Monday, March 30, 2020

Lessons From My Grandma: Ways to Stay Healthy Today

When I was young, my maternal grandma lived with us.  She and I shared a bedroom.  Every night I would ask her to tell me a bedtime story.  My favorites were stories about her growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, picking wild blueberries for the summer solstice, and the time she was stung by a bee.

My grandma also watched over me during the day.  She was a very sweet woman.  She was also very protective of me and my siblings.  A healthy snack was never denied, and she was quick to give me a fresh glass of water.  And she always asked me to take a sweater with me when leaving the house.  I would often run out the door, not listening to her.  Returning home, cold and shivering, she'd immediately scold me, saying I'd catch a cold, and then bundle me up and serve me hot tea.

I always thought she was just a worrier.  But maybe she knew a lot more about how to stay safe and healthy than I previously gave her credit for.  She survived many epidemics.  Tuberculosis was prevalent during her early life.  Diphtheria, Scarlet Fever and the Spanish Flu were just a few of the diseases she weathered.  There wasn't the knowledge of what caused these diseases, let alone how to effectively eradicate them.  People were often following guidance on how to avoid getting sick, and then how to take care of someone if they did get sick.  During my grandmother's lifetime she witnessed the advent of vaccinations and modern medicine that eliminated many of these illnesses and created advanced treatments for many ailments. 

While these horrific epidemics were largely a thing of the past by the time I was a child, my grandma still made sure I took care of myself to avoid getting sick.   Many of us have never dealt with an epidemic, and have been able to go to the doctor to get help when feeling ill.  The coronavirus is a novel virus for the world's population, and until we have effective vaccinations and other treatments, we need to keep ourselves as safe and healthy as possible.

Right now, while we are all working to avoid getting the coronavirus, or to get ourselves through it as quickly as possible, here are some recommendations that have some science behind them.

Wash Your Hands:  Returning home, my grandma always sent me to the sink and made sure I lathered up.  Turns out, now everyone's encouraging us to wash our hands, with soap, for 20 seconds.  Well, I'll gladly sing "Happy Birthday" to myself twice while lathering up, so that I make it to my next birthday, and can enjoy the birthday parties of my loved ones.

Don't Worry So Much:  While my grandma was a worrier, she never wanted me to stress out about things.  Right now while our minds are swirling with worrying thoughts, it is a perfect time to not panic and try to minimize stress.  Recommendations include engaging in activities you enjoy and possibly trying meditation.

Get Fresh Air:  Grandma always enjoyed a nice walk outside, and would often shoo me off the couch to get some fresh air.  Getting outside, enjoying nature and gaining a new perspective are all recommended right now.

Stay Hydrated:  Water is good for you.  Plain tap water is great.  And if you get sick, you need even more water.  So keep yourself hydrated.

Exercise: Getting a good workout in right now can help lower stress, bring down your cortisol levels and help your immune system function.  30-60 minutes a day is recommended.

But Don't Overdo it, Right Now:  Going into this pandemic, I was training for a half marathon.  Great, kept me active and I had a goal to work towards.  Well, my race was the weekend my Governor shut the state down.  No big gatherings allowed and sheltering in place was prescribed.  I was bummed out that I couldn't do my race, and kept running.  But I didn't overdo it.  Overexercise can weaken your immune system.  It has been shown to suppress immune function and increases the chances of contracting an upper respiratory tract infection.

Get Enough Sleep:  Right now it is a great time to get enough sleep.  For help quieting your mind and getting the best sleep possible, here are a few tips.

Get Your Vaccinations!  After putting a bar of soap at every sink in the house, I'll climb up on the soapbox right now and tell you to get your vaccines.  Make sure your vaccines and your family's immunizations are up to date.  And get the flu shot.  Every year.  
My doctor reviewed my chart last year and ordered the pneumonia vaccine for me.  Yes, please.  Why?  Because I have mild asthma, and want every advantage to keep myself breathing easily.

Be Pro Probiotics:  I'm a huge fan of yogurt and especially kefir.  These, along with other probiotics help support the good flora and fauna in our GI tracks, fighting off the bad germs.  If you can, avoid antibiotics.  But if you are fighting a bacterial infection right now, take your antibiotics!  Other foods that can support your microbiome are garlic, onion, ginger, sauerkraut, whole grains and fermented foods.

Watch Your Diet:  While you may be eating "for the end of days" right now, put the junk food down.  As my grandma would say, eat your fruits and vegetables, and whole grains are your friend.  A healthy, balanced diet is your best bet right now.  Nuts and berries, green, leafy vegetables:  Yes.  Junk foods with lots of sugar, sodium and fats:  No.

Limit the Libations:  Yes, my wine industry friends, a glass of wine can help relieve some stress and is full of great flavonoids that have been found to have health benefits, but too much of a good thing can tax your immune system right now.

Stop Smoking:  Your lungs will thank you.  If you are smoking or vaping right now, stop.  You'll reduce your chances of serious illness and complications from coronavirus.

Don't Forget Your Jacket:  While my grandma always urged me to bring a sweater, there isn't strong scientific evidence that proves this is true.  But grandma saw her share of bad illnesses, and how people survived them.  Taking a jacket with me will make me feel better, and remind me of my sweet grandma.

Keep Warm:  Cover your head, wear a scarf, gloves and keep your feet warm.  Yes, grandma!  If you are headed out into the cold, make sure you have a hat on, your muffler around your neck, your hands glvoed and keep your feet warm.

Warm Up If Chilled:  Grandma always bundled me up and gave me hot tea if I did come home chilled.  While I don't know the science of this, after cold water swims I've always been advised to bundle up and drink something hot.  Never hurts!

Grandma's wisdom sure feels comforting right now.

Stay Healthy My Friends.

If you want more information about any of this, here are my sources:

The newshound in me is keeping up on things with these sites:

No comments: