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The Way I See It
By: Joseph C. Phillips

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In My Opinion
By L.N.P.

Germs, Vitamins…and Ice Skates?

I have a theory about germs. People seem obsessed by them, with entire industries making a fortune to keep us all germ-free. Anti-bacterial cleansers, Purell hand wash, air purifiers, color-coded cutting boards. TV specials are dedicated to teaching us to eliminate all those germs and bacteria from our kitchens, our beds, our bathrooms, our lives. I’ve never worried about any of that, and I seem to get sick a lot less than anyone I know. This past year I didn’t know one person who didn’t either get the flu or a really bad cold, while I came in contact with them all and remained healthy. I never get a flu shot either, but I think I operate on the same principle; I’ve immunized myself by not being a germ phobic.

It’s not that I don’t keep my home or my body clean; I do. But I don’t get paranoid when someone shakes my hand, or when the raw meat touches the lettuce, or when a piece of a coveted cookie drops on the floor. Toilet seats in public restrooms have never freaked me out, and I smile when I see mothers put a special cover over the handle on the shopping cart so that they, or their toddler in the seat, don’t come in contact with the last user’s germs. Now, for those of you who don’t share my opinion on this, I wouldn’t suggest beginning these practices now. You’re probably already so susceptible to any stray bacteria that gets past your protective wrapping that you’d immediately come down with something dreadful; it obviously takes a long time to build up such an effective immune system. And it’s not something I set out to do. But, when I began wondering how I managed to stay healthy while all around me were dropping like flies, I came up with this theory. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I’m right?

In fact, it could all be one big conspiracy. All the companies dedicated to keeping us germ free are probably the same companies, or are at least in cahoots with the companies that provide the countless remedies for when we catch something. Nothing the pharmaceutical industry does would surprise me, so why isn’t it logical that they’d help make everyone as vulnerable as possible to catching whatever little bug is floating around out there, and then come up with a slew of products to relieve the symptoms?  Store shelves are stacked with hundreds of cold and cough remedies: medicines to help you breathe, get the mucous out or dry it up, shorten the duration of your cold, cough it up or suppress it, help you stay awake with a cold or soothe you to sleep with one. Same applies to the dozens of flu remedies available. Nothing, of course, actually cures the common cold or the flu, because that would put a whole bunch of companies out of business. This little cycle I’ve described is so much more profitable. Wow, wouldn’t it be amazing if I’m right about that too?

On the other hand, while I’m not a big believer in germ avoidance, I am a believer in vitamins and nutrients. I take quite a few every day, despite the fact that most experts claim we really don’t need any of them if we just eat healthy meals. Well, I try to eat a lot of fish, and I always make a salad, cook with olive oil, use nuts and soy. But do you know what they mean when they say eat healthy? I could never eat that many fruits or vegetables in a day if my life depended on it; it would destroy my stomach for one thing. And there’s no WAY I’m going to get enough calcium in my body to keep my bones strong when my digestive system can’t tolerate dairy products. So, I take doses of calcium, and anti-oxidants, and hormones, and B vitamins, and ester C, and flaxseed, and glucosamine-chondroitin for my joints, and I have no clue if they’re helping me or not. I do know that since I began that regimen a couple of years ago, I’ve noticed a thing or two. I rarely get sick, which is either attributable to my germ conspiracy theory, or my vitamin and nutrient intake, or both. The numerous red blood spots I was continually getting if I so much as brushed my arm against something have stopped. My nails started growing again, which they refused to do for years. I have more strength and more stamina than I used to. And, without the help of Ambien or that medicine with the butterfly —Lucerna I think it’s called — I manage to sleep 8-9 hours every night.  I have absolutely no idea if vitamins, hormones or nutrients contribute in any way to this general state of well-being, but I don’t intend to test it.

All is not perfect, however, and I don’t claim for one moment not to have my share of physical problems for which I take medication. I take pills for chronic headaches, for hypertension, and high cholesterol. But it is my goal to take control of those problems this year. After suffering with irritable bowel syndrome for eight years, I learned how to control that, and if I take my fiber pills in the morning, begin every day with a piece of toast, and don’t deviate from that pattern, my IBS is no longer an issue. No doctor was ever able to tell me that; I learned it through my own research and experimentation. And it’s foolproof, unless I do something stupid.

I think the same will be true for the remaining problems, and I think I’m well on my way to controlling them too. I’ve always known that I need to exercise regularly — the whole sound mind, sound body philosophy has always made perfect sense to me — but I could never stay with anything long enough for it to do me any good. The fact that I’m naturally thin didn’t help either; vanity might have made a better motivator than health and cardiovascular fitness. Instead, I spend hours at the computer every single day using my mind for research and writing, and hating the very thought of going to the gym, although I did it for quite some time. But I could never understand why people liked it or how they got hooked on exercising. My brother is a cyclist, and he goes nuts when he can’t get on his bike. That baffled me. My 80-year-old uncle works out every day and would be miserable if he couldn’t. What was up with these people? Why had I never been able to use this addictive personality of mine to get hooked on something good for me; why did I never, ever understand how someone could get pleasure from pushing their bodies the way I push my brain? I just didn’t get it.

And then I discovered ice-skating. Actually, I should say re-discovered it, because I had really enjoyed ice-skating on Twin Lakes when I was a kid, and even when I was in my twenties and early thirties I skated at a local rink with my kids. But I hadn’t put on a pair of skates for thirty years until about a month ago, when I realized there was a rink exactly five minutes from my house. I knew instantly that I had to try it; could I even stand up on the things?  To make a long story short, I LOVE it. After six times using rental skates, I knew I was committed enough to purchase my own, brand new, beautiful white skates, and I am hooked! And I thank God each time I’m out on that ice for the privilege, and each time I untie my skates and realize that I’ve just pushed my body for at least an hour and enjoyed every minute of it. It took me a lot of years to find an exercise that will undoubtedly lower my blood pressure and cholesterol, and might even get rid of my headaches, because I’m finally moving my body around and getting my heart pumping, my adrenaline flowing, and reducing my tension as I forget about the pressures of work while I race around the rink. It took me a lot of years to find an exercise that I can’t wait to do. Now I get it.

Send me your opinions at LParis@netlistings.com

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