Sleep, Stress, Zinc and Your Immune Function
SLEEP AND IMMUNE FUNCTION
Sleep is foundational for a healthy immune system. Let’s take advantage of this time when life has slowed down a bit to zone in our healthy sleep habits.
At @vidafunctionalmedicine, we talk to almost all of our patients about strategies for getting the best sleep possible. Here are our top sleep tips to make sure you’re rested and energized:
1. Limit your screen-time/access to blue light on your phones/TV/computer, especially an hour or so before bedtime. Wear blue light glasses if you need to be on your screen!
2. Your sleeping space should be as dark as possible – so dark that you can’t see your hand when you hold it in front of your face. This will help your body to make its own melatonin.
3. Practice some light stretching and meditation/deep breathing before bedtime. Have a cup of soothing herbal tea (chamomile is a great choice). Create a relaxing ritual that you like to do.
4. Don’t drink too much water/liquid an hour before bed.
5. Try to stop snacking about 3 hours before bed. Your last meal of the day should contain some carbohydrates as this helps to regulate serotonin.
6. Other natural sleep aids include tart cherry juice, magnesium, passionflower, and phosphatidylserine. Check with your doctor to see which supplement would be most appropriate for you!
STRESS AND IMMUNE FUNCTION
These are strange and confusing times for everyone. Many of us are navigating working from home, keeping kids busy while they’re home from school, and trying to keep up with the latest information about how we keep our families healthy. Our nervous systems are maxed out! The time is now for RADICAL SELF CARE. This is foundationally important to our wellness during this difficult time.
When we have a stressful episode our body pumps out “stress” hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Our immune cells have receptors for these hormones, it helps keep our immune system on guard for whatever is coming. Human bodies are wise that way! The problem arises when the stress is relentless, day after day (sound like a familiar scenario?).
When we have high stress every day, our immune system struggles. Our pro-inflammatory signals increase, latent viruses become activated, and we start to loose resiliency. In order to have a balanced, strong immune system, we have to dig deep and get stress under control. If you need some support in this department, here are 4 ways to support your stress levels right now:
– Take a bath! A hot soak with some Epsom salts can be very calming. You’ll want to add about 2 cups of salts to your full tub, enough that you can feel some granules when you first get in.
– Get outside into nature, even a quick walk. If you find yourself feeling anxious and unable to relax, challenge yourself to utilize your 5 senses. Go through the motions and mentally check in about what you can hear, smell, see, feel, and taste.
ZINC AND IMMUNE SYSTEM
Zinc is an immune support superstar – it affects multiple aspects of our immune function. Zinc is required for the development and function of many cells responsible for mounting an immune response including neutrophils, natural killer cells, and macrophages. Further, zinc has antioxidant properties that can support the body during an inflammatory process (like viral illness).
It’s always nice to get nutrients from food when possible. Here are some great dietary sources of zinc – pick a few of your favorites and try to incorporate them into your diet regularly.
Seafood: Oysters, Alaska king crab, lobster
Meats: Beef, lamb, chicken (dark meat)
Nuts and Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, cashews
BELLY BREATHING FOR STRESS RELIEF
“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.”
1. Lie down flat in a comfortable and calm environment. Place your left hand over your heart and your right hand on your abdomen.
2. Focus your intention on breathing into your belly, like you’re filling a bottle from the bottom up. Feel your belly rise and fall and breathe with intention.
3. When you’re practicing belly breathing, the hand on your heart will rise very little. The hand on your belly will rise in rhythm with your breathe.
4. When you’re ready, fill your belly with air. Hold for a count of four. Exhale through your nose for a count of four.
5. Repeat for as long as you’re comfortable. 5 minutes is a great goal!
Dr. Kalea Wattles, ND
Functional Medicine Physician Womens Fertility