Smorgasbord Health 2018- Seasonal Affective Disorder – Part Four Immune System and People


seasonal-affective-disorderOver the last three posts we have been on a journey from the cave and the struggles of ancient man to survive the harsh winter cold with minimum access to light, food, heat and stimulation. On that journey we have explored the causes of modern man’s struggle to adapt to the modern world of technology and 24/7 light, noise and stimulation of all the senses. The solutions are not perfect but the areas that we have covered are the starting point to changing the way we look at both our bodies and how we manage the seasonal changes most of us face.

A quick recap – we need healthy amounts of Vitamin D from sunshine and some foods and healthy cholesterol to produce all hormones in our body. Tryptophan and B-vitamin rich foods to produce essential hormones in the brain – melatonin and serotonin. We have to eat these foods regularly throughout the day.

Better to have 6 smaller meals of the right foods than starve all day and then have a big meal at night that cannot be digested and processed by the body. This regularity will also drip feed the essential nutrients into your body, keeping energy levels higher and the neurotransmitters in your brain firing on all cylinders. Avoid taking in high carbohydrate and sweet foods later at night. A cup of warm milk with a small teaspoon of honey before bed will help activate the melatonin to send you to sleep.

Sleep is essential and we all need around 8 hours per night to allow the body to recover and repair… and relax.

We need to exercise, with music to stimulate the production of dopamine and activate our reward centres in the brain and we need the support, companionship and warmth of our clan – that is to say our family and close friends.

I appreciate that for those working full-time it is difficult to establish a regular exercise pattern but if you really want to feel alive and vital through these next few months (Australians and South Africans are of course are exempt as they move into summer) then you are going to have to find ways to get outside during the daylight hours and get some exercise. So lunchtimes will have to be – 30 minutes brisk walk and then back for a protein, vegetable or salad, moderate carbohydrate lunch.

We need to avoid the colds and flu that are rift in the winter months, usually because everyone’s immune systems are suppressed because of the lack of Vitamin D from sunshine. I mentioned in an earlier post that I in fact do take a supplement of Vit D and Cod Liver Oil in the winter months and touch wood I have not had a cold for the last ten years. Buy high quality vitamins and I take 1000 iu per day and you can check in your health food shop or pharmacy for their recommended brand to provide you with a healthy balance.

We also need plenty of vegetables and fruits containing Vitamin C to help maintain a healthy immune system and it goes without saying that all of these should be fresh or at least fresh picked and frozen.. In the winter months it can be more practical to buy frozen as they will be seasonal in other parts of the world and brought to you locally.

Here is a shopping list that contains all the nutrients and the foods that eaten regularly can help you maintain a healthy immune system.

fruit and veg banner

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/a-basic-shopping-list-for-a-nutritionally-balanced-diet/

Other Immune boosting activities

You can go to the gym, a swimming pool and if you do not have access to that sort of facility then buy a treadmill, second hand ones are quite reasonable, or simply put your favourite music on and dance like no-one is watching!!

Recently I looked at the dynamics of change physically, mentally and emotionally and included some strategies to maintain a healthy balance. You might find the three posts useful.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-dynamics-of-change-2017/

It is up to you to find the activities that make you feel good as an individual. For some it might be an energetic game of squash or running a marathon. For others it could be Yoga, Tai Chi or Pilates. All of them if enjoyed will boost the immune system and release feel good endorphins that will help see you through the rest of the winter.

Tell me this does not boost your immune system

A key strategy for overcoming the winter blues is interaction with others.

I believe that the clan would have worked together, sitting by the fires which produced the only light, telling stories, educating the young, working on the first tools and utensils such as the autumn gourds. Even perhaps, making drums from those gourds and producing the first beats of music. I am sure that laughter was part of those dark days and nights as humour cannot just have developed in our modern world. The dynamics of the relationships within the clan can only be imagined because despite all the evidence found, we simply were not there!

The good news is that even if you are separated by thousands of miles or even a few hundred you can still keep in touch with your clan members and friends. The virtual cave we all live in now offers a wonderful opportunity to stay engaged with the world, learn new skills online, have conference calls via Skype, catch up with gossip on Twitter or Facebook and communicate. Keeping our brain exercised, eating a nutrient rich diet and taking a 30 minute brisk walk daily may keep us whole in body, mind and soul our entire lives.

I firmly believe that our bodies contain ancestral memory. And, because our DNA mutates so infrequently every 10,000 years or so, like instinctive behaviour in all animals, we do have deep seated and essential needs for certain foods, nutrients, activities, emotional connections and mental stimulation that we still must provide to be healthy physically and mentally and to be simply happy.

However, you cannot just sit passively and wait for all these elements to come together magically. You have to grab with both hands and participate.

So you now have the components for the plan to make this winter healthier and mentally manageable.

I have given you the elements for the project – but you are the one who needs to put it into practice. It will not be easy to change habits of a lifetime, or get into a new routine with new foods having given up those you feel you get comfort from.

©sally cronin Just food for Health 2004 – 2018

As always if you would like to ask any questions you can do so in the comments or you can email me on sallygcronin@gmail.com

Thanks for dropping by.  Sally

 

Size Matters serialisation – Chapter 17 – Exercise


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I have mentioned walking as a form of exercise, in Chapter seven, but there are many other effective forms of exercise. This chapter will cover the most common examples. There are also several everyday activities that we take for granted but which do qualify as exercise.

chased by predators

We are designed to move fast if we need to. Predators had to be taken seriously in the past, whether multi-legged or two-legged. We have a strong skeleton, with muscles and tendons holding it together. Our joints are flexible and can withstand considerable pressure. In this day and age, however, we have come to rely on mechanical means of transport, not only when we reach adulthood but as children too.

Thirty years ago, children walked to and from school every day, although they may have graduated to a bicycle as they got older. These days, children either use a school bus service or are driven to school in the family car. Physical education and team sports can still play a part in many children’s lives, but far too many take hardly any exercise at all. This, and unhealthy modern eating practices, means that obesity in children is on the increase in most western countries.

Exercise is not just about losing weight. There are many other benefits to us. The first is to our physical structure: the skeleton, joints, tendons and muscles. All these remain healthy if put to the purpose they were designed for. Without regular use, joints seize up, muscles waste away and fat accumulates, causing stress on the body. Without exercise, our skeleton is weakened and in later years this can lead to osteoporosis. Regular exercise improves the way the body functions generally. The immune system will work much more efficiently, making us less vulnerable to infection.

Progression of osteoporosis

                     Progression of osteoporosis

Aerobic exercise maintains the body’s capacity to utilise fuel and oxygen. This type of exercise not only burns fat, it can also lower blood-pressure and strengthen the heart, rendering it less susceptible to heart attacks or valve problems. The cardiovascular system needs exercise to keep it in good condition.

Combining aerobic work-outs with a stretching and toning program helps the joints to remain flexible and the muscles supple.

Weight-bearing activities such as walking, running and weight training ensure that the bones do not become thin as we grow older. They also tone the muscles and improve our posture, thus lessening our chances of suffering from age-related structural problems.

One of the major benefits of these forms of activity is the mental and emotional strength they foster. Most people experience a feeling of well-being about twenty minutes into a moderate work-out. This is a result of natural endorphins, which are mood-elevating substances, being released into the system. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to go out on a wet, windy day, but, having done so; it is amazing how good you can feel half an hour later. People often comment on how a long, brisk walk reduces stress and tension.

Toning and exercising the body is a natural way to preserve and strengthen our entire system. We have only the one body, so we may as well get the best out of it. For years I was imprisoned in my body, with neither the knowledge nor the willpower to escape. I could barely walk for ten minutes before I started the program, yet today I have no problem walking two or three miles a day. I would be miserable without physical activity and I soon know when I have not done enough: my joints, which have been damaged by all the years of carrying the excess weight, stiffen and become more painful.

One fact that caught my attention recently is that, for every hour of moderate exercise, our life span can be increased by around two hours. I have made a decision to live to the age of a hundred and still be physically and mentally active. If I maintain my program of two hours a day of brisk walking in the winter months and three hours in the summer until I am ninety-five, I will have added five years to my life.

Some of the gentler forms of exercise such as Yoga and Tai Chi are great for those starting out but it is important to have a great teacher. Even these seemingly gentle movements can cause you joint problems if they have not been used for a long time!!

Aerobics

Aerobics are a good way to maintain fitness, but it is not a good idea to do such a strenuous work-out when you are severely overweight, because you can damage joints and muscles and put additional strain on the heart and other organs. Before joining an aerobics class, carry out some basic research. Begin with low-impact aerobics, guided by a qualified instructor, and watch the class for a session before participating yourself. Make sure there is an adequate warm-up and warm-down period and some stretching exercises are included in the program.

You may feel more confident if you work out at home first, perhaps using a video. I started by dancing to my favourite music in the kitchen. At the time I weighed over 250 lbs. (113 kg), but I took it slowly at first, a few minutes at a time, until I felt confident about joining a class. You will soon feel the benefits. Not only will you burn fat, but you will also improve your circulation and lung capacity; your muscles will be toned and your stamina will increase.

Do not be tempted to do aerobics every day. Two or three times a week, combined with other forms of exercise, will be more than adequate. Make sure that you wear the right footwear, providing adequate ankle support, and that your clothing is not too restrictive. Keep a bottle of water nearby and stop regularly to take a drink. For every hour of aerobic exercise, you will need an additional litre of water.

Aquarobics

Another popular form of aerobics takes place in the water. Aquarobics is ideal for someone who is still too heavy for the dry land equivalent. The water cushions the joints and offers resistance to the muscles to make them work harder. Provided you feel comfortable in a bathing suit, you can begin this as soon as you like. Again, you do not have to complete a whole hour. If you feel you are getting too tired, stop and swim or relax for a short time and then resume. You will find that, over a period of weeks, your stamina, and ability to perform the various exercises, will improve and you may then think about joining a more conventional aerobics class.

Jogging and running

Jogging and running are classified as aerobics, with the additional benefit that you are out in the fresh air. Again this is an activity best done when you have reached a certain level of fitness. Do not push yourself too hard. Start by walking and then, when you can walk comfortably for an hour or more at a brisk pace, introduce some jogging. Walk a hundred paces and jog for the next fifty. After several days, increase the level of jogging until you are completing your usual distance in a shorter time. You must ensure that you are wearing the correct shoes. Normal walking shoes will not be suitable so investing in a pair of running shoes is essential. Make sure that your muscles are warmed up before you start to jog. Walk for the first fifteen minutes at a brisk pace and then change your stride.

Cycling

Cycling can be a great pleasure, although this depends on having access to pleasant places to ride. Mountain bikes have become popular in recent years, enabling us to ride on more varied terrain than the roads, which can be dangerous. As with all these activities, you should take things easy to begin with. Plan short trips of about half an hour. Save the day trips until you have the necessary power and stamina. Wear a helmet and elbow and knee protection if you are on the road, and the bicycle should have adequate lighting if you are cycling after dark. Most gyms have a static cycle and the home version can also be effective, but they can be boring unless you can watch the television or listen to music at the same time. Cycling in the fresh air, safely, is the best form of this exercise.

Swimming

Swimming can be monotonous unless you set yourself some realistic targets. You can be any weight when you start swimming. However, I found that embarrassment kept me out of the pool for a long time. I was self-conscious in a swimming suit, even when I was lucky enough to find one the right size. Usually the cup of the suit was huge and the bottom too tight. I will admit to being a coward on this one and it took me at least two years and a hundred pounds of weight loss before I ventured into the water. Once I did, however, I loved it. There is no stress on the body or the joints, and it tones everything.

Start with the objective of completing one lap without stopping and progress until you are completing as many as possible within a specific length of time. An hour is ideal.

Over the weeks you can either increase the number of laps to fill the time, or do the same number of laps in less time. No safety equipment is necessary, except for a swimming pool attendant – and strong shoulder straps!

Tennis

Tennis is a game I have loved since I was a child. It is competitive and can be fast-paced so, once again, wait until you have reached a comfortable fitness level before trying it. It is easy to damage the knees and leg muscles if you overdo it, so go gently.

I began by hitting a ball off the house wall for a few minutes every day, in time progressing to half an hour. This gave me an opportunity to get used to the twisting and turning that is involved. You get an excellent upper-body work-out with tennis, but you can strain shoulder and elbow joints and your muscles. It is a good idea to take lessons at first, to ensure that you are using the correct and least damaging strokes. If you are returning to tennis, then start with doubles, progressing to singles after a few weeks. You don’t have to make Wimbledon in your first season!

Weight training

Weight training tones the muscles and burns off fat. There are some simple routines to begin with, which require no weights at all. Moving the arms and legs slowly and firmly provides some exercise. Begin with arm extensions to the side and the front, clenching the fist and slowly bringing it up and down. I moved from this to lifting tins of beans and have now graduated to a multi-gym, which I use for just ten minutes a day.

I was always worried about being left with too much loose skin if I lost weight. The walking, drinking water and aerobic exercise have all played their part in toning my skin and forming firm muscle, but doing repetitions using light weights (two to five pounds each) has added the finishing touches. It is better from a fat-burning and toning perspective to develop a routine using light to moderate weights many times. Lifting heavy weights without proper supervision can damage the back and other parts of the body. Take advice from a qualified instructor. A book may not tell you all you need to know for your particular fitness level and body type.

Household chores

Finally, we should not forget housework and its benefits as a form of exercise. An hour of active house-cleaning, gardening or cleaning the car will use up around 200 to 250 calories. This, and running up and down the stairs in a normal day, can provide you with an opportunity to work out every day – and it also keeps the home looking good too!

Whatever form of activity you choose, you must enjoy it in order to feel all the benefits. Do have an occasional rest day, when you simply take a gentle stroll in the fresh air. Too much intensive working-out can be counter-productive, since the body can become tired and possibly strained. If you have a lot of weight to lose, this obviously is not going to happen overnight. Give your body a chance to get used to the new level of activity and vary your routine so that you and the body continue to find it stimulating and beneficial the whole time.

For me, there is no substitute for the way I feel when I finish my exercise. I am restricted, to a degree, by previous injuries caused by too much strain at my heaviest weight. However, I am delighted to be able to walk, swim and do weight training.

©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001-2015

Image mammoth thinklink.com

Previous 16 Chapters of Size Matters can be found here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/size-matters-serialisation/