Offering kids “choices within limits” is linked with better well-being.
The study found the benefits of “autonomy-supportive parenting” can be immediate.
To use the parenting style, focus on teaching, empathy, and making kids feel loved.
Letting kids choose which cereal to eat, where to do homework, or how to best dress for the weather can lead to positive well-being for both them and their parents, a study published Tuesday in the journal Child Development suggests.
The study included 562 parents of six- to nine-year-olds in Germany, who filled out a questionnaire every day for three weeks in spring 2020 when coronavirus-related restrictions and closures were in place.
The researchers found that giving kids so-called “choice within limits” – as opposed to making demands or letting them do whatever they want – contributed to parents feeling like their needs were being met, which at the same time prompted them to continue parenting that way.
Burnt-out parents can adopt the approach during the coronavirus pandemic, the authors contend, and reap the benefits immediately. Over time, kids become more independent, confident, empathetic, resilient, and intrinsically motivated, research suggests.
“Giving them choices [means] kids are coping better, it means that they’re more behaviorally regulated, they’re less emotional,” Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a school psychologist in Connecticut who was not involved in the research, told Insider. “And so then that’s just going to reduce the stress at home, and parents are going to be happier.”
To practice autonomy-supportive parenting, focus on teaching and showing unconditional love
“Choice within limits” is one aspect of autonomy-supportive parenting, a style in which parents involve their kids in the decision-making process, while providing safe and age-appropriate boundaries.
The alternatives are more controlling styles (“eat your Wheaties because I said so”) or, on the other end of the spectrum, more permissive styles, like letting kids leave the house in shorts during a snowstorm.
Practicing autonomy-supportive parenting requires more time and patience up front, but it’s worth it for the whole family in the short and long-term, Capanna-Hodge said.
“You can talk to your child in a discipline-oriented corrective method, and you’re going to repeat yourself and you’re going to be frustrated and they’re going to be frustrated,” she said. “Or, you can shift your language and you can really focus on teaching.”
For example, instead of telling them they can’t wear shorts in the snow, have a conversation about the pros and cons of the choice, why it may not be safe, and what an alternative could be. Instead of demanding your kid to pick up their toys, explain why leaving them all over the floor could hurt someone.
“You’re making an investment through loving communication in that time to get them to start thinking on their own,” Capanna-Hodge said.
Demonstrate empathy and provide unconditional love
Autonomy-supportive parenting also promotes kids’ emotional development and resilience by demonstrating empathy while resisting the urge to coddle them when they’re down.
For example, if a child’s feeling are hurt by a peer, don’t just give them a hug and say, “That person wasn’t nice to you.” Instead, Capanna-Hodge suggests saying, “Wow, that must’ve been really hard. How did did you handle that?”
Another key aspect of autonomy-supportive parenting is making kids feel unconditionally loved by talking to them calmly and without judgment, even when they mess up, psychologist Tali Shenfield writes in a Fine Parent. That way, kids develop confidence in their choices rather than fearing they’ll lose parental acceptance by making the wrong one.
For example, you could brainstorm with your kids about what will help them get to school on time rather than calling them irresponsible or a bad student.
“It’s those kinds of tweaks,” Capanna-Hodge said. “So it’s not as hard as parents think, and they absolutely can do this.”
The gut microbiome is closely linked to immune function – so how can you keep it in tip top shape?
A healthy gut is key for overall health and affects so much more than just our digestion. With links to mental health, heart health, sleep, skin conditions and more, it’s no wonder the gut is often referred to as our ‘second brain’.
And did you know the health of your gut can also have a big impact on your immune function?
“Around 70% of your immune system is actually located in your gastrointestinal tract” says Corin Sadler, nutritionist at Higher Nature. “This means they are very closely linked and, in many ways, one in the same.
“So a healthy gut, filled with diverse bacteria, can be our best weapon in fighting off illnesses.”
So, what can you do to help keep your gut in good shape this winter?
Get more fibre in your diet “A diet that’s high in fibre is key for good gut function,” explains Sadler. “Fibre helps with our digestion and supports a healthy gut microbiome, as it ‘feeds’ our good bacteria to help it thrive.”
In the UK, we generally don’t eat enough fibre, particularly if we’re consuming a lot of processed foods. The British Nutrition Foundation (nutrition.org.uk) says the average intake is 17.2g a day for women and 20.1g a day for men, falling short of the recommended average intake for adults of 30g per day.
To boost your fibre intake, Sadler recommends adding a diverse range of plant-based sources to your daily menu, such as different fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses, as well as healthy cereals, wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice. Keep things interesting and diverse by mixing up your high fibre foods each day. Look for foods containing high levels of prebiotic fibre too, such as leeks, asparagus and bananas.
Take live bacteria daily Live bacteria is sometimes believed to help ‘restore’ the balance of good bacteria in your gut. “When there’s an imbalance of bad and good bacteria in our body, this can impact our overall health.” Sadler explains.
Live yoghurt, kefir and fermented foods and drinks are among popular options. There are also probiotic supplements (although supplements should always be secondary to a healthy, varied diet). Sadler recommends daily probiotics such as Higher Nature’s Pro-Intensive Extra (£21 for 30 capsules, highernature.com), and suggests looking for one that contains 20 billion live organisms per dose and a variety of bacteria strains that work harmoniously to support the natural environment of the gut.
Increase your step count
Getting regular exercise is also linked to better gut health. “We all know exercise is good for almost everything, and this includes our gut health” Sadler explains.
“A 2017 study found exercise is linked to increased diversity of gut bacteria, which is key for a healthy microbiome. And while more research is needed into this area to prove exactly why exercise is beneficial for the gut, the good news is that even gentle exercise, like walking and yoga, can help.”
Eat ginger Ginger doesn’t just taste great when whizzed in a healthy green juice, it also packs some pretty impressive gut health benefits.
Formulate Health (formulatehealth.com) pharmacist Mina Khan explains: “Ginger reduces nausea caused by gut problems and stimulates the digestive system, which helps keep you regular and maintain a healthy gut.
“What’s more, ginger has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties, making it perfect for sufferers of IBS. From ginger tea, to using it in stir-frys and curries, there are so many possibilities when it comes to this wonderful spice.”
Cut down on artificial sweeteners “Artificial sweeteners found in soft drinks may be harmful to gut bacteria and ‘damage’ the health of our microbiome,” Sadler says. “This includes aspartame, which is found in diet soft drinks.
“While these diet soft drinks are often the preferred choice for the health conscious, research has found that toxins are released when gut bacteria is exposed to the sweeteners.
“Cutting down on drinks with artificial sweeteners in exchange for naturally flavoured water, with fresh lemon, lime or cucumber where possible, is much better for our gut health,” she adds.
Take steps to manage stress It’s a worrying time for lots of us right now, but being mindful of managing our stress levels can really make a difference.
“Stress can activate a negative chain reaction in the body, including the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can change the balance of good bacteria in the gut, affecting communication pathways between the gut and the brain,” says Sadler.
“Stress can also affect our digestion and the movement of food through the gut. For some people, it can speed digestion up and for others it can slow it right down, which can result in a host of different gut issues, from bloating and constipation to diarrhoea.”
There are loads of things that can help offset stress, exercise or moving our bodies being one of the biggest. Fresh air, watching a comedy, putting your phone on silent and cooking a nourishing meal, every little helps.
It is time we become more aware about this amazing nut and make American grown pistachios a part of our daily diet.
But this year I’m also recommending pistachios for the wealth of vital nutrients they contain, which can help your immune system to operate at its best.”Moderating the discussion, Mr. Sumit Saran said, “India is a growth market for American grown pistachios.
We are delighted and honored to have Luke Coutinho as Lifestyle Ambassador for America Pistachio Growers in India.
With his help, we will be able to create awareness about American grown pistachios among discerning consumers.
American grown pistachios are available under quality brand names across all major retail points and e-commerce platforms across India.”
Onions do more than just flavor your favorite soups, stir fries, and salads. Whether yellow or brown, white or red, these versatile veggies also add vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to your plate. The good-for-you compounds in onions can ultimately help protect your heart, immune system, and more all while making your entrées, apps, and sides shine.
“Onions are an affordable and flavorful addition to any meal that pack in a dose of antioxidants and serious health benefits,” says Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, Registered Dietitian for the Good Housekeeping Institute.
Give onions — and other members of the allium family such as garlic, scallions, leeks, shallots, and chives — credit where credit is due. These veggies provide a number of advantages as part of a plant-rich diet.
<1g total fat
<1g saturated fat
11mg vitamin C
0.178mg vitamin B6
Onion health benefits:
Onions are nutrient- and flavor-rich.
Onions are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and manganese. Plus, they provide a little dietary fiber. The veggies can also add a lot of flavor to dishes without greatly increasing calories, sodium, or cholesterol, meaning they’re a great substitute for salty sauces or marinades when you’re looking for some extra zip.
Eating onions can boost your heart.
Onions may help out in the cardiovascular department, some researchshows. The naturally occurring compounds within the bulbs’ layers can help fight inflammation and lower cholesterol levels, thereby protecting against heart disease. Research on one particular polyphenol in onions — quercetin — has linked it with lowering blood pressure, too. Red onions in particular contain higher amounts of quercetin, so opt for the more colorful varieties for an extra boost.
It may also strengthen your immune system.
In addition to containing immune-boosting vitamin C, onions provide phytochemicals that can help your body’s defense system out. The antioxidants within them encourage a strong immune system, and other compounds like sulfides assist with protein synthesis.
Onions and their relatives garlic, shallots, and leeks can provide a number of health benefits as part of a veggie-rich diet.
Lynne DaleyGetty Images
Eating more onions may reduce your cancer risk.
“Allium vegetables, like onions and garlic, are rich in antioxidants and thought to have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Sassos, a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition. “They provide organosulfur compounds that can reduce the risk of certain cancers including prostate cancer. They make an excellent addition to any cancer prevention diet.”
People who consumed a large amount of alliums were less likely to develop gastric cancer, per a 2014 meta-analysis of 27 studies. Another review of 16 studies also linked high-allium consumption with a lower risk of colon cancer.
It may promote good digestion too.
The dietary fiber in onions can help your digestive system stay in tip-top shape. These prebiotic compounds promote the growth of good gut bacteria, a.k.a. probiotics. In turn, these living organisms prevent or manage GI issues and help out your immune system at the same time.
What’s more, the specific type of fiber found in onions (as well as garlic, wheat, and legumes) may more effectively feed the beneficial microbiota than the fiber found in other foods, a 2018 meta-analysis found.
That said, not everyone should chow down on onions for digestive health. “Although onions exhibit prebiotic activity which can enhance intestinal health in many people, individuals who suffer from IBS or are following a low-FODMAP diet may want to limit their consumption,” Sassos warns. “Onions are particularly high in the FODMAP fructans, which can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and exacerbate IBS symptoms.”
Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.
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INID Research Lab, developer of the ingredient Glyteine, announced recently that it had won a $25,000 award in the event, called the Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s Next in Naturals QuickFire Challenge on Immune Support. The company has brought to market an ingredient branded as Glyteine, with has been shown in a clinical trial to rapidly boost glutathione levels within the cells. The ingredient forms the basis of a direct-to-consumer supplement called Continual-G, which debuted in 2020.
Lining up the research
Rajan Shah, president of the Cypress, TX-based company, said the major challenge in entering the competition was lining up all of the documentation that supported the notion that declining glutathione levels degrades cells’ immune function and that finding a way to boost those levels could better arm the body to fend off attacks from viruses and other pathogens.
“They were looking for evidence-based solutions that support the immune system. We spend a couple of months on preparing the writeup and the documentation,” Shah said.
Glutathione, known as the body’s ‘master antioxidant’ is produced in all tissues of the body. It is formed via a two step enzymatic process. The first joins the amino acids glutamate and glycine to make gamma-glutamylcysteine (GGC) and the second adds another glycine molecule to make glutathione. But this system degrades as cells age, with the first enzyme losing its capacity to produce enough GGC to sustain the body’s glutathione needs. Free radical damage to DNA and other cellular structures then accelerates, hastening the senescence of cells.
Instability of molecule presents challenge
Glutathione supplementation has always been problematical because the ingredient is highly reactive by nature. The molecule tends to quickly fall apart into its component amino acids. This could still supply the building blocks for endogenous glutathione synthesis within the cells but it doesn’t address the degradation of the enzymatic function.
Some existing ingredients have shown statistically significant increases in cellular glutathione levels but only after months of supplementation.
However, Shah said his company’s Continual-G dietary supplement, based on the Glyteine ingredient which had been under development for years in Australia, was shown a placebo-controlled pilot study published in the journal Redox Biology to be taken directly into the cells, where it was available for the second stage of the glutathione synthesis pathway. The result was glutathione levels that peaked at two to three times above basal levels within 90 minutes of supplementation.
In addition to the grant, INID Research Lab will receive one year of residency at an available JLABS, and mentorship from experts at Johnson & Johnson Innovation.
“We feel this incredible opportunity will empower us to accelerate the development and global commercialization of Glyteine to potentially bring about many more life-enhancing solutions,” Shah said. “We look forward to the opportunity to work with Johnson & Johnson Innovation as we aim to provide improved immune support options to people worldwide.”
“It is gratifying that our 20-plus years of research and collaborative work by a group of Australian biochemical scientists and engineers
has brought us to this point and is now being acknowledged by this award,” he added.
Social media slip up
While winning the grant was gratifying, communicating good news about immune health in connection with dietary supplements is complicated in the current climate. In mid 2020 INID Research Lab was cited by the National Advertising Division for making what were deemed to be COVID-19 treatment claims for its ingredient via a social media post. The company agreed to remove the post.
Gone are the days when functional beverages looked like caffeinated energy shots or sports performance drinks laden with sugar. From aphrodisiac elixirs to calming CBD-infused spritzers; bubbly water with immune-boosting adaptogens to non-carbonated water designed to encourage sleep—now seemingly every health condition has a solution in drink form. They’re known as functional beverages—drinks that include an added boost nutrition—and they’re seriously buzzing.
With greater awareness of the negative health outcomes of COVID-19 for people with compromised immune systems and weight-related conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, 43% of Americans are resolving to adopt healthier diets this year, according to a YouGov survey. Liquids are an obvious place to start—Alcohol Change UK estimates over 6.5 million people are abstaining from drinking alcohol for Dry January. Even before the pandemic, interest in sugary juices and pop soda drinks has been gradually declining, while water consumption is up.
But abstinence isn’t enough to satisfy our thirst for both flavorful drinks and better health. In the wake of the pandemic, consumers are drinking up the functional beverage trend—over half of adults surveyed by The Hartman Group last year reported using beverages to treat or prevent a specific condition and maintain overall health.
With their physical convenience, shelf-stability and ease of consumption, it’s no surprise the functional beverage industry is the fastest growing market in the food sector, according to ScienceDirect. Given that the plant-based beverage market is expected to exceed a value of $33 billion by 2026, it looks like functional drinks are a trend that’s here to stay.
Whether you’re seeking a non-alcoholic happy hour replacement, a remedy for an ongoing health issue or simply craving a drink that offers more than hydration, here are 11 functional beverages you’ll want to sip on well beyond Dry January.
The CBD beverage brand known for their relaxing alcohol alternatives launched the Evening Blend collection late last year to offer some calm amidst the stress of 2020. The bubbly drink—available in Peach Jasmine, Plum Blush and Citrus Spice—is packed with adaptogens and botanicals known to relieve stress, like Ashwagandha, ginseng, L-Theanine and chamomile. But what really sets the Evening Blend apart is its 30mg dose of broad spectrum hemp CBD, making it one of the highest dosed CBD drinks on the market.
Wild Wonder founder Rosa Li was inspired to make a functional drink that prioritizes the gut from watching her grandmother in China brew stomach-soothing tonics to boost immunity. The Guava Rose contains both probiotics and prebiotic plant fiber—the two crucial components to balancing the gut microbiome—plus elderberry and chicory root for extra immune support. Made with maple syrup instead of sugar, California lemons and pink guava puree sourced from organic and sustainable farms, this bestseller is refreshing without being too sweet.
This non-carbonated, zero-calorie, sugar-free drink contains 200mg of L-theanine and 10% of the recommended daily dose of magnesium, two ingredients known to relax the body. The idea for the enhanced water came from an internal competition among Pepsi employees. But with the pandemic increasing insomnia cases across the United States, it was an idea that PepsiCo took seriously. The fastest new product to ever come out of the company has a subtle blackberry lavender flavor and is strategically designed in small 7.5-ounce cans to prevent bathroom trips mid-sleep.
This award-winning water brand’s newest collagen-infused water combines the natural alkaline spring water they’re known for with 10 grams of grass-fed bovine collagen protein to support skin, hair, nail and joint health. The 100% recyclable carton made with over 75% renewable materials keeps this nourishing drink fresh for up to 13-months. Blood Orange, Pomegranate and Meyer Lemon recently joined the existing flavor selection of Watermelon, Pink Grapefruit and Cucumber.
The functional drink market offers countless probiotic-infused drinks to choose from, but few beverage brands have picked up on the importance of prebiotics—a type of fiber that serves as food for probiotics but the body is unable to produce itself. Enter Poppi: a functional soda that contains one tablespoon of prebiotic-rich apple cider vinegar. Here, fermented apples give the gut a boost by promoting pH balance, killing harmful bacteria, improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar post-meals. The low-sugar, low-calorie soda comes in seven fruity flavors, but the Strawberry Lemon and Raspberry Rose are fan favorites.
This booze- and sugar-free beverage line relies on organic ingredients and adaptogens to deliver satisfying mocktails that offer more benefits than just the hangover-free morning. From a margarita-meets-Dark ‘n Stormy made with Mayan aphrodisiac damiana to a floral Cucumber Collins remake containing 125mg of Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb known to reduce stress—their selection is small but diverse. The standout is this zero-proof spin on an Aperol Spritz made with stress-reducing holy basil and anti-inflammatory turmeric.
This sparkling tonic is made with ginger, burdock and dandelion, three herbs known to stimulate digestion. All their recipes are vetted by a clinical herbalist and each bottle contains four times the equivalent amount of herbs found in a standard tea bag. Unlike kombucha, which detoxifies by adding probiotics to the system, Sunwink’s Detox Ginger encourages the body to do the work itself by stimulating the digestive enzymes in the gut. The cleansing drink is lightly sweetened with maple syrup, so you get all the benefits without the added sugar.
This carbonated drink is the first of its kind to serve the dual function of boosting energy and immunity. Each bottle delivers a hit of energy with its high dose, 160mg, of organic green tea caffeine, while protecting the immune system with 100% of the daily value of vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D. The zero-sugar drink relieves stress with relaxing herbs like bacopa monnieri and Ashwagandha, and promotes energy and protein formation with magnesium, D-Ribose and BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids). Available in six fruity flavors, Sway officially launches at the end of the month (currently available for pre-order online).
Alani Nu is known for their yummy workout supplements, like their sour peach ring-flavored BCAA powder (Branch Chain Amino Acids) and confetti cake whey protein powder. Now they’ve packaged their protein in a ready-to-drink bottle, making recovery on-the-go easy. The gluten and lactose-free drink contains 20 grams of lean whey protein, and with indulgent flavors like munchies and fruity cereal, it’s hard to believe each bottle contains only 6 grams of sugar.
Brothers and co-founders Asim and Qasim Khan were inspired to create ZYN after witnessing turmeric cure their father’s nerve pain in Pakistan. Understanding that the powerful anti-inflammatory needs to be activated to be absorbed—ZYN includes piperine from black pepper to ensure you benefit from the 200mg of turmeric in each bottle. Available in four fruity flavors, the refreshing drink is also fortified with vitamins C and D for added immune support.
Vega’s new Hello Wellness line of functional drinks offers all the benefits of a protein supplement in an easy on-the-go form—all you need is water to make a smooth shake. This raspberry blackberry-flavored formula stands out for brain support—each serving contains 32mg of Omega-3 DHA, a fatty acid essential to maintaining brain function. Keeping in line with the company’s plant-based, sustainable ethos, the DHA is sourced from marine algae rather than fish oil and the 15 grams of protein in each scoop comes from pea and pumpkin seeds.
“People are at a heightened level of anxiety because of COVID,” she said. “But, you should be careful what you spend your money on.”
Certain foods also may help prevent illness, Wilkerson Riddiford said. Pumpkin seeds, for instance, have a high amount of zinc, which is known to help boost the immune system, she said.
The most beneficial thing people can do to prevent falling ill is to wash their hands, get plenty of sleep and abide by COVID-19 recommendations such as wearing masks in public and keeping a safe distance, said Dr. Seuli Brill, a pediatrician and internal medicine doctor at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
While Brill said there’s some benefit to taking vitamins and supplements, they also can cause problems.
St. John’s Wort, which has been used to treat a variety of conditions including poor sleep or appetite, can interfere with antidepressants, Brill said. Another supplement called Ginkgo biloba, which is used sometimes used by people with dizziness or memory loss, can cause an upset stomach or skin irritation.
Although supplements aren’t drugs, patients should treat them similarly, Brill said. Anyone looking to try a new vitamin or supplement for any reason should first talk to their doctor, Brill said.
Brill said she’s had patients who all of a sudden start having some unusual health problems.
“There’s absolutely danger in that,” Brill said. “I’ve definitely had patients with lab abnormalities, liver enzymes and things being off, and it turns out that patient is taking a supplement.”
The Covid-19 vaccination rollout is underway with demand outpacing availability. With millions in line for the vaccine, experts offer advice to consider during the wait: prioritize your mental health.
In a recent preprint (not peer-reviewed) report, researchers argue stress, depression, loneliness, and poor health behaviors may impair the immune system’s response to vaccines. Poor mental health, it’s suggested, may be a risk factor for delayed immune response to the vaccine and can potentially shorten the duration of immunity.
This claim has not been tested in individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 but is based on 30 years of studies documenting the impact of psychological factors on the immune system’s vaccine response. The preprint is accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Senior author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser is the director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine. She tells Inverse previous research, including studies conducted on how stress changes the body’s response to the hepatitis B vaccine, suggests “people who are more stressed and more anxious might take longer to respond to the vaccines” for coronavirus, too.
This is not to say people won’t be protected from the Covid-19 vaccines — they will be. Instead, it’s about protecting one’s mental health in an effort to maximize the vaccines’ effectiveness. Individuals can take concrete, meaningful steps to ensure their immune system is operating at peak performance before vaccination.
Mental health and immunity —After vaccination, the body launches an innate, general immune response to a potential biological threat. Part of this response involves the production of antibodies, and the continued production of antibodies indicates how effectively a vaccine protects you over time.
Poor mental health may influence the body’s immunological response, explains Fulvio D’Acquisto, a professor of immunology and the University of Roehampton. He was not involved in the new report. His work suggests the cellular composition of our immune system responds “to every positive and negative feeling or emotional experience” — like laughing, crying, or being in love.
“I’m going to be getting my vaccine next week and I’m going to be doing both of those things.”
But while there appears to be this link between the mind and immune system, scientists are still in the early stages of recognizing why it can play a role in the immune system’s response to a vaccine.
A potential explanation, explains Annelise Madison, are the neuroendocrine changes associated with chronic stress and depression. Madison is a Ph.D. candidate at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and a co-author of the report. Neuroendocrine describes cells that release hormones in response to the stimulation of the nervous system.
Kalil Alves de Lima, a post-doctoral researcher at Washington University who studies how the immune system affects mind and body and was not a part of the report, adds that in the past decade several “beautiful studies” have demonstrated reciprocal interactions between the immune and the central nervous systems. He tells Inverse it’s fair to say poor mental health may negatively influence the body’s reaction to the vaccine.
“For this unusual time that we are all experiencing, it is more important than ever to relieve any extra anxiety or stress,” Alves de Lima says. “It will help us to keep not only our mental health, but it will certainly provide the extra boost that our immune system needs to mount the best possible response to beat Covid-19.”
Studies suggest stress, depression, lack of social support, sedentariness, a bad diet, and poor sleep can “independently and synergistically promote a suboptimal immune response to the vaccine,” Madison tells Inverse. Poor mental health is one factor associated with a poorer immune response, she says.
“As you can imagine, these risk factors can start to compound and interact with one another,” Madison says. “For instance, a person with severe depression is likely to be sedentary, eat foods that are high in fat and sugar, and withdraw from their social circle, which all can hamper immune function.”
Mental health and vaccine effectiveness —The risk of the Covid-19 vaccine not working is low, Madison explains. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have an efficacy rate of about 95 percent. But efficacy is a measurement of performance in controlled circumstances, while effectiveness is what’s seen in real-world conditions.
The vaccine’s effectiveness might prove a bit lower — which is normal, expected, and nothing to be worried about.
“Individuals should be aware that their mental and physical health can impact their side effect profile, how long it takes to develop immunity, and how long the immunity lasts,” Madison says.
Future studies are necessary to confirm this in Covid-19 vaccine recipients. In the meantime, history can offer some insight. In Kiecolt-Glaser’s 1992 study on the hepatitis B vaccine, the jab was shown to be 90 percent effective against the disease, but the study participants “who were more stressed and anxious took significantly longer to develop a protective antibody response.”
It’s also a matter of how long the immune response lasts. In an evaluation of individuals receiving a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine that Kiecolt-Glaser and colleagues published in 2000, they found groups classified as spousal caregivers and non-caregivers both responded initially, and equally, to the vaccine. But six months later, the non-caregivers were maintaining their protective level of antibodies, while the antibodies of the caregivers diminished.
What you can do —Minimizing stress during a pandemic, Madison acknowledges, is a hard ask. “An important consideration is that these risk factors for a suboptimal vaccine response are, ironically, more prevalent now during the pandemic than they were before the pandemic, she says.
And D’Aquisto, the immunology professor, is careful to note people who experience mental health issues are at no risk of the vaccine not working.
“What the study is really saying is that vaccination is not a ‘passive’ experience for the person that receives it,” D’Aquisto says.
In other words, there are actionable steps you can take to positively influence your mental health, and in turn, your immune response. Even relatively modest changes, the report argues, can help. These include:
Getting a good night’s sleep before and after vaccination
Vigorously exercising within 24 hours before the shot
“I’m going to be getting my vaccine next week,” Kiecolt-Glaser says, “and I’m going to be doing both of those things.”
This is because avocados contain fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, which prompt greater microbial diversity and produce metabolites that support your gut bacteria.
The associations between gut microbiomes and better health have been highlighted in numerous studies in the past few years—for example, beneficial bacteria in the digestive system has been singled out for improved mood, lower cardiovascular disease risk, and stronger immune system function.
In terms of how to boost your gut health, fruits and vegetables are often touted for their gut-pleasing effects, and a new study in the Journal of Nutrition suggests avocados may be especially effective.
Researchers looked at 163 adults between 25 and 45 years old who were either overweight or had obesity, but were otherwise healthy. Half of participants had an avocado every day with one meal, while the other half had a similar meal without the avocado.
After 12 weeks, those in the group who ate an avocado a day had significantly more microbial diversity in their guts compared with the group that didn’t. The avocado-eating group also had considerably lower concentrations of certain bile acids that tend to have a negative effect on gut health.
Why the difference with just one avocado per day? The fruit is rich in fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, said senior author Hannah Holscher, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois.
She told Bicycling that this is a powerful combination for your gut bacteria, because it prompts greater microbial diversity and produces metabolites that support gut health.
That means if you’re not an avocado fan, eating other foods with that combination could give you similar results.
“We had previously shown that walnuts and almonds, another good source of fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, helps support gut health,” she said. “Less than five percent of Americans eat enough fiber, but it’s very important for your microbiome. Eating foods like avocados can help you get closer to meeting your daily fiber recommendation of 28 to 34 grams per day.”
Getting a ton of fiber without proper gut health is not a great strategy, though. The body doesn’t do well at breaking down dietary fiber, but certain gut microbes are very adept at the process, said Holscher, and they use that fiber for their own health.
“Just like we think about heart-healthy meals, we need to also be thinking about gut-healthy meals and how to feed the microbiota,” she said.
While the study didn’t include athletes specifically, Holscher said that given the properties of avocados, they would likely make a strong choice for regular consumption.
Mushrooms have been used as food and medicine for thousands of years, and it’s becoming more common for researchers to announce new therapeutic interventions based on different species.
Even though it’s common for people to tell you that 80% of mushrooms are poisonous, the ones that aren’t offer nutrients which are often hard to find in more commonly consumed foods.
For brain health, there are few things better, and many mushrooms are now powdered and sold as “nootropic” supplements, with claims that they enhance memory and mental performance.
Others have been found to inhibit cancer growth and proliferation, and others are studied for respiratory infections.
Putting aside the traditional use of mushrooms in our society—namely for pizza toppings and hallucinogenic trips, new names for new purposes are finding their way into health food stores and magazines, and here are just a few.
1. For longevity: reishi
“For over 2000 years reishi mushrooms have been recognized by Chinese medical professionals as a valuable remedy,” reads a study from the American-Eurasian Journal of Botany. Its Chinese name means “spiritual potency,” while it’s also known as the “mushroom of immortality,” and the “medicine of kings.”
Studies have shown reishi mushrooms strengthen and improve the “competence” of the immune system through their content of triterpenes. They can protect the liver, significantly inhibit all four types of allergic reactions, and activate immune cells, particularly ones which kill tumor cells, and invasive bacteria.
While it doesn’t demonstrate anti-senescence, lengthen telomeres, or boost NAD+ levels— hallmarks of the modern understanding of longevity—any one of the things it can ameliorate could just as easily end a life, so in a sense, the “mushroom of immortality” earns its moniker.
2. For respiratory health: agarikon
“This rare, old-growth mushroom has a multi-thousand-year history of use in Europe,” world-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets told Rochelle Baker at Canada’s National Observer.
Stamets is referring to a little-known mushroom called agarikon, which he has worked to protect in North America. He notes that ancient Greek physician Dioscorides actually described agarikon in his works, calling it the elixir of long life—particularly when used to treat tuberculosis.
Now Stamets believes that agarikon and the old-growth forests in which it thrives should be protected and cultivated for use as a public health remedy for coronaviruses, as well as other respiratory illnesses, due to its role as a potent immune system aid.
3. For the liver: chaga
As fun to say as it is good for you, chaga has actually been extensively studied for use as a therapeutic intervention. Lacking only accreditation as a nootropic, mood regulator, or for other brain-related effects, there is one very important role which chaga can perform—as an inhibitor of DNA damage.
A South Korean study found that 40% less DNA damage was observed in human lymphocytes when treated with compounds brought about by the consumption of chaga. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell, and one of the main immune cells.
Another study found that chaga inhibited tumor cell growth in human hepatoma cells (liver cancer), among the references for which were other anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, and hepato-protective studies.
4. For… everything really: lion’s mane
In a study from the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry that is close to receiving 100 citations, the authors note that they are sequestering a large and scattered body of literature to present the nutritional compounds and effects of the lion’s mane mushroom.
The reported benefits, according to the researchers, include, “antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, antifatigue, antihypertensive, antihyperlipodemic, antisenescence, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective properties and improvement of anxiety, cognitive function, and depression.”
For the authors, they note that it is particularly the anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and immuno-stimulating properties, shown in both human and animal cells, that gives this mushroom such a protective role in our biology.
5. For energy and the brain: shilajit
While many people consider this blackish tar-like substance found in the Himalayas to be a fungus, it’s actually a kind of soil called humus. It’s composed significantly of organic compounds, like triterpenes, phenolic lipids, and small tannoids: three things often present in large quantities in mushrooms.
Still, the ancient North Indians and denizens of the mountains there have used it for thousands of years, and its name, Divya Rasayan, means “celestial super vitalizer.”
Studies have been done on shilajit which concluded nootropic effects, and others which looked at the properties shilajit’s content of fulvic acid, a compound which shuttles nutrients like energy, vitamins, and minerals into the cells in much higher quantities than other carriers like blood cells.
6. For everything else: cordyceps
There’s little debate about the benefits of cordyceps, which one study noted is used to “maintain vivacity and for boosting immunity.” That same study noted the only thing misunderstood about cordyceps is whether its nutrients confer protective effects like a nutritional supplement, or whether they’re strong enough to be administered in medicine.
Another study noted its uses could be described as “adaptogenic, anti-oxidant, anti-aging, neuroprotective, nootropic, immunomodulatory, anti-cancer, hepatoprotective,” and even, the study notes, an aphrodisiac.
Yet another study described it as “one of the most valuable medicinal mushrooms and nutraceuticals in China.” The researchers cited other studies that showed both powerful anti-oxidant capabilities, and, perhaps most valuably, a tempering of the release of TNF-alpha and IL-1b-beta.
These molecules are known as inflammatory cytokines, which, being necessary for wound healing, are one of the major drivers in models of unhealthy aging.
Far from slimy, insect-ridden markers of death and decay, each fungus has huge potential as something bordering between nutritional supplements and outright medicine, and the incorporation of them in your diet can be a great idea.
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