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Guest post by Dr. Stephanie Berg, ND
As everyone takes action to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it’s always good to remember all the easy ways we can take care of our immune systems.
In addition to physical distancing and thoroughly and frequently washing our hands, which are extremely important, below are some simple things we can all do to maintain our health.
5 Steps to Support the Immune System
1. Let Food Be Your Medicine!
Eat a whole-foods, nutrient-dense diet. Our immune system relies on nutrient-dense whole foods to function well. During a time when grocery stores are facing shortages, you want to make food choices that are as nutrient-dense as possible, as opposed to foods with empty calories.
• Try to reduce your sugar and alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingesting. Whole fruit, especially with lots of rich colors, is great – we’re talking about processed foods – high fructose corn syrups, cookies, cakes, etc.
• Eat a rainbow of plant foods. Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables which are high in vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Try to eat every color of the rainbow each day if you can…. leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, squashes, tomatoes, cabbage, oranges, blueberries…
• Ensure adequate protein intake. While most Americans eat adequate amounts of protein, some may such as the elderly populations. Protein is critical for immune function and protein malnutrition is a big risk factor for death from infections. The recommendation is approximately 1 gram/kg or about half your body weight in grams of protein a day. If you eat meat, this is about two four-ounce servings of organic, clean animal protein. For plant-based proteins, opt for legumes, nuts/seeds and tofu and tempeh from non-GMO soy.
• Add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of spices (oregano, turmeric, rosemary) to your meals! Garlic and onions have a broad spectrum antimicrobial properties.
• Eat fermented foods to support your gut microbiome and immunity (70% of the immune system is found in the gut)! Eat sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, miso, tempeh, unsweetened yogurt, kefir – all from the refrigerated section.
2. Stay well hydrated.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially warmer fluids. When it’s warm and toasty indoors this can cause the air to be dry and cause our mucus membranes (especially sinuses) to be dry. Staying hydrated helps your immune cells function, aids in mucus secretion and keeps the mucus membranes moist so that viruses can’t get through. General recommendations are to drink half your body weight in water; however, speak with your medical provider to determine the amount that is most appropriate for you depending on your current health circumstances. Some easy ways to increase hydration:
• Drink herbal teas – especially great if they include some ginger which is another great food with antiviral properties.
• Make soups and broths (with lots of fresh veggies if you can!).
• Keep a bottle of filtered water with you at all times.
• But avoid those concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages.
3. Get physical activity.
Staying home doesn’t mean you can’t get some physical activity! And keeping active stimulates endorphins (the body’s ‘happy chemicals’), so make time for working out indoors or bonus if you are able to exercise outdoors! Natural sunlight will also help regulate your circadian rhythm and promote a good night’s rest. Mild to moderate exercise (for approximately 30-45 minutes) helps boost the immune system. But try to avoid excessive training that makes you feel run down and can lower your immune defenses.
4. Get sufficient sleep!
Inadequate sleep actually impairs the immune system, and when we sleep we allow the body to heal and repair. Aim for seven to eight hours a night. Ideally, turn off your devices like cellphones and computer screens at least an hour before bed. Blue light from laptops and cellphones suppress melatonin and can, therefore, mess with your sleep. And try to find some great ways to help you relax before bed.
5. Relaxation Exercises.
There is still a lot we do not understand about the way the immune system and our mood interact, but it seems that stress plays a role in reducing the effectiveness of the immune system. In this potentially stress-inducing time, try some things to help reduce it! Listen to relaxing music, take a warm bath, read a good book, meditation and breathing exercises, home massage with your loved ones, painting… whatever puts you in your happy place. And if you’re a fan of meditation and breathing exercises, the hype is true – they are great ways to lower stress, and there are lots of apps and internet videos to help.
Lastly, try to remember to focus on the things you can control right now, such as all the things above for a start. And, most importantly, remember you are not alone – don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
For more information on Dr. Berg visit www.naturopathicways.com
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This “famous” pasta has made its rotation in our house for years. It’s packed with tons of veggies and pesto and packs a punch in flavor and offers a bounty of nutrients. I recently discovered a delicious lentil pasta from Modern Table that I have added into the mix as a great alternative to traditional grain pastas. Packed with protein (20 grams) thanks to the addition of lentil and peas and fiber, this blend is also gluten-free pasta and doesn’t have a mushy consistency (hooray!). Check out the recipe below:
Very Veggie Pesto Pasta
Bunch of spinach
Bunch of kale
drizzle of olive oil
1 head of garlic
1 container of pesto (I used Gotham Greens)
A few pieces of mozzarella cheese, optional
Sprinkle of parm cheese, optional
Peel and mince the garlic. Add some olive oil to a pan. Wash and cut up all of veggies and add them to a deep pan. Cover the veggies and stir, occasionally. Add in the pesto and oregano. Start the pasta. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. For more tender pasta, boil an additional minute. Drain the pasta when finished. Add the pasta to the veggie mix (when ready). Devour!
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Guest post by Paul Brethen, co-founder at SoberBuddy
They did it to themselves. They made poor decisions. They weren’t strong enough to kick their dependency. These are just a few ways in which society as a whole has been taught to see addiction. Addiction has been portrayed more as a personal and moral failure than as a disease and health care issue. The truth is, addiction (or substance disorder) is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. The stigma associated with addiction is pervasive throughout our society and prevents us from properly treating and supporting those trying to overcome substance disorder—decreasing the chances of successful recovery and hurting our society as a whole.
Stigma Around Addiction
How you see addiction
Addiction is not what you’ve seen portrayed in movies, on TV or even in the news. You may see addiction as a homeless person who has lost everything to their desperate need for a fix. You may see addiction as the young adult who steals from their own family to get their next hit. And you may see addiction as the raging alcoholic who screams at their partner, trashes the house and then storms out to the bar for another shot. These are not accurate representations of addiction for the majority of those suffering from substance abuse disorder every day.
Addiction can be only on the weekend. Addiction can be needing just a little something to get through each day. Addiction might have a great job, a house in a nice neighborhood and happy kids. Addiction may never drink and drive. For many addicts, it’s hard to recognize they have a substance disorder because they don’t see themselves in what the stigma has portrayed. Society’s stigma of addiction alone can prevent someone from recognizing that they need help. And, if they do realize they need help, they may not want to reach out because they’re afraid of what society will think.
The stigma of addiction is commonplace in our society, and there is a deep shame that comes with admitting you have a problem and need help. In 2018, about 20.3 million people in the United States age 12 and up had a substance abuse disorder. This accounts for about six percent of the total US population and is a larger section of society that you might initially think. For comparison, there were approximately 1.7 million new cases of cancer diagnosed that same year. However, only 3.7 million of those who reported a substance abuse disorder were also receiving any treatment. Why is that number so low?
There is a lot of shame in admitting there’s a problem and seeking help. People see the stigmatized representation of addiction and are afraid that others will treat them differently. The important thing to remember is that addiction is a disease. You wouldn’t fault someone for seeking cancer treatment, taking insulin to control diabetes or medication to relieve IBS symptoms. So, we shouldn’t judge those who are taking control of their substance disorder by seeking treatment.
Unfortunately, society still has a long way to go. In a recent study of 2,002 US adults who are in recovery, researchers found that the stigma of addiction is still experienced. Revelations from the study include:
48.8 percent of the people surveyed said that others ‘assumed I would relapse’
38 percent said they felt like, at times, they were being held to a higher standard than other people
35.7 percent said people avoided them
34.4 percent reported being disrespected
24.9 percent were rejected by family or friends
16.2 percent said they were denied employment
15.2 percent said that it was hard to get medical insurance
You can see why people may dread asking for help, worried that they will be condemned and ostracized by society. When we deter those with substance disorder from getting help, we’re forcing them to try to get sober on their own, which can be incredibly difficult and painful, and will often be unsuccessful. Severe withdrawal can even cause hallucinations, fevers, seizures and confusion. As a society, we need to allow those with addiction to seek medical treatment without worry of stigma.
Importance of empathy and forgiveness
An important first step is acknowledging the roles of empathy and forgiveness. We need to start removing the stigma of addiction and look at it as a healthcare issue. Empathy will help us see ourselves in addicts, humanizing the issue as a disease and making it something to solve together, instead of pushing those with substance dependency away. When we abandon our family and friends to their addiction, we relegate them to fighting the disease alone, and increase their feeling of shame and self-doubt. Additionally, addicts need to forgive themselves. Addiction is a disease and punishing yourself for something that is arguably out of your control doesn’t take you down the path to recovery. Accept that you’re worthy of a healthy and happy life and use that feeling to drive your resolve to get sober.
Squash the stigma
Addition is a disease. By perpetuating myths and the stigma of substance disorder we are condemning addicts to, at the very least, a more difficult recovery path—and most likely to hiding in shame and avoiding treatment. Having so many afraid to ask for help is hurting our society as a whole, and removing the stigma is the only way that we can help people properly recognize what addiction really looks like, understand that it’s not their fault, that they need care and to take the next step on the path toward recovery.
About Paul Brethen: Paul Brethen is the co-founder of SoberBuddy, an evidence-based virtual drug and alcohol recovery coach. Paul has over 20 years of experience as a certified addiction specialist. Prior to joining SoberBuddy, Brethen worked at the Matrix Institute on Addiction as a Clinical and Administrative Director where he helped develop the highly recognized Matrix Treatment Model. He’s also worked as an international consultant training those who work in the field of drug and alcohol substance dependency. In 2009, Paul founded Net for Hope Foundation, an international NGO established to transform underdeveloped communities in Uganda. Paul has been a licensed Marriage, Family Therapist since 1992 and received a masters degree in Marriage, Family, Child Therapy in 1985.
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