Supporting Immune Systems in the Wilderness
As I reflect upon our philosophy and mission here at Evoke, I am reminded of a song by Graham Colton Life's What You Make It. It talks about how each of us will at some point need to write our own life’s song. One of the great lines of the song reads:
Open all the windows
Let in all the light
You can pull the stars down
Paint the perfect sky
I see first-hand how our amazing therapists and field instructors are helping our participants to open up the windows and giving them the light (tools and strategies), to enable each one of them to have the confidence to paint their own perfect sky--whatever that may look like. In other words, I feel by equipping our participants with the needed tools our program is providing a type of emotional immunity to fight against some of the challenges they will be exposed to such as anxiety, depression, anger, and substance-abuse to name a few.
As part of the medical team at Entrada, I have the opportunity in assisting our participants with any physical/medical concerns that arise while here in the program. I think it's fair to say that we have all been impacted in one way or another by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a company we are committed to doing our part to mitigate and slow the spread; we are following the precautions and recommendations outlined by our local, state, and federal health agencies to the best of our ability. Please visit our COVID-19 Information page for more details.
Just as our therapists equip participants with tools to fight against emotional pathogens, our medical team equips our participants and staff with several ways to strengthen/boost their physical immune systems to fight against viral and bacterial pathogens.
Here are a few ways we encourage our participants and staff to strengthen/boost their immunity while living in the wilderness:
SLEEP – As that old saying goes, “a good night's rest is the best medicine.” Our participants average about nine hours of sleep each night. There is a wealth of evidence that outlines how sleep relates to the immune system. In this study, researchers found that getting at least seven hours of sleep per night can make you four times less likely to catch a cold compared with less than six hours per night. In another, researchers looked at the amount of sleep among twins. They found that the twin who got less sleep had a depressed immune system. How much sleep you need varies according to your age. The Sleep Foundation recommends eight to 10 hours of sleep for teenagers.
EXERCISE - Hiking is an integral part of our program at Evoke. Besides hiking, the participants have mandatory fun time (MFT), which provides for exercise and a way to release energy. David Nieman, a professor of Public Health and Director of the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University said, “If you look at all the lifestyle factors that decrease the number of days you suffer from common cold, being a physically active and fit person is the most important.” In one of his studies, he and his colleagues found that 30 minutes of brisk walking increased the circulation of natural killer cells, white blood cells, and other immune system warriors.
DIET – Sorry, no McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or Burger King here. While in the wilderness we provide a well-balanced, low-fat, heart-healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables that provide nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E can boost immune function. Maintaining a healthy weight can also benefit the immune system. Obesity has been linked to increased risk for influenza and other infections such as pneumonia. A healthy diet can also lower BMI, which is linked to improved immunity. We see the majority of our participants gravitate to a healthy BMI range during their time in wilderness.
MULTIVITAMINS - With some exceptions, it’s best to get your vitamins and minerals from your food rather than a daily multivitamin pill. Here at Evoke we see a wide variety of dietary needs and restrictions, so we do offer a daily multivitamin for each participant. The multivitamins contain some of the top vitamins and minerals that may help boost your immune system: vitamins C, E, A, and D, folate/folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc.
HYDRATION - Drinking enough water is important to keep hydrated on a regular basis, especially during cold and flu season. Staying hydrated will help boost your immunity and stave off infection. Staying hydrated helps your body naturally eliminate toxins and other bacteria that may cause illness. We encourage four liters a day, particularly on hiking days and in the summer. We also provide Immunity Nuuns as needed to add to water if we suspect sickness or electrolyte depletion, which will aid in boosting the immune system.
MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT - Studies have shown that increased levels of stress can correlate with decreased immune function. At Evoke we know how important it is to consider a participant's whole health. Supporting the mind, body, and spirit connection is essential for long-term sustainable growth and transformation to take place. Clinical research shows that diet, nutrition, exercise, and spiritual connection enhances and maintains positive psychological changes, elevates moods, and increases confidence. As we work to decrease stress and anxiety by supporting one's whole health, our immune system will work more efficiently.
Life is truly what we make it; our daily choices do matter. I would like to challenge each of us during these uncertain times, to do our part to strengthen/boost both our emotional and physical immunity support. By doing so, we will have the immunity to overcome the various challenges/pathogens that life will undoubtedly send our way.