May we all find health and happiness in the year ahead...in the meantime...focus on wellness!
As we enter 2021, still very much in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, what better time then now to focus on health. It’s such a small word, but perhaps it is something we take for granted…until it is gone. I remember a book signing I went to years ago, where the author, a woman diagnosed with an incurable and inoperable cancer, was asked how she lived day to day knowing that she had cancer. Her answer was that she chose not to let herself get carried away with worries about things that were not factual. You know - worries about the “what-ifs” and “maybes”. She focused on taking control over the things that she did have control over...things like her mental state, diet, and different aspects of her physical health. Her response has been hugely important to me as a cancer survivor and natural worrier. I hope it can be helpful to you to. There are so many "what-ifs" in life, why waste our time worrying about those when we can focus on the present and play an active role in the wellness of our whole body. If you want to read more about the author I mentioned, check her out. She is a vibrant wellness activist with a hot pink streak in her hair and a New York Times best-selling author with several great books and online resources…www.kriscarr.com.
Now, what can you DO?
*The below information is intended for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please work with a medical professional who can help provide further guidance to ensure that any additions or changes to your diet and lifestyle are appropriate and safe for you.
While we now have vaccines against COVID-19, there are still a lot of unknowns in terms of the impact that this might have on the pickle we all find ourselves in. While a powerful tool and one that I am in support of, this can not remain our only weapon against this virus or others. As we enter into the new year, this is a great time to pause, reflect, and reset. Sometimes we set goals, establish new habits, or revisit elements of self-care that were forgotten. In this post, I want to highlight what we can do to keep our bodies and our immune systems strong.
By now, we're all familiar with things like the importance of good sleep, staying hydrated, exercise and getting a good sweat on, frequent 20-second hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing, so I’m going to highlight a few others that I really like. Definitely keep doing all the ones that I just mentioned! They are no less important.
Without further ado...let food be thy medicine.
Ginger root tea
Ginger is a natural antibiotic and antiviral plant. It is often used in Chinese medicine to help moderate the effect of other medicinal herbs that are considered energetically cold. For those who are big on juicing, ginger is great when added to a green juice. The warming quality of ginger helps to neutralize the cold quality of raw vegetables making them much less harsh on your digestion. Back to the tea…notice that I said ginger root and not ginger tea bag. This is important. Ginger root tea can be made by placing several slices of ginger root in boiling water, covering the pot, turning off the heat and letting it steep for 45 minutes to an hour. This amount of time is also important. A couple of cups daily might be used for prevention while multiple cups with frequent sipping throughout the day may be advised during a respiratory infection. If you are on the go, I love this method…throw several slices of ginger in a thermos, add hot water prepared for tea, cover, and forget about it. By the time you remember – it is ready to drink! Sometimes ginger gets a bit spicy or hot, if you like, add a splash of apple juice to make it more palatable. Caution with dosage if you're elderly, pregnant, on blood thinners or have thrombocytopenia.
Think plant-based here...add in all those rainbow colored fruits and veggies. Increasing your intake of foods that come from the earth and are nourished by the soil and the sun, rather than those that come in cardboard boxes or packages. Plant-based diets tend to be higher in the things we want more of like fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, micronutrients and phytochemicals, while at the same time being lower in the things we want less of like saturated fats and cholesterol. Variety and balance is important here. Too much of a single thing can become, shall we say...less healthful. Try to avoid being too restrictive and eating too much of a single food...switch it up! Foods to highlight here are those high in zinc (beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts & seeds) and quercetin (capers, red onions, organic tomatoes, grapes, berries, kale). These are not exclusive lists, so I encourage you to explore on your own and see what fruits and veggies you can add in.
I had a relative who swore by hot water with lemon and would always sip this while the others were sipping coffee. She was a smart lady! It's pretty simple...squeeze half a lemon in a mug of hot water and drink. This is best taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It stimulates the gastrointestinal tract and gives the immune system a boost with the vitamin C, antibacterial and antiviral properties of lemon. I add lemon to my ginger tea mentioned above and with that method, I can check two of these wellness tips off my list!
Here is a combo recipe I tried this past year. It's easy to make, easy to take, and really pretty simple. Oh, and it tastes good! My kids didn't necessarily love it, but tolerated it just fine when followed by a few sips of water. It's antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal. It can be used both prophylactically and therapeutically. We already talked about some of the benefits of ginger and lemon so here we'll chat a bit about garlic and honey. When garlic is chopped or crushed, it releases allicin, a compound that is both antibacterial and anti-fungal. This compound is destroyed when garlic is cooked, so to maximize these benefits, we need it raw and who really wants to gnaw on a clove of raw garlic? Honey is antibacterial and anti-fungal, in addition to being a source of antioxidants. When you combine all these foods together...POW! It's an immune boost and anti-germ punch. You'll need either a blender or food processor and some sort of sealable container to store it in when you're finished. A small mason jar works great. Add 2 lemons (peeled and chopped), 1/2 cup fresh ginger (peeled and chopped), 1/2 cup garlic cloves (peeled), and 1/2 cup raw organic honey*. Pulse or blend until this turns into a paste. This is best taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Generally, you would take 1-2 tsp daily for prevention and 1 tsp every 3-4 hrs if fighting a cold. The tonic can be stored in a sealable container in the fridge. *Honey is not appropriate for children under 1 yr of age.
Vitamins and Supplements
Vitamin C, vitamin D3, and zinc are a few I want to highlight here. Again, I'm going to emphasize the importance of working with a medical professional for appropriate and individual guidance and dosage. For vitamin C, you want pure vitamin C or powdered ascorbic acid, not the sugar laden varieties. For vitamin D3, sometimes it might be helpful to know your blood levels before supplementing, as too much for too long can be harmful. Here, we want optimal vitamin D levels for immune function. Zinc is a mineral that has been known to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of symptoms of some colds and respiratory infections. A zinc deficiency can also increase your risk of certain infections.
There is so much depth to traditional Chinese herbal medicine and the extent to which it can be helpful. I will emphasize the importance of working with a Chinese herbalist who can tailor a formula to your specific needs and presentation. There are times, when patent (or unmodified) formula is totally appropriate, but for optimal benefits formulas should be modified for the individual, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. There are formulas to help strengthen your body's natural defense and formulas to treat a wide variety symptoms should you become ill. Chinese herbs are a mainstay in our household, both for prevention and treatment of various symptoms. We all take them and I don't travel without them. The kids even love taking their herbs! Most of the pediatric formulas I use are glycerine-based so they taste sweet. I am being completely honest here...the kids will actually ask to have their herbs in the morning! Formulas for adults come in many different forms, so if drinking a slightly less delicious tasting decoction or granular formula is challenging for you, there are plenty of other options.
Well, that's all for now. I hope you've found this information helpful or maybe a place to start for further exploration or discussions with your doctor. May good health and wellness surround you all in this next year and beyond. Be well.