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  • Writer's pictureKaren Bobinski

How to optimize your health and wellness during a pandemic

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Food is medicine

First of all...don't PANIC. While a Pandemic is certainly serious, panic just raises cortisol levels which in turn compromise your immunity. Hoarding toilet paper doesn't help either.

What can you do?

There are many things you can do to optimize your health, but lets start with your diet:

"Eat the rainbow" is a perfect term to keep in mind when it comes to your health. Eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables and fruits ( 7-10 servings a day) will ensure you are providing yourself with a good dose of vitamins and nutrients and fiber that your body needs to maintain a healthy state.

70% of your immune system is located in your gut. Your microbiome (ie resident bacteria) thrive on a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, pre and probiotics. The fiber found in produce is the ideal "food" for your gut. You NEED vegetables and fruit to maintain a healthy microbiome. Its that simple.

Load up on a variety of vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits contain an abundance of fiber and antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and flavonoids.

Fiber is a plant based nutrient. It is a form of carbohydrate, yet it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules. Instead, it passes through the intestinal tract relatively intact although along its journey it is "fermented" which creates butyrate - a short chain fatty acid. Butyrate is an important source of fuel for the cells of the lining of the gut. It supports villi growth an mucin production. It prevents inflammation in the gut and supports a healthy immune system.

Fiber is soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps decrease blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber speeds up the passage of food, and decreases constipation by bulking up your stool making it easier to pass. Having regular bowel movements helps reduce the toxin load on your body by removing waste faster. To understand more about the importance of healthy bowel movements, read this blog

Vitamin C is an antioxidant which offers protection for your cells against the effects of free radicals. It is needed to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. It is vital to your body's healing process. Food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, berries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and and immune system enhancer. It not only protects cells from free radicals, but it also can stop the production of free radicals entirely. Food sources of vitamin E : beet greens, collard greens and spinach, pumpkin, red bell pepper, asparagus, mango, avocado as wells as nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin - meaning fat helps increase it's absorption.

Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fats, along with nuts, seeds and extra virgin olive oil

Lutein is a form of carotenoid vitamin related to beta-carotene and vitamin A. It is especially good for eye health. Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, orange pepper, kiwi fruit, grapes, zucchini, orange, squash, broccoli. Lutein is fat soluble and best eaten with a source of healthy fat for optimum absorption.

Lycopene is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family. Lycopene may also protect your body against the damage caused by pesticides, herbicides, and certain types of fungi.

It is the red and pink pigment in foods and found in tomato, guava, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, red pepper.

Beta-carotene, found predominantly in fruits and vegetables with red, orange or yellow color, is an important antioxidant. It converts to vitamin A in the body, another fat soluble vitamin - again best eaten with a healthy source of fat. Carrots, sweet potato, cantaloupe, red and yellow peppers, apricots, squash are some if the highest forms of beta carotene found in food.

Foods to avoid:

Added SUGAR! Sugar has a negative effect on the immune system. Aside from the sugar high and subsequent "slump" that leads to further poor food choices - Studies have shown that after ingesting refined sugar, your white blood cells (neutrophils) become more sluggish and are unable to affectively attack bacteria for several hours after. Consider if you are ingesting refined sugar throughout the day - you are effectively reducing your immune system capabilities all day.

A higher refined sugar intake also leads to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. Ideally, we want to keep our sugar intake around 25 grams per day. Thats like 6 teaspoons of sugar.

Sugar is found in sodas, energy drinks, lattes, processed foods, alcohol, cereals, baked goods, and even perceived healthy foods such as flavored yogurt and granola bars.

donuts are delicious - but not a great choice for nourishing your body

Hydrate well! Water - water - water ! Water is essential for optimal organ function and aids in removing toxins from your body. Typically - unless you are on water restrictions for medical reasons - an average human requires 1/2 an ounce of water for each pound of body weight. Being well hydrated increases your energy and water is a much better choice of beverage for this as opposed to coffee and energy drinks which actually act as diuretics and sugary sodas which may provide a hit of energy but always followed by a big sugar crash or slump.For further information regarding the benefits of water - refer to this article

Manage stress. Worry is like a rocking chair - it keeps you busy but doesn't get you anywhere. At times like this stress can be significant. Stress has a negative impact on your immune system . It increases your cortisol levels leading to chronic inflammation and lowers your lymphocytes -your "natural killer cell" count which is particularly important when fighting off viral infections.

Consider the following ways in which you can reduce stress :

Deep breathing / meditation , Yoga, journaling, relaxing bath, relaxing music, watching funny shows, spending time in nature, spending time connecting with loved ones, reading, walking, or even pounding out a good workout.

deep breathing, meditation, fresh air and nature all help reduce stress

Sleep. Sleep is so vitally important. It is our body's time to rest and repair. Without adequate sleep we get run down and therefore that directly impacts our immunity.

Ideally - we want 7-8 hours minimum every night . Avoiding eating a few hours before bed can optimize your natural repair process. If your body has food to digest while sleeping- 65% of your energy is focused on that when it should be concentrating on rest and repair.

Sunshine is the best source of natural vitamin D. Vitamin D is important in facilitating normal immune function. Stepping outside for 10 - 30 minutes of sunshine several times a week can help maintain healthy vitamin D levels. If you live somewhere where sunshine is limited you may want to get your vitamin D levels tested and consider supplementing with D3 upon the advice of your health care provider.

And then of course there are the obvious things most people are already practicing:

Be diligent about hand washing. Use soap - antibacterial is NOT necessary, any soap will do. Wash well for at least 20 seconds, making sure you get in between your fingers, your finger tips, palms and back of hands. Rinse well and shut tap off with the paper towel you used to dry your hands. Wash your hands before eating or preparing food, after sneezing, coughing, blowing nose. After being in public places, after using the washroom, after cleaning.

Hand washing is your BEST defense

Do not touch your face unless you have fresh washed hands. Viruses enter the body via the eyes, nose and mouth.

Clean commonly touched surfaces more frequently - your cell phone is probably the dirtiest! Think of all the surfaces that are frequently touched - door knobs, stair rails, sink taps, counters, fridge handles, cupboard /drawer handles et.

If you are sick - stay home.

Self quarantine - according to CDC, self quarantine is avoiding contact with other people and social situations if you are currently well - but may have been in contact with an ill person / confirmed case. This prevents the spread as even though you are not exhibiting symptoms, you may be a carrier.

Self isolation is the practice of remaining indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people. You may need to do this if you are experiencing symptoms and have yet to be tested, are awaiting test results or you have a positive test result.

Social distancing is a public health strategy to prevent or slow the spread of an infectious pathogen. This means avoiding crowded areas, malls, theaters, concerts, festivals. Encouraging working from home. Avoiding public transportation and unnecessary travel. Keeping at least a 6-8 foot distance from others. Avoiding physical contact with others.

Have a little patience and faith. Wether you practice spirituality, belong to a religious group or are an atheist - having in people, the process and the fact that these viruses eventually do fizzle out will help you remain patient at a time where things seem so uncertain.

*Disclaimer : this blog is written for the purpose of information and entertainment purposes only. It is not for medical advice, or replace the advise of your practitioners. Any changes / additions you choose to make to your diet, exercise or supplements should be first consulted with your personal health care provider*

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