Good Nutrition Is Key for Caregivers Avoiding Chronic Health Issues

Good Nutrition Is Key for Caregivers Avoiding Chronic Health Issues

As the primary caregiver for my daughter with cerebral palsy (now twenty-six years old) and a lengthy list of medical issues, and with my husband recently receiving a brain cancer diagnosis, I’m no stranger to the intense demands of caregiving. Caregivers are often told to prioritize their health, but what does that mean?

When you’re focused on caring for someone else, it can be easy to neglect your health. A Canadian study about health among caregivers of children with chronic health concluded the following.

“After we controlled for relevant family, caregiver, and child factors, caregivers of children with health problems had substantially greater odds of reporting chronic conditions, activity limitations, poor general health, and symptoms of depression than did caregivers of healthy children.”

Some health issues reported were food allergies, asthma, sinusitis, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, urinary incontinence, dementia, Alzheimer, stomach issues, diabetes, depression, and many more.

Healthy Meal Ideas for Caregivers
Eating nutritious food is critical to supporting your body to perform at its best and reducing or avoiding some of these chronic illnesses. Fill your meals with fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to find natural energy and manage stress levels. It’s essential to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water. I like to add peppermint stems (known for digestive aid and boosting immunity) or lemon balm (recognized for reducing stress) to my water bottle throughout the day.

Finding the time for healthy meals and snacks can be challenging when you’re busy caring for someone else. But there are simple ways to ensure you get the nutrients you need. Have pre-cut fruits and veggies on hand for snacking, or pack a nutritious lunch to take with you. You can also make a big pot of soup or stew and freeze portions for later. Soups and stews are a great meal to pack in healthier, nutritious herbs and medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake, known for fighting cancer, boosting immunity, and supporting heart health. Maitake (also known as hen-of-the-woods) mushrooms are great for reducing cholesterol and balancing blood sugar and are another cancer-fighting food!

Foods to Avoid for Caregiver Well-Being
I have found that I’m calmer, don’t gain as much weight, and can focus better when I avoid foods like red meat, processed meats including cured meats, refined grains (e.g., white bread and pasta), chips, cookies, crackers, and pastries, sodas and sweetened drinks, dairy, fried foods, and large amounts of sugar.

Herbs for Stress Relief and Relaxation
Herbs have been used for centuries to support well-being. They help with stress relief, energy, and relaxation and are generally easy to use. I love herbs like chamomile, perfect as an iced or hot tea before bed. Lavender is another relaxing herb that is good in tea. I also love to use seasonings, such as Herbs de Provence, perfect on white fish or chicken, and Ashwagandha, excellent when added to coffee, soups and stews, or mixed with dips.

I love to whip up batches of herbal-infused energy balls with various herbal powders. They make the perfect afternoon snack, a sweet treat to satisfy my cravings and help me through a tough day. Creating these energy balls is so straightforward; no cooking is even necessary. My favorite ingredients for energy balls include tahini, nut butter, honey, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, and cocoa powder or dairy-free, sugar-free bittersweet chips for chocolate lovers.

The following herbal powders I add to my energy ball recipe include:

  • Siberian ginseng (also known as Eleuthero), an adaptogen herb that bolsters the immune system, increases longevity, and boosts vitality.
  • Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb that regulates cortisol levels and reduces anxiety and inflammation.
  • Lion’s mane mushroom powder, which helps ease mild symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Chaga mushroom powder, with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help lower blood sugar and regulate blood pressure.

Besides energy balls, there are many ways to incorporate herbs into your day besides drinking herbal tea. You can also take tinctures/capsules, add fresh/dried herbs to your dishes for an extra nutritional bunch, or make your own DIY herbal body care products like balms, salves, body butter, and shower melts with calming essential oils.

Herbs and Prescription Drugs
It’s important to remember that certain herbs can interact with prescribed medications, especially when taken in concentrated forms like capsules or tinctures. It is always wise to speak to a healthcare professional before using herbs in this way. They will be able to advise you on the correct dosage and any potential risks.

Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness can be challenging, but if caregivers look after themselves properly, they will have the strength and capability to provide strong support. Eating nutritious food, exercising, and using herbs are simple yet effective ways of maintaining your well-being.

Make sure you stay hydrated and consider including herbs in your daily routine – and remember to seek extra help and support, such as online support groups, counseling services, and local resources. Looking after yourself is of utmost importance if you want to be an effective caregiver to someone living with a chronic illness.

Brenda Sullivan is the proprietor of Thompson Street Farm and Farm to Bath and is an avid herbalist. Her garden, where she grows medicinal flowers and herbs for her bath and body products, is a source of endless joy and knowledge. Using herbs has given Brenda and her family an improved quality of life. Brenda loves sharing her herbal insights on her podcast and YouTube channel, Living and Lovin Herbs.

Websites: https://www.farmtobath.com/ | www.livingandlovinherbs.com.