Different thoughts come to my mind while I run nowadays. Whereas when I was much younger I was occupied by thoughts of ‘how to increase my speed’ or how to ‘beat the runner beside me’, lately I think more about how to keep myself healthy until the day I die. I know this is kind’a morbid but it is a fact. Since I turned over 50, I have become more introspective as far as my health is concerned.
There is information overdrive all around us: how to lose weight, how to enjoy sex, how to be energized, how to eat right, what’s the latest magic pill, what’s the latest exercise craze, diet solutions left and right as if someone discovers the fountain of youth and health somewhere everyday. Despite these, some still get unhealthy and malnourished and some still get heart attacks or strokes or cancer or flu EVEN the most health-conscious of us all. I know this because I work in a hospital. The truth is, health scientists don’t have standard, fully scientific, objective, factual answers to health/immune system questions, all the information forced-fed upon us are mere speculations. Have you ever wondered why a certain vitamin works today but not next year? Or a pill today is under a class lawsuit tomorrow due to false claims or worse, casualties? Have you wondered why the exercise technique of so and so was proven inferior by the exercise of so and so? Well, the answer is simply, Nobody knows.
That is the reason I am very emphatic about my blogs on this site: What I discuss are based on personal anecdotes and they are not scientific. Added caveat : what works for me may not work for you. What I present are personal data - and being me as a sample will not be representative of the general population.
However, that won’t restrict me from looking at certain patterns that a few of you probably observe too everyday.
When I deprive myself of sleep due to work or stress for a couple of days, I get a cold.
My co-workers who have very young kids usually have frequent colds or viruses.
When I over-exercise, I get a cold.
Kids younger than 5 catch cold or viruses quickly compared to the older ones.
People over 50 take longer to recover from diseases and are quicker to catch something that is contagious.
People who smoke get sick frequently and have relatively poor recovery (compared to non-smokers) when sick.
When I have sufficient sleep and rest, I feel very energized and light.
When I exercise (the right amount) I feel energized and light.
When I work in a confined place with many co-workers and more sickly patients, I seem to catch a cold easily.
Certain multi-vitamins appear to give me more energy.
These are ‘patterns’ of personal experiences that are observable, repeatable, consistent and reproducible as far as I am concerned. But they aren’t yet established, at least not in studies or big data analysis. Maybe someday they will be but not today.
Speculatively, these relate to certain ‘truths’ that we might consider ‘relatively’ valid because they are experienced or observed by at least one person. Sure they are limited to myself but these can still be useful to some above 50 year old people out there.
And here are more of my speculations: Immune system is not only the defense against foreign invaders of our system, it also protects us from alteration of our system such as cancer by maintaining correct cell genesis. I adhere to the concept that constantly lowering our immune system also lowers our ability to correct cell alterations in our bodies.
And body cells can get altered by many things - genetics mainly, also extreme self-abuse such as smoking, over-stress, too much chemicals and composition manipulation of our food, exposure to carcinogenic substances (asbestosis, lead come to mind). Personally, I am suspicious of any food that’s canned or bottled or preserved or powdered. I don’t mean I avoid them, I just take them in moderation. I cook my food as much as I can. I am not a fan of instant
-microwavable meals or powdered food. I’d rather osterize normal food. Besides, the art of cooking your own food is very relaxing. And it would be much more relaxing if you yourself raised your own food organically. (I don’t unfortunately).
The reason I believe these things is because I have lived in two countries. In my previous country, there was neither freezing of food nor preservation except for salting. People walk straight to the market, gather their food and prepare and cook them. This was a way of life. Unfortunately, nowadays, even the old country is mimicking the new country though some people my age there still preserve the old tradition of meal preparation. There are added choices now. The last time I visited the old country, there were as much preserved and frozen food imported and available in there as there are in my new country.
In my new adopted country, I drive to the grocery, grab a frozen item, and either cook or microwave or bake it for food. I sometimes go to one of the many restaurants and pick and choose what I want to eat that moment. There’s not much work involved. Eating is just a break from a regular routine. Nowadays, I try to consume home-cooked meals from natural food items and ingredients as much as I can but seriously, life can be so busy here sometimes that I still end up with canned or bottled or powdered or preserved food.
What surprises me though is that a few of my people from the old country who migrated here are diagnosed with Ca - and I am perplexed at the frequency of them! I know two breast cancer victims who died. When I was growing up, I hardly heard of breast cancer where I came from. Although lately I hear a lot it too coming from there.
Which often makes me think, especially when I run: Outside of genetics, Is the increased prevalence of Cancer in both countries due to the shifting methods of food preparation? Or increased stress due to lifestyle demands? Or better diagnostics? I know some of the casualties of the Cancer here that I knew of were active, well-off. They were not obese. The only speculation I could think of is this[NOTE AGAIN: THIS IS SPECULATION ONLY] - since most of the time we are all so busy, we tend to gravitate towards meals that were prepared for us with preservatives. Poor us! Not only are we consuming foods whose source and preparations we hardly know about, we are also stuffing ourselves with preservatives added to them. Just hope the ingredients were not altered genetically, injected with steroids, injected with too much antibiotics etcetera. The saddest part of it all is that, these foods and their consumption have become our way of life.
There is still hope though. There is the consolation of early detection and very good treatment of Ca. Also, we have to look at the entire picture of old versus new kinds of foods we eat: though there are those who have been diagnosed with Ca there are also those who lived healthy up to their nineties both having eaten the same foods. So - I come back to the idea of ‘Nobody knows’ when it comes to health.
Personally, I prefer my food to be original, straight from the ground or ocean or butcher’s knife. I don’t want too much alteration in genetics or preservation or over-preparation of what I eat. Not only do I find them risky to me but they also lose their natural aroma and taste. And what is life without eating what Nature intends for us to enjoy? Besides, I don’t want my immune system to be in a constant state of warfare. It already has so much battle to fight as it stands now.
Everyday, my immune fights the thousands of germs I am exposed to, it fights the many stresses I subject my brain to, it fights the fatigue and work-outs I subject it to, it fights the environmental assault from pollution and whatever dangers lurking now due to global warming.
At least, in my own little way, I want it to rest and be fed with the least oppressive and assaultive food I could feed it. Hopefully that will help it a little bit.