Boosting Your Immune System – Part 3

If you would like a session with Louise to discuss how to boost your immune system, please scroll to the bottom of this post for a special covid-19 discount.

The immune system is the body’s defense against infections. The immune system attacks germs and helps to keep us healthy, but everyone’s immune system is not the same.  There are many lifestyle factors that can cause our immune systems to not function optimally.  Some of these factors include:  stress • loneliness • sedentary lifestyle • extreme exercise • smoking • alcohol • and diet.

In “Boosting Your Immune System  – Part 2”, we discussed how sleep, exercise and stress can help the immune system function.  Now it is time to delve into one of the key areas that all of us have access to, which will not only increases our immune system function, but will decrease inflammation: Diet and Nutrition.

There is a lot of stress right now with some people not working, others working from home, children home from school, parents learning to home school their children, and work from home at the same time, fear of contracting the virus, feeling alone … we could go on and on.  I know that for myself, those first few weeks were filled with a few more snacks, a little more chocolate, a few less vegetables, and many skipped meals.  This is not a good combination for boosting the immune system.  As we approach the time when we will all be reentering the world, it is time to give our diets a reboot.

Sugar

When some people are stressed, or bored, they tend to reach for a sweet treat.  Eating a small treat sweetened with naturally derived sugar may not be an awful thing for the immune system, but some people can’t stop with a small treat – it usually turns into something much bigger.  There have been some studies that suggest that eating sugar may suppress the immune system for several hours after it has been eaten. How? “Consuming too much sugar can affect the cells in your immune system – more specifically it affects the way your white blood cells attack.” explained board-certified internist and gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal.  Also most foods that are high in sugar, are also void of nutritional value, which can can increase your risk level when warding off infection.  Lastly, sugar triggers low-grade inflammation in the body, which we already know can decrease immune function.

So if we have a small sugar treat once a day, it may not affect the immune system too badly.  However, if we choose to consume one sugary treat after the other, the immune system will not be able to respond to an attack.  So the bottom line is that it would be better to choose a sweet treat like fruit or something sweetened with stevia or monk fruit.

Vegetables and Fruit

Did you know that the recommended daily allowance for vegetables was increased a couple of years ago to 5-7 servings per day.  However, the government received a lot of flack for such a high number so they decreased it down to 3-5 servings including fruit.  Honestly, I recommend that all of my clients eat at least 7-10 servings of vegetables alone per day.  I know, you are thinking that there is no way that you would ever be able to eat that many, but it really is not as difficult as you may think.  A serving size is 1 cup raw or a 1/2 cup cooked.  Eating this many vegetables does require a shift in thinking.  Instead of focusing on what meat you are going to eat, you need to start your meal planning with vegetables.

Why such a focus on fruits and vegetables? Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables provide nutrients—like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E—that can boost immune function. Because many vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods are also rich in antioxidants, they help reduce oxidative stress.

And so what about fruit?  I recommend that most people only consume about 1-2 servings per day. Most of the time a serving is 1 small piece of fruit or 1/2 cup.  Fruit still contains sugar and while it has many of the same nutrients as vegetables, it comes with a lot more calories.  As noted above, sugar in excess is not good for the immune system so while the sugar in fruit is different than refined sugar, we still want to watch how much we are consuming each day.

Inflammation

Again with the inflammation?  Yes, unfortunately there are a lot of foods that could potentially cause inflammation in the body.  It would be better to avoid eating these foods as we leave sheltering in place.  However, every body is different and what causes inflammation for one person might not be the same for another person.  There are tests that you can do, but one of the best things to do for yourself is an elimination/regeneration diet.  This approach removes the top offending foods for a period of time, which is then followed by a reintroduction of foods to look for symptoms of inflammation or intolerance.  I like to think of this method as an easy detoxification for your whole body.  Most of the time, people feel great when doing the elimination/regeneration diet -more energy, better focus, maybe some weight loss, and sometimes even better sleep.  If you are curious about the foods that you are eating that might cause inflammation, this is the perfect opportunity to discover them.  With everyone social distancing and eating at home, now is the time to take a deeper look.

If you are interested in learning more about how to do an elimination diet, please contact Louise at the information below.

Intermittent Fasting and the Fasting Mimicking Mindfulness Program

There is way too much for me to say on this topic.  This might have to be a separate post.  There has been a lot of talk recently about fasting, time restricted eating, and the fasting mimicking diet.  Finally there are starting to be studies that show the benefits. Six years ago, a study showed that a 3-day fast can essentially reset the immune system, providing many potential benefits. These benefits include better cardiovascular health, better endurance, lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation and a boost for the immune system.  Check out our page on the Fasting Mimicking Mindfulness Program for more information on it’s benefits.

Nutrition and Supplementation

There are functional medicine doctors (doctors that focus on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease) online giving lots of advice on simple supplements that we should be taking everyday to boost our immune systems. Some people are firm believers in vitamins, others think that they are a waste of money.  Only you can decide what feels right for you.  I personally am a strong believer in getting most of the nutrients that we need from the food that we eat, hence eating 7-10 servings of vegetables per day, but sometimes we just can’t get enough from our foods and we need a little help. Extra help for the immune system during a pandemic is probably not a bad idea.

Dr. Mark Hyman, who works as the Head of Strategy and Innovation at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine suggests that we start with a simple supplementation strategy by taking a multi-vitamin, vitamin D3, vitamin C, zinc, and fish oil. It is important to remember that not all supplements are created equal. If you want to take something that is going to make a difference in your health, than it is probably best to consult with a professional about which form of the vitamin to take and which brands are reputable.

 

There is a lot of information on the internet and sometimes a lot of it is conflicting.  It is difficult to know which direction to go in.  If you are needing some extra assistance in deciphering all of the information, feel free to contact Louise.  She would be happy to help you develop an individual plan for boosting your immune system.

Please call her at 570-421-3708 or contact her at wellspring@wellsprigholisticcenter.com.  Sessions are 60 minutes ($65) or 90 minutes ($90).

Boosting Your Immune System – Part 2

If you would like a session with Louise to discuss how to boost your immune system, please scroll to the bottom of this post for a special covid-19 discount.

March 19 – that is when we closed the doors at Wellspring.  It seems like yesterday and at the same time so long ago. In the days that followed the closure there were many conversations about when the self isolation would end, what it would look like, and how we could make sure that we were ready to reopen.  Unfortunately those conversations are still happening.  During those initial days , OK maybe weeks, there was definitely stress and some anxiety, which if I am honest, resulted in some not so healthy habits.  My schedule was off, my routines were off, everything just felt off.  I was not eating as well, sleeping as well, exercising as much, and certainly not remembering to take my supplements.  Luckily as time has gone by, new routines have been established and I am back on track.  I know that I was not alone.  It has been difficult for most people.  But as we move towards getting back out into the world, it is time to boost our immune systems with some healthy habits. For more information on the immune system, look at “Boosting Your Immune System – Part 1.”

But before we talk about how to boost our immune systems, it is important to talk about one factor that is contributing not only to immune suppression, but to most of the common disease today – inflammation.

Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s first line of defense against toxins, infections and injuries. When the cells are in distress, they release chemicals to alert the immune system that it is time to come to work.  However, there are many people today that do not just have acute inflammation, but are walking around chronically inflamed.  When a person has chronic inflammation, their body is on high alert all the time causing damage to their cells and organs.  This can point to an overworked, over-tired immune system that can’t properly protect.

How do you know if you have chronic inflammation?  Symptoms can vary greatly.  Some of the more common symptoms include:

eczema • fibromyalgia • gastroenteritis • gingivitis • heart disease • hepatitis • high blood pressure • insulin resistance (diabetes) • obesity • joint pain/arthritis • autoimmune disorder • kidney disease • osteopenia • osteoporosis • Parkinson’s disease • periodontal disease

This is just a small list.  As more research is being conducted, scientists are finding that most diseases today have a component of inflammation.  Therefore, it is key that we learn how to reduce our overall inflammation not only to improve our immune function, but also to decrease our risk for disease.

Sleep

One of the most important things that we can do for inflammation, and in turn our immune system, is to get a good night’s sleep.  It is during the night that our bodies repair all of the damage that has been done during the day. It is also during this time that our immune system gets primed.  But how exactly does sleep boost the immune system?

There are 2 hormones that help us to function during the day and help us to sleep at night – cortisol and melatonin.  In the morning when we wake up, our cortisol is high. Because most bodily cells have cortisol receptors, it can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, assist with memory formulation, and control blood pressure.  Cortisol decreases in the evening as melatonin starts to rise letting us know that it is time for bed.  As melatonin increases it stimulates other hormones to be released which can activate our immune cells.  These cells include natural killer cells and T-cells, which are vital to fighting infections such as viruses. In other words, while you sleep, your body can make more immune fighting cells that can attack viruses and bacteria. Without a good night’s sleep our immune system is not able to fight harmful substances and decrease overall inflammation.

Exercise

Being physically active can give your immune system a great boost in a number of ways. Just as sleep increases the natural killer cells and the T-cells, regular exercise can increase your body’s production of antibodies and T-cells as well, causing them to circulate more rapidly.  It can also help expel toxins from your body energizing your cells and metabolism.  Research has also found that when you exercise regularly your body’s stress hormones—including adrenaline and cortisol are lowered giving your immune system added strength.

There is also good news in terms of inflammation.  There have been studies that show twenty minutes to half an hour of moderate exercise, including fast walking have anti-inflammatory effects.

Decrease Stress

There are so many ways that you can work on decreasing stress.  Here are just a few:

• Keep a positive attitude • Accept that there are events that you cannot control • Be assertive instead of aggressive • Learn and practice relaxation techniques (meditation, yoga, or tai-chi) • Exercise regularly • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals • Learn to manage your time more effectively • Set limits appropriately and learn to say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life • Make time for hobbies, interests, and relaxation • Get enough rest and sleep • Seek out social support – spend more time with those you enjoy (Zoom and FaceTime count!)

Sometimes we can only do so much on our own.  It may be important to seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.

 

Look for Part 3 of “Boosting Your Immune System” for more strategies to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system through nutrition and supplementation.

If you would like to speak with Louise about how to boost your immune system, please call her at 570-421-3708 or contact her at wellspring@wellsprigholisticcenter.com.  Sessions are 60 minutes ($65) or 90 minutes ($90).

 

Artist Feature – Anita Bondi and Louise Bowman – co-directors Wellspring Holistic Center

Many of you already know this but occasionally we get someone new in the office that says, “there is something similar about the two of you.” “Your mannerisms or I just can’t put my finger on it.”

So for those of you who don’t know – we are sisters and are thrilled to be at Wellspring together!

We are also lovers of craft, art, and making things. Blame our parents who never seem to sit still and always have a project going!

One week from today we will be welcoming you at the center for our 7th Annual Open House and Art Sale!

braceletbranch     photo

1. what is your name and please give us three words to describe your creations?

Anita Bondi – inspirational, healing, fun to wear!

Louise Bowman, Living Well – Naturally – smelly, organic, fun.

2. what can we expect to find at your “booth?”

Anita-necklaces, earrings, bracelets, InterPlay Inspiration Decks, and NEW candles with charms (made with Louise).

Louise-lots of fun products for beauty care such as organic soaps, lotion bars, lip balms, sugar and salt scrubs, fun bath items for kids, hand knit wash cloths, fingerless gloves, and knit hats all made with natural fibers

3. what about this art/craft makes you feel passionate and excited?

Anita-I love the way that metal and stones come together and play off of one another. I am thrilled when I sketch out an idea and then am able to bring it to life at the jewelry bench. There is such a thrill and a rush when I show up somewhere and people are wearing my art! (at a conference last year there were 75 -100 people in a circle and as I looked around at least half had on one of my necklaces! way cool!)

Louise-I decided to make soaps last year on a whim and have expanded my beauty care line this year to include the lip balms and lotion bars.  I am so excited that you can make these products with very few ingredients, no preservatives and essential oils for scent.  I feel like I can be creative in the kitchen when I start to think about what scent I want to use next.

4. when you are not making art, where can we expect you to be?

Anita-At Wellspring Holistic Center seeing private clients or on Main St. teaching Pilates and Improvisation. You might also find me curled up on my couch with my best buddy, Scout, out on the river paddle boarding, riding my bike, hiking, and most likely somewhere dancing!

Louise-Well, it depends on the weather.  You may find me out on the river with my sister on my stand-up paddleboard, on the tennis court, or in my kitchen creating something delicious to eat. Of course, there is also my acupuncture practice to keep me out of trouble!

5. do you have 3-5 things on your bucket list that you could share with us?

Anita- a house on the water – discovering a cure for chronic inflammation – having a dog that actually listens – expanded family

Louise-Up until a few years ago I never even heard of a bucket list.  If I am able to travel and see more places in this beautiful world I will be happy.  If I can spend more time on the water, I will be happy.

candles

Bacteria, and more bacteria!

Did anyone hear the report on NPR earlier this week about bacteria?  It was great!  It was an update on an earlier report about bacteria and the immune system.  The first report talked about children and pacifiers and how the children whose parents picked up the pacifier when it dropped on the ground and put it in their mouth before giving it back to the child developed fewer allergies. I thought that it was a great report.  A few days ago they did a follow up about the important role of bacteria in the body and how they continue to learn more everyday about the role that bacteria actually plays inside of us. It was saying how years ago they thought all bacteria was bad. Now they realize that there is bacteria on every square inch of our body inside and out.  They think that some bacteria even may produce their own versions of antibiotics.  So why am I telling you this? When I was listening to the report, it made me think about the good bacteria that is found in the gut and how for many years there has been talk about overall health being linked to the health of the gut. It made me think about the ALCAT testing and the dietary plan that we are following and how glad I am that I am working on my health through my intestinal tract.

I have been mentioning ALCAT on and off in this blog and thought it was appropriate to mention it again.  The test that we did was looking at foods and their link to inflammation in the body.  There has been speculation for years about “leaky” gut syndrome and it’s role in allergies and other digestive issues. However, since using this testing for myself, my family, and clients, I have seen the direct link between food and all sorts of inflammatory reactions.  Joint pain anyone? Insomnia? Chronic sinus congestion? Knee pain? Fatigue? Constipation? Chronic stomach distress? Frequent urination? Depression?  All of these symptoms and more have been helped by changing our diet according to the results of the test.  Foods that you would think are supposed to decrease inflammation were found to increase inflammation in multiple clients.  How often have you been told to use ginger, turmeric, or garlic and to eat lots of leafy green vegetables?  As a nutritionist I feel it almost a disservice now to give advice that is not individualized for each person. We are all unique and what works for one person does not always work for another. I am learning and growing so much this year and am enjoying being challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone. (Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but it is certainly making me a better practitioner.)

No, insurance does not cover this test and yes, there are plenty of people who can’t afford to take it.  Is it going to cure all of your ailments? No!  Is it going to help heal your gut so that your body can function like it should? I am seeing the results now, so I am voting Yes!

Inflammation – Musings from Anita

Inflammation is the hot topic in my world right now. I cannot seem to open an email or a newsletter without being bombarded with the latest research and ideas about how to combat it in our bodies, minds, and hearts. How it is the major cause of almost all disease and illness.

We can easily find the 10 worst foods for inflammation (gluten, sugar, alcohol, etc). We can read about too much time in front of the computers, TV, and negative news contributing to our stress which is a major component of increased inflammation in our bodies. We can also find evidence that harboring negative feelings, engaging in angry outbursts, and chronic worrying
are also causing inflammatory conditions inside and out.

Personally, I have been watching an interesting finding in myself and I dare say, my clients: we seem to be addicted to inflammation! We continue to engage in all of the behaviors that cause it and have a ton of excuses about why we just can’t seem to change or how we are “trying” to change. As chronic as our inflammation is, so is our complaining about our aching joints, problems sleeping, troubles in our relationships with friends and family, and our dissatisfaction with our work and lives.

What does it take to change? I am beginning to take this question seriously as if my life depended on it because, guess what? IT DOES! I am carefully and consciously making choices that I know are good for me. Not easy choices, not quick choices, but good choices. We all know what those are when it comes to food, work, family, and friends. No one needs to tell us and we don’t need to spend countless hours researching it. If we are really honest with ourselves, we know exactly what to do. I hope you will join me.

Make the good choices, even though they are hard. I really do understand. It is much easier to take the quick and easy road as I did it for years. Looking back though, there have been a lot of casualties and standing in the present there is a lot of pain. So looking forward I choose “the road less traveled” and trust that will make all of the difference. Stay tuned.