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Giving Voice to Our Roots

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How a big change to a familiar landmark reopened my eyes to what really matters — and what needs attention now.

There’s a tree on a peninsula of land on the lake where my family spends time in northern Minnesota each summer. I’ve noticed it in years past because it’s one of few trees on the narrow stretch where we beach the boat on Grandma Rock — the name my children have bestowed on this favorite swimming location. But something was different about it this year.

As we pulled up for the first time this past June, I noticed that the tree was uprooted. Instead of standing tall, it was leaning to one side, its mass of roots exposed, somehow still alive and anchored in place.

Upon seeing that beautiful, tangled mess, I felt a deep visceral reaction — a connection to something that’s typically buried in a deeper part of myself. It was as if that tree, in its vulnerable state, was a visual representation of all that goes unseen, unsaid, unknown, unrecognized and yet is essential to the very foundation of who I am.

Below the surface and beyond the physical aesthetic that each of us presents to and often curates for the world, there is so much more. And yet we often leave certain characteristics, beliefs, passions, longings, and parts of our past buried, concerned about what others might think if we revealed them.

But what would happen if we acknowledged and shared them? I’ve been asking myself this question since reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle, the renowned author and activist who is featured in this issue “Untamed Spirit: Glennon Doyle”.

In her transformative book, one idea she writes about is “Knowing” — the sense of innate knowledge that’s within us and that nudges us toward our truest selves. The problem is that we tend to push down these cues instead of giving them their due attention.

Doyle states that we often suppress these internal messages to help others feel more comfortable — until they become too uncomfortable or too painful for us to continue to ignore.

Prior to the pandemic, so many of us were going nonstop. In our busyness, we didn’t have the time to sit with ourselves . . . and then we did, and it was hard. Some people have referred to this phase as “The Great Pause.”

I’ve personally viewed it as something of a reckoning: an opportunity to get honest about how satisfying our lives really are and what we truly care about. To return to our roots and reconnect with our values and how we spend our time.

As summer has given way to fall, I’ve come to see the tree as representative of something bigger. In finally educating myself about racial injustice — and to be clear, there’s a long road ahead — it’s become evident that so much of our nation’s foundation is rooted in racism and oppression.

Those roots are now more clearly exposed; George Floyd’s killing in late May laid bare, yet again, the issues that have gone unaddressed for far too long.

As a nation, we can no longer overlook the pain, suffering, and loss in BIPOC communities. It’s time for real, lasting change and for more of us to raise our voices, become partners, and stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized.

That is one of our commitments at Experience Life. In this issue and future ones, you’ll hear more from us on the connections between socio­economic disparities and health, anti-racism, diversity, inclusivity, body positivity, and so much more.

Yes, this is a societal issue, but it’s also a health issue — and we’re doing our part to explore the roots of it.

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Health & Fitness

7 Immune-Boosting Foods – Experience Life

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Looking to build your immune system? Start by eating immunity-boosting foods like turmeric, sauerkraut, and medicinal mushrooms.

Healthy, balanced immune function is your best defense against any illness. One of the keys to bolstering your immune system? Nutrition.

“Diet is all-important,” says preventive-medicine specialist David Katz, MD. “You’re building white blood cells, enzymes, and antibodies every day, and the food you eat is literally the source of your construction materials.”

A single meal can alter how immune cells respond to provocation, and the effects accumulate over hours, days, and weeks, he explains. “You can do a complete 180 and optimize a badly broken immune system in as little as weeks by improving your diet, so it’s a very immediate return on investment.”

Foods that dampen the immune system include highly processed or fried foods, those high in added sugar, and nonorganic foods grown with glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Roundup, a common herbicide that has been linked to cancer.

On the flip side, foods rich in polyphenols — beneficial plant compounds found in many vegetables, fruits, and legumes — support immune function. Integrative practitioner Robert Rountree, MD notes that the Mediterranean diet (plenty of colorful vegetables, nuts, and olive oil; moderate amounts of protein; and a little red wine with dinner) provides a good general template for immune-supportive eating.

Some immune system–balancing superstars to focus on:

  1. Green tea is rich in polyphenols, including potent antioxidants called catechins that have antimicrobial properties and may help protect against influenza. It also contains quercetin, a flavonoid that Rountree calls a “time-honored immune-supportive agent.”
  2. Berries are a potent source of immune-supporting flavonoids. “When you eat berries, most of these pigment molecules go to the colon, where bacteria break them down into smaller molecules that escape and circulate in the body, exerting antiviral effects,” says David Nieman, DrPH, FACSM, an exercise immunologist at North Carolina’s Appalachian State University.
  3. Turmeric gets its deep orange-yellow from curcumin, a compound that helps balance the immune system. It has a modulating effect on T cells, B cells, macrophages, and other immune cells, and can also enhance antibody response.
  4. Garlic contains sulfuric compounds with a range of antimicrobial effects, such as inhibiting the biofilm formation of bacteria. It also has natural antiviral properties and can help reduce hypertension, one of the leading risk factors for COVID-19. (For more on garlic, see “Garlic”.)
  5. Citrus fruits such as grapefruit, kiwi, and lemon deliver abundant ­vitamin C — one of the most important nutrients for the immune system, aiding in the formation of white blood cells. (For more on this essential ­nutrient, visit “What You Need to Know About Vitamin C”.)
  6. Sauerkraut and other fermented foods contain lactic-acid bacteria, which produce compounds in the gut that spur the immune system into action. And cabbage itself is another excellent source of vitamin C.
  7. Medicinal mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, an immunomodulator that activates macrophages, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and neutrophils. “Mushrooms like shiitake, oyster, and maitake have been shown to prime immune cells in published studies,” says Rountree. He recommends both eating shiitake mushrooms and taking a mushroom extract to support the immune system.

This originally appeared as “Eat Well” in “6 Ways to Boost Your Immune System” in the January/February 2021 issue of Experience Life.


Mo Perry
is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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