OAKHURST – It seems like you can’t turn on the news these days without a barrage of information about this year’s incarnation of the influenza virus, or its tailor-made nemesis, the flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia recommends that all people get flu shots, especially those who are more vulnerable to its effects: the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.Despite warnings that the flu season may be shaping up to be a bad one, only 35% of adults and 40% of children had received a vaccination, as of last November, according to the CDC.
Vaccination is a decision that each individual or family makes on its own. Meanwhile, for those who are looking for some simple ways to protect from the ravages of cold and flu this winter season, one advocate of healthy living suggests a simple return to the basics.
Margina Jones, owner of Nature’s Nutrients store in Oakhurst, outlined a few ways people can reduce the chance of becoming sick and increase the critical defenses of their own immune systems. Her suggestions serve as a timely reminder that good health includes awareness of what wellness means, starting with these basic essentials.
Eat and Drink Well
Jones suggests simple, healthy meals rather than extreme weight-loss schemes or diets, and emphasizes the importance of hydration, suggesting readers drink plenty of fresh water.
“Avoid dieting and avoid using the word diet. The idea is based on will power and deprivation and sets you up for failure,” Jones warns. “Instead, focus on having a healthy lifestyle. Start by just adding healthy, nutrient-dense food into your life.
Nutrient-dense foods are those which have a high level of nutrients relative to the number of calories; nutrients include vitamins, essential fatty acids, fiber and minerals. Nutrient-dense foods include cabbage, green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, garlic, onions and squash.
Move Your Body
“Regular exercise is very important to becoming and remaining healthy,” says Jones, who adds, “It is important to not overdo it, also. Find your balance, and find relaxing exercise like yoga, tai chi, walking or even just cleaning the house. Our bodies just need to move.”
Sleep It Off
More studies than ever show that the right amount of sleep is crucial to every individual.
“Sleep is the one thing I think pretty much everyone agrees on: how important a good quality of sleep is for you,” Jones promises. “There are a number of ways to help you get your sleep back on track, including the exercise and eating the right foods.”
“Basic important supplements include magnesium and other minerals, tonic herbs and antioxidants,” says Jones. “A lot of these can be found in foods,” depending what you eat, “and the tonic herbs can provide a good source of minerals.
A lack of the dietary mineral magnesium can contribute to sleep and digestive distress and hypertension (high blood pressure), among other maladies.
Magnesium is known to be beneficial to strong teeth and bones, and can help relax nerves; it can be found in dark greens like spinach and broccoli, or taken in supplement form.
Dietary minerals (also known as mineral nutrients) and the chemical elements our bodies require for optimum health. Common minerals in the human body besides magnesium include, and are not limited to calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and sodium, all of which are available in supplement form. Consult your doctor or nutritional advisor before taking supplements, and use as directed.
The need for supplements will differ depending on individual scenarios, according to Jones. “Supplement wisely. These recommendations will vary if you are working on a specific goal and also for children, elderly, pregnant or nursing women.” Jones also reminds people to take Omega 3’s, sometimes called “good fats,” found in foods like freshwater salmon and also available in supplement form.
Tonic herbs, or herbal tonics, are a group of plants known to provide soothing relief from indigestion, enhance immune function and improve memory. Some of the top herbal tonics include ginseng, eleuthero and the powerful antioxidants rhodiola, and ashwagandha, along with the reishi mushroom, which is said to be a “balancing” agent.
“I usually recommend eleuthero, because it’s a little less intense than ginseng and people tend to prefer it,” says Jones, who also suggests schisandra as a good tonic herb, many of which are available in supplement form and in teas.
Relax A Little
Everyone needs to relax a little, say experts, including Jones. If your lofty resolutions from new year haven’t been easy to keep, or you haven’t gotten around to making healthful choices yet, it’s okay to take a few steps back to the simple basics of good food and nutrition, exercise and sleep.
“Stress is something we want to avoid,” reports Jones, despite its prevalence in our lives. “It’s not healthy for any of us and will not help you lose weight or become healthy if you are stressing out about doing everything right or overdoing it.”
Nature’s Nutrients is located at 40359 Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
(photos by Autumn Mitchell)