Health & Nutrition
As human beings we are all prone to mood changes as a normal part of our make-up, stress and times of hardship have a very strong effect on both our physical and emotional well being.
There is no greater hardship then the death of a son or daughter. During your time of grieving it is very easy to lose sight of the fact that you have to look after your own health and well being.
Thanks to Emma Mulvey, Pharmacist, We have a list of supplements which will help maintain physical and emotional health:
However, remember if you are on other medication or have a pre existing condition please consult your local pharmacist before purchasing any of these products!
Fish Oils have been demonstrated as mood boosters by countless studies. They contain omega-3 which is essential for optimum brain function. They are not found naturally in the body and so must be taken in a diet, as if we are short in them, inferior fatty acids from the body can be used resulting in low mood.
Purified fish oil supplements are an excellent way to get these into the diet to improve brain function and so mood. (Examples available from your pharmacy are Eye Q, Eskimo, IQ, MorEPA, Pulse Omega 3 and Cod Liver).
Stress and General Health
B vitamins improve general health and mental health. They allow the nervous system to function properly, provide energy to the body’s cells and are essential for general physical health (i.e hair, nails, blood cell formation). These can be taken in the diet and through supplements example of which are Vitamin B complex and also Berocca is a mixture of the B vitamins.
Feeling Run Down, Tired
A general multivitamin can have a positive effect on anyone feeling run down. There are two very good multivitamins which have Ginseng included in them and this gives a boost of energy along with the boost vitamins will provide so in times of extreme tiredness is very effective. These products are Pharmaton and Vivioptal and are available in all Pharmacies.
An Iron supplement may also be necessary for anyone feeling run down who may not be eating a well balanced diet (examples are spatone, Galfer and iron can also be contained in Multivitamins).
Valerian as a product that has been used to enhance relaxation an sleep for people who have trouble sleeping and with stress. It is available in different forms for each of its uses. The hops variety is very useful to aid with sleep and there are milder preparations used to relax the mind.
Using essential oils to aid with relaxation and sleep is another natural way to help with stress. A number of oils are used for these purposes these are; Lavender, Chamomile, Jasmine, Sandalwood, Sweet Marjoram, Rose and Ylang Ylang. Try adding these to your bath or onto a tissue or bedding.
Grieving can take it toll on your health. If you have any concerns or worries, make sure to speak to your local pharmacist or GP as soon as possible.
Nutrition and Diet
In the early days trying to care for your family is a huge task. Going to the supermarket is something a lot of us dread for several reasons. Often shopping for groceries can be such a terrible reminder of our loss, in particular when we come across our children’s favourite foods or treats.
The amount of energy it takes to try and remember or concentrate on what we need to buy. I remember at one point in my cupboard I had 8 tins of baked beans and we don’t even eat them!
The supermarket can also be a place where you may meet neighbours or acquaintances you would rather avoid at this time as our energy levels are so low, we have to reserve them for the people who matter.
If extended family and good friends offer to do the shopping or accompany you to the shops, take them up on that offer. Make a shopping list of what you need, include some of the food groups recommended in our Nutritionist’s article below.
Another option is to do Internet shopping. Tesco and Superquinn offer this facility. Once you have registered and after the initial first shop you do on line, it gets easier every time. It is also a great way to avoid all the impulsive purchases we throw into our shopping trolleys as we trawl the supermarket aisles.
Cooking Family Meals
The day to day preparation and cooking of every day meals for your surviving family, after the death of a child, takes a huge effort. Often our own appetites are gone, and we don’t feel like eating, or everything we do eat tastes like sawdust.
Even the coordination of a meal, which before our child died we could have done in our sleep, becomes a huge hurdle. It takes a little time before we can get that skill back. If family or friends offer to cook, take them up on that offer even just to give yourself a break now and then.
Our diet is crucial to our well being and when we are grieving we need to try and ensure that we eat as well as we can.
A few tips in general before we go into the main Nutrition article would be to:
- Have a bowl with Fresh Fruit to hand for you and your family.
- Try to eat regularly, even if you don’t feel up to the meal, have tasty snacks to help with your energy levels.
- Drink plenty of water during the day.
- Avoid drinking too much tea or coffee especially at night, look at herbal teas such as camomile tea to help you sleep.
Boosting the Immune System
Paula Mee is one of Ireland’s leading Nutritionists and former presenter of RTE’s Health Squad. We are delighted that she has taken some time out of her busy schedule to give us some tips on Nutrition and how to manage our health and immune system through the trauma of losing a child
I’m a big fan of Manuka honey, which has high antibacterial and immune system-boosting qualities. Although manuka honey is soothing in warm drinks if you feel below par, the heat of the drink kills some of the good bacteria in the honey, which means that you don’t get as much immune-system benefit from it — so I would suggest taking it straight off the spoon, or with yoghurt, or on a slice of bread or a cracker.
If you don’t like manuka honey, you could try a good-quality organic honey instead, perhaps made from a single type of flower such as lavender or thyme.
When you’re cooking try to include plenty of fresh garlic in your diet. Try to eat a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables — a good five portions a day — as this will ensure that you get adequate supplies of vitamin C, the well-known antioxidant that can keep your immune system strong.
As a safeguard for days when you cannot eat five portions of fruit or vegetables, I would suggest taking only up to 250mg of vitamin C in a supplement. Your daily requirement is only 60mg, so this gives you more than enough (you excrete the remainder) — and larger doses can cause indigestion.
Another advantage of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is that some of them are rich in beta-carotene, which is useful for keeping us well. The richest sources of beta-carotene are carrots, squashes, sweet potatoes, spinach, mangoes, cantaloupe melons, broccoli and tomatoes: try to include these in your diet.
You should also ensure that you take in enough zinc, as lack of this mineral has been shown to hinder the body’s ability to fight infections. Your body is better off receiving the zinc in food, as it absorbs most nutrients better this way than from supplements. Zinc is found in lean red meat, nuts, wholewheat products such as wholemeal toast and muffins, flapjacks, Quorn, soya products and hard cheese such as parmesan.
Vitamin E is another strong immune-system supporter, so I would use vegetable oils like olive oil in cooking. Other foods rich in vitamin E are pine nuts, avocados, muesli, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, salmon and tuna. Nuts and oily fish are also rich in a lesser-known antioxidant called selenium, so aim to include oily fish in your diet at least twice a week.
Try to eat oily fish once or twice a week (as well as salmon and tuna the list includes sardines, mackerel and herrings.
Finally, the B group of vitamins should not be forgotten for a healthy immune system. These are found in wholegrain bread, crackers, yeast extract such as Marmite, lean red meat, nuts, seeds, dairy produce, lentils and green leafy vegetables
A quick guide to your serving sizes for a balanced eating plan.
1. Carbohydrate rich foods
A serving is:
- 2 slice of wholemeal bread or toast
- 4 crisp breads
- 5 small crackers
- 1 wholemeal oval pitta pocket
- 4 tablespoons (tbsp.) breakfast cereal – unsweetened muesli
- 5 tbsp. dry porridge oats
- 2 egg-sized potatoes in skins
- 4 heaped tbsp. boiled basmati or brown rice
- 4 heaped tbsp. boiled wholewheat or ordinary pasta
- 4 small oat cakes
- 1 fruit or wholemeal scone
- Aim for one servings at each meal
- Try to choose wholemeal/high fibre varieties whenever possible – they are full of nutrients the processed white versions don’t have and are more filling
2. Vitamin and Mineral rich foods
A serving of fruit is:
- 1 medium size piece of any fresh fruit e.g. apple, orange, half a large grapefruit, a slice of melon or 2 satsumas
- 2 small pieces of fruit e.g. plums, apricots
- 1 handful of grapes
- 1 medium banana
- 10 strawberries
- 3 heaped tbsp. fruit (stewed or tinned in juice)
A serving of vegetables is:
- 3 heaped tbsp. cooked vegetables e.g. carrots, peas or mange tout
- 1 side salad (the size of a cereal bowl)
- 1 tomato or 7 cherry tomatoes
- Try to eat 2 pieces of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each day.
- Include a rainbow of colour – plenty of variety.
- Frozen vegetables and fruit are very good options
- Fruit makes a good snack at any time
- These really help to boost your immune system when the body is under stress.
3. Protein rich Foods
A serving is:
- Breast of chicken or same amount of turkey
- 1 darne or cutlet of salmon or 1 tuna steak
- 1 fillet of mackerel or one tin of sardines
- Whole cooked white fish
- 2 eggs (limit to 6 eggs a week)
- 5 tbsp. baked beans
- 4 tbsp. cooked peas, beans, lentils or dahl
- 120g (4oz) of soya, tofu or quorn
- Try to have 2 servings of protein rich foods each day.
- If possible eat oily fish once or twice a week for good health
- Include chickpeas, different beans and lentils at lunch or dinner two times a week if possible e.g. in casseroles, soups, pasta dishes and curries. Epicure organic beans and lentils don’t need soaking overnight. They’re always handy to have in the press.
4. Calcium rich Foods
A serving is:
- (200ml or 1 glass) of low fat milk or soya/rice fortified milk
- 1 small pot of low fat natural or fruit probiotic yogurt
- 1 small matchbox size cheddar or other hard cheese
- Slightly bigger piece of half-fat cheese
- 90g (3oz) cottage cheese
- 60g (2oz) of low fat soft cheese – goats, sheeps feta, ricotta (weigh)
- Try to include 3 servings of calcium rich foods each day.
- If you avoid dairy, use a fortified soya milk or rice milk instead.
- Use small amounts of stronger-flavoured cheese in cooking
- Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk contain just as much calcium as full-fat milk
5. Fat, sugar and salt containing foods
- Butter, margarines and fat spreads cooking fats and oils
- Pastry (e.g. in pies, flans, sausage rolls)
- Savoury snacks (e.g. crisps)
- Mayonnaise and salad dressings
- Rich sauces and fatty gravies
- Cakes, doughnuts
- Puddings, ice-cream
- Chocolate and confectionery
- Non-diet fizzy drinks
- Fast food, Take Aways
Nutritionally these foods are sources of: Saturated and hydrogenated fats, Sugar & Salt
These foods are not totally devoid of nutrients but they do contain lots of fat and sugar! The point is that these foods are not rich sources of these nutrients relative to the amount of energy (calories) which they provide. Too many of them in a diet will distort the nutritional balance and supplant other foods which are nutritionally much more important. If most of the dietary energy is derived from foods from this group, your fat intake will almost certainly be far too high and your fibre, vitamin and mineral intake undesirably low.
If you have any tips around Nutrition or Health that you would like to share, please email them to info@anamcara and we can add them to this section.
If you want to check out Paula’s website for yourself the address is www.paulamee.com