In these crazy times many people are finding it difficult to cope with the uncertainty of the situation and the fear that is rising up. I want to offer a couple of messages for you today in hopes that they will help you get through this turbulent period with more ease and grace. This is a two part blog so be sure to stay tuned for part 2 to see what herbs that I recommend for staying and/or getting healthy!
We are definitely in a place of not knowing what is coming next. The situation could get catostrophic, fizzle out, or (most likely) end up somewhere between those two extremes and us humans don’t like that much uncertainty!
By this point we all know the basic guidelines of social distancing and good hygiene that everyone is preaching and all of us should be participating in, so I’m not going to go over that here. What I’m going to focus on in this blog post are three things that I don’t see much info on out there…
Those things are:
1. How to keep calm
2. How to keep healthy, and
3. How to work with specific herbs and health strategies to help you weather this storm. (this will be in part 2)
So lets start with…
#1 Keep Calm.
Because it MATTERS to your health!
Keeping calm means not freaking out! Of course we can’t be naive and blindly optimistic about how this will all be just fine. We need to practice basic safety precautions but if we allow ourselves to get too worked up and worried we will start to sabotage our immune system. As you may know when you worry and stress, your brain and central nervous system react to those thoughts just the same as if there was a real life tiger chasing you. Seriously, anything that activates your fight or flight/stress response (aka the Sympathetic Nervous System) releases adrenalin and cortisol into your body. Cortisol is the main stress hormone that sends blood to your arms, your legs and your “reptilian” brain stem, which drives it away from your vital organs, your gut, and your logical thinking frontal brain. Studies have proven that stress decreases the body’s immune system response.
Often, when you’re in a state of constant worry or paranoia it may seem like it’s even beyond your ability to stop, even if you logically know it’s pointless and even bad for you! There are techniques and strategies though to help you change this heightened state. You can go HERE to download a handout I made that describes a simple technique on how to mentally “discharge” the emotional limbic system.
Also, check out this great list of evidence-based recommendations for bolstering mental resilience. https://www.thehour.com/lifestyle/article/A-psychologist-s-science-based-tips-for-emotional-15135619.php
Additionally, things that make us feel happy, connected and energized are actually proven to enhance our immune cell responses and our emotions play a huge roll in how our immune system functions. There is an entire field of study called psychoneuroimmunology that is dedicated to this topic. It is now known that our moods and our since of connection have a profound effect on strengthening immune cells such as our B cells, T cells, natural killer [NK] cells, and macrophages, which all serve to enhance our ability to fight off pathogenic invaders! On the flip side, stress and social isolation trigger the body to release adrenaline and cortisol, which can significantly weaken overall immune function. Decreasing these stress hormones can be done by practicing meditation and connecting with friends and family (even if it currently has to be done over the internet or phone).
#2. Keep healthy.
Besides the mental-emotional tactics and strategies there are of course other things that we can be doing right now while this flu is spreading through the country, and that is to be sure to focus on getting sunshine, fresh air, exercise and good nutrition (including abundant sources of vitamins A, C, and D).
Avoid foods with added sugar and empty carbs if possible, especially at this time, and keep more of a focus on building the body and the microbiome of the gut. The gut is the front line of our immune system’s response and the gut lining is the barrier to our internal world. Our guts are meant to house a complex and diverse ecosystem full of different types of living micro-organisms (think rainforest). Eating processed foods, added sugar, and taking antibiotics leaves our gut imbalanced and inflamed, looking more like a clear-cut mountaintop and less like a vibrant jungle!
Instead of empty foods we can nurture our gut with whole foods and fiber from vegetables and fruits so that the beneficial bacterial cultures there can thrive and protect us as they were intended to. If the barrier is breeched and the invader gets deeper into the body we have to work harder to deal with the problem and our focus then has to at least somewhat shift to other strategies such as taking antimicrobial herbs or even medications.
The body loves a variety of plant nutrients. It can do okay on the regular vegetables and fruits that you can find in the stores but it does even better if you mix in even a few heirlooms, spicy and pungent mixed greens, or herbs from the garden!
Click on the link below for part 2 which I outline specific and evidence based herbs that you can take to keep your immune system strong and that will help you fight off a variety of infections if you do get sick.