How are you faring at this moment with the holidays now upon us in this global pandemic? Do you feel like every aspect of your lives have been upended with months of the same to look forward to? All of our normal routines have been transformed; any types of shopping, from the gas station to the mall, rolling remote schooling for our children and business lockdowns, ubiquitous mask wearing…..
…awkward hospital visits from routine and emergency room to Covid-19 related, visiting our older or immune compromised loved ones with caution, limited travel from one state to another (much less overseas vacations) and NOW, a call to severely limit our traditional holiday gatherings? However, these are truly just slight inconveniences compared to others. The true sufferers are people that have lost their jobs, their health, their lives or have lost a loved one, the seasoned seasons that can’t see their loved ones AND the people that show up day after day to serve the public, taking the risk of virus infection on as part of the job! Our prayers and hugs for all of you in this very difficult time!!
Let’s step back a second, take a deep breath and get our mindset tuned to healthfully getting through the holidays coming up and beyond for this seemingly endless period in our lives. What we can control is our reactions to the moment-to-moment changes that just seem to pop up. I was thinking of a scenario that most closely relates to what we’re going through and how we should handle the circumstances and the game of chess materialized in my mind. Here’s a pic of the chess set that has been with our family for decades.
Randy LOVES to play it and I always wished I would invest the time to be a better player because I have a lot to learn. However, I do have enormous respect for this game.
You’ll note I didn’t pick the game of checkers for its winning strategies. That game can become largely reactionary. You wait for your opponent to make the advances before you decide your course of action. However, in chess, you have the upper hand if you establish control of the board to make those winning moves. And when I say control relating to the virus, I’m saying doing the best with simple yet healthy lifestyle/mindset adjustments to blunt the effects of the virus (or at least give it our best shot), by having a healthy immune system.
Social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing hygiene and attending Zoom large family/friend gatherings is the very least we can start with to mitigate the disease to lessen ours, our loved ones’, or our neighbors’ chances of contracting the disease. AND let’s not forget keeping our healthcare workers healthy so they can do their best for our health.
But there’s even more we can do for our health, and it’s not all drudgery. We can have some fun and learn some new, healthier habits going forward….
#1 Strategy Move- How you start a game determines how you will finish it. Play wisely.
Since chess is such a complex game, dividing it up into three parts: beginning, middle and end plays is a great start. Then further breaking down moves into manageable micro-problems that can more easily be executed as opposed to one large (sometimes overwhelming) move.
Knowing the current Covid facts and how lifestyle steps can help you and your family PLUS, implementing those healthful strategies to get you in the best immune system shape possible. Then you’ve covered everything you can do in your power when life throws you or your family an unexpected turn.
What we know about Covid-19 today-Virologist Dr. Benjamin TenOever, Professor of Microbiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in his team’s published work in Cell (11-6-20) identified SARS-CoV-2 (A/K/A Covid 19) as a virus that has the capacity to re-wire our immune system, negating the alarms usually in place to warn our cells of infection. Typically, in an immune response there are two types of signals sent: 1) interferon molecules: this is the first signal alert to neighboring cells to defend themselves and 2) cytokine molecules, which summons white blood cells, eating invaders, infected cells and dismembered protein parts, a/k/a antibodies. In the Covid-19 virus, only the interferon response is called, making it a lopsided defense for our bodies, ripe for an overreacting immune defense system in the form of mega-inflammatory “cytokine storm”. This “storm” has the capacity to elicit strange inflammatory swelling in the young, form deadly blood clots, and/or shut down major organs.
We interviewed Dr. Ken Remy on radio show Healthy U and Randy interviewed him later on the Randy Tobler Radio Show recently. Dr. Remy is a physician/scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, and formerly at the National Institutes for Health, with a specialty in adult and pediatric immunology. He’s treated critically ill adult and pediatric patients and is a basic researcher on SARS CoV-2, so he knows COVID up close and personal! He emphasized that this virus has the capacity to form small clots in the lungs, which can lead to respiratory problems and/or later form secondary infections. He stressed that this is NOT a political disease for anyone who acquires it, and everyone is potentially subject to its ravages. He recently made a Facebook post after taking care of 1000 patients with the disease AND after calling 12 families about the loss (over one weekend) of their loved ones. On a FB post that recently went viral, he described what it’s like to be on a ventilator after contracting the disease:
His point was not to scare, but to inform everyone that caution should be the word of the day. AND he pleaded that medical attention should be sought EARLY because there are therapeutics available now that can mitigate the disease in many, if administered in the initial stages. That translates to keeping you out of the ER and hospital in many cases. Randy reminds me it also helps keep hospital beds open and the rate of PPE use lower.
So, what simple tasks can we do now to get our immune system in the best shape possible? Our dogs Mia and Simba are waiting for an answer here (lol):
We’ve got to put those healthy lifestyle pillars in place: nutrition, movement, sleep, social connections, and the stress response. We also must make it doable, or we won’t follow through (especially this time of year!).
Today, I’m only going to hit on 2 of those pillars: nutrition and movement, specifically relating to the COVID-19 connection and respiratory infections.
NUTRITION- Food stars that are emerging for fighting Covid-19 and upper respiratory infections in general is sustenance that carries that extra charge of Vitamin C, Vitamin A&E, Vitamin D, Zinc and Quercetin, PLUS these same foods also fight inflammation and free radicals!
Vitamin C- Is a water soluble vitamin that has potent antioxidant (free-radical fighting) qualities. Consuming less than 85 grams (the equivalent of 1 cup of strawberries per day) of Vitamin C per day is an emerging factor for a greater risk of respiratory infection. I recommend that you first think of veggies as the best source of Vitamin C, not fruit because gram for gram, fruit only packs roughly 1/2 the amount of that superstar Vitamin C punch! Top veggies are sweet peppers, and their punch varies by color: yellow is the star, followed by orange and red. Our granddaughter Evie had it right, being so excited about red peppers!:
Green peppers are not a strong source (and my least favorite too!). Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, kale, parsley, tomatoes and chili peppers round out the top veggie sources for Vitamin C. The top fruit sources of Vitamin C by volume are strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, kiwi, guava, and papaya.
Vitamin A & E-Are fat soluble vitamins. Patients in the UK, according to BMJ Prevention & Health (10/27/20) had a lower prevalence of respiratory problems when these vitamins, from both supplement and food were at normal levels. Vitamin A is known for maintaining our vision, immune system and healthy skin. Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squashes are stars, along with sweet bell peppers. broccoli and dark leafy greens. Whole milk, cheese and tuna are also great sources. Vitamin E is a top-notch free radical fighter. Food sources are vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Zinc-An essential mineral, being a component part of 300 enzymes in the body, with the immune system being just one of it’s top priorities, necessary for fighting bacteria and viruses. Zinc is also emerging as a key player in fighting COVID-19:
Researchers from Spain reporting at a European coronavirus conference found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with low blood levels of zinc tended to fare worse than those with healthier levels-E.J. Mundell HealthDay Reporter.
The same results have been experienced in the U.S. with Covid hospitalized patients.
Please note this mineral is needed in very small amounts: for a man it’s 11 mg. per day and a woman 8 mg. Great sources are red meat, shellfish, legumes, low fat yogurt, oatmeal, seeds, nuts, milk, cheese and whole grains.
Vitamin D-This is a pivotal fat-soluble vitamin you’ve probably read a lot about. It also joins Vitamin A and Zinc in it’s function as being a primary player for immune health. It also, has been named as a respiratory infection warrior. A lot of conjecturing is being discussed regarding how pivotal this vitamin is for combating Covid:
The role of Vitamin D may be significant in protecting against hyper-inflammatory response to viruses, like COVID-19, when the immune system ends up destroying the body it’s trying to save-Dr. Pamela von Hurst, Research Center at Massey University.
This is the only vitamin I’m going to recommend that you first supplement with AND consume rich sources! My husband and I personally take 2,000 I.U. per day in the most bioavailable form, D3. You also know this is the sunshine vitamin, and since we’re experiencing the colder side of the year where we don’t get outside, we need it more than ever. But please, I recommend getting your levels checked by a medical professional, to see where you are, just to make sure your baseline is good if you do contract the virus. Scandinavian regions of the world that experience truly little sunshine consume great quantities of oily fish, which are Omega 3 rich fish, essential for life and have potent anti-inflammatory properties, AND they’re an excellent source of Vitamin D! So salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, herring, and swordfish are those exemplary Vitamin D sources, along with eggs yolks, mushrooms, grains, and fortified foods, i.e. dairy.
Quercetin-is a phytochemical that is the pigment that adds color to many fruits and vegetables. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant that fights free radicals and is available in drug form for its efficacy in battling our toughest chronic diseases. To date, this phytochemical, which has powerful antiviral properties, is being tested in labs across the world for battling COVID-19 since it has been utilized successfully in other SARS like coronavirus strains. Those tests are ongoing as we speak.
But we don’t have to wait for those results, because the top foods that contain that powerful antioxidant punch are available in your grocery store right now! Top quercetin veggies sources are cilantro, asparagus, the allicin family (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, green onions, chives), okra and kale. The top fruit sources are cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, and figs.
So how do you put this into practice? I’m going to share some meals that I make for my husband and I where I routinely incorporate a sizable portion of these vitamins, minerals and phytochemical that I mentioned into our meals on a regular basis. They’re delicious and nutritious, and not too tough to put together on a nightly basis. I’ll highlight each’s dishes specific nutrients:
Here’s a meal we had the other night: Spanish carrots (these are roasted carrots with cumin seeds, smoked paprika and olive oil, high in Vitamin A-beta-carotene), tequila lime shrimp (Zinc) (See You’ve Got the Power With Weight Lifting! Part I for recipe), and a side of smoked salmon (Vitamin D).
Here’s my red stuffed peppers that are loaded with Vitamin C & A. In addition, the dish contains beans (Zinc), tomatoes (Vitamin C) and lean ground beef (Zinc) to round out it’s nutritious goodness (see Keep Calm & Carry On for recipe)
Monday night’s dish of caramelized broccoli (Vitamin C) with garlic (Quercetin), wild rice (Zinc) pilaf with red onions (Quercetin) and red peppers (Vitamin C) and sesame seared tuna (Vitamin D):
And let’s not forget breakfast with blueberries (Quercetin) and Maple Pumpkin Blender Muffins. Pureed pumpkin (Vitamin A), non-fat greek yogurt (Zinc) and oatmeal (Zinc) were the primary ingredients.
Here’s a pic of the smoked trout we enjoy as an extra source of Vitamin D and protein. It’s readily available at most grocery outlets. I’m serving it with a side of roasted Kale (Vitamin C and Quercitin) with olive oil (Vitamin E), red onions (Quercetin) and nutritional yeast and a tomato bisque sauce (Vitamin C). FYI, this is my favorite meal when I’m home by myself:
You can serve this trout for any meal of the day! The taste is terrific!
TAKE HOME FOR- NUTRITION: Nutrition truly is medicine to our bodies and worth the effort in healthfully preparing, especially now. Try amping up your daily meals with these food sources, thinking about the vegetables first, for they have the powerhouse qualities of anti-inflammation and free radical quenching, except for Vitamin D. For Vitamin D, start experimenting with anti-inflammatory Omega 3 rich fish for that extra boost of the sunshine vitamin.
MOVEMENT- Exercise in any form is truly what the body needs daily for our body AND mind. Now there’s scientific support that regular, moderate physical activity can reduce the prevalence of respiratory infections and morbidity. Dr. David Nieman, Appalachian State University Professor of Biology published in the 6/20 issue of Journal of Sport and Health Science his findings in his paper titled “Coronavirus Disease-2019”. Dr. Nieman advocates for mitigation methods of the virus (as outlined above) as the first line of defense. He also makes the case that obesity, age or chronic disease (or a combo of any three) puts us all at higher risk to contract all types of diseases, including COVID-19.
“This is indeed a wake-up call, a tocsin, to the world that primary prevention countermeasures focused on health behaviors and hygiene demand our full attention and support!”- Dr. David Neiman
He specifically supports exercise as being that primary preventative measure! Here are the results of his 9 year study of roughly 98,000 subjects, correlating bacterial, viral and pneumonia prevalence to inactivity, in England and Scotland.
To be classified as “physically active” for the purposes of this study, greater than 150 minutes (a little more than 20 minutes per day) of moderate exercise were required, like brisk walking. His premise and conclusion was that minimum amount of weekly “almost make yourself breathless” exercise stimulates the immune system to detect and destroy viruses.
I don’t know about you, but by just glancing at that chart, the risk of bacterial or viral infections is at least twice the risk if I’m a couch potato this holiday season and winter!
We also know that’s a problem this time of year, because now the weather outside is sometimes really tough to deal with.
FRILUFTSLIV to the rescue! This is a Scandinavian concept, the word meaning in Norwegian: “Fri” or free, “lift” or air, “liv” or life- “life in fresh air”. The whole concept is to reconnect with nature, no matter the temperature or conditions:
The activities are only limited by your imagination and of course the appropriate clothing to fit the temperature! Parents encourage this practice with their very young children. You can surmise this routine is good for the body, mind, and soul, especially in the dead of winter!
Okay, so maybe sleeping in hammocks in the deep forest is not your thing, however, you can get dressed in enough clothing when it’s freezing outside for a limited time to reap the physical and mental benefits. And please, don’t think you have to be a fashion statement! Here I am with my appropriate clothing taking our dogs out for their daily walk (about 30-40 minutes a day):
If you really can’t get outside because of ice and the conditions are just not right, why don’t you make a mini-obstacle course for yourself in your house or a session of dancing to your favorite hits or your favorite workout tapes to get your sweat on?!
Having a set of weights and bands on hand at home are also key for your weekly resistance training if the gym is not your thing or the weather doesn’t permit you to travel. See You’ve Got the Power With Weight Lifting! Part 2 for ideas for your own resistance training sessions!
TAKE HOME FOR- MOVEMENT: Staying physically active is key to staying healthy this winter. Try “Friluftsliv”, or outdoor activities after getting all bundled. All that’s required for that extra immune boost is simple chores or just a quick walk, roughly 20 minutes per day. Don’t forget the resistance training as part of your weekly movement to keep your core strong, catching you from slipping on that winter ice!
#2 Strategy Move-Be flexible with plans in your back pocket AND perhaps just no plans and go with the flow. Plans seldom work the way we imagined for the landscape of the chess board changes with each move and countermove so having those backup chess plans is a must for a win!
The Unknown Is What You Make It-Since we’re in unchartered territory with this pandemic, being extremely flexible to anything that might arise is key, specifically for our sanity!
This past month on radio show Healthy U we had author and psychologist Joey Miller talking about tips to get through remote learning at home with your kids while you are also trying to get your own job done. She wrote a blog titled Back To School & Back Against the Wall, talking about her struggles (she has 4 small children) and many other parents’ struggles during this tough time. She does outline a specific plan for keeping on track, like prioritizing and practicing apologies and forgiveness when tempers get short, as key ingredients.
TAKE HOME FOR- THE UNKNOWN IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT:Have a rough outline of a couple of holiday/winter scenarios but be ready to change them depending on virus conditions. You might need to help in some capacity when others contract the disease, i.e. grocery shopping or maybe your small family/friends holiday get togethers just wouldn’t be prudent this year because of elevated virus rates. Stay positive and thankful that you are keeping your family healthy by being proactive in making these changes.
#3 Strategy Move- The winning Checkmate move can only be played if you take care of your own king too! If you are so intent on checkmate yet haven’t noticed your own king is in immediate checkmate peril, you’re not making the essential offensive AND defensive tandem moves to ultimately win the game.
Re-Think Your Happy Place-Yes, your motivation for getting up in the morning is your family, friends, community and job (the King you are capturing) but that can’t be at the expense of your own King being captured (your personal health).
One big thing that has definitely changed for me personally in this pandemic period is I’m taking time to enjoy the important things more and finding I “need” less stuff and noise around me to be happy. Getting to bed a little earlier and getting up a little earlier to study the Word has been a true balm for my soul in this period. I also signed up for a 12 week course this past fall with a Christian Apologist Group-RZIM, founded by Ravi Zacharias, that was very challenging yet satisfying for my Christian faith walk.
So, what have you always thought about doing, yet always put it off? Now is the time to start writing that book or buy art supplies for those quiet times you’ve always dreamed about using. Challenge yourself (but not overwhelm) to do new and different things.
Throw some creative ideas in there too for this holiday season that might be a little out of the box but fun, like my Thanksgiving formal menu (with china no less) for just my husband and I-lol:
At the same time invent new ways you can connect with your family and friends! Like the virtual Chrismas cookie baking session I’m going to have with my girls next week!
TAKE HOME FOR Re-Think Your Happy Place-The self-care lifestyle pillars are soooo important now, more than ever! Taking the time to make healthful meals, keep moving, sleep at least 7 hours, deal with stress in a healthful way, connect with your loved ones and friends and find creative ways to soothe your soul.
Happy Holidays to you all!! Practice thankfulness, joy, and grace in this holiday season and beyond for those are the true Christmas present that keeps on giving!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17-“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Recap of: Strategies for the Covid-19 Chess Game Through The Holidays and Beyond!
#1 Strategy Move- How you start a game determines how you will finish it. Play wisely.
#2 Strategy Move-Be flexible with possible plans in your back pocket AND maybe just no plans, and go with the flow.
#3 Strategy Move- The winning Checkmate move can only be played if you take care of your own king too!
Recipe time!! This meal has all the ingredients to fit the bill of being both nutritious (Ahi Tuna, Kale, Turmeric, and Sweet Potatoes) and delicious, all in a very simple parchment pack that presents beautifully for a meal and is a snap to clean up! Enjoy!!!
Parchment Packet Tuna with Creamy Turmeric Dijon Sauce
6 T. Light Mayonnaise
2 T. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp. Honey
2 tsp. stone ground dijon mustard
½ tsp. Turmeric powder
174 g. Sweet potatoes (about…. cups)-cut ⅛ inch thick (I use a mandoline)
¼ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Pepper
360 g. Kale (about ….cups)
Olive oil spray
10 ounces Tuna Steaks
2 oz. sliced olives of choice (I used Castelvetrano olives)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Combine light mayonnaise, parsley, mustard, honey, turmeric and sliced olives in a small
bowl and set it aside.
3. Cut 4 large sheets of parchment paper (each about 16 x 12). Fold it in ½ lengthwise with
the smaller length and open it up.
4. Put the 4 folded pieces of paper on a large work surface and make the packets.
5. Start with the sweet potatoes on bottom, divide them evenly into 2 portions, place them
in the middle of the opened fold sheet, right by the fold.
6. Spray the kale with olive oil spray, just enough to coat it, salt and pepper to taste and
massage it for a couple minutes to break down the fibrous leaves.
7. Place the kale on top of the sweet potatoes.
8. Place the tuna on top of the kale.
9. Salt and pepper the tuna steaks.
10. Spread the sauce evenly on both steaks.
11. Close up the parchment paper for each steak and make a crescent shape fold
pinching the paper so that no steam escapes. Set them on a cookie sheet to bake.
12. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let them stand 3 minutes before opening. Enjoy!
Adapted from Eating Well
Nutrition Info per serving: 494 calories/14 g. fat/ 40.7 g. carbohydrates/ 44.9 g. protein