Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Swimming Lessons

My three year old son and I are going to the swimming pool everyday, until school begins (for the first time, next week).  We wake up early, get ready the way we would for school and set off in the car.  The driving time is about the same as what it would be to drive to school.  We carry our bags, filled with the same things we will take next week.  We meet people and swim and, afterwards, sit and watch the swimming classes for older children while eating our tiffins.

I did not plan this routine months ahead, it just fell into place by itself.  I'm not a meticulous planner!  This schedule has given my son a sense of direction to his day (he loves water so it's nice to see him waking up all excited every morning), a sense of independence (he now happily converses with all the 'aunties' sitting around (the children are too busy swimming to notice him)) and has increased his stamina to the extent that I am confident he will not get completely exhausted during his long school hours.  He has also figured out ways to cope with the unpredictability of traffic and road conditions.  Apart from all this, he has learnt to make egg sandwiches from scratch and loves doing so (more than eating them)!

I too have learnt much from my visits to the pool, which in the mornings, is filled with elderly people and children who are taking swimming lessons.  There are no young people or teenagers in sight.  All the mothers (and an occasional father) are sitting at tables scattered around the pool, waiting for their children, shouting a few instructions now and then.  Some are talking to each other, many are busy with their cell phones.

My son and I are cheerily greeted by many of the women, the coaches smile when he comes because he's so excited about going into the water.  He and I are the only ones to enter the children's pool.  All the other children are hard at work in the main pool while we are playing about in the water. Many mothers are surprised that I am teaching my son on my own instead of handing him over to the coach next year.

I realized, with some surprise, that parents feel that other people (especially professionals) are better equipped to deal with the education of their children.  This is something I came across while searching for schools as well - mostly it was said by teachers (except for a small number who urged me to keep my son at home in the early years), but it seems to resonate within a large group of parents as well.

I see four year olds crying, throwing up and older children wanting to 'goof off' periodically in the pool.  The parents are not sympathetic.  My instinct would just be to go and hug the child and say, "It's all right.  You can relax," but parents look disapprovingly at the child and a bit apologetically at the coach (who is a very dedicated and well meaning teacher in my view, but not every child is ready for intense coaching).

Play is greatly underestimated nowadays, especially spontaneous play.  My son and I have a wonderful time playing in the water, driven mostly by him.  He is at the stage where make believe adventures have just begun, so he's not just swimming when he's in the water.  He is standing like a sea horse, jumping like a dolphin, floating like a jelly fish.  He is surfing, he is hunting, he is deep sea diving.  He has learnt how to move in water, how to cope when water gets into his eyes, nose or mouth.  He has understood the feeling of floating and he loves to enter the big pool whenever he is allowed (the sense of buoyancy and the excitement of seeing so much water is far greater there).

I have learnt the importance of sharing these adventures and moments of learning with a child.  Of being there at the same level, and doing the same things, to enable him to overcome fear and hesitation easily.  Of not pushing him into things he is not ready for or not meant to do no matter how sensible or worthy the ideas appear.

Of enjoying each step of life along the way, if I have the chance to.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Supplements To Counter Ill Health

My migraines had reached a level of frenzied frequency last month and constant travel, stress of various kinds, disruption in food and sleep did not help.  It was a time I was on pain killers half the month and finally I felt that enough was enough.  My migraines are triggered by hormonal changes in relative levels of estrogen and progesterone (I have figured this out on my own), so they are triggered repetitively each month.  Several women I know say they experience these (Asian women have lower levels of estrogen, and are therefore more susceptible to migraines apparently) and menopause is the solution, something I don't agree with in principle!!  Apart from this, who wants to wait that long??

Migraine sufferers know that there is no universal solution, each one has to work his (or her) way through the condition and hope for the best.  Circumstances, lifestyle and temperaments dictate choices.  For me, the first choice is always nutrition (perhaps having been brought up with a mother who was a nutritionist), and I began a search for information on diet and migraines.

Of course, there are the usual trigger foods that one has to avoid, but there are also a lot of supplements which seem to help some people.  The internet is a vast (albeit slightly biased) source of information, and internet delivery services make many things accessible to us which were not earlier.  This helped me choose my nutritional supplements.

About two weeks ago, I began to add supplements to my diet.  Magnesium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin D and vitamin E.  Also a highly purified extract of feverfew, which is the only known western herb which can be safely taken for migraine relief.

Around the same time, I began to take my son to the swimming pool evryday, where he and I splash around for 45 minutes.  Exercise always helps migraines, and I find swimming and running in combination with yoga to be ideal (if one has the time, which I don't right now!).

Most treatments are said to take effect in 2 to 3 months, but I have already noticed a decrease in intensity (and more recently perhaps in frequency as well).  I have also noticed an increase in energy, both physical and mental.  I am also sleeping a little better.  Long term control will require optimising safe combinations but this is a positive beginning.  In a short while, I hope to return to my yoga and also to get some acupuncture treatment, which has always helped me.  And I will take it from there.

The role of specific nutritional supplements in reinforcing good health and in relieving even drastic symptoms has long been discussed.  Linus Pauling's theories on the role of vitamin C in curing heart disease and cancer continues to be debated and there are innumerable such examples and other studies in progress.

A recent very interesting scientific study (published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences in March 28, 2017) showed that giving mothers who had recently given birth certain selected protein components (tyrosine, tryptophan) and blueberry juice and extract (rich in anti-oxidants) helped greatly in reducing the depression that often arises after delivery.  This depression is triggered by the sharp decline in (100 fold of) estrogen and (50 fold of) progesterone hormones and an equally sharp rise in other molecules that increase oxidation.  The activity of many molecules that ultimately contribute to this postpartum depression can apparently be lowered just by taking a small set of nutritional supplements.  I looked up the kinds of foods that tryptophan and tyrosine are normally present in and I could see that a traditional Indian diet (specially vegetarian) prescribed currently for new mothers will not contain high levels of any of these molecules.  It's probably time to reassess our nutritional needs based on some of this emerging evidence especially because postpartum depression is far from being on the decline (and given modern lifestyles, it may well be on the rise, I don't know).

Finally, I quote from an old book that belonged to my mother, a book I have always enjoyed dwelling upon."Anatomy Of An Illness as Perceived by The Patient', by Norman Cousins (who managed his crippling illness on his own when conventional medicine had no solutions to offer)-

"Pain Is Not The Enemy-

We know very little about pain and what we don't know makes it hurt all the more.  Indeed no form of illiteracy in the United States is so widespread or costly as the ignorance about pain - what it is, what causes it, how to deal with it without panic.

...Of all forms of pain, none is more important for the individual to understand than the 'threshold' variety.  Almost everyone has a telltale ache that is triggered whenever tension or fatigue reaches a certain point.  It can take the form of a migraine type headache or a squeezing pain deep in the abdomen or cramps or pain in the lower back or even pain in the joints.  The individual who has learned how to make the correlation between such threshold pains and their cause doesn't panic when they occur, he or she does something about relieving the stress and tension.  Then if the pain persists despite the absence of apparent cause, the individual will telephone the doctor.

If ignorance about pain is widespread, ignorance about the way pain killing drugs work is even more so.  What is not generally understood is that many of the vaunted pain-killing drugs conceal the pain without correcting the underlying condition.  They deaden the mechanism in the body that alerts the brain to the fact that something may be wrong.  The body can pay a high price for suppression of pain without regard to its basic cause."

We are far from understanding basic causes and effects that happen in our bodies, but my recent experiences have made me more open to taking supplements in terms of nutrition and alternate medicine, even though I don't completely understand how they work, as long as I seem to feel stronger and more balanced from within.
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