I’m Stuck At home! Now What?!
Canadians are doing their best to “flatten the curve” during the Covid-19 pandemic by self-isolating and staying home as much as possible. This will be an important step in controlling the Covid-19 outbreak in our country and our communities.
At the same time, many Canadians are concerned about maintaining good health and a strong immune system during these times. Many of us are no longer able to go to the gym, eat the same diet, or live the same lifestyle. These limitations can be stressful and frustrating for many of us.
The following article will give you some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tips and suggestions on how you can keep your body and your immune system in tip-top condition even while you practice social-distancing and self-isolation.
Why Your Spleen/Stomach System Is So Important Right Now:
In TCM, having a strong and healthy body requires an abundant supply of high quality Qi (energy) and Blood (nourishment), circulating without restriction within our bodies.
Whether or not you are able to produce an abundant supply of high quality Qi and Blood depends on the health and functioning of all of your organs, but the Spleen (SP) and Stomach (ST) play special roles.
The SP/ST are responsible for your ability to break down all of the food and drink you consume into the basic building blocks your body needs to repair itself, function properly, and maintain a strong immune system. They are then responsible for ensuring that these vital materials are transported to the next organs responsible for the manufacturing of Qi and Blood.
The ST has the mechanical jobs of actually breaking down food. It churns and contracts, and releases stomach acid in order to physically break down the food you eat.
The SP has the energetic job of sorting the useful from the useless - what are the useful and vital building blocks for Qi and Blood, versus what is useless and should be excreted as waste. The SP also has the responsibility of transporting these materials to the next appropriate organ for further processing.
As the SP/ST are responsible for starting the most vital process your body performs, their proper functioning directly and significantly impacts your overall health and general well being. Likewise, a weakness or deficiency in the functioning of these organs can leave you feeling run down and generally unwell.
What Does SP/ST Deficiency Look Like
A weak SP/ST system results in an inability to properly turn food and drink into energy and nourishment. Therefore, a weak SP/ST often results in symptoms such as:
-Fatigue -Indigestion -Dry Skin/Hair
-Weakness -Loose Stools -Pale Complexion
-Lethargy -Bloating -Loss of Appetite
The SP also has the added jobs of holding blood within the blood vessels, keeping the internal organs in place, and moving fluids appropriately within the body. When the SP is weak, it is not uncommon to have symptoms such as:
-Sinus Congestion -Inability to Concentrate -Hemorrhoids
-Phlegm -Easy Bruising -Water Retention
-Foggy Thinking -Organ Prolapse -Feeling Cold
What Weakens the Spleen/Stomach
The health of your SP/ST is largely dependent on your lifestyle choices and your diet. The SP/ST are most effected by excessive mental activity, insufficient physical activity, and an overly cold, damp, and raw diet.
In the case of excessive mental activity, it requires a lot of energy to run your brain. Your brain is a really impressive piece of equipment if you stop to….think…about it! It requires a great deal of energy and nourishment to function properly, so the more you use your brain, the more energy and nourishment it requires.
Obviously, using your brain is a good thing, but using extra Qi and Blood to overthink, worry about, obsess over, and fixate on any given thought or circumstance is not a good thing. Not only do you end up focusing on topics that are upsetting you mentally and emotionally, you also end up using a great deal of energy your body could have used in much more productive ways.
Physical activity is good for us - we already know that! But what does that have to do with how we produce Qi and Blood? Well, while we’ve already discussed why its important to have a large amount of high quality Qi and Blood, we haven’t spoken much about why the unrestricted flow of Qi and Blood is just as important.
Think of it this way, if you had a huge amount of money sitting in a safe somewhere that would be great, but in reality, the money is only useful if you can move it to places outside that safe like to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or your landlord’s bank account.
Likewise, having a large amount of high quality Qi and Blood is great, but they are only truly useful if they can move freely through out the body in order to get where they are needed. If Qi and Blood fail to flow smoothly then the body does not get properly supplied with Qi and Blood, and therefore, cannot function properly.
While you are capable of moving Qi and Blood around your body without exercise, physical activity helps to profoundly increase the flow of Qi and Blood both in the moment and in the long term. For example, we already know that regular exercise strengthens the heart making each beat of the heart stronger and more efficient; bigger results with less effort. Physical activity helps you save energy in the long run as your body becomes stronger and more efficient the more you maintain a healthy physical activity routine.
When you don’t move enough, your Qi and Blood wont move enough thus leaving you feeling lethargic and unwell.
Finally, its no surprise that your diet plays a huge role in how well your SP/ST function. The SP in particular does not like cold, wet, or raw foods. You have to break down everything you eat and drink and bring it up to at least body temperature before you can even start to turn it into Qi and Blood, and that process takes a lot of effort.
If you consistently eat a diet that requires a great deal of effort to break down, you can end up spending more energy breaking down the food then what you get from the food itself. Basically, you end up using up your resources faster than you replace them. You can only do that for so long before you end up seriously depleted.
In general, foods that are cold, raw, wet, greasy, and processed are the hardest to digest. If a food takes a long time to chew with your mouth, it will undoubtedly require more “chewing” in your stomach. Likewise, the further away from body temperature a food is, the more work you have to put into heating it up/cooling it down. For example, the SP/ST will exert more effort to break down cold, raw vegetables then they would for a bowl of warm vegetable soup.
Foods that are warm, cooked, and moderately spiced are the easiest for your SP/ST to process. Even making the simple change of lightly cooking your veggies instead of eating them raw can make a huge difference in how easily your body can utilize the food you feed it.
What Can I Do To Strengthen My SP/ST?
If you resonated with the symptoms listed above, or recognize that your lifestyle might be taxing your SP/ST energy, then there is a good chance your SP/ST could use some serious TLC. Here are some simple steps you can take to strengthen yourself from the inside out.
**Please note: this information is intended to help people maintain good health while self-isolating and social-distancing are still recommended. These are not tips on how to treat or cure Covid-19. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 (fever and coughing in particular) please get tested as soon as possible. If you are unsure what do to, please cal 811 for assistance. **
While it is important to keep ourselves informed and occupied, it is not necessary for us to obsessively check the news or worry about what happens next. Here are some things you can do to ease your mind at this time:
-Gratitude Lists: Many of us are facing serious financial burdens at the moment, as well as concerns about future employment, child-care, the health of our loved ones, et cetera. While it is important to recognize the severity of the situation we find ourselves in, it is important not to get overly focused on these issues. Listing all of the things you are grateful for everyday can help shift the focus from the negative to the positive.
At first it can seem hard to find the silver lining, but once you start looking for it you’ll find it was brighter then you thought it was! Start with the obvious things like having a home and food to eat, the more you list the more you find to be grateful for!
-Meditation: Youtube provides a plethora of guided meditation videos you can access for free. Even a few minutes a day of intentionally slowing down, checking in with your thoughts, and trying your best to clear your mind can have an immediate positive effect on your mental well being.
-To Do Lists: Remember all those books you’ve bought but haven’t read yet? Remember all those household tasks and repairs you keep putting off because you just don’t have the time? Remember all those little things you said you’d accomplish if you could just find the time to get it all done? Well, good news! The time as come!
We all have a list of things we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve done if only we had the time in our busy lives to get to them. Now that many of us have nothing but time on our hands, this is an excellent time to accomplish all those little tasks and chores. It can be simple way to not only be productive but feel better about yourself and your situation too! Accomplishing goals, no matter how small, can help you feel useful and busy, thus boosting your mood. It can also be a great way to avoid checking the news and social media for the 700th time today!
-Adequate Sleep: Getting enough sleep is vital for your overall well being. When we sleep our brain is flushed with Cerebrospinal Fluid which helps to clean the brain of all the metabolic waste its accumulated after a long day of thinking. It is also when your body repairs itself. Furthermore, it is believed that dreaming allows your subconscious mind to vent out any troubling issues it might be dealing with in waking life….something we could all use right now!
Many people have dedicated exercise routines that involve time at the gym, time in group settings, and/or extended periods of time outside. While some are lucky enough to have yards and outdoor space to utilize, many people are self-isolating in condo buildings with little to no private outdoor space. And since most gyms and recreational centres are currently closed, many of us are left wondering how to maintain an active lifestyle during these times.
-Exercise Videos & Apps: Technology saves the day! We are lucky to be living at a time when so much valuable information is available to us through the internet. Youtube is an excellent source for exercise videos of all kinds: yoga, pilates, stretching, at-home workouts, work outs that don’t require equipment, et cetera. There are also many apps available (for free and for purchase) that can provide you with similar info and videos to help you keep fit and active.
-Household Chores: A great way to exercise when at home is to clean your house! This is an excellent opportunity to deep clean of your home. Not only will you being burning calories, stretching, and lifting heavy objects, you’ll end up with the peace of mind you get from ensuring your personal space is clean, orderly, and comfortable. This is a great time to see if you have items you can donate to those who are struggling through this situation.
**Please Note: these dietary guidelines are generalized information. You know your body better then anyone else does, so if there is a food or cooking method suggested that you know you do not react well too, please do what you know is best for your body. **
It may not be possible to eat an ideal diet right now, as what is made available for purchase may not be what you would normally choose. The following foods and cooking suggestion are generalized - you might not be able to follow many of these tips based on what you currently have access to, but following the ones you can will still be helpful.
-Avoid Extremes: As mentioned above, the SP/ST do not enjoy overly cold and wet foods, or overly processed and/or greasy foods. This remains true, but the bigger picture is that the SP/ST doesn’t like extremes - that includes extremely spicy and extremely hot food as well.
-Cook Your Food: The SP/ST likes food that doesn’t require much effort to breakdown. Cold, wet, and fibrous foods tend to be the hardest for us to deal with - things like smoothies and salads can be some of the most challenging foods you can give yourself.
Usually when I tell people this, they shift uncomfortably in their seats, look concerned, and then say “But I eat smoothies and salads every day!” I totally understand that a busy daily life can make it difficult to eat a hot sit-down meal three times a day. But, if its possible to turn a smoothie into a bowl of oatmeal with berries and cinnamon, or to turn a salad into a stir fry with garlic and ginger then you will be doing yourself a big favour. Remember: some change is better than no change at all.
AND NOW, FOR THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP I CAN GIVE YOU RIGHT NOW!
BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND THOSE AROUND YOU!
For most of us, this current situation can be a scary and lonely experience. Its possible you may feel a lack of control over your own life and your own future. You may be immunocompromised and scared to interact with others or to go outside. You may be sitting at home feeling helpless as you check in with an elderly loved one who feels alone and scared.
All of these feelings and thoughts are valid and understandable, but please don’t forget - while social-distancing and self-isolation may be difficult, they are some of the most powerful tools we have to ensure that when all of this is over, most of us will emerge healthy and happy and ready to return to our daily lives.
-Taking care of yourself is an act of kindness for those who love you.
-Self-isolating is an act of kindness towards those who have no choice but to go to work; people like grocery store staff, medical personnel, government workers, et cetera
-Self-isolation is an act of kindness towards yourself, as contracting Covid-19 can be a life-threatening situation.
Do what you can to help those in need, but don’t forget that you are one of those people too! We could all use a little extra love and attention right now, and for many of us that love and attention will need to come from ourselves for the time being.
-Caroline O'Hara, Registered Acupuncturist at Remedy Wellness Centre
This blog is collaborative collection of information provided by several of our therapists. We hope you find some useful information and tips.