Clean Eating with an Injury or Chronic Illness: Things You Should Know

Pay attention to these three things when a painful injury or chronic condition has made you inactive.

Eating right while trying to heal from an injury can be tough.  With an injury, people often experience pain, discomfort, and changes in sleeping, eating and activity routines. After injuring my leg swimming, I had to adjust my eating habits from eating whatever I wanted and always having a healthy appetite to making sure I was getting the correct amount of vitamins, carbs and proteins while battling a loss in appetite due to the chronic pain in my leg.  After going from exercising every day for at least three hours, to zero exercise and barely even walking anywhere, I gained about twenty pounds. This weight gain was partly due to inactivity, and mostly due to a poor diet.

The problem, I realized, wasn’t completely my lack of exercise, but primarily my inconsistent and minimal appetite. When I would finally get hungry, I craved my comfort and junk foods, nothing that was actually helping me heal or feel better. Eating right is a daily battle due to my constant leg pain masking any form of hunger. After recognizing the problem I began to work a lot harder at monitoring my diet, assuring I get enough of these three things every day:

Proteins:  Since my appetite is minimal, heavy foods such as steak or burgers aren’t often a craving I have. Realizing that I was avoiding heavy foods that contained most of the protein I needed to heal, I began to look at easier, lighter food options that have a lot of protein. Some of my favorite easy to eat protein-filled foods includes fish, chicken, and hard-boiled eggs.

Vitamins: Since they play a major role in daily function and healing, I had to make sure I was getting enough vitamins in my daily diet. So, I began to eat a lot of fruits and smoothies which are always easy to eat. Additionally, on the days when I truly had no appetite due to pain I would drink a dietary supplement shake such as Ensure.

Carbs: These are needed to help digest proteins to promote healing; if not enough carbohydrates are consumed the body will use the proteins for fuel instead of healing. Talking with my doctor about what sort of carbohydrate foods are healthy and easy on the stomach (whole grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes like potatoes or beans) really helped me learn how to balance my diet.

Check back next time to learn about getting active again after an injury.

Stop Fighting Chronic Low Back Pain- Start Preventing it!

Three things to monitor daily to help prevent low back pain

Ever since I injured my leg swimming and was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), I have battled with chronic low back pain. After spending some time treating it, my Chiropractor in Eagle River began suggesting preventative actions I could be taking to help reduce my low back pain. In addition to recommending that I take Formula 303 (a natural muscle relaxer) and that I wear my orthotics all the time, we had a good conversation about what causes back pain and what I can be doing each day to help get some pain relief. He told me about three major contributing factors to low back pain and what I can do to reduce the pain by paying attention to these three things:

  • Keeping an eye on BMI: When I was first diagnosed with CRPS and retired from my swimming career, my athlete appetite went away, and unfortunately so did my speedy athlete metabolism. I went from being able to eat literally anything I wanted because I would work it all off within hours to having to watch my calorie intake and activity output. About two years post diagnosis I still didn’t have a good handle on a ‘limited activity’ diet and I gained nearly twenty pounds. After realizing that my weight gain could be contributing to my low back pain, I worked harder to maintain a healthy diet and weight and in return reduced my low back pain.
  • A Strong Core is Key: When your core is weak, your back has nothing to support it. There is nothing to keep it from becoming irritated by sudden movements. Your back needs a strong core to support it, hold it up straight, and to maintain a good posture. Without a healthy posture, the back will suffer. While a daily four- to eight-minute core workout/abdominal workout routine will certainly help maintain a healthy happy back, you can also build core muscles by doing core strengthening yoga, going on hikes with varying incline and decline or swimming. With a healthy BMI, core workouts will come easier, and be more effective.
  • Daily Stretching/Yoga: Having a good range of motion is big part of keeping lower back pain minimal. After my Chiropractor taught me a few stretches to help my back, I began to feel results. Wanting to work on this pain relief option more, I took a yoga class and learned about daily spinal stretches and how important it is for spinal health. Adding a spinal stretch routine into my daily schedule was not hard and it has really helped me maintain and treat my chronic low back pain.

Check back next week to learn about clean eating while healing from an injury.

Winter Weather Wellness: Three activities to keep the family busy this winter

Combat wintertime blues with these three fun family activities

While most Alaskans eagerly look forward to the changing seasons from summer to winter each year, there comes a time each year when even sledding, snowboarding and skiing have lost their seasonal appeal. With a handful of winter months left, coming up with fresh ideas to keep your family busy can be a challenge. Growing up in a small town, it is easy to quickly run out of wintertime activities for everyone in the family. With unpredictable weather and long dark days it is essential to family wellness to keep everyone mentally and physically healthy. Here are three activities that my parents came up with for our family each winter that helped us combat wintertime blues:

  • Go ice-skating: The Municipality of Anchorage maintains a number of indoor and outdoors ice-skating and hockey rinks open to the public. Ice-skating can be a fun and challenging activity for everyone in the family of all ages! Teaching kids a new skill, or fine-tuning your own is a great way to pass by another winter day. Check out the Municipality of Anchorage website for a list of all the current open rinks.
  • Take a scenic drive: Growing up going for long drives to beautiful places around our home was one of my favorite family activities. Alaskan scenery is endless and ever changing, so checking out some of my family’s favorite spots such as Bird Point on the Seward Highway or Arctic Valley in the winter could be a fun way to spend a sunny Saturday.
  • Complete a puzzle: There are many days during winter in Alaska that nobody wants to go anywhere or do anything that has to do with snow or being cold. On those days our family could get a little stir crazy. After completing all the needed chores and watching way too much TV, everyone begins to get pretty bored in need of some mental stimulation. That is why every winter my mom always gets us one to three new puzzles and we work our way through them all winter. Anytime we are snowed in, or it is just too dang cold to go sledding, we spend hours working on the newest puzzle. It is always a really fun family activity and easy way to pass some time that doesn’t involve a screen of some sort.

Check back next week to read about how to prevent low back pain.

Dogs: Improving human health for over 14,000 years.

Three reasons why having a canine member of the family will promote wellness.

Did you know that first dog was domesticated to be the pet we know and love today over 14,000 years ago? With that much practice, they’ve become professionals at captivating our hearts and improving our health. From service dogs, to therapy dogs, to just good companion dogs, every dog seems to have the same goal: improve their humans’ lives. The other day I was sitting with my family while we watched, mesmerized by our dogs playing together endlessly. It was then that we began talking about the many benefits of dog ownership. In the end, we concluded that having a canine family member is not only good for the family, but also really important for family wellness. Here are the top three reasons we came up with that having dog has improved each of our lives:

  1. Year Round Activity: Dogs need to go outside, every single day, multiple times a day, for as long as possible for them to be mentally and physically healthy. They require more than just a few quick walks to use the bathroom each day, they need to sniff things, explore and be able to run free. In Alaska the wintertime makes walking the dog and staying active more challenging. While we can ignore our own exercise needs from time to time, dogs can’t and shouldn’t. So having a dog really helps keep families active year round. Growing up we always took our dog sledding with us and he loved it!
  2. Love and Loyalty: I have never met a healthy dog that didn’t get overly excited to see their loving human. The love that dogs give to their humans is unconditional and unwavering. Having that in your family is never a bad thing, whenever I am sad or frustrated I can snuggle with my dogs, letting their love and soft fur melt away my troubles.
  3. Responsibly: Owning a dog is huge and constant responsibility. Assuring that they are safe, healthy and happy is a never-ending chore that is always very rewarding. It takes more than just walking and feeding the dog to be a good dog owner. Regular play time with the dog, challenging it and training it is not only really good for the dog, but good for the family too. Challenging my dog to new tricks growing up was always so fun and rewarding.

Check back next week to learn about three cold weather activities to help your family beat the wintertime blues!


My Grandfather and His Stiff Neck After Retirement

Four at home treatments for a sore and stiff neck

After retiring from the Air Force, having served our country in multiple wars, my Grand father never stopped complaining about his neck being stiff and sore. Sometimes it would even be so stiff that he couldn’t turn it without severe pain so he would turn his whole body just to see whomever he was talking with. As a very stubborn man, he was reluctant to go to a doctor for the problem because he feared he would have to go back often for treatment. Finally, after a lot of convincing, my Grandfather went to see our Chiropractor in Eagle River. The Chiropractor came up with four treatments that my Grandfather could do at home to gain pain relief from his neck stiffness.

  • Bio-Freeze: Every morning and night, apply generously to stiff and sore spots on the body. Let cooling aspect relax stiff muscles and reduce inflammation, promoting healing. Once my Grandfather started using it, he started sleeping better, which made him a lot happier.
  • Alternating Ice and Heat to injured area: Starting with ice for 20 minutes at a time is a good way to help reduce any inflammation that might be causing the neck pain. If ice is not taking care of the pain completely, trying a moist heat pack on the injured area might help reduce tightness and pain allowing the painful area to relax.
  • Neck stretches: The Chiropractor taught my Grandfather particular neck stretches that help reduce his stiffness and pain. The stretches are very specific and must be done right to avoid further injury, so it is good my Grandfather had the guidance of his Chiropractor to show him the stretches that are safe for him to practice at home.
  • Getting the right pillow: In addition to showing my Grandfather stretches, his chiropractor also recommended a new memory foam pillow to help support his neck through the night, keeping it relaxed and comfortable.

Lastly, if we could get him to go, a massage did wonders for his neck stiffness and all around body aches he acquired from years of service and hard work.

Check back next week to learn why having a family dog improves family wellness!

Wellness New Year Resolutions and Goals for All Ages

Using the New Year as a tool for wellness and growth for the whole family.

While many think that New Year Resolutions are just for adults who need to fix bad habits, they can also be used as tools for learning, growing and achieving goals for everyone in the family. I asked my sister-in-law what her resolution was, and after telling me hers (to get outside and more active on a daily basis with her kids), she launched into each of my nieces and my nephews goals for 2016 as well.  After telling me, I realized for the first time how useful a good resolution could be to teach kids about long-term goals and focus.  The deal my sister-in-law set up with her kids is an accountability and rewards system.  If each kid works on their resolution each week, she will, in turn, hold up her resolution and take them on a new outdoor adventure at least once a week, trying their hardest never to go to the same place twice (unless they want to).  This way, they all work on their resolutions, and they all benefit from them.

Here are some ideas for New Years Resolutions for kids of all ages:

  • Age four and under:  For my youngest niece she has two goals for 2016, the first is to remember to wash her hands more often after using the bathroom, playing outside, etc. The second is that she is going to work on sharing her toys with her siblings and friends.
  • Age five to twelve: For my next oldest niece and my nephew, their goals are to drink more water on a daily basis and to start doing a daily activity or sport such as swimming or learning a new language.
  • Teenagers: While my sister-in-law doesn’t have any teenagers yet, together we talked about possible ideas for a teenager New Year resolution and came up with practicing a healthy diet, finding ways to manage stress (sports, art, friends, proper sleep, etc.) and volunteering.

Check back next week to find out about four at-home treatments for chronic neck pain!

Lower Back Pain Stretches: Advice from my Aunt


Learn about three easy stretches to help combat lower back pain:

After years of spending countless hours inside the tiny cockpit of a United States Air Force fighter jet, you learn a thing or two about lower back pain management. That is why my Aunt was the best person to ask for advice when my lower back was hurting from sitting and driving so much with my new job. She showed me three easy stretches that really helped me get pain relief from my lower back stiffness.

These three stretches are great for lower back pain:

  1. Legs up the wall- scooting your bottom all the way to the wall, place your legs up the wall. This helps relax muscles in your lower back. Hold for five minutes.
  2. Back extension – laying on the floor face down, prop yourself up on your forearms with your elbows aligned with your shoulders press down withy our palms and feet. This will increase blood flow in your lower back. Hold for five minutes.
  3. Bottom to heel stretch– Also known as “child pose.” Starting on all fours, gently sit back on your heels holding your arms stretched out in front of you as far as you comfortably can. This will begin to stretch your lower back. Hold for thirty seconds and repeat as needed.