5 Key Strategies To Strengthen Your Immune System

Supporting your immune system can help you to fight off cancer, deal with the side effects of treatment and lower the risk of recurrence. 

But to do so effectively requires a comprehensive strategy that will provide your immune system with what it needs to function at its best.

Poor diet, stress, lack of sleep and too little exercise can negatively impact your immune system and impede its ability to defend against illness.

 

5 Key Strategies To Strengthen Your Immune System

 

  1. Eat a balanced diet to support the health of the immune system and the gut and to help lower inflammation

Add more nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. Variety is the key as well as healthy proteins that provide amino acids, the building blocks of the immune system. Complex carbs like grains and legumes provide substantial energy that the body needs to function properly. Vitamins and minerals are catalysts for all body functions, especially the immune system.

      2. Take supplements that help the immune system fight pathogens

Supplements that support the immune system help to fight pathogenic bacteria and viruses. They do not harm good bacteria. Examples of immune-support supplements include elderberry, echinacea, astragalus, plant sterols, garlic and algae such as chlorella or spirulina.

As our gut houses a large part of our immunity, it is very important that we make sure we give it some love as well. Probiotics, glutamine products or formulas, plant sterols, antimicrobials such as oil of oregano, aloe vera or grapefruit seed extract, essential oils* such as clove, cinnamon, thyme or lavender all support gut health and can support our immune system.

*Note: If ingesting essential oils, make sure they are food grade and mix with a carrier oil such as coconut oil.

  1. Exercise. It improves circulation and allows cells and the immune system to function better

So get up and get moving.  Go for a walk.  Do some stretching.  Shimmy on the dance floor.  Do whatever you enjoy to get your muscles flexing and your heart pumping.

  1. Implement stress management techniques

Some stress can be helpful for the immune system. Too much stress can use up valuable nutrients that are needed to help the immune system function. So find ways to relax and calm the adrenal glands down and lower the stress hormone cortisol.

  1. Make sleep a priority

The immune system needs the time you sleep to repair and regenerate itself.

Here are some tips for you to help you improve your sleep:

  • Deal with your stress – it can keep you awake at night.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and get at least 7–8 hours of sleep.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark room and no sound distraction. Our immune system loves the chill!
  • Avoid caffeine or eating a large meal close to bedtime.
  • Disconnect from electronics like computers, cell phones and even TV at least an hour before bedtime.

 

So with these strategies forming your template, design your plan and work each and every day to strengthen your immune system.

 

 

Let’s Practice Safe Sun!

Welcome to August!

August may mark the ‘last’ month of summer but it has also been designated as Sun Awareness Month.

So let’s talk ‘Safe Sun’ shall we!

⁠Why is it important to talk about safe sun practices you ask?  Well it has a lot to do with the fact that the incidences of skin cancer has increased significantly over the past 25 years in Canada.

Skin cancer is divided in to 2 groups, melanoma and non-melanoma.

Melanoma skin cancer starts in the melanocyte cells of the skin. The melanocytes make melanin and it is melanin that gives skin its colour. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.

The second group is non-melanoma skin cancer comprising basal cell and squamous cell cancers.  These cancers are less serious types and make up about 95% of all skin cancers

Are You at Risk?

There are risk factors for skin cancer.  If you are at a higher risk, you can take the proper steps to protect yourself.

You may be at a higher risk for developing skin cancer if you have:

  • A personal or family history of melanoma
  • Many moles or moles that are unusually shaped or large
  • A susceptibility to burning easily in the sun
  • Light coloured skin, eyes, and hair
  • A history of excessive sun exposure
  • A disease or diseases that suppress your immune system

One of the main causes of skin cancer is over exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

The sun naturally gives out ultraviolet radiation. There are two main types of UV rays that can damage skin.

UVA Rays

  • UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB and play a major part in the aging of our skin.  Think wrinkle rays:)  UVA rays can damage skin cells called keratinocytes. Basal and squamous cells are types of keratinocytes.  UVA rays can contribute to and possibly initiate the development of skin cancers.

UVB Rays

  • UVB rays cause skin reddening and sunburn damaging the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. These rays play a key role in the development of skin cancer.  UVB rays can burn and damage your skin all year-round.  Even in the snowy winter months the snow and ice can reflect UVB rays and damage your skin.

Interesting facts to note

Your skin does not have to be in a blistering, peeling state to be considered burnt.  If your skin has gone red or pink it has been sunburnt⁠.

When your skin gets burnt, the UV radiation causes damage to the DNA of your skin cells and it is this damage that is the underlying cause of skin cancer⁠.

⁠You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer with proper sun care aimed at avoiding harmful UV rays.

Here are 3 important tips to protect yourself

  1. Seek shade when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.  This is when it is strongest
  2. Cover up with clothing – wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses
  3. Apply sunscreen regularly with at least a SPF15. Use it generously and re-apply regularly

References

http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/melanoma/?region=on#ixzz5u2kUehFF

https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/05/08/sun-awareness-week-10-new-sun-safety-myths-debunked/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10985-sun-exposure–skin-cancer

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb

https://www.webmd.com/beauty/sun-exposure-skin-cancer#1

 

Your Oral Biome and Its Link to Cancer Prevention

Let’s bring some awareness to the health of our mouth and how it can impact our overall health. Just as we have a gut microbiome (and several other biomes for that matter) that needs tending to, we also have an oral microbiome that requires care.

Without proper oral hygiene, the balance of good to bad bacteria can become skewed leading to tooth decay and gum disease.

Several studies have shown links between poor oral health and various illnesses including cardio vascular disease and bacterial pneumonia.

But why does this matter when we speak of a cancer? It’s because poor oral hygiene can lead to chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation can underpin many diseases including cancer.  Note this excerpt from the abstract entitled: Poor periodontal health: A cancer risk?

Periodontitis (a chronic infection that affects the gums and the bones that support the teeth), characterized by epithelial proliferation and migration, results in a chronic release of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, prostaglandins, and enzymes, all of which are associated with cancer development

The pathway, in fact, is fairly straight-forward. C-reative proteins are released by the liver when toxic oral bacteria enter our circulatory system. This ignites the inflammatory response and if left unattended percolates as chronic inflammation.

Now not all inflammation is bad. In fact, inflammation is a necessary part of our immune system.(I have written a blog about the inflammatory response called “5 Foods that Help Fight Chronic Inflammation. You can read it here.) But chronic inflammation does us no good.

So achieving oral health is an extremely important part of prevention and is very important during active cancer.  And it’s all about promoting balance among the bacteria in your mouth.

5 Tips for achieving a healthy oral biome

Avoid Anti-Bacterial mouth washes

Anti-bacterial mouth washes throw the baby out with the bath water by killing both the good and bad bacteria in your mouth.  Want to freshen your breath?  Chew on some parsley.

Brush your teeth twice daily

Brushing your teeth twice a day helps to remove plaque, avoid cavities and prevent tooth and gum disease.

Floss daily

Flossing gets in to those hard to reach places that your tooth brush can’t.  As with tooth brushing, flossing helps to remove plaque, avoid cavities and prevent tooth and gum disease.

Have your teeth cleaned and checked regularly

Your dentist and hygienist are the batman and robin of oral health.  See them regularly!

Eat a healthy diet

Your mouth benefits as much as anywhere else by eating a healthy diet that full of fruits & vegetables and imited in processed foods & sugars.  Without a healthy diet your teeth and gums are susceptible to disease.

 


References:

Low-grade inflammation in chronic infectious diseases: paradigm of periodontal infections.

Systemic Diseases Caused by Oral Infection

Poor periodontal health: A cancer risk?

Chronic inflammation and cancer: The role of the mitochondria

Feeling the heat – the link between inflammation and cancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronic inflammation can increase risk for cancer

Tips for caring for your oral biome

Avoid antibacterial mouth washes

Brush your teeth twice daily

Floss daily

Have your teeth cleaned regularly

Consider Oral Probiotics

Three Ways to Avoid Overeating

We all do it. Sometimes the amazing aroma and delicious flavour gets the best of us. Especially if we’re a bit on the hungry (or hangry) side.

I’m talking about overeating at meals.

This can have a big impact on our weight, energy levels, and overall health and well being. Of course our body needs food to fuel it and we often eat amazingly healthy foods. Right?

But we may still overeat. In this post I’m going to give you three solid tips for preventing that from happening. Seriously! If you can make these three things a regular habit and part of your daily routine you’ve got one up on the overeating cravings.

Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing.

And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days.

But it doesn’t always stop there.

Sometimes we overeat on regular days. Or at regular meals. Or All. The. Time.

Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals.  And if you turn these tips into habits you can ditch the willpower!

Tip #1: Start with some water

 

 

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.

But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss!

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating mindfully

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.

When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table, not in front of the screen, off of a small plate and put your fork down between bites.

Tip #3: Start with the salad

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don’t start there.

(Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your salad).

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They’re “satiating”.

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.

Summary:

Have your glass of water, eat mindfully and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries

Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning. They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/

http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

parenting

Parenting Expert Alyson Schafer this week live on TheHealthHub

This Week on TheHealthHub

Alyson Schafer

parenting

Alyson Schafer is a therapist, TV personality, author, columnist, spokesperson, educator and consultant. She is one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts and serves as the resident expert on national outlets such as: The Marilyn Denis Show, HuffingtonPost Parents Canada and CBC radio.

An internationally acclaimed parenting expert, Alyson empowers families by sharing her principles, rules and tools for raising happy and healthy kids. Her style is fast, witty, warm and encouraging. Alyson delivers her deep insights in ways that today’s busy parents can easily understand and apply immediately.

Alyson promotes a firm but friendly “democratic parenting” style and offers practical solutions backed by extensive research. Armed with years of research, clinical and field experience, Alyson can provide a new, positive understanding of your current family dynamic with actionable solutions that will give you the hope and confidence needed to transform your family.

Alyson is the bestselling author of Breaking The Good Mom Myth and Honey, I Wrecked The Kids and her latest, Ain’t Misbehavin’ which have been translated into Russion, Korean, Bulgarian and Chinese.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels.

Our show will cover topics such as:

  • Affective Approaches to modifying your child’s behaviour
  • How to raise confident children
  • Tips for making time for family time

 Listen live or catch the podcast on iTunes!

 


Every Tuesday from 11am -12pm I host The Health Hub, an interactive, forward thinking talk show on Radio Maria Canada.   Call, tweet or email your questions as together we explore health issues that are relevant to you from new and innovative points of view.

TheHealthHub is now on iTunes!

Subscribe and don’t miss a single episode!

 

 


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