by Karen Roth, MSNC
Making healthy food and lifestyle choices on a daily basis can help boost our immune system and keep it functioning optimally. Here are some quick tips to enhance immunity:
by Laurel Sterling, MA, RD, CDN
This is the time of year where our immune systems are more taxed than ever. This can be due to a variety of reasons which may include: colder weather and fluxing temps; food choices; and increased stress from all the holiday shopping, bills, entertaining, and travel. Not sleeping our regular hours due to all the above also adds stress to our body. Help keep your immune system in optimal shape with some of the tips below.
During these longer, colder winter months, we need some extra protection. One nutrient that has been making it into the headlines as of late is vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is an immune system modulator. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the natural human form of vitamin D3 made in the skin. Cholecalciferol coverts to calcidiol in the liver. Calcidiol converts to the hormone calcitriol in the kidneys. Calcitriol is also formed by immune cells and other cells and tissues throughout the body. The amount of D3 required depends on the person. The best way to know how much you need is to have your vitamin D3 levels tested by your physician.
Zinc is another important nutrient that affects multiple aspects of the immune system. It is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating immunity. If you are not eating enough zinc-rich foods regularly (fish, meat, poultry, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, kale, etc.) your stores may be depleted.
Fish oil provides EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), beneficial omega-3s that support a balanced immune response. Cod liver oil is a great choice, since it also contains vitamins A and D3, which aid the immune system.
Antioxidants are another good nutrient to add to your regime. They protect your cells from the effects of free radicals, and can help reduce an overabundance of harmful oxidative stress in your body. Vitamin C is one of the best known supplements for supporting healthy immune system function.
Aside from nutritional supplements, there are lifestyle changes that can be beneficial to our immune health. Try to avoid sugar when possible, as it can throw off the balance in our gastrointestinal tract. If you’ve been consuming sugary foods, try a probiotic, which provides healthy microflora that builds natural immunity. A well-rounded, multi-strain probiotic formula with lactobacillus and bifidobacterium is a good choice.
Constantly being on the go can also be taxing on our immune system, since our body doesn't know the difference between “good” stress and “bad” stress. Magnesium is a very important mineral that oversees over 350 enzymatic processes in our body. Adding in a powerful supplement like Chelated Magnesium can be helpful. Start with a small amount like 250 mg in the evening before bed.
Maintain your daily supplement regime of a multivitamin and mineral formula, omega-3, vitamin D3, antioxidants, and probiotics to keep your immune system functioning optimally, and add in magnesium for those more stressful times.
by Jolie Root, LPN, LNC
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, sometimes we find ourselves feeling out of sorts or a little "blue." I've heard it described as the long, dark night of the soul. It isn't just outlook that may be affected. We may even find a change in our energy level or sleeping pattern.
If you can relate, you're not alone. Millions of us struggle during the darker months. This mood and energy change has an organic explanation, and there are foods, supplements, and habits that can bring you back to the light.
Winter blues are caused by lack of adequate exposure to sunlight. It might be dark when you leave for work or school and dark again when you head home. The good news is, we northern hemisphere dwellers are nearing the winter solstice. And once we get passed it, each day will be a little longer heading toward spring.
In the meantime, you can invest in a full spectrum light for your desk to make up for the lack of sunlight in winter. Our pineal gland, located deep in our brain, needs light to stimulate melatonin production, which controls our circadian rhythm. This allows us to get the sleep we need, so we can feel more energized during the day. Melatonin supports better levels of serotonin - the good hormone our brain needs for mood health. I take a Carlson Melatonin gummy at bedtime to give my brain a boost and to drift off to sleep (no matter how busy my mind is).
Getting outdoors midday can help too. A brisk walk at lunch time can help boost your metabolism, and physical activity also has a positive effect on our mood. Aside from exercise, if the sun's out you can get some extra vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 itself is a mood boosting supplement. For some, taking a dose of 4,000 to 6,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily during the winter months is more effective for our mood than sitting in bright light.
Certain foods can help too, especially protein at each meal. The building blocks of protein are important for all of the hormones in our brain that support a brighter mood and a sense of peace. Tryptophan, famously abundant in turkey, is a building block of serotonin. We can get it through certain foods or a supplement like 5HTP. 5HTP is a highly bioavailable form of tryptophan. And here's a secret: vitamin D3 and the omega-3s EPA and DHA help the brain turn tryptophan into serotonin.
Another one of my favorite mood supplements is Carlson Mellow Mood. The name says it all. Mellow Mood has nutrient cofactors for balanced brain chemistry. (You can even use Mellow Mood together with 5HTP.) GABA, a Mellow Mood component, is a brain hormone, or neurotransmitter, that bestows a sense of calm. Carlson Pharma GABA is a fast-acting supplement that promotes calmness.
Another great food is salmon (or tuna or mackerel) because of their high omega-3 content. The omega-3s are food for the brain. EPA, the most important omega-3 for mood is abundant in cold-water fish and fish oil supplements. DHA is especially important for expecting moms. If you opt for omega-3s in supplement form, be sure it has been tested for potency and purity. Look for an IFOS logo on the label, and be sure they are tested and free from harmful levels of heavy metals or other toxic elements. IFOS is the gold standard for fish oil testing.
Don’t fall prey to the winter blues. Use these tips to stay merry and bright all winter long.
by Laurel Sterling, MA, RD, CDN
Planes, trains, and automobiles – oh my! Whether you’re traveling for work or vacation, you’ll likely agree that while traveling is fun, it can be incredibly stressful. Travel throws off our schedule, eating habits, and sleeping patterns, which can wreak havoc on our immune system. Here are some tips to help keep you healthy whether you’re pounding the pavement, traveling the roadways, or flying the blue skies.
Eat as healthy as possible. Not eating well can lead to digestive distress, which is no fun while traveling. As a general rule, try to maintain your typical diet, and focus on eating healthy proteins, vegetables, fats, fruits, and vitamin C-rich foods.
Maintain your exercise regime. Many hotels have fitness centers available at no additional charge. Exercise can decrease stress, improve immune function, and raise serotonin levels. As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to get up, move around, and stretch, since our tendons and ligaments tend to shorten and become less pliable.
Get enough sleep. Sleep helps keep our immune system healthy and is the time when our body can rest, detoxify, and repair itself.
Keep stress levels in check. One of best things you can do is deep breathing techniques, which help with relaxation and calming. Deep breathing can be done while driving, waiting in line at a store, or walking in between appointments. Breathing at a pace of 4-7-8 is a relaxation program Dr. Andrew Weil created. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This can be done two to three times in a row, two to three times per day.
Remember to relax as much as possible and to stick to your daily supplement routine. A multivitamin and mineral formula, omega-3, and probiotic are important. Vitamins A, D, C and zinc will also support immune health while traveling. Although your stress level may be elevated and you may feel a bit “off,” try to maintain consistency with food, sleep, and exercise, so you can feel your best while enjoying your travels.
The Daily Dose blog features health and wellness articles from Senior Nutritionist & Educator Jolie Root, LPN,LNC; Nutritionist & Educator Laurel Sterling, MA, RDN, CDN; and Featured Guest Blogger Karen Roth, MSNC. Other guest bloggers will also join us.
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