Tag Archives: Health

High heels, foot health, and some TLC

 

I’m one of those girls who cannot completely forgo my six-inch platforms for the modest flats. Despite my 5’6″ stature, sometimes I just want to get my head in the clouds like a wandering giantess, or a runway model, floating effortlessly among the sea of well-heeled strangers. In the name of fashion, every girl who’s gone through a glitzy evening in heels would understand this.

Lately, though, I’ve grown into a habit of limiting myself to wearing heels of any height, from half-inch loafers to sky-high stilettos, to a maximum of twice a week.

Oh my pretty toes!

Oh my pretty bare toes!

In general, I believe women want to give that illusion of long, beautiful legs (plus the pronounced buttocks and angled torso) to feel more confident in our stature. The truth is, men don’t even notice the difference; and above everything else, they look for a pair of happy feet first thing in a woman they see as mate potential.

There’s a lot to tell bystanders about you just by how you take care of your least noticeable parts, or at least what you think are the least noticeable parts, such as your hands and feet. I am guilty for one, as I move around in a pretty ugly (and often painful) pair of feet. I’ve been torturing my tootsies since puberty with super-tall pairs of footkillers at least four times a week. Before I knew it, I was walking around with the regular foot pain.

For one thing, driving around in high heels is, quite literally, a pain in the butt. Ever since I received my black Civic last October, I’ve learned to keep a stash of heels in the backseat while steering in a glam dress for some glam event. Look beyond the car window and you’ll see I’m actually hitting the brakes in a pair of Havainas flip-flops. Then I’d heave a deep sigh as soon as I reached my destination. Lest the fashion police catches me, I’d switch to a Manolo to go with the gown I’m wearing.

The way I see it, I don’t want to put up the enormous pressure any longer. At least, not as often as I’d like.

Here’s the cold hard truth, girls: Whenever you’re strutting your stuff with the extra height, you are essentially putting your entire body weight on the two little bones sitting underneath your big toe – just as it is shown on the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH)’s recent x-ray video above.

I know right. Why in our right minds do we put up with that amount of pain and discomfort in the first place, much less for the whole day?!

“If a woman wants to wear really high heels on weekends or a night out or even at work because they make her look good, she’s going to wear them,” said Ohio State’s podiatrist Alan Block to Today. “Fashion is going to win, so I think the message needs to be just don’t wear them all the time and for everything that you do.”

Podiatrists have warned us girls about the hazardous effects of wearing high heels for years. As much as I hate to admit it, I was always quite ignorant about this. The moment I think of Victoria Beckham, I convinced myself that walking in heels is just like anything else I can come close to perfect – you just have to practice. But since I’m pretty active and running a lot, some weird stuff have came up over the last five years since I’ve taken up the sport. I thought tight hips, ankle sprains and ingrown toenails just mean I don’t stretch enough post-workout, but the leading cause behind these conditions is my habitual wearing of super high heels.

Here are some of the other related conditions Dr. Consuelo H. Wilkins, M.D. listed on her article for The St. Louis American:

 

  • Corns and calluses. Thick, hardened layers of skin develop in areas wear the shoe and foot rub. Painful rubbing can occur from wearing a high heel that slides your foot forward in your shoe.
  • Hammertoe. When your toes are forced against the front of your shoe, an unnatural bending of your toes results. This can lead to hammertoe — a deformity in which the toe curls at the middle joint. Your toes may press against the top of the toe box of your shoe, causing pain and pressure.
  • Tight heel cords. If you wear high heels all the time, you risk tightening and shortening your Achilles tendon — the strong, fibrous cord that connects your calf muscle to your heel bone. Over time, the Achilles tendon shortens to the point that you no longer feel comfortable wearing flat shoes.
  • Stress fractures. Tiny cracks in one of the bones of your foot, stress fractures, may result from the pressure high heels place on your forefoot.

 
 

Why it’s a big deal

A quarter of ALL the bones in the average human body rests in the feet, so naturally, any form of foot issue means serious business.

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Women’s Health also covered the skinny on wearing heels yesterday, which I think is a must-share since we’re on the topic. Turns out you’re not just inducing foot pain, but pretty much the rest of your body as well:
 

Feet
• Normally, your feet act like spring-loaded, weight-distributing shock absorbers, cushioning your skeleton from crazy amounts of pounding. Jam these engineering marvels into high heels and … ouch. You’ve shifted much of your mass onto the balls of your feet and your tiny, delicate toe bones.

• The higher the heel, the bigger the impact: One study found that four-inch stilettos can up the amount of pressure on the front of the foot by 30 percent or more.

• Your heel-to-toe transition becomes abrupt, forcing you to swap your natural stride for a staccato walk. Strutting like this all the time could usher in bone and nerve damage (not to mention blisters and ingrown toenails).

 

Ankles and Calves
• Wearing heels forces your ankles to bend forward, a movement that could restrict circulation in your lower limbs. If you’re a perennial high-heel wearer, this could eventually spell spider veins.

• Walking in heels also stiffens your Achilles tendons, which anchor your calf muscles to your heels, causing your calves to bunch up. If you’ve had your tall pumps on all day, you might have trouble walking naturally when you first kick off your kicks. (You can work to offset this stiffness by flexing your feet—shoeless—several times throughout the day.)

• Over time, stiletto devotees can develop chronically taut (and shortened!) ankle and calf tendons, making walking—even in flats—painful.

 

Knees
• Another pro shock absorber, the knee is the largest joint in your body. It’s built to take a licking, but frequent high-heel use can put extra stress on the inner sides of the knees, fast-tracking the wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis.

 

Hips
• To keep from keeling over in stacked shoes, you have to thrust your hips forward, arch your back, and push out your chest. That familiar sexy stance works the outer hip muscles and tendons hard (and not in a good way).

 

Back
• In order to sashay around in heels, your spine needs to sway unnaturally, a process that stresses your lumbar erector spinae muscle. Result: sore lower back.

• As with your other body parts, your back needs a break. If you wear high pumps one day, don cushioned flats the next. Or save your spikes for special nights out—and never walk around in them for longer than a few hours at a time.

 
 

Pain in the feet

Pain in the feet

With all things considered, my vanity is still keeping me from throwing away all the heels in the cupboard. Some of them are really comfortable to walk in for up to a whole day, particularly the chunky pumps and wide-toe platforms. The rest I just can’t bear to throw away, even though I never wear them anymore (that’s three or more years of collecting dust). The one thing I changed after I had my most recent fallen toenail, which I’ve experienced about ten times now, was placing my loafers and flip flops right by my doorstep.

It’s just logic: A solid foundation is a prerequisite to a healthy body, and for the record, uncomfortable shoes and activities just don’t mix. I learned the hard way (a really bad back pain and lots of blisters later) that if my base of support isn’t happy, then the rest above won’t be.

 
 

How to deal

Since I didn’t fully trade comfort over style (and I believe you’re not ready to toss out all your heels from the shoe rack as well), I have no choice but to show my foot a little extra TLC while keeping my toes on those extra inches on a regular weekend. It took time for me to discover the practices that work for me to ease the pain, because there’s actually plenty of solutions to foot problems other than the following four I’m sharing. In any case, I hope you find them useful:

 

1. Get a regular foot and body massage.

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Massages work like magic, especially for pain relief, tension release, and an overall sense of wellbeing. Aside from getting pampered by the pre-massage foot bath, (only available at selected parlors), I usually get out from my two-hour sessions feeling a lot lighter. Traditionally, the Chinese believe that pressure points on the foot directly stimulates specific parts of the body, much as the tDCS technique affects nerve cells. So whenever you get your fix at the reflexology parlor, you’re essentially stabilizing blood flow all across your body. Excellent blood circulation is the foundation to fluidity in your strut, so book a session at your local parlor right now.

 
 

2. Adopt a yoga routine.

Some months ago I felt a terrible pain on the back of my foot, even when I was only wearing ballet flats. The same thing happens during my runs: My calves were so tight and every stride felt heavy. When striding forward was supposed to release stress, it became quite stressful – thanks to my wearing high heels regularly and flexing the muscles I don’t need to contract. Since then I realized how important stretching is to balance the body’s energy. Even though I’ve had no professional guidance to yoga, certain poses, such as the Pigeon and the Cobra, do feel orgasmic when most of my daily hours are spent on stressing specific musculature of the legs. The goal of yoga here is to increase your range of motion so that when you walk or run or swim, you’re really using every part of your body as effectively as you can.

 

3. Make your flats a statement piece.

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Lately I’ve been investing more on comfortable flats that would go with anything I wear, which is usually a set of basics and adorned with little-to-no accessories. Arguably boring, I know, but no matter what kind of simple look I styled myself up, the first thing people would notice is usually these ultra comfortable yellow flats by Aldo. Initially I just thought these would be the perfect pair to go with the usual T-shirt and jeans. I even remember it was an impulse buy. But over time I realized the pair fits almost anything I wear, not to mention they’re much less boring than the standard nudes. The best part of all? I can even run on them and still look good.

 

4. Rely on a healthy body image.

For years, girls have always had a ranging degree of trouble with their body image. Today, thanks to mass-media brainwash, it’s as if the pressure to look and act and behave a certain way is so strongly embedded within our collective unconscious that we don’t second-guess to “edit” ourselves. Somehow we listen to others’ opinions more about ourselves than maintaining our own stance, for approval or otherwise.

While I don’t claim to have a consistently healthy body image, I believe that ultimately we have more power over ourselves than others do against us. I admit I wear heels often because I want to do the whole fake-it-till-you-make-it thing so I can feel less insecure. After all, forcing yourself to stand up straight does make you look at least five pounds lighter and a hundred times more confident than you really feel inside. But hey, I never felt good refusing to eat pork just to get along with a certain social circle, or the countless times I pretend it’s effortless to walk in stilettos even though I’m excruciating inside. To be brutally honest, I do have a desire to live up to the modern alpha-female expectations – perfect job, perfect body, perfect household and perfect everything – which obviously no one can measure up to because the word ‘perfect’ does not exist within the human vocabulary, much less in the distorted images made up by human beings.

At some point there is a line you have to draw that says, “Enough is enough.”

Let go, stretch out, and make your statement instead. No one is telling you that you need heels to look good.

 
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Stace

 
 

via PinterestAngelo Podiatry Associates / The Washington Post / imgur

 

You don’t have to do this.

 

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Hello everyone~ If you haven’t already know, today is the official World Suicide Prevention Day, an eventful day annually held during the last decade through an effective collaboration among the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the World Federation for Mental Health. Every year in September, a day is chosen to help raise the awareness of the increased number of victims worldwide who are struggling to fight against their demons.

This year, IASP have set their focus on combatting the social stigma attached to suicide among families and friends who have lost a loved one, addressing that it’s a huge barrier to break down until the isolated can feel the comfort of opening up about their pain. At large, the pressure of being alienated by society prevents those who are at risk from discussing their problem and seek help, and statistics only keep showing higher rates of suicides around the world (with more lives lost than war and homicide combined) that can very well be prevented if each one of us play our part in encouraging a non-judgmental environment and embrace our differences.

Let me confess: I’ve done a little write-up for this post and moved it to the trash can on the subject earlier, but later decided I should do this before the day ends. I was inspired by “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller’s openness when he told TMZ about his personal experience, and thought that in reality, celebrities and everyday people alike are equally vulnerable. Here’s what Miller shared about his experience:

The first time I tried to kill myself I was 15. I waited until my family went away for the family and I was alone in the house and I swallowed a bottle of pills. I don’t remember what happened over the next couple of days but I’m pretty sure come Monday morning I was on the bus back to school pretending everything was fine.

I felt compelled to share my experience by Miller’s revelation because I realized somebody else of another social status have experienced the same thing I have experienced. To write this post, I was also driven by one of my life’s most inspirational figures, Saddleback Church founder and author of 2002 bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life” Rick Warren, who took four months off to cope with the loss of his youngest son, Matthew Warren, as well as the stigma that followed before he started preaching to his 20,000-member congregation again. His comeback sermon heralded his newfound hope in his life and his conviction to remove stigma of mental illness, as he brought people back to the heart of Christianity: “God knows what it’s like to lose a son.”

What I want to say out of this post is this: It can happen anytime, to anyone – but you don’t have to do this. 

Growing up, I used to think that people who take their own lives are just plain stupid. Life was freely given for us to fully enjoy, and it’s just stupid to kill your own joy because there is not one good enough reason in the world for you to do that.

Flashback to a couple of years ago, and that killjoy is the person I’m facing in the mirror everyday.

Read More →

19 common Chinese herbs that boost women’s health

 

I’ve finished all six bottles of Eu Yan Sang’s Gold Label Bak Foong Pills last week, so yesterday, I communed once again with this bottle of Wuji Baifeng Wan (烏雞白鳳丸). It’s just another name for Bak Foong, by the way, which literally means “white phoenix”.

bakfoong

Tong Jum Chew Pte Ltd‘s version of the formula

I touched upon it briefly on a post from two years ago, so my 6-week journey with Eu Yan Sang was part of my larger intent to reconnect with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and discover how incorporating them into my life again can heal the self.

On the post, I’ve enlisted three of the many herbal formulas that my mother has long prescribed me to take, one of which is the Wuji Baifeng Wan. Over the years, I’ve been on an on-again, off-again relationship with each of these three, and now I just want to take things slowly at a time.

I felt it missing to leave off without learning more about the remaining ingredients on the Gold Label Bak Foong Pill. Not that I’m memorizing everything listed on the Li Shi Zhen’s Materia Medica or anything (and Jay Chou has a namesake song for it ;)), but I’m just interested in the confident claims o the Bak Foong formula’s efficacy in healing major governing systems of the human body – the nervous and the endocrine systems – also known as my double-edged swords whenever my perfectionistic tendencies kick in.

What I’ve found is that Chinese herbs weren’t made to be consumed separately. Organic as they are, Eastern pharmacologists recommend concoctions of them to tend the particular ailment of the patient. This might explain why there is very little clinical evidence in the healing effects of one particular herb and another  - in general, TCM is difficult to identify and discriminate from their formulas.

As advanced Western medicine keeps conducting laboratory experiments to further their understanding on medicinal properties of a single vitamin or a trace mineral, the Eastern counterpart kept on maintaining their time-tested practices. They continue to address a wide array of maladies using organic treatments to to best solve the ever-growing problems in medicinal science.

The seven herbs I’ve previously covered are the Angelica root, the Eucommia bark, cinnamon, St. John’s wort, corydalis, the astralagus, and ginseng.

But now I’ve compiled my notes on all nineteen ingredients of Eu Yan Sang’s Gold Label Bak Foong Pill into a complete slideshow below. Have a look:

 


 

“It’s hard to be women – we have more clinical problems as we age,” sighed my mother once while she was packing for her annual appointment with her gynecologist in Singapore. “So it’s wise for you to start taking care of yourself now.”

Ever since puberty, I’ve never felt the cramps girls usually feel when they’re having their periods, but there’s a bigger price to pay for that convenience: Huge PMS. I believe I go ten times more anxious than my usual temperament. Discomfort and pain occur psychologically rather than on my physiology.

But I also believe that six weeks wasn’t enough to judge whether the white phoenix is really effective on regulating these roller-coaster moods, and by that, I mean reclaiming regular periods once again.

 

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In the meantime, I’m making an effort to remain consistent with the same formula by Tong Jum Chew, which was further infused with black-bone chicken and other additional herbal ingredients that claim to boost women’s health. It’ll be a while till I can get my hands on the bottles by Eu Yan Sang again, which my mother usually gets in Singapore.

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Gold Label Bak Foong Pill is available in two convenience boxes – 14g x 6 packs (small pills) and 19g x 6 packs (large pills).


 
 
What about you? Do you consider incorporating TCM into your life?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Stace

 
 

- Images courtesies of Eu Yan Sang /She Knows / Superfoods Scientific Research / Medicine Hunter / TCM WikiWilderness Family Naturalsbidorbuy.co.za / Natural Health / Tea Herbal Shop / Mimi’s Dining Room SefoodMagic HerbsSilk Road SpicesLa Fuji Mama / What’s On SanyaMade-in-China.comcnseed.org / Phoenix Herb CompanyThe Magical Blend

A 6-week plan: Please yourself.

 

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Like a badge of honor.

Six weeks in and I’ve never felt better in a long, long time.

I just had my final signs of bleeding two days ago, and never felt happier in a really long time. Compared to those in the previous months, how much I bled could’ve lasted a hungry dracula for a year.

In the last couple of years, everytime I wake up stained, I feel like the happiest girl in the world. I admit, I worry too much and probably should get a psychiatrist to help me fix my anxiety disorder (even my mother suggested it), but the fact that PCOS has grown in me becomes another issue of its own to worry about.

All my teenage years I see blood in the morning and I groan.

Now it’s like an omen that says, “Congratulations! You’re still a fertile babe!!”

 

The final update

Looking back, my sleep quality has improved significantly in the last six weeks. Anxiety levels are improving as well, though not as balanced as I wish it could’ve been. I can’t find a more specific way to measure whether it’s the Bak Foong Pills that helped regulate my mood or not, or whether it was just how I’m changing the way I lead my life these days. Nevertheless, I’ve been consistently taking each Bak Foong Pills bottle every Thursday night.

 

  • Thursday, 13 June, 2013: Didn’t have enough sleep the other night probably because I ate too much sugared ginger and drank sugary instant drinks, namely hot chocolate and teh tarik, and a whole lot of chocolate bars and Medjooli dates. Even when I eat so much for the past few weeks, sleep less than I usually do, and workout so much less often than I used to, my weight is still declining at a rapid rate, of reasons I don’t know of. My head hurts like hell. I don’t feel productive.
  • Thursday, 20 June, 2013: Didn’t get sufficient sleep the other night but have been feeling a little better than last Thursday. Weight is back to normal and head hurts much, much less. Feel a bit more productive. More temperate mood climate throughout the day, though still a lot of worrying, frowning, and unconsciously contracting my brows while scrutinizing facts.
  • Thursday, 27 June, 2013: Had sufficient sleep. Weight remains normal. Head’s still ringing in the mornings. Feel more productive then last week. Too much frowning, too much skepticism, too much worrying about the world than caring for myself.
  • Thursday, 4 July, 2013: Had a restful sleep. Am finally at a healthy weight. No more real headaches, just the occasional self-consciousness and overthinking. Feel more relaxed about life. Feel efficient without giving too much shit. Still worries a lot about things that doesn’t even have anything to do with me, and accepts that I will always be worrisome. Worrying is optimal conditioning for my productivity by preventing procrastination, prejudice, and overconfidence.
  • Thursday, 11 July, 2013: Physically and physiologically, I’m fine. I feel my testosterone levels  are falling much below than usual. Somehow my goal-setting habits, the “can do” attitude, and the healthy level of determination to achieve have fallen way below than usual. Too relaxed that it feels quite unusual, somehow uncomfortable. Self-esteem is low, as usual, but there are so many things I can’t do anything about even when I’ve done my best. A big part of me is thankful for what I have, another half of my head feels guilty for not making the most of what I have. There are so many people to satisfy. It got me thinking about my real priorities in life, because I really have not the energy reserve to please everybody in my life.
  • Thursday, 18 July, 2013: Physically fitter than last week. Physiologically healthier than last week. I feel that the testosterone levels are probably a tad bit higher, while self-image is borderline, as usual. Starting to accept that I cannot please every-single-friggin’-body in my life. The power to choose who to give value is in my hands, and to give value I must for-give myself for my past and the ongoing guilt-slash-dissatisfaction, because done is always better than perfect.

 

A potent ingredient

All in all, I’m still the unstable me – when I’m high, I’m super high. When I’m down, I just want to disappear from the surface of the earth. I guess that’s why my 10 is the most even-tempered guy I’ve ever met.

This is how high I can get: Leaving the info of the remaining thirteen ingredients to the last update of this series (1. Radix Ginseng, 2. Radix Paeoniae Alba, 3. Radix Polygalae, 4. Semen Sesame Nigrum, 5. Fructus Amomi, 6. Faeces Trogopterori, 7. Cornu Cervi Pantatrichum, 8. Rhizoma Ligustici Chuanxiong, 9. Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae, 10. Poria, 11. Rhizomi Cyperi, 12. Herba Leonuri, and 13. Mel), which is one long list. After some time studying them all, I learned that there’s really only one important herb that deserves the spotlight.

a sachet of American ginseng tea, which I agreed to buy after years of listening to my mother asking me to do so. I never did drink the packet. Gave it to my her instead, and now I finally tried it. Highly recommended to be consumed early during the day.

A packet of American ginseng tea bag from Eu Yan Sang’s 24-sachet box, which I agreed to buy last year, after half a lifetime of listening to my mother asking me to do so. I never did drink any of it. Gave it to her in the end, and last week, I finally tried drinking it without her telling me to do so. Effective at making me worry less. Highly recommended to be consumed early during the day. Not so bitter after all.

Radix Ginseng (310.98 mg)
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Ginseng is the one herb I grew up loving to hate and hating to love, because it’s so bitter. Dubbed as the king of all herbs, ginseng affects all too many bodily systems that Eastern medicine practitioners have long consumed a portion of it like a daily multivitamin. Among the many benefits, ginseng has been shown to eliminate chronic fatigue, lower blood sugar, improve cognitive functions, increase appetite, prolong athletic endurance, and, for some, is effective as a caffeine alternative. Known to amp up and keep up energy levels, the therapeutic effects of ginseng is so extensive that it’s the most widely-researched herb in the Western world. The rich root also contains phytoestrogens, which might help restore hormonal balance.

 

Visually speaking …

In the end, though, I feel I still have a lot to learn on emotional self-regulation, and I know that most people have not mastered the art, even those in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. A large portion of the world have chosen to start a cycle of substance abuse without them realizing it. Whether it’s using food, alcohol, or cigarettes, people who have suffered long bouts of depression and other anxiety disorders need an outlet to release all the tension inside, and many turned away from healthy alternatives. Some start committing crimes, while others have gone as far as taking their own lives, which I seriously considered for a while.

I’m grateful to have CADAS‘s prevention specialist John Kelle, also a recent philosophy and psychology graduate of Sewanee in Tennessee, sharing with me the following simple-to-digest information on stress:

 
The Cost of Job Stress
 

The full story

To conclude my journey in the last six weeks, the biggest lesson is, simply, that I’ve learned to trust my mother.

Now I’m not saying the Bak Foong Pills are super effective in managing mood swings and regulating my cycle, but taking them is just one of the zillion stuff my mother’s always encouraged me to do, to have, or to be. Deep down, I know she just wants the best of everything for me. Whenever I burst like a roaring lion, I never notice that she’s becoming seriously worried about me (hence the suggestion to see a psychiatrist).

When it comes to health, let me be honest: I never really listen to her. Like I said on my first post, I need to know whether all those pills she kept urging me to take are really as effective as she’s advertised to me or not, whether their claims have been based on clinical studies or not, whether they’ve been proven to have no side effects or they haven’t. Things like that.

Bottom line, after all the scientific journals I’ve mounted and read under the sheets after dark, there is one thing I know: The placebo effect exists.

Nobody – not one scientist nor researcher – has ever fully understood how the placebo came to be. All that matters is that the outcome of the intent is always effective … if you only have faith.

I want to focus on the benefit of the doubt and decide to keep taking the Bak Foong Pill for the long haul, as there are plenty more reasons to continue doing so than for me to keep second-guessing its effectiveness. I would be pleasing not just myself, but also my 10, 10′s mother, and my mother. Before I thought this carefully about incorporating herbal medicine into my routine, it never crossed my mind that taking excellent care of my health, gynecologically or otherwise, has a direct influence on the most important people in my life. Literally. It took six hectic weeks, six long and daunting blog posts, and one life to be fully alive, to make me realize that if I am gone, so do those who really care for me.

On a much lighter note (phew!), here’s a quick recap to why I even bothered to log my mood swings in the first place, and how I’ve gone through a roller coaster of emotions in life, at work, in love, and everything else in between:

Week 1: Why I started this. (June 13)
Week 2: It’s all a matter of hormones. (June 20)
Week 3: On Western thinking and Eastern healing, part 1 (June 27)
Week 4: On Western thinking and Eastern healing, part 2 (July 4)
Week 5: Oh, please. (July 11, 2013)
Week 6: Please yourself. (this post)
 

I hope my nerdiness-cum-anxiousness will keep you entertained for a while. Just be well and stay well, peeps. It’s the least you can do for yourself.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Muchaluva,
Stace.

 

A 6-week plan: On Western thinking and Eastern healing, part 2

 

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Missed the first part of this post? Well, not that you’ve missed much anyway.

If I have to sum up my artful guff into one concise sentence, it would be that I was compromising myself for the sheer cognitive dissonance I have been feeling ever since I started showing symptoms of depression during those 11 months.

Here’s the deal: From a cultural standpoint, I value the dichotomy of Asian collectivism and Western individualism. Considering the complex dynamics of my household and being the youngest kid and the only daughter in the house, I have always been an individualist who yearns to get out. Get my own life independent of where I started, and remain unattached to who I used to be. Succeed in my own terms, and not by being spoon-fed. Get the approval of my parents without keeping score of natural birthrights, such as appearance and inheritance.

Boy, was I wrong to try to do it all alone.

In fact, sooner or later, an individualist will find out that he can never consider him or herself a true success if he or she is without some kind of relational support – unless we’re talking about materialistic achievements here.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that my mother never wanted me to be perfect. It’s just impossible. There may have been several unfulfilled dreams she wanted me to experience, of course, but I am my own person, and all the accomplishments I’ve brought home for her can never fulfill her childhood dreams until she finally decided that she just wants me to be happy. Of course there are other dynamics that come into play between the boys in the house and I that have shaped a rebellion instead of a mollycoddle. But bottom line: I believe that every individual is interdependent.

As usual, let’s get over with my personal accounting before we dig deep into the science behind squirrel poop:
 

  • Thursday, 13 June, 2013: Didn’t have enough sleep the other night probably because I ate too much sugared ginger and drank sugary instant drinks, namely hot chocolate and teh tarik, and a whole lot of chocolate bars and Medjooli dates. Even when I eat so much for the past few weeks, sleep less than I usually do, and workout so much less often than I used to, my weight is still declining at a rapid rate, of reasons I don’t know of. My head hurts like hell. I don’t feel productive.
  • Thursday, 20 June, 2013: Didn’t get sufficient sleep the other night but have been feeling a little better than last Thursday. Weight is back to normal and head hurts much, much less. Feel a bit more productive. More temperate mood climate throughout the day, though still a lot of worrying, frowning, and unconsciously contracting my brows while scrutinizing facts.
  • Thursday, 27 June, 2013: Had sufficient sleep. Weight remains normal. Head’s still ringing in the mornings. Feel more productive then last week. Too much frowning, too much skepticism, too much worrying about the world than caring for myself.
  • Thursday, 4 July, 2013: Had a restful sleep. Am finally at a healthy weight. No more real headaches, just the occasional self-consciousness and overthinking. Feel more relaxed about life. Feel efficient without giving too much shit. Still worries a lot about things that doesn’t even have anything to do with me, and accepts that I will always be worrisome. Worrying is optimal conditioning for my productivity by preventing procrastination, prejudice, and overconfidence.
  • Thursday, 11 July, 2013: TBA
  • Thursday, 18 July, 2013: TBA

 

As I’ve promised, I sought to understand the individual ingredients of the Gold Label Bak Foong Pills (okay, I’ve only written the first three). This is my current understanding:

 
 

Radix Angelicae Sinensis (633.05 mg)
當歸

Commonly referred as the “female ginseng”, Eastern medicine practitioners have been using the antioxidant-packed Angelica root as a vitality tonic due to its potent factor in replenishing the qi (氣) energy flowing in the the blood, resulting in an improved blood circulation and  a fine-tuned immune system, as well as a substantial degree of neuroprotection. Clinically, the dried herb have slowly gained worldwide attention because of its healing powers to treat various conditions, namely anemia, extreme fatigue, immune system disorders, several cardiovascular diseases, chronic bronchitis, and hepatitis.

 

Cortex Eucommiae (633.05 mg)
杜仲

Also well-known for restoring qi energy in the blood, the Eucommia bark has been shown to have particular beneficial effects on the bloodstreams circulating the liver and kidneys. Known as a yang (阳) supplement that strengthens bones and sinews, relieves lightheadedness, reduces high blood pressure, and alleviates chronic pain, among its myriad of yin (阴)-stabilizing, health-promoting effects, the Eucommia bark extracts, thanks to its phytoandrogenic and phytoestrogenic activities on the human body, also encourages an all-around hormonal balance.

 

Cortex Cinnamomi (188.81 mg)
肉桂

Long reckoned as the blood sugar level-controller, the anti-microbial cinnamon works to fight against bacteria and fungi in order to ward off the common cold during the chilly months of the year. Within the scientific community, multiple studies have shown that the acrid spice, which is also a yin tonic, improves insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients, as well as reducing hypertension, aiding digestion, relieving chest and other pains, and reviving sexual drive.

 
 
 

As far as I know, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have never made any claims that one herbal ingredient has any one specific effect on the body upon its dosage, and I respect that.

I’ve always thought that if scientists are smart enough to demystify the placebo effect, they wouldn’t be creating and reinventing drugs every year to treat a particular ailment after another. It’s a huge waste of money. It doesn’t make sense to keep producing some new pill that promises hope while the years go by, and you look back and realize that you still have the same friggin’ ailment the whole time. The next thing you know, you turn into a drug-dependant psycho who would rather jump off the cliff than attend the next meeting with your therapist.

What I’ve understood so far is that these herbal ingredients, whether taken individually or collectively, are “well-rounded” tonics that have multiple effects on your psychology and physiology as a whole. No one separate herb functions without the other to bring one bottle of the Gold Label Bak Foong Pill the optimum efficacy they can have for the consumer: Temperating menstruation and treating gynecological disorders.

Well, I still have two more bottles to go before I make my final judgment. But we’ll see – the next period is expected to arrive some time before the end of next week …

My prevention-is-better-than-cure logic speaks that it’s always better to try adopting some tried-and-true emotional-regulation skills, rather than developing a dependence on external substances, to manage PCOS for the long haul. I’m really too lazy to remember taking medications I have to take in order to be well; I’m aware I never needed these pills if I was able to handle stress and pressure better back in those dark, gloomy, hopelessly depressing days.

Le sigh~

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Muchaluva,
Stace.

 
 

- Image courtesy of dontcatchafallingknife via Tumblr

A 6 week plan: On Western thinking and Eastern healing, part 1

 

Here I am, just had my third bottle of Gold Label Bak Foong Pill. I had my second bottle last Thursday.

As for the case of my mood, I’m wearing my usual frown a lot lately, which was the baseline expression I’ve adopted since those 11 months without period in 2011, when life got the better of me.

The frown was also the expression I was not conscious of before my boyfriend started pointing it out during our first few dates in the relationship. He thought I need to smile more often. He said I look better in a smile.

So I smile often over time.

But I can’t friggin’ smile if I have to fake it. I can’t tolerate living a lie. For some reason, this is a very mean and very sad world. There is too much secrecy that the basic notion of transparency, and its embodiment, seems alien.

I detest these cover-ups. I loathe them because they cause blindness in people, weakening their conscience.

I digress.

No matter how shrewd people can get, no matter how bad these Machiavellian tactics could change things, my only wish is for them not to affect me in such a way that would hurt the people I would give up my life for.

It’s tough when you don’t give a shit about yourself, but have your most important people saying to you, “your happiness is our happiness.”

Bottom line: I have too much thoughts lately.

I expect my period to arrive by the second week of July nonetheless.

I’m doing this because I really have no purpose staying alive other than being of service to others whenever I’m called to write. In order to function optimally, there is no other way than to take curative and preventive care of my wellbeing, or notably referred to as quality of life.

Without further ado, let’s get my personal notes over with, then we can move on to probe the efficacy of the Bak Foong Pills:

 

      1. Thursday, 13 June, 2013: Didn’t have enough sleep the other night probably because I ate too much sugared ginger and drank sugary instant drinks, namely hot chocolate and teh tarik, and a whole lot of chocolate bars and Medjooli dates. Even when I eat so much for the past few weeks, sleep less than I usually do, and workout so much less often than I used to, my weight is still declining at a rapid rate, of reasons I don’t know of. My head hurts like hell. I don’t feel productive.
      2. Thursday, 20 June, 2013: Didn’t get sufficient sleep the other night but have been feeling a little better than last Thursday. Weight is back to normal and head hurts much, much less. Feel a bit more productive. More temperate mood climate throughout the day, though still a lot of worrying, frowning, and unconsciously contracting my brows while scrutinizing facts.
      3. Thursday, 27 June, 2013: Had sufficient sleep. Weight remains normal. Head’s still ringing in the mornings. Feel more productive then last week. Too much frowning, too much skepticism, too much worrying about the world than caring for myself.
      4. Thursday, 4 July, 2013: TBA
      5. Thursday, 11 July, 2013: TBA
      6. Thursday, 18 July, 2013: TBA

 

So. The label itself claims that the Bak Foong Pill is “traditionally used for health, stomachache, malnutrition after childbirth and regulating menstrual ailments.”

Formulated with traditional Chinese herbs, the Bak Foong Pill has long been said to treat all sorts of gynecological disorders. In general, Chinese women believe that these little black balls can be taken as a tonic to promote vitality, as well as a remedy to relief menstrual discomforts.

The concoction is comprised of the following ingredients:

 

    1. Radix Angelicae Sinensis (633.05 mg)
    2. Cortex Eucommiae (633.05 mg)
    3. Cortex  Cinnamomi (188.81 mg)
    4. Folium Artemisiae Argyi (710.80 mg)
    5. Rhizoma Corydalis (944.03 mg)
    6. Radix Astragali (1266.11 mg)
    7. Radix Ginseng (310.98 mg)
    8. Radix Paeoniae Alba (766.33 mg)
    9. Radix Polygalae (633.05 mg)
    10. Semen Sesami Nigrum (477.57 mg)
    11. Fructus Amomi (499.78 mg)
    12. Faeces Trogopterori (944.03 mg)
    13. Cornu Cervi Pantatrichum (310.98 mg)
    14. Rhizoma Ligustici Chuanxiong (477.57 mg)
    15. Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae (310.98 mg)
    16. Poria (633.05 mg)
    17. Rhizoma Cyperi (633.05 mg)
    18. Herba Leonuri (710.80 mg)
    19. Mel (2916.98 mg)

 

There hasn’t been much evidence on the Bak Foong Pill’s effectiveness on regulating menstruation, or any of the much-hyped potencies. Due to my natural skepticism, I managed to avoid my mother’s nags to take these pills for years. Even to this day when the Western world is shifting much of its practices toward Eastern philosophy, especially in medicine, I still doubt the effectiveness of herbal healing for the sole reason that there hasn’t been much research done on the subject.

However, I choose to trust my mother more than science.

After all, she still looks like an older sister more than she is like a mother to most everyone we meet.

TIME’s 2002 insider on herbal healing covers promising evidences of Bak Foong’s health-promoting benefits, as well as the following Qingdao University finding.

 

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According to the 2003 study published on Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, researchers found that the Bak Foong Pills gender-specifically stimulate the amygdala’s release of dopamine on female mice, which is a potent finding for further investigation aimed to reduce women’s risks of developing Parkinson’s disease.

As part of the human limbic system (sort of the orchestrator of the sleepy and moody endocrine system), the almond-shaped amygdalas are, essentially, the CPU of emotions. It’s always getting feedback from other regions of the brain, so that you, the user of your brain, is always learning.

The soul of the amygdala, as it processes emotions, means creating new or tighter associations with other regions of the brain so that, ultimately, these influences determine behavior and form long-term memory. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a big role in the amygdala and closely associated to reward-seeking behaviors, becomes active when you feel that sense of high after accomplishing a goal, when you’ve founding something that really motivates you, or when you sniff cocaine.

How exactly did the Bak Foong Pills do it? Nobody knows. Do they have the same effect on humans as they did on mice? Nobody knows.

But there’s no adverse side effects of its dosage that I know of, whether through word-of-mouth or my knowledge based on its research within the scientific literature.

To that, I will be back with my fourth bottle next Thursday to learn more about the individual ingredients of these pills, as to me, they’re pretty weird and disgusting-sounding (deer antler … flying squirrel poop …).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Muchaluva,
Stace.

 
 

- Image courtesy of Trends in Neurosciences

 

A 6-week plan: It’s all a matter of hormones.

 

A Nest Egg

 

Last Thursday, I downed my first bottle of Gold Label Bak Foong Pill out of the six. I did my second bottle today.

I discussed a bit about the primary reason why I’m taking these pills. First and foremost it’s because my mother has always asked me to, due to my history of long bouts of absent periods and irregular ones, and also because I’m kind of worried if this goes on any longer I might not be able to, um, fertilize.

I went to two doctors from different continents and both said the same thing. One gave me a birth control pill while the other basically said I have to reduce stress, relax, and just enjoy life.

But I’m curious to know more about this disease.

Before we go on, let’s get my personal notes over with:

 

      1. Thursday, 13 June, 2013: Didn’t have enough sleep the other night probably because I ate too much sugared ginger and drank sugary instant drinks, namely hot chocolate and teh tarik, and a whole lot of chocolate bars and Medjooli dates. Even when I eat so much for the past few weeks, sleep less than I usually do, and workout so much less often than I used to, my weight is still declining at a rapid rate, of reasons I don’t know of. My head hurts like hell. I don’t feel productive.
      2. Thursday, 20 June, 2013: Didn’t get sufficient sleep the other night but have been feeling a little better than last Thursday. Weight is back to normal and head hurts much, much less. Feel a bit more productive. More temperate mood climate throughout the day, though still a lot of worrying, frowning, and unconsciously contracting my brows while scrutinizing facts.
      3. Thursday, 27 June, 2013: TBA
      4. Thursday, 4 July, 2013: TBA
      5. Thursday, 11 July, 2013: TBA
      6. Thursday, 18 July, 2013: TBA

 

After scrounging for an abundance of information on the subject, I learned that PCOS, an abbreviation for polycystic ovary syndrome, is the longword for a condition where your hormones are thrown out of whack. It can affect both women and men. For women in particular, symptoms may occur at any given reproductive age, from puberty to menopause.

PCOS Poster 6

The real cause of the syndrome is still a big, hairy mystery in the scientific literature, though some believe that it’s due to a large amount of weight gain. My mother never had PCOS, so it couldn’t be genetics.

Well, you can’t blame gaining 10kg when you relocate to the States, right? Every meal is a happy meal over there. At least now I’ve lost it all and turned back to the baseline weight I’ve always carried since I was in my teens.

Women diagnosed with PCOS are known to have grown cysts in their ovaries, the minute saclike structures that are not harmful per se, but are known to cause hormonal imbalances.

The growth of these fluid-filled sacs are just one of the many symptoms of PCOS. According to womenshealth.gov, these symptoms include:

 

    • Infertility (not able to get pregnant) because of not ovulating. In fact, PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.
    • Infrequent, absent, and/or irregular menstrual periods
    • Increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes. Also called hirsutism
    • Cysts on the ovaries
    • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
    • Weight gain or obesity, usually with extra weight around the waist
    • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
    • Patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black
    • Skin tags — excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
    • Pelvic pain
    • Anxiety or depression
    • Sleep apnea — when breathing stops for short periods of time while asleep

 

It really is a pain in the ass now that I’ll have to manage the symptoms all my life.

Just as the doctors have said, the only proven long-term treatment for PCOS is a lifestyle modification that suits me.

However it shall become, the potential for this syndrome to become worse is huge when its symptoms are not managed well. The medical community asserts that PCOS can lead to serious health problems, including diabetes, heart diseases, and endometrial and uterine cancers. Ouch.

 

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Well, I guess I’ll see what happens with my overall mood (or should I say it by its scientific term, my ability for emotional self-regulation?) during the following week, as I learn a bit more about what the Bak Foong Pill has long been used for.

Perhaps, if I trust this pill enough, it’ll probably have a placebo effect on me anyway. Hmmm.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Muchaluva,
Stace.

 

- Image courtesy of Five Seasons HealingImplementing Designism / Methuen Public Schools

 

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