It’s “that” time of year. That’s what I keep hearing from friends and family. It’s the time of year when we all get sick, especially kids, and spend countless hours at the doctor’s office and countless dollars at the pharmacy. It’s the first week of December and my social media news feeds are swarmed with complaints of sick kids and sick parents. So far I’ve seen, pneumonia, strep throat, ear infections (lots of ear infections), sinus infections, stomach viruses, the flu and migraines in kids. I’ve seen Facebook posts about the countless number of doctors visits these people have had for their children who can’t seem to be able to heal completely between sicknesses.
As a family who mainly uses holistic health practices to keep our family strong and healthy, only turning to western medicine when it’s an absolute must, I thought I’d share the top six things we do on a daily basis to stay healthy and to recover quickly when one of us does catch a bug. These are all easy things you can tie into your day, no matter how busy your schedule is and they’ll keep you feeling your best.
1.) The first thing we do is the easiest. Drink water, lots of water and only water. Yes, that’s right, I said only water. Children and adults do not need anything to drink other than good ‘ol water; no juice, no milk. Drinking plenty of water each day allows your body to easily flush out unwanted substances, such as bad bacteria or viruses. Milk and juice are both high in sugar content, which can help feed the bad bacteria. Children who drink juice or milk (and adults too) are simply adding sugar to their diet. The sugar content outweighs the vitamin content, so don’t be fooled by the label telling you that juice is a good source of vitamins. Yes, this is true for the juices with no added sugar as well because the juice does not contain any of the fruit’s fiber. The fiber in fruit slows down the digestion, therefore the absorption of the fruit’s natural sugar. When the fiber is missing, such as with fruit juice, you’re going to experience a spike in blood sugar and then a blood sugar crash. This leads to fatigue, which can lead to less activity, which brings me to my next step to staying healthy.
2.) Stay physically active, even when you can’t get outdoors. When cold weather strikes, most of us tend to be less active. Let’s face it, when it gets dark by 5pm it’s not exactly easy to go outside after work and school and run around in the yard, walk the dog or go to the park. But, it’s important to make sure every person in the family is getting plenty of physical activity. For us that means, heading the to gym, braving the cold basement to get on the treadmill and lift weights, or bundling up and going for a hike or bike ride. For our kids, they continue their sports through the winter, giving them multiple days of practice each week and they join us on hikes and walks, no matter how cold it is. And on the days when it’s hard to squeeze in physical activity we’ll do a yoga video before bed, giving us at least a little workout. Physical activity has too many benefits to mention, but when it comes to fighting sickness you can guarantee being physically active will help your body to detox through sweat and heavy breathing (increase in oxygen intake). Exercise not only keeps your muscles and bones strong, it keeps your cardiovascular system and respiratory system strong, helps control blood pressure and keeps your weight in check.
3.) The third tip on my list is to limit sugar intake. I touched on this briefly in number one, but it’s such an important part of staying healthy, it deserves it’s own number. The two hardest parts of controlling sugar intake, especially when you have children, is not being aware of hidden sugar and not being aware of what is too much sugar. This means two things need to happen. One, you need to become educated on how much sugar is too much sugar and you need to start reading labels. It’s recommended children do not have more than 3 tsp (12 grams) of added sugar a day, men can have up to 9 tsp (36 grams) and women up to 6 tsp (24 grams) of added sugar per day (These recommendations come from the American Heart Association). If you’ve ever taken the time to read packaged food labels you’ll notice, these recommendations are awfully strict, I mean most granola bars or yogurt containers (both seemingly healthy foods) contain more than 12 grams of sugar! So, limiting your added sugar intake is going to require eating less processed and packaged foods and more whole foods. Now to clarify, added sugar includes, granulated sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, and any other form of “sugar” that is being added to foods to sweeten them. It does not include the natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables. And that brings me to number four.
4.) This time of year, when we’re fighting germs, bacteria and viruses, it’s even more important to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Fruits and vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which all work in our body to fight disease. It’s easy to get enough fruits and veggies when you are limiting added sugar and not eating packaged foods. Some simple ways to add extra servings are to replace processed snacks (or lunch box contents) with an apple and peanut butter, carrots with hummus, mixed berries or cabbage slaw. A fun way to get your kids involved with eating more fruits and veggies is to focus on eating the rainbow. What kid doesn’t love a rainbow? You can focus on eating the rainbow each day or over a week’s time, eating a variety of red foods one day, orange foods the next, and so on. These foods are, of course supposed to be whole fruits and vegetables; whole meaning in their natural state, not processed. If you have a picky eater it’s okay to supplement with a multi vitamin.
5.) Limit your exposure to chemicals. You may be asking, “What does that mean?” When I’m speaking of chemicals, I’m speaking of cleaning solvents, beauty products, antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, and so on. Now you may be asking, “What does this have to do with staying healthy?” Well, I’ll try to put it in the simplest terms possible. Every time you touch or breath chemicals, such as the ones listed above, those chemicals are going into your body via your skin or lungs. Once those chemicals are in your system, your body now has to figure out what to do with them. They are not substances our bodies are prepared to handle, they are foreign, so it takes a lot of work and energy for our bodies to figure out how to process these chemicals. All of the work and energy your body is using to deal with the chemical overload could be spent fighting diseases. Imagine this, you wake in the morning, shower using conventional shampoo, conditioner, and body soap, then apply lotion, make up (if you’re a woman), perfume or cologne, then head to work, where they just cleaned with bleach (you know because you can smell it, therefore, you’re breathing it in), then come home to do laundry with conventional detergent and softeners, cook supper and clean with conventional soap, then go to give your child a bath using the same soaps you did this morning. The entire day your body has been dealing with processing chemicals, meanwhile, earlier in the day you were exposed to a virus and your body hasn’t had the time to deal with it because it’s been busy. Now, you’ll wake up in the morning sick. There are many brands that make all of the mentioned products using natural, plant materials and do not contain the harsh chemicals. I recommend doing some online research before heading to the store, so you can find the best plant based products without spending and arm and a leg.
6.) I couldn’t write this post without mentioning essential oils. Why? Well, because they are a huge part of our healthy lifestyle. We use them to keep our immune systems strong, so we have an easier time fighting germs, we use them for increased antioxidant intake, and we use them to keep our respiratory systems healthy. There are hundreds of essential oils. The oils are extracted from plants of various types and contain many healing plant compounds. They can be diffused in to the air, giving aromatherapy, applied topically, so they can be absorbed through the skin, and if you know they are 100% pure and do not contain any fillers or extraction chemicals they can be used internally. Many essential oils, such as citrus essential oils contain powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants create an unfriendly environment for free radicals in our body, meaning they help fight disease. Our family has also been able to replace many of the chemicals mentioned in number 5 with products containing essential oils, instead of chemicals. Adding the use of essential oils to your family’s daily routine can ensure a healthier lifestyle. If you’d like to get started I recommend starting with a starter kit, which includes the most useful, everyday oils and a home diffuser and can be found here. I know there’s a lot to learn and essential oils can be overwhelming at first, so if you’d like more information before you get started you can contact me.