In This Issue
Inflammation: A Hidden Risk Factor
10 Tips To Boost Your Immunity
Exercise Suggestions For Airtravel
Inflammation: A Hidden Risk Factor
David C. Leopold, M.D. of Scripps Hospital, La Jolla, CA, says that inflammation may be slowly damaging your body. He suggests when you don't eat right, don't get enough exercise and have too much stress, the body responds by triggering inflammation that damages healthy tissues instead of helping you heal.
Early symptoms of inflammation are typically vague. You may feel normal or slightly fatigued. As inflammation progresses, it begins to damage your arteries, organs and joints. Left unchecked, it can contribute to heart disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other diseases.
Inflammation can occur when the immune system goes into action without an injury or infection to fight. Since there's nothing to heal, the immune-system cells that normally protect us from infection and repair injury begin to destroy healthy arteries, organs and joints.
Leopold suggests that you can control - and even reverse - inflammation through a healthy, anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
- Load Up on Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Eat more omega-3 fatty acids. Cold-water fish (i.e., salmon and tuna), tofu, walnuts, flaxseeds and soybeans. Other anti-inflammatory foods include grapes, celery, blueberries, garlic, olive oil, tea and some spices (i.e., ginger, rosemary and turmeric)
- Cut Back or Eliminate Pro-Inflammatory Foods: Red meat, eggs, and anything with trans fats, such as margarine, corn oil, deep fried foods and most processed foods
- Reduce Blood Sugar: Limit or avoid simple carbohydrates such as white flour, white rice, refined sugar and anything with high fructose corn syrup
- Exercise: Make time for 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise and 10 to 25 minutes of weight training at least four to five times per week
- Lose Weight: People who are overweight have more inflammation. Losing weight may decrease inflammation
- Manage Stress: Use meditation, yoga, biofeedback, guided imagery or some other method to manage stress throughout the day
10 Tips to Boost Your Immunity
Susan Levin, MS, RD, and staff dietician for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, based in Washing, D.C. suggests a few simple changes to boost your immunity:
- Eat a Plant-based Diet. Plant-based foods tend to be low in fat and excess fat can harm your ability to fight disease. Many fruits and vegetables are alkaline, and we need a healthy balance between alkaline and acidic to be in top germ-fighting form.
- Follow the Rainbow. Levin says "If you're eating a rainbow, then you're getting the vitamin, mineral and phytochemical mix necessary for immunity." When you eat more color, you're also getting more antioxidants. "Dietary antioxidants are also great probiotics-or things that nourish the probiotics, [the so-called good bacteria], in our system," says Gary Huffnagle, PhD, professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and author of The Probiotic Revolution (Bantam Books, 2007). Good sources are colorful raw fruits, including blueberries, strawberries and raspberries.
- Eat Organically. When you eat organically, you automatically reduce the number of toxins to which you expose your body. "Decreasing your intake of pesticides improves immunity because the less we inflict upon our bodies the better," Levin says. You're also likely getting more antioxidants, those wonderful probiotics.
- Cut Back on Sweets. "When we have more sugars in our diet and when we eat refined foods, it lowers our cells' capacities to fight off germs," says Haas, MD, author of Staying Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts, 2006). "When you eat a high-sugar meal, your immune system is suppressed for at least four hours after that meal," says Minsky, MA, MPH, LDN, CNS, president, Nutritional Concepts, Northbrook, Illinois.
- Eat a Variety of Whole Grains. It's not just white flour that's the problem. Minsky says that whole wheat falls into the most acidic category possible for foods. Too much wheat can throw us out of whack. Minsky recommends four grains: quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice and brown rice, in that order. "None have gluten, all are more digestible," she says.
- Eat Your Fiber. Fiber acts like a scrub brush, detoxifying your body as it digests, actually pulling out toxins and cholesterol. This, says, Levin, is one of fiber's main immunity selling points. Fiber also helps us to feel full-so we don't overeat. Soluble fiber-found in oats, barley, rice bran, berries, unpeeled fruits and vegetables, and legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils-also helps to nourish the healthy microbes, or probiotics, in our guts, says Huffnagle.
- Hydrate yourself. "Hydration is important to immunity in that water will flush you out," says Levin. Remember, when you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, you're automatically hydrating yourself.
- Use Fresh Herbs and Spices. Huffnagle says that herbs have tremendous source of dietary phenols, which are plant compounds high in antioxidants. Phenols also act as selective antibiotics, zapping the non-probiotic bacteria while supporting the probiotic. Many herbs have other immune-boosting qualities as well, including cayenne pepper, onions and garlic. Paprika, like many red foods, is high in immune-boosting vitamin A.
- Be Pro-Probiotics. According to Huffnagle, these microflora or probiotics are our "forgotten organ," a little under three-pounds of friendly bacteria that can signal to our immune system when it's overreacting, and therefore help reduce inflammation, a common overreaction. The microflora live in anything that has mucus, including our nose, sinuses, moth and upper part of our airways. The greatest number resides in our large intestine. Antioxidant-rich foods help these microbes stay alive and to thrive. "If your gut is not healthy, you're not going to have good immunity," agrees Minsky. One easy way to get your probiotics is through fermented foods.
- Enjoy Your Meals. Think of your meal as a time to connect with yourself, your companions, and the earth that provided you with the bounty. Say a prayer, set an intention, set a beautiful table or make it a ritual. After all, taking time to eat can be the greatest act of self-love of all. And when we take care of ourselves, we're that much more able to take care of others.
Exercise Suggestions for Airtravel
Colleen Maile of SkyWest Magazine reports that Marty Jaramillo, head of physical therapy at Sports Club LA recommends repeating these simple moves every 45 minutes to an hour during flight:
- Remove shoes and place them under the seat
- Begin by arching the soles of your feet as high as you can and curling the toes. (Repeat 10 times with both feet)
- Straighten the legs as much as you can, lift feet and pump both ankles vigorously back and forth (20 times with each foot). Make the ankle movement as big as you can to work the calf muscles
- Tighten the thigh and buttock muscles 10 times, holding each contraction five seconds
- Continue to exercise the legs. March the feet on the floor, raising the heels followed by the toes. Raise the heels sufficiently to allow the back of the thigh to lift off the seat and release the pressure from the back of the leg. Move the ankles as much as you can to relax and contract the calf muscles sufficiently
- When standing, while waiting for the restroom or reaching into the overhead bin, rise up and down on your tiptoes to exercise your calf muscles and stretch the feet and ankles
- Do not cross your legs or ankles when sitting. The pressure slows the blood flow in the back of the knee or ankle and can put you at risk
- Keep the space around feet and the knees as free as possible. Avoid placing large carry-on bags under the seat. They can press against your calves or ankles, cause excessive pressure and impair the blood flow
- When you have finished with your carry-on luggage, place it back in the overhead bin. This also gives you the opportunity to stand, stretch your arms and legs and release tension in the lower spine
- Drink as much water as possible during the flight to avoid dehydration-ideally strive to consume one pint of water every three hours
- Avoid alcohol and coffee. They cause dehydration. (If you do drink alcohol, dilute it with soft drinks or drink double the amount of water to alcohol.) Walk briskly around the airport for at least half an hour before take-off
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In Good Health.