Please note that the following is a general overview of some of the substances and activities that have helped me regain my general health and wellbeing as a desk worker. Please consult your General Practioner and/or Naturopathic Doctor before indulging or participating in what is mentioned herein and also to find a Health Code that works for you!
Links to purchase some of the products mentioned in the article are below:
The Healthy Programmer: https://amzn.to/2JOhsFV
Nitric Oxide Strip Testers: https://amzn.to/2JNmOkC
Epic Xylitol Gum: https://amzn.to/32LS4Id
I’m no doctor, but recently with the help of my own research and a naturopathic doctor, I have been able to demystify my health issues, which seemed to increase in my 30s and now in my early 40s. Although I showed no outward appearance of being unhealthy (I was/am physically fit and besides shaving my thinning hair, my appearance is fairly youthful for a man now in his early 40s) as I began to work more in Web and Multimedia Design and Developing, I began to sit for longer durations of time without breaks—including, and most importantly, breaks with some physical exertion like walking or pushups—and it was taking its toll on my digestive and cardiovascular systems.
I did start to exercise again, and my digestion improved somewhat and my blood pressure would return to normal after a good workout. And I even spent a whole spring and summer working for a landscaping company to earn extra money. My hypothesis was that my health would greatly improve during my work as a landscaper, and for the most part, it did! I felt less anxious, more grounded, and generally happier. I did still have strange digestive issues like excessive belching and a little bloating, but I did feel better. I believe this was from the mostly light physical labor and also the increase of sunshine I was exposed to, which in turn increased the Vitamin D in my system.
See this great Healthline article for more information about the importance of Vitamin D: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-vitamin-d-to-take
However, just like I am no doctor, I am self-aware enough to know that for me, being a landscaper would not fulfill my own goals of working as a Web and Multimedia Developer—producing video, audio and also content for the Web. There had to be a way to work at a desk off and on for 8 to 12 hours a day and stay healthy. And for me, these are the activities and natural substances that have returned me to the health I felt in my teens and 20s.
Nitric Oxide is your BEST friend
Seriously. Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator, which basically means it relaxes and widens blood vessels. Vasodilators affect the muscles in the walls of your arteries and veins, preventing the muscles from tightening and the walls from narrowing. As a result, blood flows more easily through your vessels.
What does this mean? You guessed it: lower blood pressure and blood pressure regulation. Which is awesome! It also means that it takes longer to get gassed during workouts or just general activity.
Click on this rad Healthline article to learn more about what foods have it and also the benefits of Nitric Oxide! https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-nitric-oxide
As mentioned in the article, besides certain foods, two supplements that are great for getting more NO in your system are L-Arginine and L-Citrulline. I also buy test strips to check my NO levels at least once a week. This morning before taking my L-Citrulline supplement, my NO levels were a bit low as indicated by my Berkeley Life nitric oxide test strip readings. However, after taking 1000mg of L-Citrulline, I measured my NO levels about 3 hours later and you can see the results on the test strip on the right.
Replaced using Mouthwash with Chewing Xylitol Gum
There are many paradoxes in life, including health paradoxes. One of which is that although most mouthwash prevents cavities by killing unhealthy bacteria that feed on plaque, it can also kill the bacteria that helps create Nitric Oxide in the body, One way to avoid this paradox is to consume Xylitol, which is a sugar-free sweetener that is not only healthy, it actually prevents cavities and gum disease without killing the bacteria that creates Nitric Oxide in your mouth! For more information about Xylitol check out this informative Healthline article. I mean it, check it out! https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xylitol-101
See a Naturopathic Doctor and Get a Food Allergy Test!
So back to my weird belching and bloating. Well…it turns out that after taking the advice of a Naturopathic doctor and getting a food allergy test, that I have high food allergies to gluten, wheat, and dairy. At first, I was pretty bummed about this, but food allergies can subside with time. After pretty much cutting out all or at least a significant amount of the aforementioned food categories (I still enjoy at least a beer every week) after about a week I began to notice that my bloating and belching decreased significantly! I was also told to take Ashwagandha in the morning and Nattokinase at night for both better stress management and also better circulatory health. I also take CoQ10 and Omega 3 fatty acid supplements. However, as mentioned earlier, please consult an ND or General Practitioner before taking any herbs or supplements that are included in this article!
Eat a Healthy Diet
There are a lot of diet and exercise fads out there (e.g. Paleo, Mediterranean, Dr. Gundry, Vegan, etc.) however most health experts agree that not just one diet is right for everyone. According to most health organizations (including the CDC, the World Health Organization, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Health Service of the UK) a person’s daily diet should be composed of roughly the following:
30% Fruits and Vegetables
30% Grains and Starches
16% lean protein(meat, fish, eggs, beans)
16% Milk and Dairy
8% fatty and sugary foods
If you like me are trying to limit your intake of gluten, dairy, and eggs, this article might help you achieve this while maintaining a healthy diet: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/getting-nutrition-dairy-gluten-eggs-1143.html
Do you know your max heart rate bpm? It is basically 220 – yourAge. Therefore a 40-year-old would have a max heart rate of 180 bpm. Most health experts agree that the best intensity level for walking or any other activity is roughly 60 percent of your max heart rate. Therefore, with the example above, that heart rate would be roughly 108 bpm. However, there is a range as seen in this article. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates
For the example above that would be 90 – 153 bpm. (I usually try to keep mine at about 120-140 when doing cardio and about 90 – 110 when lifting or playing basketball).
Did you know that just walking 20 min a day can decrease your risk of premature death by 20%? A good goal for steps per day is 10,000. You can track your heart rate and steps (and much more, including sleep quality and caloric intake!) with this gadget that costs less than $100.00. Check it out!
So what do I do to stay active? Thankfully, even at 42, my knees and ankles are healthy enough to play basketball. I am no MJ, but I can play fine and I love the game. My advice is to find a sport that requires a general amount of physical activity, and if you are able, participate in it. Join a league, or just head out in the sun to the local outdoor courts.
I also lift weights on average about 4 times a week for at least an hour every workout.
This summer, I am going to get back into bicycling and am really stoked about that.
But all in all, if you don’t have the time or money to go to the gym, I would recommend staying at home and simply doing pushups and situps along with jump roping and jogging or bicycling. Honestly, just by taking breaks every 30 minutes or so and maybe taking a five-minute walk or other light physical activity during that break, you can stay reasonably healthy. Oh, and use a Pomodoro clock so that you make sure to take breaks. Here is one I created a few years back. https://codepen.io/BrianBrain/full/egxRVd
Self Care – Reducing Stress and Increasing Feeling of Wellbeing
I remember I had a boss once whose dentist told her she needs to get a massage. Apparently, this boss’s stress was showing in her dental health, possibly because of teeth grinding or TMJ. My favorite modalities of self-care are acupuncture, craniosacral treatments, and massage. These treatments can add up in cost, so although I get them every-so-often, to me, they are not as big of a part of my health equation as diet and exercise, but they are a great way to reduce stress and thus increase overall health.
Other forms of self-care are Yoga and Qigong. I participate in the latter and find that the breathing techniques and meditative movements of Qigong, particularly Yi Ren Qigong, have reduced my stress quite a bit. In fact, and this is for another blog entry, Yi Ren Qigong is probably the single most important self-care activity that I practice.
Find a Form of Spirituality that Works for You!
Speaking of Qigong, I am a Taoist, and Qigong is related to the Taoist form of spirituality, along with other practices like Taoist Yoga and Tai Chi. However, find a system of spirituality that works for you. You might even find that just by attending church regularly that your mood and outlook will improve. Spirituality is so important for health and is often neglected in our lives.
Be Sure to Get Good Quality Sleep
This is different for everyone, but I try to get about 8 hours of sleep every night. Here is another great Healthline article. This one addresses the importance of sleep: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important#section1
You Must Check out this Book
So yeah, this has been the first blog I have written on this site for quite some time. However, I do plan to make it at least a weekly occurrence, but we shall see. I mean, life can get so busy that it is hard to create routines that don’t directly have to do with work or family.
So in order to optimize my health as a desk jockey I wanted to find a fairly short and informative book that would guide me in living a healthy life. That book is The Healthy Programmer: Get Fit, Feel Better, and Keep Coding by Joe Kutner. If you only buy one book about how to keep healthy while maintaining a sedentary vocation, this is the one I highly recommend.
You can find this book in the link at the beginning of this entry, and I would also recommend checking it out on Google Books. Take care and Be well.
Yours truly, Brian Kidd:
Ths Holistic Programmer