Trying to Be Healthier Gave Me More Than a Glow

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Today, Adele discovers that being extremely healthy can have unexpected results.

Lunch at work with my fellow physical therapists usually resembles a meeting of obnoxious health freaks. Between bites of our salads and protein drinks, we discuss our latest fitness programs and who is getting in or out of shape.

We would never smoke or do prescription drugs, but we drink a lot of caffeine. The coffee maker is constantly brewing.

But I should have known we were heading down a slippery slope when the coffee became progressively more politically correct. We went from Maxwell House to Starbucks, and from there, it was a quick fall into free-trade-rain forest blends. Then, one-by-one, my co-workers quit coffee. I was the last to buckle, morosely joining them in organic chai and green tea blends.

It's hard to come off of Starbucks. We quickly replaced the tea with guarana-laced energy drinks until one of us had heart palpitations from drinking too much Zipfizz.

Next came the fad diets. The South Beach Diet. The Blood Type Diet. The Low-Glycemic Index Diet. And most recently, the No-Corn-Syrup Diet.

Although I'd always assumed my co-workers were the crazy ones and I was just good-naturedly putting up with their obsessions, I surprised myself by being the one who really went over the edge.

It started innocently enough, with an over-analysis of my cholesterol results during lunch with my rabid co-workers, to whom having normal results is never good enough. "Your HDL levels should be higher then that, considering all the biking you do."

We consulted the cardiology physician's assistant, who, although agitated at being paged with a non-emergency question, agreed with my co-workers' suggestion that I increase my vitamin B3 (niacin) intake.

I bought a bottle of niacin in the hospital PX and took a quick 500-mg dose: five pills. Shortly after, I felt a full body flush start at my core and spread to my extremities.

I glanced down at my arms and was alarmed to see my skin turning a deep, mottled red.

I rushed into my supervisor's office.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company