By Tom Shanahan, author of Spiritual Adrenaline

COVID-19 is a wake-up call to all of us about the importance of maintaining a healthy body and mind. My book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery is a “how-to” manual for optimizing your health to supercharge your recovery. Make no mistake, the number of fatalities due to COVID-19 in the addiction recovery community will be higher than in the general population. Our community has a larger percentage of people with liver, kidney, heart and lung disease, and vastly higher percentages of people with type-2 diabetes and hypoglycemia. This is due to poor health from years of active addiction and while in recovery. I do not say this for the shock value or to breed fear, but rather to empower you with knowledge.   

I’ve been really tempted to eat “at” COVID-19. Two days ago, I passed a Dunkin Donuts and almost gave in to temptation, buying a dozen donuts (I like jelly and Boston crème.) 

Thankfully I didn’t give in, and that close call got me thinking about how important it is to maintain good eating habits during times of high stress. Just like I could never have just one beer or line of cocaine, I know I’m incapable of eating one donut. It would be a dozen, and I’d still be looking for more! The refined sugar from that many donuts would have sent my brain into hyperdrive while spiking my blood sugar. My mood and behavior would be following that cycle of highs and lows, all because of what I ate. This type of cycle exhausts your body and over time, will wear down your immune system.  

What follows are elements of the Spiritual Adrenaline program you can implement today to protect your recovery in these challenging times. Remember, these are only suggestions. Take what you need and leave the rest.  

It’s absolutely critical to eat smart, thereby allowing your immune system to focus on protecting you from COVID-19 rather than responding to internal chaos caused by your poor eating habits. Here are my top recommendations:

  • More than 50 percent of your immune function occurs in your gut. Yes, your gut! The gut and the immune system are inseparable, and one relies on the other to function. Cut back on processed foods in favor of whole foods. Whole food is one that grew out of the earth (plants, nuts, seeds), lived on it (chicken, turkey, red meat), or swam in its oceans (fish.) Processed foods come in cans because all the enzymes have been removed. The enzymes in whole foods are what enable your body and immune system to function properly. By eating large amounts of processed foods during a crisis when your body is subjected to stress, you are undercutting the ability of your immune system to fight disease. You must consume whole foods with naturally occurring enzymes to enable your body and immune system to function properly. I wrote a detailed blog post about this topic in October. 2019: https://www.spiritualadrenaline.com/nutritional-psychiatry-addiction/. Click on the link to view the post and many others on my blog for free.
  • Have a hearty breakfast to avoid spiking your cortisol levels and increasing your chances of becoming depressed. Breakfast is not defined as coffee and cigarettes as I thought for years in active addiction. In a major longitudinal study released in October 2019, researchers tracked 720 Japanese adults ranging in age from 19 to 68 intensely for one year and then again three years later. They found a substantial increase in depressive symptoms in those who did not eat breakfast regularly. Don’t make this mistake. Start your day with a hearty breakfast of whole foods. See Spiritual Adrenaline, pages 89 – 92, 115 –117.   
  • Make sure to avoid refined sugars in favor or complex carbohydrates or healthy fats to provide your body with energy. Complex carbs and healthy fats will help you avoid the highs and lows caused by major spikes in blood sugar. At the end of the day, you’ll have more energy, feel better, and avoid stressing your organs and immune system. See Spiritual Adrenaline, pages 89 – 92, 115 – 117.
  • Consume lots of green veggies every day, 4 to 6 ounces per meal. These vegetables will fortify your immune system and enable your body to fight off disease and infection. To avoid supermarkets running out of fresh greens, buy the frozen kind as well. This ensures you will have access in the short and long-term. See Spiritual Adrenaline, pages 111, 112.
  • Eat a rainbow of colors of veggies every day, 4 to 6 ounces.  The colors indicate different types of nutrients, flavonoids, amino acids, and other important nutrients that enable your body to produce enzymes. Those enzymes produce critical hormones that regulate behavior and mood. See Spiritual Adrenaline, pages 112 –115.
  • Herbs and spices have medicinal qualities. Integrate as many into your daily routine as possible. A list of my recommendations with a full explanation of the benefits for each is included in my book. See Spiritual Adrenaline, pages 93 – 96.

If you integrate these simple recommendations today, the benefits to your body will be immediate. Like everything in life, the more effort you put into your health, the better the results you will see. For more information, check out my book, www.spiritualadrenaline.com, and the Spiritual Adrenaline YouTube channel with more than 200 free videos on how to integrate exercise and nutrition into your recovery. You can also join our Sober Active community on Facebook to meet people in recovery who are practicing self-care principles in all their affairs. I wish each and every one of you good health through the days and weeks to come.

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