4 Foods for Better Immunity

Your immune system is responsible for helping fight off everything from the common cold to cancer. A tall order!

Send in some reinforcements so it doesn’t get battle fatigue. Here are four foods your immune system loves.

Sweet, Creamy, Steamy, Crunchy . . . Oranges, yogurt, tea, and pumpkin seeds are the order of the day when it comes to giving your immune system a treat, according to experts Michael Roizen, MD, and Mehmet Oz, MD, authors of the best-selling (and now newly expanded and updated) YOU: The Owner’s Manual. Here’s how these four superfoods help:

  • Oranges are chock-full of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that helps your immune system fend off disease-causing invaders. Other good C options: bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, and broccoli. Or take 400 milligrams of vitamin C three times daily.
  • Yogurt (unpasteurized) contains Lactobacillus acidophilus — a healthy bacterium that helps thwart fungus-related infections. Or take a 20-milligram acidophilus supplement twice daily.
  • Tea is full of flavonoids, powerful vitamin-like substances that reduce immune-system aging. You’ll also find them in oats, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, apples, and berries.
  • Pumpkin seeds are great year round, not just at Halloween, because they contain zinc — a nutrient that’s been shown to help reduce the average length of the common cold.
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A Healthier Way to Stay Energized

Say “get iron,” and most people think they need a side of beef — or at least a hefty plateful — to stave off fatigue and refuel their immune system. The fact is, you don’t need red meat at all to get plenty of iron to power you through your fusion yoga class, four client presentations, dinner with your in-laws (but you might need some red wine here), a walk with the dog, and maybe another type of romp or two in a day.

Too much red meat can overload you with heme iron, a form of the mineral that can boost your risk of type 2 diabetes. We know you already know that meat can overload you with saturated fat.

Fortunately, heme iron is far easier to dodge than the perfume-spritzing people at the mall. Plant-based foods contain only nonheme iron, which is free of any dirty links to diabetes. It’s pretty easy for men to get what they need — about 8 milligrams (mg) of iron a day — from food: A cup of cooked spinach alone contains 6.4 mg, versus 3.4 mg for a burger. Other good options: kidney beans (3.6 mg per half cup), oatmeal (3.4 mg per cup), and almonds (1 mg per ounce).

However, premenopausal women need about 18 mg a day, so taking a multi with iron is smart, especially since iron from plants tends to be harder to absorb than iron from meat. Help your body soak it up with these tricks:

1. Eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods. (Think oatmeal and OJ, chili with beans. See? It’s easy.)

2. Calcium blocks absorption of iron, so separate your calcium supplement and your spinach by a few hours.

3. Coffee and tea interfere with iron, so keep those apart, too.

15 Simple Ways to De-stress

Hypnotize Yourself

Brow furrowed? Pulse galloping? Barely able to breathe? It’s time to relax. We’ve gathered easy strategies to keep tension from taking over.

Forget swaying pocket watches and deep trances. “Hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention,” says David Spiegel, the director of Stanford School of Medicine’s Center on Stress and Health. If done properly, hypnosis can clear your mind, lower your heart rate, and decrease muscle tension. Close your eyes and picture a movie screen with something stressful, like rush-hour traffic, on the left side. Now, visualize a solution playing out on the right, like discovering a new route with no traffic. Eventually, you’ll feel a moment of intense absorption, he explains, like when you’re so caught up in a good movie that you forget where you are. Try doing this for five minutes, three or four times a day.

(Really) Forgive Someone

Although it may be tempting to rehash the details of how your sister’s boyfriend snubbed you, letting go of negative feelings really does lower stress. “When our minds keep rehearsing troubling interactions, the body’s calming system becomes impaired,” says Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, a psychologist at Hope College in Holland, Mich. A cursory hug won’t do, though. You have to sincerely replace your anger toward the wrongdoer with an attempt to understand the reasons behind his actions. “Forgiveness helps you see more of the truth, not less. When we are upset, our vision is limited in scope,” says Witvliet.

Open the Window

Just looking out your window can have a relaxing effect. In a study led by Peter Kahn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, participants in an office were shown one of three views: a natural setting, a digital display of the same scene, and no view. When stress levels were artificially increased, those looking at the real natural scene returned to their normal heart rate more quickly. Those who looked at the digital display did no better than those looking at a blank wall, suggesting the brain is not easily fooled. “We do best mentally and physically when we’re connected to nature,” says Kahn.

Send Yourself Flowers

“Without question, stress is mitigated by nature,” says Mehmet C. Oz, coauthor of “You: Stress Less” (Simon & Schuster). Scientists at Harvard University delivered flowers to one group of women and gave candles to a second group. Within a week, the first group felt less anxious and depressed, perhaps because humans are comforted by vegetation—a means of survival in caveman days. Oz suggests keeping a plant on your desk and cut flowers at the dinner table.

Pucker Up

A kiss (or two) a day can keep the stress away. You’ll feel less isolated, which is a common source of anxiety. According to Laura Berman, a professor of obstetrics-gynecology and psychiatry at Northwestern University, women in particular respond to locking lips by releasing endorphins. She recommends at least one ten-second kiss a day — deep and emotional, but not necessarily sexually arousing. “Just enjoy the physical connection,” she says.

Take a Time-Out

You don’t need to slip into bed to get the benefits of a good rest. Kate Hanley, author of “The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for Serenity” (Skirt!), suggests a simple exercise you can do at your desk that is just as refreshing as a nap:

  • Keeping both feet on the floor, stack your forearms on the edge of the table.
  • Scoot back in your chair so your spine is extended.
  • Rest your forehead on your arms for a minute or two.

This opens the neck and shoulders, where physical tension commonly builds up, and creates space in your rib cage for deep breathing. Visualize your next task going well, or simply focus on your heartbeat. Either way, this exercise gives you a break.

Take it Easy

Working out is a great way to take a bite out of tension—but think twice before you sign up for a boot camp. “When you are mentally tired, intense exercise adds to the stress you are feeling,” says Samuele M. Marcora, a physiologist at the University of Kent in England. After a draining day, he suggests a moderate-intensity workout, like walking or light running. “It won’t improve your fitness level, but it is good for the mood.”

Say ‘Om’

Yoga is a proven stress buster, but not all poses give the same relief. Inverted stances, such as back bends and headstands, may have a greater effect on your mood and anxiety, say researchers. The part of the nervous system that relaxes the body and mind may be stimulated when the spine is bent, explains Chris Streeter, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

Go Into the Light

“Stress can be triggered when our bodies don’t know what time it is,” says Julie Holland, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. “Exposing your retina to sunlight resets your circadian rhythm so your brain is on a schedule.” Take a walk outside without sunglasses for 20 minutes a day, three times a week. Phototherapy lamps and vitamin-D supplements also help.

Watch a Tearjerker

If you’re still crying your contacts out on your 100th viewing of “Blue Valentine,” try watching it a 101st time with a new outlook: A recent study suggests that thinking positively while watching a sad movie may help you cope with setbacks in the real world. Women who had experienced stress were shown sad scenes from movies such “I Am Sam” and “Fatal Attraction” and asked to come up with happy endings and good advice for the characters. Test subjects who were best at this showed fewer signs of depression than women who watched the movies passively, says Allison S. Troy, a researcher at the University of Denver. Solving other people’s problems is always easier, she says. Practicing as you make your way through your Netflix queue may sharpen your skills.

Treat Your Allergies

Itchy eyes and a runny nose aren’t the only plagues of allergy season: Stress may rise with the pollen count. Alvaro Guzman, a psychiatrist at the National Center for the Treatment of Phobias, Anxiety and Depression in Washington, D.C., says research shows that patients with seasonal allergies often report stress, mood dips, and depression when symptoms flare. “When we have an allergic reaction, chemicals are produced in our blood that can aggravate mood changes,” he says. If you notice your stress levels peaking when the weather is changing, Guzman suggests getting tested for allergies.

Drop an F-Bomb

Saying what you really think about the boss over a couple of martinis has its advantages. After observing groups in various workplaces, Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at Rouen Business School in France, found that people swear as a coping mechanism to release stress. When upset with a difficult customer, one test subject pretended to carry on a conversation as if the client were still on the phone, but with profanity to describe exactly how she felt. In the real world, Baruch warns to use common sense. “Stay professional and never swear in front of someone who would be offended.”

Get Busy

You’re sitting on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reruns — just like last weekend. And instead of becoming absorbed, part of your brain stays focused on the looming deadlines that have been nagging at you at work. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University and the author of “Women Who Think Too Much” (Henry Holt), says, “Overthinking without being able to resolve anything draws us deeper into a feeling of being overwhelmed.” A pastime that requires you to pay attention or engage with other people—like tackling a new recipe, taking a foreign-language class, or playing tennis—lets you escape from your own spinning head and break the cycle.

Surround Yourself With Beauty

Admiring a photo of a model or a movie star just as you would a work of art could relieve tension. Half a group of people who viewed photos of females wearing makeup said they were less stressed afterward, according to a study at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. The other half did not report the same benefit, but they didn’t feel any worse, says Patrick Pössel, a professor of psychology who conducted the study.

Be a Pescatarian

Battling stress can be as simple as ordering fish at a restaurant. On “The Truth About Food,” a program on the Discovery Health Channel, researchers measured hormone levels in London cabdrivers, who have highly stressful jobs. When put on a diet of four portions a week of oily fish like mackerel, a source of omega-3 fatty acids, the drivers produced less of the stress hormone cortisol and more of DHEA, a hormone the body cranks out to combat stress. “When the body sees omega-3 fatty acids, it feels calm,” says Oz. Walnuts, flaxseeds, and tofu are other excellent sources.

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

Filter Out Distractions and Interruptions to Improve Memory

By Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD

Feeling scatterbrained? If you’re having difficulty focusing on a good book, the nightly news, or even your spouse because the kids, pets, phone, TV, flashing e-mail, and more are driving you to distraction, don’t blame the interruptions. It turns out that a prime reason for midlife concentration lapses and late-life memory problems is an increasing inability to filter out the clutter — both human and digital distractions.

A growing stack of studies shows that although 30-something brains can focus on a topic with laser-beam precision while ignoring multiple distractions, older brains have frayed mental filters that let other information in, no matter how hard they’re trying to concentrate. It’s like looking at the world (or at least that pile of paperwork) through a wide-angle lens that also sees the unwashed dinner dishes, the beautiful sunset, the accountant’s memo, or the article you’ve been meaning to read.

Try This 4-Step Meditation Plan for Sharper Focus

American and Canadian researchers stumbled onto this concentration issue while using MRIs to scan people’s brains as they performed memory-related problem-solving tasks. Older people in the study couldn’t concentrate inside the banging, clanging MRI machines, even when wearing earplugs. Their brain scans revealed the extra mental effort used as they tried to filter out the distracting noise, tipping off researchers to the mental challenges of concentrating.

Here’s how to both minimize age-related distraction problems when you need to focus and how to put them to use when you need to think and see the big picture:

  • Turn off distractions. You can recapture much of your sharp focus by removing distractions when you have to do mental work. Don’t pay bills while watching TV. Turn off the radio when you’re starting an important conversation with your spouse or when you’re loading new software onto your computer.
  • Clear your desk, organize your house. Visual clutter can slow down your mental capacity so that decision-making takes more time and effort. Give your brain cells less to ponder by sweeping unnecessary stuff from your workspace, cooking area, computer desktop, closets, and even your car.

Banish Interruptions: 7 Steps to a More Organized Life

  • Turn distractibility into a mental asset. Harness your well-seasoned brain’s ability to retain lots of information by giving “multisensory learning” a whirl. That’s when you use several senses at once to enhance learning and memory. Instead of reading a long magazine article about the growing list of presidential candidates, watch an in-depth TV show about them. Getting the audio and the visual is an asset in this case.
  • Enjoy seeing the forest, not just the trees. Having a more flexible mental filter in place means you take in more pleasure, too. Whether you’re walking in the woods, biking on the boardwalk, or people-watching, chances are you’re noticing more than you did in your 20s and 30s. Savor it!

Can Food Help You Manage Depression Symptoms?

Interesting articel I found while searching for my previous post.

Can Food Help You Manage Depression Symptoms?

Learn how nutrients in healthy foods can play a role in your major depression treatment plan.

Research shows that several essential nutrients may affect your mood. If you’re being treated for major depression, some ways of eating may even add to the effectiveness of your medications. While it’s difficult to know exactly how much food contributes to your mood and mental health, the evidence is fairly strong for the following nutrients.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids You’ve probably noticed everything from designer cereal to bread, eggs, and milk labeled high in omega-3. “These essential fatty acids are vital to good health in so many ways,” notes Amy Ogle, MS, RD, a San Diego-based dietitian and personal trainer. “They promote healthy cell membranes and help reduce the low-grade inflammation caused by a chronically poor diet, stress, illness, and depression.” With respect to major depression specifically, the omega-3s DHA and EPA seem to be lead players. Your brain’s neural membranes depend on DHA for structure and function, which may help with cell communications.

Good sources of omega-3s include fatty fish, such as salmon, and designer foods fortified with omega-3s.

Vitamin B12 This water-soluble vitamin is important to red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. It may also help balance the level of neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, dopamine) in your brain. In a large study, women age 65 years and older who were deficient in vitamin B12 were two times as likely to be severely depressed as the women who were not deficient.

Good sources of B12 include fortified breakfast cereal and foods of animal origin.

Folate Another water-soluble B vitamin, folate occurs naturally in foods. Folate is required to produce new cells in your body, as well as RNA and DNA. Like B12, folate affects your brain’s neurotransmitters, which play a role in depression. Some research shows that adding a bioactive folate supplement to your depression treatment plan may reduce depression symptoms.

Good sources of folate include fortified grains, leafy green vegetables, and dried beans.

Selenium Selenium is a trace mineral used to make selenoproteins (important antioxidants). In a recent study, women with low dietary intakes of selenium were three times as likely to develop major depression.

Good sources of selenium include seafood, meat, poultry, nuts, and grains from varying regions (soil levels of selenium vary by location).

Other Minerals Minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc found in a normal diet also support physical and mental vitality. Not getting enough of these nutrients can increase your risk of depression symptoms due to health conditions such as iron-deficient anemia. Be cautious of getting too much of a supplement. Avoid multivitamins and supplements that provide more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) unless prescribed by your doctor.

Importance of Varied Diet Eating a well-balanced diet with a lot of variety — including 12 ounces of fish or seafood a week — will likely ensure you have sufficient nutrition. For women specifically, certain life stages can make you more vulnerable to depression. “Try to be proactive about protecting your nutrition,” Ogle suggests. “Find exercise options you enjoy.”

Foods That Fight Pain

After posting my previous post on Chronic Pain. I started to do a little more reseach and found some interesting stuff.  As we all know, what you eat can help or hurt you.  I have found out that if I load up with vitamine C mainly in fruits I can manage my depression much better.  So I was wondering if other foods can help relief pain.  I found some soothing foods one should include in there chronic-pain-management strategy.  Afterall we all need to eat, it’s worth a try.

Whole grains are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that has been shown in aimal studies to short-circuit muscle pain.

When it comes to spices with potential pain-relieving properties, go for the gold: ginger and turmeric. Ginger contains a quartet of substances (gingerols, paradols, shogaols, and zingerone) that have analgesic qualities similar to aspirin or ibuprofen.

Turmeric — a spice used in Indian and Thai curry dishes — contains curcumin, another ginger-family member that may also help nip pain in the bud.

Strawberries are chock-full of vitamin C, an antioxidant with powerful pain-reducing properties, according to research. Some studies suggest vitamin C may help people experience less pain after breaking a bone or having orthopedic surgery.

Spinach or arugula salad for a jolt of vitamin K. Vitamin K also helps maintain strong bones and healthy joints. In one study, older adults with ample blood levels of K were less likely to develop osteoarthritis, compared to a low-in-K control group.

Yogurt and other dairy foods contain two bone-building nutrients: calcium and vitamin D. Not only does vitamin D do more than buoy bone strength, it may also play a role in diminishing chronic pain, according to some study findings.

The resveratrol in wine, grapes, and grape juice may have an analgesic effect similar to aspirin, according to a handful of animal studies. But if you add resveratrol to your list of pain-busting nutrients, just watch how much of it you get from red wine. Experts recommend no more than one daily glass of wine for women, men can get a little more.

Can You Cure Chronic Pain with Your Mind?

I found this article and thought I would post it since there are so many out there who struggle with chronic pain.

 

Can You Cure  with Your Mind?

It’s not surprising that everyday life brings on aches and pains. Hours spent sitting in front of a computer screen, doing work around the house, and handling the tensions of life can take a toll on the intricate workings of the musculoskeletal system.

5 Most Common Types of Pain

  1. Migraine/headache
  2. Back
  3. Joint/arthritis
  4. Overuse/strain injuries
  5. Arm/Leg/musculoskeletal

Over-the-counter pain medications and heat or cold treatments can provide relief for occasional pain. But when your headache, backache, or muscular pain continues or recurs over many months, you have chronic pain, and it can seriously disrupt your quality of life.

A recent study revealed that nearly half of chronic pain cases have no clear cause, and that 25% of patients with head or back pain were still experiencing symptoms 12 months after visiting their doctor.

You may not have to live with chronic pain. Some experts assert that rather than mask or tolerate chronic pain, you may be able to stop it by learning to regulate your body with the power of your mind.

How Do Mind-Body Interventions Work?

Mind-body advocates contend that you have more power over your pain than you realize. Your brain and central nervous system are connected and constantly talk to each other, sending and receiving signals such as pain messages. Typically, these messages result from injury or illness and stop once the body is healed. Mind-body interventions are based on the idea that this messaging system can break down, causing miscommunication between the mind and body.

When pain messaging systems break down, constant or chronic pain messages may be sent even after the original cause of the pain is fully healed. Pain treatment programs that use mind–body interventions help interrupt these pain messages and reestablish healthy communication along the nerve paths to the brain.

You Do Have Control Over Pain

Over the past few decades, a wealth of research has confirmed that mind–body therapies, either alone or with other treatments, may help cure various types of pain and prevent pain recurrence. Techniques that were once considered complementary or alternative, such as, behavioral therapy, biofeedback, cognitive therapy, guided/visual imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and relaxation therapy have now become mainstream.

Studies have demonstrated the usefulness of various mind-body interventions in the management of many types of pain, such as migraine or tension-type headaches, fibromyalgia, acute sciatica, and several other conditions for which no specific cause has been found.

Your Chronic Pain: What’s Mixing Up the Messages?

Feelings of anxiety, tension, anger, or depression could cause a disconnection between your mind and body. When your brain is frequently forced to respond to such emotions, it essentially rewires itself to keep up with the barrage of negative stimuli. As a result, your brain may send erroneous pain messages to your body. With mind-body intervention, the first step is to examine your behaviors and environment with a doctor or therapist to identify factors that may be causing the pain reaction. The next step is to develop more productive ways to handle the stressors that you face every day so that you have more control over your physiological response to these emotions. Depending on your condition, this process may take only a few weeks or may become a regular part of your health routine.

Approach with Caution

Whether you are recovering from illness, injury, or surgery or are unsure what’s causing your pain, do some homework before you dive into this pain therapy. First, check with your healthcare provider to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition. Then, get advice on reputable practitioners and mind-body treatment centers available in your area. Also, be aware that not all are covered by health insurance, so cost may be a consideration.