Ideas for a Healthy Jewish New Year
A Healthy Prescription for the New Year
Dr. Barbara Siminovich-Blok
As we welcome the New Year, spiritual concerns occupy our thoughts. We consider the year past and contemplate and form intentions in hopes of bettering ourselves in the year to come. But what happens to our physical health? Besides our perennial “lose 10 pounds” or “quit smoking after Yom Kippur,” there are several easier (and not so easy) behaviors we can implement to care for our physical health.
Let’s start with a prescription for a physically healthy New Year:
You finally got to shul. You made it! Then you take your seat and relax. Have you noticed you are slouching? Yes, most of us do just that. That slouching position might explain some of your headaches, neck pain, back pain and maybe even lead you to feel a bit sleepy. Let’s talk about core strength? The “core” muscles play a big part in keeping a “straight” posture. I know you’ve heard it before, but are those Pilates and yoga classes completely helping your posture if you still slouch? Here are a few extra tricks: Tense your inner abdominal muscles slightly, keeping the back straight. Breathe deeply, all the way to the stomach, and when the chest expands, bring the arms close. This will bring the shoulders back and stretch the rectus abdominus (abdominal muscle), keep it for a bit, and relax. No need to exert yourself, but keeping conscious of your posture will bring health in the future.
Other ideas while you are sitting? “Kiegel exercises” deserve a whole article by themselves, but they are basically done by lifting your pelvic floor and strengthening the inner core muscles; try to hold them for 2-10 seconds and then release. Remember to stand up once in a while too. One shouldn’t sit for more than 30 minutes at a time. Stretch your legs, walk around, make circles with your ankles and wrists. Bringing blood circulation to every part of the body is a great way of keeping warm and healthy hands and feet. A NEW YEAR IDEAà move more! Even if you don’t join a gym and run 7 days a week, just move a bit every day, 5-10 minutes, get off your seat every 30 minutes and stretch. It will build up and by the next New Year you will notice a difference.
Once services are over… here comes the FOOD! Yes…lots and lots of food. What to do? Do I diet today or the rest of the year? While many of us are careful most of the time about how we nurture ourselves, some of us don’t know how to go about it. What is it going to be this year? No wheat or dairy or meat? No fish? No cooked veggies or eggs? No soy, peanuts and nightshades? No wine? Perhaps you see my point here. There is too much information floating around. I’d suggest you choose one or two things that are good for you as an individual and stick with them for a month to see how they work. There is no need to follow everything you hear or read. Choosing one or two healthy habits can go a great length in prevention of illness. Some great examples of small changes you can make: Eat fewer sweets, less alcohol, more veggies and less food overall. Want to lower inflammation? Cutting wheat, sugar and dairy might help; just try it for a limited amount of time.
There are some big holiday meals coming up, and you will eat unusual things; there is no harm (in general) in taking a good digestive enzyme pill (with amylase and lipase), to give your pancreas a hand. Too many fatty foods? Have some bitters before your meal to stimulate your gallbladder (gentian or iris extract). Ate too much? Drank too much? A nice vitamin B complex and milk thistle will help your liver. Constipated after “cholent?” Did you know magnesium and probiotics can help? Again, make little changes, find your “weak spot” and help your system deal with it. Give water to your kidneys, but no more than 3 quarts/day. It will give them a rest. NEW YEAR RESOLUTION à Help your body, eat to strengthen your health and support your body’s specific issues with supplements.
Last, but not least: insomnia and fatigue. Tired in the morning? NEED that coffee now? Maybe you are not sleeping deeply enough. We all have lots of work, late nights out and responsibilities. But there might be ways to promote more sleep in your life; it’s so incredibly restorative. There are even studies where controlled groups that slept 8 hours lost more weight than groups that slept 5.5/6. It has to do with cortisol variations. NEW YEAR TASK à Sleep better. There are many natural aids that you can try and use for relaxing and sleeping more soundly; they range from essential oils to melatonin, to herbs like valerian, passiflora, hops, chamomilla, and more.
Consistent restful night sleep will slowly help you stay more productive while awake. Speaking of which…those quick energy boosts? Caffeine, tyrosine, supplements and some B vitamins; better take the specific B vitamins and supplements you do need, ask your doctor about using an adaptogen herb like ginseng, eleutherococcus or rhodiola. There’s no need to have a hyper-caffeinated boost if your adrenal and your thyroid glands are working well. Finally, gingko may improve circulation to the brain, thin your blood and improve concentration. It has been used in Chinese medicine for many centuries. NEW YEAR HOPEà More energy during the day and more productivity.
So now, beautiful services are over and your spirit is ready for the New Year, my hope for us is that we find an equilibrium in our mental, physical and spiritual health, and in that balance, may we be inscribed in The Book of Life for many years to come.
NOTE: Please consult your doctor before starting any supplement regime.
Dr. Barbara Siminovich-Blok, is a naturopathic doctor and a licensed acupuncturist. She practices naturopathic medicine in New York City at Equilibrium LLC, (248 W 35th St., ground floor, New York, NY, 10001