This article was created by BlogHer for Nature Made.
You probably aren’t getting enough vitamin D. How do I know this? According to Dr. Susan Mitmesser, head of Scientific Research for Nature Made, vitamin D deficiencies north of the equator are super common. In fact, it’s the number one deficiency in the U.S. During a fireside chat at BlogHer Food, the medical expert confirmed this and more as she taught everyone how to eat their way to a healthier immune system, 70 percent of which is in your gut (another fun fact I’m still thinking about).
We’re in the middle of flu season and a pandemic, but your work as a creator hasn’t slowed down. I’d bet you’re busier than ever with Q4 goals or end-of-year sales you hope to secure. Still, your number one priority should be staying healthy. After all, being productive is a lot harder when you’re also fighting a nasty cold.
“When we think about the immune system, it’s really just the body’s ability to fight off infection. This can happen in a couple of different ways. Your body can stop something from entering your body,” said Dr. Mitmesser. “But also, if something does enter your body, your immune system can provide counter-measures to fight what’s entered your body. Your body does this through a very complex, interconnected system of cells and tissues, and organs.”
The best approach to bolstering your immune system is a holistic one. Your environment, exercise regimen, mindfulness, diet, and sleep pattern can all have an impact. And then there are less obvious factors. Ahead, some of Dr. Mitmesser’s advice for staying in tip-top shape this winter, including how to start supplementation. Just remember—”not one vitamin or mineral is going to make everything better. Think of each vitamin and mineral as being a piece to the puzzle and they all cohesively help systems run better.”
Beauty Rest is Key
“A lot of people think sleep is a waste of time. ‘I’ll sleep more when I die’ is what my parents used to say. The reason it’s not great advice is that your body during sleep is really rejuvenating and repairing. If you don’t have proper sleep, your body isn’t able to do that. Your body is also releasing things called cytokines that help fight infection. If you’re not sleeping enough, your body is not able to rejuvenate, rest, and release these chemicals that help you bolster your immune system.”
What Strengthens Your Immune System
“Remember your first line of defense is your skin. That’s the innate part of the immune system. Vitamin C really helps ensure the integrity of your skin and gastrointestinal tract lining. And then you have the adaptive immune system, which is where chemicals are released to fight infection.
Think of the innate immune system as the guards—not letting something in—and think of the adaptive system as the soldiers—if something does get in, the soldiers tag them, wipe them out, and get rid of them. There are a handful of micronutrients that we know are significantly influencing the immune system. Some of those are vitamins A, C, E, D, and zinc. All of those are interconnected…and really help in parts of the immune system.”
Food for Thought
“There are a couple of foods that are powerful punches of some of those micronutrients. I always start with a colorful plate. The reason you want lots of colors is not just because it’s aesthetically pleasing but because it means it has all of these micronutrients that are super helpful for your body. For example, orange foods like carrots and all types of different peppers are super packed with vitamin A and vitamin C.
Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. There’s even emerging evidence showing that it helps with mood and things of that nature as well…Start with trying to include more fish into your diet.
Watch the Fireside Chat with Dr. Susan Mitmesser:
How to Approach Supplements
“When it comes to supplementation, it really starts with self-reflection and figuring out what you’re lacking in your diet. A multi is always a great place to start. It gives you a foundation of micro-nutrients. Then do a self-reflection and think, how is my lifestyle affecting the things I’m putting in my body? If I’m running a ton, my demand for nutrients increases. Am I allergic to anything? If I’m allergic to dairy, I’m probably not getting vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium.
You want to make sure your regimen is something you can stick to. I don’t like to swallow pills, so I find a supplement that’s in a different form. I like the little gummies. Find a form that you like. There’s so many different options. I always recommend eating them with a meal so that it helps digest it better. Breakfast is probably the most habitual meal of the day.”
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