In With The New, But Don’t Forget The Old…

There’s been an ongoing debate for the past decades regarding what type of medicine is the best. Although some people are a bit more inclined towards the traditional forms of medicine, modern medicine has been the primary form of treatment for the past 3 to 4 centuries.

Let’s start by differentiating the two. When I refer to “traditional medicine”, I mean practices such as acupuncture, acupressure, herbology and homeopathy. Most forms of traditional medicine have been around for at least 2,200 years or longer. Some of the earliest writings, which happen to be from China, are thought to be from as far back as the 3rd century BC. These practices are often referred to as “alternative” medicine.

Modern medicine, or what’s often referred to as western medicine, started to emerge in the 19th century. The industrial revolution helped to spearhead a number of discoveries and inventions that led to the progression and advancement of how ailments were treated. The medical industry’s understanding of viruses and bacteria increased. One of the most important discoveries in my opinion, is the creation of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting (a Canadian, of course!) and Charles Best in 1921.

So, which is better? That part is what’s up for debate.

Some of the benefits of traditional medicine include, but are not limited to the safety behind some of the treatments, minimal side effects and improved quality of sleep and effect on the body. It can be viewed as more trustworthy, since it’s been around and practiced for so very long.

Some of the disadvantages of traditional medicine is the lack of dosage control for some herbs and lack of treatment for serious conditions such as traumatic injuries and serious diseases. One of the most common problems is also the fact that some herbs and natural remedies will interact negatively with modern medications.

Modern medicine has a number of very important advantages as well. For one thing, most branches of modern medicine require its practitioners to be properly educated and licensed to practice. The same can’t necessarily be said of all branches of traditional medicine. Dosage control and advancements are certainly more prominent in modern medicine.

The biggest disadvantage to modern medicine in my opinion, is the cost. If you don’t have medical insurance or coverage through your work, some of the better and more prominent medicines may not be available to you. And that’s taking into consideration that I’m Canadian and we have free public health care. I can only imagine the issue in countries that requires fully paid medical services. Improper diagnoses and mistakes in dosage delivery can lead to patient death or serious medical complications.

I think that something most firm advocates of traditional medicine tend to forget is that medications have evolved, and are based on herbs and traditional treatments. Medicine requires advancement. Imagine if we were still blood-letting or doing lobotomies? Go ahead and Google “Barbaric medical treatments”. Go ahead, I’ll wait… Some of that is pretty frightening.

If it weren’t for modern medicine, I’d be dead right now. No question, no debate. Without insulin, I wouldn’t have survived as long as I have. Does that mean traditional medicine is the loser of the debate? Not necessarily. I think there is a place in the world for both traditional and modern medicine. Both have pros and cons, and both have their benefit. Some of it may be a matter of preference. No matter what you choose, just be certain to do your research and consult your medical practitioner before starting any medical treatment. ☯

The ‘Ol Peek and Poke…

I have frequently had people ask me how often I test my blood sugar levels in the course of a day. Truthfully, I’ve gotten this question from a number of Diabetics as well. Blood glucose testing is an important part of managing Diabetes, and requires some attention to detail.

According to an article published by The Mayo Clinic, Type 1 Diabetics should be testing their blood glucose levels somewhere between 4 to 10 times a day. This is conditional on recommendations from their health practitioner, as well.

Personally, I used to test over 12 times a day. At almost four decades of dealing with Type 1, I consider it a matter of import to test this often. Most Diabetics need to test their blood glucose at these moments: before meals, before rigorous exercise, when waking in the morning and before bed. This is hardly an exhaustive list. And you may need to test more frequently if you fall ill, start new medications or have some radical change in your daily routine.

The Abbott FreeStyle Libre is the testing sensor I currently use

You’ll notice I wrote that I “used” to test over 12 times a day… One can only poke one’s finger so often in the course of 24 hours! Last February, my endocrinologist prescribed the Freestyle Libre as a means to trying out continuous glucose monitoring in a simpler way. I now test well over two dozens times within the waking day. This allows me a better control of my blood glucose levels and provides the ability to spend more time “in range” (between 4.0 to 7.0 mmol/L).

For those who don’t know, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is a device used in conjunction with an insulin pump. It involves placing a small sensor into the interstitial tissue, which monitors and relays latent blood glucose readings to the insulin pump on a continuous basis. Hence, then name. It’s a handy device to help Diabetics keep their blood sugar levels in range.

A depiction of CGM on the left side with the pump’s infusion set on the right

Despite the use of CGM, it’s still important to test via fingertip blood when first waking up, or anytime your sensor may be in question or need calibration. For example, I recently scanned my sensor and got a reading of 3.5 mmol/L. This would normally require treating with some fast-acting glucose. I decided to err on the side of caution and tested with my glucometer. The result was that I was actually sitting at 4.2 mmol/L. Quite a difference and plays an important role in how I would treat.

The method of testing and its frequency will ultimately be something for discussion between you and your medical practitioner. After all, every case is different, and one’s testing needs differ from person to person. Your doctor may occasionally require you to wake and test during the middle of night, as well. This is so that proper balance throughout the entire day can be achieved.

I often have non-Diabetics comment that they don’t know how I deal with all the testing and the poking I do. Up until about six years ago, I took approximately 4 to 6 insulin injections a day (depending on how much I ate) and poke a finger over 12 times a day. Now, with the advent of these devices, I inject a needle once every three days to load the insulin pump, and poke a finger once or twice a day at most. It’s certainly a welcome change. ☯

Expect The Unexpected

Based on artifacts found around China and India, the earliest evidence of something that could be considered a “martial art” is about 5,000 years ago. That’s a heck of a long time for something to exist. Inevitably, something that old will go through quite a fair number of changes throughout that length of time.

Martial arts was originally not only developed as a means of combat. It was also developed as a means of keeping fit and increasing one’s physical fitness. Over time, it propagated and there are styles of martial arts all over the world.

Through the decades, there has been a bit of an up and down in regards to how martial arts training has been approached. Although some styles used to focus on the freedom of movement and fluidity, a movement began at some point where instructors started teaching a “if they do this, you do that” philosophy. It became more reactive as opposed to proactive.

Here’s the reality: in a real fight, whether on the street or in defence of your own life, you can’t expect what your opponent will do. That being said, you also can’t focus on any one technique that you may do in response to any one attack. It becomes important to expect the unexpected!

When training, it’s important to practice a free-flowing way of fighting in order to allow yourself the flexibility to respond to any attack. This is why routine and constant drills, as well as free sparring is necessary in genuine martial arts. This allows you to groom yourself to the point where you will respond on reflex as opposed to thinking “Okay, here comes a front kick, I need to block THIS way…”

This is the difference between theory and practical application. Theory is extremely important; it’s how we learn the material required to progress. But the practical application is what’s required for survival. It’s what could potentially save your life, should you ever need to use the training you’ve undertaken.

I’m a firm advocate that you should never need to fight. But should someone back you in a corner and your life or the life of your family or loved ones ever be in jeopardy, it would be a good thing to be able to step up and do what’s necessary. Training for the unexpected will bring you closer to that goal. ☯

Mistakes Are Proof That You Are Trying

“The good deeds a man has done before defend him…”

Recognize that quote? It was spoken by J. Robert Oppenheimer, although he took it from the Bhagavad Gita. You may remember Oppenheimer; he was the theoretical physicists nicknamed the “father of the atomic bomb” and is credited with helping to create the atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

How well do you think Dr. Oppenheimer sleeps? I guess I should clarify; Dr. Oppenheimer passed away in 1962, but I can’t help but imagine he had a number of sleepless nights.

We all make mistakes. That’s a big part of what makes us human. Is there anything in your life that you can look back upon and wonder if you would have done it differently? You probably shouldn’t.

Life is a vast mosaic of experiences and decisions. No matter what the choice, good or bad, it has become a penultimate part of what has made you who you are. This is second only to your current, conscious choices.

Sometimes outside forces and influences will create a situation in which we question the choices we’ve made. It’s natural and normal to question the decisions we’ve made, as long as it doesn’t make us falter in our confidence.

I’ve written before about how every consequences is based on three sources: your involvement, an outside influence and elements beyond your control. When you come to terms with that, you can start to own your involvement, and work towards dealing with the rest.

We’ve certainly all made our share of mistakes. Humanity wouldn’t be able to grow and progress otherwise. The important part is in knowing that it’ll all be alright. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t struggle so much. Life shouldn’t be a constant butting of heads. And don’t forget that you can never take it more than one day at a time. ☯

Did That Hurt? Well, It Was Supposed To…

I normally try and keep my inner zen and impart information objectively. My goal is generally to impart some wisdom through my stories and experiences, and perhaps teach a little something in the process.

But today, I’m going to hop up on my soap box for a little while and discuss an issue that weighs heavily on my soul. It began in the same way as it often does…

I walk into the dojo. The floor is cold and the hall is empty. The head instructor is setting up the required items for the evening’s class, and I stretch experimentally. I begin slowly; throwing a straight punch at a heavy bag. Then another, and another… Within moments, I start punching faster than I can keep track and am acting upon 30 years of instinct and training. I throw in the occasional kick for good measure, even though I’ve never been a fan of allowing my feet to leave the ground. I step away from the punching bag, allowing my breathing to steady. I fall into several forms followed by a number of knuckle push-ups. I stop and catch my breath, aware that several of the arriving students are watching me. I’m sweating profusely and have already done more on my own in the 15 minutes prior to the start of class than the entire student body…

It’s a sad story. One that has become more prominent in recent years. A lot of fitness and martial arts clubs have become a primarily social gathering, as opposed to a forum for proper training and development.

30 years ago when I started the martial arts, class started promptly at 6 pm and ended only at 8 pm. There were no washroom breaks, no water permitted within the dojo and the energy in the room was electric. Once you were inside, you weren’t permitted to leave the dojo until Sensei dismissed you, barring a medical emergency. Every student present knew their position. Everyone bowed; everyone kept going until the end. No one gave up. No one took it easy.

I feel that some of the genuine strength of the martial arts has become watered down. Let’s be realistic: all those awesome martial arts movies and kung fu flicks you likely watched as a kid (and perhaps still do) are based on real life martial artist who have spent their entire lives training and developing themselves. If not for the hard work of others, those awesome movies wouldn’t exist.

One good example is Bruce Lee. Even though he was an action movie star, he was also a traditional artist artist. Having trained from a young age, he developed himself and built himself to the point where he was able to surpass his teachings and even develop his own martial arts perspective in Jeet Kune Do. He was so skilled that the camera often had to be slowed in order be able to see the actual strike on film…

I use Bruce Lee as an example because he is well known inside and outside of martial arts circles. The likes of him hasn’t been seen since. But his example, as well as some others, set a precedence that effectively set the tone for my martial arts training from a young age well into my current state of being.

I’m a 40-year old man. By no means am I “old”, but I’m certainly not the spry, 21-year old green belt I was in 1999. But yet, I manage to work up more of sweat and burn more calories in 15 minutes than most of the teenage students in my current school will burn throughout the entire class. It may sound like a bit of a conceit, but it’s accurate. The change in the tide almost makes me feel as though traditional martial arts may disappear within the next generation.

It’s important to put in a maximum effort in any training you perform. It will sometimes be painful and it will be exhausting. But this is how you grow and progress. If you give it a minimum effort and basically “half ass” your workout, you may as well stay home. This applies to anything, whether you are training in the martial arts, learning a new sport of learning a new skill such as an instrument.

They say that showing up is the first step. I’ve heard this on occasion. And although I can agree that showing up is the first step, it is also the easiest. The next step becomes more difficult, as it requires the learner to put in a comparable effort for the skill they wish to learn.

So push yourself, damn it! If you don’t sweat, if you don’t feel aches and pains, if you don’t wake up the next morning barely able to walk, you’re not giving yourself the effort. And trust me, you are well worth the effort! ☯

If You “Whey” Out The Options…

Listen, I’m all for a bit of an advantage when trying to get in shape. There are all sorts of supplements and additives that athletes take that give them an “edge”. But how many of them are genuinely effective?

One of the most prominent and important supplements is whey protein. As a matter of import, protein is necessary for the building of muscle tissue, cartilage, bones and skin. It helps to build and support all these things, and also helps to increase strength and mass. Needless to say, most adults require a reasonable amount of protein in their diet.

According to WebMD, most adults get enough protein throughout the day. For a health adult, that means anywhere between 46 to 56 grams of protein, every day. But the question becomes whether or not they are getting the right type of protein.

Besides fibre, most natural sources of protein will help you to feel full for longer and can aid in weight loss. Decent sources of protein, such as fish, chicken and eggs are ideal. Depending on who you speak to, red meat shouldn’t be a constant indulgence, but lean cuts of meat can be a good source of protein.

Although the jury is still out, whey protein will apparently help will developing strength and increasing your athletic performance. Believe it or not, some studies have also shown that whey protein in the correct amount can help in lowering blood sugar levels, although I can’t attest to having experienced that myself.

There are tons of different brands of whey protein on the market, and they can be even be found at most chain retail locations. As always, you should consult your medical practitioner before starting any supplement, and they can recommend a brand and type that best fits what your nutritional and fitness needs may be.

It’s often said that we get enough protein with a healthy food-based diet. And if you eat three well-rounded meals during the course of your day, this may be the case. But for folks trying to build muscle mass or add a bit of an edge to your daily routine, whey protein may be the route for you. ☯

As The Old Saying Goes: It’s Not The Size Of The Hammer, It’s The Nail You’re Throwing It At!!!

When people work out, they tend to go for two major accomplishments: weight loss or mass development. That first one makes sense, to a point. But the second generally applies to the noticeable and well-known muscle groups, such as biceps, triceps, pectoral muscles, deltoids and quadriceps, to name a few.

But a big part of maintaining proper fitness and overall physical health is working the smaller muscle groups that help with your body’s support system and stability. Although these muscle groups aren’t directly used during weight lifting or intense physical activity, they do help to keep your body steady and stable during those particular activities.

As age has started its slow disassembly of my very soul (a bit dramatic, but bear with me!), I’ve started to notice certain pains in my body that don’t seem to go away. I’m a big fan of chiropractic medicine and massage therapy, but what do you do when those forms of treatment no longer help with the little aches and pains? Well, the little things can grow into something bigger over time!

According to an article published by Men’s Health, there are a number of muscle groups you should be focusing your attention on, in order to avoid some long term issues. And here they are:

Your rotator cuffs: This muscle group is responsible for the mobility of your shoulder joint and helps with mobility and movements that involve raising your arm over your head. The article indicates that most athletes unfortunately don’t train to repair this muscle group until it becomes injured.

Erector Spinae: Before y’all start making jokes about the name, this muscle group is built around the lower and mid back. Even though most weight lifters focus on building the upper back, this muscle group is very much responsible for support and posture.

Gluteus Minimus and Medius: Hey, I’m all for building that booty! But it ain’t all gluteus maximus! They’re the muscle groups responsible for pelvic support and stabilization while you’re busy building booty gains. Did I say it enough? Booty! There! Moving on…

Tibialis Anterior: This muscle is responsible for walking, running and sprinting. I remember getting shin splints during my basic training and cursing the fact that I had never taken the time to build these bad boys up.

Obliques: Listen, I’ve written about the issues surrounding the development of a six-pack in a previous post. I’m all about the strong hara, so I don’t focus much beyond a strong core as opposed to a sculpted middle. That being said, this is a muscle group often neglected, even by those looking to pose for an ab sculpt infomercial. They typically cross the rib cage and work towards keeping you upright.

Hamstrings: This muscle group is important as an opposing, balancing group to your quadricep. Underdevelopment of the hamstrings can result in an imbalance that can lead to knee injury.

Forearm Extensors: This muscle group is used for gripping. As in, every time you pick up dumbbells. So if these muscles groups are ignored, it sort of makes it hard to work on free weights.

For a list of possible exercises to develop all the muscle groups I’ve mentioned, you can read the Men’s Journal artilcle at https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/7-muscles-everyone-ignores/

Just remember that while you’re busy sculpting your arms to get all “Arnold-esque”, be sure to pay some attention to those smaller muscle groups who are the underdogs of your body’s posture and stability. ☯

Do Unto Others, Because They’ll Likely Do Unto You…

Given my personal and spiritual beliefs, coupled with the state of the world, I often have difficulties consolidating my understanding of the world’s apparent increased oversensitivity. Although I believe we should all treat each other well, the world has become a place where everyone is offended at the smallest thing.

As a people, when someone does something to wrong us we feel compelled to act or react. Sometimes this reaction can have adverse or negative effects; not only on the person we seek to react against. This brings us to contemplate the difference between seeking justice against those who have wronged us and getting revenge. Where is the line? What is the difference?

Justice is defined as bringing a “just behaviour or treatment” against another. Although normally used in the scope of upholding laws, it basically means a fairness, focusing on impartiality and objectivity. The whole point of justice is to make things right, all the while maintaining the right.

Justice is meant to be blind.

Revenge is defined as “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” This one provides more of an opportunity to obtain retaliation; since they hurt me, I’ll hurt them!

Both of these options allow for a repayment of a wrong done to us, but one creates more of an extreme than the other. Is one really better than the other?

The reason justice is blind is because is allows for the wrong to be righted with objectivity and impartiality. Meanwhile, revenge is mostly about making one feel better by causing harm on another. Revenge may make us feel better (although it plays hell with one’s karma) but justice allows for an actual repayment of said wrong. And even though revenge may feel as though the scales are being balanced, the cost is often far too high for the payback.

This is a difficult concept to explain to someone who, for example has been personally attacked or has had a loved one attacked. When extreme violence is inflicted upon us, as animals, our instincts dictate that we fight back. At least in most cases (fight or flight syndrome).

So, what about someone’s direct or indirect actions cause a general hardship in one’s life? For example, a person who speaks untruthful words that upset the balance and harmony of another person’s life or perhaps destroys their current WAY of life. How does one seek justice when everyone else’s eyes are on you as opposed to the person who caused the damage? Does it become acceptable to seek out some form of revenge on this person?

A lot of this is speculation, some of it is based on recent events within my own life. However, it’s important to remember that both these things, justice and revenge, have their place in the world. Although the first is generally more widely accepted and appropriate, the latter can often be the only way to truly obtain justice.

The important lesson for all of us is that no matter which avenue is pursued, all of it is for naught is it isn’t combined with forgiveness. Even before justice is served or revenge is obtained, being able to forgive the person who has wronged us is an important first step in ensuring our well-being. ☯

Testosterone, It’s Not Just For Action Heroes…

I’m sure most of you have heard of testosterone. It’s a hormone secreted within the body that many people attribute in derogatory ways.

“Wow, that guy has WAY too much testosterone…”

But how important is it? Although most people assume it’s a male hormone, it’s actually produced by both genders. It’s simply produced in larger amounts in men. It affects their appearance, helps build muscle and bone as well as sexual development and drive. Kind of important overall, right?

A man’s testosterone levels start being affected and drop after the age of 30. Doesn’t seem like a very advanced age, but that’s when it STARTS to decline. And problematically, low testosterone can cause a host of health issues within men.

Erectile Dysfunction! There, now that I’ve thrown the words out, we can discuss them openly. True enough, there’s always been a bit of a stigma with men discussing this issue, but it’s one of the top problems caused by lower levels of testosterone. Once your testosterone levels drop, it can cause a decrease in sex drive.

According to an article written in “Medical News Today”, roughly 1 in every 50 men are diagnosed with low testosterone levels. Besides the condition named above, this can cause hair loss, reduced bone density and muscle mass, difficulty sleeping, low energy levels, changes in mood and potential weight gain.

If it becomes a noticeable problem, you should obviously discuss it with your family practitioner. That being said, you shouldn’t assume it’s low testosterone levels WITHOUT a doctor’s diagnosis. The problem these days is that many doctors are, for some reason, reluctant to test for testosterone level deficiencies.

But if you suspect it and can get a diagnosis, there are ways to treat it. There are a number of dietary changes that can hep middle boost testosterone levels and help alleviate symptoms. A lot of them involve eating nutrient-rich foods.

If this doesn’t help, doctors can prescribe testosterone replacement therapy, which can be administered in a number of different ways. You can start seeing a difference within weeks of starting said therapies.

An important factor to keep in mind is that a man’s levels will lower slightly with time and age, and this isn’t what poses the issue. There has to be a significant drop for the symptoms to kick in. A normal drop won’t cause the aforementioned issues.

Some drops in levels will be caused by pre-existing conditions, and some of the symptoms will exist without an actual drop in levels. A little bit confusing? I would say so, but the takeaway is that communicating and discussing with medical professionals becomes important. And if you happen to hit a physician who shies aways from wanting to test for it, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. ☯

Equality Loses Its Meaning If You Try To Punish Each Other…

There has been a fair amount of press recently surrounding a certain celebrity who has been speaking out against abortion laws being proposed in the United States. This is a hot topic that has been debated for decades, but because of the proposed means of protest, it has sparked a lot of response, both good and bad.

Just to be clear from the get-go, my personal and spiritual beliefs are as such that I’m a firm advocate of always hearing both sides of the conflict before rendering my own opinion. That being said, I believe every person has the inherent right to choose what is or isn’t done to their own bodies, regardless of what any government body may be suggesting.

But today’s blog post isn’t about the story in the news or the celebrity who is using her status as a means of garnering attention to “her” cause. Today’s topic is about equality in relationships.

Decades ago, western culture had an expectation that the man would go off to work every morning and earn the money. The woman would stay home, tend house and take care of the children. When the man got home, the expectation was that the house would be tidy, a hot meal would be waiting on the table and he would be greeted at the door by a loving wife. Is anybody else picturing an I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners episode?

Western society as a whole has moved at what can only be described as a slow crawl on matters of marital equality. It’s not the 1950’s anymore, and things have changed significantly, even though many believe it hasn’t. Both parties in the relationship have an equal right and equal capability to accomplish anything required within the household.

The thing that got my hackles up about the article I had read was how the writer referred to being a stay-at-home partner as “unpaid work”. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.

These days, cost of living expenses generally tend to force both partners to work full time at bringing in enough income to live. But some households still have one partner working outside the home and one partner working within.

Here’s the reality: let’s say that one of the two people in the relationship has a decent job making 100k/year working 40 hours a week outside the household. The other person stays at home, cleans, does dishes and keeps things in order. Both partners are putting in their respective day’s work with the total 100K salary being brought into the home. The tasks being done at home are essential and are part of the overall requirements of modern living. If the at-home partner stops performing these tasks, then the household stability will falter, rendering it more difficult if not impossible for the outside work to be accomplished as well. This means that the work done at home contributes to that 100k salary.

The point is, that income is only possible thanks to efforts from both relationship partners. And it becomes important to acknowledge that the one working outside the home needs to contribute once he or she returns to the residence as well. If you get home and throw your feet up while your partner is still slaving away prepping food and trying to keep the kids in line, shame on you!

My work has often involved longer scheduled days, overtime and shift work. Some days I’ve felt run off my feet, but I’ve still helped to prepare meals. I’ve always used my down time to clean, run errands and perform household chores. How could I not? I live here, too! When my son was born, I took months of parental leave in order to be home and help. I got up multiple times a night, sanitized bottles, changed diapers… the whole nine yards. My wife was not employed outside the house at the time, so I could have kept on working. But it was better for both of us for me to be home to help. None of that makes me a “better” partner than others, this is simply what the standard SHOULD be.

Good balance and communication is important!

At the end of the day, no one should be claiming that staying at home is “unpaid work”. It absolutely contributes to the household income and is a necessary function for a family household. I’m not referring to people who are convinced to leave a career that is important to them, of course. That’s an entirely different story.

That’s where proper communication and compromise comes in. Both partners needs to verbalize their wants, needs and expectations in order to achieve proper balance. Otherwise, a change may be in order. But if you do chose to stay home, remember that the work you do at home matters. And speaking from experience, everything done within a day at home is a LOT of work! ☯