As a nutritionist, I watch people and observe their energy levels, their smiles and their weight. I look at their skin and eyes. I watch people because my ministry is to help God's people live healthier, more robust, victorious lives.
Pastors and their families are of special importance to me. The more these servants of God are "in the trenches," taking a stand and preaching the gospel, the more the enemy attacks them in body, mind and spirit. We know, as Christians, that this is part and parcel of our service to God. But it concerns me that so many pastors and their wives are worn out, stressed out--and some are almost ready to drop out.
I have had several pastors' wives call me and say they feel like total failures because they are struggling with a chronic illness or an emotional condition such as anxiety or depression. They carry on day-to-day, trying to hide the fact that they are physically or emotionally unwell because, after all, they are pastors' wives. How would it look if they were ill or worse, filled with anxiety or depression?
These women have also shared that they feel they have failed God and that their conditions are some sort of punishment. Let's stop right here! We all have fallen short in our service. God doesn't punish us for that; He loves us unconditionally. What is needed is a shift in our thinking. God is not punishing us. We punish ourselves.
While we know that God is our source for our health and strength, there are health-building principles that will arm us for the daily battle. We are punishing ourselves with poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, the inability to digest and resultant depressed immune response. We consume too much sugar, caffeine and preservatives. We have literally polluted our brains and bodies with toxins.
The following healthy lifestyle guidelines will help you take care of God's temple--your body--as you tend your flock. The warfare is getting tough. Pastors, you have to get tougher!
Make a commitment to yourself, your family and your church. Start now by taking better care of yourself, so you can be armed and dangerous against the attack of the enemy upon your physical body.
LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR BETTER HEALTH
The following guidelines will put you on the road to better health. They should become part of your regular lifestyle:
**Cut back on, or eliminate, caffeine. Many pastors depend on their morning cup of java to jump-start their day. Coffee is an addictive stimulant that can cause jumpiness, anxiety, nerve problems and heart palpitations.
Many pastors mistakenly think that they might have a nervous disorder when instead caffeine is the cause of their distress. When you wean yourself off of caffeine, you will give your body a chance to show you what good, pure energy feels like.
Other negative effects of excessive caffeine consumption include headaches, stomach and digestive problems, high blood pressure, irritability, mood swings and too much acidity in the body, which can result in disease. In addition, caffeine leaches B-vitamins from the body, especially thiamine, which is important for stress control.
There are natural alternatives to help wean you off caffeine. This must be done slowly because you will have withdrawal symptoms. My favorite natural coffee replacements are roasted dandelion tea, which has a faint coffee taste, and Postum or Pero, both of which are made from grain and have no caffeine.
**Have a cup of tea. For thousands of years, people in Japan and China have relied on tea to cure a multitude of ailments and to prevent disease. Now, science is in agreement with what these people have always known.
What science has found that is so exciting and significant is that tea--primarily green and black tea--contains health-promoting antioxidants that will prevent free-radical damage, avert some of the effects of aging and stimulate our immune system to help fight existing disease. Tea boosts the immune system's ability to protect the body from viral and bacterial invaders, allergies, cancer, arthritis, heart disease and stroke.
Scientists are particularly excited about green tea, which, in addition to being a rich source of antioxidants, appears to increase the activity of other antioxidant enzymes within the body. It also contains other valuable substances called catechins, polyphenols, flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, which make green tea extremely effective in fighting heart disease, stroke and cancer.
This is not to minimize the wonderful properties of black tea. In addition to helping to prevent and dissolve blood clots, black tea also appears to protect the arteries from narrowing and becoming clogged by cholesterol. Research from the National Institute of Nutrition in Rome revealed that drinking green tea can increase antioxidant activity in your blood by almost 50 percent in just 30 minutes, and black tea can do the same in 50 minutes. In both cases, the effect lasted for almost 90 minutes.
Other studies have confirmed that drinking green tea can prevent some forms of cancer, including cancer of the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, colon, lungs and breast cancer. So, for those of you who need scientific proof, we now have it. God made these substances to promote health and to keep us well even before science had to prove it to us.
God has truly provided everything we need in nature to keep us healthy. He has and will always be way ahead of us. He knew that we would need antioxidant protection now more than ever. Now science agrees with this knowledge that we can truly prosper and be in health.
Keep in mind that you do not have to miss out on the benefits of green or black tea because of their caffeine content. Decaffeinated green and black tea is available in most supermarkets and health food stores. Look for those specifying that they have been decaffeinated naturally or decaffeinated using spring water and natural effervescence. This will guarantee that all of the beneficial antioxidants are intact.
**Improve your digestion. How well do you digest your food? Most people over the age of 35 can benefit from supplementing their body with digestive enzymes. If you feel tired, sluggish, bloated, experience belching and gas after meals, enzymes will be a blessing to you.
I recommend enzymes from a plant source. Take them with your meals for the greatest benefit. You will be amazed at how much lighter you feel when enzymes are added at mealtime to help you absorb, assimilate and utilize the foods you eat. You will be energized after a meal instead of zapped. Enzymes are available at most health food stores.
**Have a green drink daily. It has been said that eating or drinking green "superfoods" is almost like receiving a little transfusion to enhance immunity and promote energy and well-being. They are one of the richest sources of essential nutrients. Nutritionally, they are more compact, concentrated and potent than regular greens, such as salads and green vegetables.
My personal recommendation is a product called Kyo-green. This is my formula of choice because of the synergy of ingredients. It contains barley, wheatgrass, chlorella and kelp. This green powder is mixed with juice or cold water.
Kyo-green cleanses the bloodstream to help detoxify the system. In addition, it helps to supply the body with minerals, enzymes and many important nutrients, providing energy for enhanced daily performance. Try it and feel the difference in your energy levels.
**Eliminate sugar. Sugar is a food we reach for in times of stress or tension. As life becomes more hectic, people consume more and more sugar.
The bad news is that sugar consumption inhibits immune function just 30 minutes after consumption and lasts for more than 5 hours. You must focus instead on complex carbohydrates, such as grain bread, rice or potatoes. These foods will not suppress immunity but will boost your energy.
Cutting back on or eliminating sugar is not easy. Sugar is very addictive. Here are my dietary recommendations to make the adjustment easier:
1. Chromium picolinate: 200 mcg (micrograms) (if under 150 pounds), and 400 mcg (if over 150 pounds)
2. B-Complex with extra pantothenic acid
3. Protein shake each morning
4. Stevia extract is to be used as an herbal sweetener (found in local health food stores)
5. Add fiber to your diet (brown rice, for example)
6. Make sure to eat six small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable. This will prevent the urge for a "sugar surge."
**Detox your body. Keep your temple clean by detoxifying your body every spring and fall. The following indicators are common in people who are in need of detoxification: poor elimination, junk food, fatigue, aches and pains, rashes, insomnia, bad breath, stress, lack of exercise, lack of water.
There are several detoxification products on the market available in most health food stores. I recommend Lindsey Duncan's Nature's Secret Ultimate Cleanse. This system is gentle and very effective in cleansing your blood, liver, colon and kidneys. It will take you about 30 days to go through the system.
After a few weeks on the detoxification program, your mind will be clearer, your energy will soar, your skin will glow and you will sleep better. In essence, you will feel like a new person. After detoxification, you really are!
**Clean up your diet. Easier said than done. As a good rule of thumb, just remember to try to eat as close to the "original garden" as possible. If a food won't rot or sprout, do without!
**Drink water. Water makes up 65 to 75 percent of our bodies. It is second only to oxygen for our survival.
Water helps to flush wastes and toxins, regulates body temperature and acts as a shock absorber for joints, bones and muscles. It cleanses the body inside and out.
When you drink enough water, your body works at its peak. Your guideline to follow is this simple formula: Take your body weight and divide it in half. This will give you the number of ounces to meet your quota for the day. Add fresh lemon for an added cleansing effect.
**Manage your stress. Many pastors are exhausted due to mental and physical stress. The long hours spent in counseling with others can take a heavy toll on your emotional and physical health.
We are living in times like no other. Congregation members are having problems that were unheard of 20 or 30 years ago. As you hear the stories of pain, grief, abandonment, incest and rape, you can't help but be affected.
Prayer is a great stress reliever, as you cast your cares upon the Lord. You must also sleep enough, make exercise a must and nourish the stress centers of your body.
During times of stress, I recommend a good B-complex vitamin, Royal Jelly and a protein shake, such as Nature's Plus Spirutein each day. Spirutein provides protein from a plant source; it is delicious and will help ensure that you are getting your quota of protein and essential nutrients, which are burned up quickly during times of stress.
If you can relate to any of the following four indicators of stress, you must take steps to de-stress your life. A constant state of distress can wreak havoc on your immune system. Because stress can alter your body's chemical balance, it has a direct influence on the development of many diseases.
FOUR KEY INDICATORS OF STRESS ARE:
1. sagging of the corners of the eyes, having a short temper, nervousness, creases in the forehead, irritability
2. fatigue, anger, insomnia, impatience, sadness, crying, overreacting
3. chronic neck or back pain, headaches, high blood pressure, stomach problems, accelerated aging
4. frequent infections, asthma, heart disease, kidney malfunction and mental or emotional breakdown.
Keep in mind that the symptoms of stress are progressive. Recognizing the warning signs will help you to take an active part in diffusing it before your health suffers.
I have found in my own life that when I am faced with stress and tension, my muscles tighten all over my body, and I generally feel miserable. I began research into muscle tension and found that physical and emotional stress gets stored in your muscles, causing even greater tension.
Fortunately, there are solutions when you feel yourself tightening up. Massage therapy has a long history of therapeutic benefits. A stressed body responds beautifully to regular massage therapy sessions. If this sounds a bit unpractical for you, do not worry; there is always exercise, such as walking, stretching and light weightlifting.
The bottom line is this: You will reap the health you sow. You get what you sow both in the natural and supernatural.
As you make these lifestyle changes that will benefit the immunity of your body as well as your mind and spirit, do not forget exercise. Without exercise, your stress continues to be stored in your muscles. Breathing becomes shallow, you become irritable, and headaches flare. Exercise not only helps to relieve stress, but also improves cardiovascular health. In addition, exercise aids detoxification by helping to eliminate toxins faster.
I recommend that you begin a walking program. Start with a 30-minute walk. If you walk alone, you can have time to yourself to think or de-stress and enjoy the scenery. You may want to walk with a friend because the time will seem to fly as you share experiences of the day. I personally do both.
There are times when I want time to myself to be with God as I walk. Then, there are times when a walking buddy is good medicine when faced with a problem. You will find that most problems seem not so important after a brisk walk or workout. Make some form of exercise part of your daily plan. Just get your body moving!
Follow these healthy guidelines, and when your congregation watches you, they will see a fresh new vibrancy in your appearance, a spring in your step and a renewed zest from your pulpit. *
Janet C. Maccaro, Ph.D., is a certified nutritionist in Jacksonville, Florida. She is author of The 90-Day Immune System Makeover and Breaking the Grip of Dangerous Emotions (Siloam Press).