2.7.2016 | 00:59
I don’t even remember where our conversation started, but the other day, Debra and I were sitting at the dining room table and we were talking about how seemingly simple things can have a major impact.
Here’s the context:
During my (in retrospect, mostly self-inflicted) health and mindset tailspin last year, I was plagued with intermittent edema: swelling in my calves, ankles and feet.
I couldn’t figure out what was causing it – I’m all about trying to dig down to find the “root cause” of any given health issue – and tried everything: adding (or removing) a food or supplement, changing this, tweaking that….
But I just couldn’t figure it out. Nothing I tried seem to work – it would improve for several days, sometimes a few weeks, but it would always return.
It was getting to the point where things were feeling a little scary: There’s a history of heart disease on my mother’s side of the family, and I tried not to think of the words “congestive heart failure.”
Especially since one of our cats had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and died at the much too young age of 7, her lungs and chest cavity filled with fluid….
(She hid her symptoms from us until they were so severe that the trip to the emergency vet one Saturday night came too late to save her. She was independent like that, our Isis….)
So this was a subject I did not want to explore – I did not want to go there.
I’ve also never shown any cardiac symptoms, so it didn’t really seem all that likely – my blood pressure had always run low, my cholesterol levels were reasonable … it didn’t make sense.
On a recent small group coaching call, I asked for some help and advice – and oh boy, did I get it!!
Suggestions for possible causes, recommendations for tests – to be honest, I felt a bit overwhelmed.
At the same time, I was extremely grateful – no one was suggesting it was just a case of me doing something wrong. No one was blaming me – they were saying there might be a serious, underlying problem.
So was I reassured, or terrified?
A little of both, I think….
But one of the things we discussed was that, on a hair mineral analysis I had done last year, my sodium/potassium balance was way out of whack.
Not the worst category of “You need to take care of this yesterday, or you’re going to be dead tomorrow,” but definitely the next one down: “This is serious, and you need to deal with it right skippy.”
Not long after my coaching call, something occurred to me. Something really, really obvious, when you think about it….
(Hint: I don’t tend to think linearly, so sometimes I tend to, um, miss the bleeding obvious. I like to think it’s one of my charming quirks. Or something….)
I was in our local Whole Foods, looking through the dried fruit and nut offerings – I normally tend to avoid those, because they’re not always good for my blood sugar … or my teeth, for that matter.
And I saw this bag of banana and coconut snacks….
(photo courtesy of barnana.com)
Bananas – not my favorite fruit (another charming quirk), but high in potassium.
Coconut – the water is often recommend as a great substitute for those Day-Glo sports drinks, because it’s chock-full of those helpful electrolytes … like, um, potassium, for instance.
Yeah, they were a little high in sugar, but I figured I could eat two or three, instead of the six (they’re quite small) that constituted a full serving.
No other ingredients, just dried, organic banana and coconut.
It was worth a try.
And it worked!!
The edema disappeared within a day – I swear I felt the blood vessels in my calves open up while I was eating them!! – and has not come back since.
So I’ve cut back a little on added salt, and made sure to add a bit of extra potassium – from banana chips (bananas & coconut oil) or these little bites, or sometimes a low-sodium vegetable juice.
And just so you know, when Debra and I eliminated gluten from our diets several years ago – c’mon, you knew I was going to find a way to bring gluten into this conversation, didn’t you? – we also saw amazing changes from that.
Not only did our digestive symptoms go away, but Debra got relief from her motion sickness: She used to get airsick quite frequently, and now there has to be Hollywood-special-effects-level turbulence for her to feel queasy!!
That was one neither of us saw coming….
The point of this post isn’t to suggest that your issue might not be something serious, but only to remind you to consider looking at something simple, something dare I say obvious.
I knew high sodium levels in the cells of tissues could cause edema. I knew my sodium/potassium ratio was out of balance. I knew dried fruit contained large amounts of potassium (and yes, also sugar, unfortunately).
But I didn’t connect the dots until … well, far later than I should have.
I was looking for something bigger, more … important, I guess.
I heard hoof beats, and I was looking for zebras when I should have been looking for horses….
Sometimes we all need a gentle reminder, a little humility – the connections aren’t always as complex as we think they are.
Sometimes they are, and we need to be mindful of that.
But oftentimes, the solution is literally right in front of our eyes – well, if you live in a tropical jungle anyway…. Or your local grocery store hangs the ‘nanners above the rest of the tropical fruit.
So from now on, I’m just going to be Captain Obvious and start with the simplest solution.
I’ll have plenty of time to work my way up to zebras if I need to….