health 104: the year my body decided to feel old

I don’t know what’s happened to me! Over the past year my body has decided it’s done feeling young, especially in the mornings. It’s not like it happened all of a sudden – truly I’ve felt periodic bouts of tiredness for a long time – but what’s different now is that the exhaustion never seems to go away.

I’ve developed several health problems that I’m sure most people would consider minor issues in their present stage. They’re all manageable, but when they’re all ailing me at the same time it can be super annoying. Alright, so now I’m ready for you to hit me with the well-worn comment heard at most gatherings with large age spans: “You think that’s bad? Just wait ’til you get older!” But I don’t want to feel worse than I presently do. I don’t want to be chronically tired. I don’t want my back to become so warped that I have to walk bent over when I’m 70.

My longest running problem is back pain. I’ve had recurring pain in the lower left side of my back since high school. In the past it would flare up for a week or two every couple of years so I never gave it much thought after it was gone. But in the last year I’ve woken up every morning with pain in this area. As soon as I try to sit up my back stiffens. I’ve made several attempts at doing different exercise routines but every time my back ends up hurting worse than when I do nothing at all. So I’ve given up on any treatment besides stretching upon waking and getting up slowly. Luckily, since my work schedule usually starts at 1:20pm, I have plenty of time to get it loose before the day begins. However, on bad days I have to pop a couple extra-strength Ibuprofens before heading off to work.

I’ve also had painful problems with my wrists for the last three years. Periodically, one or both wrists will feel so weak. At these times it hurts too much to push open doors or carry a pan of food by the handle. I’ve been very scared about this issue because there’s a history of osteoarthritis in my family. But I realized a while ago that my wrists hurt the most on days when I wake up and find myself sleeping on my stomach. Somehow as I sleep I tuck my arms under my body or my head and this restricts the blood flow to my wrists and hands, causing the weakened feeling.

Another very noticeable symptom that gave me a lot of pain for about 8 months straight starting last sumer was an annoying dull pain in my chest that felt like I always had a burp stuck at the top of my esophagus. It’s a terrible feeling! Sometimes when I’m laying down I’ll have to sit up quickly because I feel like I’m going to throw up. Other times I’ll beat my sternum sharply with my fist in order to free trapped air bubbles. I went to the doctor in Korea to have it diagnosed because it troubled me all the time. The doctor gave me an endoscopy and diagnosed me with GERD (gastroesophagial reflux disorder).

Next problem: I’m not getting restful sleep. I used to have problems getting to sleep back when I lived in Kentucky. These days I can’t keep my eyes open after 2am. The problem isn’t that I can’t sleep, it’s that no matter how many hours I sleep I always wake up feeling like I was beat up during the night. My neck always feels uncomfortable so I can’t lay still for long.

As if these internal issues weren’t enough I’ve also noticed that my face has started looking older this year. The crow’s feet around my eyes are getting much more defined. And I now have permanent lines around my mouth demarcating where my skin bends whenever I smile.

I’ve done a lot of research and thinking about my issues and I’ve come to believe that they all stem from the fact that I have horrible posture. For most people, when they stand up straight, their vertebrae form a smooth ‘S’ shape. In my back, however, three vertebrae stick way out about half way down. Because of this it’s always been very difficult for me to sit upright in hard backed chairs. I always either slouch back or lean forward when I sit because it’s so uncomfortable. Whenever I’ve done sit-ups the skin over those vertebrae gets rubbed raw. I went to an acupunturist a month ago and he audibly grunted his surprise when he felt them.

But all hope isn’t lost! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that Jessie and I have started trying to live more healthy. We’ve begun a two-pronged attack on infirmity. First, we’ve been experimenting with many natural products, such as brushing our teeth with the Orawellness HealThy Mouth Blend, teeth whitening with baking soda and peroxide and no pooing. On top of this we’ve become flexitarians (we eat a mostly vegetarian diet with occasional meat). It’s been extremely hard to keep this diet while here because almost every restaurant in Korea is meat-centered. Plus, the free meals at the school where we work always very heavily consist of low-grade meat, white flour and white rice products with very little vegetables or fruit. Second, we’ve started hiking once a week in the mountains behind our apartment and taking several long walks during the week. Jessie’s been doing heaps of yoga. And I’ve started doing these easy ‘do-anywhere’ exercises I found online to help correct my posture. Check the short video out here!

Once we finish our traveling and arrive home in late November we’ll initiate the next steps in our plan to get back to good health (after Thanksgiving, of course!). First, we’re going to start making green juice for breakfasts. After watching the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead we’re convinced that above all else this will help us regain our energy levels. We’ve also found several vegetarian/vegan blogs with delicious looking recipes that we’re gonna try out. And finally, we’re also going to make a more concerted effort to stick to diets that benefit our blood types.

Thirty-two was the year of feeling unhealthy. Hopefully a year from now I’ll be writing a post about how thirty-three was the year of feeling great! If you’ve tried one of these or any other health improvements, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment!



11 thoughts on “health 104: the year my body decided to feel old

  1. I’ve been told that as we age oour levels of melatonin decrese so we stop sleeping well. Taking a melatonin supplement is supposed to help. I’ ve started taking 3 tablets a night of Hylands Calms Forte about an hour before I want to go to bed and usually I’m tired and fall right to sleep. After a couple of nights I’ve gotten to where I only wake 2 0r 3 times and fall back to sleep almost immediately (whatever happened to sleeping till my alarm woke someone else and they came to wake me and get my alarm shutup).


  2. Eating more fruits and veggies and less meat, wheat and dairy and decreasing sugar drastically has given me more energy. And I sleep better! So I a curious about the no pooing – do you use baking soda? Nothing at all? How was the transition? And how did you find the OralWelness tooth care? You happy with it?


    • Thanks for the suggestions Jen! Yeah I definitely need to cut back on the sugar. I don’t eat much dairy while in Korea, but I’m a bit confused about it because my blood type diet says that certain forms of dairy are very beneficial for me!? I’ve been no pooing for about 3 months and I use baking soda about once every 2~3 weeks. I have dry skin though so my hair never feels sticky. The transition was SO easy for me. Jessie’s hair, on the other hand, gets very stringy because we have hard water and it interacts weirdly with the baking soda. So instead she’s been using an egg to clean her hair about twice a week!

      Jessie found Orawellness after she grew concerned about one of her receding gums. She thought maybe she was brushing too vigorously so she googled it and found out about the Bass method of brushing. Orawellness really recommends this so she found a link through to them. After reading a bunch of “testimonials” and comments, we decided to give it a try. I really like it a lot! We’re not sure yet if its gonna solve her problem, but I’ve noticed that I don’t have as much plaque as I used to and I feel like my breath smells so much better (plus I love that I’m only putting natural products in my mouth!)


      • Thanks Ryan. I have been enjoying reading your blog. Hope the training for Everest base camp goes well and you have a fabulous trip! We will welcome you back if you make it to KY the next time you are in the states.


  3. You guys can be my guinea pigs this Fall when I’m in school for holistic nutrition! I’m supposed to complete a number of case studies before graduating, so… I’m just throwin’ it out there. 😉


  4. Im only 25 and ive had body problems since I can remember ive had back problems from two injuries and now I had to have surgery on my foot so im walking funny because of my foot and because my back. My back is the worst its my neck shoulders upper back and lower back. My upper back and shoulders is from stress because I carry my stress in my shoulders and tbe rest of my back is from my injuries which affects my posture.


      • Ive tried doing some back workouts but I think for my upper back I need to learn how to relax and like you said I need to stretch a lot. Ive gone to physical therapy and chiropractors and nothing seemed to work ive also gone to see a psych for the stress to see better ways to deal with the stresa ans he said to do breathing exercises and exercise. Be more physical because it releases endorphins that can help relax. He also talked about meditating which I guess is like the breathing exercises.


  5. Ryan~have you heard of or tried “grounding”? It might help you sleep more soundly. We also switched over to more natural ingredients for what we put in and on our body. All but hair, although we’ve heard of the no poohing. Interesting!!


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