How to treat nerve issues with vitamins

In church this morning, the woman sitting behind me told me she was having a nerve issue that was affecting her hearing. She was the second person this month to come to me with a nerve issue, so I wanted to relate how I treated my own nerve issues in the past (which saved me a surgery and saved my career).

First, a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If any of this makes you nervous, talk this over with your doctor. At least in my town, there are a ton of people peddling snake-oil remedies at inflated prices and, essentially, practicing medicine without a license. Doctors go to school for seven years for a reason, so if you have an issue, talk to your doctor about it. Let the doctor know you want to try this out with vitamins too. Talk to your doctor and your pharmacist about any possible interactions between this and whatever other treatments you are doing. Interactions are unlikely, but they went to school for this stuff, so take their word for it over mine.

Are we good? Good. Let’s talk vitamins.

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Take some steps to improve your health today

So Michael Moore has a new movie out, this time taking on the touchy topic of health care. I was a very outspoken opponent of Hillary Clinton’s plan 15 years ago. I’m extremely disappointed that the alternative plans crafted by the Republicans dropped as soon as the Clinton plan died.

I won’t argue that the U.S. health care system is terrible now. I will argue that some of the fault belongs to the person in our mirrors though. (And I don’t want to be rude, but Michael Moore needs to take some personal responsibility too.)The best editorial I ever saw about the Clinton plan was written by Andy Rooney. What he said then is even more true today: We drag our lard butts to the doctor because we won’t eat right, and we complain when the doctors can’t cure our problems which are to at least a certain degree, self-inflicted. Then he twisted the knife a bit, pointing out that Clinton was fond of going to McDonald’s with camera crews in tow. He said something like, “Health care is in trouble. Now excuse me while I go have a triple-cheesy-greasy with double fries. Do as I day, not as I do.”

Now to be entirely fair, society encourages us to eat out a lot. It tells us that’s how to be good parents, it’s a good way to take a load off and relieve stress, and who knows how many messages–most of which aren’t true. Remember, the originator of the message is selling something. Always always remember that.

I remember John C. Dvorak once remarking on his blog, “Someone wants us fat.” Give the little man a big cigar! The food industry wants us fat because we’ll eat more. The drug industry wants us fat because we’ll take more drugs. And once both of them get us up on that treadmill, they stand to make billions. If not trillions.

I still believe, with everything I have, that the American diet (if it can be called that) is largely to blame. We eat a lot of empty food that does our bodies no good, but does plenty of harm. Dad was saying 30 years ago that biscuits and gravy cause cancer. Today, guess what? They’re saying that sausages and gravies and highly cooked fats cause cancer. Sausage gravy does all the wrong things about as well as anything, but hot dogs are another good example.

Fast-food hamburgers may not necessarily cause cancer, but they sure do a dandy job of giving you a heart attack.

Vegetarians say they have the answer, but I’m not entirely convinced vegetarianism is absolutely necessary, nor is it a panacea. I see plenty of vegetarian cookbooks that do nothing but douse the vegetables in butter and cheese. Eat like that, and you won’t be any thinner or healthier than anyone else.

I do believe the main reason healthy vegetarians are healthy is because they pay attention. They look at the ingredients to make sure there’s no meat in there, and if there’s anything in the ingredients that they can’t pronounce, they probably end up putting it back since they can’t prove it didn’t come from an animal. And as a result, they tend to end up eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, breads that don’t have a lot of ingredients in them, and other things that provide a lot of nutrition in their calories.

I’m also convinced this is why most fad diets work initially. If you hopped on the Atkins bandwagon in the early 1990s before it became hugely popular (it had actually been around since the early 1970s), it was entirely possible to lose weight, because you would be limited largely to unprocessed meats and vegetables. But I noticed around 2000 or 2001 that a lot of people were on Atkins and weren’t losing any weight at all on it. Atkins was still saying the same things, but it wasn’t working anymore. The difference? Everyone and his uncle was peddling Atkins-friendly junk foods. Instead of being limited to meats and vegetables you cooked yourself, you could microwave processed Atkins-friendly TV dinners and gorge yourself afterward on Atkins-friendly cookies and ice cream.

People stopped losing weight, their cholesterol soared, and lots of companies made lots of money. Then the gravy train ended, but that’s OK because there’s always another one.

This is a boom for drug companies too. When your cholesterol goes sky-high, the commercials say there’s no need to change your diet. You can just pop an anti-cholesterol pill. What they don’t tell you is that the pill not only lowers your cholesterol, it also wipes out your B vitamins. So now your cholesterol is lowered, but you’re depressed and have carpal tunnel syndrome (just two things a deficiency in B vitamins can cause). So now you need another pill. Funny, the same company that makes the most popular drug for cholesterol also makes one of the most popular drugs for depression.

And that popular drug has some side effects such as abdominal pain and/or headache, sexual disfunction, and other things. But there are pills for that too.

Is it any wonder we never really get better? We take a pill for one thing, and the pill fixes that, but then we get something else. The domino effect starts, and it’s possible to go from being on no drugs to being on five in a matter of months.

About a year ago, my wife was out talking to someone. She mentioned she was diabetic. The elderly gentleman she was conversing with said he was too. They talked some more, and it turned out he became diabetic as a teenager, just as she had. He seemed like he’d lived a long and healthy life to her, so she asked if he had any secrets to share. He did. “Stay away from junk food, and you’ll be fine.”

Good advice. Simple advice. Unfortunately it’s difficult to follow, seeing as every other commercial between the hours of 4 and 8 is for junk food. Most of the rest are for drugs, with the occasional car commercial thrown in.

Here are some starting points my wife and I have picked up from the books of Dr. Mark Hyman.

1. Avoid processed food. Buy your groceries from the outer ring of the grocery store, staying out of the aisles.

2. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. This ultra-common sweetener is very cheap, but your body doesn’t know what to do with it. Eat lots of sugar and eventually you feel full, but if you eat the same amount of high fructose corn syrup, you’ll only crave more. Is it any wonder food companies love this stuff? It costs half as much, and you eat twice as much. What’s that mean? Profit!

And guess what? Just about anything that comes in a box or a package has lots of it. When I went in search of a loaf of bread that didn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it, I was only able to find one kind, and that included all of the premium brands that promote themselves as healthy. So what did we do? We bake our own bread in a breadmaker now instead.

3. Avoid trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated is just as bad, it just sounds a little better. This process makes food last longer on the shelf, which decreases costs, but again, your body doesn’t know what to do with it. It raises cholesterol levels but gives no nutritional benefit.

Once again, most products that come in a package have lots of them. Fortunately the tide is turning against this trend. Hopefully it lasts.

4. Eat smaller portions of meat and larger portions of fruits and vegetables. Meats aren’t necessarily all bad, although there’s little question that the hormones and other things the animals are given aren’t exactly good for us. There’s also no reason you have to eat meat at every meal, other than status. I usually have meat at one meal.

Fresh fruits and vegetables give more nutrients than meat and fewer undesirable side effects like higher cholesterol.

5. Eat whole foods that are as fresh as possible. Bleached white flour loses its nutrients. Canned vegetables lose most of their nutrients. Cook fresh, in-season vegetables and you’ll be healthier.

6. Watch the salads. How is it that people can eat salads all the time and still not lose any weight? Look at a McDonald’s nutritional guide and you’ll see most of their salads have as many calories as one of their sandwiches. Or more. They put the same junk in their salads as their sandwiches. It just looks healthy.

And even if you have a simple, traditional salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and shredded carrots, watch the dressings. A tablespoon of any of the common, traditional dressings has anywhere from 50-75 calories, and odds are you’ll use at least three of them. Possibly more. You could waste 10 percent of a 1,500 calorie diet on a condiment.

I don’t disagree that there’s something wrong with our medical system. That much is obvious. But the health problems that we’re creating and perpetuating with our current lifestyle would bring any medical system to its knees.

Trust me. The doctors aren’t all happy. My dad was one. He told me that if I ever told him I wanted to be a doctor, he’d lock me in my room for 7 years. Dad didn’t mind being a doctor, but he hated dealing with insurance companies and the government.

One day one of my coworkers was arguing with an insurance adjustor about a medical procedure his wife needed. The doctor said she needed it. The insurance adjustor said she didn’t, and insurance wasn’t going to cover it.

I told him to ask the insurance adjustor where he went to medical school.

Doctors go to school for a minimum of six years. I searched for an insurance adjustor job to see what the qualifications were. A two-year degree was all that was necessary. It didn’t specify that two-year degree had to be in biology or anything else relevant.

The current system is great for the drug industry, the insurance industry, and the food industry. If the system changes, I don’t expect it will get any worse for them. They have lots of lobbyists, and lots of money at stake.

I don’t expect it will get all that much better for us. The best thing for us to do is to take steps to need to use it less.

And ironically, if we use the system less and reduce the burden on it, it should get better.

Random thoughts on the Va Tech massacre

When I read more about the perpetrator of the massacre at Virginia Tech, I thought the same things I remember thinking about Columbine. And I wasn’t the only one with those thoughts. After Columbine, I was corresponding with one of my best friends from college, and she said the descriptions of those two guys really reminded her of me.

So the question then, as now, is, why am I a reasonably productive member of society while other people like me kill dozens of people?Bullying.I certainly got bullied a lot growing up. In the sixth grade, I had no consistent friends, and by seventh grade, I had no friends at all. People would talk to me when I knew something they needed to know, but aside from that, they threw stuff at me, or tried to break my leg. We moved to St. Louis the year after that, and I counted down every single day.

I got bullied in St. Louis too, but at least I had some friends.

What happened? For one thing, by the time I was 18, I knew none of the people who gave me trouble, including the kid in Farmington who made my life pure hell, managed to finish high school. Now, I know some very intelligent people who didn’t finish high school either, and I mean no disrespect to them, but I did take a lot of satisfaction in accomplishing something they didn’t. Not having to work all that hard at it gave me even more satisfaction.

I guess the difference for me was that I had a number of adults tell me from a very young age that I could accomplish a lot. So I didn’t just believe I’d accomplish more than those (insert family-inappropriate noun, plural, here). I knew I would. And that was enough to satisfy me. There wasn’t any need to spill blood.

It’s been years since I heard anything about any of them. The last I heard, the crowning achievement for one of them was holding down a job at a sandwich shop. Astounding. Probably my tax dollars are helping to support the others, if they’re even still alive.

One thing I learned as an adult is that there’s no need to take vengeance on people like them. They’ll do far, far worse things to themselves than the worst thing you could do to them.

Depression and mood swings. In college, I’m not sure that I was known for much of anything else. I was never diagnosed with anything, and I’ve had my moments in the years since, but my struggles have never prevented me from doing the things I need to do in order to survive.

The difference? Mainly, I got help when I needed it. A counselor’s outside perspective is a wonderful thing. And at the end of a particularly nasty breakup right after college, I attended an experimental group therapy that really helped. In a nutshell, it used secret society tactics to break you down and get you to admit who you really are underneath all that stuff the world piles on you. The theory is that if you get rid of all those masks and be authentic, you’ll function better, and people in general will like you a lot better too.

Also, I really think proper nutrition helps. I think things are worse now than they were 20 years ago, which frightens me, but we eat a lot worse now than we did even 20 years ago. Hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup are evil, evil things, and it’s amazing what a difference eliminating those from your diet will do. There are lots of good books out there, and used copies are cheap. Familiarize yourself with the writings of Dr. Mark Hyman, for starters. Used copies of his books sell for less than $5 online now. They’d be a bargain at $100.

Trouble with women. I could so be a poster child for this one. If you’re reading this because you’re frustrated with the world partly because you have difficulty starting relationships with women, or all your relationships go south really fast, I have two bits of news for you. First, you’re not alone–I’ve never heard a story from anyone else that I couldn’t top. I was the worst of the worst. Second, it doesn’t last forever. I’m married now, and happily at that.

There’s a lot to say about women, but there are probably four things that matter.

1. Think long-term. It’s morbid, but the answer to this question is very important. If something happened to you in 10 years, do you trust this woman to raise your kids right, and does she have the ability to see to it that all their needs are met? I’ve only met one woman, ever, who wasn’t related to me who passed this test. I married her.

2. Stay grounded. Often I found myself imagining the things I didn’t know about a woman I was chasing. It was easy to get caught up in that and not realize that it was that image I was infatuated with, not the person. Don’t invest a thing emotionally in someone until you know an awful, awful lot about her. Otherwise, she’ll just disappoint you.

3. Be nice. Most guys aren’t nice to women. I don’t think I met any women who really valued that until I was pushing 30, but being nice to women will eventually pay off, so it pays to start this minute. You’ll need practice.

4. Mostly, women want to talk. I think this is the big secret that I didn’t learn until I was in my late 20s. Be pleasant to talk to, and let them do most of the talking. You’ll know when they want you to talk (they’ll tell you). Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Getting them to talk is the hard part, but there’s a book about that. Go to the library and at least thumb through How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a classic. It’s not specifically about women but it will help in that and every other relationship. I wish I’d known about that book when I was, say, 14.

Right and wrong. I’ve always had a very strong sense of right and wrong, and I get infuriated when I see people do wrong. That cost me my job a couple of years ago, but it could be worse. There could be blood on my hands.

I’m 32, which isn’t terribly old but it’s given me plenty of time to watch people ruin their lives. I’ve certainly wanted revenge plenty of times, but the people I’ve wanted revenge on always manage to do worse things to themselves than anything I could have ever done to them. Remember, stupidity is a talent, and I’m sure the stupid people in your life have lots of it, just like the stupid people in mine. Just stay away from them and let them ruin their lives. They don’t need your help.

Jealousy of wealth. I hate seeing people flash wealth too, especially when that wealth was either handed to them, or acquired dishonestly.

All I can say is that for all the rhetoric that’s out there, the United States does still have lots of opportunity for people. There’s a very simple formula for getting rich, if you want to know it. Go to the library and pick up The Millionaire Next Door. If you can hold down a job, you can get wealthy and stay wealthy in this country.

The tougher half of the equation is finding something that you enjoy doing. Find something that interests you and doesn’t seem like work, then find a career that fits that. Talk it over with your guidance counselors. That’s their job.

Planning. In both cases, the perpetrators have been very good, or at least meticulous, planners. Planners have a huge advantage over the rest of the population, because they can imagine something, and they can figure out how to make that happen. I dated a girl once who had one dream in life–to join the Air Force–and due to health problems she couldn’t get in. She had no direction and no idea what she wanted to do with her life after that. It’s pretty sad.

So if you can plan something and it sounds reasonable in your mind, you might as well make it something positive. It’s cliche, I know, but with enough patience and determination, it’s possible to turn almost anything you can envision into reality.

I published a book before my 25th birthday. It was something I’d wanted to do since I was in second grade. Of course when I was in second grade I had no idea what I wanted to write about. But as I got older I learned the things that I needed to do to make it happen. Along the way I wrote a few things that I thought might be it and turned out not to be, but I didn’t let myself get discouraged. When the right opportunity presented itself soon after I turned 24, I recognized it and I took it. About a year later, I walked into a large bookstore and saw a book with my name on the spine sitting on the shelf.

If that sounds like something you would like, you can do it too. Or maybe you’d rather do something else, like design a practical electric car. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you enjoy doing it and it helps someone.

This isn’t terribly organized or coherent, and it’s getting really late. But if this helps someone, then it was worth it.

It’s time for a more holistic approach to depression

Standard disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I’m a systems administrator by trade and a journalist by training. I write this as a survivor of depression, not as an expert on its treatment. Combined with the experiences of others, I think it’s worth listening to. But it’s no substitute for seeing a specialist.
Earlier this week, after I mentioned my experiences with depression in passing, my mom e-mailed me and asked me a few questions. Thought-provoking questions. Then Dan pointed me to another person’s experience with depression.

It’s been my experience that some people just seem to have a natural tendency towards depression. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Some people are moodier than others, and that moodiness can be exceedingly difficult to be around sometimes, but there’s also a gigantic upside to it. Think of the most creative people you know. I’ll bet most of them are also pretty moody. That’s one factor.

While a student at Mizzou in late 1994 or early 1995, I had a conversation with a girl about depression. I knew she’d struggled with it, and I was curious. We had a long talk one day about it. Initially, in the back of my mind, I thought I’d interview a couple of other people who’d battled it, then interview an expert or three, and write a story about it. It was during that first talk that I learned that depression was sometimes caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. (Interestingly, I don’t remember my lone college psychology class–that’s science of behavior to Dr. Dave McDonald and his students–talking much about depression. Or maybe we did and I just forgot it.)

Over the years I met a lot of people who were put on Prozac or Paxil or any number of other drugs intended to treat a chemical imbalance in the brain. In most cases they didn’t get the dosage right initially. In those cases the adjustment was difficult. In one case, a good friend of mine had been on it in the past and it helped, then he started to feel himself relapse. He called me one day and told me he was going back on treatment. A few months later, I started to hear stories. Stories that were very out of character. My friend, a gentle giant type if there ever was one, was supposedly very detached from reality and sometimes even dangerously violent. His dosage was wrong and it was destroying him. One night he called me, distraught. He was on the brink of losing everything, and it didn’t seem like anyone understood.

I was mad that the stories of his behavior had become public knowledge. I was also a little irritated with him that when his family and friends suggested there was a problem, that he didn’t go back to see his doctor until it reached crisis stage. But I was livid about how the people around him handled the situation. When there’s a problem with your Paxil dosage, it’s a matter between you and your doctor, and you have to be patient about it and so do the people around you. There is no way to measure brain chemistry and figure out exactly the amount of Paxil you need to get the dosage right. (This was news to him and to his family, and when one of his friends, who happens to hold a PhD in psychology, got involved but didn’t mention this, I was more than livid when I found out about it. If I’d known how to call him on the carpet about it, I would have.)

I haven’t been very good about getting to my point here. There’s a lot of guesswork when you get drugs involved. They don’t necessarily kick in right away. Sometimes they kick in too hard. Sometimes they have undesirable side effects. I mentioned the possible psychotic side effects, but they can also increase your sex drive to an uncontrollable level, and they can lead to very excessive weight gain. Those television commercials showing people playing outside on a sunny spring day while extoling the virtues of those drugs don’t mention anything about their dark side. Since brain chemistry isn’t measurable, you’re playing a guesswork game. Hopefully it’s an educated game of guesswork, but unless you manage to get a referral to a psychiatrist, it may not be.

The late, controversial Dr. Atkins took a different approach to treating chemical imbalances. Where do your brain chemicals come from? Your body makes them. What does your body make them from? The nutrients you take in. What happens when your body doesn’t take in the nutrients it needs to make the necessary brain chemicals? Chemical imbalances that lead to depression. What happens when you change your diet and/or start taking supplements that provide those chemicals?

Atkins said, “no more depression,” then moved on to his next topic.

I think there’s something to that. When carpal tunnel syndrome threatened to destroy both of my careers, one of my readers pointed me to Atkins’ vitamin book. I started taking, among other things, Flax Seed Oil or Fish Oil (buy whichever is on sale; chemically, they offer the same benefit) and Vitamin B6 and B complex. I was surprised at the effect they had on my mood. But that combination promotes a generally healthy nervous system. Vitamin B1, Atkins said, is especially effective in treating depression. The B vitamins work best in the presence of each other, so a trip to the local discount store for a bottle of Vitamin B1 and B complex could make a world of difference.

Battling depression via nutrition is imprecise, but the nice thing about that is that you’re not messing directly with brain chemistry. You’re providing your body with the raw materials to make what it needs. Your body knows how to dispose of excess B1. What’s it supposed to do with excess Paxil?

The best thing you can do for your mental health may very well be to visit a nutritionist. Get a copy of
Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution
, make yourself a shopping list, get a nutritionist’s opinion, then buy. And avoid processed, commercial food if at all possible. I know my moods are much more consistent when I buy fresh fruits and vegetables and actually cook than when I eat tons of fast food or buy heat-up instant meals from the grocery store. Highly processed foods lose most of their nutritional value. They hurt your mood, they hurt your waistline, they hurt your energy level, they rot your teeth, and who knows what else. And when you’re not happy about how you look and you don’t have a lot of energy, and your teeth are falling apart, none of that helps your mood. Nice vicious cycle, eh?

You hear a lot more now about depression than you did in the 1970s and early 1980s. But there were a fraction of the number of fast-food restaurants and grocery stores were much smaller because they were catering to people who cook, whereas today grocery stores seem to cater to people who heat stuff up because everybody’s too busy to cook. I’m thoroughly convinced that these factors are related.

And cooking isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. I can stir up some mean dishes in about half an hour. Trust me, if I can learn how to cook, anyone can. I’m impatient and clumsy and accident-prone. But I’ve still learned how to cook well enough to impress a girl. Not counting my mother and sister, but I’ve impressed them too.

Remember that most doctors have no special training in nutrition. A lot of people are distressed to hear that and think it’s a conspiracy. It’s not. Medicine and nutrition are related, but they’re too complex for most people to be good at both. Asking your regular doctor to be a nutritionist is like asking him or her to be proficient at surgery. He or she is certainly capable of understanding it, but there are so many things a doctor would like to understand, and there are only 24 hours in a day to learn it all.

I believe that counselling and self-help are overrated, but both helped me to a limited degree. I found
I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got
by self-help pioneer Jess Lair to be helpful. It’s sadly out of print but widely available used. The biggest gem out of Lair’s book is a question: Do you have five friends? Lair said that if you have more than that, your friendships aren’t very deep. If you have fewer than that, you’re putting too much burden on them. With an inner circle of five or so, the burden seems to be about right.

But when that’s not enough, counselling helps. The problem with counselling is that sometimes people rely too much on it, or solely on it. Often people have issues they need help resolving. Sometimes that means just listening and offering a few suggestions and sometimes it means re-enacting traumatic experiences in order to finish up some unfinished business. It’s work. But it can be helpful, if you’re willing to do the work. But depression is a complex, multifaceted problem, so a one-pronged attack won’t be very effective. Remember the basic difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist: Psychologists can’t prescribe medicine, and psychiatrists don’t do a whole lot of counseling. Both are aware of the work of the other, and an honest practitioner of either profession ought to know the limits and know when you need the other. But you may have to ask when it’s time to see the other. Human beings tend to get overconfident in the abilities of the tools they have.

Finally, there’s a spiritual aspect. Virtually everything I’ve ever read says you should believe in something. If you’ve ever had any exposure to Christianity, read the books of Luke and John (they’re not terribly long–read a chapter a day and you’ll be through both of them in two months) in a modern, readable translation. You can read them for free at bible.crosswalk.com. For readability, I recommend the New Living Translation. It plays really fast and loose with the translation sometimes, but the point isn’t to make you a Bible scholar–it’s to present the words of Jesus in understandable fashion. Or you can read an out-of-print modern blending of the four Gospels by Charles Templeton titled simply Jesus, online, for free.

Last night I told someone it’s healthier to be an atheist than it is to be in a cult, but it’s healthier to believe in something than nothing. I’m a Christian and make no bones about it. If you’re a not a Christian and you believe something else and you’re struggling with depression, then my advice to you if you’re not really practicing is to get serious. And if you find it’s not helping you, try Christianity.

No single thing will conquer depression for you. But the combination of diet and nutrition, counseling, and spirituality can be potent. Pills are a brute-force approach, and after watching my friend’s bad experience, frankly I believe they ought to be the thing you go to when the other things don’t work, not the thing you go to before trying the others. I know they work because I’ve seen them work, but if anything, the other things can make them more effective, and if you can get by without pumping man-made chemicals into your system, that’s a very good thing, and I don’t think anyone will disagree with that.

Treat wrist pain naturally

Do you have a weird pain in your lower arms? Do your wrists tingle? Are your wrists tight? It’s possible to treat wrist pain naturally.

I’ve heard two people describe these things in the past month, now a friend’s written the same thing on his Web site. Of course, my wrists are notorious. They effectively ended my book writing career. Our problems came from typing.

First things first: Make some adjustments. Sit down and put your hands at your keyboard. Lower your chair until your legs make an upside-down L. Now do your arms make an L shape? If not, you absolutely need to get a keyboard drawer and/or another chair. Get one with adjustable armrests so you can support your arms. Rest them on your armrests lightly. Trust me: It’s cheaper than treatment.

Go see your doctor. Make sure he’s not knife-happy. He can recommend wrist supports, splints, and other treatments that help. You should always try that stuff first. The surgery can have side effects. To my way of thinking, it’s better to leave your body how God designed it and try to help it heal itself.

There are no effective drug treatments for repetitive stress injuries, other than painkillers. Talk to your doctor about vitamins.

Check all this stuff that follows out with your doctor first. This was the advice I got from reading several different books, and it worked pretty well for me.

The standard treatment for repetitive stress injuries is vitamin B6. Don’t take more than 200 mg of it a day–that may have harmful side effects. 100-125 mg is a good dosage; it leaves enough leeway that you can still take a multivitamin and/or a B complex, plus whatever small amounts of B6 you get from diet.

B6 works best in the presence of the other B vitamins, so you should also pick up a B complex. Precise dosage doesn’t seem to matter much. I buy whatever B complex I can find and take one capsule.

You can also complement B6 by taking a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is “good fat,” while Omega-6 is “bad fat.” Omega-3 is used for, among other things, nerve regeneration. The best sources of Omega-3 are fish oil or flaxseed oil. I take 1000 mg of either of them daily. Dietary sources of Omega-3 include eggs from free-range chickens and fatty fish like salmon. But a free-range egg gives you 100 mg. So it would appear that two eggs for breakfast and salmon for lunch and dinner would still leave you a bit short. Plus eating all those eggs will give you other problems. Buy the free-range eggs anyway, because of the improved nutrition over the cheap caged eggs, and eat more salmon, but don’t expect miracles from them.

Some people add 400 mg of magnesium to the mix. Magnesium is an anti-inflammatory.

In addition to the standard-bearers (B6, B complex, Omega-3, Magnesium) I’ve also used alfalfa and MSM. Alfalfa’s a good source of a large number of vitamins and minerals, which is why that works. MSM is also a good anti-inflammatory, and some people believe the body uses MSM to regenerate nerves and other tissues. I don’t think anyone totally understands how or why MSM works. The first bottle of MSM I got billed it as a natural painkiller, and while its effect wasn’t like, say, aspirin, it did seem to calm down the nerve that RSI irritates.

As far as exercise, there are stretches your doctor should be able to show you. A friend I know who’s a physical trainer says the first thing you should do any time you feel pain is to figure out what hurts, then do the opposite. I used to keep a baseball bat next to my computer. When I’d tighten up, I’d take the bat, walk into an open area, and swing the bat around for a while. If you swing the bat with proper technique, where you rotate your wrists and at the end of the swing your right hand is actually out front (or your left hand, if you bat left-handed), you’ll loosen your wrists up pretty quickly. People gave me funny looks when they saw the bat next to the computer, and funny looks when they saw me swinging a bat in the hallway or in the living room, but it helped. Find an exercise that tends to make your wrists pop. It’ll help.

04/20/2001

Games. Anyone who knows me well knows that, in my mind, there are three computer games worth owning: Railroad Tycoon II, Civilization II, and whatever the year’s hot statistical baseball simulation might be (but I’m always disappointed with the lack of a financial aspect–gimme a lineup of Ty Cobb, Rod Carew, George Brett, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mickey Cochrane, along with a pitching rotation of Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Cy Young, and Denny McLain, and I’ll slaughter you no matter who you’ve got–though my payroll would probably be upwards of $200 million just for those core 13 guys).

But if I were stranded on a desert island with a computer and could only have one game…? I’d take Civ 2.

Well, Sid Meier’s working on Civilization III now, and expecting a late-2001 or early-2002 release. And I found a great Civ site at www.civfanatics.com , with info on the upcoming Civ 3, along with info on the rest of the series, including strategies, loadable scenarios, patches, and other good stuff.

Hardware. Now that I suddenly don’t owe four figures to the government like I suspected I might, the irrational part of me has been saying to go buy some new computer gear. The rational part of me is reminding me that the markets are down, interest rates are down, interest rates are going to be cut again, and thus it’s probably a good time to sink some money into the market, preferably unsexy, proven blue-chips like General Electric, Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch. No matter what the economy does, people aren’t going to stop buying light bulbs, soda and beer, right? And I don’t care about dividends or short-term gains. I’m reading up about nutrition with the goal of increasing my life expectancy into three digits. I’m in this for the long, long haul.

But computer hardware is a lot more fun than stock certificates. And no one wants to read about me buying GE stock, right? So, let’s talk hardware.

First off, some people say you shouldn’t swap out motherboards because you should never take down a working system. Build a new system, then part out the system you’re replacing. I understand the logic behind that. That means starting off with a case and power supply. Time to buy for the long haul. For the long haul, there are two names in power supplies: PC Power and Cooling, and Enermax. Where to go, where to go? I hit PriceWatch and searched on Enermax. Bingo, I found Directron.com , which stocks both brands, along with a good selection of cases and allows you to swap out the stock power supply with whatever you want. Sounds great, but you generally only get about a $12 credit when you do that. Bummer. I went to resellerratings.com, looked up Enermax, and found a rating of 6 on 42 reports. That’s comparable to companies like Dirt Cheap Drives and Mwave, both of whom have given me excellent service over the years and get my business without hesitation.

What else have they got? Well, if you want to build a stealth black system, black cases, floppy, CD/DVD/CDRW drives and keyboards, for one. Nice.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to offer PCP&C’s cases. They do offer the ultimate l33t case, the Lian Li line. Cost of entry: $159 and up, no power supply included. The ultimate l33t solution would be a Lian Li case and an Enermax power supply. But would I really want to spend $200 on just a housing and power…? They also offer cases from Palo Alto, who makes cases for Dell and Micron. Working in a Micron shop, I’m very familiar with the Palo Altos, and they look good and won’t slice you up, though sometimes you have to disassemble them more than you might like. Cost of entry: about $70, including a 235W power supply, which you’ll want to swap out for something better. They also offer InWin and Antec cases, both of whom I’ve had good luck with. Reading further on their site, they claim only to stock cases their technicians have been able to work with easily and without injury.

And unfortunately, their commitment to quality doesn’t necessarily seem to extend to motherboards. I found the accursed PC Chips amongst their offerings. Boo hiss!

On the good side, if you want a PC on the cheap, here’s the secret formula: At Directon, grab an Enermax MicroATX case for $29, a Seagate 20 GB HD for $89, a socket 370 PC Power & Cooling fan for $19, a vial of heatsink compound for $1, and a Celeron-433 for $69 (highway robbery, but watch what I do next), then head over to Tekram and grab a closeout S-381M Intel 810-based motherboard for $34. Then head over to Crucial and pick up whatever size memory module you want (a 64-megger goes for $35, while a 128er goes for $60). Boom. You’ve got a real computer for well under $350, even accounting for shipping and a reasonable floppy, CD-ROM, keyboard and mouse. Or salvage them from an older PC. Get it and spend the money you save on a really nice monitor. For most of the things you do, you need a nice monitor more than you need clock cycles.

You could save a few bucks by picking up an old PPGA Celeron at your favorite Web closeout store, or on eBay, but the extra shipping will probably chew up all the savings. The going rate for a PPGA Celeron, regardless of speed, seems to be right around $60. You’ll pay $10 to ship it, while adding a CPU to an order that already includes a case and other stuff won’t add much to the shipping cost. One thing that did impress me about Directron is they don’t seem to be profiting off shipping, so they get honesty points. I’d rather pay $5 more up front and pay less shipping, because at least the dealer’s being honest.

I didn’t come to any conclusions and my credit card stayed in my wallet, but maybe I’m a little further down the road now.

And I guess it’s time for me to go to work.

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