Volume 10 Issue 4

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Page 28 of 31 | # 51| Page 29 3. Exercise daily. Physical exercise during the day is crucial to promoting good sleep at night . Getting some activity outdoors is even better, as exposure to natural light during the morning and midday can help regulate your sleep . Even a 10-minute walk can help if you feel pressed for time . But try to avoid exercising within a couple of hours of bedtime . 4. Avoid stimulants before bed. Avoiding stimulants like caffeine or nicotine and even sugar after mid-afternoon can help . Avoid alcohol, too; while it may help you fall asleep initially, it can cause you to wake during the night . If you have any digestive issues, you might also want to avoid large meals or rich foods—which take longer to digest—before sleep . 5. Try a natural sleep aid. If sleep still eludes you, consider taking melatonin to help you fall asleep . Known as the body's natural sleep inducer, melatonin is a hormone secreted by your body's pineal gland . Blood level concentrations of melatonin are at their highest in the middle of the night and are almost non-existent during the day . 3 Good sleep habits are a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle— as important as ea ng a well-balanced diet, being ac ve, maintaining meaningful rela onships, and managing life's inevitable stresses. There's simply no subs tute for a good night's sleep, and not much (as the saying goes) that a good night's sleep can't fix. References: Physiol Rev. 2013 Apr; 93(2): 681–766. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan; 463(1): 121–137. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2017 Apr; 15(3): 434–443. By Jolie Root, LPN, LNC Have you been feeling stressed lately? You are not alone. A poll, Stress in America: January 2021 Stress Snapshot, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association, found that 84% of adults reported feeling at least one emotion related to prolonged stress. Those include anxiety, sadness, or anger. Additionally, two in three adults (67%) said the number of issues America is facing is overwhelming to them. While not surprising, what is worrisome about these numbers is the impact of stress on immunity. At a time when immunity is top of mind, we can hardly afford to let stress be chipping away at our well-being. How does stress impact the immune response? The immune system is comprised of cells, proteins, organs, and tissues that work together to provide protection against infections and disease. Acute (short-term) stress increases blood levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Chronic (long- term) stress is associated with higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, with potentially harmful consequences. Inflammation is a necessary short- term response for eliminating pathogens and initiating healing, but chronic, systemic inflammation disrupts the healthy actions of the immune system. As people age, they are less able to mount appropriate immune responses to stressors. These could be physical stressors, such as injury, or psychological stressors, such as caregiving. In addition, psychological stress affects us in a manner like the effects of chronological age, and chronological aging coupled with chronic stress accelerates immunological aging. What can we do? There are many healthy habits that support a vibrant, healthy immune system: • Start with food. Avoid over-processed foods, and stick with a whole-food, plant-based diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and lean proteins like fish. • Avoid added sugar and too much salt. • Keep alcohol and caffeine to a moderate intake. • Get moving. Exercise erases a multitude of bad habits by offsetting a sedentary lifestyle and making up for occasional poor sleep. • Practice relaxing. Relax with a great book, your favorite magazines, meditation, or uplifting music. • Take a walk-in nature to naturally boost endorphins and counter those stressful thoughts. • Create a garden. • Be social. Spend time with friends and loved ones. Loneliness makes the harmful impacts of stress on immune function worse. Good friends also help to buffer the stress of negative events. • Lastly, never underestimate the power of supplements. Vitamins A, C, and D; omega-3s; zinc; magnesium; B complex vitamins; and herbs like curcumin; elderberry; and green tea, which all support a healthy immune system. Wishing you less stressful times ahead! How Stress Affects Our Immune System

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