There is something interesting about the month of December and the holiday season that makes people feel exempt from the laws of the body. As chiropractors, Jason and I usually see a trend of increased stress that becomes measurable in the bodies of our patients particularly this time of year. The following 3 things are the biggest culprits for causing symptoms in our bodies:
- Sugar- it has become a well-known fact that over the years, we as a society are consuming excess sugar in our diets. Over the holidays people over-indulge in sugary drinks and sweets laying around at gatherings. Sugar can cause inflammation in the body and can weaken your immune system.
- Sleep- lack of this key ingredient in our lifestyles can wreak havoc on the systems of our body. I am always shocked at the percentage of patients who begin care experiencing challenges either getting to sleep or sleeping through the night for one reason or another. Luckily, one of the side benefits of chiropractic care that we see in our patients is better sleep over time.
- Stress- whether it’s financial, the stress from travelling and having to be in so many places, this can be a stressful time of year for many. We typically get away from our daily routines of exercising and taking supplements which can be added stress as well.
These are the 3 main things to keep in mind not only during this time of year but throughout the year. Getting symptoms like a cold or flu is not by chance. This is our body’s way of letting us know we have tripped a switch in our system. Pay attention to which of the above you may have violated and focus on avoiding this throughout the year. You may then find yourself happier, healthier, and more vibrant by following these simple steps:
- Get proper rest.
- Limit sugar intake by crowding it out with healthy vegetables; you’ll have less cravings.
- Drink an abundance of water.
- Take vitamin D. Our recommendations are within the guidelines of the Vitamin D Council (adults- 5,000 IU’s/day and approx. 2,000 IU’s/day for kids).
- Probiotics are essential for proper digestion and affect your immune system. Take 1 capsule/day (billions of bacteria/capsule with multiple strains).
- Take 1 teaspoon of fish oil/day to reduce inflammation and keep your body sufficient of this essential nutrient.
- Last but not least, visit your chiropractor to have your nervous system cared for throughout the year. Your nervous system is protected by your spine and controls the function of every cell, tissue and organ in your body.
A few weeks ago my kids and I drove back to my hometown of Grand Falls, NB. Although it was spring, it certainly didn’t feel like it there. The snow banks were high enough that my parents could barely see their neighbour’s house. Inside their lovely home, my mom had been growing some little mung bean sprouts. It was nice to see something green (that we could eat) growing inside despite the fact that it was so cold outside. The mung beans only take a few days to sprout and were ready to eat when we got there. My oldest son David who is 7 grabbed a handful and before I knew it had eaten the whole jar. They taste like peas from the garden so he ate them right up. My mom then proceeded to show me how easy they are to grow.
We tried a few batches at home to get the hang of it and I then went in to David’s grade 2 class at school this week to do an experiment with them. I decided to show the kids how to grow their own at school and then to bring materials home to be able to show their parents how easy it is. The class has 22 kids so I brought in 6 Mason jars and divided the kids up into groups of 3-4 kids. My goal was to have at least some of the kids be brave enough to taste the sprouts prior to getting started. I had my niece walk around and give each child a spoonful. Before I even turned around, my jar of sprouts was gone and every single kid tried them and liked them, in fact some of them loved it. I love using peer pressure in a positive way with kids, works every time!
My strategy here is to get the kids to show their parents what they did and by doing so increasing the likelihood of them eating it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the more they are involved in the process of getting the food on their plate, the more likely they are to eat it.
Here are the simple steps to growing your own mung beans in your kitchen:
- Buy the sprouts you want to grow from your local health food store. I got mine from the bulk section at Organic Earth but Sobeys and maybe even Superstore have them in their organic sections. You will see an assortment of them and they can all be grown using the same jar and same methods, some of them just require a little more time to yield a batch.
2. Once you have your beans, you can either purchase a jar for sprouting for about $10 with the lid to strain the sprouts daily. You can also use a Mason jar as we did and get a plastic lid (I got mine from Michael’s and just cut it out to fit on the Mason jar lid).
3. The beans need to be rinsed to get any residue off them and then soaked overnight.
4. In the morning you tip the container and strain them. Add some more water and rinse them again before straining it completely. Repeat this step once again at night.
5. You will start to see little tails sprouting from the beans. Once the green cover is completely off the bean (this usually takes 2-4 days) they are ready to eat. My oldest son didn’t even allow them to get completely sprouted before consuming my first couple of batches.
6. Enjoy! You can keep them in the refrigerator for a few weeks and sprinkle them on salads or just snack on them on their own. Start soaking another batch right away so you always have some fresh!
One of the biggest challenges as a parent once we know what types of food are healthy for us is getting our kids to eat them as well.
- The number one thing in our house is getting them involved in the food preparation. Whether it’s getting them to take something out of the refrigerator or the pantry, cracking an egg, stirring, pushing buttons on the machines. Do what you can to get them involved in the process and this will yield big dividends.
- I bought our boys some plastic knives used to cut up lettuce. I often have them chop up some veggies before a meal. As soon as they get involved in the chopping process and they are hungry for their meal, they usually ask if they can have some of the food they are chopping. This is perfect, mission accomplished. My rule with them is unlimited veggies any time of day. They still ask permission but I always say yes because the more vegetables they eat, the less hungry they are for less nutrient dense foods.
The following are a few videos Jason did while I was away doing errands, he certainly got them all involved and they were loving it…so cute!
One of the questions my husband and I get the most is “how do you get your kids to eat like this?” For us, this is easy because of the place we’re coming from. In one of my previous articles I discuss focusing on what we want vs what we don’t want. In our family, our highest value is health. We feel that when he have an optimal level of health, we have an abundance of energy and are at our best which causes a spillover into all other areas of life. If you decide to fully embark on this lifestyle, your life will be easier, trust me. Jason and I thoroughly enjoy mealtimes with the boys even when we eat out. They eat from the adult menus like us and are often ready to try new things. We have trained them to become like this and our lives are easier because of it. We don’t dread mealtimes like so many other families. There are many areas of my life where I am not great but this is one area I have put a lot of attention and energy toward and am now able to reap the benefits. My hope is that by sharing some of these tips with you, meals can once again become fun for you and your family.
- One of the most important things to do is determine your ‘why’ for implementing this type of lifestyle. For instance, do you allow your kids to ride in your vehicle without their seatbelt? Why not? Don’t they ever protest it, especially in the beginning? Do you let them win if they protest? Pretty sure most people have their kids seatbelted while driving. The big ‘why’ is safety and one we have had drilled into our minds. In this instance, we teach the kids it is non-negotiable because we are looking out for their ultimate safety. Interestingly enough, more people die from the result of poor eating habits than motor vehicle accidents. So, this is where Jason and I develop the ‘firm but fair’ policy. We teach our kids healthy eating habits because we know where health comes from and it is our responsibility to teach them healthy habits. Our lives are easier because of it, they make healthier choices by habit.
- Kids are incredibly intelligent and have minds just waiting and ready to learn new things. Teach them by asking them questions. If you have a dog, you can ask them what happens if you feed the dog ice cream? They will typically know that this will make the dog sick. Ask them why and listen to their answers. How about a rabbit, what does it eat? They usually know it’s carrots and lettuce. Ask them what would happen if the rabbit started eating Ritz Crackers or candy. Again, they understand that these animals should be eating what they typically get in the wild. Make the link for them that we too are animals and that we too have specific health responses when we start eating too many foods made in factories vs from the ground or from healthy animals.
- If you ask my boys, “what does mommy want her boys to be?” they will respond “healthy and strong boys”. I tell them every day how I want them to grow to give them a visual of what they can become. When they’re eating healthy food, I let them know how strong and healthy they are becoming. I tell them this many times every day when they are taking healthy action steps to reinforce the good behaviour. It makes them feel great and since we are pleasure seekers, they move toward more of this behaviour, it’s a cycle.
- A few years ago when David was 4, we had been talking a lot about sugar and how it can make your immune system not work as well as it should. We taught him how to read labels even when he couldn’t read. He knew where to look for the sugar content and that if it had 6 grams of sugar or more it was not likely something we would purchase. I was tired and doing groceries with kids can be challenging. We were going down the aisle with applesauce and pudding. He saw pudding and said “can we get this?”. Before I had the chance to reply, he had looked at the label and saw how much sugar was in it and was already putting it back. What a great moment that was for me.
- Ask them to help you make the change for the family and do it gradually by changing what your pantry looks like. Once you are rid of the junk food, replace it with healthier more colourful fruits and vegetables. I remember as a kid when I was just about to make my bed and my mom would come along and ask me to make it, I no longer felt like doing it. I wasn’t inspired anymore because it came from her telling me to vs me wanting to. Nobody wants to be cornered into eating certain foods or doing anything for that matter. So, when they feel they are part of the process, which they totally are, it makes them feel empowered. If I’m adding kale to a smoothie, I have my 4 year old Alex do this because he loves to help. We joke around about if we can make the kale disappear in the smoothie. We then taste test it together to see if we’ve accomplished our mission. He loves to be part of this.
- When it is mealtime, have them help by chopping up veggies for you. This is a painful time of day for most of us when we get home and are busy trying to prepare meals. The kids are always around and bugging us when all we want to do is get things done. I bought a lettuce knife at the grocery store and a fruit knife from Backyard and Veranda. You can buy them their own cutting board if you like. Give them some veggies to chop either for a salad or whatever, just something to eat before the meal. You will see that in a short while, the kids will start asking if they can have a bite of the red pepper or cucumber or carrot or whatever it is they are chopping. They love to feel part of the process. That is one of my biggest tips for getting them full on healthy stuff before the healthy meal is ready.
- Never bribe them with dessert while they are eating. I rarely use dessert as a bribe for them to finish their meals. In my opinion, this is giving them a wrong message about the healthy food they are eating. I have the expectation that they are in this process with me and we want to be as healthy as possible as a family. Eat what you can from your plate and when you’re done, you’re done, that’s great. Sometimes there will be a healthy dessert but that is not the incentive for finishing the meal. The reward is rather a strong and healthy body. That is always our focus!
- Do the best you can with the healthy choices around. When you’re travelling, there may not be healthy choices but just do your best. Ask yourself “compared to what?” and make the best choice available. Once you’ve taught the kids about what healthy food is, they will be able to help you choose healthy foods. As a result, they are more likely to eat them when it is their choice. My boys can spot wheat from a mile away. We also don’t eat dairy so they either tell me things have dairy or wheat in them or ask me.
- Finally, you get what you expect. Once you’ve done your work of teaching them and asking them questions about the foods they eat, have a knowingness that they are intelligent enough to understand you want the best for them. When you put the meal in front of them, trust that they will eat it, at least some of it. As their taste buds evolve more and more, trust that they will want to eat what you are feeding them. Remember, just because they don’t like it the first time doesn’t mean they don’t like it for always. They may need to be exposed to the food 20-30 times before they like it. Try not to label them with “so and so doesn’t like this or that”. Taste buds evolve in time. They can sense when you don’t trust them and will challenge you. When your ‘why’ is strong enough, this part becomes easier. Be firm and fair and you will see great things come along in time!
One of the first challenges during this part of our certification was to do 30 days without dairy or grains. At first, this task seemed daunting to most of us. Although I was already on a path to wellness having removed most dairy and gluten from my diet at the time, I found the next step of eliminating all grains to be very difficult at first. I essentially wanted to do the 30 days and prove that I didn’t feel different so I could go about my life without needing to make additional changes. Well, I was wrong. I felt better. Now what? Integrating this knowledge into my daily life with my children and husband was the next step. We are still on this road and are ready to share with you all that we have learned so you can integrate it much easier into your life when you’re ready.
Just like any other animal or even plant, there are certain nutritional requirements that are considered to be essential and when taken properly can create purity and sufficiency in the cells of humans. There are also products that can create a state of deficiency and or toxicity in the body. Let’s look at the analogy of a plant. If I ask most 9 year olds what a plant needs in order to stay healthy, many will answer correctly: good quality soil, water, and sunlight. If a plant appears to be wilting, addressing one or more of the missing nutrients will typically bring its cells back into a state of purity and sufficiency. Often, when it’s not too late, a dis-eased plant can be nursed back to health. If we did however ensure that the plant was getting enough of its required nutrients and it still appeared to be wilting there would be another question to ask. Is it being exposed to a toxin? If someone was dumping oil into the plant, it would create a state of toxicity in its environment. Regardless of the fact that the plant was getting enough of its required nutrients, the toxic environment would prevent it from being a healthy plant. In order to remove the dis-ease from the plant, the essential nutritional requirements would have to be fulfilled AND the toxicities removed. The same rules apply to the human body.
To create a state of purity and sufficiency in your body, make sure you are getting adequate amounts of the following nutrients (supplements of the following are often necessary):
- Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) – Most of us in the northern hemisphere tend to be deficient since our bodies produce around 10,000 IU’s during 30 minutes exposure to the sun during the summer months. This only applies when we are allowing the rays to penetrate without sunblock. By the end of September, it becomes difficult for our bodies to produce since the sun is further away. According to the Vitamin D Council, for proper functioning, a healthy human body utilizes around 3,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D per day – indicating the current recommended intakes (up to 2,000 IU/day) are not high enough to raise and/or maintain the vitamin D levels necessary for proper health. Based on the body’s indicated daily vitamin D usage, Vitamin D Council recommends the following amounts of supplemental vitamin D3 per day in the absence of proper sun exposure. Due to the variable response in different individuals, these are only estimated amounts. The only way to accurately measure what your levels are is to have a blood test done to measure it specifically.
- Healthy children under the age of 1 year – 1,000 IU.
- Healthy children over the age of 1 year – 1,000 IU per every 25 lbs of body weight.
- Healthy adults and adolescents – at least 5,000 IU.
- Pregnant and lactating mothers – at least 6,000 IU.
- Additionally, children and adults with chronic health conditions such as autism, MS, cancer, heart disease, or obesity may need as much as double these amounts.
- Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) – “good fats” that are essential for optimal health. Some estimates reveal up to 99% of Americans are deficient in this essential nutrient. Our ‘hunter-gatherer’ ancestors consumed about 3 grams of omega 3’s in their diet. We recommend 2-3 teaspoons (3-4.5 grams) of the omega 3 fish oil for individuals who want to reduce the inflammation in their body and prevent a degenerative state. Capsules have far less and you must ensure you are consuming the equivalent to get the desired outcome of sufficiency in the cells of your body.
- Omega-3 (EPA & DHA) function in the body:
– Promotes cardiovascular health
– Reduces inflammation
– Supports mental focus & cognitive function
– Supports positive mood & emotional well-being
– Promotes brain, eye, & nervous system health
– Supports healthy immune system function
– Enhances appearance of skin and hair
– Promotes optimal fat metabolism
- Probiotics (aka ‘good bacteria’) – It is essential to have the right amount of bacteria lining our gut to ensure proper function throughout the body. Healthy gut often equals healthy body. A disruption in the amount and type of bacteria lining our gut either through consumption of antibiotics and/or an acidic diet can create widespread imbalances throughout the body. It seems remarkable, but the little critters living inside of us have been linked to everything from autism to obesity, from allergy to autoimmunity, from fibromyalgia to restless leg syndrome, from delirium to eczema to asthma. In fact the links between chronic illness and gut bacteria keep growing every day. If at all possible, avoid the use of antibiotics, acid blockers, and anti-inflammatories—they change gut flora for the worse. Take probiotics daily– these healthy, friendly flora can improve your digestive health and reduce inflammation and allergy. Ensure there is a proper amount of bacteria (billions/capsule are needed for adults and at least millions for kids). It is best to take the probiotic with food to ensure more of the good bacteria reach the intestinal tract.
Keep your body free of toxicities by decreasing and/or eliminating as many of the following products as possible:
- Gluten (found in grains like wheat, barley, kamut, rye, and spelt)
- Hydrogenated oils (aka- trans fats)
- Wheat (includes bread, pastas, flour, etc…)
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)-
- Hydrolyzed protein (disguised MSG)
- Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners
- Any and all chemical food additives and colors
- Corn syrup
As I wrote this list, part of me felt as though some would be intimidated and avoid reading any further. It is an exhaustive list and seems to cut out so many of the staples of the average diet today. Please bear with me as I know how some of you may feel. We will provide you with options that will make this lifestyle much easier to integrate, it is a process. The momentum you will gain when you begin to feel better and/or notice the changes in the behaviour of your kids or family members will provide you with the energy to continue.