The importance of information

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Today marks Day 15 of my life as a vegan. Honestly, the main change that I have made is cutting out food that contains milk ingredients and eggs.  I have to read labels more carefully now – which is not all that bad, considering all the miscellaneous chemicals that are put in our food these days.

I have been spending a lot of time doing research about plant-based diets and health.

@patriapower on Instagram reached out to me and recommended that I watch “What the Health” (I watched it on Netflix -but if you don’t have Netflix, I am sure it is on YouTube or somewhere).  Watching that film was a real eye-opener.  We have been so heavily programmed to accept certain things – such as the benefit of drinking milk from another species. Sigh!

In a nutshell (and in my own words), here is what I learned from the film “What the Health”:

  1. Diabetes in not caused by eating too much sugar alone (but rather caused by consuming meat products). But obviously eating too much sugar is not good for the health.
  2. Meat protein is linked with increase in production of cancer cells in the body. Research was done on rats that I believe were injected with cancer cells. Some of the rats were injected with 20% casein (meat protein) and others 5% casein.  The rats that were injected with 20% casein had an increase in the growth of the cancer cells. The rats injected with 5% casein did not experience any increase in cancer cells.
  3. A plant-based diet does provide sufficient protein and helps to repair the body.  This was evidenced by testimonials of people struggling with their health and taking tons of medication.  After a short period of time, their health improved significantly and they were able to get off their meds.  This also happened to one of my friends.  After cutting out meat, her health improved and she was able to get off her medication.  Keep in mind anytime you try to get off your medications, you should get medication supervision.

Watch “What the Health” for yourself. Link to the film is in the website below:

http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com/facts/

In this thing called life, if we are armed with helpful information/knowledge that can help improve health/lives, we owe it to  ourselves and those around us to share and spread the word. Cheers!

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The journey of my dad’s stroke recovery

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I write this blog, hoping that family/caregiver(s) of a stroke victim (or if you know someone who suffered from a stroke), can find resources quickly to maximize the stroke victim’s chance of recovery.  Timing is critical post-stroke.  Getting treatment early, within the first few months, can make a huge difference for the stroke victim.

I have been researching and looking for new chances for my dad for the past five years.  Everything that comes along is truly a second chance for my dad, and I embrace it dearly.

The day I will never forget

I still remember the phone call from my mom on November 4, 2013.  I was sitting at my office desk.  I don’t normally get phone calls from my mom during the daytime, so I worry that something is wrong.  My parents lived in Montreal and I was in Toronto. Finally, she spits it out, that my dad was in the hospital.  Not only that, but already one day passed since he was there.  I was so angry that she waited to call. She told me that he had a stroke, but that everything was ok.  Of course, I was in a panic and couldn’t believe my ears.  I was pregnant at the time and balling my eyes out.

Background: my dad has always had high blood pressure, but it was not properly treated. He is also the type to stress over everything. So his stroke was likely due to high blood pressure.

My sister called the hospital to get more information.  The nurse said that he had a hemorrhagic stroke and was in extremely critical condition.  There was bleeding in his brain in a very complex area (a pathway to many areas) on the right-side.  My sister and I set out to Montreal that evening by car, driving in the rain, crying the whole way about the unknown. My other sister flew to Montreal from Calgary the following day.

Hanging onto life

My dad was in intensive care when we arrived at the hospital.  The neurosurgeon had put in a shunt (a tube basically) to drain the fluids from his swelling brain.  The shunt was inserted through a hole that they had drilled in his skull.  He lay on the hospital bed, lifeless with tubes all over his body and in his throat.  He also had a tracheotomy at some point because he could not breathe properly (or something like that). It was too early to know what would happen to him because he was just hanging onto life at that time.  

He stayed in intensive care for almost 3 months.  His neurosurgeon told us he had full left-side paralysis and may never walk again or use his left arm.

As his condition improved, we found that my dad was super lucky.  He did not have any real speech difficulty and had little trouble eating.  He also retained his long-term memory.  And did not lose any right-side mobility.

In the clear

After he left intensive care, he continued to stay in the hospital for many months.  Finally, he progressed to the in-patient rehab. Of course, with publicly funded hospitals, patients are rushed to leave as soon as possible.

Making living accommodations

My parents lived in a three-level apartment, of course on the top floor.  The only access to the apartment was by stairs.  My mom was in denial and thought the other residents could help to lift my dad up two flights of stairs.  Of course, we were violently against this, but being in Toronto it was difficult to help with making arrangements.

We were lucky to find a senior’s home on very short notice, with elevator access and a cafeteria on the ground floor.  We moved my parents in upon my dad’s discharge from the hospital.  The social worker helped to arrange social assistance three days a week, plus an extra nurse to administer Fragmin (anti-blood clot vaccine) into his stomach once a day.  My parents needed extra help.  My sisters, my cousins, my uncles and myself, all took as much time as possible to help my parents in Montreal, but it was not sustainable.  My parents really needed 24/7 help.

The big move to Toronto

My sisters and I, finally convinced our parents to make the move to Toronto.  Because my sister had a main floor full bathroom, my dad went to stay with her; and my mom stayed with me.  It was a very tough period. It was stressful dropping my mom off every morning at my sister’s place, so she could stay with my dad while we went to work, and picking her up every night.  You wonder why my mom did not stay at my sister’s place? Well, her situation could be its own blog!  In a nutshell, my parents needed physical separation from one another.

Treatment

Upon my parents’ move to Toronto, my dad began his out-patient rehab therapy at St. John’s Rehab in Toronto.  A wonderful facility with really caring staff (a big hello and thank you to Betty and Mitch, if you read this).  (www.sunnybrook.ca)

OHIP allotted 3 months of free treatment.  By the time he finished there, he could stand and balance himself a bit.  That means that he got some movement back in his left leg. Hooray!

A lot of hard work

Despite my dad’s stroke, he was very positive. To this day, he still works hard at his recovery.

I was very lucky to find Neurocore Physiotherapy and Pilates Centre (www.neurocore.ca), which happened to be about 15 minutes from home and just a few minutes away from work.  My dad began intensive twice-weekly sessions at Neurocore.  Thank you to the amazing co-owner, Carol, my dad’s physiotherapist, Michelle, massage therapists, Robbie and Hubert for all the work they put in over the years.

On top of that, he went out weekly for acupuncture sessions.

Over the past few years, he has tried physio, massage (with registered massage therapist), acupuncture, MyndMove and FitMi.

Devices of Interest

My dad is much stronger after all the treatments.  Today he can walk (albeit with some difficulty). He has not recovered mobility in his left arm, but has sensation and can move his entire arm from the shoulder – so I am not giving up!

A few years after his stroke, I was lucky also to come across another device called FitMi (www.flintrehab.com).  Flint Rehab is based in the USA, but can ship devices to Canada.

FitMi is a device that has two pucks that interact with a tablet.  The idea is that through repetition, you can increase neuro-plasticity in the brain (basically the ability for the brain to find new pathways if there is a repetition of movement).  You repeat exercises on the screen, and it gives you a score (for motivation).  At least this way, between physio/massage/acupuncture, he could work by himself at home.  I am not sure if this device has made a huge difference, but was definitely worth a try.

Today

I am getting teary just writing this blog.  I have been with my dad this whole five years, taking him to most of the therapy sessions.  I have seen his progress and backward steps as well.  During the winter months, I have arranged for on-site treatment for physio/massage, but this year it was not possible due to tight scheduling at the clinics.  Then my relative came across something called neurofeedback and found a place that was again – minutes away from my office – like a gift to us.  The place is called Optimum Edge (www.optimumedge.ca).  

My dad just started a ten-block treatment.  His is doing intensive twice-weekly sessions to increase the chances of progress. He has completed two sessions so far, plus we got one free session/consult.  On the first consult session, his arm was locked into position (so kinda like an “L” shape with elbow tight and fingers curled in) and I could stick a piece of tissue paper between his arm and his body and the tissue would not fall.  The day of the first actual session, I could no longer put a tissue between, because his arm was looser and away from his body.

After the second session, he said he slept for 11 hours on one night.  For someone that slept terribly before, this was a breakthrough.  I noticed other small changes, such as being more mentally aware and engaged in conversation.  My dad also reported that during the session his fingers were super loose.

The idea with the neurofeedback machine is that music helps to re-balance/heal the brain. You listen to music through earbuds and hear static sounds at certain intervals.  Anne and Reid at Optimum Edge, were gracious enough to let me try a session as well.  I didn’t really notice much, but maybe my creative juices are flowing like crazy now!  I feel that I can write forever…

My dad also uses a machine called Dynavision at Optimum Edge, which has little squares that light up at various places around the board, and you focus on pressing them as fast as you can within a time-frame.  You are supposed to focus on a centre square at the same time and read off the numbers that disappear in a flash.  This machine is supposed to help with peripheral vision, concentration, the speed of processing things and stimulate the brain accordingly.

Full steam ahead

I really look forward to seeing changes in my dad over the next few weeks.  

My only advice to everyone out there: manage ones’ health before it is too late.

What to look out for…

Great news! A device called PoNs has just been approved for use in Canada.  Apparently, there are currently two clinics in Canada (British Columbia and Montreal) that are authorized to use the device. But there is a huge wait-list right now. Based on what I read – the hope is for about 20-30 clinics to open up across Canada. Check out http://www.heliusmedical.com

Here’s to staying positive! 

 

Freshii 3-day juice cleanse

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Background

It’s dark outside in the morning and almost wintertime again.  I have been feeling a bit ‘ho-hum’ (a bit low energy and unmotivated).  Nevermind, the lingering thoughts of the last stubborn 10 pounds that I want to lose.  I reflect on the past year and a half, and I know that I have come a long way.  BTW – my initial goal about a year and a half ago, was to lose 25-30 pounds.

In June of 2017, I hit rock bottom with my weight.  I realized this when I was sitting down for dinner with my sister and her friends.  I was literally uncomfortable sitting and my legs and arms were getting numb and tingly; and I could not sit comfortably for floor-time with my three-year old.  I knew that my body could not support any more weight.  I was never heavier my whole life.  It was time for a change.

In September, 2017, my brother-in-law starting talking about the paleo diet that he was on.  My mind was made up to give it a go.  After just two days of eating eggs/protein for breakfast or any other food other than carbs (pasta, rice), my stomach was much flatter and I felt like a new person.  In a few months I lost about 10 pounds.

Of course, as you are losing weight, there seems to be a ‘plateau’ – where nothing you do reduces your weight more.  Then, my relative mentioned the Bulletproof Coffee (www.bulletproof.com). Bulletproof coffee is made with brewed coffee (you can use your own coffee beans if you don’t want to buy the Bulletproof brand name coffee), high concentration MCT pure coconut oil, and grass-fed butter). I tried this with reluctance at first, but the coffee actually tasted good.  I drank 3/4 cup every morning instead of eating solids.  In a couple of weeks, I lost about 5 pounds.  I still drink this concoction, because I find the extra healthy oil/fat helps with my dry eyes and helps to curb cravings.

Fast forward a year and a half, I have lost about 20 pounds and managed to keep it off.  I have no major health issues, but working on prevention of diseases related to poor diet.

In September, 2018, I cut out my meat intake.  I now eat a vegetarian diet, eggs and seafood.  I will write about this is a later blog, because I am so excited about a plant-based cookbook that I am collaborating on with my daughter.

Health is no. 1!

Losing weight for health reasons and eating healthier are my number one goals.  After my father had a stroke five years ago and finding out my mother has Type 2 diabetes (suffering loss of vision) and high cholesterol, I think about my health every day.  Good sleep, balanced diet and daily exercise are something to strive for.

Why try a 3-day cleanse?

Sometimes the mind and body just need to be ‘reset’. Our bodies work so hard to eliminate toxins and other junk, but we make them work so hard. I have checked out other companies offering juice cleanses, but they did not seem as practical because you have to pick up your juices daily, and you do not get a lovely salad for dinner. I made up my mind to try Freshii’s 3-day cleanse. Check out:  www.freshii.com

I just completed my 3rd day yesterday.

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Pictured above: lovely dinner salad

What do you need for your cleanse?

You get a total of 12 bottles of juice (4 for each day) and three large salads (one for each day) for dinner.

What is the cost?

The 3-day cleanse cost me $85+HST.

It thought it would be a pain to go to Freshii each day to get the supplies for the cleanse, but they have mastered the cold-pressing technique to allow juices to stay fresh in a bottle for a couple of months. This makes sticking to a cleanse easy.  I collected all of my items and went home. FYI – Freshii offers a 5-day cleanse as well, but I definitely do not have the willpower to do that.

What is the plan?

Basically:

1) first thing when you wake up in the morning, you drink one cup of warm lemon water;
2) drink “Green Genius” which contains green apple, spinach, kale, celery, lemon and ginger, maybe 15-20 minutes after the lemon water;
3) for your morning snack (say around 10am), drink the “Reset” which contains apple juice, pineapple, cucumber and mint;
4) for your lunch (say around 12pm), drink “Renew” which contains carrot, orange juice, lemon and turmeric;
5) for your midday snack (say around 3pm), drink “Recharge” which contains carrot, apple, beet, lemon and ginger;
6) then enjoy a huge delish salad for your dinner.  There is even salad dressing!
7) Freshii’s FAQs says if you are really hungry still, you can eat some raw veggies/fruit.
8) it is important to drink a lot of water throughout the day (Freshii recommends 8-10 cups of water each day).
9) don’t overdo it on the exercise. Mild to moderate exercise is recommended as you have cut your calories down a lot.  You may experience dizziness if you overexert yourself.
10) try to be somewhere close to the washroom during your 3-day cleanse.  You won’t regret this advice…

VERY IMPORTANT:  before starting any juice cleanses you should consult your doctor.  You should also read Freshii’s FAQs in their brochure about juice cleansing.

The taste?

Actually, for someone that doesn’t like smoothies, thick juices or vegetable juice, the taste of the juices was surprisingly nice.  But, because of the amount of liquid going into my body, I actually found that I felt like vomiting on the second day.  I also lost my appetite just thinking that I had to drink another juice, and was unable to drink the midday drink at all.  Drinking thick juice reminds me of being in a hospital.

Day 1

Excited, but a bit worried about the duration of the cleanse.  I love food so much, that eating often consumes my thoughts.  I started Day 1 on a Sunday. By the time I had my third juice, I was starving and looking for something to eat.  I later found out that I missed one juice –  No wonder!  I think the whole cleansing process is about re-focusing the mind and severing ones’ emotional tie to food.  All I could think about was going to bed, so that I didn’t need to think about food.  But I was doing this for me…

Day 2

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This was me on Day 2 at work. I took this shot for my daughter. She told me to hang in there! Thank goodness for her.  I wasn’t hungry at all on this day, because so much liquid made me feel like vomiting.  By the time I drank one juice (it takes me a long time to finish one), it was time to drink another.  So by the time it was time for the fourth drink, I couldn’t drink it.  I had no appetite at all. I did look forward to my salad though.  This is mentally the worst day.  Seeing everyone eat delish food and cooking meals for my family was definitely tough.  Also, at the end of the day, my stomach was kinda queezy. I ended the day with diarrhea (sorry, I had to write this!).

Day 3

Finally – last day.  Again, I could only get through the first 3 juices and did not feel hungry. I very much enjoyed my last salad.

At the end of the day – I am proud to say, I fended off a great temptation to grab a bunch of Harvey’s onion rings sitting next to me.  That was the true test of mental strength and willpower for me.

Was it worth it?

Definitely.  I feel more energetic and mentally refreshed.  And on a bonus, I lost 3.5 lbs. Could be just water though?  For me it was really mind over matter.

Cheers to empty bottles and your health!

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