Physical Cliff – Five Tips to Combat Flu Season

I’m calling this post “Physical Cliff” because I fell off my own almost a month ago and contracted the wonderful flu virus in the process. Those of you who I chat with on Facebook and Twitter have heard the story already, but I wanted to share a few details here on my blog and give a few tips along the way. If you’re not in the mood to hear a grown man whine, I suggest skipping down to the part labeled Health Tips for Flu Season.

Kirkus’ Fall from His Physical Cliff

Almost exactly a month ago, I began preparations for an Amazon giveaway with a group of authors. Though we all put tons of time into each giveaway, we spent some extra time with this one because of the upcoming holiday season. I put in about 80 – 90 hours that week. Not out of the ordinary for me for a pre-promotion week. The week of the promotion, I put in another 60 -70 hours. Again, not out of the ordinary.

Once I’ve completed a promotion I typically cut down to about 5 – 10 hours for a week just to give my brain and spirit time to heal. I didn’t have that chance this time.

Literally, the day I decided to take my break, I woke up with the stomach flu. I tossed my cookies a couple times, no big deal, except I hadn’t had the stomach flu since I was in my teens.

The wrenching of my guts broke something loose. The next morning, though my stomach felt better, I woke with severe kidney pain. I’ve had a couple kidney stone problems in the past and I assumed this was one of those times. The pain usually shows up for a couple days, and then fades over the next week. That didn’t happen this time.

It faded until about December 24 at 7PM. That was about the time it felt as if a horse kicked me in the back. The pain steadily grew until around 3AM I told my wife it was time to head to the ER. Yes, I spent Christmas morning in the hospital with my awesome wife.

Without all the gory details, I did indeed have a FEW kidney stones trying to get out. Supposedly, they were small enough that I could pass them. I bet you can imagine my enthusiasm.

I was given some painkillers and sent on my way. Let’s just say the next four or five days weren’t much fun. Day six I started coming down from my high. Ibuprofen was enough to stop most of the pain and the regular painkillers had kept me from sleeping more than three hours per night.

What happened when I came down from that high?

My joints started aching; I had a headache and a sore throat. I thought it was odd, but attributed it to the strong painkillers. Boy was I wrong. Within 24 hours, I had a Sick-physical-clifftemperature over 100 and was hacking like a lifelong smoker with emphysema. A temperature over 100 isn’t a huge deal, unless you consider the fact that my typical temperature is around 95 degrees. Not sure why, docs always said some people were like that.

I’ll skip over the details, but just picture big ole me wrapped in a comforter with my super wife taking care of three kids now instead of two.

Slowly my fever came down, and the aches subsided. I logged into the internet, said hi on a couple social media sites… then crashed again. The next morning my fever was back, higher than before, and I could barely move.

Yesterday was the first time I could get up and walk around without huffing and puffing, hence the reason I finally came back.

Now that I’m done whining, let me remind you that I haven’t even had a cold in over two years. I changed my diet, added a few supplements, and suddenly I was the healthiest person I knew.

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why I contracted the flu this year after not having done so in over fifteen years. The only thing I can come up with is that the pain medicine didn’t allow me to sleep, which in turn weakened my immune system enough that I couldn’t fight off this horrendous flu that’s been going around.

Health Tips for Flu Season

This probably sounds funny coming from the guy who just spent three plus weeks in bed, but I figure since I’m typically healthy, I can give a few tips to help everybody out. Keep in mind that I am not a health professional and you should consult your doctor, or another health professional, before implementing any of my suggestions.

There are the tips we all hear about every year. Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and do so more often than you usually do. Keep your distance from those you know to be sick. Eat healthy foods including bunches of Vitamin C.

Kirkus’ 5 Flu Season Tips

These are my own opinion, and maybe some others, but they’ve worked tremendously well for me. I’ll list them in order of importance, again, in my own opinion. As I said before, ask a doctor before trying any of this.

1. GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!! Let me say that again. GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!! The term “enough” depends on the individual. I typically get four to five hours of sleep per night with the occasional ten hours once a month or so. Studies have shown that even a five-minute nap can increase the strength of our immune system.

2. Take a Vitamin D supplement, specifically cholecalciferol. Studies show more benefits of this vitamin on a yearly basis. Cancer fighting, immune strengthening, energy inducing, etc.

3. Exercise. I don’t mean you should go out and run ten miles after not doing so in years, but even a little exercise can help. Doing so on a regular basis can strengthen the immune system enough that it will fight off a sickness before it starts. Also, if you feel like you’re stretching-physical-cliff-flucoming down with something and haven’t actually become sick yet, often a small round of exercise can rev up your metabolism and immune system enough to kick that virus or bacteria in the eye.

4. Use a humidifier. Sometimes I feel like I’m breaking some unwritten rule when I use a humidifier because it can damage books over a period of years. My poor bookshelves have endured this torture for some time, but I haven’t noticed any negative effects yet.

Winter weather doesn’t hold as much humidity as we’re used to in the summer. A humidifier puts moisture into the air and into our lungs and sinuses. Besides keeping them working the way they’re supposed to, it also allows our bodies to get rid of any nasty germs that may get in there was well. The moisture helps break up any excess mucus too.

5. Take echinacea BEFORE you’re sick. If you feel run down at all, or you spent a lot of time around someone known to be sick, this supplement can (possibly) strengthen your immune system. It’s one of those supplements that hasn’t necessarily been approved by the FDA to treat sickness, but remember this is also the same FDA that allows things like brominated vegetable oil and BPA in our diets. If you haven’t read about either of those, I strongly suggest Googling them. Scary! Just check out this article. It talks about brominated vegetable oil and it’s used as both a food additive and a flame retardant.

There they are, the five top flu season tips from Mr. Kirkus MacGowan himself. I’m sure there are more, maybe even more effective, ways to combat the flu virus, but these have worked wonders for me.

And before anybody mentions it in the comments, I’m not putting up any information about flu shots. Some people swear by them, some don’t. I’ve never had one and I’ve only had the flu maybe three times in my life. Don’t think that this is only because I have a strong immune system because I grew up a sickly kid, getting colds and sinus infections on a monthly basis. Maybe one day I’ll post some interesting information about flu shot studies, but not yet. Besides, I found out I’m allergic to eggs. No flu shots for me even if I wanted them.

Feel free to leave any tips you’ve found useful to combat the flu.

I wish you all a happy and healthy flu season!

Banning Sugary Drinks? Really?

When I first read about New York banning sugary drinks, I thought it was a joke. Now that I’ve had some time to think about the subject, I’m a bit torn. I’ll post my thoughts, and then I’d like to hear what you think.

I don’t regularly discuss health topics on my blog, but as a parent constantly concerned with my children’s health, I thought this one was worth the time.

Sugary Drinks

Discussing the health issues related to sugar could take pages, so I’ll just point out a few regularly accepted facts about sugary goodness (or badness).

Sugar-filled drinks are empty calories. Beyond the carbohydrates our body needs to function (which we easily get from every day foods), there isn’t anything sugar adds to our diet.

There is a correlation between sugar intake and a higher likelihood of developing diabetes. Recent studies have shown a correlation between sugar intake and inflammation, which in turn has been related to heart disease, a higher incidence of cancer, and a host of other maladies.

Positive Aspects of the Sugary Drink Ban

It’s proven that if a person has more on their plate, they’ll eat more. The same goes for sugary drinks. If we buy a 20-ounce drink, in all likelihood we’ll drink more than if we only bought a 16-ounce.

I love that New York is taking steps to curb the obesity epidemic in our country.

If the plan actually works, they could potentially save millions in healthcare costs. On top of this, it could improve the way of life for many people. Production levels could improve across the board, bringing in more money to the state. It could lower health insurance costs for those who drink sugary drinks, and those who don’t.

The key words above are, “if the plan actually works.”

Negative Aspects of the Sugary Drink Ban

Isn’t this America? Within reason, I’m pretty sure we based our country on freedom and the capability to choose our own destiny rather than have it forced upon us. What happened when alcohol was declared illegal? And how did that turn out?

If a person chooses to endanger their health by consuming massive amounts of sugar, who are we to stop them? As much as I hate to admit it, unhealthy habits are a part of life. Who are we to tell someone they can’t smoke or they can’t drink alcohol?

The ban is technically on drinks over 16 ounces, but do they honestly think this will stop people from just ordering more than one drink? Or going somewhere else where the ban isn’t in effect?

Going about it the wrong way?

I believe they’re going about this the wrong way. We should start with our children, and focus on other aspects as well. Think about it like raising a child. If you were trying to keep your child from participating in an unhealthy behavior, how would you go about it?

Let’s stick with sugar for this example. We could easily tell our child to stop consuming sugar, punish them if they don’t stop, or remove sugar from our home. Each idea has its advantages, especially the fact that a child learns by example. If a child see their parents turning down sugar on a regular basis, the child is more likely to do the same.

What about teaching our children how unhealthy sugar is? Teaching moderation? Teaching them about the long term affects of sugar consumption? Showing our child pictures of people who have developed diabetes from over-consumption? What happened to teaching a child the difference between good and bad, and allowing them to make their own decisions?

One note I’d like to make about the smoking ban in public places. While I may feel bad (only a little) for those who wish to smoke in these places and can’t, it was affecting those of us who choose not to smoke. The only way drinking a sugary drink affects others is in our pocket books because of soaring health care costs. Whether a person does so in public or at home doesn’t change this.

Banning sugary drinks? Let’s think about this a minute. We’re telling people they CAN’T order sugary drinks in portions more than 16 ounces.

Isn’t it unhealthy to sit on our butts all day? Should the government pass a law stating that we can’t sit for longer than a fifteen-minute interval?

Isn’t it unhealthy to eat red meat every day? Should the government pass a law stating we can only eat 16 ounces of red meat a week?

Isn’t it unhealthy to have high stress levels? Should the government outlaw stressful jobs? Force stressed individuals to take anti-anxiety medicine? Force us to take yoga classes to lower our stress levels?

How long before they decide our psychological health should be monitored? Maybe there should be a law telling us how many hours per week we should watch the news. Maybe parents should only yell at their children fifteen minutes per week.

Alternative Ideas

Am I happy that I pay higher insurance rates because so many people smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol to extremes, and generally don’t take care of their body? Absolutely not. But I don’t think the government should outlaw those things either.

Maybe they could raise the taxes on those items considered unhealthy, and actually funnel that extra money to go toward rewarding healthy individuals, or toward people who have no control over their health. Maybe that money could be used to lower the cost of healthy foods so we’re not tempted to buy the latest $.99 meal instead of a $6.99 salad from the grocery store.

Why not provide kickbacks to those of us who have gym memberships, or home health equipment? Or at least adjust insurance accordingly.

Of course, any of these ideas would be a huge undertaking, but I’m just throwing ideas out there. My point is, there are hundreds of ways to improve the health of our nation without the government forcing themselves upon us, whether that is local, or state government.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want this to appear as a rant against the government, because that’s not the point. I love our government and I believe we need one (this could be a long discussion all by itself), but how is it possible the representatives we voted into office can’t come up with better ideas?

Any parenting class will tell you that forcing a child (or an adult in this case) to do something has a much lower success rate than if we teach them how to make a decision based on their own thoughts and beliefs.

Don’t punish everybody because individuals practice unhealthy behaviors. Reward those who don’t! Actually TEACH our children why these things are bad. Allow people to make their own decision as long as it affects their health (and pockets) and not others.

This whole blog post is only a summary of my thoughts on these things. I could go on and on about almost any of the individual aspects, and could list hundreds of articles arguing both sides of the story.

I’d like to hear what your thoughts are on the banning of sugary drinks in New York. Please stay on task and limit the discussion to this aspect, as I don’t want this to become a political discussion.

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