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What the Health: Immune Health

Within the last few weeks, the nation has been greatly affected. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even meat products are hard to come by. The COVID-19 seemed to have changed the world overnight. Like many others, we are concerned as well for the well-beings of our members and community. Despite this, our mindset is creating a more sanitized environment, and still helping each and every one of you. We want to ease some of your tension and be prepared. One thing is true, during all of this, we can control our actions, but we cannot control certain outcomes. This uncertainly can seem daunting; however, we have helped a lot of people and we will continue to help all of you. If your diet is bad, most likely you will get sick more often than someone who has a more nutritious, whole foods diet. Virus and bacterial infections with a poor diet will actually only make you worse for longer. More nutritious diets allow our bodies to respond to germs more effectively and get you back on your feet quicker. Our immune system needs plenty or vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids. The swine flu pandemic swept the country in America back in 2009. People experienced fever, chills, pain, fatigue, many of the same symptoms as the flu. Many times, when we are sick the last thing we want to do is get out of bed and eat healthy. Believe it or not, our immune systems start as soon as we put something in our mouths. (Our saliva contains powerful antimicrobials(1)). These antimicrobials are the first defense. Anything that gets past that will hit our stomach’s barrier in the form of hydrochloric acid (bet you didn’t know we had that in our bodies). Most of the time the hydrochloric acid in our stomach will get rid of the many toxins and germs, but some still will get past. If they get into our intestines our bacteria in our gut (probiotics) will help prevent any harmful bacteria from entering our bloodstream or getting into other places in the body (1). This is often why some medical professionals will advise you to take a probiotic (especially after taking anti-biotics, which can unbalance the good and bad bacteria in our gut). Majority of our hormones are made in our gut, as opposed to our brain, which most people may think. Fruits and vegetables will help a microbial balance in the gut, because our good bacteria like to feed on the fiber-rich foods. Diets that are high in processed foods and sugars can lead to an imbalance in the gut. Our GI tract (gastrointestinal) is over 70% of our immune system. (So, take good care of your gut!) As stated earlier, good nutrition allows our bodies to respond to germs, viruses, and bacteria quicker and more effectively. Our cells of our immune system need vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids(1). Pre-and Probiotics Image from bodybuilding.com Getting them from food sources are typically always better than supplementation but including supplements can help. Prebiotics (food for bacteria) help nourish the good bacteria in our gut while probiotics are the bacteria themselves (1). Food sources with good prebiotic sources: · Vegetables: asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and onions. · Carbohydrate sources: barley, beans, oats, quinoa, wheat, potatoes · Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, kiwi · Fats: flax and chia seeds Food sources with good probiotic sources: · Dairy: Greek yogurt, cheese, and kefir · Fermented vegetables: pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi(1) Sleep Sleep plays an important role in our daily functions from mental health, to physical performance, metabolism and even immune health. Back in 2013, the average adult gets about 6.8 hours of sleep per night and around 40% of adults get fewer than that. People who do not get quality sleep are more prone to get sick and it can affect the length of the sickness. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection, inflammation or while under stress. Lack of sleep can decrease the production of these cytokine proteins (2). 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night can help overall health and performance. (On a side note there are several studies on sleep and body composition. People who sleep less then 7 hours of sleep per night are significantly more likely to be obese. While it is not clear whether poor sleep is a cause or a result of excess body fat, some scientists think that sleep deprivation could disrupt the hormones that regulate appetite, which results in body fat accumulation (3)). Exercise There is a relationship between exercise and immunity in what researchers call a “J-Curve”. · Sedentary individuals have a slight risk of infection. Their immune system is not running as well as it could. · People who exercise regularly, at various intensities, typically are healthier than sedentary individuals. This is where the sweet spot is. · People who exercise regularly constantly pushing their limits and at such high intensities without proper recovery, often get sicker and are out more often 4) Stress and Relaxation A quick note on stress: When we are stressed, our bodies natural response is to make and release cortisol. While small amounts of cortisol are beneficial and immune boosting (such as exercise), prolonged exposure to stress can be harmful to the body and weaken our immune system (5). It is important to note that relaxation techniques such as meditation can actually boost your immune system. Taking as little as 15-20 minutes per day to meditate and relax and have many benefits to your mind and body. Supplements Some specific supplements can help support immunity and are tolerated by the body include: · Vitamin C · High-Quality Multivitamin · Vitamin D · Zinc · Elderberry extract Key things to remember about taking supplements: Try to avoid tablets (most likely have binders and fillers that the body has trouble breaking down. Make sure the supplements are GMP certified and come from a reputable brand.) Medical Disclaimer This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe any illness or diseases. The article does not contain any medical advice. The contents of this post are intended for informational and educational purposes only. The contents are not an intended substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek out a medical professional before starting a new exercise program or changes to your diet and medication. References 1. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/what-to-eat-when-sick 2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757 3. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-sleep 4. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-recovery 5. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

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