It’s that time of the year again. Time to share with you my favourite kitchen and wellness things and ideas to consider as we head into 2021.
This year, while on the frontlines in the COVID-19 response and the backlines supporting individuals and families as they cope with mental health issues and isolation because of pandemic restrictions in Washington State, I’ve pondered what the best gift of the season looks like.
Hands down, it is as it always has been: the Gift of Good Health.
This year, I’ll be adding items that work to improve health in some way and continue to expand into overall wellness. Hopefully you’ll see how these ideas and items might help you to be a healthier version of yourself body, mind, and soul. Across the topics of diet, stress reduction, sleep, movement, and recovery, I hope you find something that resonates with you this holiday season and the months to come.
By tradition, I wait until after Thanksgiving Day and the cray-cray sales are over, mostly because I don’t wish to contribute to the shopping anxiety that some people feel, or the FOMO that is sometimes a part of the world of Social Media, especially with how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our overall health, access to care, finances, and stress.
Think of this list as simply an idea folder, a way of thinking about your health needs through-out another year. You may never need or want some of the items I’ve listed. However, I think you’ll see why I added them: to get you thinking about all the ways your body responds towards or away from health.
If you have suffered through cookbooks or health guides that talk about everyone and everything but your own concerns, then books are often more disappointing than they are helpful. Here are two books for you to consider that will check the box, “This is for me!” for those in the Autoimmune Disease community.
Autoimmune Wellness Handbook by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt (available on the Autoimmune Wellness website, wherever books are sold, and through online retailers). This book follows the pathway that AIP Health Coaches like myself use to guide their clients through aspects of the healing pathway of the Autoimmune Protocol. It strikes just the right balance between providing the science behind the AIP and a base structure for walking through the beginning of the Elimination Phase of the protocol.
No Gluten, No Problem Pizza by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski. For strict gluten-free people, this is the quintessential cookbook for pizza lovers. The precision required to get pizzeria-quality pizza is included, from getting a food scale to measure by gram the flours that make the best pizza styles that the Bronski’s studied across a year, to how to launch a pizza using a pizza peel onto a heated piece of baking steel, produces the best gluten free pizza I have ever had. If you don’t try the fermented New York style pizza, you are missing out. It’s also beautifully photographed. Ever since I bought this book, I stopped wistfully wishing for pizza outside my home.
This is also the pizza that my M gave the thumbs up and ate some himself, which says something about the quality of the pizzas from this cookbook. And if you like this cookbook, you will also enjoy Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking by the same authors. The chocolate cake with chocolate ganache recipe in the video on this post is from this cookbook, and was easy to make. For those on strict AIP, you’ll need to make small adjustments here and there for dairy free, emulsifier free options, and they are not difficult to do. If you need help, feel free to reach out to me for ideas on substitutes that really work.
Pulse Oximeter, or a SmartWatch with Pulse Ox (any brand). Pulse oximeters are ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive, thanks to the pandemic. The standard pulse oximeter measures oxygen saturation in your blood through a finger or wrist tool that sits close to surface capillaries.
In a post in the Fall, I mentioned how a steady decrease in my pulse ox percentage combined with an occasional but abnormal increase or drop in my heart rate signalled the beginning of symptoms that eventually led me to seek medical care. By recognizing the symptoms early, I was able to turn around a flare of Reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus relatively quickly without further complications.
I received these data points through my smartwatch, a Garmin Fenix Sapphire 6s, which comes at a price point that isn’t necessary for the average person. A simple pulse ox meter will also take your proximal heart rate, and that is enough data to help inform you of this part of your health status.
Hue Light Bulbs M turned me onto these Bluetooth lights bulbs for your home. Download the Hue app, and you have a bulb you can set to an alarm, dim for night time to decrease stress and get control of your circadian rhythm, and help you wake up more naturally. This is a great option for those of us who live further north of the equator.
A Blank Journal I have lost track of how many times I have recommended to all my patients to keep a journal, not just of their eating, exercise, or work projects, but also their feelings, their journey with Autoimmune Disease or food allergies, and their life dreams. With the pandemic, we’ve had less opportunities to socialize and gather. A blank journal and a pen can help hold that space where you would be talking to someone else; in this case, you are cultivating a relationship with yourself.
Beekeeper’s Throat Spray Talking through a mask and being heard through the muffle of fabric has required me to repeat myself, speak up louder and longer, and when interacting with the public as a Nurse, I’ve been outside speaking through a mask and a faceshield. My throat would feel dry and raw sometimes. Beekeeper’s Throat Spray has helped bathe my throat and keep it soothed.
Squirrel’s Nut Butter I wrote an entire post on Squirrel’s Nut Butter, and I have one more use to add. Place a small amount of this product on your face where your mask hits, and you won’t get chaffed. CEO Chris Thornley shipped me a big box of personal-size containers of SNB to give away to healthcare workers on the COVID-19 frontlines to use just for this purpose. It also soothed my allergic reaction to hand sanitizer that had aloe in it, which caused my hands to peel and bleed by the end of my first day doing Naso-pharageal COVID-19 testing. It is so gentle and feels good on dry, irritated skin.
Supplements: N-Acetyl Cisteine I keep to the adage, “Food over Supplements”, which means that I try to eat nutritious foods full of micronutrients first, and supplement only where my body can’t get what it needs through food.
Two shining examples of supplementation that make a difference in my personal health outcomes this year N-Acetyl Cisteine and Methylated Cobalamin. When I discovered that I have a problem with the methylation cycle, I began to better understand why I’ve struggled with anemia. Taking a methylated B12 supplement gives my body the help it needs to properly absorb a vitamin necessary to bind iron to oxygen molecules in your red blood cells. N- Acetyl Cisteine was added to my supplement routine when I was diagnosed with a Reactivated EBV flare, assisting my NK cells and T cells to do their jobs properly. Both of these supplements should be discussed with your prescribing HCP to understand its benefits.
HUM Toothbrush My dentist told me that so many of his patients experienced poor hygiene during lockdown. I can only imagine that the elements of eating and drinking sugary foods, combined with not leaving their homes, and missed appointments due to state shutdowns of non-emergency appointments in the spring contributed to this. What can you do?
The HUM Toothbrush from Colgate connects to an app on your phone and helps identify where you are weak at toothbrushing. It can be set to guide you where to focus more attention, based on your brushing habits. And it comes at a price point that is easier to swallow than some of the other well-known electronic toothbrushes on the market.
Bluelight Blocking Glasses and Amber Glasses When I was tasked to reduce stress overall, one of the areas I jumped on was what to do with all the light from electronics — screens — that have become part of my work as an online counselor. Eight hours a day of sitting, standing, and now under-desk treadmill walking in front of a screen made my eyes feel tired. You can purchase bluelight blocking glasses for daytime and use amber glasses and f.lux on your computer (which dims the light on your screen to coincide closer to working daylight hours transitioning to evening). You will feel a noticeable drop in stress and over time, you may notice that you fall asleep faster with less early-morning wake ups (typically around 3 am) related to the effect of nighttime electronic use and bright lighting.
Outdoor Gear for Walking, Hiking, and Running I’ve become a gear collector for anything that will keep me comfortable outside in all weather. It’s important for our health to get outside and breathe clean air, spend time in nature, get a dose of sunshine if possible, and not use the weather conditions as an excuse (except when the weather conditions are hazardous, of course). Hiking has been a big de-stressing activity for me this year.
Walking and running until my brain lets go of all the pain, suffering, sadness, and loss that I’ve witnessed through my work has been provided recovery for my own mental health. Swimming in a pool, gently and effortlessly while using a front-snorkel to keep my head and neck in perfect alignment has been a gift when my fitness club was able to reopen the pool under state regulations. Biking on a trainer indoors when I could not go outdoors is not new this year, but I did notice how Pelaton became very popular with those who could afford it.
Items: waterproof pants, waterproof jackets with bonded seams, a pair of trekking boots from Salewa, microspikes for icy trails, layers like an all-alpaca hoodie from Appalachian Gear Company are investments in some “me time” on the trails. These are high-ticket items that I have invested in across several years, buying a piece at a time by saving up. Some of the big companies have gently used and refurbished second-hand gear to take away some of the ouch financially in purchasing new.
I hope this “Idea Folder” post gets you thinking about giving the gift of health to you and yours this holiday season. As for me, I have all that I need, so my family decided that we would not be exchanging gifts. Instead, I’ll be volunteering with Public Health to give the gift of health to others through the COVID-19 vaccination launch that started just days ago. It’s one of the ways I can show my deep gratitude for regaining my health by turning around and giving it back, first to our frontline healthcare workers and first responders, long-term care workers and residents, and next to our essential workers.
Happy Holidays to all of you, and wishing you safety, health, and hope in 2021!