As parents, we’re all driven to do our best, but sometimes we need to just embrace the messy moments that inevitably come up.
The start of a new school year can mean a lot of things, one of which is the inevitable exposure to a multitude of bacteria and germs. As parents, it is our responsibility to help keep our child’s health in tip-top shape and protect them as much as possible from getting sick. While it may be tempting to want to put them in a plastic bubble and send them on their way (if only), that is not reality.
Instead, we can take action steps at home to boost their immune systems so their bodies can fight off these bacterial and viral invaders on their own. In my functional medicine clinic, I see many children with weakened immune systems and have picked up a few kid-friendly tricks along the way. By doing a few key things now before summer is over, you can strengthen your child’s immune system so you both can hopefully take at least one less sick day.
Antibiotics are prescribed more than 154 million times a year for anything from a wound to an ear infection in order to kill off bacterial infections. While they certainly have their place, the CDC estimates that at least 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessaryand have been shown to deplete the good bacteria in your microbiome.
Since close to 75 percent of your immune system is located in your gut, just one round of antibiotics can weaken your child’s immune system. It’s important to avoid antibiotics unless completely necessary and look for natural anti-bacterial options, such as colloidal silver, to avoid sending your child off to school with an already depleted microbiome.
Start the school year off strong by re-establishing good gut bacteria through introducing more probiotic-rich foods into your child’s diet. While your kid is still at home, try feeding them fermented foods like sauerkraut or kefir (which comes in lots of flavors that your kid will, fingers crossed, love).
If you have an extra picky eater, there are many kid-friendly probiotic gummies on the market that will give them a hefty immune-boosting dose of good bacteria. Some still do contain sugar, though, so stick with whole food probiotic sources as much as possible.
With the combination of the sun not setting until much later and the crazy summer activity and travel schedule, a regular bedtime can go out the window. As soon as possible, begin re-establishing a sleep schedule with a set bedtime and wake time—no more sleeping in or staying up late. Most children need between 10 and 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep every day for them to thrive. Starting this sooner, rather than later, will make going back to school less of a struggle and their bodies will be better prepared to fight off any germs that come their way.
Your local farmers’ market is a great way to stock up on locally grown and organic groceries. But often, the markets are so packed with shoppers and overwhelming amounts of produce that it can be hard to navigate your way around.
Being at a farmers’ market – for me – is like being a kid in a candy shop, but there is quite a bit of overstimulation and distractions. Feeling lost? Try bringing a list of produce you need for the week, so if the bakery table aromas distract you (always), the list will help you get back on track.
Larger farmers’ markets usually have an information tent where you can ask about specific foods you’re looking for, find out who the new vendors are and learn about any specials going on for the day.
If you’re unsure what type of vegetable you have in your hand, and how to cook it or preserve it, the best thing to do is ask the farmer. Farmers are a great resource for produce knowledge and most of them really enjoy educating curious buyers about eating locally.
Don’t automatically pass by tables with wilted lettuce or misshaped produce. Like humans, leafy greens get tired from being in the sun all day, but if you run them under cold water for a few minutes they’ll most likely perk back up. And produce that doesn’t look ‘perfect’ probably means it’s free of GMOs. However, if you feel squishy spots or see black blotches, move on.
(But know the etiquette). Once you get to know the farmers, you can ask for a sample of whatever you want to try before buying. And even if you don’t know them, just ask if they can cut you a slice or give you a taste. Just remember to always be respectful as these goods are, literally, the fruits of their labor.
I’ve discovered that if you get to your farmers’ market as soon as it opens there are great discounts offered until the produce runs out. For instance, a great deal on squash at 8:00 AM might be over by 12:00 PM if the farmer sells out. However, if you show up towards the end, farmers are often more willing to throw in extra produce or offer a lower price so they won’t have as many leftovers.
This article first appeared on Dr. Axe.
Biohacking is the process of making changes to your lifestyle in order to “hack” your body’s biology and feel your best. You know the saying, “You are what you eat”? That actually applies to humans in a broader sense: everything we put into our bodies — our foods, our thoughts, our physical movement — all affect how we behave. By biohacking yourself, you can actually transform your body so that you feel more energized, be more productive and, overall, feel like the best possible version of yourself.
It doesn’t have to involve being a mad scientist and running crazy experiments with your body. Instead, it means using various hacks to see what works best for you (which could be very different from what works for Susan down the street!) and using it to #liveyourbestlife (unironically!).
Now, some people will tell you that all sorts of gadgets and measurements are necessary to biohack yourself, but I prefer the good old-fashioned way: making small changes to your lifestyle, giving your body time to adjust and then seeing how you feel. You stick with the things that work for you, and ditch the ones that don’t. After all, when it comes to how your body feels, you’re the expert!
“Biohacking” is a broad term that refers to a number of different things. Historically, the term was mentioned in a 1988 article in the Washington Postdiscussing biotechnology being brought to the masses in the form of “fiddling with the genetic code of a living organism.” (1)
More recently, experts like Ben Greenfield and Dave Asprey have developed an art when it comes to biohacking. By sharing their experiences, “hacks” and products, they hope to help followers manipulate nutrition, fitness and lifestyle to improve their health.
Typically, biohacking falls into three categories: nutrigenomics, do-it-yourself biology and grinder biohacking.
Nutrigenomics is simply the study of nutritionally manipulating the activity of your body. (1) This is also related to other sub-categories in biohacking like sleep manipulation, exercise, attention hacking, adjusting environmental triggers (like sound and light) and stress management.
This type of biohacking is really just building on the concept that our bodies are ever-changing, and using these discoveries to live better. Food, activity and various stimuli alter your body’s function and nutrigenomics involves learning how these interactions work.
Do-it-yourself biology (DIYBio) is a biohacking subculture of people who conduct biological experiments and study life sciences outside of conventional means, a movement started in the early 2000s. Many “teachers” in this crusade are formal educators or scientific researchers who want to show the average Joe how to conduct experiments. While this is a fascinating movement, this subset of biohacking is focused more on studying and testing unproven science and is often criticized for having no official oversight.
Grinder biohacking is a subset of DIYBio that fixates on technology implants or chemical manipulation of the body. Grinders attempt to push the limits of technology and the human body to their limits, practicing body modification to improve their “hardware.” These are typically very risky techniques, and I don’t personally recommend this habit.
What is biohacking good for in your life, though? Here are multiple ways to biohack yourself.
If you struggle with food allergies, have trouble digesting foods, experience skin issues like eczema and acne or find yourself constantly fatigued, it’s probably time to biohack yourself with an elimination diet.
An elimination diet sounds scary, but it’s just a short-term eating plan to figure out if the foods you’re eating are playing a role in whatever issues you’re experiencing. Here’s how it works: for 3–4 weeks, you’ll remove foods that are known allergens, giving any inflammation time to go down and giving you a clean slate. Gluten, soy, dairy, peanuts and corn are all foods to cut out during this time.
Then, slowly, you’ll re-introduce the banned foods, paying attention to how you feel and how your body responds physically. If you suspect a food you’ve added back into your diet is an irritant, you’ll remove it again and see if symptoms clear up. The goal is to pinpoint whether you’re less tolerant of some foods than others, and then make informed decisions about what you’re eating. For instance, if it turns out you don’t respond well to cow’s milk, you might want to use coconut milk in your coffee or try goat cheese as part of a dairy-free diet.
An elimination diet is one of the best biohacks you can do for yourself. Some people don’t understand how good they can truly feel until they remove some of the worst food offenders from their diet.
Want to spend a little money to figure out exactly what you’re reacting badly to? Many naturopaths, integrative physicians and even some biohacking fitness centers offer an option to take a blood or urine test to pinpoint food allergens or sensitivities. This might be a great idea for you if an elimination diet doesn’t seem to reveal any clear perpetrators.
I never said this would be easy! Giving addictive sugar the boot is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. It can be a pretty tough biohack, but one of the most rewarding.
Now, I don’t mean you have to eliminate naturally occurring sugars, like the ones you find in fruits and dairy, from your diet. Added sugars are the ones you want to worry about. You’ll find those in products like soft drinks, processed foods and sweets, but also in foods like flavored yogurt, condiments (check those barbecue sauce and ketchup labels!) and energy drinks.
What makes sugar so bad for your body? It increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, it leads to mood swings, it increases inflammation in the body and lowers energy — and that’s the abbreviated list! (Read more about the benefits of a sugar-free diet.) How to reduce your sugar habit? Learn how to measure sugar, look for it in all its forms on labels (hint: anything ending in “ose” and natural sweeteners like honey, molasses and fruit juice still count) and limit processed foods.
Did you know that by simply changing when you’re eating, you can biohack your body? Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity as a method of losing weight and normalizing insulin sensitivity, which can help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes. It also regulates ghrelin levels, more commonly known as the hunger hormone, which tells your brain when you’re hungry, and leptin, which signals to the brain that you’re full and should stop eating.
The cool thing about fasting is that there is more than one way to do it. Some people opt for alternate-day fasting, where on fasting days, you limit your calories to 25 percent of your normal intake, and then eat your usual amount of calories on non-fasting days.
There’s time-restricted eating, where you only eating during a certain window during the day (psst: if you eat dinner early and tend to have a late breakfast, you’re already doing this!) and a more spiritual approach, the Daniel fast. Though intermittent fasting can take some time to get used to, depending on your health goals, it may be a good biohacking option.
Sleep is often missing from conversations about losing weight and improving your health and mood — and that’s a major mistake. If you’re not getting enough zzz’s each night (usually between 7–9 hours) and suffering from sleep deprivation, you’re putting yourself at risk for a host of health problems, including a higher risk for chronic disease, a weakened immune system, depression, trouble concentrating, irritability, an increased appetite and out-of-whack hormones.
There’s one step to biohacking your sleep: get more of it! Of course, I know it’s not always that simple. These 7 natural sleep aids can help. Some of my favorite suggestions are sticking to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, to keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Keeping electronics out of bed is important, too; the lights from your smartphone tell your brain it’s time to wake up, not drift off to sleep. If you’re still struggling from insomnia, a DIY essential oils sleep aid just might do the trick.
Looking for a diet where eating a lot of fat isn’t just encouraged, it’s required? The keto diet might be for you! While the keto diet is experiencing some serious popularity right now, it’s not a fad diet. In the keto diet, you’re trying to get your body to ketosis, a metabolic state where the body uses mostly ketones, not carbohydrates, for energy. This happens when fat, not glucose (carbohydrates), provide most of body’s calories. (It can also be induced by multiple-day fasting, but that’s not a long-term option for most people.)
On a keto diet, you’ll seriously restrict carbs and sugar, and instead eat keto-friendly foods like healthy fats (coconut oil, ghee, nuts, etc.), non-starchy veggies (goodbye, potatoes) and foods that are high in protein but have no or low carbs, like grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish and eggs.
The keto diet is very effective at promoting weight loss, especially if you are very overweight. It can reduce heart disease markers like high cholesteroland could even fight brain disease — in fact, the keto diet was originally used as a way to manage seizures in people with epilepsy. If you’re already eating relatively well but want to challenge yourself even further, biohacking your diet and going keto could be what you need.
What we feed our minds is just as important as what we feed our bodies. Meditation is the ultimate brain hack. The benefits of meditation are huge: from reducing pain and increasing sleep quality to lowering inflammation and boosting productivity. If you’re suffering from stress or anxiety, meditation can also be a really effective way of naturally dealing with symptoms. Establishing a daily meditation practice is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health.
If you concerned that you can’t stop your brain from buzzing long enough to meditate, don’t worry. Guided meditation can help you get into the habit. There are also dozens of smartphone apps you can use; some will alert you at the same time each day or have specific meditations for different purposes, like starting the day with a clear head or helping you unwind. Healing prayer is another option that might speak to you.
How often do you walk barefoot in the grass or feel the sand crunch between your toes? If the answer is “not enough,” may I suggest you introduce grounding as your next biohack?
Grounding, also known as earthing, means allowing your feet to connect with the surface below them and the powerful energy that brings. When we spend time barefoot on the earth, our feet act as electrical currents, allowing the natural electrical charges that the earth produces flow through us. Grounding can improve your sleep, reduce inflammation and encourage you to enjoy nature more and get your dose of vitamin D — plus, it’s free!
Try it by taking a short walk sans shoes to the mailbox, strolling on the beach or even barbecuing barefoot. As the weather gets colder, minimalist shoes can help keep your feet in closer contact with the earth.
Active people often enjoy biohacks like “rewilding,” similar to the thought process being earthing. Many biohacking experts teach that we should fight against our natural “domestication” and, instead, spend more time outside, eat less processed foods, drink better water, be exposed to sunlight and learn to love the outdoors. We were made to thrive using these methods, so it makes sense to do your yoga routine in the backyard tomorrow — where you can not only benefit from the exercise, but also from just being outside under the sun.
Most of us spend our days going from sitting in our cars to sitting at a desk to sitting in the car some more. Rinse and repeat, and we’re spending an extraordinary amount of our lives seated. All that sitting is harming our health, and might even be as dangerous as smoking.
But there’s an easy fix to that: stand more. You don’t need to invest in a standing desk (although they’re helpful!). Instead, it’s how often we stand, not how long we stand for, that matters. Biohack your way to better health — see my piece about various exercise hacks, too — simply by getting up and talking to colleagues instead of sending an email; taking the stairs instead of the elevator; standing up and pacing during long phone calls or even setting a reminder on your phone for every 60–90 minutes to take a quick lap around the office.
This article first appeared on Very Well Family.
This is an activity that requires a little advance parental prep but is always a big hit with kids (so much so that you don’t even need the rain for it to be effective!). Stash clues around the house directing kids to hunt for a hidden prize. Adjust the clues’ difficulty based on the ages of your kids: Use picture cues for little ones and tricky puns for older children, for example.
Play basketball with a soft foam or sponge ball, or just wad up some newspaper; the hoop can be any basket or receptacle (either hung on the wall or resting on the floor). Have kids shoot from different parts of the room or in different ways, in an indoor version of HORSE. Basketball not your speed? Try indoor bowling.
Challenge a group of kids to stage a talent show or play. Give them a theme, a few characters, or some opening lines to get them started if they need a little help. How about “Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Rainy Days, a princess was born with webbed duck feet.” Only one or two kids to entertain? Puppets to the rescue!
Hit an indoor pool (if you don’t have a gym or community center membership, check hotels—they sometimes sell day passes), ice or roller rink, climbing wall, bowling alley, or inflatables play space to blow off steam.
Use a large plastic bin, dishpan, or aluminum-foil roasting pan as your box. Fill with rice or oatmeal and stock with scoops, funnels, spoons, toy cars, a plastic tea set—whatever suits your child’s interests.
Have any fitness videos? Break them out and do them together. If you’re bored with your selection, see what’s offered on YouTube or an online streaming service. You can also hit the library or try an app.
Dog training keeps both kids and pets busy and challenged. Pick up a simple book of ideas, such as Puppy Training for Kids (buy from Amazon) by Colleen Pelar, to help them get started. Also, try some ideas for incorporating dogs into home workouts.
Suit up with boots, raincoats, and warm socks and get outside—you won’t melt. Splash in the puddles. Belt out “Singin’ in the Rain” while you twirl your umbrella. Do your best impressions of ducks, frogs, and fish. When you come inside, swap chilly rain gear for a warm bath or a cup of soup.
Break out the couch cushions, old blankets, hula hoops, and cardboard boxesand have the kids build a fort or an obstacle course. Or try a fort-building kit, which comes with foam rods, nylon sheets, and clamps to hold them all together. You can make a clubhouse, an airplane, a castle, a tractor-trailer, and more.
Blow up some balloons and play keep-away or “volleyball.” Or use paper fans to play a version of table tennis: Use your fan to create gusts of air to blow your balloon across the table towards an opponent—get it past her to score a point. (Remember, the scraps from popped balloons are a choking hazard, so take precautions if you have small children.)
Painting a large mural or pounding clay works your child’s muscles too. Spread out a big sheet of paper (in the garage or basement if you can!) and try different ways to paint, from spattering to footprints to rolling old balls in paint and then on paper. Messy? Yes! But good for lots of laughs too.
Play hide and seek or charades (no supplies required!). Stock your toy shelf with indoor games and toys that encourage kids to move, from classics like Twister to newer hits like the Nintendo Wii U. Or try reading health and fitness books for kids that encourage active play and other healthy choices.