Friday, August 5, 2011

How You Feel...Maybe Altitude Related?

You know how much we love Cuenca, and we've counted the ways here many times.  So much good to offer as a City with lots of beauty, lots of services...

But some friends feel so much better outside of Cuenca!  Expats and Ecuadorians both.

We don't know the science (if there is any), we just know by their stories, that they feel mucho better at their country homes, than they do in Cuenca. 

Could be the fresh country air, could be the lower altitude.  Some of their country homes are in Yunguilla,  about 2000 ft lower altitude than here in the City.  Maybe there are allergies from the diesel fumes and construction dust in Cuenca, maybe different plants and flowers.  Maybe it's the warmer temperatures in the Yunguilla Valley or different foods, or just the peace and quiet and beauty in the country.

All we really know is that some say they don't suffer from the foggy brain there and the dizziness from just leaning over in Cuenca.  Friends say they sleep better in the country, too.  Could be the higher altitude 'amplifies' other health issues?  We just don't know.

Another friend, who has also been here for a few years, still has trouble breathing at this altitude. When she drops down to lower altitudes, she can breathe so much easier. 

We know we can tell when we're at lower altitude, too. The higher oxygen level in the air makes it easier for us to think and breathe.  The air just feels 'thick', even at a drop of about 1000 ft from Cuenca.  Not that we're aware of major altitude problems  going into 3 years here, but we still do notice the changes at lower levels.  Last time we were at sea level at the Coast, wow!  The air felt so thick you could almost cut it with a knife!  But, it was humid and hot in Guayaquil that day, kind of like we remember San Diego or San Francisco used to feel right before a storm.  Kind of electric air, if that makes sense.  We felt more than fine, but we do in Cuenca, too at 8300 ft.  We also feel just fine at higher altitudes, like when we go up into the Andes for lunch or a walk in the Cajas.  But, we do feel the changes there...  the air is thinner as you go up.  No big problems for us, just feels different.

We guess the take-away lesson here is to pay attention to your body and how you feel.
Of course, there are trade-offs...peaceful, quiet country living vs. busy, noisy city life.  Hard to choose sometimes, but there are lots of choices here in Ecuador.  Some folks feel their best at the beach.  Some are the happiest in the jungle. 
Only you can decide what's best for you. 

Doctors know a whole lot about altitude adjustment here.  Your first few weeks at altitude could make you feel not-so-good, as you adjust.  (Remember, Quito is even higher at 9500 ft.) 

You might also need to adjust your meds, so be sure to check with a doctor.  As you adjust, your blood pressure could be through the roof.  Your sugar counts could be off the charts...and more.  Longer term, some folks don't seem to adjust well at all and do much better at lower heights...if you're one of them, it might be time to move down!  We're not medical folks, but it makes sense to us.

We think conventional medicine shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all.  Even though some doctors will tell you 'you've been here long enough to adjust'...maybe not for you.  If you still feel yucky here and you feel better elsewhere, it might be time for a re-think (or a different doctor).   

Life's too short to feel yucky, when there could be a choice...change the venue,  see the doctor/s.  Better to feel good than sick, don't you think? 

Another observation about health...
We're seeing more newcomers getting sick upon arrival.  Could be all kinds of things...flu, sensitive tummies getting used to the new food and water, could be altitude.  Could be totally unrelated to travel and Cuenca,  but could be the Inca Revenge! We hear folks from here going to the US can also succumb to traveler's 'trots'.
If you're not feeling well, there are good doctors here.  You also might want to check with the pharmacy for meds, too, and stay with bottled water (even though Cuenca's tap water is usually fine for most folks, including us, but it is a higher mineral count than what you might be used to).
Altitude adjustment can also mess up your digestion, so go easy on the food.  You also might feel booze, caffiene and sugar effects more at this altitude.  If you've been thowing up or running to the bathrom alot, you might need Pedialyte (or something similar for electrolyte balance) to help you get back to normal.  You can get it at the pharmacy. 
Mate de Coca tea can help with altitude problems.  You can find the tea in some of the small shops, some hotels and restaurants, or in the markets.  We don't think you can buy the tea in the US to bring with you. We don't think you can take it back to the US through customs either.


We're celebrating some big milestones this month!  Rich turns the big 7-0!  We're also celebrating our 2 year mark as official, legal residents.  August is a birthday month for friends, too, as well as the celebration of the Independence of Ecuador (officially Aug 10, but the holiday this year is celebrated on the 12th.)

So --- stay tuned...we'll be sharing some party pics later.

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