Healthy Eating to Support your Immune System

Healthy Eating to Support your Immune System

COVID-19 (also known as the novel Corona Virus) is a public health issue that is rapidly affecting our lives in many different ways. It is particularly affecting our physical health. As we look for ways to support and maintain a strong immune system, let’s consider how healthy eating habits can help.

In a previous blog post, we talked about how the immune system is our body’s defense against disease, bacteria and other bad cells/tissues. The system’s main function is to help prevent or limit the spread of infection in the body. We have immune cells in various part of our body such as the skin, bloodstream, bone marrow and lymph nodes. When the body recognizes a foreign substance, the immune cells (also known as white blood cells) produce an immune response- creating antibodies to kill the bad cells.

As the immune system is important in maintaining the health of our bodies by fighting against bad cells (ie. viruses), we must take steps to make sure our immune system is strong and healthy. Our bodies need antioxidants- substances that removes damaging agents. These can be found in vitamins such as:

– Vitamin C
– Vitamin E
– Vitamin A
– Vitamin B6

There are a number of foods that are rich in the above mentioned vitamins such as:

– Citrus fruits (ie. oranges)
– Ginger
– Greens (ie. spinach, broccoli)
– Nuts (ie. almonds)
– Orange vegetables (ie. carrots, sweet potatoes)

Let’s try to include these foods and vitamins in our diet as a way to use healthy eating habits to support our immune system.

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How to Boost Your Immune System

How to Boost Your Immune System

In light of the recent spread and affects of COVID-19 (more commonly known as the Corona Virus) many folks are looking for ways to protect themselves from getting the illness, or thinking of ways to help fight against the disease if you get it. Some of you may have considered self-distancing yourselves as a way of limiting contact with people, while others may have self-quarantined if you have exhibited symptoms as a strategy to limit the spread of the virus. But what are some ways we can boost our immune system during this time?

Let’s first begin with what is the immune system. The immune system is our body’s defense against disease, bacteria and other bad cells/tissues. Its main function is to help prevent or limit infections. Our bodies have immune cells in various part of our body such as the skin, bloodstream, bone marrow and lymph nodes. When the body recognizes a foreign substance, the immune cells (also known as white blood cells) spark an immune response- producing antibodies to kill the bad cells.

Since the immune system is important in maintaining the health of our bodies by fighting against diseases, it is imperative that we take steps to make sure our immune system is strong and healthy. Here are some ways to help boost our immune system:

Manage Stress
In times of uncertainty with your health and finances such as now, it is easy to be concerned or anxious about what the future holds. Not negating the validity of those emotions as stress is not something we can avoid, but when we are under chronic (on-going) stress, stress hormones can suppress the immune system making us more susceptible to getting sick. Instead, watch your favorite movie or funny TV. Do some journaling or try some mindful or focused breathing exercises.

Get Enough Rest
Sleep is a main function of body that helps us to recharge. While we are sleeping, it is our body’s way of resetting and boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that those who get 8 hours of sleep every night on average, are less likely to catch a cold.

Maintain a Healthy Diet
The foods that we put in our body helps to get the nutrients we need to be healthy. Including foods that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins can also boost our immune system. Consider incorporating citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, nuts and fish to help reduce inflammation and fight off infections.

Stay Physically Active
When we exercise, it helps to circulate the blood throughout our bodies. This also helps to ensure that the white blood cells are also getting around the body as well. During a workout, you may notice that you sweat or may be breathing a bit harder than usual. Sweating and exhaling are natural ways to get the bad things out of our bodies which can boost our immune system.

In times such as these, I encourage you to take steps to make sure you are healthy and that your body has what it needs to fight off infections and viruses.

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The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep

The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep

The week of March 8-14 marks National Sleep Awareness week. An initiative by the National Sleep Foundation, it is a time to celebrate healthy sleep habits and advocating for getting enough rest. In today’s world, we often find ourselves looking to secure our financial future, looking after our families, keeping up friends, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle along with a long laundry list of things to get done around the house. This can be both mentally and physically overwhelming. The importance of this celebration is to help us understand that a good quality sleep is a service to our body and mind. It also promotes continuous productivity and good health while ensuring our well-being.

The National Sleep Foundation is a non-profit organization formed in 1990. Their mission is to improve public health and safety through the understanding of sleep and sleep disorders. They do this through public education, sleep related research and advocacy. The foundation has established themselves as a well-respected source of information on sleep, various sleep disorders and the consequences of sleep deprivation (not getting enough rest).

So how much sleep is enough? Well, the amount of sleep varies slightly for different individuals. Depending on what age group you are in, there are different amounts of sleep recommended sleep time:

  • Newborn to 3 months should get 14-17 hours
  • 4 to 11 months: 12-15 hours
  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • 14-17years: 8-10 hours
  • Adults: 7-9 hours

The average American doesn’t come close to the recommended sleeping time. Surveys have shown that most adults on average get around 5-6 hours a night. This has been normalized in today’s society, but it is a form of sleep deprivation which comes with its effects. We need aim for adequate and quality sleep because it has great benefits such as:

  • Curbing inflammation which is related to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging
  • Improving of memory
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and decrease risk for being obese or overweight
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Relieves stress

When we don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to developing a sleep illness. Some common sleep disorders can include:

  • Sleep apnea- interrupted breathing during sleep
  • Insomnia- inability to sleep
  • Shift work disorder- atypical sleep habits due to nontraditional work hours
  • Restless leg syndrome- uncontrollable leg movements during nighttime hours
  • Sleep walking- the act of getting up and walking around while asleep

There are several tips or tools that can used to improve, manage and even prevent sleep disorders:

  1. Avoid large meals 2-3 hours before bedtime
  2. Develop a regular nighttime routine/schedule
  3. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
  4. Improve your sleep environment; maintain comfortable mattress and pillows, keep the bedroom quiet

Join me in making sleep and getting enough rest a priority!

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Happy National Nutrition Month

Happy National Nutrition Month

March celebrates National Nutrition Month. It is a time to learn and understand the effects of what foods we let in our bodies. Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. The celebration highlights the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits, not just for the month, but that will last a lifetime.

Do you really know what is in the foods you are consuming? Knowing and understanding how to read food labels is very important especially if you have health conditions or food allergies and need to maintain a special diet. The nutritious facts label is required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on packaged foods and beverages. It provides a detailed information about a food’s nutrient content such as amount of fat, sugar, sodium and fibers it contains. The better you are at reading and understanding food labels, the better you are in using them as a tool to plan your healthy balanced diet.

If you don’t know where to start on your healthy diet journey, you can seek nutrition advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist. Since this a matter concerning our health and wellbeing, it is advisable to seek or receive personalized nutrition advice to generate health goals that will ensure we make healthy food/eating choices. A nutritionist can help you learn how to read food labels, teach you how to prepare eating plans and meals, ensure that you are getting the nutrients that you need, and identify strategies of foods to avoid and find proper substitutes.

Having a healthy diet goes hand in hand with being physically active. So, what is the relationship between good eating and being physical active? Together they help maintain healthy weight, improve mood and energy levels, and helps the immune system in fighting diseases.

A nutritious and healthy diet does not have to be restrictive. Not eating healthy can lead to nutrient deficiencies that slows down your metabolism. This is particularly important as we age. As we get older, our bodies need certain nutrients such as:

  • Calcium – aids to maintain strong bones and reduce risk of osteoporosis
  • Vitamin B12 – helps to keep blood cells healthy and prevents anemia
  • Fiber – to maintain bowel health and a healthy weight to lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Potassium – is good for the nervous system and helps to lower your blood pressure reduce risk of a stroke

As we celebrate National Nutrition Month, I hope that you will join me in making the decision to make healthy and informed food choices. Some things you can consider include:

  • Visiting your local farmers market for fresh produce
  • Research and try a new recipe
  • Explore more whole grain alternatives
  • Try going meatless for a day

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