Healing from any injury or illness is greatly influenced by what we put into our bodies. Our choices regarding food, beverages and other substances can either promote health and healing or stress our bodies on a cellular level, slowing or even preventing recovery.
- Avoid processed foods and beverages with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. They do not support your healing. Junk food and diet soda have no place in your recovery! Aspartame (Nutrasweet) has been shown to damage nerve cells.
- Educate yourself on GMOs (genetically modified “organisms”, foods and food ingredients) and try to minimize or avoid consumption whenever possible. For extensive information regarding the potential serious health and environmental repercussions of GM food, please see www.responsibletechnology.org or www.centerforfoodsafety.org
- There is no one right diet for everyone, but probably one or more that are right or wrong for you. Low fat, lo-carb, “zone”, “paleo”, “blood-type”, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free — all have proponents claiming their virtues. Research, trial and error, and intuition will help you choose.However, the following apply for all of us.
- Increase fresh, organic if feasible, vegetables and fruits — for essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Try to “eat a rainbow” of brightly colored produce daily
- Include moderate amounts of beneficial fats/oils—especially monounsaturated (olive) and omega 3 (coldwater fish, flax or hemp seed) — for anti-inflammatory effects, cardiovascular and neurological health. Low fat diets are not beneficial to your health long term.
- Avoid partially hydrogenated trans fats (margarine, shortening) and deep fried food– destructive fats oxidize and break down tissue, particularly nerve cell membranes, and promote inflammation.
- Decrease refined sugar in all forms — can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar, increasing fight-or flight response and insulin surges, ultimately promoting inflammation and weight gain;
- Consider possible food allergies- you may need to try an elimination or rotation diet if you suffer from chronic symptoms. Gluten, wheat, corn, soy and dairy products are common “allergic” substances promoting swelling and inflammation.
- Increase pure water to 8 to 12 twelve ounce glasses a day. Some of this allotment can be lightly brewed herbal tea. Good tissue hydration is essential for optimum health, healing and detoxification. Most people are suffering from sub-clinical dehydration. (Your bladder will adjust- besides, what better reminder to take those work breaks?) Invest in one or more BPA free stainless steel water bottles, (and do your part to reduce the enormous amount of plastic waste on the land and oceans of our planet!) and have water on your desk or worksite, and in your car at all times. In general, room temperature or warm/hot water is preferable to ice water, and if “taste” is an issue, try a squeeze of lemon. Do most of your drinking before evening to avoid sleep disturbance!
- Decrease or eliminate alcohol- it is an irritant and toxic to nerves at higher doses, but for overly sensitized individuals any amount may aggravate symptoms. A three week elimination and subsequent challenge (i.e. one or two glasses of wine or drinks with dinner) will tell you if your normal intake of alcohol is aggravating.
- If you suffer from chronic pain, anxiety or muscle tension: decrease, minimize or avoid caffeine (in teas, sodas and chocolate) and coffee– it activates the fight or flight response. In addition, coffee contains several ingredients besides the caffeine that are irritating to tissues, including high concentrations of pesticides in non-organic coffee. Again, overly sensitized individuals may not be able to tolerate any without symptom aggravation. Try elimination and challenge to see if that’s the case with you.
- Stop smoking– besides promoting cancer and heart disease, and other toxic effects, nicotine is particularly damaging due to constriction of small blood vessels thus decreasing circulation to the tissues, accelerating tissue breakdown, and inhibiting healing and repair.
- Cannabis (marijuana) is complicated- it can be beneficial for many people to reduce pain, anxiety and spasm, as well as helping sleep, often with far less side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. It is not without risk and due to the vast number of different strains with specific effects, a subject for another venue.
Nourish not just the body, but the soul
Love and respect your body and its limits, which may change from day to day.
Clarify and attend to the needs of your heart and soul.
Spend as much time as possible enjoying the beauty of nature.
Cultivate a sense and appreciation of the interconnectedness of all beings on the planet– indeed, even the universe. We are all part of a greater Whole, One, or Self– that is the ultimate teaching of Yoga!