By Madiha Saeed, MD, Integrative Physician, Documenting Hope Director of Education
Ever feel like a hamster on a wheel — huffing and puffing and going nowhere fast? Do you work long hours then run from one game to the next, only to stop off for fast food just to fill your children’s bellies? Are you consumed by daily deadlines, projects, answering emails, update statuses and tweets, simply losing touch with those that matter most?
As a physician and mother of four boys (8 and under!), I very often get lost between work, children, Zumba, cooking, cleaning, writing books and articles, blogging, traveling to speak to various audiences and other public appearances. One day spills into the next, and by the end of the month, it all seems like a blur. Many of my patients are in the same boat — because of this lifestyle, they and their children have one or more chronic diseases and are suffering emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally, and have all but lost touch with themselves and their bodies’ needs. Clearly, something has gone wrong with the way things are, and it is my passion and hobby to find the cheapest and most efficient ways to heal the body that anyone can easily fit into their busy lives.
While staying healthy in a toxic world isn’t always cheap or easy, there are many low-cost and simple strategies that can be used to optimize your child’s health, but it all begins with making health a priority in your home! Following are six strategies that you can incorporate into your life.
I cannot begin to emphasize how important this first step is, and that’s why I put it at the top. Industrial food production is a multi-billion-dollar business and one of the main objectives of the food companies is to get you to buy processed, empty-calorie and addictive foods that stress the body and deplete it of nutrients. This only results in inflammation, chronic disease and profit for the food industry. Instead, follow these simple food guidelines:
- Invest in vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fat sources. Our goal here is to limit and eventually eliminate all processed foods because inflammation thrives on addictive, empty-calorie “food.” To help your family break up with processed food, start by incorporating more of the healthy food sources into your daily diet while weaning off processed foods. While at the grocery store, start swapping your usual purchases that come in a box or a bag for fresh whole foods found mainly on the perimeter of the store.
- Make clean, filtered water your main (or only!) beverage. You can save money by just not buying any other beverages. Think of the cost savings! And your properly hydrated body will thank you for it.
- Eat protein, fat and carbohydrates (vegetables are carbohydrates!) at every meal.
- Don’t throw your bones away! Learn how to make bone broth and bring an economical wonder food into your home. Bone broth helps heal and seal the gut, nourish our bodies and allow us to heal from the inside out. Broths are also a great way to make use of raw vegetable scraps.
2. Play and Move!
Allow your child to play and run (preferably outside!)—better yet, play, chase and tackle your children accompanied by tickles, hugs and kisses. Older children can be encouraged to use a pedometer to count steps. Pedometers are easy to use and the best motivator. The idea that something is monitoring your movements is enough motivation for most people to get up and move around when they normally would be sitting down. Taking your children for walks is low impact and a great place to start. In fact, adding any type of exercise or movement will help reduce inflammation.
3. Teach Your Children to Relax
Managing stress is essential in any healing and disease-prevention program, as our thoughts, feelings and emotions directly affect our physical health. A daily practice of relaxation techniques can help manage stress, anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, keep damaging hormones at bay, spark brain growth, change gene expression, improve blood circulation and digestion, aid detox, switch off unhealthy genes, enhance the overall immune system and maintain a balanced inner world. Here are some ideas on how you can help your children relax:
- Offer encouragement and maintain a safe, serene, well-structured environment.
- Abdominal breathing is extremely effective in decreasing stress because it helps relax the body almost instantly. This exercise takes about five minutes, is most powerful when done a couple of times a day and can be practiced by both you and your children. Use this breathing technique anytime you feel stress or are overwhelmed.
- Get comfortable, close your eyes, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
- Slowly inhale through your nose and into your belly for a count of four, making sure your belly rises when you breathe.
- Hold the breath for a count of two.
- Exhale through your mouth slowly for a count of six.
- Pause for one count then repeat the cycle 10 times.
- Keep the lines of communication with your child open, being careful not to judge or negate your child’s feelings.
- Adults and older children can learn to reduce the effects of stress by practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation, prayer, yoga and Tai Chi. Practiced consistently, these techniques can increase attention and calmness.
- A good night’s sleep. Most people, including children, just don’t get a good night’s sleep anymore. Deep restful sleep is necessary for the body to repair itself. Establish proper bedtimes so the adrenal glands don’t go into overtime and cause undue stress.
Being thankful helps create a subconscious world of positivity that governs 90% of our thoughts and actions. The positive energy boosts optimism, which in turn helps prevent disease, improve our health and immune system and has been proven to add years to our lives. As soon as your child wakes up in the morning, take a moment to sing about 10 things you are all grateful for. This may be a challenge in the beginning, but with regular practice, you’ll find that the morning’s gratefulness exercise starts to permeate your day, leaving your child optimistic. Starting their morning on a positive note influences the rest of the day. It guarantees that they always get up on the right side of the bed, helping them make the most of their day! Have fun with it!
5. Fill in the gaps
Your family’s diet is absolutely crucial to the ability to live a healthy life and have a strong immune system. However, any deficiency in your nutritional levels can interfere with the healing process, so consider adding minimal supplements like vitamin D, probiotics (or raw fermented foods like sauerkraut) and high-quality fish oil. Supplements help support the immune system and offer that extra push your child needs toward restoring his body to health and balance. Supplements too expensive? Vitamin D is free from the sun—so get your child outside and exposed to safe amounts of sunlight. Instead of supplementing with probiotics, learn how to make your own probiotic-rich fermented foods.
6. Clean up their world!
Toxins are all around us and are often invisible. Regular exposure can slowly accumulate toxins in their little bodies and force their livers to work extra hard to remove them. A high body burden of toxins can cause problems at every level, wreaking havoc in a child’s internal world, unable to eliminate what the body doesn’t want. One key to combating environmental toxins is clean eating and a healthy lifestyle. Choose non-toxic personal products and cleaners (baking soda and vinegar are inexpensive and make a great replacement for household cleaning products) and using glassware for eating, drinking and cooking are easy ways you can ensure a healthy child inside and out.
Take charge of your family’s heath! Adding these simple, easy cost and time effective tips to your family’s daily life can help optimize health helping to create a bright future for those that matter most! If I can do it, you can too!!! Be sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting any new supplement or dietary program.
What cost effective ways have you found to optimize your family’s health?