By Orsi Crawford:
How is everyone doing in social isolation? My family and I are trying to stay positive, trying to find new activities we can do together; we cook and eat together as much as as we can, and we watch a lot of movies and TV shows, though we try and stay away from the news channels. This has been our new normal, and we're hoping that we can slowly ease back into the "old normal" sooner rather than later, with much caution and still paying attention to hygiene and social distancing.
However, I'd like to focus on possibly the most vulnerable of our population—our 65+ population.
Why are they most affected by this pandemic? Older people tend to have more underlying illnesses, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, among many other chronic conditions.
What bothers me most is what is not shown on any TV channel: how to optimize our immune health to face this pandemic, or generally face any influenza season, for that matter.
There are so many amazing home remedies people could use to strengthen their immunity.
(You can reference my previous blog post here on Flapper Press for immune-boosting supplementation, as well as lifestyle hacks.)
First, let me address something very important: As we age, we have declining levels of stomach acid, making the older sector of the population more prone to diseases because of it. Now let me explain why. Stomach acid plays an important role in absorbing essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes from the food we eat and from the supplements we take. When we're not absorbing proper levels of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, Zinc, Potassium, Iron, Magnesium, Iodine, etc., our immune system will suffer. Even those who do know to take their supplements, if stomach-acid levels are weak, they will not absorb most of them.
When your stomach acid is low, it can often mimic and cause symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD. Most people in return will run to the drug store and buy Prilosec, Nexium, Zantac, and other over-the-counter reflux medications, which will shut off stomach acid production even more, if not completely. This will put these people in more danger for multiple vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Many universities are now conducting studies on the correlation between these deficiencies and higher chances of contracting infections and developing illnesses.
So how do we strengthen our stomach acid? There are many strategies to do this:
We can help our digestive system by taking HCL with Pepsin (Hydrochloric Acid), starting off with a lower dose taken before meals and slowly building up to taking it before each meal, generally 3 times per day. I would than add in a good-quality digestive enzyme supplement as well as pro- and prebiotics (prebiotics are nondigestible fibers that feed our good, healthy bacteria in our gut).
What foods can we add to strengthen our stomach acid? We can add more raw foods, such as colorful fruits and vegetables, which provide tons of essential prebiotic fiber and antioxidants, polyphenols, and enzymes. Slowly introducing fermented foods, such as raw yogurt (stay away from the sweetened, fat-free varieties), sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, and beverages such as kombucha or diluted apple cider vinegar.
Introduce superfoods such as Goji & Acai Berries, Maca, Micro-Algae, Spiraling, Chlorella, Aloe Vera, Noni, or Pomegrantes, to mention a few. (Note: Cacao or dark chocolate has many amazing benefits but can cause heartburn in many, so watch what your reaction is to chocolate.)
Introduce superherbs such as Ginger, Ginseng, Astragalus, Ashwadanga, Tulsi (HolyBasil), Shatavari (Asparagus), Nettles, Horsetail, Cilantro, Parsley, Chamomile, Passion flower, among many others.
Introduce medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Chaga, Shiitake, Lion's Mane, Maitaki, among many others.
Introduce these amazing digestive spices to your cooking: ginger, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, fennel, and coriander.
Introduce essential oils of Anise, Fennel, Peppermint, Ginger, Caraway, Coriander, and Tarragon.
Start celery juicing first thing in the morning on an empty stomach! Celery juice not only detoxifies the colon and jumpstarts your digestion, but it also strengthens your stomach acid.
Sipping on warm lemon water throughout the day also helps detoxify and strengthen our digestive system as well as helps boost our immunity. But plain filtered water is just as important!
Add in herbal teas such as Lemon Ginger, Peppermint, Fennel, Licorice, and Dandelion as part of your daily beverage intake.
How can you help someone adapt to these dietary changes?
That is probably the biggest challenge of all! But once you have this knowledge, you can slowly make 2–3 recommendations to them at once, to not overwhelm them.
Have them start by adding the warm lemon water or herbal teas. By adding in all these nutritious foods, superfoods, super herbs and spices, you're basically "crowding out" more of the unhealthy foods from your diet.
You can chat with them about the importance of a strong, healthy gut (where most of our immune cells reside), a healthy balanced diet, and the role of nutrient supplementation as the foundation of a healthy immune system.
It's never too late to make changes. It's never too late to start up a conversation with your loved ones to encourage them to take charge of their health!
For now, encourage them to stay home and also to step outside in nature a few times during the day, if they can. If you're exposed to sunshine, be in the sun for 30 minutes each day!
Offer your help with grocery shopping and FaceTime them, showing your support and making them smile!
Let's get through this crisis together and show some compassion for our older population.
(Please note to work with your doctor or healthcare provider when making any major dietary changes or adding in supplements. Some of these and also some herbs could have adverse reactions with medications. If you are able, seek out the help of a nutritional consultant to guide you or your loved ones through these changes.)
Orsi Crawford is a Wellness Advocate and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach from the Los Angeles area. Orsi is dedicated to empowering others to be their own health advocates through educating people on the fundamental and practical knowledge of nutrition and lifestyle.
More Common Sense Guidelines to help you through these trying times.
Read Elizabeth Gracen's interview with Orsi Crawford here.