It’s that time of the year again, where the days become shorter, the temperature cooler, the leaves change and we start to prepare for winter. It’s during this time of year that we often see patients spend more time indoors, are less active and get sick more often. How can you best prepare for the change in seasons and protect your health?
A few key simple steps will go a long way.
Vitamin D (“nature’s flu shot” as we like to call it) is incredibly important for proper immune function. During winter month, when needed most, vitamin D levels in your blood fall to their lowest point. Vitamin D releases antimicrobial peptides (think “natural antibiotics”) and without proper levels, your body is not adequately protected. Without this protection, you are most vulnerable to contracting colds, the flu or other respiratory infections. Ideal blood levels are 70-90 ng/mL. Most adults can maintain good vitamin D levels with 2000-4000 iu’s/day. Most children need 800-1200 iu’s/day. Ideally, get your blood levels checked to determine your individual need.
Exercise is so good for you… but there’s also no need to overdo it. Keep it simple and get our body moving every single day. Being active helps to flush out bacteria in the lungs and may reduce your risk of getting a cold, flu or other illness. Exercise also improves white blood cells, which are your body’s immune system cells that fight disease. It’s important to not only move, but get your core body temperature up and sweat. The rise in temperature may prevent bacteria from growing and help you fight infections better. Think about the benefits of a fever… exercise is similar. Exercise also slows the release of stress hormones. Less stress hormones may protect you against illness.
Get Outside and Open the Windows
In as little as 15 minutes per day, being outside can boost your concentration and reduce stress and anxiety. It turns out that the age-old saying “fresh air is good for you”… is true! In addition, natural sunlight helps you sleep better at night. A study from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine states that natural sunlight helps set our body’s internal clocks or biorythms. And the more rested we are, the better our mood and mental state are. If you are inside with closed windows you are breathing in stale, humid air. The air in our homes also gets filled with harmful substances from furnishings and electronics. We require a fresh, abundant oxygen supply to be at our best. So open those windows, bundle up and get outside. Lastly, it’s shown that our best sleep happens between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. So cooling the house down at night may even help you sleep better.
Eat Your Greens
I often hear that people don’t like green vegetables.. or their kids won’t eat it. My response is always — eat it anyway. We can’t deny the huge health benefits from this amazing superfood…. it’s truly incredible. First, dark leafy greens give your body folate. Folate (B-vitamin) is crazy important in how your genes express themselves (epigenetics). Folate is essential to important things like DNA and RNA synthesis, production of amino acids and cell division. I will do a blog JUST on epigenetics as this is complicated… but just know, as far as folate goes — your body really, really needs it. Did you know greens are recommended for weight loss? And NOT just because they’re really low in calories. Greens are jam-packed with nutrients and other active compounds but the weight loss benefits are directly tied to nitrites. These nitrites have been linked to changing fat-storing white cells into fat-burning brown cells. Ultimately, this means your body goes from storing to burning fat… which means — weight loss!
Ok, hold onto your seats everyone — this one is going to make you reach for a green smoothie before you’re even done reading. Dark, leafy greens are anti-aging. Yes, a study by Rush University showed a significant decrease in mental decline, improved brain protection, improved cardiovascular health, cellular support and anti-inflammatory benefits — all supporting anti-aging. To fuel our body and prevent aging, we have to fuel our body with what our cells eat… so they stay healthy. Greens have a lot of what our cells needs. Greens provide PROVEN health benefits for every one and at every age. My favorite way to get these greens in everyday — a smoothie. I add them to my smoothie and that of my kids. We call theirs “Shrek juice”.
Your gastrointestinal (or gut) is made up of trillions of good and bad bacteria. These bacteria are KEY to your health. Did you know that 80% of your immune system resides in the gut? It’s estimated that up to 90% of the brain’s serotonin (a “happy” neurotransmitter for the brain) is made in the gut. Your gut’s balance of good and bad bacteria are pretty important. Many things can disrupt this balance — from medications, antibiotic use, standard American diet (S.A.D. diet), stress etc. Probiotics can help you keep this sensitive system running smoothly by adding in good bacteria to support proper function. When purchasing probiotics, look for GMP certified products with over 15 CRU’s per serving.
Lastly, we all know someone that could benefit from this information. Please forward to your family and friends. You never know when one simple change can make a dramatic impact on your health present and future.
Dr. Heather Yost