All of us throughout our lives will encounter loss and trauma many times. Whether it’s being eliminated from a job you expected to maintain, your family dog dying, your parents passing away, a friend moving away, not getting a position you really worked hard for, your partner deciding they want to leave the relationship, an accident or injury that curtails you from doing what you are accustomed to, a relative or sibling dying, moving into a season like fall that is difficult to adjust to or any other event where you experience grief or sadness, it is vital to learn effective coping skills and nutrient support early, so, you can apply them throughout your life.
One of the strategies to managing grief is seeking support from friends, family, faith or even a dog. They can help support you through the process and be there when you need to talk to someone, even if it’s just a sounding board or a way to gain perspective. Often going through traumatic events in our lives affect our sleep, concentration, focus and memory, so, often our thoughts can be skewed. There is no one answer, time frame, thought process that is “right”, it can only be determined by you and what feels right for you. True friends will honour that and support you along the way. For those that have difficulty expressing themselves or aren’t comfortable sharing that part of their lives, seeing a counsellor is another wonderful option. Not only are they trained listeners, but, they can give you the skills to cope more effectively.
There are many techniques that are useful as well. Yoga, meditation, positive affirmation, creating mini-holidays, EMDR and prayer are all very effective to move through stressors. It takes time and practice for these to work well, so, establishing one of these skills before you experience problems increases your ability to use them successfully.
Another approach is supporting not only the mental/emotional, but, the physical part of our being to strengthen our foundation. Harmful chemicals can certainly be toxic to our bodies, but, so can thoughts and emotions, so, removing them efficiently is important. Having a shower removes dirt from the outside of our bodies, drinking filtered water/herbal teas flush the debris from the inside of the body, thus, drinking ½ your weight in ounces of fluid per day will help move those waste products out through the urine & feces. Activity, whether it’s dancing in the house to some fun music or going for a cross-country ski will release metabolites through our sweat with the extra benefit of producing positive chemicals, like endorphins and serotonin to boost the mood. Being outside for activity is favourable because of breathing fresh air, as well as absorbing lovely sunshine. Dry skin brushing is another effective tool. You can do this when towelling off. Start by brushing down the arms, up the back side of both arms, down the front & back of the body & finish with towelling up your legs. This moves metabolites to the lymph centres, which increases the elimination from the body. Lastly, castor oil packs draw out toxins to unload your system, so, I try to have people do them most nights, especially if sleep is an issue. Saturate a flannel cloth with castor oil, put it on your abdomen, cover it with plastic and leave it there for at least ½ hr. This draws out toxins, hormone breakdown products and metabolites, therefore unloading the liver. By the way, if the liver is weak or over-taxed, you will wake between 1-3AM and have a hard time getting back to sleep. If you are waking between 3-5AM you are not saying things you need to say or have lung issues.
The next article will discuss food, supplement and herbal support.
Dealing with Loss Without Medications – Part 2
So far, I have given you recommendations to re-build the foundation of your health while going through grief. Now, I will discuss selecting foods, supplements and herbs that would be helpful.
The next step is supporting the ability of the body to eliminate wastes through food. I’ve written many articles on alkalinity vs acidity in the past, but, to summarize, the body can eliminate waste when neutral or alkaline. Increasing the dark green leafy veggies (arugula, kale, parsley, cilantro, swiss chard, Japanese greens, beet tops, collards) or any other dark green like broccoli, peas and beans, having fruit, other veggies, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, oats, buckwheat or any unrefined grain) , seeds and almonds in the same amount as your protein (fish, eggs, chicken/turkey, tofu/tempeh, lamb, bison or wild meat, beans or legumes) balances the pH. Minimizing tomatoes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, anything white (flour, sugar, pasta, potatoes, rice, crackers, cereal), cow dairy, pork & beef and any stimulant (coffee, decaff coffee, black/green/white tea, herba mate, honeybush and rooibos) will decrease acidity.
When there are stressful times in our lives, extra support is often needed. This allows us to function adequately and helps us to handle the loss more effectively. The nutrient I give most often is a non-citrus Vitamin C powder or capsule. It is the main raw material that feeds the adrenal glands to handle stressors, to maintain energy levels and to keep the immune system strong. Secondly, a B complex with extra B5 chelated together for maximal absorption will maintain energy and minimize worrying, anxiousness and nervousness. Magnesium also relaxes the nerves, which I often have people take at night. Zinc supports the immune system and helps ensure the thyroid maintains maximal function. (When the adrenals are having to handle a lot of stressors, they will often call on the thyroid gland for support). Tyrosine, melatonin, 5 hydroxytryptophan (5HTP), DHEA and theanine all contribute to serotonin production. This hormone is our mood stabilizing hormone that creates joy, satisfaction, sleep stability and sense of well-being in our lives. GABA is another hormone that turns down the dial at night, so, is useful if sleep is compromised.
Another approach is using herbs. There are many calming herbs that can be used in an herbal infusion, such as lemon balm, oat straw, chamomile, skullcap or raspberry leaf. Mixing them with spearmint, peppermint or wintergreen is pleasant to drink all day long. A good trick is to use an old drip coffee maker (you can easily buy one in a second hand store), put a combination of the herbs in a filter and make a pot that stays hot all day. I will often mix these with herbs that support the adrenal glands. The most popular is licorice, which is a great sweetener for tea, but, I also use Siberian ginseng and Holy basil.
Supplementing with herbs is another possibility. There are many combinations that are possible, but, I like a combination of the calming herbs, such as skullcap, valerian, lemon balm, oat straw St. John’s Wort, Sarcostemma, Ciltoria, Bacopa, Elaeocarpus, Phyllanthus or passion flower, with adrenal supporting herbs, such as Magnolia, licorice, rhodiola and Ashwaganda. Crysin is another powerful plant extract that helps to produce more DHEA. I usually have people take supplements in the morning to re-adjust the system throughout the day and contribute to coping well.
This should give you some useful tools to make it through stressful events more successfully with no medications and minimal compromise to other systems of the body.