by Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
Every year has a few big health trends it can claim, and 2019 is no different: It was the year “keto” became a household name, CBD exploded in popularity, and oat milk swooped in as the latest favorite milk alternative. What will 2020 have in store for us? Better yet, which health trends will be accessible, affordable, and truly beneficial to the chronic illness community?
To help you navigate the bevy of wellness movements on the near horizon, we’ve analyzed data from current and previous research and trend reports and made some predictions for those worth joining if your health goals include overcoming a chronic illness like Lyme disease or fibromyalgia. Here are our top picks for 2020.
Whether you call it “unplugging,” “digital detoxing,” or simply a return to quieter times, powering down your electronic devices may be just what the doctor ordered. Why?
Consider social media as one prime example. The average American spends more than two hours a day scrolling and swiping through various platforms, but research has linked social media use to poor sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and more — none of which is helpful to people struggling with chronic illness. This may be in part because people often highlight the good moments in their life on these sites and exclude the bad, leaving many chronically ill people feeling as though they are missing out, falling short, or flying solo.
Although the idea of digital detoxing isn’t new, our understanding of its importance is growing, so being more mindful of your digital habits and how you spend your downtime is a great priority going into the new year. Doing so can help you get more rest, improve your mood, recalibrate an overstimulated nervous system, and rejuvenate.
Unsure of how to spend your free moments if you’re not scrolling through Instagram stories? Consider a low-key night of playing cards, doing a puzzle, crafting, or cooking a meal with friends or family. Or jump on the board game bandwagon — another growing trend that may reflect our collective desire to unplug.
2. Prioritizing Mental Health
For millennia, there has been a stigma surrounding issues with mental and emotional health that extends well beyond the chronic illness community. Fortunately for us all, the tides finally seem to be turning.
These days, it’s not uncommon to hear people from many different walks of life talk about going to therapy. Additionally, in chronic illness support groups and forums, members regularly ask for recommendations for therapists — someone who can help them cope and talk through tough life circumstances and difficult decisions.
Therapy can help you deal with depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and stress, to name just a few potential benefits. As people begin to understand that mental health is as important as physical health, hopefully, therapy can also be used as an integral healing tool on any road to recovery.
If you can’t find a therapist or you can’t afford one, low-cost activities like journaling, meditation, or taking a social media break are all effective ways to boost your mental health. Plus, inexpensive apps like Calm, Headspace, or Breethe offer users a variety of techniques to foster inner tranquility.
3. Using CBD-Infused Products
The CBD craze isn’t going away anytime soon. As a matter of fact, it’s on track to be a $20 billion (or more) industry by 2024, according to BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research. And in good news, CBD from hemp has a myriad of health properties: it’s anti-inflammatory and calming, and it contains adaptogenic qualities to help you cope with stress.
Because CBD doesn’t contain THC, the psychoactive chemical component in marijuana (hemp’s plant cousin) that creates euphoric feelings, you’ll continue to see it pop up in everyday products like tinctures, beauty products, teas, soaps, and more. Even your favorite smoothie or juice spot may soon allow you to add a shot of CBD to your beverage (if it doesn’t already).
But not all CBD products are created equal, especially the ingestible ones. And if you’re like most chronically ill people, you’ve felt some amount of financial strain while dealing with your illness, so you don’t want to waste money on products that don’t work. Here are a few qualities to look for to ensure you’re getting high-quality, effective CBD that’s worth the price:
- A full-spectrum extract: This type of extraction retains the complete profile of beneficial plant compounds in hemp, including CBD and other cannabinoids as well as native terpenes, which are other beneficial plant components.
- Made from greenhouse-grown, biodynamically-farmed, organic hemp: This helps keep your CBD free of unwanted pesticides and herbicides.
- Third-party tested: Look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from an independent ISO-certified lab on the company’s website; that’s the best way to confirm the CBD has been tested for ingredient potency and purity, as well as to see its cannabinoid and terpene profile.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions about where and how the hemp was sourced; in our experience, reputable companies are transparent companies.
4. Focusing on Brain Health
With so much attention on the physical body, whether it be coping with uncomfortable symptoms, managing pain, or regaining strength, it’s easy to overlook the fact that your brain — one of the body’s most complex and vital organs — needs some TLC, too.
Our brain health is paramount to the overall health and wellbeing of our bodies. The chief modern-day offenders that can cause your brain distress aren’t dissimilar to the ones that cause turmoil throughout the rest of your body. They include mental stress, toxins, a poor diet high in processed foods, an unbalanced microbiome, and a sedentary lifestyle. As the everyday pressures of life mount, you’ll more likely notice brain fog, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and feeling less alert.
Like all organs in the body, the brain needs an ample supply of oxygen and nutrients to be healthy and strong. Without them, your brain gets sluggish — and so does your memory, concentration, energy, and focus. If you’re on the hunt for cost-effective, natural solutions to maintain healthy brain function, here are a few to consider:
- Lion’s Mane: This shaggy, white mushroom contains compounds called erinacines and hericenones that cross the blood-brain barrier and help support normal levels of nerve growth factor (NGF), a peptide produced by the body that’s essential to nerve cell growth, maintenance, and survival. When NGF levels are healthy and normal, you enjoy better mental clarity, focus, and memory.
- Cat’s Claw: Native to the Amazon, cat’s claw has a long history of traditional use for the treatment of a wide range of inflammatory conditions. The herb supports immune function in its job of balancing the body’s microbiome.
- Bacopa: Considered a tonic for the nervous system, bacopa has been used traditionally to support calm and normalize sleep for thousands of years in India.
- Ashwagandha: Native to India and Africa, ashwagandha is used for its ability to balance, energize, and rejuvenate. Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen that is particularly useful in balancing the HPA axis in the brain (the control center for hormone regulation), which leads to improved stress resistance, better sleep, a reduction in brain fog, and more.
- Ginkgo: Ginkgo is one of the oldest living trees on earth. Current and traditional use of the herb includes enhancing blood flow, protecting brain and nerve functions, and supporting cognition.
5. Getting Creative with Plant-Based Protein Alternatives
For those trying to add more plant-based, protein-rich foods to their diet, tofu is no longer the go-to meat alternative, according to the Whole Foods Market’s 2020 trend report. That’s good news, considering soy is a highly allergenic food to many people with chronic illnesses and gut dysfunction.
Instead, many products are adding a spectrum of plant-based amino acids (protein is composed of amino acids) from ingredients like mung bean, hempseed, pumpkin, avocado, watermelon seed, and chlorella to nut butters, sauces, vegan protein powders, and more.
When searching for plant-based alternatives with a lower risk of causing an adverse reaction, look for products that are labeled with “No Soy.”
6. Blue-Light-Blocking Devices
For several years now, we’ve heard that the blue light associated with televisions, computers, and mobile devices can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm and throw off your sleep schedule. That’s because the blue light emitted from electronic devices mimics that of daylight, causing you to be more awake and alert. When electronic devices are used at night, the blue light can hinder the body’s ability to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Of course, sleep is vital for our bodies to heal. Still, when you’re wide-eyed in the middle of the night, it’s tempting to go online and commiserate with others who also can’t sleep, perpetuating a vicious cycle of difficulty falling asleep and then getting up the next morning.
For better or worse, entrepreneurs of 2020 are recognizing that we can’t entirely give up our screens, and so blue-light-blocking glasses and screen filters are becoming a thing. And with several eyeglass styles to choose from, gone are the days of having to purchase a dowdy pair from a home shopping network or TV infomercial.
If you decide to go down the blue-light-blocking path, here’s a handy tip to remember: Some research has shown that blue-light-blocking devices work best for improving sleep quality and mood when used at least three hours before bedtime.
7. Retiring the Word “Anti-Aging”
Talk is growing about making the whole concept of “anti-aging” a thing of the past, and we couldn’t be more on board. After all, aging is certainly better than the alternative!
Instead, it’s so much more empowering and rewarding to focus on feeling your best as you pursue your dreams for all your years, no matter what year of life you’re in. Some are calling this movement “pro-aging;” we prefer to leave age out of it altogether and instead think of it as pro-living, pro-people, and pro-passion!
Ultimately, health and wellness trends are constantly changing and advancing based on new research, innovative technology, and public demand. But some trends, like eating a whole-foods diet, getting plenty of sleep, spending time outdoors, and increasing your physical activity never go out of style as you seek to improve your health — regardless of the year.
Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.
You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.
1. Burkhart K, Phelps JR. AMBER LENSES TO BLOCK BLUE LIGHT AND IMPROVE SLEEP: A RANDOMIZED TRIAL. The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research. 2009 Dec; 26(8): 1602-12. doi: 10.3109/07420520903523719.
2. Hunt MG, Marx R, Lipson C, Young J. No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 2018; 37(10): 751-768. doi: 10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751
3. Whole Foods Market predicts top 10 food trends for 2020. Whole Foods Market website. https://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/whole-foods-market-predicts-top-10-food-trends-for-2020
4. Woods HC, Scott H. #Sleepyteens: Social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Journal of Adolescence. 2016 August; 51: 41-49. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.05.008
5. U.S. CBD Market Anticipated to Reach $20 Billion in Sales by 2024. BDS Analytics website. https://bdsanalytics.com/u-s-cbd-market-anticipated-to-reach-20-billion-in-sales-by-2024/