Horseman’s Health: Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday

Holiday season is here and getting to participate in all the fun means staying healthy so you don’t miss out on anything. The best way to make sure you are in tip top shape for all the festivities is to help your body out with an immune system boost starting now. This time of year when there are lots of cold and flu germs ready to attack, not to mention all the added stress, eating holiday foods that are not always the healthiest for us, and possibly lack of adequate sleep, our bodies can use a little help in this area. Here are a few tips from various experts to help you boost your immune system and have a happy, healthy holiday.

Importance of Probiotics on the Immune System
When you hear the word “probiotics”, you probably think of digestion and you’d be right. But did you also know that the friendly bacteria that lives in your intestines helps your body in other ways? First they help in the production of B vitamins that we need to help deal with stress which is particularly prevalent during the holiday season. Probiotics of the lactobacillus variety have been found to help in producing digestive enzymes and some studies are indicating that certain probiotics help absorb cholesterol which can lower coronary disease risk. Bifidobacteria can help in relieving stress put on the liver caused by overeating and a surplus of bad bacteria producing excess ammonia gas. But the really good news for the immune system is that these good bacteria in your intestines are part of your immune system function. Research studies have shown that increasing the number of these probiotics in your intestines can lead to lowering your risk of contracting a cold or if you do get one, it can reduce the number of days you are symptomatic. A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition done in the UK reported participants taking a probiotic supplement every day reduced the likelihood of catching a cold and that those that did catch cold had 76% less time with sneezing symptoms and 50% less with coughing symptoms. Children taking the probiotics missed less school due to sickness than those that took a placebo. The University of Vienna in Austria also found favorable results in a study with factory workers in Sweden in which those adding Lactobacillus reuteri to their diets showed 33% less time lost from work from being sick. This was attributed to the white blood cells being stimulated with the addition of this probiotic. Yogurt and other fermented foods can help you get more probiotics in your system working for you, but make sure you read labels and get foods with live active cultures. You can also use whole food supplements to get extra probiotics such as acidophilusbifidus and this full-spectrum probiotic supplement that has 12 key “good bacteria” and AFA bluegreen algae added in.

Mushrooms As Immune Boosters 
Director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington, DC, Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, MNIMH, as well as many other experts report that mushrooms are a natural immune booster. They increase white blood cell production and have properties that can help protect you from viruses, bacteria and even yeast. Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms have been found to be the best immunity boosters. You’ll find all these mushrooms as well as cordyceps, Turkey Tail and Agaricus blazei mushrooms, with astragalus, beta glucan and AFA bluegreen algae in this immune support supplement.

Beta-glucan for Immune Support
Beta-glucans are fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties found in foods such as grains like oats and barley or a supplement such as this one for immune system support that also has the immune boosting support from mushrooms. Macrophages, an important part of immune system function, can be activated by beta-glucans. This is especially important when under stress such as holiday time can bring on. If you are constantly under stress your immune system can be compromised by lower numbers of killer cells and macrophages working for you. Adding beta-glucan to your diet can help, but you also need to find a way to cope with that stress. Meditation, a hobby, or any activity that gives you joy and laughter will go a long way to helping you combat the stress that can lower immune system function.

Eat Antioxidant Foods 
Free radicals are molecules in cells that are weakened to the point that they lose an electron leading to damaged cells that can cause inflammation and chronic disease. This can be caused by toxins in the body, exposure to UV rays, chlorinated water, pollution, and overcooked, fried and processed foods. Free radicals then proceed to take electrons from other molecules and create more free radicals. Our bodies produce antioxidant enzymes that replace the missing electron to help combat these free radicals to keep them from doing damage. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t produce enough of these antioxidant enzymes to keep up with all the free radicals so we must help it out by eating foods with antioxidants and/or dietary supplements. The best foods for antioxidants are bright colored fruits and vegetables. If you don’t get enough fruits and veggies in your diet, then consider adding this antioxidant and algae supplement to your daily routine. Not only do the ingredients in it give you extra antioxidant power; it also has the added benefit of those ingredients nourishing your natural stem cells which can help repair damage to other cells.

Take a Walk
Exercise is another way to help with stress reduction and boost immune system functioning. Experts advise moderate exercise such as taking a 30 minute walk every day and have found that this can reduce days missed at work due to sickness by half. Other studies show that doing 30 minutes of aerobic type exercise each day can increase circulation of white blood cells that are an important part of immune system function.

Drink Your Way to Health 
L-theanine is an amino acid found in both black and green tea and has been found to be a good immunity booster. A Harvard study found participants that drank 5 cups of black tea each day over two weeks showed ten times the amount of interferon to fight off viruses than those not drinking tea. Further study from the University of Michigan found that drinking black and green tea helped prevent replication of viruses and credited the quercetin found in these teas as the cause.

Make sure you get in on all the fun of the holiday festivities by getting your immune system in good shape to help you have the happiest, healthiest holiday possible.

Abrams, Karl J., Algae to the Rescue!

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About Madalyn Ward, DVM

This blog provides information based on my unique take on horse health and well being. The articles are based on experience of treating and working with horses for over 40 years. In most cases the articles are focused on an holistic approach to health and management. When conventional medicine offers good research or therapy, I share this information as well. Madalyn Ward, DVM