Winter Wellness Tips

Winter Wellness Tips

As we move into the cooler months many people find that they are more prone to catching coughs and colds and other airborne viruses. This means more days off work or school, more doctors’ visits and so more potential for a miserable time over winter.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to help increase your immunity and ward off the winter ills and chills naturally. When it comes to immune boosting nutrients, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin C are your magnificent three.

Vitamin D has excellent immune enhancing properties, as well as helping to improve mood and reduce the risk of respiratory infections in children. Most of your vitamin D is produced in the body from exposure to sunlight, so deficiencies are becoming more widespread due to heavy sunblock use. This valuable nutrient also takes quite a dip through the winter months as your sunlight exposure drops naturally.

Ideal vitamin D levels are around 100nm/L. If you think your levels may be low it may be an idea to have your blood levels tested. It is best to talk to a qualified health practitioner before supplementing with vitamin D as this is one of those vitamins where either too little or too much can be dangerous.

Zinc is an immensely important immune boosting mineral. Adequate levels of this nutrient can help to prevent or decrease the duration of sore throats and respiratory infections that are so common in winter. Zinc also has the additional benefit of assisting with mood, healthy skin and wound healing, as well as improving fertility and hormone balance in men and women.

There are many great food sources of zinc such as oysters, shellfish, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, yogurt and non GMO tofu. Despite this, zinc deficiencies amongst Kiwis are common because New Zealand soils are low in in this vital mineral. To top up your levels, zinc is a great mineral to supplement with for three months during winter. Excess doses can cause gastric upset and nausea so it is important to talk to your health provider to find the correct dose for you.

Most people know how important vitamin C is for helping to boost immunity and fight infection, but you may not be aware that it has numerous other health promoting roles in the body. These include healthy skin and gums, wound healing, iron absorption, and cardio vascular health. Humans are one of the few mammals who can’t produce their own vitamin C (the others being guinea pigs some primates and bats) and so it is essential to include this vital nutrient in your diet.

As vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient, it cannot be stored for a long time in the body, so small regular daily doses are important. Some of your best winter food sources of vitamin C are parsley, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, leafy greens, red capsicum and fresh sprouts.

It is useful to take a loading dose of vitamin C at the first sign of infection. A buffered vitamin C in a drink bottle (ideally glass) sipped throughout the day over a handful of days is a good way to top up your vitamin C levels without upsetting your digestion. For others who have poor absorption orally or where higher doses are indicated, IV vitamin C is another option you can discuss with our doctors.

There are many different supplemental forms of the various nutrients discussed above and not all are well absorbed or tolerated. Practitioner-only brands are stringently tested for quality and efficacy and guarantee to contain the correct dose and form of the nutrient best utilized by the body. It is always best to have any supplements prescribed by a qualified health provider within the context of a consultation to ensure you are using quality products prescribed to meet your needs.

Children can be particularly at risk of respiratory infections, viruses and flus during the winter time as their immune systems are still developing, and they are often picky when it comes to eating healthy immune boosting- foods. Looking into dietary strategies and food intolerances, as well as supplementing with immune boosting nutrients, can be an effective way to support your child’s health through winter.

It is also important to remember that alongside the excellent immune boosting nutrients discussed above, the main defense against illness is to have a holistic, healthy, lifestyle.

Top Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle:

  • Eat a diet rich in plants and wholefoods, and low in processed foods and sugars
  • Include plenty of immune boosting herbs and spices in your diet such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and thyme
  • Get adequate, good quality sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage stress
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid foods that you may be allergic or intolerant too
  • Have regular medical screening for your age appropriate group.

To make an appointment for a consultation with any of our holistic GP’s or Naturopaths call 09 376 0650

 

The importance of Vitamin D

The importance of Vitamin D

In this issue we want to provide you with a some very good reasons why it would be wise to maintain your vitamin D levels. It is especially important now that we are in the throes of winter.

tataranui

Although vitamin D is classed as a vitamin outside the body, in the body it acts like a hormone rather than a vitamin.
A common misconception is that Vitamin D is made when one is in the sun, when in fact, the process of making vitamin D is as follows:

  • The action of sunlight on the skin causes the pre-cursor of vitamin D to be made in the skin.
  • This precursor then travels to the liver and then the kidneys where active vitamin D is made.
  • Sunscreen is a limiting factor for the production of Vitamin D

This vitamin is truly extraordinary in its beneficial activity in the body and there is much more research underway into the amazing properties of vitamin D.
PLEASE NOTE: there are some medical conditions where vitamin D supplementation is contraindicated so check with your health professional.

Vitamin D to reduce the risk of breast cancer

In the following paper there is compelling evidence given to support the use of vitamin D to reduce the risk of breast cancer which is summed up in the Conclusions paragraph:
Click here to read journal

Vitamin D and pain

The British Medical Journal published a comprehensive report on vitamin D which can be found in the link below.
The report discusses vitamin D insufficiency as well as deficiency, dosing regimens and includes a list of the people most at risk of vitamin D deficiency and argues for the value of increasing the reference range. Of interest is a list of the types of symptoms found in vitamin D deficient adults.
On page 145 of the link the following statement can be found:
“Pain and proximal muscle weakness dominate the clinical picture of vitamin D deficiency in adults. Rib, hip, pelvis, thigh, and foot pain are typical. More diffuse muscular aches, and muscle weakness, including in the limbs and back, are also common and may be labelled as “fibromyalgia” or as a somatisation of depression”
Click here to read clinical review.

Vitamin D and Type II Diabetes

Vitamin D has been implicated in a number of studies to improve insulin resistance which has implications for improving Type II Diabetes and weight loss.
The following study was done right here in New Zealand and concluded the following:
“ In conclusion, improving vitamin D status in insulin resistant women resulted in improved IR and sensitivity, but no change in insulin secretion. Optimal vitamin D concentrations for reducing IR were shown to be 80–119 nmol/l, providing further evidence for an increase in the recommended adequate levels.”
Click here to read journal.

Vitamin D and menstrual pain

A study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) found that a one off high dose of Vitamin D improved menstrual pain and reduced the amount of pain relief required.
Click here to read journal.

Vitamin D – Low mood and cognitive performance

A study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry concluded the following:
“In a cross-section of older adults, vitamin D deficiency was associated with low mood and with impairment on two of four measures of cognitive performance”.
Click here to read study.

Healthy Babies

Healthy Babies

Men

There are many nutrients that promote the formation of healthy sperm to enhance fertility for couples who are planning for a baby. Different nutrients have different effects on sperm production and the important ones include: increasing sperm count, increasing sperm quality and improving motility which means how active and in-motion the sperm are. This is an important factor in achieving conception.

Carnitine is an amino acid from protein that increases sperm motility. The richest food sources include lamb and beef with dairy at a distant third. Clinical trials that have achieved this benefit were 3000mg/day. Zinc can increase the sperm count, motility and quality. Oysters are a great source of zinc and meat runs a distant second.Folate can increase sperm count. Rich food sources include whole grains such as rye and wheat, chickpeas (hummus), spinach and brewer’s yeast*.

Vitamin B12 can increase sperm count. Meat, brewer’s yeast*, tempeh (Indonesian soy food), sardines and nori (sushi) are good sources of B12. Co-enzyme Q10 may assist in male fertility through improving sperm count and motility. CoQ10 is concentrated in the sperm where it is involved in energy production. Sardines, mackerel and soybean oil are very rich in CoQ10.

 Women

Babies need some key nutrients for their healthy development especially for the healthy growth and development of the brain and nervous system.

Vitamin B6 – needed for healthy brain development. Rich in beef, bananas, avocado, chicken, hazelnuts, salmon and walnuts. Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of nerves, in particular the outer myelin sheath of the nerve which is required for the conduction of nerve impulses. Food sources include: meat, brewers yeast*, tempeh (Indonesian soy food), sardines and nori (sushi) are good sources of B12.

Folate is well known for preventing neural tube defects and foods rich in this very important nutrient include: whole grains such as rye and
wheat, chickpeas (hummus), spinach and brewer’s yeast*.

Choline – is needed for the myelin sheath around the nerves. The riches sources are lecithin and beef. Zinc is crucial for many aspects of development of the baby including normal weight and growth. Oysters are a great source of zinc and meat runs a distant second. Ideally your pregnancy multi will have some zinc in it. Iodine is needed for healthy brain development and can lower the risk of behavioural problems in children. Good food sources include
seaweeds such as nori (sushi) and wakame (in miso soup). There are some very tasty seaweed shakers in health food shops which can be sprinkled over salads and sandwiches. Thyroid hormone is dependant on iodine for its synthesis in the body and is critical for the development of the nervous system during pregnancy.

Fish oil – Fish has two substances that are of interest to us in regards to healthy babies. DHA (docohexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid). In terms of a healthy nervous system, both, are important. The richest source of DHA in the body is in the nerve endings where it enables the nerves to communicate with other nerves.

EPA has an anti-inflammatory effect and has been shown to be useful in behavioural problems where inflammation plays a significant role. A pregnant woman who is not allergic to fish would ideally consider fish oil as a supplement both during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please note vegetable sources of oils are not as rich in these substances as fish oil. Food sources include kahawai, salmon (fresh is preferable over farmed), fresh tuna, mackerel and herring.

Vitamin D has a role in promoting a healthy birth weight, healthy bones, teeth and nervous system. It is synthesised in the body as a result of
exposing the skin to sunlight. Iron may become deficient during pregnancy and should be supplemented only when needed. Your lead maternity caregiver can order a blood test if needed. Rich in brewer’s yeast*, kelp*, pumpkin seeds, molasses, sunflower seeds, almonds, molasses and beef.

* Popcorn sprinkled with brewers yeast and a little kelp provides a very tasty snack as well as covering many of the nutrients listed above.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding

There are some nutrients for breastfeeding women to consider to support baby’s growth and development as well as their own wellbeing.

Iodine is used for the development of the nervous system during pregnancy so mums can become a little low in iodine after the birth which can impact thyroid function. Even though some degree of fatigue is to be expected post-partum, optimising thyroid function by ensuring good iodine intake can surely help. Iodine is rich in seaweed such as you find in Japanese food. Seaweed salads, nori (around sushi) and Wakame (in miso soup) are good sources and we have our own NZ Karengo and the fronds are tasty enough and mild enough to sprinkle over salads or all kinds. It even tastes good over a roast vegetable salad with sliced avocado and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Fish Oil is an important nutrient for the brain of the baby. Because it is used up during pregnancy, some women find their skin becoming dry and itchy post-partum – this is a good indicator that you need to top up. Good food sources include sardines, kahawau, wild salmon and kingfish.

Protein is especially important for breastfeeding women as they commonly snack throughout the day and mealtimes can be interrupted. As a result protein intake can be sporadic in the first few months post-partum. Good pretein intake is important for energy, mood, tissue repair, to keep blood sugar stable and to prevent carbohydrate cravings, especially sugar. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, hummus, nut, tofu, seed and whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice.

Spicy foods are good for breastfeeding mothers to avoid as they can cause colicky symptoms in many babies. Some women find during pregnancy that they start losing a good deal of hair and they feel more tired than they should. With this the hair and skin can become dry and dull looking. Many women find that these things improve  well with a good dose of B complex and sometimes zinc is needed as well. If colic is a big issue and your baby always appears to be in discomfort after eating, often cries after eating and commonly vomits or spills the milk, there may be some simple dietary issues that will resolve this. If a breastfeeding mum eliminates dairy and gluten from her diet for one week you may witness some rapid and dramatic improvements. If this is correct solution, one week is plenty of time to notice improvements and most notice it within the first couple of days. A welcome ‘side effect’ is that babies often start to sleep better as they settle down to relaxing feeds.

Insomnia

Insomnia

We have written about solutions to sleep problems in the past and I have outlined these below. There is, however, an exciting new development for those of you who use a computer after dark. It all starts with the nature of light and a hormone called melatonin.

Melatonin is the hormone that signals to your body when it is time to be asleep and when it is time to be awake. This marvelous hormone is made in your brain during the day due to the action of sunlight hitting the eye (a good reason to use sunglasses only when necessary). Melatonin is then stored and released after dark with the changing, softer light.

Computers have a very bright screen and using a computer after dark gives the brain the wrong signals and can cause major sleep disruption for some people. Some ingenious folk have invented a program called f.lux that adjusts your computer screen to the changing light of night. This gives the computer a softer glow at night with a slight orange tint to the screen. The reports from people using the program have been fantastic. The great news is that it is FREE! We highly recommend that you try the program if you use a computer a lot after dark and if you experience the benefits, do let them know. The link is:  http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/

Other solutions for sleep that many have successfully tried are a good magnesium supplement before bed. Magnesium works by easing muscle tension and relaxing the nervous system and is useful with assisting those you that have trouble falling asleep to feeling tense. Magnesium may also be involved in the production of melatonin as it does assist those who sleep lightly or wake easily through the night.

Vitamin D has done the trick for many of you. We are seeing some very low vitamin D results lately so remember that your ideal range on a blood test is 100-125nmol/L, especially if you have sleep issues. We assist many of you to achieve these levels with a prescription but ideally you would maintain the level with a lower daily dose. In the winter 5000IU daily will maintain the levels close to 100nmol/L once that level has been achieved. In summer 2000IU daily is sufficient if you tend to cover up and use sun block in the sunshine. Vitamin D may also assist with the production of melatonin as most people find it is useful for improving the quality of sleep and resolving problems with waking through the night and restless sleep.

Some of you have used melatonin on prescription to assist with sleep. This can help with getting off to sleep in some but very many people have found it most beneficial in improving the quality of their sleep so that they feel more rested in the morning. The correct dose for the individual can lie between 1mg and 12mg a night. Some people only need to open a 1mg capsule and sprinkle it on their tongue. It is best to discuss the dosing with your prescribing GP.

We hope this information assists you in achieving deep, restful sleep so you can wake refreshed and ready to launch into your day.