continue to teach something that can only be described as a watered down version of the pure styles that the founders intended. This has prompted the trend known as the “McDojo”.

For those who may not be familiar, a “McDojo” is a school of martial arts that teaches a watered down version of their style and provides no genuine skills training. They often focus more on profit and student retention than the proper education of their students. McDojos can be dangerous because they instil a sense of confidence based on skills that may or may not exist within the school.

With my own karate classes starting back up after the holidays, my thoughts have been dwelling on some of the dojos I’ve visited over the decades and how they’ve presented themselves. And believe me, I’ve visited a LOT of them. Some people will tell you that style isn’t important. It is and it isn’t, as some styles will work for some but not for others. When choosing a dojo to train with, it can be difficult to identify a McDojo if you’ve never dealt with them My goal is to provide some “tips” on what to look for. Here we go:

  1. They have children as instructors: This is a problem, because it is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve a black belt in less than ten years. The amount of knowledge, skill and training required in order to reach black belt level in ANY traditional style takes years to accumulate. That means that even if you started karate at the age of 4, you would be into your teen years before the color black even comes close to adorning your uniform. I think someone described it best when they said to think about a medical doctor. Would you want to be treated by a doctor who graduated after two years as opposed to 7 to 9 years? Obviously not. The same goes for black belts;
  2. They don’t fight: Look, you can be as peaceful and serene as you want to be but the truth is that the martial arts are “fighting” arts and you can’t learn properly if you don’t fight. And there can’t be any rules. When I grew up, our sparring involved an “anything goes” mentality. We obviously avoided striking each other’s groin for the obvious reasons, but strikes to the head, throws, pressure points and any strikes you could think of were incorporated. It’s comparable to becoming a great painter; how can you become an artist if you never intend to use a brush? The only true way to measure your skill is by exercising it in actual fighting;
  3. They cost a fortune: Tuition fees, uniform and equipment purchases (which HAVE to be through the dojo) various “suspicious” costs, such as registration fees, club fees and such can all be indicators that you may be in the wrong place. When instructors focus on ensuring that you’re paying your monthly dues and each belt test has a cost for the test, the belt, the certificate and “registering” your rank with the style, there’s definitely a problem. I started karate in 1988. I started paying a fixed monthly tuition and in 30 years, it has never increased. I never paid for a belt test and in fact, my instructor always gifted each colored belt to me. Although this is the extreme, it is also a standard that other schools should follow:
  4. They don’t adhere to a structured system: This means that either they teach a Chinese style but use a Japanese belt system, or have weird patches and crests all over their uniforms or have belts that don’t exist in the martial arts (such as pink or camouflage belts);
  5. They have “masters” or “grandmasters” in their school below the age of 50: This is a difficult one, because it isn’t so much that it’s IMPOSSIBLE as it is unlikely. Attaining these ranks takes decades, and the general age that one reaches them is pretty consistent. I was raised on a system where the title of “Master” is provided to someone who has achieved a rank of 5th degree black belt or higher. But when you get someone who is reasonably young and has already achieved this rank, there’s a good chance it’s a self-promotion for the image of the school as opposed to actual rank;
  6. The information is lacking or seems “sketchy”: An instructor should be able to recount the history of his/her style. How else can you teach the style if you don’t know where it came from? If an instructor is unable to provide you with basic background of where they trained and what the history of their style is, there’s a problem.

There’s a lot involved in choosing and training with a martial arts school. The reality is that you’re going to sweat, you’re going to cry, there will be pain and you’ll likely want to quit as often as not. THAT’S the reality of training with a genuine martial arts school. It’s a life-long commitment and it will take decades to reach a significant level. And it shouldn’t require a second mortgage or your first-born to do it.

At the end of the day, I’m in my 40’s and I’ve been doing karate (as well as some other martial arts) for over 30 years. I still don’t have the title of “Master” in front of my name and maybe I never will. But my skill has been acquired through decades of blood, sweat and tears. Such is the truth behind the way; if it were the simple way, a passing way, everyone would do it. ☯

I Don't Care How You Spell It, Honor Is Important…

Honor is an important aspect of life and society. We hear a lot about it in the movies and in books, but we don’t always lend much thought to the prospect of honour within our own lives. Most people adhere to a system of honor without even realizing it. Maybe you were raised on a system of honor and you stick to it without acknowledging that this is what you’re doing.

Honor is a very fluid word, and holds a number of different definitions depending on the context. For the most part, it means sticking to what’s right or following a code of conduct. If you look at it as an action, it means to have great respect for something/someone or hold them in high esteem. it can also mean to fulfill a previously made agreement.

“Stand Up For What’s Right, Even If You Are Standing Alone!”

Suzy Kassem

For the most part, honor is mentioned and/or covered in great detail in many of the books I’ve read; the Hagakure, The Bubishi (Karate bible), The Art of War, Bushido’s Code and The Book of Five Rings, among many others. And those are just the “non-fiction” books. One of the main characters from my favourite book series, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, lives his existence based on a code of honor he sticks to quite fervently.

Depending on what system or style of martial art you’ve studied, aspects of honor is covered by a number of different rules; protect the weak, never attack the helpless, follow the rules, etc… Despite an inherent aspect of violence in the martial arts (kind of hard not to be when you’re training to punch and kick), there is also an inherent peace and discipline involved, which leads to a realized practice of politeness and gentleness. Some would call this “balance”.

Maintaining one’s honor is important; not only for yourself but for your family and the people close to you. And with that honor comes a level of irreproachable honesty that should be observed as well. ☯

Getting Ahead Of The Curve

About three weeks ago, I wrote a post about what I intended to do for my New Year’s resolution. It’s pretty ambitious, considering most people will choose one thing or another, such as losing weight or eating healthier, joining a gym or quitting booze or smoking. I chose a rather elaborate spreadsheet that included the following steps:

  • No alcohol;
  • No tobacco;
  • Minimum of 3 workouts a week;
  • No soda;
  • No processed carbohydrates;
  • No junk food (yes, there’s a difference);
  • No added salt;
  • Minimum of 3 litres of water a day; and
  • Taking only the stairs where possible.

My intention had been to start it on December 29th as this is the Sunday that encompasses the January 1st week. However, I read someone else’s post about New Year’s resolutions and I was reminded of a couple of things.

Although it can be great to take yourself in hand and make a resolution in order to better yourself, if you wait until New Year’s in order to make that change it’s likely not important enough to you. The other aspect one needs to consider is, why wait?

I think the post I read said it best when they explained that if your resolution is to join a gym, why walk in as the new guy on January 1st when the new people will walk in and you’re already a regular? In that spirit, I started my New Year’s resolution on December 15th.

My first two weeks of the challenge

As you can see from the spreadsheet above, it’s pretty straightforward. At the end of the Saturday evening, I put green checks on the items I accomplished and a red “X” on the items I did not. The workouts have been rough, considering karate has been shut down for the holidays. Otherwise, I’d be hitting four workouts for both those weeks. Plus, it’s the holidays! I’ve been a little a little busy focusing on the actual holidays and on family.

Although there is already a touch of red on my ledger, the important aspect to remember is that a resolution is intended to help improve oneself. I’ve also been allowing myself a “cheat day” on Fridays. From what I’ve researched, folks have a better chance of sticking to any sort of regiment or major change in lifestyle and diet if they allow themselves a touch of indulgence once in a while.

I won’t bore all of you by posting updates on this every week, but I’ll provide some updates every few months to show my progress. We’ll see how long I can tough it out… ☯

Hindsight is 2020

Welcome to the New Year! It’s the beginning of a new decade, the return of the Roaring 20’s and the beginning of a fresh 365-day batch of opportunities. Hopefully everyone isn’t suffering from whatever celebratory choices you made last night and you can walk into the New Year with a skip in your step.

The past two years have been a bit of a challenge. After a lifetime of work, sacrifice and learning from mistakes, 2018 saw me get struck down in the prime of my chosen career by a selfish individual motivated by their own goals. I was taken away from my place of work and assigned elsewhere. I made the best of a bad situation and met some of the best people I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

2019 saw disappointment as I travelled the country in search of a different venue in which to continue my career (a fact I chronicled in my posts entitled “A Strange Odyssey” from last September) which yielded no results. A family member recently passed away and my wife and I have failed to sell our house. But through this disappointment, I was blessed with the birth of my second child, Alexander.

There have been ups and downs, happiness and disappointment, laughs and definitely some tears. But as hard as these difficulties have been, I have the benefit of knowing that there has always been some positive to go with the negative. And there usually always is!

And this is how you should face 2020. Take the time to focus on your health, your happiness and some goals for this year. And once you’ve established those goals, work hard until you achieve them. There’s really no other way to live.

And finally, a word on the title… I’ve always said that one can’t live life with regrets, that every choice you’ve made, good or bad, has inevitably led you to the wonderful and awesome person you are today. There genuinely is no way to regret that. But don’t forget to take the time to remember and contemplate some of the mistakes you’ve made in the past year. Not only will this prevent the possibility of repeating those mistakes, you may learn a little something about yourself to pave the way through a smoother year, this time around. ☯

What Goes In, Must Come Out

I thought I’d finish out 2019 with the grossest topic I can think of, because, why not? As I’ve often written, having Diabetes can lead to a heavy score of complications and we already know that our immune systems are total crap. And crap, as the turn of phrase would have it, is the focus of this post…

How often do you go to the bathroom and look at what comes out? Before most of you start wondering if I have a pitcher of eggnog or a spiced rum at my desk as I write, this is an important part of proper health. Because what comes out of you is important and can tell you a great deal about your health.

I’ve looked into a few different sources and referenced some medical practitioners only to find a batch of common consistencies that they all bring up, as it relates to going #2. Here’s what I found:

  1. It shouldn’t take forever: There are always jokes made about how if someone is taking too long in the bathroom, it’s because they’re going #2. As funny as that joke might be (I guess), the average bowel movement shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes. And that’s pushing it (pun intended). A healthy bowel movement should come easily with little pushing effort to move. And the time frame doesn’t include how long you waste getting past that tough level on Angry Birds;
  2. It shouldn’t hurt: The human body is an exceptionally well-designed machine, and your digestion and elimination systems are no exception. If a bowel movement is painful or difficult to pass, this can be a sign of further concern. It should be closer to spitting a grape out of your mouth, not giving birth to a rhino;
  3. It should look normal: What is normal? I’ll get to that in a bit, but the basic is it should be solid or semi-solid and have at least SOME shade of actual brown to it. Anything else can be a sign of dehydration, lack of fibre, diarrhea, food intolerances and even stress;
  4. You should be going once a day: An article posted by HealthLine.ca indicates that, “On average, a person with healthy digestion will poop anywhere between every other day to three times a day. Any less could suggest constipation […].” (https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/types-of-poop#3);
  5. “Regular” is a real thing: Despite point #4, I feel there’s a hell of a difference between going every two days and possibly going three times a day. As long as your diet and health are consistent, you should have a regular regiment and even go around the same time every day. If you’re used to going every morning at 7 am after your first coffee and all of a sudden you’re running for the nearest washroom three or four times, there’s likely something amiss.

These are only general guidelines based on the articles and references I’ve found, of course. As is the case with almost everything related to one’s health, every person is different and proper health is based on your specific diet, exercise routine, outlying medical conditions and hydration.

But let’s talk consistency for a moment, shall we? Back in the late 90’s, Dr. Ken Heaton from the University of Bristol, developed a chart that outlines the different shapes and consistencies of bowel movements in order to provide a baseline of what your particular bowel movements may be telling you. It was named The Bristol Stool Chart, but is also known as the Meyers Scale.

An example of the Bristol Stool Chart as found on Wikipedia

The chart can be easily found by Googling it, and they all show the same thing, despite some differences in design and appearance. What you’re looking for is either Type 3 or 4, with all other types signifying some potential problem or issue with your elimination and/or health. If you have Type-1 Diabetes and can basically dehydrate at the drop of a hat, diarrhea can be a serious issue. Remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Next is colour! The poo emoji got it right; your bowel movements should be a shade of brown. There are, however, a number of other colours that may suddenly show up in the bowl.

Black or red could be an indicator or internal bleeding, however mild or severe. Of course, red could also be an indicator that you ate something pertinent, such as beets, red berries or drinking heavy amounts of tomato juice, which can add a tinge of red to your bowel movements.

White bowel movements can indicate potential liver or gallbladder issues and shouldn’t be ignored. Green colour can be an indicator of something you ate, but is also dependent on the consistency. An article posted by MedicalNewsToday.com gets pretty descriptive and can be read here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320938.php#colors-of-poop

At the end of the day, the best ways to ensure proper elimination is to stay hydrated, exercise regularly and try and eliminate stress from your life (that last one isn’t the easiest). And there can always be one or more of these factors that suddenly make an appearance in your porcelain opera. It becomes a problem if colour, consistency or frequency change in such a way that it is no longer a one-off and doesn’t feel normal.

If you begin to feel pain, identify blood in your stool or have a colour or consistency change that doesn’t go back to normal after two or three days, you should go see your doctor or medical practitioner. Most people consider their bathroom trips to be an opportunity to get a few minutes of quiet time, read a chapter or play on their phones. But keeping an eye on what comes out can be a good indicator of your health. ☯