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The Connection Between Vitamin D and Immunity

With the world in a global health pandemic, cold and flu season approaching, and the changing seasons, immunity is at the forefront of most of our minds. Vitamin D has been gaining popularity for its proposed benefits in terms of immune health. But does the science support the claims regarding vitamin D and immunity?

 

Vitamin D

To understand the role of Vitamin D within the immune system we must first understand exactly what Vitamin D is. Vitamin D is one of four fat-soluble vitamins, meaning it is absorbed and transported through the body in fat globules. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body within cells and tissues. Since fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, there is an upper limit (UL) for them. The UL is the maximum daily amount an individual can consume without causing adverse health effects. The UL for Vitamin D is 4000 IU for adults.

Vitamin D has two forms, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is typically man-made and added to foods or supplements. While Vitamin D3 is the natural form, often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”; we can naturally synthesize Vitamin D3 from the sunlight when it hits our skin. About 10-15 minutes of sun exposure multiple times per week is sufficient for adequate Vitamin D3 absorption. However, several factors can hinder the absorption of Vitamin D3 such as skin color, time of day, UV strength, season, geographic location, and use of sunscreen. Despite the ability to naturally obtain Vitamin D from the sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency remains quite prevalent among the world’s population, especially in the winter months and northern hemisphere.1

 

The role of the Immune System

Vitamin D is most widely known for its role in the formation and maintenance of normal bones and the metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. However, over 50 genes are be known to regulated by Vitamin D, most of which are unrelated to mineral metabolism.2 Emerging research shows the role and importance of Vitamin D within the immune system.

The proposed role of Vitamin D within the immune system is its ability to stimulate a greater production of T cells.3 Increased production of T cells may help to increase the production of anti-inflammatory cells and decrease the production of inflammatory cells.4 This may help the body fight against infections and foreign invaders. 3

 

The COVID Connection

Several studies have found a correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and testing positive for COVID–19. Given the role of Vitamin D in the immune system, it is plausible to associate a Vitamin D deficiency with a decreased immune system possibly increasing the susceptibility to illness. However, further research is needed to determine the role of Vitamin D in the prevention and treat of COVID-19.

 

Take home message

There is much to learn about the role of Vitamin D within the immune system. Adequate amounts of Vitamin D may help to promote a healthy immune system. The recommended amount of Vitamin D an adult should consume daily is 600 IU. Supplementing with the active form of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) may help to provide you with an adequate amount of Vitamin D to help prevent nutritional deficiencies from occurring if you are at risk. Remember, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, there is a risk for toxicity with intakes greater than 4000 IU per day.

References:

 

  1. Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2020 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/
  2. Omdahl JL, Morris HA, May BK. Hydroxylase enzymes of the vitamin D pathway: expression, function, and regulation. Annu Rev Nutr. 2002;22:139-66. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.22.120501.150216. Epub 2002 Jan 4. PMID: 12055341.
  3. Louise Saul, Iris Mair, Alasdair Ivens, Pamela Brown, Kay Samuel, John D. M. Campbell, Daniel Y. Soong, Nadine Kamenjarin, Richard J. Mellanby. 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Restrains CD4 T Cell Priming Ability of CD11c Dendritic Cells by Upregulating Expression of CD31. Frontiers in Immunology, 2019; 10 DOI: 3389/fimmu.2019.00600
  4. Aranow C. Vitamin D and the Immune System. Journal of Investigative Medicine 2011: 59:881-886.
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How Antioxidants Work Their Magic

You’ve probably heard of antioxidants before, and maybe even named dropped them yourself, but have you ever stopped to think about what antioxidants are and how they benefit you? In the spirit of 2020, let’s start with the bad news first- free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are naturally produced in your body as a normal byproduct of cellular metabolism. If that is a lot to digest, think of a free radical as the unstable partner you may have dated in high school. Full of energy, very compelling, and a bit destructive in nature. As your body digests food and conducts other metabolic processes that allow you to go about your day, it is producing free radicals. If you do things like exercise, breathe in air pollution, or experience stress, more of these unstable molecules will be produced. These external sources of free radicals are important because an excess can cause damage to your cells.

Before you sell your treadmill on eBay and move to a cabin in the woods, know that some free radical production is actually good and necessary for cell development and protection (I bet your destructive high school partner had some redeeming qualities too). What becomes harmful to your cells is prolonged, excess levels of free radicals. This damage can play a role in the development of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, cancer, aging, cataract, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease (1).

Ok, so here is the good news; it turns out that, as a result of billions of years of evolution, our bodies are very smart and pretty good at keeping us alive. Thus, we have a way to protect our cells from being overrun by free radical damage.

Enter, the antioxidant.

If we are continuing the relationship analogy, antioxidants are your dependable people-pleasers that you would probably take home to meet your parents. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and turn them into stable molecules. This, in turn, protects your cells from damage that might be caused by excess free radicals. Your body produces antioxidants naturally (some examples are Coq10, melatonin, and lipoic acid) but other sources of antioxidants need to be provided through food or supplements (like vitamin E, C, and carotenoids).

So how can I protect my cells?!

The wrong conclusion to make from this antioxidant science/relationship lesson is that if antioxidants are good, more is better. Loading up on all the antioxidant elixirs likely won’t help prevent any disease. There is also evidence that too much of an individual antioxidant (like vitamin E) can increase your risk for disease (2). The best advice has and always will be: eat your fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and most importantly, a variety of them. Observational studies have found a relationship between the number of servings of fruits and vegetables people consumed and their disease risk (2). So next time you’re looking for something to snack on, throw in something crunchy and colorful. Do that enough times and it may just prolong your life!

References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/

(2) https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth

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What is Systemic Enzyme Therapy?

Enzymes are important compounds that are required to complete many processes in the body. Enzymes are unique because they work as catalysts to assist in chemical reactions. You can imagine enzymes as a counselor mediating a conversation between two individuals. They help turn one compound into another. You may be familiar with this process if you have ever heard of digestive enzymes. Enzymes are produced by the digestive system to break down the food you eat. You actually have enzymes in your mouth right now! The small salivary glands in your mouth produce enzyme-rich saliva to help properly digest the chicken salad you just had for lunch.

 

Enzymes aren’t just used for digestion, however. Certain types of enzymes can also be used to positively impact the inflammation process in the body. When proteolytic enzymes are taken orally to support inflammation rather than digestion, they are part of something called Systemic Enzyme Therapy (SET). Proteolytic enzymes were first widely used as a treatment in Germany in the 1960s.1 For many years, proteolytic enzymes, also referred to as proteinases (enzymes that work to break down proteins) have been recommended to support pain and inflammation related to musculoskeletal issues, arthritis, and surgery recovery.2,3 These proteolytic enzymes are taken on an empty stomach, allowing them to pass freely through the stomach without taking a pit stop to work on breaking down food. Then, they are absorbed in the small intestine where they are allowed to work in body fluids and tissues.4

 

In a very complicated biochemical process, proteolytic enzymes encourage the body to maintain healthy inflammatory processes, possibly by increasing the release of reactive oxygen species (a type of free radical) from white blood cells.1,4 A study in 2016 found that Systemic Enzyme Therapy had significant effects on fatigue, muscle soreness, and muscle damage in male athletes. In addition, SET also encouraged a reduction in inflammatory markers.4

 

In the 1940s, one of the most well-studied enzyme therapy supplements called Wobenzym originated in Germany.6 Wobenzym contains a mix of many enzymes like papain, bromelain, trypsin, and the flavonoid, rutin. Rutin is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce oxidative stress during times of inflammation in the body.4 Studies show that when compared to a pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory, Wobenzym was just as effective in relieving pain and improving joint function in individuals with degenerative joint disease. In addition, Wobenzym reduced the need to use pain killers and presented fewer side effects. For individuals suffering from muscle soreness following a difficult workout, have a muscle-related injury, or have joint issues, trying enzyme therapy may be a good option.

 

Interested in trying Persona’s supplements or want to add Wobenzym to your pack? Take our online assessment or speak to a Nutritionist online.

References:

  1. Proteolytic enzymes. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/proteolytic-enzymes. Updated May 17, 2019. Accessed June 29, 2020.
  2. Paradis M, Couture P, Gigleux I, et al. Impact of systemic enzyme supplementation on low-grade inflammation in humans. Pharma Nutrition. 2015;3(3):83-88.
  3. Barrett AJ, McDonald JK. Nomenclature: protease, proteinase and peptidase. Biochem J. 1986;237(3):935. doi:10.1042/bj2370935
  4. Marzin T, Lorkowski G, Reule C, et al. Effects of a systemic enzyme therapy in healthy active adults after exhaustive eccentric exercise: a randomised, two-stage, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2017;2(1):e000191. Published 2017 Mar 12. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2016-000191
  5. Reactive oxygen species. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/reactive-oxygen-species. Accessed June 29, 2020.
  6. Über Wobenzym. Wobenzym. https://www.wobenzym.de/ueber-wobenzym/. Accessed June 29, 2020.
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Health Benefits of Astaxanthin

Protecting our health is a priority for us right now, and many of us are finding ways to boost our immune system and to stay healthy. Some of us have been adding high-antioxidant foods and supplements to our diet, and if you haven’t already added astaxanthin to your routine, there is a list of reasons why you should start!

What is it? Astaxanthin (pronounced asta-zan-thin) is a naturally occurring deep, red-colored carotenoid with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support our health in numerous ways. You may be familiar with carotenoids as providing fruits and vegetables their bright shades of red, orange, and yellow; astaxanthin is found primarily in microalgae (Haematococcus pluvialis), but also in salmon, shrimp, lobster, crab and other organisms, and is responsible for their red tones.

 

Antioxidant

Astaxanthin is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is able to integrate itself into every cell, tissue and organ in the body, therefore is found to provide greater antioxidant protection compared to other carotenoids.  Its antioxidant activity also has the capacity to be 6000 times more effective than that of vitamin C, more than 800 times of CoQ10, and 550 times that of vitamin E at neutralizing free radicals.

 

Immune Health

Like other carotenoids, astaxanthin helps strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It can be converted into vitamin A, which plays a significant role in promoting the appropriate function of our immune response, and with its high antioxidant properties, it truly stands out within the list of immune-boosting antioxidants.

 

Eye and Brain Health

Since it is a fat-soluble antioxidant, it can help support in keeping our eyes and central nervous system healthy. It has the ability to cross through the blood-retinal and blood-brain barrier to help reduce the risk of inflammatory-related damage that can lead to conditions such as eye fatigue, cataracts, macular degeneration, dementia or neurological disorders.

 

Heart Health

There is growing research with the potential of astaxanthin and heart health; the high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help prevent oxidation of fats and protein in the body and may help protect arterial wall health as well.

 

Physical Activity

For the athletes and fitness gurus, astaxanthin may provide benefits for improved physical activity. Research suggests it helps support with the recovery of muscles by fighting free radicals and reducing muscle soreness, while enhancing endurance, strength and energy levels.

 

Skin Health

This amazing antioxidant also helps support skin health as well. Astaxanthin helps reduce damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and helps protect and support healthy skin cell function by improving skin moisture levels and elasticity while reducing wrinkles and spots.

Overall, astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant with reasons to include in your diet. This healthful antioxidant though cannot be produced by the body naturally though, so to gain all of its glorious benefits, we need to add some wild salmon and shrimp to the diet regularly or obtain it through a supplement!

References:

  1. Naguib YM. Antioxidant activities of astaxanthin and related carotenoids. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Apr;48(4):1150-4. doi: 10.1021/jf991106k. PMID: 10775364.
  2. Davinelli S, Nielsen ME, Scapagnini G. Astaxanthin in Skin Health, Repair, and Disease: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):522. Published 2018 Apr 22. doi:10.3390/nu10040522
  3. Fassett RG, Coombes JS. Astaxanthin in cardiovascular health and disease. Molecules. 2012 Feb 20;17(2):2030-48. doi: 10.3390/molecules17022030. PMID: 22349894; PMCID: PMC6268807.
  4. Giannaccare G, Pellegrini M, Senni C, Bernabei F, Scorcia V, Cicero AFG. Clinical Applications of Astaxanthin in the Treatment of Ocular Diseases: Emerging Insights. Mar Drugs. 2020;18(5):239. Published 2020 May 1. doi:10.3390/md18050239
  5. Liu X, Osawa T. Astaxanthin protects neuronal cells against oxidative damage and is a potent candidate for brain food. Forum Nutr. 2009;61:129-135. doi: 10.1159/000212745. Epub 2009 Apr 7. PMID: 19367117.
  6. Zhang ZW, Xu XC, Liu T, Yuan S. Mitochondrion-Permeable Antioxidants to Treat ROS-Burst-Mediated Acute Diseases. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:6859523. doi:10.1155/2016/6859523
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Does Nutrition Impact the Immunity?

We’ve all heard the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but is there actually some truth to this and if so, how does this work? Well, to be fair, you do need much more than just an apple to be healthy and to stay out of the doctor’s office, but the overall theme here is that a nutritious diet can keep you healthy for longer and that is true! But what is the actual science behind this concept? How does your nutritional intake really impact your health and more specifically, your immune function? We will explore how nutrition affects you on a cellular level, but first, we have some important questions to answer about immunity below.

 

Why is immunity important and how does it work?

 

Well, the first question is simple: immunity keeps us healthy and allows our body to fend off pathogens that could otherwise wreak havoc on our bodies or at worst, end our life. The answer to the second question is not so simple: to answer that question fully we may need to write a 5,000 page book on the topic because that is how complex and sophisticated the immune system is! Although a lot is known about the immune system, to this day researchers and scientists are still rigorously working to understand the immune response in its’ full capacity. For now, we won’t focus on the unknowns, but rather the knowns about the immune system. Having a basic understanding of immunity will help us understand specifically how nutrition impacts its’ ability to function properly.

 

Your immune system is comprised of 3 different layers: The first is physical which includes barriers, both internal and external. These include your skin and the epithelial lining of your GI tract and your respiratory tract. (2) The second layer is biochemical which is made of secretions and gastric acids. The third layer of immune protection comes from the cellular level such as B cells, T cells, antibodies and granulocytes to name a few (2). All of these layers work in conjunction together as either an innate response or an adaptive response. These are the 2 main branches of the immune system in terms of function. The innate system is the first and immediate response to a threat to our body. The innate system uses phagocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, mast cells and dendritic cells to function. (1) This response is immediate which is important in addressing pathogens right away, but it is not specialized which is where the adaptive system shines. The adaptive system, as you may guess, adapts over time to different pathogens. This system recognizes pathogens, learns them and remembers them for future use so that if the pathogen invades your body again your immune system will know how to protect you. The adaptive immune system uses T cells and B cells to mediate the immune response (8) Nonetheless, both systems are imperative for a healthy immune response.

 

Why is nutrition important?

 

The relation to immunity and nutrition has been clearly established in the sense that the immune response is compromised when nutrition is not adequate. This can lead to an increased chance that you will develop an infection or illness. (2) An overall healthy diet is important for immune function, but more specifically is the importance of caloric intake, micronutrients and gut health.

 

When you think of a difficult workout you are going to embark on, you usually consider what you have eaten for the day and evaluate if what you have eaten is going to be enough for you to have a successful workout- your immune function is no different! When getting ready to “gear up” to address infection, your body must have proper nutrition to carry out all of the complex functions it needs to address the infection or illness properly. When your immune system is activated it requires a much higher need for energy for optimal function. Proper nutrition during times of infection or illness allows for your cells to function at their highest capacity on the cellular level, increasing the likelihood that your body will be able to properly address and eliminate the pathogen or threat to your body. Without proper nutrition your immune response will not be as strong as it requires which can lead to longer recovery times and ongoing infection and illness. (1)

 

Not only is your immune system impacted by the amount of calories you consume, but the type of calories and foods you consume matters just as much! Micronutrients have been widely known to have a positive influence on health and be necessary for the prevention of disease. Regardless of your age, it has been established that Vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, beta carotene, iron, selenium and zinc all have an imperative role in immunity. (2) Examples of how specific micronutrient deficiencies can alter the response of the immune system can be seen with zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C. A deficiency of vitamin C can increase the likelihood of developing infections like pneumonia due to the absence of the antioxidant effects addressing the oxidative stress the infection is causing. A zinc deficiency can lead to a reduction of lymphocytes, one of the main immune cells, and it can also increase inflammation and oxidative stress. This is due to its’ effect on cytokine production, an important component of modulation of the immune response. (2) A deficiency of Vitamin A can lead to a reduction or alteration of function for macrophages, T cells, B cells and neutrophils; all important cells that assist in immune function. Evidence suggests that supplementation for these specific examples of micronutrients discussed can improve outcomes and immune response. (2)

 

The bacteria in your gut have a strong influence on your immunity as they are closely linked together. The gut microbiome is so complex that researchers are having a hard time making exact conclusions on how the gut microbiome is related to immunity, but we do know that there is a link and it is important to consider when discussing nutrition and immune function.

 

The epithelial walls of our gut serve as one of the layers of immunity that we discussed earlier. This is considered part of the physical and biochemical aspects of our immunity. Our gut is filled with trillions of bacteria, some good and some bad, however, we need to have an abundance of good bacteria to act as a first-line defense of foreign pathogens that may enter our body and to eliminate them appropriately without doing us much harm. If you do not have a healthy gut microbiome you may develop leaky gut syndrome; a condition that may lead to outside pathogens entering you fully instead of being eliminated through your digestive tract- this may lead to immune responses such as inflammation and other diseases. (11). Focusing on fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and kombucha can help replenish the good bacteria in your gut due to their probiotic content. Supplementation with a daily probiotic can also help replenish the good bacteria in your gut.

 

Overall, we can see how important nutrition is for our immune function! The best thing to remember is that there is no one food that is going to be the key to preventing disease and supporting your immune system. It’s important to focus on a wide range of foods full of different nutrients! Be sure to get plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables throughout your day and consider supplementation if you are not meeting your needs through diet alone.

References:

  1. Childs CE, Calder PC, Miles EA. Diet and Immune Function. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723551/. Published August 16, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  2. Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder PC. Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212925/. Published October 17, 2018. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  3. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Nutrition and Immune Responses: What Do We Know? Military Strategies for Sustainment of Nutrition and Immune Function in the Field. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230970/. Published January 1, 1999. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  4. Nutrition and Immunity. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/. Published July 23, 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  5. How does the immune system work? InformedHealth.org [Internet]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/. Published April 23, 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  6. Klemm Rby S. Support Your Health With Nutrition. EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  7. Belkaid Y, Hand TW. Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056765/. Published March 27, 2014. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  8. Alberts B. The Adaptive Immune System. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21070/. Published January 1, 1970. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  9. Fields H. The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  10. Zanteson L. Gut Health and Immunity – It’s All About the Good Bacteria That Can Help Fight Disease. Today’s Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060112p58.shtml. Published 2012. Accessed October 6, 2020.
  11. Mu Q, Kirby J, Reilly CM, Luo XM. Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Frontiers in immunology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440529/. Published May 23, 2017. Accessed October 6, 2020.

 

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11 Self-Care Tips Every Parent Needs For 2021

By: Daphne Oz, author, cohost of FOX’s MasterChef Junior and The Dish on Oz airing Wednesdays on The Dr. Oz Show, Mom Brain podcaster and nutrition ambassador for Persona Nutrition

 

Let’s cut right to the chase: this year has been nuts. As we all adjust to life in the wake of a pandemic and so much that is unknown, one thing has stood firm to me: we have to look for bright spots of self-reliance where we can find it. Taking good care of ourselves and our loved ones consistently is key to giving ourselves the best possible defenses and the most resilient mind, bodies and spirit to take on each new day. Here are my top 10 + 1 (because we all deserve a bonus) self-care tips that should be on every parent’s radar heading into 2021.

 

Let kids guide the way.

We take care of our kids all the time, but they actually love having a chance to take care of you! Let them think of a fun way to help you — it could be as simple as a foot rub, fixing you some tea or a little light meal if they’re old enough to handle that safely! It makes them feel so good to be kind and thoughtful in ways that are manageable (yay for raising good humans!) — and it’s an added bonus of wonderful time together for you both. It’s also a great way to start to get your kids familiar with self-care for themselves. Their lives can be stressful sometimes too, and it’s never too early to start reinforcing the ways they will find resilience and happiness long term.

 

No more all or nothing.

Start with something! We steal our own joy and psych ourselves out of doing good things for ourselves all the time by telling ourselves we have to work out for the hour or it’s not worth it. Splurging on a cookie “ruins” a whole day of healthy eating. The home organization project we are desperate for keeps getting put off because we only have time for one room (or one closet) at a time. Everything major starts somewhere small. Don’t be afraid to take the first step that leads to the first ten steps that leads to the future of health, balance and positivity we all crave.

 

Vegetables for breakfast!

It’s a thing. I love doing scrambles with tons of sautéed veggies that I crack an egg or two into and scramble together for a deliciously filling, savory breakfast. Especially in colder months, make way for a warm bowl of deliciously fragrant soups, sautéed veggies, even leftover braises earlier in the day and set yourself up for healthy eating success with stable blood sugar (slow release carbs, protein and healthy fats!) rather than the usual breakfast carb overload.

 

Replace old bad habits with something that feels good.

As humans, we’re typically fans of old habits and the status quo — even if it isn’t really working for us (witness: my disorganized bedroom, grocery shopping while hungry, etc). Try to embrace the fact that whatever is comfortable about old habits that don’t serve us are easier to overcome when we fill the void with something that feels good! That positive emotional association will make it easier to stick with a new habit through the adjustment period, so try some radical shifts towards a habit that serves you.

An example: I was really sick of my overflowing inbox. Opening and reading emails, then marking them unread to come back to later, then beating myself up and feeling exhausted every time I open my inbox and see it crammed full of things I thought I had addressed is the vicious cycle I fell into over and over. A never ending to do list that anyone with my email can constantly add to and that I turned into chaos! So I adopted (at my husband John’s — master of efficiency — suggestion) two new habits and one radical shift:

 

  • Habit #1: I only open my email when I have a dedicated amount of time to read and respond to emails, 15-30 minutes seems to be the magic number for me to get through a bunch uninterrupted and feel maximally productive.
  • Habit #2, no more reading and marking mail as unread to return to. Instead, I mark items that need follow up as “flagged” and move on to filter through other quick replies if that’s all I have physical or emotional time for at that moment. My flagged inbox is much easier to return to when I have more time to devote to a thoughtful response without having to filter through new and old requests mixed together.
  • And my radical shift? I had some emails languish in my inbox for…months. Like, many months. And if I haven’t replied to them in that long and there isn’t a follow up, I decided to cut my losses and start fresh. I marked them all as read and moved on with my life with an empty and newly populating inbox that I actually have a strategy for tackling now. Believe me, it was horribly nerve-wracking the first couple weeks because I felt so guilty for never replying. But the great feeling of knowing I was responding to the important new items in a timely way and the healthy brain space of not feeling like I was behind the eight ball every time I checked my email has felt so good, that I know there’s no going back!

 

Schedule 5 minutes to yourself every couple hours.

Call them your sanity breaks. Don’t use the time to go online or scroll social media. Just sit and check in with yourself, or take a walk around the block, or run the stairs, or do squats, or take your vitamins (I love Persona’s personalized vitamin packs that I simply tear from the pack and take when I have my 5 minutes of me time). It’s important to get clarity on where you are in your day. How you feel after certain interactions, activities or behaviors so you can figure out what you would ideally have more (or less of) in your day.

 

Get familiar with your slow cooker.

We’ve all been eating at home more than ever before. And with all the demands on our time, everyone loves a fast meal that comes together effortlessly. But there is something extra luxurious about the way flavors blend and food turns rich (even while keeping it light!) when it has cooked for a long time. The best part is, you can add all the ingredients — chicken and spices, beef and vegetables, beans and tomatoes for vegetarian chili — before you head to work (or your home office), and dinner is ready to go when you step into your kitchen!

 

Go to bed early.

Ugh, this is my least favorite on the list because I am such a night owl. But my eating, my energy, my general outlook is always so much better when I get to sleep before 10pm. It sets your body’s natural rhythms up for success and means you’re not running on fumes all day — which is usually the fastest way to send us running for more caffeine, more sugar, more stimulus of every kind that we just don’t need to look, feel or function our best.

 

Extra loving.

If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s tremendous gratitude for the people in our lives whom we love — and who love us. We crave that connection and constancy, and especially when so much around us feels turbulent and trying. Connect physically whenever you can! There’s a reason babies thrive from being skin to skin. Being together soothes us on so many levels. It might still be challenging to be together in person, but take time to call or Zoom, write letters, reach out. And give a little love to yourself, too! A smile in the mirror, some positive self-affirmations in the shower or in the car…little (easy, manageable) but consistency is the key.

 

Get it delivered!

The social distancing that has ensued the past eight months has opened my eyes to the surprise, delight and convenience of delivery! There are so many wonderful companies who have shifted their business models – large big box brands and numerous local retail owners – to offer delivery or curbside pickup. So, give it a try to make life a little simpler. It can be for your groceries, home office and school supplies, a new cozy loungewear set, kids activity boxes and even your daily vitamin packs (Persona is delivered to your door every 28 days so it’s one less thing to worry about!).

 

Move your body and spend at least 15 minutes sweating every day.

Sweating is how we detox, release tension and get stronger — mentally, emotionally, and yes physically. It doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym. It could be running stairs, or walking to check off your errands, or 15 minutes of sun salutations, or jump rope and pushups in your bedroom. My days always feel more productive when I start them with a commitment to taking this time for my body and mind.

 

Say YES to homemade.

I never, ever feel satisfied by store-bought candy or dessert — it’s always gone too fast, too saccharin, too “almost-good-but-not-quite-there”. Homemade dessert, on the other hand, has variety! It’s layered, its customized, and most of all, it’s real! Whether its classic chocolate chip cookies, a sweet-tart plum tart, seven layer cake, ice cream, millionaire’s short bread, banana bread (SO. MUCH. BANANA BREAD!), or just glorious pure and salty dark chocolate drizzled over berries, homemade dessert and baked goods are worth the work, and the work means you won’t indulge more often than it counts. Treat yourself with foods so good they’re worth the wait and fuel your resolve to take good care of your body the rest of the time.

 

I hope at least a few of these easy self-care tips ring true for you. They’ve made a big difference in my family’s life, and I hope they will help you navigate every day with a little more energy, ease and positivity as you set your sights on the New Year. Remember to start small and start today — and stay well!

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Kelly Ripa at 50 – Tips for your health & wellness

 

  1. Ground Yourself Through Meditation

I get it. Life is busy! When you’re trying to balance your job, your family, your fitness and everything else, the last thing on your mind is, well, your mind. But prioritizing mental health is so important.

Even on my busiest days, I try to find 10 minutes to ground myself through movement meditation. Those few precious moments of mindfulness—doing yoga while focusing on my thought patterns and awareness—help me create a sense of calm and inner harmony—and make a big difference to my overall wellbeing.

 

  1. Eat a Nutritious Diet

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard! I keep my diet clean by thinking consciously about everything I eat, focusing on nutrient-rich foods like veggies and protein—and especially plant protein, like tofu.

Every day, I have a big salad of microgreens, chickpeas, tomatoes, avocado and toasted nuts drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. When it’s time for a snack, I skip the sweets and go for berries and nuts—usually pistachios, almonds, or cashews. These foods keep me full and feeling good throughout the day: So simple, so healthy, so delicious!

 

  1. Personalize Your Nutrients

Even when you eat clean daily—like I do! —you still need additional nutrients to fill in gaps. This is easy enough to say, but when I started looking into vitamins and supplements, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information.

Luckily, I found Persona Nutrition. They helped me understand my unique needs and designed a personalized daily supplement pack to address them. They helped me find nutrients to support my digestive and immune health and to address my sleep issues—and they deliver them to my door every month!

Try their free assessment—it just takes five minutes. If you have any questions, you can chat with one of their nutritionists (free of charge!).

 

  1. Protect Your Hair and Skin

It’s no secret that our beauty regimen changes as we age. That means, among other things, taking extra care to protect your hair and skin. There are two simple things I do that I can’t recommend strongly enough:

  • Wear sunscreen every day (indoors and outside) to help protect your skin from UV damage.
  • Use a silk pillowcase (for real!). Silk helps your skin retain moisture, and it helps your hair by reducing creases and split ends.

These are two things I truly believe have helped me age gracefully over the years. And they’re easy to do!

 

  1. Stay Active: A Healthy Body Is a Healthy Mind

Here’s a secret about exercise: It doesn’t have to be a chore. My regular workout is one of the best parts of my day.

The key is to mix it up: Functional training, circuit training, core workouts, a jog with a friend—there are so many options to choose from, there’s definitely one (or more) for you. One of my personal favorites is dance cardio. If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much fun I have dancing with my trainer!

Find the workouts that feel right—and fun—for you. It is key to keeping your mind and body young.

 

  1. Get Good Sleep

As a busy working mom, sleep is everything to me. It allows me to bring energy to the morning show, engage with guests, keep my projects moving and support every other part of my life. But for a long time, I found good sleep hard to get.

Then, after hearing so much about it, I decided to try CBD, a natural extract that can help promote healthy sleep. I added it to my Persona evening nutrient pack. The difference—pardon the expression— has been night and day. I get to sleep faster; I stay asleep longer; I wake up feeling energized and ready to take on the day.

If you have trouble sleeping, try taking the Persona assessment and see if CBD is right for you.

  1. Say Yes to New Opportunities

As I look back over the past few decades, I’m humbled by what I’ve accomplished—as a mom, wife, actress, talk show host, producer and more—and I’m excited to see what the years ahead will bring.

This incredible journey was made possible by saying “yes”—to new projects, new challenges, new opportunities. I wouldn’t have met my amazing husband Mark if it weren’t for auditioning for All My Children. And there are so many more examples.

As you get older, know that your age doesn’t limit your potential. Be open to taking chances, to making new connections, to pursuing your dreams. It may not be easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

 

  1. Take a Technology Time Out

Just like you, I do a lot of things in life that depend on technology, but as much those devices help me get things done, I also know they can isolate us if they’re not managed properly.

That’s why my family and I reserve time every day to unplug, to put away our cellphones at dinner and be truly present with one another. We all live busy lives, so I cherish this time that’s just for us—especially as the kids get older and become more independent.

I encourage you to do the same, to find a moment each day to put down the screens and be fully present with the ones you love.

 

  1. Give Back Any Way You Can

I believe in the power of giving back, in small acts of kindness that make a lasting impact—not just for others, but also for ourselves.

Through this pandemic, I’ve helped several causes close to my heart. Giving back in this way has given me a sense of purpose, of fulfillment, a feeling that I’m making a difference.

As you get older, this sense of purpose is incredibly important. If giving money isn’t an option, consider other ways you can help by giving blood, donating your time to a good cause, even helping an elderly neighbor with groceries. Enrich the lives of others and you’ll find you enrich your own.

 

  1. Age-Adjust Your Supplements

Our bodies change as we age (don’t we all know it!) and our nutritional needs change with them. For women, this means getting the vitamins and minerals we need to manage the symptoms of menopause and the risk of bone loss. Taking certain supplements—Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D—together with exercise and a good diet, can help you do this. Take stock of your current supplement program—and try taking Persona’s assessment—to see if you need to make changes.

 

  1. Indulge in a Little Humor

2020 hasn’t been a smooth ride—to say the least. The pandemic and other heavy news has affected us in so many ways, forcing us to reset our lives and adjust to a new normal. With so much going on, it may not feel like the right time to be lighthearted, but it’s important to make space for that. Take a moment out of your day to share a laugh with those close to you. It’s not just good for your mood, it’s good for your health.

Laughter really is the best medicine—and that’s no joke. 😊

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Aging With Positivity

5 tips for feeling your best as you get older

 

Back in college, my anatomy teacher once told my class, “Growing old ain’t for sissies.” At the time it seemed like a joke, but now, as I enter my 40’s, I’m starting to see the truth behind it. Getting older isn’t easy. Time seems to speed up; your body seems to slow down; you get aches and pains where you never used to. In the face of so many changes, it can sometimes be hard to stay positive.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. When it comes to your happiness, age isn’t in charge; you are. Take control of aging, change, and your happiness. In today’s post, I’ve put together some tips to help you make that happen: five simple steps for getting older—with positivity.

 

1) Look for joy

In your day-to-day life, joy may not always find you, but if you’re prepared to break with the ordinary—and actively seek joy out—you can find joy every day. How do you do this? It’s about being mindful. As you look ahead to your week,  set aside time to experience new things and to connect with others: Plan events with friends and family; volunteer to help your community; and keep an open mind. Good things can happen at any moment. By seeking joy, you’ll not only feel better; you’ll improve your long-term mental health.

 

2) Smile more

Laugh lines are a badge of honor. That’s not just opinion; it’s science. Studies have shown that laughing, smiling—even making joyful noises—can trick your brain into being happier[i]. So don’t be afraid to shine on the outside. Laugh at life; chuckle at your mistakes; smile at a stranger (I promise you they’ll smile back!). It won’t just make others feel good; it’ll make you feel good too.

 

3) Find your passion

As children, we actively seek out the things we love, the things that compel us, that spark joy. As we grow into adults, we redirect this impulse into building our lives, pursuing jobs, relationships and other activities that give us meaning. As we get older, it’s important not to lose sight of that. Having a purpose—pursuing the things that we’re passionate about—is a big source of positivity.

If you don’t have that thing in your life right now, take action to find it: take on a new hobby; rekindle an old one; learn something new; join a group of like-minded people; take on a project you’re passionate about. You’ll find it lifts you up, and helps you live life to its fullest.

 

4) Keep your mind active

It’s no secret that physical exercise is key to long-term wellness, but it’s just as important to work your mind—especially as you age. Set aside time every day to flex the muscle that is your brain: Read a book; try a new game; learn a new skill; talk with friends or even take an inward journey. Keep your mind moving to stay upbeat.

 

5) Get a daily serving of music

A good jam is more than entertainment; it’s a proven support for mental health. When you listen to music, your neurons fire and your body releases serotonin, a hormone that stimulates happiness[ii]. When you need a mood boost, try putting on a tune. Sing along, get up and dance with yourself or with others. Over the longer term, you could even try learning an instrument. You’ll find your outlook improving.

 

References:

[i] Neuhoff CC, Schaefer C. Effects of laughing, smiling, and howling on mood. Psychol Rep. 2002;91(3 Pt 2):1079-80.

[ii] Adler, S. E. A. (2020, June 30). Music Can Be a Great Mood Booster. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-2020/music-mental-health.html

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How Age Impacts the Immune System

While it is true that age is nothing but a number and brings gifts like wisdom, there are certain changes to the immune system that still occur. To better understand these changes, it helps to first understand the basics of how immunity works.

 

What Is Immunity?

Immunity is our body’s defense against foreign organisms (pathogens), infections, and diseases. The immune system is an intricate organization of proteins, cells, tissues, and organs working together and in balance. Immunity can be broadly divided into innate and adaptive immunity.

 

Innate immunity is the body’s first line of defense against germs entering the body. Innate immunity is also called the “non-specific immune system” because it responds the same way every time to pathogens. The innate immune system works very quickly and is critical during the first 96 hours of exposure to a pathogen. Persons are born with innate immunity, which include physical barriers like the skin, stomach acid, mucus membranes, fever, and non-specific immune cells.

 

Adaptive immunity, also known as acquired immunity, is involved in fighting pathogens that the body recognizes. There are 2 types of adaptive immunity: passive immunity and active immunity. With passive immunity, antibodies are given to a person. Protection against a disease is immediate but short-lasting.

 

With active immunity, the immune system is first triggered. After invasion by a pathogen, immune cells called B- and T-lymphocytes (B- and T-cells) become active. It can take 96 hours or longer for these immune cells to respond. What is key about active immunity is that has memory because antibodies and special memory B- and T-cells are formed. Antibodies made during active immunity are long-lasting, sometimes lifelong. If a person becomes re-exposed the same pathogen, the active immune system recognizes it and can respond more quickly. Another way to acquire active immunity is through a vaccine, which mimics a disease, causing our immune system to respond and make antibodies.

 

Key points

  • There are 2 broad types of immunity: innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is the body’s first defense against disease. Persons are born with innate immunity and non-specific defenses are involved. Adaptive immunity is specific to a pathogen.
  • Passive immunity is a type of adaptive immunity where antibodies are directly given to a person. Protection is immediate but does not last long.
  • Active immunity is another type of active immunity and involves the production of antibodies by our own immune system. It takes longer to develop but protection lasts years and even for life.

 

How Does Age Affect Immunity?

The gradual breakdown of the immune system due to age is called immune senescence or immunosenescence. The exact mechanisms of immunosenescence are still being studied but researchers know both the innate and adaptive immune systems are affected. Reduced B- and T-cells numbers and diminished functions of tissues and organs involved in immune defense may all play a role in immunosenescence.

As a result of changes in the immune system, older individuals do not respond as well to new or previously encountered pathogens. This may increase their risk of inflammation, infection, and cancer. Additionally, older adults have reduced responses to vaccines. This is why persons over 65 years receive a high-dose flu vaccine. Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine contains a dose four-times as much as Fluzone Quadrivalent.

Studies show that the mortality rate of older patients with acute viral and bacterial infections is three times higher when compared to younger adult patients. Increased viral risk, decreased immune response, and lack of a specific treatment are reasons the aged population has been hit so hard by the coronavirus.

There is currently no known approach that will reverse immunosenescence. However, research continues into understanding the mechanism and rejuvenating cell health. And there are healthy habits that older adults can follow to help keep the body’s defenses strong!

 

Key points

  • Immune senescence, or immunosenescence, is the gradual breakdown of the immune system due to natural aging
  • The exact reasons why immune senescence occurs are not known but decreased function of immune organs and lower numbers of immune cells may be involved
  • Despite immunosenescence being irreversible, a healthy lifestyle can help keep older adults feeling well and strong

 

References:

  1. McHugh D and Gil Senescence and aging: Causes, consequences, and therapeutic avenues. J Cell Biol. 2018 Jan 2; 217(1): 65–77.
  2. Montecino-Rodriguez E,  Berent-Maoz B, and Dorshkind Causes, consequences, and reversal of immune system aging. J Clin Invest. 2013 Mar 1; 123(3): 958–965.
  3. Daniela Weiskopf D, Weinberger B, Grubeck‐Loebenstein B. The aging of the immune system. Transplant International. 2009 Oct 1; 22(11): 1041-1050
  4. Simon AK, Hollander GA, McMichael Evolution of the immune system in humans from infancy to old age. Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Dec 22; 282(1821): 20143085.
  5. Lord JM. The effect of aging of the immune system on vaccination responses. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2013 Jun 1; 9(6): 1364–1367.
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Sleep: Your Immune System’s Best Friend

We are all concerned with boosting our immune systems right now, and did you know sleep can play a very important role in this?

 

How Sleep and Immunity Affect One Another

Sleep is an important process that regulates the body’s physiological processes and promotes recovery. During an illness, sleep patterns commonly change and can lead to reduced, disrupted, or even improved sleep.1 Besides the obvious that we feel tired when we do not sleep enough, other physiological processes are also negatively affected in the body. When the immune system is stimulated, an inflammatory response is triggered, and sleep duration usually increases.1  Other symptoms of fatigue, poor mood, increased sensitivity to pain, and decreased appetite follow as a response from the central nervous system.1 Although not very fun, these symptoms can actually help begin the healing process in the body to conserve energy and instead promote recovery.1

 

What Happens if We are Not Sleeping Enough?

The immune response is regulated by our sleep cycle, and inflammatory mediators can increase when sleep is decreased.1 The duration and quality of sleep are linked to the body’s response to inflammation. Therefore, increased sleep loss can weaken the body’s immune system which makes us more susceptible to infection.1

 

What Does the Research Say?

Cytokines are proteins secreted by cells of the immune system, and they help regulate immunity.2,3 In cases of sleep loss related to insomnia, alcoholism, stress, and during a period of aging, pro-inflammatory cytokines were enhanced, meaning the body had an increased response to inflammation.2  Hormone levels such as cortisol (plays an important role in the body’s response to stress) also fluctuated in the morning after sleep loss.2 Sleep not only impacts acute infection (cold, flu, etc.) but also is involved the body’s response to allergies and more chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and other forms of chronic pain.2 Addressing the issue of sleep is very important in the treatment of these issues.

How Much Sleep Do We Need to Boost Our Immune System?

We all know that it is ideal to sleep 7-8 hours per night, and this continues to be true to best support the body’s immune system.4 If you are not able to hit the goal of 8 hours, naps can be beneficial to help boost immunity.4 A thirty-minute nap in the morning or evening (or both!) can still benefit the body’s immune system and make-up for missed sleep by reversing some of the negative effects that result from sleep deprivation.4  

 

Tips to Improve Sleep

Creating a “sleep routine” can be very beneficial to improve sleep quality. Just as you have your routine in the morning, establish a couple simple steps that help you wind down for the night. One important step could be to try to stay off your phone directly before bed and even consider putting it in a separate room at night so that it is not a distraction. The main goal is to lower stress, wind down, and create and environment and mindset for restful sleep. Some ideas could include meditation, prayer, stretching, listening to calm music, or even making some decaffeinated tea. Sleep supplements can also be beneficial to help promote a restful state and ensure good sleep. Quality sleep is so important and implementing a few simple steps can make a huge difference in your overall health and immunity!

References:

  1. Asif N, Iqbal R, Nazir CF. Human immune system during sleep. Am J Clin Exp Immunol. 2017;6(6):92-96. Published 2017 Dec 20.
  2. Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev. 2019;99(3):1325-1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018
  3. Ibarra-Coronado, E., Pantaleón-Martínez, A., Velazquéz-Moctezuma, J., Prospéro-García, O., Méndez-Díaz, M., Pérez-Tapia, M., Pavón, L. and Morales-Montor, J., 2015. The Bidirectional Relationship Between Sleep And Immunity Against Infections.
  4. Besedovsky, L., Lange, T. and Haack, M., 2019. The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk In Health And Disease | Physiological Reviews. [online] Journals.physiology.org. Available at: <https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00010.2018> [Accessed 21 September 2020].
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