I’m not sure when it started… I guess it was a gradual process over several years, but it started getting worse over that last 18 months or so.
I noticed that I get dehydrated quickly, and without warning. It happened to me several times right after sparring. I’d feel extremely tired and nauseous after an intense sparring session. Sometimes I’d have to lie down. It was really scary how severe it was, and how quickly it could happen. I’ve even written about it in one of the Zen-Do Times newsletter issues.
Though I was annoyed and surprised by it, I didn’t take it very seriously. I just assumed that I wasn’t taking in enough water, and that I was one of those people who just dehydrated easily.
I got another dehydration “attack” this summer when flying with my aunt in a glider. The experience in the glider was wonderful but, again I got a bout of dehydration and I asked my aunt to land the plane. I felt nauseous, tired and exhausted. I had to lie down for a bit and drink lots of water.
I later had a chat with her husband, who’s a doctor. He told me that it wasn’t normal to dehydrate so quickly and easily. He asked me if I felt extremely thirsty before it happens, and I told him that I did feel some thirst, but not that much. I also told him that it happened to me several times during sparring. He told me that this was definitely not normal, and that my body should feel a lot of thirst first, and would need to stop exercising before the dehydration and collapse set in.
He said there might be something wrong with my kidneys, and suggested I have them checked. Well, I saw a doctor in Bahrain a couple of months later and explained the whole story to him. The doctor took some blood and urine samples and said he’d get back to me.
The Strange Results
He called me a few days later and told me he had the results…. he told me I was in perfect health and that my cholesterol levels were some of the best he’d ever seen! Kidney function was normal and I had no infections or problems of any sort.
To be honest I was relieved and yet a bit disappointed. I was happy to hear that I was in good health, which really is no big surprise, since I live a healthy lifestyle. I eat well, exercise and never drink or smoke. But part of me was disappointed. If I’m in perfect condition, why do I get dehydrated so easily? Lately, this has been coupled with some fatigue.
I was pretty sure it had to do with stress. Over the last few years I had to deal with a lot of pressure and my stress levels just went through the roof. But I had no way of measuring the effect of the stress on me.
Spitting in a Tube
When I discussed this with my wife, who is (a very good) nutritional therapist, she suggested I have my saliva tested. A saliva analysis would show things that a blood and urine sample would not. So I spent a day spitting in a test tube over five intervals. Starting from when I first wake up until midnight.
My wife took the samples with her to the UK on her recent trip (apparently no one knows how to do this kind of analysis here). The lab later emailed us the results.
The Truth is Finally Revealed
The analysis they did measured two hormone levels, Cortisol and DHEA (which I have no idea what it stands for). Anyway, it seems that my cortisol levels were low – something blood and urine samples do not show.
According to the report: “Overall this is an indication of normal adaptation to both chronic and acute stressors, however there is some variation in the individual timed readings. In the context of a patient with very long-standing stressors (years) it can indicate either good coping/adaptation methods, or represent hormone levels “dropping through” normal ranges on the way to depleted levels after having been over stimulated for many years. In such a case a follow up test in 2 – 3 months is recommended.”
Well, I certainly went through “chronic” and “acute stressors” over the last few years. I’m proud to have achieved in the last five years what others could not do in twenty. It’s great being a successful martial artist, entrepreneur and author. But what many people don’t see is the stress I went through, and the many, many, sleepless nights, and the crying and frustration.
When people express admiration for my achievements I thank them, but I often add that I probably aged ten years in the last five years. Just getting the Dream Body Centre off the ground was a whole adventure on it’s own (DBC VIP members and long time Zen-Do Times readers know what I’m talking about).
According to my in-house nutritional therapist and mother of my children, I was in what is called “Stage Two Stress.” And apparently, Stage Three Stress is really bad.
Here’s what she told me. The adrenal glands release several hormones, and if your hormone levels are imbalanced, you get all kinds of problems. This effects blood sodium ion levels, potassium and fluid volumes in the body. Which affects hydration (or in my case, dehydration) levels.
Here are some more interesting facts for you…
When you are stressed, the adrenal glands secrete Cortisol, which is a stress hormone (you could say the brother of adrenaline, which is also a stress hormone, see my self-defence book for a more in-depth discussion of adrenaline).
According to Mrs. Suhail, cortisol helps you deal with stress and it also gives you that “high” you sometimes get when you’re stressed. HOWEVER, over the long term it’s not good for you and can cause havoc on your system. Here’s a list of the symptoms prolonged cortisol exposure can cause:
– Fatigue (yep, got that)
– Irritability, agitation (I don’t think I have this, but it seems my wife and people working for me have an entirely different opinion)
– Euphoria (YEEEHA! I’m one euphoric guy! That’s why I only buy my CD’s and DVD’s from that place in the Seef Mall)
– Resistance to stress (I can take you baby! Bring it on!)
– Diabetes (None yet and God willing never)
– Sleep disturbance (what sleep?)
– High blood pressure (Nope! BP is excellent!)
– High cholesterol and triglycerides (Nope! Thank God for a fit and healthy lifestyle)
– Muscular weakness + wasting (No wonder I’ve been losing about a kilo a year of weight. In 2002 I was 83 kg, now I’m 79 kg and sinking…)
– Psychiatric troubles (Kill! Kill! Kill!)
– Irregular menses (That’s the monthly thing women get – not relevant here…)
– Weight gain – central obesity (That’s the “apple shape”. I wouldn’t say I’m apple-shaped but I’ve got a bit more fat on my abdomen than I’d like)
-‘Buffalo hump’ (That’s when you see people with sort of a round hump on the back. My back has always been slightly rounded, but I’ve got structural scoliosis)
– Red and moon face (Nope…)
– Hirsutism (I have no idea what this means. I am, and always have been, a Muslim)
– Thin and atrophic skin burns in the sun (I don’t spend much time in the sun…)
– Bruisability (I guess I get bruised in sparring sometimes, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it’s more or less than the average person)
– Purple striae (My favourite colour is Zen-Do Yellow)
– Poor wound healing (Dunno, I’ll tell you when I get wounded)
– Proximal sarcopenia (somebody PLEASE get me a medical dictionary. As far as I know, I’ve never proximally sarcopenged anyone)
Now I finally know what’s “wrong” with me. It’s strange to be fit and healthy, yet unwell at the same time.
I’m now working on reducing my stress levels. This will be a bit of a challenge considering all the things I have planned to do over the next 6 months. I literally have hundreds of things on my To Do list. Yesterday I worked about 13 hours. It’s not unusual for me to do 16 hour days, often starting from as early as 4:00 am!
Paying The Price, And Other Thoughts
How do I feel about all this? To be honest it doesn’t bother me. I rarely feel sorry for myself, and I’m not telling you this so you bring out the violin and play oh-poor-you melodies.
The other day I was talking to the kids in our Youth Black Belt Club. I was discussing the second habit of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, which is “Begin With The End In Mind.” In a nutshell, it’s about goal setting.
I explained to the kids that the first part of setting your goals is to “count the cost” of the goal. You have to decide what sacrifices you’re willing to make in order to reach your goals.
Well, part of the price I have to pay for my goals and aspirations is that if affects my health once in a while. I know many entrepreneurs (especially in the martial arts industry) who were so busy that they’ve sacrificed their families.
They divorce and become estranged from their children. From the very beginning I made the conscious choice never to let my businesses and my goals and aspirations affect my family. And I’m glad to tell you that we’re a very closed-knit family. I’m very close to my kids and I make a point of seeing them daily, even if it’s just for a few minutes. And then the weekend is dedicated almost entirely to them. Today I’m planning to leave work “early” at 5:00 pm so I can put them to bed.
I’ll often wake up at 4:00 am so I get enough work done so I’ll be free to have lunch with the kids. If my cortisol levels go up, and my hormones get messed up as a result, then so be it. I believe you should never complain about the negative things that can happen as a result of the path you’ve chosen.
No one forced me on this path, I chose it, and I accept the consequences of it. Life is always in a Ying-Yan state. You can’t feel happiness until you’ve tasted sadness and despair. You can’t revel in the feeling of success until you’ve tasted bitter disappointment and embarrassing failure (which I’ve tasted more times than I care to mention).
Overall, I’m an extremely happy guy living the ideal lifestyle. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me. No one has the perfect life. No one – and if they say they do, they’re probably lying.
The truth is there’s no such thing as a perfect life. You have to decide what perfect means to you, and try to get there, and stay there, as often as you can.
So What Can You Learn From All This?
Well, first of all, don’t whine and complain when things go bad – no matter how bad they are. Success, wealth and happiness NEVER make their way to professional whiners – NEVER. They only come to proactive people. It’s one of the laws of the universe.
Second, make sure you have goals and set yourself on the path to achieving them, but count the cost. Make sure you’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
Third, watch those stress levels! Just because you’ve got goals and aspirations doesn’t mean you neglect yourself and your health. Take time off to do relaxing things, as I’m doing more of now.
Fourth, have a healthy lifestyle! I think I’d be ten times worse if it weren’t for my healthy lifestyle. Thank God for my martial arts training – and Yoga and proper eating habits. I also abhor (I mean REALLY abhor) alcohol and smoking.
If you’re stressed, and have a bad lifestyle, and smoke and drink… God help you my friend. Stage Three Stress is gonna get you! Or worse, you might find yourself collapsing one day and waking up surrounded by a couple of robed, winged, blurry figures trying to decide which direction to take you, “up or “down.”
Do take care of yourself. Someone once told me the reason they weren’t exercising and eating well is because they wanted to enjoy their life – “life is too short.” That’s exactly why you need to take care of yourself, life’s too short NOT to exercise, eat well, and live well.
If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for those you love…
That’s all for today my friend. Thanks for taking the time to read this and I’ll talk to you soon.