Category Archives: Tips

Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System During Winter

Every winter it’s the same thing: colds, flus, and the general feeling of being under the weather. And this year, as with all years prior, your immune system is under constant attack. Of course, you don’t have to succumb to the ailments that seem to strike every time the weather turns cold. And you don’t have to rely on pharmaceutical means of bolstering your immune system in order to stave off illness. There are plenty of natural ways to boost your body’s natural immunity that don’t require a medicinal overload. So if you’re looking for a kinder, gentler way to avoid the many bugs that go around when the mercury plummets, here are just a few natural ways to keep your immune system strong throughout the year.
Get Your ZZZ’s
One of the very best things you can do for the health of your immune system, and well, for your health in general, is to get plenty of sleep, especially when your body is under attack from the kinds of pathogens that find stability in the cold, dry air of winter. The time you spend sleeping allows your body to rest and repair itself from the damages of the day. Sleep not only improves your mental state, but it gives your body the best opportunity to fight off illness. And when you fail to get the recommended eight hours a night, you compromise your immune system, hindering its ability to do its job. The good news is that your body will eventually force you to get the rest you need, but you probably don’t want your reason for sleeping to be the fact that you’re fighting off a cold or flu.
Stay Hydrated
Studies have shown that viruses flourish in cold, dry conditions, which is perhaps why cold and flu bugs seem to be more prevalent in the winter. However, the other part of the equation is that your body is also drier in the winter. Both the cold air outside and the constantly running HVAC system inside your home can contribute to your mucus membranes drying out, and these are your first line of defense against airborne pathogens. In order to keep this essential part of your immune system functioning properly, it’s important that you stay hydrated. So if you’re already committed to drinking eight glasses of water every day, you might want to try upping the ante by working in other fluids like fresh-squeezed juices, tea, and even more water.
Up Your Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is not only responsible for giving you a sunny disposition, but it is also a major contributor to immune system strength. And as you may know, the best source of vitamin D is the sun, which is why many people tend to suffer from lower levels of this essential nutrient during the winter months. That said, there are plenty of natural ways to get your vitamin D when the sun is on sabbatical. It’s probably best to avoid the synthesized version of vitamin D found in supplements unless they are recommended by your health care provider. Not all supplements are created equal. Other ways to boost your vitamin D levels can be found in common foods. Try to work egg yolks, salmon (ONLY wild caught), and organ meats into your diet this winter.
Consider Kombucha
This fermented tea has gained major popularity of late because of the digestion-friendly probiotics it delivers. But how can it help your immune system? Most people don’t realize the important role that the gut plays in immunity. And pathogens can enter your system in a variety of ways, including through the foods you ingest. Keeping your digestive system strong and healthy is therefore an excellent means of contributing to overall immune strength. Although you don’t necessarily want to go overboard with the probiotics, adding them to your diet can help you to feel great and fight illness. Again, a supplemental probiotic can be beneficial, but they too are not created equal. Always consult your health care provider before adding any supplement.
Work in Some Cold Weather Workouts
Exercising when you’re ill probably sounds antithetical. And the truth is that you should give your body a break when you’re sick so that it can devote available energy and resources to fighting the virus or bacterial infection attacking it. However, fitness and health go hand in hand, so you shouldn’t give up on regular exercise just because it’s snowing and blowing outside. Instead of jogging, strap on some skis and get outside for some cross-country exertion. Or hit up the local YMCA. You could swim a few laps or play a game of squash with a friend.
Keeping yourself in shape not only makes you feel great and helps you stave off major illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, but moderate exercise can also help your body stop cold and flu bugs, or at least lessen the intensity and duration of such ailments. So really, your best chances to naturally boost your immune system involve the same common sense rules doctors have been touting for years: eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

staywell

 

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How to Get More Exercise

It’s common knowledge: exercise is good for the mind and body. Specifically, exercise may help to regulate your appetite[i] and weight[ii], lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers[iii], and mediate symptoms of depression[iv], anxiety[v], or insomnia[vi]. But how much exercise should you be getting?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. It may be difficult to tease apart moderate and vigorous activity. Moderate physical activity makes you move a bit more than normal activity but will not leave you panting for breathe. Examples of moderate physical activity include mowing the lawn, raking leaves, swimming, and brisk walking. On the other hand, vigorous physical activity significantly increases your heart rate and includes activities like running, jogging, dancing, and jump roping. In addition to aerobic activity, adults should also aim to work out with activities that aim to strengthen and build muscle.

Exercise OR Illness

 

Unfortunately, being aware of the recommendations doesn’t make it any easier to fit room in your schedule for an exercise routine. But luckily, there are some easy ways to squeeze exercise in your life. If you find yourself low on time, you can incorporate exercise into your daily activities to reach your weekly minutes. You may not even have to stray far from your couch or desk to boost your physical activity.

  1. Opt for the Stairs: Using the stairs is an easy way to temporarily boost your heart rate. Plus, climbing the stairs may be just as fast, if not quicker, than waiting for and taking the elevator.
  2. Park Far Away: The extra minute or two it takes to walk from the end of the parking lot to the store entrance can quickly add up to make you more physically active. Plus, parking further away will save you the time and frustration associated with finding that perfect spot.
  3. Take a Walk with your Dog (or Child!): Including loved ones into your physical activity routine will help both of you stay physically active and make your work-out more enjoyable.
  4. Maintain Realistic Goals: While a big goal may temporarily hype you up for exercise, it may be difficult to maintain. So instead, choose realistic goals. Aim to lose an extra five pounds, strive to run a full mile, or sign up for a 5K in your community.
  5. Walk the Mall: Few people can motivate themselves to walk or run outside when it is snowy, icy, or rainy. For these occasions, take a brisk walk at your local mall instead.
  6. Reward Yourself with Goals: Keep yourself motivated with rewards for diligent exercise. But instead of treating yourself to dessert or a week of rest, give yourself a prize like sneakers or athletic wear that will help you stay on track with longer-term goals.
  7. Trade in Your Chair: Swapping your rolling chair for an exercise ball will help you strengthen your core and abdominal muscles.

By incorporating exercise into your daily life, you can easily up your physical activity level. But when starting a physical activity regimen, ease your way into it and stretch thoroughly before working out to avoid aches or injury. In addition, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, first speak with your doctor to make sure you take all precautions to keep yourself safe and healthy. While it may take time to establish an exercise routine or develop physical activity habits, remember that some physical activity is better than nothing.

 

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[i] Martins, C., Morgan, L., & Truby, H. (2008). A review of the effects of exercise on appetite regulation: an obesity perspective. International Journal of Obesity, 32(9), 1337-1347.

[ii] Fogelholm, M., & Kukkonen‐Harjula, K. (2000). Does physical activity prevent weight gain–a systematic review. Obesity reviews, 1(2), 95-111.

[iii] Warburton, D. E., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian medical association journal, 174(6), 801-809.

[iv] Ströhle, A. (2009). Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. Journal of neural transmission, 116(6), 777-784.

[v] Ströhle, A. (2009). Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. Journal of neural transmission, 116(6), 777-784.

[vi] Reid, K. J., Baron, K. G., Lu, B., Naylor, E., Wolfe, L., & Zee, P. C. (2010). Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep medicine, 11(9), 934-940.

Thanksgiving, The Holiday That KEEPS On Giving

5 Tips to avoiding that “holiday bulge”.

Oh boy, my favorite holiday is right around the corner. When was the last time you heard someone talk about that AMAZING holiday body they have been working on? Let’s just say that a holiday body is NOT the same as a bikini body.

As much as I LOOOOOVE Thanksgiving, it usually isn’t known for how well it makes us feel or even how it shrinks our waistline. In fact, it is probably one of the worst holidays when it comes to our health.

For those of us who TRY to make healthy eating choices, the holidays do not do us any favors. It is really hard to be social, visit with family, AND make healthy food choices. Unfortunately, that is the state of our society.

With that being said, let me move on to my first tip. It is a big one and it is also a very simple one.

1. Drink Water

Drink two full glasses of water FIRST THING when you wake up on that day when you know that there may be some “questionable” food choices (in fact, I do this every day). This does a lot for your health and isn’t THAT hard. Oh and trust me, I have heard it all about why you “can’t” do it.

“I am not thirsty.”

“I am full.”

“I will puke.”

“I just can’t do it.”

Yes, I know it isn’t the most exciting or enjoyable thing to do FIRST THING when you wake up. I had the very same thoughts the first time I did this, but it can be done. If you can only manage one glass of water, then do that, but two is ideal. This will not only help your body detox in the morning, but it will help you stay hydrated when you do eat those salty traditional foods. It will also fill you up and may suppress some of your hunger. Many times our body will satisfy dehydration with the feeling of being hungry. I recommend that most people increase their water intake and the guideline that I typically start with is to recommend that you drink half of your body weight in ounces per day. Again, this is a starting point and I will alter this depending on your individual case.

2. Eat it all.

Wait, did I just say that? Yep. Go ahead and enjoy your Thanksgiving by eating anything you want.

Now here is the catch, you can do this ONLY if you commit that it is just for ONE day. Let’s be honest here. You did not get your current body composition (all the muscle, fat, and bones) from ONE day of eating. It took many days of eating great food and exercise to give you that beach body, or many days of eating bad food to give you your “winter coat”.

WARNING: If you normally eat healthy, then eating bad food for one day will result in you feeling AWFUL. If you have done this, then you know what I am talking about and you likely will not make that terrible decision again.

Eat Better, Feel Better

3. Eat THIS, not that.

Start off with meat and veggies. By starting with protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates, your body will likely not crave the high simple carbohydrate foods like mashed potatoes, bread and stuffing. I won’t lie to you here, I have a bread problem. If bread is the first thing in front of me, then it is going to be a bad day. Thankfully I have learned that I have a bread problem and now I do my best to avoid it until after I have filled my belly. This makes eating a lot of it almost impossible and saves me from a LOT of simple carbohydrates.

4. Game Time!

I love football season! As much as I love it, I try to find time before I sit down on the couch for the day to get out and play some catch or two hand touch football outside. I know, I know, it is cold. All I ask is that you get some exercise before you eat that holiday meal. Be creative and burn some calories. You will be a big hit amongst the children in your family if you play some type of game. My only requirement is… to have FUN.

5. Bring Your Own Dish.

I am not saying that you need to replace the menu this Thanksgiving, but I am suggesting that you bring something that is more…”friendly” to your health. Although there are many options out there, I have selected a few good sources for replacing an item.  I would probably start with dessert if you want to only bring ONE thing. Check out the sites below!

Great Thanksgiving Recipes

Yummy Paleo Options

Dessert Alternatives

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