9

votes

What non-diet interventions have improved your health?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created April 01, 2012 at 5:14 PM

While paleo is a great thing my psoriasis has hardly budged with this way of eating. Given that my psoriasis started at a time of tremendous stress in my life I'd be wise to consider emotional factors. So, in my pursuit of good health I'm becoming interested in making sure I consider non-dietary interventions. As an example, two years of mid-afternoon fatigue went completely away when I started tuning into my circadian rhythms and going to sleep when I got tired, even if it was only 8pm.

My question to you is, what testimonials can you provide for non-dietary things that have improved your health?

Clarification. While I'm sure that life overall is better when we sleep more, meditate, and such, I'm particularly interested in your stories of specific conditions that you believe went away because of specific lifestyle changes or other non-diet interventions.

Here are three "non-foods" for thought.

  1. Malcolm Gladwell, in his Book "Outliers," writes about a community in Pennsylvania:
    In Roseto, virtually no one under 55 died of a heart attack, or showed any signs of heart disease. For men over 65, the death rate from heart disease in Roseto was roughly half that of the United States as a whole. The death rate from all causes in Roseto, in fact, was something like thirty or thirty-five percent lower than it should have been.
    Were these people paleo? Yes and no (which I guess would be "no!")
    Wolf's first thought was that the Rosetans must have held on to some dietary practices from the old world that left them healthier than other Americans. But he quickly realized that wasn't true. The Rosetans were cooking with lard, instead of the much healthier olive oil they used back in Italy. Pizza in Italy was a thin crust with salt, oil, and perhaps some tomatoes, anchovies or onions. Pizza in Pennsylvania was bread dough plus sausage, pepperoni, salami, ham and sometimes eggs. Sweets like biscotti and taralli used to be reserved for Christmas and Easter; now they were eaten all year round. When Wolf had dieticians analyze the typical Rosetan's eating habits, he found that a whopping 41 percent of their calories came from fat. Nor was this a town where people got up at dawn to do yoga and run a brisk six miles. The Pennsylvanian Rosetans smoked heavily, and many were struggling with obesity.
    So, what was their secret sauce?
    What Wolf slowly realized was that the secret of Roseto wasn't diet or exercise or genes or the region where Roseto was situated. It had to be the Roseto itself. As Bruhn and Wolf walked around the town, they began to realize why. They looked at how the Rosetans visited each other, stopping to chat with each other in Italian on the street, or cooking for each other in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town's social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They went to Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under 2000 people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the town, that discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures.

  2. Jane Brody recent wrote an article for the New York Times: Forging Social Connections for Longer Life. This paragraph caught my attention:
    After 200-plus pages of very informed discussion of life-enhancing issues like diet, exercise and mental stimulation, Mr. Robbins devotes a major section to relationships. He notes the importance of others in our lives and takes issue with self-absorption, with the ???me??? generation that focuses on itself to the neglect of others. Mr. Robbins cites an illustrative study published in 1983 by Larry Scherwitz, then a psychologist at Baylor University, who taped the conversations of nearly 600 men, a third of them with heart disease. Dr. Scherwitz counted how often the men used first-person pronouns ??? I, me, mine ??? and found that those who used them most often were most likely to have heart disease and, when followed for several years, most likely to suffer heart attacks.
    Yes, this is John Robbins. Regardless of what you think of his diet and philosophical views he's worth listening to about stress and health.

  3. Chris Kresser and many other people write about the importance of managing stress. Kresser writes, in part:
    The gut is especially vulnerable to the presence of chronic (and even acute) stress, demonstrating stress-induced changes in gastric secretion, gut motility, mucosal permeability and barrier function, visceral sensitivity and mucosal blood flow. (2) There has also been evidence to suggest that gut microbiota may respond directly to stress-related host signals. (3)

A3c56c85290f748410a6f340ddd552b3

(321)

on December 07, 2012
at 05:01 AM

When are the (we) New Mexican ladies getting together, eh? :-)

782d92f4127823bdfb2ddfcbcf961d0e

(5231)

on June 10, 2012
at 06:39 AM

how poetic! love it!

Bece741db5f5fed6bafa12e3548f973f

(715)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:15 PM

Take as many stretch breaks as you can. Is your screen at eye level? Make sure that when your arms are on the desk, the shoulders remain level. I have a skate board that I can stick under my feet, and also use a lumbar cusion. I'm not at the computer as much as you probably are. I do spend some time on reports and Smart Board presentations. If I'm taking a class then it really starts to bother me, so I've had to learn to take the breaks and do some corner stretches or shoulder rolls. Keep reminding myself relax the jaw. It has gotten more automatic.

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on April 02, 2012
at 09:38 PM

+1 for "couch-potato-itis"

0905a0f8cd1e48f6d39fe625a65b6ef1

(2890)

on April 02, 2012
at 09:31 PM

Nancy - I hope that you are dancing right now, in your kitchen, bare feet, radio up much too loud, a flower in your hair. :) Dragonfly, thank you. You're a fellow New Mexican - you should join me dancing down in ABQ sometime!

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on April 02, 2012
at 07:55 PM

Beautiful words...

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on April 02, 2012
at 07:12 PM

CJ, I also clench my teeth and generally hold myself tense (shoulders, neck, etc.). I'm working on actively relaxing and find the best way to do that is through exercise. Unfortunately, I work in an office all day long and haven't figured out how to remain relaxed while staring at my computer monitor! 8(

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on April 02, 2012
at 02:33 PM

Hey Sol~ I take 8,000 IUs/day to stay around 80-90 ng/ml (on the high end to keep my asthma at bay.) Yes, if I'm out in my bikini for an hour (dark complexion=more time), then I skip my D. I intend to test again in June & see where my level is.

1dcfcebc5f36408d121f124a78292d42

(1295)

on April 02, 2012
at 01:09 PM

Ugh I'm struggling with this right now. Alcohol makes me feel like crap but it's a central pillar of my social life. And I like it.

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on April 02, 2012
at 12:57 PM

@Dragonfly - How much D do you take and do you calibrate with blood tests? Do you skip D on days when you get a good dose of sun? I just ordered D because, being very fair skinned and avoiding sunblock I'm sure I don't get enough sun even here in the land of enchantment!

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on April 01, 2012
at 09:32 PM

Thank you for sharing your moving story. My personal definition of the word dance is forever changed!

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on April 01, 2012
at 07:59 PM

consciousness..

4d6aa1a676240b15dc569ff8ade0500f

(2546)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:53 PM

not a specific condition -- but certainly getting more sleep and establishing a better sleep/wake rhythm and drinking less resulted in a much more energetic me. i suppose i'm also much less prone to colds and such!

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:45 PM

Same comment as I made to Matt re his answer. Can you identify any specific condition that went away because of your lifestyle change?

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:44 PM

Can you identify any specific condition that went away because you made sleep a priority?

  • 35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

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11 Answers

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14
0905a0f8cd1e48f6d39fe625a65b6ef1

(2890)

on April 01, 2012
at 09:28 PM

Oh, I love this question.

Something that changed my life and will help me live forever is Dance. Sorry, I'm gonna get a little wordy 'cause I want to tell you what Dance does, how it steals bits of your mind and foot and hand and soul and knits the pieces into a holy shroud.

I remember the first time I attended a public dance. It was just a few years ago, here in the land of enchantment. I walked into a wild west hotel. The band caught my attention first, grabbed my ears and slung them like gunfire onto the dance floor, three middle-aged men with an accordion and two guitars, singing a song of loss and betrayal. The wood floor smelled of fresh honey wax, and heavy brocade curtains lined the windows overlooking the boulevard. Six couples faced the curtains, lifted feet and hands in almost unison and moved with the unpredictable wave of wind through an oak tree. My heart couldn???t contain the rhythm of boots against floor. I wanted to join them, the band, be a worn guitar, a woman???s stacked heel, wanted to melt into the pine boards beneath me in some strange captured surrender, but the sound turned to whisper and the dancers stood still, breathed one shot of air together, as the accordion player flexed his left hand, prepared to play.

???Excuse me, Miss? May I have this dance???? A tall man stood before me, the tip of his chin reaching the exact center of my forehead. I wanted to say No, please sit with me and let???s talk, but the sadness in his eyes made my mouth say Yes, I will dance. He gently took my hand and led me to the center of the floor, the place usually reserved for the sure-footed and sane, and the strains of Felicia filled the hall.

???Thank you, Miss. My name is Manuel.???

???I haven???t danced in some years.??? He apologized as a delivery truck idled outside the ballroom windows, setting the floor to rumble, the band to skip a beat, two, laugh, rest fingers, strings, voices. The dancers idled, too, moved legs in practice shuffle and arc.

???That???s ok. I only know the basic tango steps. I will probably step on your shiny shoes.??? My eyes studied Manuel???s cream-colored suit, the way it draped a body thick with muscle. I could feel his heart beat through his jacket, down his arm, into my right hand, chaotic, unsure. He wore dancer???s boots and a bracelet made of an etched silver talisman strung on black leather.

He must be around my age, I thought. He has the same tired eyes, the same dark wisdom.

He smiled at me, his hair thick and wet with gel that smelled of amole and mineral oil. ???Please don???t worry. We can be useless together.???

I liked the words he used, the way he hid something behind them, the quiet echo of his voice. The static truck faded to nothing. The band lifted instruments, and I heard the shuffle of couples moving into position. Manuel snaked his hand behind my back in a delicate wave as if he was afraid of breaking me into tiny pieces. He pulled me close and I heard him suck the air through my hair, breath the scent of my rosemary shampoo, my skin, deep into my skeleton, and I felt my body respond in the ways dance promises.

I make sure to dance every day at home, now, just me and Spanish radio, and every few weeks or so, I head over to the best Latin dance bar in town and let loose. It's not Crossfit or anything, but it makes me feel good all over. I feel connected to other humans, and I love watching everyone - men, women, old, young, mysterious - shapeshift from office worker, from waitress and teacher, to something as soft and elegant as a butterfly. Dance gives me inner peace and strength, I sleep better, I smile more, I find myself moving with precision and grace instead of bumbling into things like I once did. But the greatest gift is the electricity that happens when you touch someone else; it reminds me that we are communal critters for whom touch is absolutely essential - as important as meat and fat and water and good air and sleep. And so much of us are missing that glorious touch.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on April 01, 2012
at 09:32 PM

Thank you for sharing your moving story. My personal definition of the word dance is forever changed!

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on April 02, 2012
at 07:55 PM

Beautiful words...

0905a0f8cd1e48f6d39fe625a65b6ef1

(2890)

on April 02, 2012
at 09:31 PM

Nancy - I hope that you are dancing right now, in your kitchen, bare feet, radio up much too loud, a flower in your hair. :) Dragonfly, thank you. You're a fellow New Mexican - you should join me dancing down in ABQ sometime!

782d92f4127823bdfb2ddfcbcf961d0e

(5231)

on June 10, 2012
at 06:39 AM

how poetic! love it!

A3c56c85290f748410a6f340ddd552b3

(321)

on December 07, 2012
at 05:01 AM

When are the (we) New Mexican ladies getting together, eh? :-)

7
A1a4882d31414600b2cab395a5b17161

(699)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:00 PM

Making sleep a top priority. I get up at the same time each day, calm down before bed, and ensure I get a full nights' sleep.

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:44 PM

Can you identify any specific condition that went away because you made sleep a priority?

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on April 01, 2012
at 07:59 PM

consciousness..

5
94af80b86449617b8667db404cf2904d

(105)

on April 01, 2012
at 05:57 PM

I credit lifelong meditation with being the only member of my immediate family without symptoms or diagnosis of BPD or depression. It's nice to see all of the scientific attention it's getting lately too.

5
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on April 01, 2012
at 05:54 PM

As an older woman who loves to read, sit and gab with friends and watch sports--many, many sports--the only exercise I was getting was bathroom breaks for my dogs. I was not physically capable of jumping off the ground due to my weight, I was starting to have trouble climbing steps and I could not jog a single step.

So, my non-food intervention was obvious--move!

Despite a freak accident last summer that wrecked my ankle and bruised/cracked my leg bone, today I'm still reading, visiting and watching sports BUT I can pick up 20-30 lbs without strain (I just have to avoid frequent compression of spinal discs) and I can definitely jump off the ground. I can also jog a little, so my 3 toy dogs were happily surprised when I started playing with them in the form of 5-step sprints.

I've finally reached the point where it will be feasible for me to start what others would actually recognize as a mild exercise program. Visualize me doing a Rocky celebration dance--which I can now physically do. :-))

EDIT: Sorry, I forgot to list specific conditions that went away--these were all gone within 3 weeks: GERD, chronic rhinitis, hoarse morning voice, dry hacking cough, bloating/stomach turbulence, excessive gas, joint pain.

4
4d6aa1a676240b15dc569ff8ade0500f

(2546)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:42 PM

stopping the late-night weekend outings centered around alcohol and crap-food, in exchange for more sleep and relaxed time with family and friends over home-cooked meals.

4d6aa1a676240b15dc569ff8ade0500f

(2546)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:53 PM

not a specific condition -- but certainly getting more sleep and establishing a better sleep/wake rhythm and drinking less resulted in a much more energetic me. i suppose i'm also much less prone to colds and such!

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on April 01, 2012
at 06:45 PM

Same comment as I made to Matt re his answer. Can you identify any specific condition that went away because of your lifestyle change?

1dcfcebc5f36408d121f124a78292d42

(1295)

on April 02, 2012
at 01:09 PM

Ugh I'm struggling with this right now. Alcohol makes me feel like crap but it's a central pillar of my social life. And I like it.

2
50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on April 02, 2012
at 08:13 PM

Just checking out of the hustle and bustle. I used to worry about jogging/running 3-5 miles a day on top of hitting the gym 5 times a week.

Now I go for leisurely walks, soak up the sun, and only get to the gym 2-3 times a week while being able to relax with my surplus free time.

Much. Better.

2
Bece741db5f5fed6bafa12e3548f973f

(715)

on April 01, 2012
at 11:03 PM

It was my physical therapist that first told me that I was clenching my teeth and keeping my shoulders tense. At first I didn't believe it. Once I realized that I really was, I started to teach myself to relax them. Felt so much better once I could do it without thinking about it. The treatments were also a good natural alternative for headaches and actually I've been sick lots less often even though I've been exposed to more illness because of going back to work. I sleep better because of less pain and I know that I used to have lots of sinus drainage issues and they are gone. Good alignment, a boost in the lymphatic system and lots of encouragement have gone a long way.

My faith, a wonderful husband, eight terrific kids, music, long walks, canoeing, fishing, grandsons, occasional road trips, basket weaving, teaching, reading, sitting by the fire pit at night, growing a garden ( the list could go on) All come together to make life complete. I don't need more than that.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on April 02, 2012
at 07:12 PM

CJ, I also clench my teeth and generally hold myself tense (shoulders, neck, etc.). I'm working on actively relaxing and find the best way to do that is through exercise. Unfortunately, I work in an office all day long and haven't figured out how to remain relaxed while staring at my computer monitor! 8(

Bece741db5f5fed6bafa12e3548f973f

(715)

on April 04, 2012
at 09:15 PM

Take as many stretch breaks as you can. Is your screen at eye level? Make sure that when your arms are on the desk, the shoulders remain level. I have a skate board that I can stick under my feet, and also use a lumbar cusion. I'm not at the computer as much as you probably are. I do spend some time on reports and Smart Board presentations. If I'm taking a class then it really starts to bother me, so I've had to learn to take the breaks and do some corner stretches or shoulder rolls. Keep reminding myself relax the jaw. It has gotten more automatic.

1
61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on April 02, 2012
at 07:25 PM

Learning to run with correct form (POSE) eliminated my shin splints. I love running, but after a couple months I used to have to stop and recuperate. Now, I can run however much I want and my legs are just fine!

I got a dog and I feel obligated to walk him at least once a day. This ensures I'm moving around. What ailment did this fix? Is couch-potato-itis a condition? 8)

I haven't eliminated my headaches, but I have taken measures that have reduced their presence. I do think dietary changes played a large role in this, but beyond that: I learned I clench my teeth/jaw and just being aware of this helps me remember to relax. I found out I have double vision and, along the same lines, being aware that this is an actual condition (and not just some neat trick I can do) has made me realize that relaxing my focus for a minute or two reduces headache severity. I think this point about headaches speaks to the quote above about stress in general. I think a lot of us (at least me) carry around stress that we don't even realize we have until it's pointed out.

I'm sure there is something to the health brought about by relationships. I personally find being around anyone but my closest circle to actually add to my stress, but maybe that's a result of living in a society that does not normally have full (multi-generational) households and tends to spend much personal time alone?

F0e558010a2ecb31fa37b7c491596b8e

(3850)

on April 02, 2012
at 09:38 PM

+1 for "couch-potato-itis"

1
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on April 02, 2012
at 01:29 AM

Sunshine!

Moving to Santa Fe and 360 days of sun a year has definitely improved my overall mood and helped me increase my activity level.

BTW, I still supplement with D (which totally eliminated my life-long asthma), but you wanted some non-dietary changes!

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on April 02, 2012
at 12:57 PM

@Dragonfly - How much D do you take and do you calibrate with blood tests? Do you skip D on days when you get a good dose of sun? I just ordered D because, being very fair skinned and avoiding sunblock I'm sure I don't get enough sun even here in the land of enchantment!

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on April 02, 2012
at 02:33 PM

Hey Sol~ I take 8,000 IUs/day to stay around 80-90 ng/ml (on the high end to keep my asthma at bay.) Yes, if I'm out in my bikini for an hour (dark complexion=more time), then I skip my D. I intend to test again in June & see where my level is.

0
78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

on April 02, 2012
at 08:09 PM

Rescuing a kitten. Our ancestors missed out on having a cute cuddly friend.

It didn't solve my problems, but it slightly improved my depression. I used to lay in bed/be a house hermit for days, making up excuses about being sick to skip classes and work. I rarely showered (on those rare occasions). My cat curled up beside me for most of the time, purring and following me around when I got up to go to the bathroom and shower. I also had to leave the house to feed her so I was forced to see some sunshine. I was miserable, but I felt needed and a little less alone.

The squinty eyes and rumbling purring of cats is some pretty great non-paleo medicine.

0
0fb8b3d6dcfb279b0f7e050d2d22510f

(4645)

on April 01, 2012
at 09:36 PM

Sleep- by a mile. We grow up being told to have a better work ethnic and stop wasting your time in bed when sleep really is an investment in health. I felt like a loser if I didn't get up early after working late into the night and just like what we are told about Fats- it is all wrong. Get better sleep- turn the TV and lights off,

Learning to cook,

swinging kettlebells everyday- even on off days.

growing a garden

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