Natural healing should be natural choice

Sherri Leimkuhler: Natural healing should be natural choice

For the Fun of Fit

Several weeks ago I read a column about a migraine sufferer who claimed to have developed ulcers from using Excederin Migraine to treat headaches.

A reader wrote to suggest that the sufferer try Aimovig — a new FDA approved injectable drug — because after the fifth dose, the reader’s migraines had improved.

 “The only real side effect,” the reader wrote, “is constipation, which can be managed with MiraLAX.”

Reading this column raised so many red flags I didn’t know where to start. But what immediately struck me was this: if taking one drug to fix a problem creates another problem that requires yet another drug to fix, then there’s still a problem.

I am not a medical professional and this column should by no means take the place of any advice received by a doctor. I am, however, a former migraine sufferer. I had my first migraine in college and, soon after, learned that my family has an extensive history of migraines.

Over time, my migraines became more frequent, severe, and debilitating. There was almost always vomiting. There was occasional vision loss. When I had three migraines in one week, my doctor ordered a head scan to rule out a tumor. I was offered a preventative drug that I declined because I was told it could weaken my immune system and make me tired. I had three young children to care for; I couldn’t risk being routinely sick and tired.

However, I’d read that some people had successfully battled migraines through massage therapy or acupuncture. When I mentioned this to my doctor, he laughed and wrote a “fake” prescription: take one massage two times per week. I decided I had nothing to lose by trying. I began regular sessions with a massage therapist and, within six months, I was migraine free.

That was 10 years ago.

While pharmaceuticals have undoubtedly saved countless lives, there are many conditions — in addition to migraines — that may be resolved using natural, homeopathic remedies, and good common sense.

“Being overweight,” for instance, “can cause high blood pressure because when there is increased weight it takes more pressure to move the blood around the body,” notes

As a result, an overweight person might be prescribed medication to treat high blood pressure. But blood pressure medications, according to, can provoke heartburn, and to treat heartburn, an antacid might be needed.

Briefly taking antacids to relieve stomach upset is not dangerous but, according to, “If taken in high doses, some antacids can cause bone loss,” and excessive bone loss may lead to osteoporosis. It can be a vicious cycle.

But this medicinal chain reaction might be avoided by simply adopting a healthy, natural weight loss plan to decrease blood pressure, eliminating the need to take additional drugs to treat the side effects caused by blood pressure medication.

“Regular physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg,” reports

Exercise alone, however, is not enough to achieve optimal health and well-being.

There is, after all, truth in the adage, “you are what you eat.” No one would dump bacon grease into their car’s engine; why would anyone willingly put similarly unhealthy fuel into their own bodies? Temporary fad diets won’t do the trick, either.

On a recent group trail run, I noticed a large stick of beef jerky in the pocket of a runner’s backpack.

“I’m on the keto diet,” the runner explained.

According to, “The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins [and other] low-carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat.”

Again, I’m no expert, but any diet that suggests I eat beef jerky instead of fruit does not seem rational or reasonable to me.

In my opinion, there is only one type of diet anyone should ever adhere to: a sensible, healthy one. Maintaining good health and fitness may not be easy, but it is simple: Eat well-balanced meals in reasonable portions that encompass a wide variety of food groups. And exercise.

As Hippocrates, the Greek physician who is traditionally regarded as the father of medicine, famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”


Hiking at high altitudes in Peru

Leimkuhler: Hiking at high altitudes in Peru

For the Fun of Fit

I spent my first day in Cusco, Peru — where, at 11,152 feet, the air is, quite literally, breathtakingly thin — drinking cup after cup of mate de coca tea to help prevent and alleviate any symptoms of altitude sickness.

By the second morning, however, I was desperate for a decent cup of coffee. So before my friend and I began our day’s adventures, I requested a quick pit stop in Plaza de Armas, a lively gathering place considered by many to be the cultural center of the city.

Overlooking the plaza’s cathedrals, gardens and fountains was a familiar coffee shop. Located on the building’s second floor, accessible only by a long stairway, I began to climb and was astonished by how difficult it was to simply climb a flight of stairs.

Though I consider myself to be relatively fit, it took several humbling minutes — with several stops along the way — to huff and puff my way to the top.

But despite experiencing this shortness of breath, I was otherwise feeling OK.

With my hard-earned coffee in hand and our hired driver at the ready, my friend and I traveled to Pisac, a village in southern Peru’s Sacred Valley region, it’s Archaeological Park featuring a hilltop Incan citadel with ancient temples and a stone structure thought to have been a sundial.

While my friend remained at the base, I embarked on the relatively short but steeply ascending trek. Despite topping out at an elevation just below 10,000 feet, the climb was arduous, requiring frequent stops to consume copious amounts of water and allow my galloping heart to slow to a trot. Returning to our apartment that evening, I ate little and slept a lot, my mind and body perpetually fatigued from constantly fighting the altitude and struggling to take in enough oxygen.

While most everyone has heard of Machu Picchu, Lake Humantay — one of the most picturesque glacier lakes in the region — is one of Peru’s many lesser known hidden gems.

The adventure to the glacial lake began with a four-hour, hair-raising, hairpin-turning bus ride to Soraypampa, the glacier’s base camp, perched at a whopping 12,700 feet. At that altitude, simply walking along a false flat dirt path to the trailhead was challenging. But the fun was just beginning.

Already gasping for breath in the razor-thin air, our group of nine hikers craned our necks upward at the nearly vertical rock-studded path to the lake which, according to our guide, featured a 40 percent incline for the first half of the hike and a 65 to 70 percent incline for the second half.

In addition to a first aid kit, our guide’s pack contained extra water and supplemental oxygen. Two other guides tagged along with several horses in tow to assist hikers who were unable to make the rigorous trek on foot. Four people in our group of nine ended up on horseback.

The hike, a total distance of less than 1,500 feet, took an average of 60-90 minutes to complete, a confounding amount of time for such a short distance. But it only took a few steps for my heart to begin hammering so hard I thought it might explode out of my chest, and I experienced occasional bouts of dizziness and light-headedness.

The only recourse was to stop, rest, drink water, repeat; the goal being to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other. Finally, at an altitude of just over 14,000 feet, I rounded a bend to find the lake nestled like a turquoise jewel at the base of the glacier, its color subtly shifting from blue to green as it reflected the mountains towering above it.

As I stood gazing at this breathtaking place so high in the sky, I relished the beauty around me and the triumph I felt within, for successfully making the climb on my own two feet was simultaneously one of the most rewarding and difficult things I’ve ever done.

My best advice for those who wish to visit Cusco it not to rush the experience. According to, “it takes your body about three to six weeks to acclimate to high altitude.”

So, be sure to pad your schedule with plenty of time to rest, relax and acclimatize. Begin taking altitude pills 48 hours before arrival at altitude and continue taking them for 48 hours afterward. Ibuprofen is also advisable.

Do not smoke or drink alcohol, but be sure to drink coca tea and plenty of water. Eat light meals that are high in carbs and, most of all, heed this tip from “Don’t go up until your symptoms go down.”

Columnist’s note: This column is the second in a two-part series on acclimating to high altitudes.