Lifestyle Tips Archives - Wakunaga of America

Understanding the Immune System and How to Keep It Strong

The Immune System Explained

The immune system is made of special organs, cells, and chemicals that fight infection. It is a finely coordinated collection of specialized cells, communicating to each other via unique chemicals and specialized receptors. Immune cells have their own circulatory system, which is called the lymphatic system. Lymphatic fluid bathes the body as it transports white blood cells to areas of infection or injury. Immune system cells are located in various lymph nodes that are strategically positioned throughout the body. The spleen, located in the upper left part of the abdomen, manufactures lymphocytes and traps foreign antigens in order to trigger an immune response.

“Main Players” in the Immune System

Here are the primary players in the immune system, that help the body protect itself.1

Phagocytes: The first line-of-defensive “scouts” of the immune system are phagocytic cells called dendritic cells, macrophages, and neutrophils. All of these phagocyte cells zip through the body, and engulf and kill antigens. This immune process of engulfing/devouring antigens by phagocytic cells provides your natural immunity. After killing the antigen, phagocytic cells return to the lymph nodes to start their next course of action, which is to stimulate other cells of the immune system to activate “acquired immunity”. Acquired immunity begins after a phagocytic cell “devours” an antigen. It then signals the next group of immune cells, T and B lymphocytes, to spring into action.

Lymphocytes: These are a type of white blood cell that are mainly made up of T and B lymphocytes. They act on virus-infected body cells and also attack fungi and parasites. In addition, T-cells are an important part of the immune system’s destruction of cancerous cells. After being triggered by a phagocyte, T-cells attach to the antigenic cell and inject a protein that kills it.

Killer cells: Killer cells are lymphocytes that rush out, bind themselves to infected cells and kill them by injecting poison.

T-cells: When stimulated into action by a phagocyte, helper T-cells stimulate T or B cells to destroy the antigen. Helper T-cells are known as TH1 cells. Those that stimulate B-cells are known as TH2 cells. When activated, primed B-cells multiply rapidly and mature to become plasma cells. Plasma cells are factories for an outpouring of antibodies directed against a specific antigen.

Antibodies: Antibodies are proteins that are released from plasma cells into the blood. Once triggered, these proteins discharge molecules called cytokines, which stimulate cells to move to areas that need help, almost like a commanding officer shouting out orders.

Immune Health Strategy

Our immune system doesn’t just spring into action during the height of cold and flu season like some might think. It fights inflammation, which is the main cause of all chronic-disease, throughout the year. Various immune-health supplements and nutrients can empower our immune system to perform even stronger, and one of the best nutrients to do this, is Aged Garlic Extract. The properties that make Aged Garlic Extract such a powerful tool in maintaining cardiovascular health give us a window into why it also benefits the immune system. It supports healthy inflammation response and reduces oxidation. In moving the system away from chronic immune activation, it frees the body to fight invaders rather than constantly work to do things like push blood through inflamed arteries.

The aging process strengthens garlic’s antioxidant content, helping the body to make more lymphocytes, including powerful killer cells, as well as more antibodies. It also cranks up the action of existing lymphocytes as well.2

Other Immune Boosting Nutrients

Besides Aged Garlic Extract, there are a few other nutrients you can add to your diet to keep your immune system in fighting shape.

Astragalus: Astragalus is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Some evidence suggests it can enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation by increasing the body’s production of white blood cells (which are the cells of your immune system responsible for preventing illness).3

Zinc: Zinc has become a popular treatment for the common cold. It keeps the immune system strong, and also helps to heal wounds. Some studies have shown that zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold by one to two days, and may reduce the number of upper respiratory infections in children.4

Vitamin C: Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is essential for immune cells to function properly. It is depleted during infections, so a vitamin C deficiency may increase a person’s risk of getting sick. Adding more Vitamin C to your diet will not reduce your risk of catching a cold, but it may speed up your recovery time and reduce the severity of your symptoms.5

Build up your immune system with the nutrients mentioned above, and proactively support your immunity year-round, so you can enter (and exit) the cold and flu season with ease.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

How to Keep Your Liver Healthy and Happy

Your liver is the largest organ in the body, and has about 500 important jobs to do. It removes all toxins from your body, clears medication from your body and metabolizes all your food. It also adjusts cholesterol levels, builds proteins, and makes bile, stores sugar for when you really need it, and regulates hormone levels1. As you can see, the liver wears many hats! To keep it running smoothly and efficiently, a liver cleansing/detox every once in a while is beneficial. By the time you finish this article, you will be an expert in what you can do to keep your liver healthy, and how to detox it.

How do you know when your liver needs to be cleansed/detoxed?

The liver, being the jack-of-all-trades that it is for our bodies, gets overtaxed from time to time. There are some pretty clear signs that your liver is a little stressed out2:

Excessive fatigue: Fatigue is a common symptom, and is usually experienced when the liver is under stress. The liver converts glucose into glycogen, a form of sugar that can be stored, and then later released as glucose when the body needs a burst of energy. By storing and supplying the body with glucose, the liver helps combat fatigue and make us feel more energetic. If the liver is overworked, it may become less efficient at regulating blood glucose, and you may have more sugar cravings than normal.

Hormone imbalance: The liver detoxes more than chemicals and pollutants. It also detoxes our own hormones, including excess estrogen. When the liver is overworked, extra estrogen may not be excreted, and can build up. Signs of excess estrogen in women can include PMS, moodiness, weight gain, fibroids, and more.

High levels of heavy metals: Our exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins has exponentially increased, due to an increase in metals in industrial, agricultural, and technological applications. From textiles to electronics, to paper processing and so much more, metals are a part of our everyday life, whether we like it or not. Heavy metals can cause DNA damage and can contribute to a variety of illnesses. When the liver’s detox pathways are impaired, heavy metals can accumulate in the body. Specifically, the liver’s stores of glutathione, which safely and effectively bind to toxins and metals, can become depleted. This can result in nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, and more. A comprehensive medical test can be run to see if your body’s heavy metal content is too high.

How your liver deals with toxins

The liver is pretty much ground-zero for dealing with toxins –  it’s where all of the contaminants within the body are broken down or transformed into a form that can be excreted from the body. As blood is pumped through the liver, it is filtered by rows of liver cells that are separated by spaces which act like a sieve through which the blood flows. This filtration process, known as the sinusoidal system, is designed to remove toxins such as dead cells, ammonia, metabolic waste, pathogens, drugs, alcohol, and chemicals from the blood stream.

But this detoxification process is not quite as straightforward as it sounds. Because most toxins are fat soluble, they are extremely difficult to eliminate. Neutralizing them requires two primary enzymatic pathways known as Phase i and Phase ii reactions. In a nutshell, Phase i is equivalent to putting your garbage in a bag and Phase ii is like carrying it out of the house. Here’s how it works: 3

Phase i: Phase l enzymes begin the transformation process that turns fat-soluble toxins into water molecules that are bound to bile. This transformation requires a specific family of enzymes, known as Cytochrome P-450 mixed function oxidase enzymes that convert a toxic chemical into a less harmful substance through oxidation. However, as well as this works, the process produces harmful free radicals. What’s more, excessive levels of certain toxins like pesticide can disrupt the P-450 enzyme system.

Phase ii: Once the toxins have been broken down into more benign compounds, they are then excreted from the body during this phase. Known as the conjugation pathway, the oxidized chemicals from Phase l are combined with sulfur-containing amino acids like taurine or cysteine. This turns drugs, hormones, and various toxins into substances that can be excreted in bile. This phase can be put into jeopardy, though, by nutritional deficiencies, and alcohol consumption.

Make good choices to support your liver

While we can’t eliminate the hundreds of harmful chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, there are things we can do to minimize our exposure. One thing we can do is to avoid at-home toxins like second hand smoke, and also try to steer clear of gasoline fumes, paints, glues, household cleaners, and nail polish. Eating healthily can also help greatly, as there are certain toxins that can be found in some foods. Opt for organic, to minimize the consumption of foods containing preservatives, synthetic dyes, pesticides, and fertilizers. Choose wild-caught fish, which are low in mercury, to help avoid both the heavy metals and the pesticides commonly found in farm-raised fish. Also, drink purified water whenever possible, since tap water can contain chlorine, lead, fluoride, and other chemicals.

One last tip is to add a supplement to your routine that contains healthy nutrients for your liver. The ingredient Aged Garlic Extract® is rich in beneficial organosulfer compounds and is a potent antioxidant. Studies have shown that it can also help fortify liver function thanks largely to an organosulfer compound called S-allyl cysteine4. Milk thistle extract is also a great herb for liver support. Milk thistle’s most active compound is silymarin, a polyphenol with powerful antioxidant activity that scavenges damaging free radicals. It also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidants, such as glutathione. Studies suggest that milk thistle also inhibits inflammation, stimulates new liver cell production, and prevents glutathione depletion5.

Another supplement that can help support liver function is a probiotic that contains enzymes. A probiotic that contains enzymes can assist the body’s natural ability to break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and dairy into absorbable nutritional elements, and can also regulate your body’s healthy bacteria and normalize your GI system.

Incorporate some of these tips into your day-to-day life, and your liver will be refreshed and detoxed in no time!

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Healthy Habits to Keep Kids Feeling Good

Go Old School with Some Fun Outdoor Activities

Think back to a time when your kids were younger, and your summers weren’t filled with endless practices, lessons, and camps…what did you do to fill those days? Here’s what we’re thinking…

Start up the Sprinkler

Depending on the weather, change up your watering schedule and put your sprinkler on double duty. Or dig the Crazy Daisy (everybody had one of those, right?) out of the shed for some outdoor water fun. This gets the kids moving, and can cool them down on those hot summer (and fall) days.

Create a Scavenger Hunt

This is something your kids will love, and it is actually pretty simple to pull off. All you need to do is make a list of things you’d like your children to seek out. Have your family take a walk in the evening around your neighborhood. Bring your list and your smartphone, so you can capture each item in a photo. Once the kids have captured everything from your list, like your neighbor’s golden retriever puppy playing outside, to the funny bird that always sits atop your tallest tree, reward them with a fun treat like frozen yogurt, or a smoothie.

Break out the Chalk!

Remember those buckets of chalk we had as kids? Where we’d sit outside for hours, squatted down on the ground, drawing our chalk-art masterpieces in our parent’s driveway? Well, it’s time for our kid’s to learn how fun that is! Get some sidewalk chalk and tell your kids to go wild. Let their imaginations be their guide. It’s easy to wash it off and start again tomorrow.

These activities are fun, they can be done as a family, and they can even help to relieve stress. Doodling on a pad of paper (or with chalk in the driveway) for example, has the ability to relax the fear center of your brain, the amygdala. It induces the same state as meditating by reducing the thoughts of a restless mind.1 This generates mindfulness and quietness, which allows your mind to get some rest after a long day in front of the computer screen for school.

Time for Candy Land

Maybe you’d like to stay indoors instead of spending some time outside. That’s fine! If you have board games like Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Sorry and even a card game like UNO, take them out of the cupboard. Games like these require your child to pay attention to a task for a period of time until the game is completed, helping them focus. Kids with poor attention spans may struggle to complete an entire board game, you may notice their attention waning. The initial reaction may be to avoid playing games like this with them. This however is not helpful to your child, because they will frequently be faced with tasks at school that require focus and attention for certain periods of time, whether they want to pay attention or not.Find a little something as a prize for the winner to keep them motivated to finish the game.

Keep Them Healthy

Now that we’ve covered some actives that can help your kids to burn off some steam, relax, and even help them focus more, let’s talk about how to keep them healthy from the inside out.

Probiotics: Probiotics can add a layer of good microorganisms to the already existing bacteria in our microbiome, so they can be very beneficial to not only adults, but kids too. When the ratio of good bacteria is altered, for example, after your child uses antibiotics or experiences diarrhea, probiotics can help get their gut back on track by replenishing the microbiome with good bacteria. Probiotics can help your children stay healthy by decreasing the number of bad bacteria in the gut and bring back a healthy balance. Taking a good quality probiotic daily can restore, protect and strengthen not only the digestive system but the immune system too.

Aged Garlic Extract: Garlic is tasty and your kids have probably had it in pasta or other foods you’ve cooked for them, but have they ever tried Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) supplements? Even if they don’t love raw garlic, the aging process removes odor and capsules are tasteless so they are easy to take.

Various immune-health supplements and nutrients can empower our immune system to perform at its best, but one nutrient you may not have considered is Aged Garlic Extract. The properties that make AGE such a powerful tool in maintaining cardiovascular health (documented by over 870 published papers) gives us a window into why it also benefits the immune system. AGE supports a healthy inflammation response and reduces oxidation in the body. In moving the system away from chronic immune activation, it frees the body to fight invaders rather than constantly work to do things like push blood through inflamed arteries.4

Get those Greens: We know how important vegetables are to our health but it can be hard to get your kids to eat their greens. Try a powdered green drink mix to fill this “void.” You can add a green drink mix to juice or a smoothie, and work in some added green nutrition into their day. Make it fun by letting them help make the ‘smoothie of the day’. It can be as simple as a banana, berries and a little spinach. Adding greens blend powder will help boost the nutrient value. Look for a powdered green drink mix with nutrients like barley grass, wheatgrass, chlorella, kelp, and spirulina, for the most health benefits.  Avoid ones with added sugar and flavors.

Whether indoors, outdoors, or all of the above, these are some simple ways you can entertain your children right now, keep them active, relaxed, focused, and most of all, healthy!

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

Underlying Conditions: Here’s What You Need to Know

Any chronic or long-term health issue that can weaken the immune system is classified as an underlying health condition. Some of the most common underlying medical conditions include diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. When there is, say, a respiratory virus going around, patients with long-standing medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing more severe complications, including things like respiratory infections and even pneumonia, because their immune system is already compromised. We want to quickly clarify though, that having an underlying health condition does not make you any more likely than anyone else to come into contact with a virus, but it appears that those with these underlying health conditions are more at risk of severe effects if they do happen to catch it. Let’s dive a little deeper into some of the more common underlying conditions.

Common Underlying Conditions

All underlying conditions impact your body’s ability to fight off sickness and viruses. Some of the most common conditions, which we will discuss below, are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Diabetes

Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affects how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it is an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can affect and impair the body’s immune system. Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, designed to fight infection, attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, an organ that is essential to help the body with digestion and regulation of blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is caused by certain lifestyle factors, including not getting enough physical activity and not eating a healthy, balanced diet, which both lead to extra belly fat, and insulin resistance.1 No matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in your blood, which can lead to serious health problems.

If you have Type 2 diabetes, there are lifestyle changes that you can make which may help lower your risk of further complications. Try to get two and a half hours of moderate intensity physical activity each week to lose weight gradually, in order to achieve a healthy body mass index (BMI). Also, replace refined carbohydrates with whole grain foods and increase your intake of vegetables and other foods that are high in fiber. Small steps can make a big difference in your health.

Supplements and Herbs That May Help

Milk Thistle: Taking a daily supplement containing milk thistle, which is a flowering herb also known as silymarin, has been shown to lower fasting glucose levels by up to 15%. This herb has also been found to have beneficial effects on the body’s hemoglobin levels, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels as well.2

Chromium: Chromium is an important mineral for enhancing insulin activity. This mineral appears to have a beneficial role in the regulation of insulin action and its effects on carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism. Chromium picolinate specifically, has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.3

Aged Garlic Extract: A trio of clinical studies focusing on diabetics that was recently published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine suggests that Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract supplementation reduces multiple risk factors that increase a person’s risk of atherosclerosis (a condition where the interior lining of arteries (the endothelium) becomes damaged, leading to the buildup of dangerous plaque that can cause a heart attack or stroke).

One of the three studies demonstrated that Kyolic AGE has a direct impact on the health of arteries. During this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, 65 people who had been diagnosed with diabetes were assigned to take either a daily dose of AGE or a placebo for three months. At the end of the study, tests indicated that those in the AGE group had better endothelial function and less arterial stiffness than those taking the placebo.4

Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it can eventually cause more serious cardiovascular problems5. Uncontrolled hypertension can be taxing on your immune system, and make it harder for your body to fight off viruses6. If your immune system is elevated because of severe hypertension and you’re trying to fight off an infection at the same time, you can imagine how that could be a bad scenario. High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because many people are not even aware that they may have overly high blood pressure levels, until the symptoms lead to more serious cardiovascular conditions. Fortunately, blood pressure can be measured with a simple test, and you can work with your doctor to manage it. First step is to know your numbers.7

If you have hypertension, there are a few things you can add to your daily routine to help lower your blood pressure. Try to exercise regularly, reduce sodium in your diet, limit the amount of alcohol you drink, reduce your stress with consistent meditation, and quit smoking.

Supplements and Herbs That May Help

Aged Garlic Extract: During a recent study that appeared in the journal Frontiers of Nutrition, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia reported that Aged Garlic Extract produced an average 10 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure and a 5.4 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure in 58% of people taking the herb. An earlier study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also showed that AGE produced similar results for lowering systolic blood pressure.8

Nattokinase: Research has revealed that natto extract, a traditional Japanese fermented food made from soybeans, can lower blood pressure levels in individuals with lifestyle related diseases such as hypertension.9 Nattokinase works by reinforcing the actions of plasmin, your body’s own enzyme that breaks down the clotting agent called fibrin, thereby preventing abnormal thickening of the blood. Because plasmin production slows as you age, this type of support is a real help for those looking to naturally lower blood pressure.10

Obesity

Obesity is a medical condition that occurs when a person carries excess weight or body fat that might affect their health. Over 40% of American are obese.11 Carrying excess weight may increase the risk for many health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular problems, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis, to name a few.12 Studies show that obesity is known to impair immunity by decreasing cytokine production, altering lymphocyte function, and reducing dendritic cell function.13 And what does all that mean? Well, it means that if you are obese, it can increase your risk of infection and complications, like pneumonia, sepsis, and other viral infections.

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t short-term dietary changes; it’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity. Consider eating a more balanced diet with vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, lean meats like chicken and turkey, and whole grains. Avoid highly processed fried food, refined carbohydrates and excessive sugar. Regular physical activity can promote weight loss by burning calories and increasing metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories your body burns throughout the day.14

Supplements and Herbs That Can Help

Aged Garlic Extract: Aged Garlic Extract supplementation has been shown to reduce chronic inflammation and improve immune function in adults with obesity, shown in this study.15

Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne Pepper, a type of chili pepper, contains a compound called capsaicin, which gives cayenne pepper it signature heat. As it turns out, this compound has also been shown to slightly boost metabolism, by increasing the number of calories you burn throughout the day. A small study has even shown that taking capsaicin capsules increased levels of fullness and decreased total calorie intake.16

If you are interested in learning more about underlying conditions, or if any of these conditions may apply to you, we recommend that you consult with your primary care physician.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

3 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health

Owning a pet is one of life’s greatest pleasures, nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal, furry companion. But the benefits do not end there – your pet could be doing wonders for your health and well-being too.

Here are some health benefits our furry friends can provide (as if we needed another reason to love them):

Lower risk of allergies

Did you know that around 50 million people in the U.S. have nasal allergies, and that pet dander is one of the most common triggers? With this in mind, it may be surprising to learn that pets can actually lower the risk of their owners developing allergies. One study reported  by Medical News Today in 2015 associated exposure to dogs and farm animals in early life with a lower risk of asthma development by school age.1 More recent research published in the journal Microbiome found that children who were exposed to household pets prior to birth and up to three months after, experienced changes in gut bacteria associated with childhood allergies.2 Both of these studies support something called the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that the greater exposure to pathogens and potential allergens at an early age can strengthen the immune system, which may increase tolerance to allergies later in life.

Reduce anxiety and stress

Two studies published in Scientific American, examined the impact pets have on human emotions. In the first study, participants were divided into three groups. One group had a pet close by, the second was asked to think about their pet, and for the third, pets were not involved at all. They were told to list their goals and how confident they were in achieving them. The first two groups came up with a longer list of goals, and were significantly more confident that they could achieve them.3

In the second experiment, researchers divided participants into the same three groups, but this time asked them to perform a stressful task and monitored changes in their blood pressure. Those who had pets nearby or were thinking of pets had markedly lower blood pressure. The takeaway? Having pets close to you, or even just thinking about your pets, has the effect of lowering stress.4 Pets help us to live in the moment. A simple game of fetch with your dog can really keep you tethered to the present moment, and reduce stress and anxiety associated with the future.

Better heart health

Owning a pet, especially a dog, is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This does not mean that there is a crystal clear cause and effect relationship between the two, but it does mean that pet ownership can be thought of as a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease.5 Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners – probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise (taking dog on walks). The power of touch also appears to be important as well. Several studies show blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog.6

The love and companionship from pets can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Pet owners are oftentimes happier, more confident, and more physically fit. If you are looking to adopt a pet, you won’t just improve the quality of their life, they will help improve the quality of your life too.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


References

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301881
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316836
  3. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pets-help-us-achieve-goals-and-redu/
  4. https://www.southbostonanimalhospital.com/blog/8-ways-pets-relieve-stress
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/having-a-dog-can-help-your-heart–literally
  6. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130509163902.htm

 

Managing Your Stress With Creative Outlets

During periods of high stress, certain chemicals in the brain (like dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) begin to rise, causing larger amounts of these and other “fight or flight” hormones like adrenaline to be released by the adrenal glands. The release of these chemicals contributes to certain physiological effects like rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. When left unmanaged over time, chronic stress can even lead to the development of things like stomach ulcers, stroke, asthma, and heart disease.1 So what are some of the ways you can manage excessive stress? Let’s take a look.


Tap Your Creative Self to Manage Stress

Before we go any further, let’s first talk about deep breathing. We’ve all heard that deep breathing is helpful when it comes to stress. And with good reason. Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, encourages full oxygen exchange – that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. It can slow the heartbeat and lower and stabilize blood pressure. So diaphragmatic breathing is a good practice to get into, if you haven’t already. Go ahead – try a few deep breaths now . . .  Ok, let’s take a look at some creative outlets that can help you to manage your stress, and keep you relaxed.

Drawing/coloring: Doodling on a pad of paper, painting with watercolors, or even getting a coloring book can be helpful. These activities have the ability to relax the fear center of your brain, the amygdala. It induces the same state as meditating by reducing the thoughts of a restless mind.2 This generates mindfulness and quietness, which allows your mind to get some rest after a long day at work.

Photography: Photography can have a positive effect on your wellbeing, boosting self-esteem, confidence, memory, and helping you to focus and calm the mind from your everyday hustle.3 Mindfulness is very effective at fighting stress. Many forms of art promote mindfulness, including drawing, and photography is no different. Photography offers participants a moment to focus on the present, be “in the moment” and relax a bit. Not to mention capturing some beautiful scenes that you can keep or share, to relive whenever you need a moment of Zen.

Gardening: In a study in the Netherlands (as reported by CNN), two groups of students were told either to read indoors, or garden for 30 minutes, after completing a stressful task. The group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the group that read. And they also exhibited lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.4 Time to get your hands in the dirt!

Natural Supplements Can Help

Now that you have some different creative outlet options in your arsenal for managing your stress, what else can you do, to help keep your stress level low? Certain herbs, nutrients, and vitamins can help promote reduced stress and anxiety. Look for supplements that combine GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) along with B vitamins, which can support healthy relaxation and increased alertness. Other nutrients to look for in a de-stressing supplements are omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce anxiety, ashwagandha, which is an herb used in ayurvedic medicine to help lessen anxiety, and valerian root, which is a popular sleep aid, due to its calming effects5.

Taking advantage of these creative outlets, along with trying these supplements, can help you to manage your stress and focus on the things that matter most to you.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


References

  1. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/why-its-important-master-stress
  2. https://www.beaumont.org/health-wellness/blogs/health-benefits-of-coloring-for-adults
  3. https://www.clairevictoria.co/blog/mental-health-benefits-of-photography
  4. https://gardeninggonewild.com/13-reasons-why-gardening-is-good-for-your-health/
  5. https://kyolic.com/how-stress-affects-immunity-and-your-health/

Picky Eater on Your Hands? Here’s What You Can Do

It can be frustrating to find foods that are both nutritious and tasty for your little ones. But encouraging good nutrition for your child does not have to be frustrating. Let’s take a look at why kids are sometimes so particular about what they eat and some ideas for ways to overcome picky eating habits.


Some kids are happy to snack on things like hummus, bell peppers, and carrots, while other kids, though, will only follow a carb-based “white diet” consisting of pasta, rice, and bread. Why are some kids so picky about food? There could be many reasons. A 2015 study showed that picky eating habits were linked to everything from personality traits, to parental control at meantime, to social influences, to the mom’s own eating patterns.1 For most kids, it is just a phase, and it is important to know that it is also very normal. At the same time, though, if a picky eater isn’t getting enough good nutrition because they are being so selective, it could potentially lead to both short-term and long-term nutrient deficiencies. Here are some strategies to consider, for the picky eater in your family.

Picky Eater Strategies

Respect your child’s appetite: If your child isn’t hungry, do not try and force them to eat. Also, do not force your child to finish everything on their plate…they do not need to be a member of the “clean plate club,” if they are already full. If you try to get them to finish everything, they will learn to be less sensitive to their own internal hunger cues.2 Additionally, if you force them to eat, this could lead your child to associate mealtime with stress and anxiety, which you do not want.

Have a routine: If possible, serve meals and snacks at about the same time every day. If your child decides not to eat a meal, a regular snack time will give you the opportunity to give them a nutritious little snack, like a piece of fruit. If you let your child fill up on juice and snacks throughout the whole day however, as opposed to at designated times, it may decrease their appetite for their regular meals.

Be patient testing out new foods: For the most part, children are hardwired to like sweeter flavors.3 This may explain why they shun things like brussels sprouts and broccoli. So if you are trying to introduce something like that, try introducing it in a different form, like in a salad, or in a soup or smoothie. A smoothie is actually a great way to get your child some essential nutrients, especially greens, into their diet. One of our quick tips is to look for a quality powdered green drink mix, one that contains some nutritious grasses like barley grass and wheat grass, along with nutrients like chlorella and spirulina. You could add this powdered drink mix to a smoothie with some spinach, apple, cucumber and lemon, for a tasty and nutrient-packed drink, which can also double as its own meal.  Check out these simple recipes and tips for getting your child involved in making smoothies4.

Recruit your child’s help: Next time you go to the grocery store, ask your child for help in selecting fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods for the upcoming week, really making them feel like they are part of the process, and that you value their opinion. Once you get home, encourage your child to help you prepare and rinse these veggies, set the table…etc. Kids learn by doing.

Minimize distractions: Get into the habit of turning off the TV and other electronic gadgets during meal times. This will help your child to focus on eating. Start ‘mindful eating’ habits earlier.

If you are concerned that picky eating is compromising your child’s growth and development, consult your pediatrician. In addition, consider recording the types and amounts of food your child eats for a week, because a food log can help the doctor determine if there are any problems. And it’s okay to relax, because they will likely grow out of this as fast as they grow out of their shoes.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 


References

  1. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-makes-kids-picky-eaters-what-helps-them-get-over-ncna846386
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/childrens-health/art-20044948
  3. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/picky-eater-kids#1
  4. https://kyolic.com/healthyguides/Great-Greens/index.html?page=1

 

Stay Healthy! How to Avoid Getting Sick

To be honest, most of these “tips” for good health aren’t tips at all, but common sense. For example, hand washing. We all wash our hands, but do we wash for 20 seconds, and scrub every part of the hand? Apart from hand-washing, there are a whole host of other ideas and solutions to help you avoid that runny nose or sore throat, even in the thick of cold & flu season. Here are our top tips to help you stay healthy and avoid getting sick.

Our Top Stay Healthy Tips

Eat your greens: A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, protein, whole grains, and dairy. It may take some adjustment to move to healthy eating, so start small, and focus on one aspect to introduce yourself to some healthier options. For example, start by adding more greens to your diet. Green, leafy vegetables are rich in vitamins that help you maintain a balanced diet – and support a healthy immune system. One study showed that eating cruciferous vegetables sends a chemical signal to the body that boosts specific cell-surface proteins necessary for efficient immune-system function1. An easy way to get some greens into your life is with a powdered green drink mix. We recommend looking for one that contains barley grass, wheatgrass, spirulina, kelp, and chlorella, for the most beneficial phytonutrients per ounce. Be sure to avoid drink mixes that have added sugar.

Skip the alcohol: Research shows that drinking alcohol can damage the body’s dendritic cells, a vital component of the immune system. An increase in alcohol consumption over time can increase a person’s exposure to bacterial and viral infections.2 Especially during cold and flu season or stressful times, skip the alcohol and try a fun ‘mocktail’ instead.

Keep moving: Working out regularly enhances immune function, which can help the body fight off any cold or flu germs.3 You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity.

Get enough sleep: Clocking in about 8 hours of sleep every night is important, but it is even more important when you are feeling under the weather. When you’re tired, your body isn’t fighting as hard. So if you feel like you may be coming down with something, it’s imperative you get at least 8, or even 10 hours of sleep, if possible.

Eat more colorful meals: Cooking with all colors of the rainbow will help you get a wide range of vitamins in your diet. Red fruits and veggies, like tomatoes, red peppers, and raspberries, contain certain phytochemicals like lycopene and anthocyanins, which help protect against certain diseases, and can lower the risk of diabetes. Orange and yellow foods like carrots, mangos and sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. This essential vitamin supports healthy immunity, eye health, and strong bones. Green fruits and veggies like broccoli, kiwi and zucchini are chock full of chlorophyll, an antioxidant with a host of health benefits, like clearing toxins from the body, supporting digestion and absorption of nutrients, and boosting immunity. And blue and purple foods like blackberries, eggplant, and grapes contain super-charged antioxidants that can promote brain function and cellular strength.4

Hang out with friends: People who have strong social relationships are less likely to die prematurely than people who are isolated. Researchers think that friendships and health are linked through the body’s processing of stress. Being socially engaged leads to more positive emotions, which in turn may actually boost your body’s immune system and reduce the physical signs of stress.5

Avoid cigarette smoke: Smoking is a known risk factor for several diseases including asthma and respiratory infections, to name a few. But breathing in secondhand smoke can also increase a person’s risk for developing these conditions. People who smoke or regularly inhale cigarette smoke are also more likely to experience more severe symptoms when they get colds or the flu. Cigarette smoke can affect the immune system and reduce a person’s ability to fight off infections.6

It can be tough to stay healthy if people around you are or may be sick. Be sure to keep your distance.  And protect yourself by giving these simple strategies a try.  Stay healthy!

References

  1. https://www.health.com/condition/cold-flu-sinus/13-ways-to-avoid-getting-sick-with-a-cold-or-the-flu
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/cold-flu-secrets#1
  3. https://www.truelemon.com/blogs/tc/benefits-of-eating-colorful-foods
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/cold-flu-secrets#3
  5. https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/social-support.aspx
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324422#no-smoking

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

We wanted to dive into this diet and break down what it is, how it works, and its pros and cons, so that you will have all information necessary to decide if this is something that you would like to try.

What is Intermittent Fasting

When was the last time you fasted…on purpose. If you’re like me, when you first read about this diet, your gut reaction was probably along the lines of “why would I ever want to purposely fast! That sounds horrible.” As it turns out, there are some pretty clear benefits to intermittent fasting. Fasting can be very beneficial for weight loss, focus, energy, and the promotion of less insulin resistance in the individual.

The newest fasting diet trend is called Intermittent Fasting. This type of fasting pushes your fasting window from a regular 12 hour fasting window (the amount of time between dinner and the next day’s breakfast) to anywhere between 14 and 20 hours1. Sounds pretty extreme, right? But each of us usually “fasts” everyday while we sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending this a little longer.

With intermittent fasting, you are not actually cutting calories, you are simply shifting them to later in the day. If you normally eat 2,000 calories/day, you won’t all of a sudden decrease down to 1,500 calories, you will just push your 2,000 calories closer together. You eat more per meal but with less meals, while keeping your caloric intake the same.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Here are some of the benefits typically experienced while intermittent fasting:

  • Weight loss: Intermittent fasting may drive weight loss by lowering insulin levels. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which cells use for energy or convert into fat and store for later use. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to take in glucose. Insulin levels drop when a person is not eating. During a period of fasting, it is possible that decreasing insulin levels can cause cells to release their glucose stores as energy2. Repeating this process regularly, like with intermittent fasting, may lead to weight loss.
  • Lower cholesterol: According to a study published in Obesity magazine, intermittent fasting may help lower total cholesterol, as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol, when done in combination with endurance exercise. The researchers in this study also noticed that intermittent fasting reduced the presence of triglycerides, which are fats found in the blood that can lead to stroke, heart attack, or heart disease3.
  • Reduced insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting may also help stabilize blood sugar levels in people with diabetes because it resets insulin, though more research is needed. The idea is that restricting calories may improve insulin resistance, which is a marker of type 2 diabetes. Fasting encourages insulin levels to fall, which may play a role in reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes, notes a study published in Nutrients magazine4.

These benefits sound all well and good, but what about the drawbacks? Well, a very notable aspect of this diet is its dropout rate. In a recent study evaluating intermittent fasting, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine magazine, 38% of the 100 people involved in the study dropped out5. It is a tough diet to stick too. There is also a strong biological “push” to want to overeat after a fasting period, which could derail progress pretty quickly. Also, someone who would like to start this diet will need very strong willpower, along with a strong social support system to endure these fasting periods long-term.

One of the top tips for those embarking on the intermittent fasting journey is to make sure that you are still getting all of your vital nutrients in. You may need to add a supplement or two to your day-to-day routine, just to be safe. We recommend adding a powdered green drink mix to aid with digestion and help keep your immunity on track. A quality probiotic can also be helpful too, especially one with enzymes, which can help assist the body’s natural ability to break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and dairy into absorbable nutritional elements.

If you are considering intermittent fasting, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. Skipping meals can be dangerous to people with certain conditions.

References

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2018/06/01/the-trendiest-diets-of-2018-will-they-work-for-you/#11f979dd3aca
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323605.php#weight-loss
  3. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/possible-intermittent-fasting-benefits/
  4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/possible-intermittent-fasting-benefits/
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/not-so-fast-pros-and-cons-of-the-newest-diet-trend

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.