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Which Foods Boost the Immune System?

Can certain foods boost the immune system? We look at what to eat to prevent illnesses and stay well

Can foods boost the immune system? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone. When it comes to preventing infections, we roughly know the drill. Wash your hands thoroughly. Sanitize surfaces. Stay home if you’re not feeling well. But many of us remain unsure as to what to eat to prevent our bodies from constantly getting ill.

It’s easy to fall prey to marketing gimmicks deployed by food brands. After all, it’s comforting to think that there is a single superfood or supplement out there that can supercharge our immunity and solve all of our health problems. But in reality, it’s way more complicated than that.

It’s definitely true that certain vitamins can provide a boost to our immune system. But at the same time, our bodies are complex machines with sophisticated needs. Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet may be much more beneficial to our health than popping vitamin supplements. So if you’re interested to know whether foods can actually boost the immune system, keep reading. Here, we’ll discuss what and how to eat in order to keep yourself fit and healthy.

WHICH FOODS BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Fruits

Fruits are one of the most nutrient-dense food groups. Packed with vitamins, minerals and many different biologically active compounds, they can provide a great boost to your immune defenses. Every type of fruit has something to offer your health and wellbeing. To get the most benefit, make sure to include a whole rainbow of plants in your diet.

Having said this, certain fruits may have stronger immunoprotective properties than others. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and limes, are a perfect example of foods that can boost the immune system. They’re widely known to be one of the best sources of vitamin C, a nutrient routinely used to treat viral and bacterial infections. But that’s not the only compound that makes them so effective. Citrus fruits are also rich in flavonoids, particularly hesperidin. Hesperidin is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and respiratory viruses. According to an article in Frontiers of Immunology, regular consumption of citrus fruit juices can increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells and decrease the levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

Another family of fruit that’s been shown to promote a healthier immune system is berries. Multiple studies have shown that berries contain antioxidant, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties.

Vegetables

If you want to boost your immune system, one of the best ways is to include more vegetables in your diet. Similarly to fruits, this food group provides a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They’re also a great source of fiber and prebiotics – compounds that feed the good bacteria living in our gut. And keeping our gut health in check will in turn have a beneficial impact on our immune responses. To maximize your chances of staying free from infection, include many different types of vegetables in your diet.

Red bell and chili peppers are a great source of vitamin C, almost on par with citrus fruits. They also contain an alkaloid called capsaicin. According to a review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, capsaicin possesses strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and as such, has the potential clinical value for pain relief, cancer prevention and weight loss.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, can also contribute to a stronger immune system. They contain high levels of vitamin C and E, as well as compounds called glucosinolates. As described in the Molecules journal, glucosinolates have been shown to be protective against many different types of cancer, including breast, brain, blood, bone, colon, gastric, liver, lung, oral, pancreatic and prostate.

Broccoli is another great example of a food that can boost your immune system. Apart from containing many vitamins, polyphenols and glucosinolates, it’s also a great source of substances called sulforaphane and quercetin. According to a review published in Phytochemistry Reviews, sulforaphane is highly involved in detoxification and neutralization of chemical carcinogens and free radicals. Quercetin also displays powerful antioxidant, anti-allergic and antiviral properties.

Special attention should also be given to green leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce and spinach. Spinach is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables. Multiple studies have demonstrated its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, and cholesterol-lowering abilities. It provides a solid dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including a carotenoid called lutein. As suggested in a review in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, lutein has been shown to stimulate the production of antibodies and fight bacterial infections.

Mushrooms

There’s been a growing interest in the immune-strengthening properties of mushrooms. This food group provides a good deal of selenium and B vitamins, both of which have an important role in our immune health. Furthermore, mushrooms contain a range of highly specific immunomodulatory and anti-cancer proteins, as described in the Journal of Autoimmunity.

Many types of mushrooms are beneficial to our health, but recently the attention has been directed particularly at shiitake mushrooms. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, regular consumption of shiitake significantly improves white blood cell and antibody production in the body.

Fermented foods

Fermented food and drink has a long history. They were among the first processed food products consumed by humans – and for many good reasons. The fermentation process improves the shelf life, safety and flavor of foods like yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. It also enhances their nutritional properties.

Many fermented foods contain strains of beneficial live bacteria, often referred to as probiotics. Probiotics can stimulate immune system function through enhancing natural killer cell toxicity, regulating the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and increasing white blood cell count, according to a study in the Food Control journal.

Seafood

When it comes to foods that boost the immune system, seafood may not be the first thing to cross your mind. But this food group has a lot to offer. Oily fish, for example, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, tryptophan and polyamines. According to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, regular fish consumption can lead to better gut health and a reduced risk of developing inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Shellfish – including shrimp, lobsters, oysters, mussels, scallops, clams, crabs, krill and snails – also contain significant quantities of immune-stimulating bioactive peptides, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In fact, oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, which is linked to immune health.

Spices and condiments are great for increasing the flavor of dishes, but that’s not the only thing they’re useful for.

Garlic is a great example of a food that can boost the immune system. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition, garlic appears to stimulate the production and regulate the functioning of white blood cells, cytokines and immunoglobulins. Regular consumption can contribute to the treatment and prevention of respiratory infections, gastric ulcer, and even cancer.

Garlic

Ginger is another example. According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, ginger has a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anticancer potential.

What’s more, black pepper may also be able to boost the immune system. Due to its antibacterial properties, it’s long been used as a food preservative. It contains a compound called piperine, which according to a review published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, displays numerous health benefits.

In the last several years, researchers have also been extensively studying the immunomodulatory properties of turmeric. Recent studies have demonstrated that curcumin – the main active ingredient of turmeric – shows antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulatory properties and can reduce the risk of several types of cancers.

HOW TO INTEGRATE IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS INTO A BALANCED DIET

Many foods have the ability to boost the immune system, but how can you make sure you’re including them in your diet?

Firstly, make sure to focus on eating wholefoods and cooking from scratch. Also, try to avoid highly processed foods – items such as packaged bread, microwave meals and breakfast cereals may appear healthy, but they tend to be largely devoid of immune-supporting nutrients. If you feel peckish, try to snack on citrus fruit and berries. When it comes to larger meals, try to add a solid portion of vegetables, mushrooms, fish, shellfish and fermented foods to your plate. Experiment with spices and condiments too.

It’s also good to make sure that your cooking processes don’t destroy immune-boosting nutrients. For example, fruits and vegetables are sensitive to heat, so don’t overcook them. Instead, stick to steaming and gentle processing. According to an article published in Food Science and Biotechnology, prolonged boiling, frying and baking may result in reduced levels of vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. In fact, broccoli may lose up to 50% or more of its vitamin C when boiled.

If you’re not a fan of the taste of turmeric or mushrooms, consider dietary supplements. Many brands offer good quality extracts made from immune-boosting foods. It’s also relatively easy to top up on probiotics in the form of tablets or capsules – for best results, look for quality products with multiple different bacteria strains. If you are thinking of changing your supplement routine, however, it’s best to consult your doctor first.

OTHER WAYS TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Increase your physical activity levels

There’s no doubt that being more active is one of the best things you can do for your physical health and mental wellbeing. It’s also a great way to boost your immune system. According to an article published in the Nutrition journal, exercise intensity and duration are closely linked to the functioning of multiple immune system components.

Researchers from the Sports Medicine journal also pulled together the results of multiple studies and concluded that higher levels of habitual physical activity is associated with a 31% lower risk of contracting an infectious disease and a 37% reduced risk of dying from it.

Prioritize quality sleep

Maintaining good sleep hygiene can make a huge difference to your quality of life. But getting enough sleep is also an important factor in immunity. A good snooze helps to balance the levels of hormones and cytokines that are responsible for regulating the inflammatory responses in the body, as described by a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Some animal studies have also shown that interactions between immune signaling molecules and brain neurochemicals increase significantly during infection, indicating that we tend to sleep differently when we are sick. Researchers suggested that during infection, these sleep alterations help our body to recover faster.

Keep your stress levels under control

Short bouts of stress can help us to survive dangerous situations. But when that stress becomes chronic, it can have a serious impact on our physical health.

In an article published in the Brain and Behavior journal, researchers speculate that chronic stress severely disrupts immune system signaling and increases the levels of inflammation in the body. There’s also a growing body of evidence to suggest that stress-reducing interventions have a direct impact on our susceptibility to infections. For example, multiple studies have shown that engaging in mindfulness meditation may result in decreased markers of inflammation and improved immune signaling.

By Anna Gora

www.livescience.com


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5 Foods For a Strong Immune System

There are a number of ways your lifestyle can enhance your immune system, but one of the most important is eating the right foods.
So how do we choose?
It seems like every few weeks there is a new immune-boosting superfood on the scene. But as an immunologist and functional medicine doctor, I’m here to tell you that any nutrient-dense food that’s rich in vitamins and minerals is an immune superfood.
However, some foods seem to stand out from the rest for their beneficial properties. Here are five magical superfoods that I always try to add to my diet for a strong and healthy immune system:

1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. And now we have modern science to explain the effects of these amazing fungi, which, depending on the species, can boost, redirect or modulate our immune activity.
The one I like best is maitake, also called “hen-of-the-woods” or “chicken-of-the-woods.” Not only do they make delicious tacos, but they can increase Th1 cytokines, which help stimulate cellular immune response when fighting bacterial infections.
I’m a fan of shiitake mushrooms, too. Studies show a pattern of immune-boosting benefits, such as an increase in NK and Cytotoxic T cells — both advantageous in conquering viruses and cancer cells.
Lastly, there’s the reishi mushroom, which has been shown in several studies to increase the Th1 cytokine response and help make chemotherapeutic drugs more effective. In addition, extracts of reishi promote the immune response against certain strains of herpes virus.
Reishi mushrooms have a hard outer shell that makes them inedible, so capsules are the most convenient form.

2. Ginger

Ginger has several strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The spicy, aromatic root contains compounds called gingerols, which show promise in preventing cardiovascular disease by reducing oxidative stress in blood vessels, as well as inflammation in the heart area.
Studies reveal that ginger extract may help prevent alcohol-induced liver disease and can also block the kidney damage created by chemotherapy drugs.
I often recommend ginger to patients who have nausea, bloating and other GI complaints from imbalances in their microbiome. You can incorporate fresh ginger in savory dishes, smoothies and ginger tea, or grab a ginger shot bottle (found at many juice bars and cafes) to drink plain or dilute in water.

3. Broccoli sprouts

Recently, a great deal of attention has been focused on broccoli sprouts, a potent source of one of the most immune-supportive biochemicals: sulforaphane.
On its own, sulforaphane has been shown to increase the levels of several antioxidant compounds by inducing a compound in our cells called NRF-2. This is sometimes called the “master regulator” of antioxidants, which means it helps increase the production of other antioxidants.
NRF-2 can play a role in lowering inflammation seen in many diseases like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and liver disease.
Most cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, contain large amounts of glucoraphanin, which converts to sulforaphane during digestion. However, young broccoli sprouts contain between 10 and 100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli!
The best way to eat broccoli sprouts is raw — for instance, in salads — because sulforaphane is easily broken down by cooking. I always aim to eat two ounces of broccoli sprouts a week.
Garlic

4. Garlic

Not only does garlic make everything taste more delicious, but this pungent vegetable has multiple compounds that regulate the immune system.
Studies on garlic find that it is immune-stimulating — increasing the activity of NK cells, a type of immune cell that has granules with enzymes that can kill tumor cells or cells infected with a virus.
At the same time, garlic is anti-inflammatory and can be cardioprotective by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
It’s also fabulous for fortifying our gut, for several reasons:
  • It can increase levels of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, a natural inhabitant of the GI tract and an excellent probiotic.
  • It’s known to be antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.
  • It can fix bacterial imbalances in the gut that may be driving inflammation.
You can incorporate garlic into almost any recipe — so use it whenever you can — and you can also find it in supplement form if you’re not a fan of the taste.

5. Turmeric

If I had to pick one culinary compound out of nature’s apothecary for it’s immune-supportive effects, I’d go with turmeric root.
The bright yellow-orange root is not only a staple in Indian cooking, but it contains a magical compound called curcumin.
The bright yellow-orange root contains a magical compound called curcumin, which has many key benefits:
  • It can buffer high cortisol levels.
  • It can suppress some of the immune changes at the root of autoimmune diseases, while generally helpful in reducing chronic inflammation throughout the body.
  • It encourages the growth of beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut and lowers other disease-causing bacterial strains.
  • It’s effective for minimizing joint swelling in rheumatoid arthritis.
Turmeric is a great spice to use in cooking, although it does impart a bright yellow hue to your skin tongue and teeth. And, because it’s not well-absorbed in the GI tract, you’d need to eat gobs of it to achieve immune-modulation effects.
Given that, curcumin supplements are the best way to get this beneficial compound. Dosages vary based on need. For general health, I recommend about 1,000 milligram a day in divided dosages.
Sat, Mar 5 2022      Dr. Heather Moday, Contributor
Dr. Heather Moday is a board-certified allergist, immunologist and functional medicine physician. 
source: www.cnbc.com


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The Vitamin Deficiency Linked To Autoimmune Disorders

A vitamin that reduces autoimmune disease risk by almost one-quarter.

Vitamin D supplementation over five years is linked to lower autoimmune disease risk of 22 percent, a study reveals.

Inflammatory disorders such as thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and polymyalgia rheumatica are examples of autoimmune diseases (AD).

AD can lead to life-threatening complications and death as currently there are no cures for AD and only a few treatments seem to be effective.

However, past research has highlighted that vitamin D and omega-3 (or n-3) fatty acid supplements may benefit many patients with these conditions.

A study called ‘VITAL’ assessed 25,871 participants to see whether supplementation of vitamin D or omega-3 or a combination of these two have any impact on reducing AD rates.

Participants were divided into different groups; receiving either 2,000 IU vitamin D3 or 1,000 mg of fish oil a day or a combination of both.

The fish oil capsule contained 460 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 380 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The research team found that those who received vitamin D with fish oil or vitamin D alone were less likely to develop AD.

omega3

Dr Karen Costenbader, the study’s senior author, said:

“This is the first direct evidence we have that daily supplementation may reduce AD incidence, and what looks like more pronounced effect after two years of supplementation for vitamin D.

Now, when my patients, colleagues, or friends ask me which vitamins or supplements I’d recommend they take to reduce risk of autoimmune disease, I have new evidence-based recommendations for women age 55 years and older and men 50 years and older.

I suggest vitamin D 2000 IU a day and marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), 1000 mg a day—the doses used in VITAL.”

The results show that 5 years vitamin D supplementation reduced autoimmune disease by 22 percent in patients with AD.

Whereas supplementation of fish oil with or without vitamin D reduced the AD rate by only 15 percent.

“Autoimmune diseases are common in older adults and negatively affect health and life expectancy.

Until now, we have had no proven way of preventing them, and now, for the first time, we do.

It would be exciting if we could go on to verify the same preventive effects in younger individuals.”

About the author

Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

The study was published in BMJ (Hahn et al., 2021).

March 10, 2022    source: PsyBlog


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The Happy Brain Chemicals that Makes You Feel Good

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How To Overcome A Lack Of Sleep

A lack of sleep leads to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.

Just ten minutes of mindfulness helps the mind and body recover from sleep deprivation, new research finds.

Failing to get 7-8 hours sleep per night is linked to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.

But mindfulness has a remarkable restorative effect.

Ten minutes of mindfulness during the day is enough to compensate for 44 minutes of lost sleep at night, the study of entrepreneurs found.

Here are some mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day.

Dr Charles Murnieks, the study’s first author, said:

“You can’t replace sleep with mindfulness exercises, but they might help compensate and provide a degree of relief.

As little as 70 minutes a week, or 10 minutes a day, of mindfulness practice may have the same benefits as an extra 44 minutes of sleep a night.”

The study followed 105 entrepreneurs, 40% of whom were working 50 hours per week or more and sleeping less than six hours a night.

The results showed that entrepreneurs who engaged in more mindfulness were less exhausted.

A second study of a further 329 entrepreneurs also found that mindfulness could offset the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

However, mindfulness only works in this context when people are low on sleep.

Some people are getting enough sleep, but still feel exhausted.

Dr Murnieks said:

“If you’re feeling stressed and not sleeping, you can compensate with mindfulness exercises to a point.

But when you’re not low on sleep, mindfulness doesn’t improve those feelings of exhaustion.”

Mindfulness helps to reduce stressors before they lead to exhaustion.

For entrepreneurs and others with long working hours, mindfulness can be beneficial.

Dr Murnieks said:

“There are times when you’re launching a new venture that you’re going to have to surge.

Mindfulness exercises may be one way to provide some relief during those tough stretches.”

The study was published in the Journal of Business Venturing (Murnieks et al., 2019).

January 6, 2021

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 

source: PsyBlog

sleepless

9 Things Sleep Doctors Would Never Do At Night Before Going To Bed

Experts reveal which bedtime habits to avoid if you want to feel rested in the morning.

Getting quality sleep affects everything ― your mood, your weight, your immune system and so much more.
But for many people, logging a full night’s rest can be a challenge. Less than half of North American adults (49%) get the recommended seven to eight hours of shuteye, according to a Better Sleep Council survey from March. And just over half of respondents (52%) described their sleep quality as “poor” or “fair.”
What you do — and don’t do — leading up to bedtime matters; your evening routine can impact your sleep for better or for worse.
We asked sleep doctors what they avoid doing before crawling into their sheets. Of course, no one has perfect sleep habits — not even experts ― but here’s what they try to steer clear of:
1. They don’t watch the news.
“Even though nighttime might seem like the perfect time to catch up on the latest COVID-19 information or the presidential race, we should try to avoid things that can cause anxiety before bed. Unfortunately, nowadays the news is filled with things that can cause worry and other unwanted emotions that you definitely want to avoid if you are hoping to get a good night’s sleep. The news, in some ways, keeps people up late at night the same way that a horror movie can. Images and information regarding violence or fear stimulate your mind preventing you from having a smooth transition into sleep.” — Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine
2. They avoid working in bed.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant proportion of our population is working from home these days, and as such, your home has become your office. You want to avoid at all costs working from your bed, however, as you want to maintain the relationship with the brain that the bed is only for two things — sleep and sex.
As you do more and more mentally stimulating activities in bed, the brain slowly develops a psychological association of the bed being a place to stay awake rather than sleep. This, in turn, can trigger people to develop sleep-onset insomnia. Your house is already your office, so during these difficult times, use the bed as your sanctuary — a place to relax, escape work and sleep.” ― Ruchir P. Patel, medical director of the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
3. They don’t work out.
“Exercise in the morning or during the daytime can go a long way to helping improve insomnia symptoms at night, but exercise late in the day can be counterproductive. Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.” ― Stacey Gunn, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
If you watch to catch some Zzzs, avoid exercising too close to your bedtime.
4. They steer clear of tense conversations.
“Try your hardest to avoid a heated conversation with your significant other before bed. As the saying goes, never go to bed angry, or bad feelings will harden into resentment. There is research to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.
Plus, anger is a huge turn-off. If you do this repeatedly, it creates an unhealthy pattern, and destroys potential opportunities for sexual intimacy. Confrontations lead to a stress response, which is exactly opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. It’s important to create a peaceful environment for you and your partner to have a good night’s sleep. Instead of fighting, maybe snuggle up together and watch ‘Love Actually,’ one of my personal favorites.” — Dasgupta
5. They absolutely do not consume caffeine.
“Avoid drinking any caffeinated drinks past 2 p.m. Caffeinated drinks —including coffee, soda, iced tea, pre-work out drinks or energy drinks — act as a stimulant. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors — and adenosine [plays a role in] sleep homeostasis.” — Anupama Ramalingam, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
6. They try to avoid drinking alcohol.

“Some people end up self-medicating with a nightcap, because it does help them to fall asleep more easily at the beginning of the night. But I recommend against it because it causes the sleep architecture to be disrupted later on, resulting in poor quality sleep. If I do have a drink in the evening, I try to separate it from bedtime, and give the alcohol a chance to clear out of my system before going to sleep.” ― Gunn

“Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.”

7. They don’t use electronic devices (without a blue light filter).

“In sleep and circadian science, we use the term ‘zeitgeber’ — or ‘time giver’ — to describe environmental cues that help us entrain to a 24-hour cycle. Light is the most powerful zeitgeber that signals the brain to stay awake. Prolonged exposure to bright light around bedtime keeps us awake and reduces the amount of sleep we get. Exposure to light at night also suppresses the brain’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that is released in response to darkness and helps us to fall asleep.” ― Anita Shelgikar, clinical associate professor of neurology and director of the sleep medicine fellowship at the University of Michigan
8. They also don’t keep the lights in their home turned up bright.
“I was reminded during a fishing trip to the Outer Banks [in North Carolina] with my nephews of the importance of avoiding artificial light before bedtime. We were forced to use propane lanterns on the island each night as there was no electricity available. Several of the parents on the fishing trip remarked that the darkness had improved their sleep so much that they might pitch the idea of ‘Lantern Tuesday’ to their spouses: A night each week dedicated to reducing light exposure and improving sleep sounds like a great idea to me!
Exposure to bright light suppresses melatonin secretion. Plus, alteration of the circadian rhythm (or the daily rhythmic sleep-wake cycle) by nocturnal light exposure may contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic disease. What sort of practical steps can one take to avoid bright light? Dim the lights in the home except for a few lamps several hours before bed.” — William J. Healy, assistant professor of medicine and director of sleep quality improvement at Augusta University.
9. They make sure they don’t spend a long time awake in bed.
“Many of our patients will give themselves a 10-hour sleep window but realistically are only asleep for six to eight hours. Please do not spend more time in bed than you really need. All the extra time in bed awake results in your brain starting to develop an association that the bed is a place to be awake and also sleep. But this, in turn, can result in disruption of your sleep drive and thus result in poor sleep efficiency and sleep quality.” — Patel
By  Kelsey Borresen      11/04/2020


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These Vitamins Help Fight COVID-19

These vitamins could reduce respiratory conditions and COVID-19 infections.

Vitamin A, D, and E could help people ward off respiratory illnesses and viral infections like COVID-19.

The effect of nutrition on improving the immune system due to the human body’s complexity is not wholly clear.

However, we know for sure that some nutrients play a key part in the reduction of different infections and diseases.

Past studies show that vitamin C is effective in treating or preventing pneumonia as well as supporting white blood cells to overcome viral infections such as flu and the common cold.

Data from an eight-year survey on 6,115 UK adult patients has now found that vitamin A, D and E intake were linked to a reduction in respiratory complaints, in particular viral infections.

However, this study didn’t find any effect from vitamin C supplements or food intake on respiratory diseases.

Vitamin A and vitamin E from supplements and food intake, vitamin D supplements (but not from the diet) showed significant reductions in respiratory conditions such as colds and lung diseases including asthma.

Food such as cheese, full-fat milk, liver, dark green leafy vegetables, and carrots are high in vitamin A while wheat germ oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, and olive oil are sources of vitamin E.

olive oil

Dr Suzana Almoosawi and Dr Luigi Palla, the authors of this study, wrote:

“It is estimated that around a fifth of the general population in the UK have low vitamin D, and over 30% of older adults aged 65 years and above do not achieve the recommended nutrient intake.

Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that supplementation is critical to ensuring adequate vitamin D status is maintained and potentially indicate that intake of vitamin D from diet alone cannot help maintain adequate vitamin D status.”

Professor Sumantra Ray from NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, said:

“Nationally representative data continue to remind us that micronutrient deficiencies are far from a thing of the past, even in higher income nations like the UK, and this trend is mirrored by comparable global data sources from lesser resourced countries to those with advanced health systems.

Despite this, micronutrient deficiencies are often overlooked as a key contributor to the burden of malnutrition and poor health, presenting an additional layer of challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health (Almoosawi & Palla., 2020).

November 15, 2020         source: PsyBlog


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The Vitamin That Reduces COVID-19 Risk By 50%

A sufficient level of this vitamin could halve the risk of catching coronavirus and protect COVID-19 patients from the worst of the disease.

Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection and the severity of the disease, if it is caught, research finds.

Professor Michael Holick, study co-author, said:

“Because vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is so widespread in children and adults in the United States and worldwide, especially in the winter months, it is prudent for everyone to take a vitamin D supplement to reduce risk of being infected and having complications from COVID-19.”

A blood level of 30 nanogram per millilitre of vitamin D has been shown to protect patients with COVID-19 against complications and death, as well as reducing the risk of getting ill by a large amount.

According to a new study, COVID-19 patients with adequate levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are less likely to have severe clinical problems from the illness.

These outcomes include hypoxia — poor oxygen supply to the body — being unconscious, and death.

25-hydroxyvitamin D is produced in the liver and it is a major form of vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.

Also, patients with a sufficient amount of vitamin D have higher levels of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell which fights infection, and their blood shows a lower level of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory indicator.

Professor Holick said:

“This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications, including the cytokine storm (release of too many proteins into the blood too quickly) and ultimately death from COVID-19.”

The study examined 235 hospitalized coronavirus patients to see if serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels can change the severe clinical outcomes from the disease.

Vitamin D status, numbers of lymphocytes, and C-reactive protein were analysed from patient’s blood samples.

The patients were also checked for severity of the infection, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness and hypoxia.

The analysis showed that patients with a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had a 52 percent higher chance of surviving the infection than those with lower levels of vitamin D.

Professor Holick, in a recent study, revealed that an adequate amount of vitamin D can lower the odds of becoming infected with COVID-19 by 54 percent.

Vitamin D sufficiency helps to overcome the coronavirus disease and other types of upper respiratory infections such as influenza.

Professor Holick pointed out:

“There is great concern that the combination of an influenza infection and a coronal viral infection could substantially increase hospitalizations and death due to complications from these viral infections.”

Vitamin D is a cheap but effective way to boost people’s immune system against the virus and can decrease health-related issues such as needing ventilatory support and immune system overactivity resulting in cytokine storm.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE  (Maghbooli et al., 2020).

About the author
Mina Dean
is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

October 7, 2020

Source: PsyBlog

 

“The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May,
especially for those living north of Atlanta,”       Althea Zanecosky, RD

 

15 Foods That Are High in Vitamin D

Eating plenty of vitamin D foods strengthens your bones, regulates your immune system, and more—but chances are, you’re not getting enough.

Vitamin D may be known as the sunshine vitamin, but too few of us think to look for it in the fridge—and that’s a big mistake. “The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May, especially for those living north of Atlanta,” says Althea Zanecosky, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That’s probably why nearly half of people tested at winter’s end had a vitamin D deficiency, according to a University of Maine study. Compounding the problem is our vigilant use of sunscreen; SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, the type our bodies use to make D. Skin also has a harder time producing vitamin D with age.

Back up: What is vitamin D, and why is it so important?

Your body creates vitamin D on its own after being exposed to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of bones. If you’re low on D, then you’re at increased risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis.

Evidence continues to mount that vitamin D also helps to regulate the immune system, lower blood pressure, protect against depression, and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several kinds of cancer. A 2014 study from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine also found that people with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to die prematurely.

So, are you getting enough vitamin D?

Probably not. The Institute of Medicine has set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D at 600 international units (IU) for everyone under the age of 70. (It’s 800 IU for adults 70+.) But many experts believe that’s too low. “There is talk that the RDA may be increased,” says Zanecosky. “Many physicians are now advising 2,000 milligrams daily for those with low blood levels.”

The Top Vitamin D Foods

In a recent nutrient survey, many respondents were rightfully concerned they weren’t getting enough D, with 22% actively looking for it in foods. But just 9% knew that salmon is a good natural source of the vitamin, and only 5% recognized fortified tofu as one, too. Here are some other ways to get more foods with vitamin D in your diet:

Wild-caught fish   (425 IU in 3 oz salmon, 547 IU
in 3 oz mackerel)

Beef or calf liver   (42 IU in 3 oz)

Egg yolks   (41 IU per egg)

Canned fish   (154 IU in 3 oz tuna, 270 IU in 3.5 oz sardines)

Shiitake mushrooms   (40 IU in 1 cup)

Milk: whole, nonfat or reduced fat   (100 IU in 8 oz)

Yogurt   (80–100 IUs in 6 oz)

Almond milk   (100 IU in 8 oz)

Pudding made with milk   (49-60 IUs in ½ cup)

Orange juice   (137 IU in 1 cup)

Breakfast cereals   (50–100 IUs in 0.75–1 cup)

Fortified tofu   (80 IU in 3 oz)

Oatmeal   (150 IU in 1 packet)

Cheese   (40 IU in 1 slice)

Eggnog   (123 IU in 8 oz)

 

By Aviva Patz    Jun 10, 2018

source: www.prevention.com


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Poor Sleep Linked to Weight Gain

in 2-year smartphone sleep tracking study
 
Not sleeping enough or getting a bad night’s sleep over and over makes it hard to control your appetite. And that sets you up for all sorts of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
The link between poor sleep and a greater body mass index (BMI) has been shown in study after study, but researchers typically relied on the memories of the participants to record how well they slept.
Sleep apps on fitness trackers, smartphones and watches have changed all that. In a new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked sleep quality for 120,000 people for up to two years.
The results showed sleep durations and patterns are highly variable between people. Despite that, the study found people with BMIs of 30 or above – which is considered obese by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – had slightly shorter mean sleep durations and more variable sleep patterns.
It didn’t take much less sleep to see the effect. People with BMIs over 30 only slept about 15 minutes less than their less weighty counterparts.
There were some limitations to the study. Naps were excluded, other health conditions could not be factored in, and people who use wearable tracking devices are typically younger, healthier and from a higher socioeconomic status than those who do not wear trackers.
“These are quite pricey devices, and remember, they are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, the associate program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.
“The results would need to be validated by the appropriate FDA-approved devices, and because the study is likely on younger people who are more economically well off, does that really apply to older folks we worry about with poor sleep?” said Dasgupta, who was not involved in the study.
However, Dasgupta added, a major plus for the study is that it did monitor people for over two years, and the results corroborated prior research and were “not surprising.”
“While we cannot determine the direction of association from our study result, these findings provide further support to the notion that sleep patterns are associated with weight management and overall health,” the authors wrote.
“The findings also support the potential value of including both sleep duration and individual sleep patterns when studying sleep-related health outcomes.”

LINK BETWEEN SLEEP AND EATING

There is a scientific reason why a lack of sleep is linked to appetite. When you’re sleep deprived, research has shown, levels of a hormone called ghrelin spike while another hormone, leptin, takes a nosedive. The result is an increase in hunger.
“The ‘l’ in leptin stands for lose: It suppresses appetite and therefore contributes to weight loss,” he said. “The ‘g’ in ghrelin stands for gain: This fast-acting hormone increases hunger and leads to weight gain,” Dasgupta said.
Another reason we gain weight is due to an ancient body system called the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana, which as we know, often triggers the “munchies.”
“When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not like, ‘Oh, you know what, I want some carrots,'” said behavioural neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, who studies the connection between brain systems and behavior at the University of Chicago, in a prior CNN interview.
“You’re craving sweets and salty and starchy things,” she added. “You want those chips, you want a cookie, you want some candy, you know?”
A 2016 study by Hanlon compared the circulating levels of 2-AG, one of the most abundant endocannabinoids, in people who got four nights of normal sleep (more than eight hours) to people who only got 4.5 hours.
People who were sleep-deprived reported greater increases in hunger and appetite and had higher afternoon concentrations of 2-AG than those who slept well. The sleep-deprived participants also had a rough time controlling their urges for high-carb, high-calorie snacks.

GET BETTER SLEEP

Want more control over your appetite? Depending on your age, you are supposed to get between seven and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Getting less has been linked in studies to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, a lack of libido, mood swings, paranoia, depression and a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, dementia and some cancers.
So sleep a full seven to 10 hours a night, stick to a regular bedtime and get up the same time very day, even on weekends, experts advise.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to improve your sleep and improve your health. After finishing one 30-minute physical activity, you’ll have less anxiety, lower blood pressure, more sensitivity to insulin and you’ll sleep better that night.
You can also train your brain to get more restful sleep with a few key steps:
  •  During the day, try to get good exposure to natural light, as that will help regulate your circadian rhythm.
  •  Avoid stimulants (coffee, tea) after 3 p.m. and fatty foods before bedtime.
  •  Establish a bedtime routine you can follow each night. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or doing light stretches are all good options.
  •  Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and the room is cool: Between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Don’t watch TV or work in your bedroom; you want your brain to think of the room as only for sleep.
  •  Eliminate all lights – even the blue light of cellphones or laptops can be disruptive. Dull sounds, too. Earplugs or white noise machines can be very helpful, but you can create your own with a humidifier or fan.
Sandee LaMotte      CNN     Monday, September 14, 2020
sleep

 

10 Ways Sleep Can Change Your Life

What if someone told you there was a magic potion by which you could prevent disease, improve your intellect, reduce your stress and be nicer to your family while you’re all cooped up together during the pandemic?
It sounds too good to be true, as if solving those problems would really require dietary supplements, workout programs, diets, meditation and a separate room to cry alone.
It turns out that sleep, according to numerous studies, is the answer. It’s the preventive medicine for conditions related to our physical, mental and emotional health. And despite how important sleep is, it can be difficult to make it a priority.
“During a pandemic such as Covid-19, there’s a potential to induce or exacerbate many sleep issues,” Dr. Matthew Schmitt, a doctor of sleep medicine at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, told CNN.
“A lack of quality sleep not only affects how we feel during the daytime, but can also impair our immune system function, which is vital in protecting us from common viral illnesses.”
A sleep routine is just one of the behaviors that is part of sleep hygiene, a buffet of efforts needed to sleep well that include eating healthy meals at regular times and not drinking too much coffee, said Dr. Meir Kryger, a professor of pulmonary medicine and a clinical professor of nursing at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.
“All of these things are really interconnected in terms of their function. All of them are connected to the body clock,” Kryger said. “The body is like an orchestra where there’s an orchestra leader that’s sort of the main timer, but everybody else is playing it together and they’re optimizing what they are doing.”
Once you’ve developed your sleep routine,
here are 10 benefits you could gain from the regimen.
1. Helps your body heal and repair itself
Our nightly shut-eye is our bodies’ time for healing and repairing itself from performing its taxing daily functions.
“Imagine you’re a car or something that’s running for 16 hours during the day,” Kryger said. “You’re going to have to do stuff to get back to normal. You just can’t keep on running.”
During sleep is when we produce most of our growth hormone that ultimately results in bone growth. Our tissues rest, relaxing our muscles and reducing inflammation. And each cell and organ have their own clock that “plays a really important role in maximizing or optimizing how our body works,” Kryger added.
2. Lowers risk for disease
Sleep on its own is a protective factor against disease.
When people get too much or too little sleep, “there appears to be an increased risk of deaths … and other diseases raising their ugly heads,” Kryger said, such as heart problems and diabetes. The healing period during sleep also factors in, as it allows cells that would cause disease to repair themselves.
3. Improves cognitive function
Sleep feeds our creativity and cognitive function, which describes our mental abilities to learn, think, reason, remember, problem solve, make decisions and pay attention.
“As you sleep, memories are reactivated, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and information is transferred from short- to long-term,” said a National Sleep Foundation article on the subject. “Without enough quality sleep, we become forgetful.”
4. Reduces stress
Slumber of great quantity and quality can enhance your mood and also encourage the brain’s ability to regulate emotional responses to both neutral and emotional events.
5. Helps maintain a healthy weight
Getting your beauty sleep can help you to maintain a healthy weight or increase your chances of losing excess fat.
Two hormones control our urge to eat: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells us that we’re full, while ghrelin communicates hunger.
When we don’t sleep enough, both hormones veer in the wrong direction, Kryger said — ghrelin spikes while leptin declines, resulting in an increase in hunger and the potential to overeat and gain weight.
Sleep helps our bodies to maintain normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well, which determines how we hang on to excess fat.
6. Bolsters your immune system
Kryger has seen the immune systems of patients with sleep disorders fail to normally function. Sleep helps our bodies to produce and release cytokines, a type of protein that helps create an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation.
Additionally, “research done actually years ago showed that when people are sleep deprived, they do not have as vigorous a response to vaccination,” Kryger added.
“As we’re thinking about vaccination that’s being developed” for Covid-19, that kind of research is going to be important.
7. May improve your social life
The emotional benefits of sleep can transfer over into your social life. “Just imagine you don’t sleep enough and you’re cranky,” Kryger said. “Who’s going to want to be around you? Another part of it is being cognitively sharp.”
Adequate sleep can help you to be more confident, be more easygoing and support your efforts to do your part at home, he added.
8. Supports your mental health
Mental health disorders are often associated with substandard sleep and a sleep deficit can lead to depressive symptoms even if the person doesn’t have the chronic disorder, Kryger said.
“Getting the right amount of sleep is really important in possibly preventing a mental illness or the appearance of a mental illness,” he added. And in addition to the benefits for mood and stress regulation, sleeping enough “may make the treatment of the mental illnesses more efficacious if the person sleeps enough.”
9. Reduces pain sensitivity
Extending participants’ sleep time during the night or with midday naps, a 2019 study found, restored their pain sensitivity to normal levels in comparison to sleep-deprived individuals, who had a lower threshold for pain.
How this happens would have to be in the realm of perception, Kryger said, which ultimately traces back to the brain. “The brain is where sleep is,” he explained.
10. Increases your likelihood for overall success
Since sleep can improve our health on all fronts, it consequently can help us be the best versions of ourselves. Healthy cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, coping and social life are all foundational to pursuing and achieving our goals and overall well-being.
By Kristen Rogers, CNN       Tue August 4, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
sleep_snooze

 

People React Better to Both Negative and Positive Events
With More Sleep

Summary:
New research finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day — and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. This has important health implications: previous research shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
FULL STORY
New research from UBC finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day – and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, looks at how sleep affects our reaction to both stressful and positive events in daily life.
“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” says Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC’s department of psychology. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”
People also reported a number of stressful events in their daily lives, including arguments, social tensions, work and family stress, and being discriminated against. When people slept less than usual, they responded to these stressful events with a greater loss of positive emotions. This has important health implications: previous research by Sin and others shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
Using daily diary data from a national U.S. sample of almost 2,000 people, Sin analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day. The participants reported on their experiences and the amount of sleep they had the previous night in daily telephone interviews over eight days.
“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” says Sin. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.”
Chronic health conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – are prevalent among adults, especially as we grow older. Past research suggests that people with health conditions are more reactive when faced with stressful situations, possibly due to wear-and-tear of the physiological stress systems.
“We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults,” says Sin. “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s usual sleep duration – led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day.”
Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.
Journal Reference:
Nancy L. Sin, Jin H. Wen, Patrick Klaiber, Orfeu M. Buxton, David M. Almeida. Sleep duration and affective reactivity to stressors and positive events in daily life.. Health Psychology, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/hea0001033
University of British Columbia. “People react better to both negative and positive events with more sleep.”  ScienceDaily, 15 September 2020
Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.  September 15, 2020
 


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Positive Psychology: The Benefits of Living Positively

Positive psychology often is passed off as pop psychology or New Age-y by those who haven’t actually looked into it.

The actual theory behind positive psychology was defined in 1998 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [1] and looks at all aspects of a person’s psychology. It does not discount traditional psychology, nor supersede it. Rather than viewing psychology purely as a treatment for the malign, however, it looks at the positive. Positive psychology is a recognized form of therapy and is offered by some counselors and psychologists.

Psychology has always been interested in where people’s lives have gone wrong, and what has resulted because of it [2]. Illnesses such as depression are well-documented and patterns of depressive behavior well-known. However, until recently, what makes people happy and how they achieve inner happiness and well-being has been a mystery.

Practitioners of positive psychology study people whose lives are positive and try to learn from them, in order to help others achieve this state of happiness [3]. It is a scientific study and not remotely hippie-ish, despite its connotations.

Positive thinking is one aspect of positive psychology. Surrounding yourself with a great lifestyle and material goods may seem to lead to happiness, but how you really feel is governed by what goes on inside your head. When you go out of your way to think positively, you actually purge yourself of negative self-talk. [1]

Negative self-talk is one of the biggest barriers to positive thinking. People become so accustomed to negative thinking that their conscious mind will pull them down, even when they have done nothing wrong. These people become insecure, overly apologetic and indecisive. Worse still, they open the door to numerous stress-related problems.


Negative thinkers have four common mindsets:

=> Filtering.
Many negative thinkers will pull the negatives out of a situation and focus on them. Sometimes these people will see only the negative in a situation, to the point where they deny any positive.
=> Personalizing.
Some people make every tragedy about themselves. They will personalize every negative thing and assume that bad things happen because they are unlucky, or as a result of something they did or didn’t do. They will often construct negative situations with perfect logic, providing plausible reasons why negative things are either their fault or set out to hurt them.
=> Catastrophizing.
This involves anticipating the worst. Some people even precipitate it. They can turn a slightly awkward interaction into an overreaction, making the situation worse. If something negative does happen, they will use it to validate their negative assumptions.
=> Polarizing.
This type of negative thinker sees things as black or white. Either a situation is perfect or it is a catastrophe. This type of negative thinking can affect every area of a person’s life. Its effects can be both psychological and physical. By practicing positive thinking, you can actually stave off medical conditions and reap the benefits of having a positive outlook on life.

Depression is complicated illness with physical and mental health elements. It would be flippant to suggest that someone with a positive outlook will not encounter depressive feelings.

However, positive psychology can be beneficial in treating depression. It can equip sufferers with the tools to stop downward spirals when they begin and help them to see the positive aspects to their lives. It can also help to stop the negative thinking habits that are common in depression. [4]

Scientific studies also show that there is a direct link between stress and the immune system. When a person is experiencing a period of stress and negativity, his or her body is less able to mount an inflammatory response to attacks from bacteria and viruses. This results in an increase in infections such as the common cold and cold sores. [5] Having a positive outlook on life also equips people better for dealing with serious illness. Tackling diseases such as cancer with optimism and self-belief has shown to have a beneficial effect on recovery and ability to tolerate treatment.

Among the other health benefits listed above, positive thinkers have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. They tend to have lower blood pressure than those who do not engage in positive thinking. The health benefits extend to the emotional side, too. optimists will have better physical and psychological well-being, and better skills for coping with stress and hardship.

It is important to remember that simply having a positive mindset won’t actually stop bad things from happening. But it does give you the tools to better deal with bad situations. Sometimes your coping skills come down to nothing more than refusing to give in to your negative side and your fears. For some people, positive thinking comes quite naturally. For others, seeking professional help is necessary to get them on the right track.


References

[1] http://www.ippanetwork.org/divisions/
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/nov/19/1
[3] http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.asp
[4] http://www.positivepsychologytraining.co.uk/depression/
[5] Miller, G. E. & Cohen, S. (2005). Infectious disease and psychoneuroimmununology. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. New York: Oxford University Press.
[6] http://uhs.berkeley.edu/students/healthpromotion/pdf/Positive%20Thinking.pdf

By Joanna Fishman              8 Jul 2018
happiness

 

20 Things to Avoid if You Want to Be Happier

Life requires that we prioritize what is important. The simple reason is that we don’t have enough time to do all – or even most – of the things that make us happier.

Part of prioritizing means saying “no” to certain people and things.

In this article, we’re going to focus our attention on 20 things that we would do well to say “no.” You’ll see many familiar things on here (T.V., anyone?) However, you may be a bit more surprised at some of the other things that can make you happier.

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND SAY ‘NO’ TO THESE 20 THINGS TO BECOME HAPPIER:

1 – ALCOHOL/DRUGS
For those made to suffer through the atrocious circa 90s “Just Say No” commercials, we apologize.

Drugs are atrociously bad for mental and physical health. Drugs ruin lives, families, and institutions. Per statistics published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug abuse and addiction cost American society alone over $700 billion per year.

It’s common for substance abuse to abuse both alcohol and drugs. There also exist correlations between substance abuse and mental health problems.

The message here is simple: stay away from drugs and limit alcohol intake.

2 – MORE WORK
Some people love what they do, and that’s a beautiful place to be. For the rest of us, however, work should be viewed as a necessity to live. You’d think that we live forever considering just how much time some people spend at the office.

Per a report by the American Institute of Stress (AIS), “job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults,” adding, “[job stress] has escalated progressively over the past few decades.” (Emphasis added)

3 – FAST FOOD
Unless you’re super careful, and the place that you eat offers healthy options, fast food can show up on your waistline quick. Statistics show that a fast food meal contributes a disproportionately high percentage of daily caloric intake.

Over 50 million North Americans eat fast food every day or about 15 percent of the population.

4 – PROCRASTINATION
It may bring some comfort to know that the cause of procrastination is solely psychological – i.e., it has little to do with your willpower. Highly anxious individuals seem to have more difficulty with the procrastination bug than others.

So what to do? Just get started. Don’t think about how much work needs to be done. Emotional pain and discomfort associated with procrastination drop precipitously after an action is taken.

5 – DIGITAL DISTRACTIONS
The era we’re now living in is the most distracted in human history. One massive reason for this is the sheer ubiquity of mobile devices.

The problem is that these distractions are both alluring and addicting. Things like “distracted driving” have become a real thing. Some research shows that our attention span is shrinking as the digital age evolves.

6 – MAKING EXCUSES
Excuses do nothing but disempower you and those around you. While the adage “You’re stronger than you think” may seem overly cliché, it’s nonetheless true.

The cool thing is that once you stop making excuses, you realize how much happier you feel. It feels as if you’re retaking control of your life, which you are.

7  – WATCHING T.V.
The amount of television that people watch is insane.

Per a Nielsen report, the average American spends about 35.5 hours watching the tube. The problem with this isn’t so much the activity in itself – but the opportunity cost.

That is, those hours you could use say exercising, building a business plan, spending time with the family, and other more meaningful things.

8 – PERFECTIONISM
Speaking of procrastination, one of the more common reasons that people put things off is fear – and this includes fear born of perfectionism. For the uninitiated, perfectionism is the unhealthy striving for, well, perfection.

Not only is perfectionism unrealistic, but it’s also unhealthy. Perfectionistic tendencies are connected to multiple clinical issues, including anxiety and depression, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

9 – SUGAR
Okay, so it may be very difficult – perhaps even impossible – to completely abstain from sugar. However, one would be well-advised to curb any intake. Per an article published by Harvard University’s health publication, “The effects of added sugar intake – higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease – are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.”

10 – OVERSPENDING
Psychologists and other behavioral experts have thoroughly debunked the idea that money can buy happiness. So why do we keep spending too much? It’s all psychological. To overcome the habit requires diligence, patience, and discipline.

The cool thing is that once the seed habit of saving is planted, people find that they enjoy it.

11 – MIND-WANDERING OR RUMINATION
Rehashing what “could’ve/would’ve/should’ve been” is a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, the human brain is uniquely wired for pointless thinking. According to a widely-cited study by Harvard researchers Gilbert and Killingsworth, our minds drift about in aimless thinking about half of our waking hours.

Unsurprisingly, this constant turning over of the mind is not conducive to becoming happier. The conclusions reached by Gilbert and Killingsworth: “(I) people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is…(ii) doing so typically makes them unhappy.”

12 – COMPARING YOURSELF
We have an unhealthy obsession with comparing ourselves with others. Such is particularly true in consumer-driven societies like the United States, where possessions and status are so coveted.

But comparing yourself to people does nothing but make us feel worse. It’s not easy to stop such an ingrained response, but we can take a step in the right direction by intentionally redirecting our focus when such thoughts arise.

13 – NOT FINISHING THINGS
We do enough things. So, this one’s not that bad, except that leaving things undone creates unnecessary mental tension and, studies show, drains our cognitive reserves.

The answer lies in a two-step process: (1) determining which endeavors are indeed worth committing to, and (2) avoiding everything else.

14 – NO OR TOO MUCH ALONE TIME
Neither too much nor too little seclusion is healthy. While we introverts may treasure our solo status, it doesn’t change the biological evolution of our brains.

On the flip side, while extroverts may despise being by themselves, such time is crucial for reflection and rejuvenation.

15 – THE MAINSTREAM NEWS
Okay, so perhaps doing away all news is unpractical – perhaps even unadvisable. But you should know that the unfortunate adage that “Bad news sells” is (a) true, and (b) media companies leverage this fact. This helps to explain why most of the news we read elicits feelings of fear and sadness.

So, don’t entirely ignore the news (though you could do worse), but watch how much attention you’re paying to it.

16 – NEGATIVITY
First off, we’re not telling you to ignore every instance of negativity, though limiting it is most certainly beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Everyone feels a bit negative from time to time.

We’re talking about limiting your exposure to consistently negative people. Sure, there are those rays of sunshine who can handle the negativity, though they’re few and far between. The rest of us need to watch how much time we’re spending amidst these folks to become happier.

17 – SHALLOW WORK
The term “shallow work” was coined by MIT-trained computer scientist and professor, Cal Newport. Instead of defining shallow work, let us note its opposite – what Newport calls (naturally) “Deep Work.”

Per Newport, Deep Work describes “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.”

Why engage in deep work? Because it “[creates] new value, [improves] your skill,” and, perhaps most importantly, “are hard to replicate.” Read: you’ll make more money and live happier.

18 – INCONSISTENCY
Being inconsistent in your efforts is detrimental to the achievement of the life you desire. It does little good to be filled with motivation and drive one day and then drift back into the same ole’ bad habits the next.

Inconsistency is often the byproduct of poor planning. As such, it is crucial to have a plan going into the day.

19 – SOCIAL MEDIA
Let’s bring Cal Newport back into the story. Besides being a big fan of sustained attention, Newport is a digital minimalist. In other words, he’s Facebook’s and Twitter’s worst nightmare. In one talk, he rails against the former, calling the social media platform an “entertainment product” – and, essentially, a colossal waste of time.

The fact that the average person spends 2.5 hours per day on social media does little to counter Newport’s argument.

20 – TAKING THINGS TOO SERIOUSLY

Here’s an exciting experiment: go anywhere you want, sit down with a beverage of your choice, and observe people for one hour. Watch closely. (Not too closely, lest an officer of the law intervenes.)

All joking aside: what do you see? Are people rushing around? Scrunched-up faces and tight shoulders? A seeming lack of purpose or direction?

This is how most people live their lives. Some people never stop living this way from the time they’re told to “grow up.”

Cliché time! Life is too short to take things so darn seriously. Let’s loosen up and be happier!

 


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13 Reasons To Exercise That Have Nothing To Do With Losing Weight

Your workout has so many benefits for your mental health, longevity, immune system and more.

Many people who loathe exercise arguably feel that way because of how the activity has been marketed to them. For too long, exercise and weight loss have been indivisibly bound, leading many to fall into the comparison trap, experience shame or engage in negative self-talk.

But moving your body grants so much more than a fit figure or relief from the guilt of indulging in a “cheat meal.” Movement is self-improvement beyond the physical form.

None of this is to say I don’t fall victim to feeling absolute dread before a workout. Sometimes the process of lacing up my sneakers and clipping on my nerdy little running belt is beyond torturous, the beasts in my head questioning why I bother.

Sometimes my demons do get the best of me. But on the days I do choose exercise, I just about always feel better than when I started. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve begrudgingly worked out and felt worse after the fact (the count is one, and it was the time I was hit by a bike while on a run).

From easing symptoms of depression (in my case, clearing some of the dark clouds that appear on what was supposed to be a perfectly sunny day), to relieving stress to protecting the body from injury, so much good is reaped from exercise. I think the marketing department is long overdue for a new strategy, one that links physical activity with the bounty of goodness it can provide. Here are just some of those things to consider.


Working out can lower your stress levels

Exercise yields many mental health benefits, and stress reduction is certainly among them. Whether it’s a boxing session to relieve some pent-up anger or a yoga sequence to help you focus on the present, that physical activity will increase the production of neurohormones like norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates the brain’s stress response.


And it can be the antidote for anxiety

There’s a lot happening in the body when you choose to move. Some of that takes place in the brain, where chemicals are produced to fight the feelings that bring you down. Aerobic exercise in particular (any type of cardio that gets your blood flowing) has been shown to benefit mood disorders and generally improve anxiety.


Working out = happy feelings

Runner’s high, endorphins, the feels — whatever you want to call it, exercise is sure to bring it. Being active causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals that boost your mood; it’s the reason why you almost always feel better post-workout than when you started.


And it can improve self-confidence

Even if you don’t lose a single pound at the gym, exercise can make you feel better about yourself. Research shows that getting physical can boost feelings of self-esteem and improve self-image.


It may even enhance your sex life

Improved self-confidence can work wonders for your romantic world. But beyond that, research has found that men who maintain a regular exercise routine have improved erectile and sexual function.


Exercise offers a new way to explore

Seeing a city by bike or by sneaker is a completely different experience than traditional modes of travel. Running or biking in a new place lets you cover more ground while still letting you stop to smell the roses, so to speak. Even if it’s your own city, you’ll start to learn to navigate the roads more comfortably and notice things you might’ve missed by car. The only reason I know how to get around some of the most dizzying streets of New York City is because I’ve run them. Better yet, combining exercise with nature (even if that nature is a concrete jungle) amplifies exercise’s self esteem-boosting benefits.


Exercise can help you sleep better

A good night’s sleep makes everything better, and exercising can help you nab one. People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during their waking hours if they exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, according to research associated with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.


It can boost your productivity

Exercise is sort of like a gateway drug to getting stuff done: Once you muster up the energy and will for a workout, other tasks become more tolerable, too. Research shows that people who work exercise into their schedules are more productive and energized than their less active counterparts.


And your creativity

Even if it’s just a mid-day walk or skip, a bit of physical activity can enhance your creativity. If you’re stuck on a project or problem, consider a sweat session not a way to procrastinate, but your ticket through it.


Exercise can make you stronger and reduce your risk for injury

This one becomes increasingly important with age, and you know this to be true if you’ve ever pulled a back muscle doing the most mundane activity. It’s frustrating and sometimes debilitating, and the chances of it happening again can be greatly reduced with a well-rounded workout routine — especially one that incorporates strength-training. Exercise is also associated with increased longevity and lower risks for age-related diseases. Your joints and muscles benefit from an active lifestyle.


It can also keep your brain bright

If you haven’t yet noticed, the benefits of exercise are not just physical. Research shows that it can significantly benefit your cognitive function and even help improve your memory by increasing the production of cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning.


And benefit your immune system

A sustained exercise habit helps slow down the changes that happen to the immune system over time, keeping you healthier for longer. This, in turn, reduces your risk for infection and keeps you from getting sick.


With exercise comes community

Even if your gym is closed for the foreseeable future, there’s much to be shared in the joys (and challenges) of working out. A new sport or walking trail expands your horizons and offers you something to share with others. Even online, thousands of communities will root for your goals and get into the nitty-gritty of gear and ice baths, if that’s something you’re after. Whenever I’m out for a run, I like to remember that I have something in common with every fellow runner I spot, no matter our paces.


This story is part of Don’t Sweat It, a HuffPost Life series on improving your relationship with fitness. We’re giving you a guide on the latest thinking on exercise and why we’ve been conditioned to hate it in the past. Mental health and body-positive fitness experts will offer guidance and show you how to find a routine that works for you.

 

By Kate Bratskeir    07/15/2020  – On Assignment For HuffPost
exercise

17 Common Exercise Mistakes People Make

When Working Out At Home

Trainers share their advice so you can make the most of your fitness routine
during the coronavirus lockdown.

The coronavirus lockdown has many people focusing on moving their bodies. Faced with the prospect of not being able to go to a gym or a class, many have turned to YouTube and Instagram in search of workouts.

While it’s good to exercise, of course, you also need to be careful of how it’s done. The margin of error for bad form and mistakes may increase exponentially at home.

The good news is that fixing these issues is as easy as making them in the first place. The first step is recognizing what you’re doing wrong, so that you can address it. Here are a handful of common mistakes people make:

1. Trusting any person who posts a workout on Instagram
Not all trainers are created equal, especially if you’re not used to doing exercise and don’t keep an eye on your form.

“One of the most common mistakes today is following influencers who don’t have any training, but who do have lots of marketing behind them,” explains Beatriz Crespo, a specialist with doctoral degrees in both medicine and sports performance.

“It’s like going to a professional who says they can cure you. They’re not a doctor but they do have a marketing package that positions them as a health guru,” she continued. ”You believe them and follow everything they recommend without questioning it and without thinking about it. You follow them because it’s easy, they’ve got bright colors and play the hottest tunes.”

2. Wearing yourself out to get better and faster results
According to Crespo, “lots of people really believe that if you don’t get tired, if you’re not stiff the next day, or if you don’t train at a high intensity and with 100% motivation every day, then you’re not making progress or doing anything to make up for being stuck inside, and that will be good for losing weight.”

In her opinion, “this is the greatest myth and lie of the sports industry,” insisting that ”’train hard’ and ’no pain, no gain’ are lies.”

3. Thinking that sweating means you’ll lose weight
Nothing could be further from the truth. You sweat when you get dehydrated, and that’s why you shouldn’t exercise wearing lots of clothing or in a very warm setting.

“When you get dehydrated, the same thing happens as when you overtrain. It’s counterproductive, and it’s also dangerous for your health,” Santiago Marchante, a member of the Spanish Federation of Personal Trainers and Fitness, previously told HuffPost Spain.

4. Not staying properly hydrated
Water must be by your side throughout the entire routine, said trainer Verónica Costa. Water is more than enough to keep you hydrated; you don’t need sugary sports drinks.

“Unless the exercise is aerobic and lasts a long time (more than 70-75 minutes), it makes no sense to drink those drinks. Many are also hypertonic, meaning that they’re absorbed more slowly than water, and have a high sugar content, so they can cause gastrointestinal discomfort,” Pedro Ruiz, personal trainer and coordinator of tupersonaltrainer.com, previously told HuffPost Spain.

5. Repeating the same exercise over and over again
Our body isn’t going to be better just by endlessly repeating the same workout. In fact, it can be counterproductive.

“Variety in stimuli is important to avoid strains,” Crespo said. “We spend a lot of time seated and we need sessions that make up for our sedentary daily routine by providing different stimuli based on four fundamental pillars: strength training, resistance, flexibility and speed.”

Francisco García-Muro, coordinator of physical therapy in physical activity and sports section of the Professional Association of Physical Therapists of Madrid, notes an additional problem: “Working very specific muscles can create an imbalance with respect to the rest of the body, and that ends up manifesting as a problematic condition.”

6. Thinking you’re doing it better because you’re shaking
Don’t push yourself too hard at first or you’ll risk getting an injury.

“It’s not healthy for your muscles to shake during a plank exercise and for you to be encouraged to hold on,” Crespo said.

“Always doing everything really fast or getting really tired and finishing with your legs like Jell-O isn’t healthy either,” she continued.

7. Working above or below your abilities
You need to measure your strength to know where both your upper and lower limits are. If you want the exercise to be effective, physical therapist Pablo Olabe recommends getting a heart rate monitor. Then figure our your target heart rate for your age and health status and strive to work in that range.

8. Pushing past your limits to do as many reps as the trainer
There’s no reason for you to do the same number of reps as the online trainer who’s guiding you. Listen to your own body.

“The professional has to give you some guidelines so you can learn to monitor yourself on your own,” Crespo said. “In that sense, you need to measure the perception of fatigue that you get from the exercise or sequence of exercises suggested. From there, as a trainer, I can tell you a maximum of 20 reps and tell you the kinds of feelings I want you to get.”

It’s advisable to stop doing the exercise when you start to feel worn out, but you still have strength to keep going: “On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is not tired at all and 10 is really tired, that would mean being around 6 or 7. Stop when you get there, whether it’s 6 reps, 8 reps, or the maximum of 20,” Crespo said.

9. Not paying attention to whether you have the right form
“No one is going to correct your form like they do in guided classes at the gym, so you have to be the one who takes to the time to fix it,” says Costa. “You can’t rely on what you see on the computer screen, “so I recommend doing the exercise in front of a mirror wherever possible.” Don’t worry if this means you miss a rep or two, because what it really means is that you’re preventing a possible injury.

10. Not resting or listening to your body
“Rest is part of training and it’s really necessary so your body can regenerate tissues and improve bone quality after exercising,” Crespo said.

According to Olabe, it’s important to know how to listen to your body when you exercise, as well as when it should rest.

“If we’re not able to listen to it and then the next day we don’t stop or we take it up a notch, the only thing we’ll end up doing is get injured,” he pointed out. He recommends three ways to exercise based on your baseline condition.

No regular activity: one light day of activity, one day of rest, one day of activity, one of rest. Repeat.
In good condition: two days of activity, one of rest, two days of activity. Repeat.
Regularly exercise: three or four days of activity, one of rest, three or four days of activity, one of rest. Repeat.

11. Starting without warming up and doing the exercises cold
The first thing to do before starting any round of exercise is to warm up, said Costa, who recommends spending 10 minutes on your warm-up.

“It’s like getting everything ready to go,” García-Muro added. “The warm-up reduces the risk of injuries, and it’s also how you can get the most out of the work you do.”

Even if you’ll only be working out for half an hour, you still need to warm up, either with a specific routine or by doing the first round more lightly.

12. Overvaluing stretching
“Stretching is healthy, but it’s not a cure-all,” Crespo said.

“Our tissues are made to move. If you don’t move, you’re not going to make up for the firmness they lose with the lack of movement,” she continued.

That’s when your muscles, ligaments, and tendons become more flexible: “The tissues rub more freely against one another and you automatically feel fewer contractions or feelings of tension in different parts of the body, such as your neck, lumbar region, hips, shoulders, etc,” she said.

That’s why, to be flexible, first we need to move and then we need to stretch.

13. Undervaluing stretching
It’s not a cure-all, as mentioned, but it is necessary. In fact, Olabe recommends dedicating one session per week just to stretching.

“It’s a mistake to skip the stretching after a session, and it’s also a mistake not to dedicate entire sessions to doing a good set of stretches, myofascial release, and other techniques that are super healthy for the body,” added Crespo.

14. Giving up because an exercise becomes too much for you
You should stop the exercise if it becomes painful, but you can and should continue with the next one.

“Stop doing that exercise and move on to the next one because you might hurt yourself. It doesn’t matter if you skip one,” Crespo said. “If you can’t manage now, you will get there. The important thing is not to get discouraged or give up.”

15. Turning on the TV or keeping an eye on your phone
When you do exercise, the best thing to do is to leave your phone or any other distraction like the TV or a book switched off or out of reach.

“I believe that if you’re concentrating on one thing, you can’t be concentrating on another. It will be much less effective,” explained Olalla Eiriz, a trainer from VIP Training.

16. Doing an unsupervised class if you’re dealing with an injury
YouTube or Instagram classes are good, but be cautious if you have any problems or injuries.

“Anyone with an underlying problem, back pain, injuries, or who is pregnant should sign up for specific classes and do guided training,” Costa said.

17. Focusing on the scale
Forget about the scale and weighing yourself. It’s not good for anything. And even less so if you’re not used to working out regularly, because you may end up gaining weight. Muscle weighs more than fat, so Crespo emphasized that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the numbers. Just enjoy the movement and forget about the rest.

By Margarita Lázaro,    HuffPost Spain      04/29/2020