When Legends Get Sick

I confess. I don’t love baseball. It’s one of those things that I can take, or leave, in life. It’s not a great passion, or a priority. My family was, and still is, the exact opposite. Born in 1960, I grew-up surrounded by baseball fanatics. The kind who could sleep and eat the game, but never grow tired. We were, in our own way, classic All-Americans, from our hot dogs to our Cracker Jacks. My mother’s side was comprised of loyal, patiently waiting, Chicago Cubs fans. And my father’s side, lived for the St. Louis Cardinals. They were zealous, devoted followers of the Redbirds. Then, there was me — caught in the middle.

Don’t get me wrong. I like baseball. Being a female didn’t lessen my appreciation, for the sport. I enjoy watching a good game, every now and then. The kind that keeps you glued to the television … with the bases loaded … suspense mounting … and extra innings. The play-offs, and certainly the World Series, bring back fond memories of my childhood every year. On those crisp, autumn nights, we are all baseball fans; aren’t we? But when I think about baseball, I think beyond the diamond. And I always seem to think of New York (may my family forgive me). I think of the ability and courage of one certain Yankee — Lou Gehrig. He was truly a legend …

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The “Iron Horse”, as he was affectionately called, seemed larger than life itself. He played over 2,100 consecutive games. A record that wasn’t broken until the mid-90s. And his tenacity was amazing. Gehrig played baseball, under any circumstance, including injuries. Every major league player dreams of going to the World Series, just once in their career. Lou played in six. He was the first athlete to appear on a box of Wheaties. Number One, in many ways. As I said, a legend. But it was his fight off of the field that earned my deepest admiration.

In 1938, Lou Gehrig started to slip physically. The athlete who had made baseball look so easy was fumbling, as he laced his shoes. By the Spring of ’39, he was in Mayo Clinic. There, at the age of 36, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). His professional career in baseball was over. And a new fight had begun. One that he fought daily, until he succumbed (1941). In the years that followed, ALS became more commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” — a reminder that Chronic illness can strike any of us.

ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease. There are two types: Sporadic and Familial. Sporadic is the most common, accounting for 90-95% of all cases that are diagnosed in the United States. Military veterans are twice as likely to be diagnosed, compared to the general population. Although, to date, the medical community hasn’t been able to determine why.

Patients with ALS may lose the ability to speak, move, eat and breathe. Their lives are altered, by the disease. While each case is different, the challenge is the same. A lot has been accomplished in medicine, since 1941. But there is still no cure. Yet, patients are now better equipped to manage ALS. And that is key. Many patients have a better quality of life, by participating in support groups. They stay socially active. They reap the benefits of occupational and physical therapy. They learn to live in the moment. Life expectancy with ALS has increased, since Gehrig was diagnosed. Today, 20% of all patients will live five years or more. An estimated 10% will live for a decade, or longer. And 5% will live for 20+ years.

When I reflect on the life of Lou Gehrig, I see the whole picture — not just baseball. I see the quiet and unassuming man. Husband. Son. I see the tenacious spirit who refused to let his condition deter him. I see the man who went from professional sports to working with prison inmates. As a member of New York City’s Parole Board, Gehrig was helping others to transition in life — to start over. And he took that job, seriously. Through his illness, he understood the fear and the challenge. He turned a negative into a positive. Gehrig was the kind of individual who squeezed every drop from life and savored it.  We should all, sick or well, heed that lesson. Lou truly lived. And how he lived remains an inspiration.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.biography.com/people/lou-gehrig-9308266

https://www.history.com/news/the-life-of-lou-gehrig

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354022

http://www.alsa.org/community/support-groups/

https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/living-als

https://www.verywellhealth.com/als-lou-gehrigs-disease-life-expectancy-2223973

*Photo by Chanan Greenblatt on Unsplash

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The Highs & Lows Of Bipolar Disorder

We all have our moods. The good days and the bad. Chronic illness often contributes to the latter. When we are stiff, in pain, struggling with elevated blood sugar levels, etc., we are down … irritable … and frustrated. But for those living with Bipolar Disorder, moods define their condition.

Contrary to the common misconception, a patient with Bipolar isn’t overly emotional. Instead, he or she experiences long periods of mood that are high-energy and others that are deeply saddening — stifling. These periods or episodes can last, for months. In between, they experience normal mood. These drastic swings are difficult and disruptive, for the patient and those around them. But, like other Chronic illnesses, Bipolar can be managed through medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. 

 

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Bipolar, or manic depression as it is also known, is a mental health condition that effects more than 3M Americans. In 2016, it was estimated that 40M are effected worldwide. Some experience their first episode, during childhood. But it typically begins during late teens or early adulthood. Many patients may go for years, untreated. They may not even be aware that they are sick. This by no means suggests that a patient should ignore their symptoms. In fact, the sooner that he or she is properly diagnosed … the easier it will be to get these symptoms under control and effectively manage their condition.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, there are steps that you can take for better living:

  • Eat healthy choices, i.e. Omega-3 foods. Avoid alcohol and drugs. 
  • Communicate with your Doctor or therapist.
  • Always take your medications as directed.
  • Monitor your symptoms.
  • Stay connected to your Support System, i.e. family, friends, etc. Don’t isolate.
  • Develop a more structured lifestyle.
  • Get some form of exercise. It’s emotionally beneficial. 
  • Limit your stress. 

Remember, our lives are like gardens. None are perfect, but all are beautiful. Give yours the chance to blossom and grow!

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955

https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/bipolardisorder.aspx?theme=mobile

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/bipolar-disorder#bipolar%20disorder

https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/living-with-bipolar-disorder.htm

*Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

 

On Eagle’s Wings …

Most of us grew-up with the notion that when you were sick, you went to the doctor and you got well. Life returned to normal. But once you are diagnosed with a Chronic illness, that simple concept goes out the window. In your new normal, you regularly go to the doctor/s … you regularly take medications, sometimes therapy, surgery, exercise, dietary changes, etc., but you are never where you once were. The symptoms remain. Pain is often times as common as breathing. And being well translates to effectively managing your disease. Despite your best efforts, there are setbacks. Those with a Chronic illness will tell you that it’s inevitable. And with time, the struggle can take its toll. Some become anxious and/or depressed. Others just want to give up. Medical science has accomplished a lot, but courage and strength can’t be prescribed. These essential tools must come from within.

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“… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  — Isaiah 40:31

Often times, a patient wonders, “Why me?” They may look at their life and try to find where the mistake was made. While lifestyle can contribute to some Chronic illnesses, there are many patients who have a long history of maintaining a healthy one prior to their diagnosis. Genetics and environment also play a role. In essence, there are no guarantees in life.

My uncle was diagnosed with Hypertension, around the age of 30. He successfully managed his condition, for years. In his late-50s, he retired … sold his home in the suburbs of Chicago … purchased a farm near Nashville, TN … and left the Big City grind for an easier gentry. He had chickens, ducks, horses, a well-stocked fishing pond, etc. When he and my aunt chose country-living, they went all in. Gardening. Quilting. Relaxing on the porch. It was a peaceful existence, surrounded by natural beauty. Admired. Perhaps, envied. Yet, a year later, he was stricken with a massive stroke. Left with partial paralysis, he found himself in a wheelchair. And, as he confessed to me nearly a decade later, he wondered, “Why me?” The really wondrous thing was that, according to him, he heard a voice say, “Why not you?” Was this a Divine conversation? Maybe. But, in that moment, he realized that he wasn’t alone. He had his faith to sustain him — to help confront his situation. There were millions struggling with medical conditions, the loss of body function, etc. His new normal wasn’t a rarity. It was a curve-ball in life. And he chose to make the most of it, which is exactly what God wants us to do.

Consider, for a moment, the Book of Job. It details the long-suffering of a good man. In my humble opinion, the diagnosis of any Chronic illness isn’t a matter of punishment. It’s a part of life that eventually finds most of us. It’s a time of change, like the seasons. But it is also an opportunity to inspire, to grow, even to thrive. My faith has taught me many things. One is that the Lord will not give me more than I can handle. So, even when a setback comes, I am comforted in that knowledge. Prayer has been a vital part of my daily living, for decades. Through it, I have been uplifted — strengthened emotionally, physically and spiritually. Inspired. And, yes, guided. I have been given the courage to confront my fears, work through my frustrations and move forward. Through the worst of times, prayer has led me — allowed me to soar. And I thank God for that.

Many religions rely on the power of prayer. They believe in the use of prayer for comfort, healing, strength and peace-of-mind. They know that it works, though the how and why may remain a mystery. Buddhists use meditation. Roman Catholics use the rosary. Protestants have individual prayer and Prayer Groups. Muslims use Du’a (personal prayer for healing). Jews turn to dovening and the Mi Sheberakh (a healing prayer for the sick). All are united by the belief that comfort and healing can be attained through sincere prayer.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of medical studies involving prayer. Even the NIH (National Institutes of Health) has funded one. Thirty years ago, the idea would have been unheard of by the scientific community. But time, as well as data, has a way of changing things. Even those who are not devout, can understand positive results. Prayer, in its various forms, has the ability to relax the patient. Stress is lessened, or eliminated. This in turn promotes healing. The limbic system of the brain, responsible for basic emotion, instinct and mood, is also positively effected. This aids the patient’s mental health. Who exactly gets the credit for the healing remains a matter of debate. Still, the facts remain. Prayer can play a significant role in a patient’s health and well-being.   

When you are diagnosed with Chronic illness, you are in it for the long-haul. If you are a religious person, you will probably turn to your faith for strength and courage. You may even find yourself struggling with it. That too, I think, is natural — human. So, set your hesitation aside and talk to your clergy about it. You won’t be the first, or the last. Others, overwhelmed and searching, may find faith at this time. You too are neither the first, or the last. It might also be the perfect time to join a a Bible Study group, volunteer at a Food Bank, etc. Sometimes, when you see the difficulties of others, it lends perspective. And many religious organizations even have support groups, for those who are living with Chronic illness. This is especially helpful for patients who live alone, or lack a solid support system at home.

Despite your affliction, or your views toward prayer, always embrace optimism. On the difficult days, I know that’s a lot to ask. But remember … an optimistic mindset is a key component for managing your condition. It’s uplifting. Encouraging. Motivating. Optimism is a confidence — a sheer hopefulness — that allows you to fight another day. One that somehow strengthens your body as well as your resolve. If you are anything, as a patient who is living with a Chronic illness, you are a warrior. We all are. Keep fighting the good fight!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal#1

https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/study-cancer-patients-with-strong-religious-or-spiritual-beliefs-report-better-health.html

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/dec/30/power-of-prayer-healing-and-therapeutic-prayer-in-/

*Photo by Keo Mowat on Unsplash

 

School Daze: Students & Chronic Illness

Recently, a friend shared photos of her high school reunion online. It was fun to look at those images, because I had attended this school for a few years. Once upon a time, these individuals were also my classmates. Time has a way of changing us. Age becomes the great equalizer, in life. And many of the things that we worried about, back in school, seem remarkably trivial. Perhaps, wisdom has finally taken control? Or, maybe, we’re just lacking the energy of our youth? Nowadays, most of us have Chronic illnesses to manage and discuss. It’s the new normal. But, 40+ years ago, it was a very different story. My diagnosis was an oddity that added difficulty to school and relationships. If your student is living with one, they know exactly what I mean.

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I was diagnosed with a Chronic illness, in 8th grade. In the blink of an eye, my life was drastically altered. I was hospitalized for six weeks, in one semester. My grades tumbled, across the board. No subject was spared. Perfectionist that I was (and still am to some extent), I went into full-panic mode. I was the student who tutored others. I had even tutored a couple of students who were a year ahead of me. Excellent grades had always been achieved, with modest effort. I had never been the student who had to work hard, or academically struggled. My Science teacher, crusty old gal that she was, refused to believe that I was even sick. Letters from my physicians had absolutely no influence on her. It made for an awkward classroom experience, to say the least. My other teachers, praise God, were understanding. They even brought school-work to my hospital-bed. But my life, like a line of falling dominoes, continued to collapse. My friendships became strained. Some disintegrated. Others totally disappeared. Then came the grand finale … the Headmaster announced that I had missed a few days over the limit that the state allowed (in a school-year). And I was held back, despite my passing grades and valiant effort. To say that it was heartbreaking would be an understatement. It was the most brutal thing that I had ever endured. Frustrating. Embarrassing. Even now, at 58, I really cannot describe how broken that year left me. Thankfully, I had a great support system — my family. With them, I was able to glean a valuable life-lesson from this unbearable time … perseverance!

Education has improved, in many areas. In others, it remains a mess. I have no desire to debate over-crowded classrooms, curriculum, weapons, etc., though all are worthy subjects. My focus, here, is on each and every student who lives with a Chronic illness.

We cannot control how society will react to the chronically ill, even if the patient is a child. We cannot force relationships to happen, or survive. And there are no guarantees that the adults involved won’t somehow disappoint us. We must realize that human nature plays a role. And perceptions can be skewed, by many things. Despite the law, diligent studying and the best of parenting, the odds are still that your student’s health issue will one day be an academic and/or social issue. So, be prepared.

Once a child is of school-age, he or she begins a journey through the academic and social pressures of growing-up. Parents are the navigators, for this journey — helping their child to avoid the hazards without becoming too overprotective or overbearing. When a child has a Chronic illness, there is an added degree of difficulty. Their needs/illness effects several, i.e. parents, siblings, teachers, etc. Sometimes, it is met with cooperation. And at other times, it’s a struggle. On the tough days, remember that you aren’t alone. Your child didn’t ask for a long-term medical condition. Nor did you ever want it, for them. Yet, here you are. And there are millions of families who can relate to what you are going through. They are going through it, too. 

Students with Chronic illness often feel left out, embarrassed, frustrated. They want to fit in and be normal. Yet, their health is anything but that. Less than 20% of all students live with a Chronic illness. So, prepare them. Friends, classmates or teammates may ask questions. It’s no big deal. Usually, a brief response will suffice. And, if an emergency should ever arise, it can be life-saving to have individuals who are in the know.

Some students may have academic difficulties, when fatigue and other symptoms plague their ability to study or attend class. Others do not. Some may resort to trying risky behaviors, i.e. skipping medication, underage drinking, binge drinking, smoking, drug abuse, unprotected sex, reckless driving, etc. But many learn to respect their medical condition and its needs, early on. They have no desire to take unnecessary risks. Unfortunately, when someone is different, they can be the target of physical and/or verbal bullying. This includes students who are living with a Chronic illness. If your child is experiencing peer victimization, it hurts. So, it is important to address the issue promptly. Stress has the nasty ability to worsen any chronic condition.

If you can foster a team atmosphere at home and at school, it will help tremendously. A good support system, no matter the patient’s age, is priceless. Think of this as a lesson that your student can utilize, throughout their life. It’s an inclusive approach that makes them feel less overwhelmed. Talk candidly with your child about ways that they can manage their disease and enjoy life to the fullest. Build their confidence. Talk about their goals and dreams, i.e. team sports, class trips, college. Discuss ways to attain these things. Many accomplished individuals, from U.S. presidents to celebrities and pro athletes, live with Chronic illness. It helps any student to have a role model that they can identify with. Last but not least, try to avoid mourning what you think (or know) your child cannot do. Although it may be a natural reaction for parents, it can leave your child feeling as though they have disappointed you. Instead, celebrate and encourage what they CAN do. We all have gifts. The key is discovering and utilizing them! 

 

Reference Links:

http://www.disabilityrights.org/appendix.htm

http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/chronic.htm

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness-child.aspx

http://www.bourgase.com/teaching/special-education/coaching-chronic-illness/

https://academic.oup.com/jpepsy/article/42/3/245/2418166

http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/1/3

https://www.webmd.com/balance/managing-chronic-disease-at-college#1

https://consumer.healthday.com/general-health-information-16/suicide-health-news-646/chronic-illness-can-plunge-young-adults-into-despair-725726.html

*Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

 

You & Your Doctor: Is The Relationship Working?

It’s a tough question, but a pertinent one. Is the relationship with your doctor working? Many patients may not even consider the interaction between themselves and their doctor/s to be a “relationship”. They might even laugh at the thought, feeling the term is meant for something more intimate. But that’s exactly what it is — a relationship. One that has been discussed in thousands of medical articles and books, dating back to Hippocrates. And where Chronic illness is concerned, it’s a long-term partnership for your health. If it isn’t working, guess who suffers the consequences? You. 

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Doctors often know what spouses, partners and children do not know. After all, HIPAA now defines who a physician talks to about your health. It’s meant to protect your privacy. Discussions between a doctor and patient vary, i.e. diagnosis, medications, test results, symptoms, complications, etc. These are very important and highly personal. So, trust is key.

When trust exists between a doctor and patient, it is beneficial to both parties. Trust results in better communication and smarter decisions. That in turn results in the best of health care. A good doctor-patient relationship is the foundation for ethically practicing medicine. It is the responsible approach, by any physician. And one that every patient can certainly appreciate.

Do you trust your doctor? Are you comfortable discussing your health with him/her?When you have an appointment, do you feel that you are given adequate attention? Are your test results explained to your satisfaction? Were your questions answered? Were you even given an opportunity to speak? If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, then you may seriously need to consider the future of your doctor-patient relationship.

Do you feel as if you aren’t being heard (not for lack of trying)? Do you sometimes feel like a helpless guinea pig? Have you ever left your doctor’s office feeling like you’ve just experienced a fly-by from an F-22? Dazed. Scared. Frustrated. Anxious. Has your condition worsened under your doctor’s treatment approach? Have you lost confidence in your doctor’s abilities? Or in his/her game-plan for your health? Have you ever felt insulted by your doctor’s remarks? Or perhaps it was his/her tone that made matters worse? Does the thought of finding another doctor ever enter your head? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then your doctor-patient relationship has issues. You may need to make a change.

Back in 2006, a medical study asked Mayo Clinic patients what traits they considered to be “ideal” for any doctor. The patients involved were seen by doctors in 14 various medical specialties. The seven most sought traits, according to those participating in the study, were as follows:

  • Empathetic
  • Humane
  • Confident
  • Forthright
  • Personal
  • Respectful
  • Thorough

It’s not a lot to ask, when you think about it. Does your doctor fit the description? Or do you wish that he/she did? Only you know for certain.

If change is on the horizon, it’s important to do a little “homework” beforehand. There are reference links below that can help you. But, first and foremost, talk to your healthcare insurance. You want a doctor that is in their network. Healthcare is expensive and complicated enough. There’s no need to exacerbate those areas. Next, you want to know about the doctor’s Board Certifications. Where did he/she attend Medical School? Some are more distinguished than others. Then, you should consider the hospital/s that is connected to the doctor. This is where you may one day go for tests, treatment, possibly surgery. Be aware of any disciplinary action, or lawsuits, that involve the doctor or hospital. Ask about the doctor’s connections with Big Pharm. Is he/she working for you or them? You want the best medication for your condition, not a choice that has been heavily influenced by a sales-pitch. And, unfortunately, this does happen. So, don’t be shy. Ask questions. Expect and get answers. What are their office policies? Do they offer Patient Portals that are available 24/7 online? This is a relationship; remember? If it feels right, move forward and make the change. If not, keep looking until a more compatible physician can be found. 

Your health and well-being depends greatly upon your doctor and the relationship that you build with him/her. So, never hesitate to be actively involved. This is, after all, your life. If you have a doctor who you can trust, then you have the makings of a good relationship. Talk candidly. Work together. Become a team. You will find that you’re better equipped to manage your Chronic illness and less stressed. Setbacks are inevitable, but so are the solutions. And a better quality of life is always the goal!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496871/

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20060309/7-key-traits-of-ideal-doctor#1

http://certificationmatters.org/

https://apps.ama-assn.org/doctorfinder/

https://www.healthgrades.com/

https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/hipaa-privacy-rule

https://www.abms.org/board-certification/

https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/code-medical-ethics-patient-physician-relationships

*Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

 

 

A Splash Of Relief

Many of us have been in pain, at one time or another. Some have experienced severe pain. But if you are one of the millions who live with a Chronic illness, you may also be living with chronic pain. Harsh. Relentless. Overwhelming. It’s unlike any pain that you have ever experienced — consuming you. And managing it is a struggle all its own. If this is you, relief may be easier than you ever imagined. Are you ready to take the plunge?

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In the summertime, most of us think of a swimming pool as a great place to escape the heat. Relax. Unwind. All of which are true. But a swimming pool can also provide the perfect environment for Aquatic Therapy, or Water Therapy as it is also known. 

When your body is immersed in water, it allows you to relieve physical stresses. Even something as simple as flotation has its benefits. Pressure is taken away from your muscles and joints. Other water options include: lap swimming, water aerobics, water yoga, and aquajogging. Aside from offering wonderful, low-impact exercise, the pool also gives you the opportunity to reduce your pain, lower your blood-pressure and enjoy yourself. You might even lose some weight. But, there’s more. Aquatic Therapy can increase your mobility — alleviating that pesky stiffness. It can also reduce fatigue. And all are positives for the management of any Chronic illness, especially one with chronic pain. Results vary, but studies have shown that utilizing a pool does work. And that makes this therapy something to strongly consider. You can have a better quality of life. So, go for it!

As with any exercise program, you should first talk to your doctor. He or she may even make recommendations that will help you find the best option, for your specific health needs. Most Aquatic Therapy is done in an indoor pool, with warm water. But outdoor facilities can also be used. If you are interested in exploring Aquatic Therapy, you can find a program at your local YMCA, a Health Club, Athletic Club, or Spa.  

Life is meant to be enjoyed. That’s possible, even with a Chronic illness. It starts with good pain management … and a splash!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/health_benefits_water_exercise.html

https://www.healthcentral.com/article/study-finds-swimming-reduces-pain-associated-with-fibromyalgia

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/arthritis-friendly/lap-swimming.php

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/water-aerobics

https://www.painscience.com/articles/aquatic-therapy.php

* Photo by Haley Phelps on Unsplash

 

One of The Best Summer Indulgences …

Every season brings activities that seem exclusive to that time of year. Summer is no exception. Many foods are also quintessential to the season. In the summertime, you need to look no farther than a roadside stand or your local Farmer’s Market. The choices seem endless. Many farms also welcome guests. If you have one near you, put the family in the car and enjoy a visit. Walk in the orchards. Pick your own. Or pick one of the baskets that will surely be waiting. The fruits and vegetables of summer are beautiful, fragrant and delicious. It’s a delight to the senses, from farm to table. But the very best part of these summer indulgences is that they are good for us, too!

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There is no plausible way to cover them all, short of writing a novella. But let me share a few examples. The links below can provide additional information. Let’s start with peaches. And, yes, I am partial to SC peaches. In a study from Texas A & M, results showed that peaches (no matter where they’re grown) can fight Chronic illnesses like Diabetes and Heart Disease. These fuzzy beauties can also reduce bad cholesterol (LDL). Peaches provide an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin C. And that is beneficial in combating the formation of free radicals known to cause Cancer. Vitamin C can also reduce wrinkles. Are you listening, girls?

Watermelon isn’t just for kids. It is a nutrient-rich food that any age can benefit from eating. And everyone seems to enjoy it, too. Around 92% of watermelon is water. This provides needed electrolytes in the summer’s sweltering heat. Another heads-up for the athletes, out there … Amino acids, like L-citrulline, found in watermelon can reduce muscle soreness. Vitamins A and C are great for healthy skin and hair. Remember that C is a wonderful antioxidant. And the fiber in watermelon aids in healthy digestion.

Okra isn’t just a “Southern thing”. It boasts many healthy benefits like fiber, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, protein, thiamin, etc. These things promote good heart health and strong bones. You’ll find antioxidants in okra, too.

Yellow veggies like corn, summer squash, peppers, beans, golden beets, etc., offer many nutritional benefits. The “Yellows” provide us with plenty of antioxidants, vitamins (A, B, C, E & K), etc. Antioxidants fight inflammation, among other things. They boost your immune system. Manganese strengthens bones. These veggies are also heart healthy. Some can clear toxins from the kidneys. Others aid in lowering bad cholesterol and blood-pressure. They can even help with fatigue!

Cherries are another great indulgence, of summer. They offer a load of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Just 1 cup of  these little gems (approx. 21 cherries) is less than 100 calories and can provide 15% of your daily Vitamin C. That’s healthy snacking! Cherries can slow the aging process, help to combat many Chronic illnesses, lessen joint pain, lower bad cholesterol, etc. Cherries and cherry juice have been shown to lower the risk of Gout attacks. Tart cherries are one of the few foods that provide Melatonin. This is a hormone that aids the sleep-cycle. And we can all appreciate a good night’s rest!

If you are looking for a fun activity, or a way to introduce new foods to your family, plant a garden or visit a Farmer’s Market. I have very fond memories of summers that are long past … their delicious bounty … and the adventures that transpired. Every year, amid the long days and warm weather, they come come back to me and always put a smile on my face …

I remember the Rainier Cherry tree, in my uncle’s backyard. My cousins and I would pick those cherries every morning, right after breakfast … still wearing our pajamas … our bare feet running through the dew-laden grass. I remember my grandma’s garden — lush with goodness and envied by many. And I remember the gardens that we planted, too — though ours were never as outstanding as hers.

What we didn’t grow, we found at the local Farmer’s Market. I always enjoyed taking those shopping trips with my Mom … smelling the fresh fruit, making selections, trying new recipes. Even now, I can remember my mother and grandmother teaching me the fine arts of canning … freezing … even drying. We were an industrious bunch — breaking beans, shucking corn, peeling peaches and laughing. No matter the task at hand, there was always a lot of love and laughter … fruits, vegetables, chutney, chow-chow, jams, jellies. Our freezers and pantries were proudly stocked. Those are some of the lessons that you never forget. And making them were some of the best Summer indulgences.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274620.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311977.php

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/yellow-vegetables#golden-beets

https://www.health.com/nutrition/health-benefits-cherries

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/19809/seasonal/summer/vegetables/

Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash