Vitamin D!

It seems like everyday there is more research coming out about the importance of Vitamin D. With it’s influence on our immune system, now is an important time to make sure you have sufficient Vitamin D levels.

How do we make vitamin D?

Sunshine is how we make vitamin D. When you are exposed to UVB rays, our bodies make cholecalciferol (D3) from cholesterol in our skin.  It is then converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the liver.  This is what is measured in a vitamin D blood test.  From here it gets converted to its active form, calcitriol, either in the kidneys or by the immune system and then released into circulation for the body to use.

Sunscreen blocks UV light, so if you are conscientious about applying it, you may not be making enough vitamin D in your body.  In the winter months, even in Australia, the days are shorter and the sun is lower in the sky resulting in less UV rays getting to us.  So even in Australia many people are vitamin D deficient.

What happens if we don’t get enough vitamin D?

We need vitamin D to absorb calcium from our diet.  So if we don‚Äôt get enough the body takes calcium out of the bones to use for muscle and nerve functioning as well as blood clotting.  This can result in softening of the bones called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.  

We have known that vitamin D was important for bone health for many years, but only recently have we realised that it affects other parts of the body as well.  We need it for a proper functioning immune system so that we can effectively fight off infections.  Vitamin D also decreases inflammation and low levels have a particular effect on the symptoms of asthma and arthritis.  Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

How do we get enough vitamin D?

Ideally we get it from the sun as this is the most effective way.  But we still want to be careful of getting burned. Depending on your location and the time of year, it is generally recommended to get outside before 10am or after 4pm for about 20mins with as much skin showing as possible.  Although winters in Australia are far from cold and snowy in most parts, we still don‚Äôt get much sunshine with shorter days and the sun being low in the sky.  My family doesn‚Äôt wear any sunscreen in the winter.

Some people may need to take a supplement.  If you have darker skin you won‚Äôt make vitamin D as efficiently.  Also menopausal women may need to supplement due to hormonal changes.  Anyone who diligently wears sunscreen or covers most of his or her skin with clothing should also consider a supplement.  The American paediatric association also recommends supplementing infants.  Breastfed infants are most likely deficient because their mothers are deficient and they are rarely left out in the sun.  

So try to get outside everyday if possible.  This is especially important with winter coming along as our days get shorter.  And if you think you may be deficient, talk to your naturopath about getting it tested.

Healthy (and Easy!) Protein Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups quick or rolled oats (120g)

1 cup puffed rice

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sunflower butter (can use almond or peanut butter if not taking to school)

1/2 cup raw agave or honey

2/3 cup protein powder – have fun with different flavours (70g). I use plain pea protein

1/4 dark chocolate chips, sultanas or dried cranberries (optional)

Instructions

Stir all ingredients together until well-mixed.

Transfer the mixture to a 9√ó14 pan lined with parchment or wax paper. (For thicker bars, you can use an 8√ó8 pan.)

Place another sheet of parchment or wax over the top and continue to smush down and spread until it fills the bottom of the pan.

Freeze until hard, then cut into bars.

For optimum freshness, store leftover bars in the freezer for up to a month.

And then Enjoy!

Adapted from: https://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2014/08/11/protein-granola-bars/

Beat Those Viruses this Winter! (and all year long!)

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While it is almost summer for all of you in the northern hemisphere, it is coming into winter down under which means cold and flu season has come around again. Although for those of us with kids in daycare and school it seems that cold and flu season lasts all year-round! Here are some helpful hints for keeping the whole family healthy in winter and all year long.

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Sleep is the most important activity your body needs. When sleeping, your body restores, heals, and creates important hormones. Get to bed early and stay there for at least 7-8 hours each night.  Avoid caffeine to ensure you get a good quantity and quality of sleep.  Read my blog article about caffeine for more information on the effects it has on your body.

Psychological stress is associated with a greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases.[1]  Take time out Рexercise, garden, meditate, whatever it is that helps you to relax.

What would one of my articles be if I didn’t mention exercise?  Exercise is important for everyone. To keep your immune system at its best you want at least a brisk 30-minute walk each day.  If you are an avid athlete you also need to take care, as very high intensity exercise can put a strain on your immune system.[2]bacteria on hands

Always wash your hands before eating.  There was a 75% reduction in flu-like symptoms when a test group wore masks and washed their hands.[3]  This is especially important for kids who are more apt to putting their hands in their mouths.  It can really be just that easy!

Our bodies are composed of 70% water. Proper hydration is important for the optimum functioning of all your body systems. Increase your water intake slowly getting up to 2L per day.  Check our my article about water for more information.

Hot-Cold showers are an excellent way of improving your immune system, increasing circula­tion and elevating energy levels. After finishing your regular shower routine, do 20 seconds of cold and 1 minute of hot. Alternate 2-3 times, ending with cold.  The increase in circulation will also help decrease sensitivity to the cold.

There are several supplements you can take to help boost your immune system. Daily zinc supplementation has been shown to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, reduce the incidence of acute lower respiratory tract infections in preschool children by 45% and reduce the incidence of pneumonia by 41%.[4]

There are lots of herbs that can help boost your immune system. You can drink my Change of Season tea daily to stay healthy while the weather is changing.  You can also check out my Cough and Cold Soother tea for a delicious mix that can help fight off germs if you get sick.

Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in immune cells and is quickly consumed during an infection.  It is a natural antihistamine and has been found to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections.

More than 80% of the body’s immune system is in the digestive tract.[5]  A lack of good bacteria in the digestive tract can cause a reduction in the immune system allowing increased infections.  Take a good quality probiotic to prevent bad bacteria from taking hold.

Vitamin D has a direct effect on the immune system. Vitamin D stimulates the production of natural antibiotic proteins thus killing more bacteria.  Insufficient levels are related to a deficiency in our immune system to protect us against infections.

If you have any questions, you can join one of my Boost Your Immune System talks. ¬†Or if you are inspired to make lifestyle changes, but you aren’t sure where to start, you can join one of my 5 week step-by-step group Get Healthy programs.

These are just a few suggestions.¬†¬†For personalized advice, contact your local naturopath.¬†Let’s stay healthy this winter!
References

1  Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, Miller GE, Frank E, Rabin BS, Turner RB. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. PNAS, 2012 April 17; 109(16): 5995-5999.

2  Society for General Microbiology. Couch potato or elite athlete? A happy medium keeps colds at bay(Internet). ScienceDaily. 2012 January 5 (Retrieved 13 May 2012). Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105112158.htm

3  Aiello AE, Perez V, Coulborn RM, Davis BM, Uddin M, Monto AS. Face masks, Hand Hygiene, and Influenza among Young Adults: A Randomized Intervention Trial. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (1): e29744.

4  Hunter P. Health Benefits of Zinc. Bioceuticals Advanced Clinical Insights, 2004; 5.

5  Plummer N. Dysbiosis and Disease: Ground breaking new research into probiotics and their role in preventing treating disease (presentation notes). FIT-BioCeuticals, Ltd. Online. 2010.