Here are the top foods and vitamins which will boost your well-being during lockdown

Here are the top foods and vitamins which will boost your well-being during lockdown

  • January 21, 2021

WORKING from home, schooling your kids and being cooped up indoors takes its toll, leaving many of us reaching for junk food.

A study this week revealed that gorging on takeaways dramatically affects emotions, often making us irritable and angry. So soothe your mood by changing what you eat.

Sooth your lockdown stress by trying some of these healthy foods


Sooth your lockdown stress by trying some of these healthy foodsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Nutritionist Charlotte Faure Green says: “This is not the time to beat yourself up about what you’re eating. But remember, a diet full of fruit and veg not only boosts mental health but will go a long way to supporting your immune system.”

Here, Charlotte shares her top 18 foods and vitamins to boost well-being in lockdown.

1. Bananas

Bananas are loaded with vitamin B6


Bananas are loaded with vitamin B6Credit: Getty Images – Getty

These are loaded with vitamin B6, which helps to build serotonin and dopamine – our happy brain chemicals.

They are also a great source of fibre, which goes to feeding our good gut bacteria.

Not only do they come in their own clever packaging but they are the perfect snack to give your brain a feel-good boost.

2. Vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D tablets are a great way to top up your vitamin levels


Vitamin D tablets are a great way to top up your vitamin levelsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because we get it from exposure to the sun.

We live under a pretty grey sky in the UK during the winter so it’s fair to assume we’re not getting enough, and that in turn is linked to low moods.

A supplement is a great way to top up those levels and could offer just the boost you need.

3. Baked beans

Beans contain high levels of protein


Beans contain high levels of proteinCredit: Getty – Contributor

Beans are good for your heart, but also your brain.

They contain high levels of protein, including tryptophan, which acts as a mood elevator.

They also provide the B vitamins, making beans a bit of an all-in-one food for a good mood.

4. Coffee

Coffee may elevate levels of feel-good serotonin


Coffee may elevate levels of feel-good serotoninCredit: Getty Images – Getty

It is the most popular drink in the world. And studies show caffeine may elevate levels of feel-good serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

One decade-long study showed that women who drank coffee were less likely to become depressed. But be mindful that the mood-lifting success differs from person to person.

Try to drink it after food to slow down the stimulatory effect. And preferably before lunchtime.

5. Chips

Potatoes are full of mood-boosting nutrients including magnesium and vitamin C


Potatoes are full of mood-boosting nutrients including magnesium and vitamin CCredit: Photolibrary RM – Getty

Potatoes have a bad reputation they just don’t deserve. Our humble spud is one of the healthiest foods going, full of mood-boosting nutrients including magnesium and vitamin C.

Our brain needs carbs to function and create serotonin. Why not get all this goodness in the nation’s favourite form of potato – the chip?

Pair with protein and swap to sweet potato fries for extra brownie points (they contain a little more vitamin B6).

6. Omega-3 fish oil supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain health and managing our stress response


Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain health and managing our stress responseCredit: Photographers Choice – Getty

These unbeatable mood boosters are cheap and full of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, without the pong!

Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be the only anti-inflammatory able to cross the blood–brain barrier into our grey matter. Fish oils are vital for brain health and managing our stress response.

Supplements are great if you’re not hitting the recommended two portions of oily fish per week.

7. Oats

Oats contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucan


Oats contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucanCredit: Getty – Contributor

You have probably heard about the health benefits of fibre. But not all fibres are created equal. Oats contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucan.

We eat these for our gut bacteria to use as fuel, to enable them to make our happy and calming brain chemicals.

Clever! A study showed people who ate oats at breakfast reported better mood and energy levels and less irritability.

8. Peanut butter

Peanut butter is an energy-boosting protein with healthy fats


Peanut butter is an energy-boosting protein with healthy fatsCredit: Corbis – Getty

An energy-boosting protein with healthy fats. A study completed in 2020 found that regular consumption of nuts and legumes was associated with a 66 per cent lower risk of anxiety.

This could be due to a special compound called p-coumaric acid which is associated with increasing brain levels of GABA, our calming neurotransmitter, to decrease stress.

Leaving only the argument: Smooth or crunchy?

9. Chocolate

Chocolate contains the building blocks of serotonin, and magnesium which reduces stress


Chocolate contains the building blocks of serotonin, and magnesium which reduces stressCredit: Getty Images – Getty

You want clinically proven permission to eat chocolate? You got it! A 2013 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that chocolate has many different compounds that can give our mood a boost.

Dark chocolate in particular contains the building blocks of serotonin, and magnesium which reduces stress.

It also makes us release endorphins, much like we do when we exercise, which can also serve to reduce our stress levels.

10. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 contains many of the big hitters for good mood- building


Vitamin B12 contains many of the big hitters for good mood- buildingCredit: Getty Images – Getty

In an ideal world we would get all our nutrients for good health from the food we eat.

Vegans are often very low in vitamin B12, which is primarily found in animal products, and iron, which can be found in abundance in leafy greens.

This complex contains many of the big hitters for good mood- building, as an all-in-one capsule.

11. Berries

Berries contain antioxidants which are responsible for protecting our cells, particularly in the brain


Berries contain antioxidants which are responsible for protecting our cells, particularly in the brainCredit: Getty – Contributor

The lovely dark purple and red colouring of berries is due to all the antioxidants they contain, which are responsible for protecting our cells, particularly in the brain.

They also feed some of our most beneficial gut bacteria, essential for creating calming neurotransmitters and help manage inflammation in the brain associated with depression and other mood disorders.

12. Eggs

Eggs are high in vitamins B6 and B12


Eggs are high in vitamins B6 and B12Credit: Getty – Contributor

Eggs are a great source of protein. But also of choline, which is an essential micro- nutrient required in order for the brain to function properly and is associated with mood regulation.

Eggs are also high in vitamins B6 and B12, among countless other nutrients, that are vital for the production of our good mood chemicals.

13. St John’s Wort tablets

St    John’s Wort can treat low mood, anxiety and sleep problems


St    John’s Wort can treat low mood, anxiety and sleep problemsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

St    John’s Wort has long been used as an herbal remedy to relieve mild to moderate low mood, anxiety and sleep problems.

It is readily available over the counter, but this does not mean it is for everyone. Speak to a healthcare professional first.

St John’s Wort is known to interact with numerous medications, including reducing the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill.

14. Oranges

Oranges are rich in B and C vitamins


Oranges are rich in B and C vitaminsCredit: Getty – Contributor

Being poorly hydrated can mimic feelings of panic, so ensuring that you have lots of water-filled foods such as oranges can go a long way to improving mood.

Oranges are rich in those lovely B vitamins but also vitamin C, which we burn through at very high rates when stressed, making replenishing those stores very important.

15. Honey

Honey can help reduce brain inflammation


Honey can help reduce brain inflammationCredit: Getty – Contributor

We all know about using honey to fight colds and infections, but magical honey also contains tryptophan, the building block of serotonin, so it can help to boost your mood.

It is sweet like sugar, but honey does not release inflammatory free radicals in the same way refined sugar does and can actually help reduce brain inflammation.

16. Yoghurt

Yoghurt contains friendly gut bacteria


Yoghurt contains friendly gut bacteriaCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Pro- biotic foods, including yoghurt, contain friendly gut bacteria.

Many of our happy hormones and neurotransmitters are produced by the bacteria in the gut, so ensuring these are kept replenished every day gives our mood the best chance.

17. Salmon

Salmon can help increase circulating levels of serotonin


Salmon can help increase circulating levels of serotoninCredit: Getty – Contributor

Oily fish salmon makes up one letter of nifty acronym S.M.A.S.H.

Not the powdered potato you remember from childhood – it stands for Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies, Salmon and Herring – all easily sourced fishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

They are brain protectors which help increase circulating levels of serotonin.

18. Wine

Research has linked moderate alcohol intake with a better mood


Research has linked moderate alcohol intake with a better moodCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Yes, we’ve saved the best till last. Research has linked moderate alcohol intake with a better mood, not to mention a longer life.

And red wine also provides tons of antioxidants that benefit your brain and heart. Having a small glass of red alongside dinner has been established as a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a reduced risk of developing depressive symptoms.

But remembering that the health properties of wine may stop after a small amount is important.

Batch Lady’s recipe for Beef stroganoff

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Fabric Treated With Vitamins – WWD

  • January 7, 2021

Devan Chemicals NV said it’s R-Vital Multivitamin fabric treatment now meets the Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, and that it is designed as to address “preventative health” concerns as the pandemic continues to impact people around the world.

The Belgium-based company said this technology is part of its range of microencapsulated active ingredients “and consists of vitamin C, vitamin E and ginger.” Devan said as preventative health becomes a priority, the COVID-19 “pandemic has also caused people to think about how they can become more resilient and lead a healthy lifestyle.”

The company added that with vaccination campaigns “still ongoing, Devan’s treatment might be a valuable technology for those seeking to give that little extra support to their immune system in the meantime.”

While the clinical results of taking vitamins has shown conflicting results over the past two decades, preventative health experts generally recommend supplementing diet with vitamins. “A balanced immune system is crucial and depends on how healthy we are, both mentally and physically,” Devan said in a statement. “People seek out products to boost that immune system. Providing products and services which allow consumers to become healthier is key.”

Devan said the new multivitamin blend was first launched at Heimtextil in 2018 with active ingredients including Q10, thyme oil, aloe vera and others. “The fabric treatment is based on microencapsulation,” the company explained. “Active ingredients are encapsulated and applied to the fabric. The treated textiles touch our skin and the friction causes the microcapsules to break. Then, the active ingredients are absorbed by our skin.”

In the U.S., vitamin C and E are viewed by doctors and nutritionists as key to helping protect people from seasonal illness, such as those caused by viruses, according to the The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Devan said since rolling out its R-Vital, the company has continuously added new ingredients “such as CBD, avocado and echinacea.”

How to boost your immune system amid coronavirus - and only supplement you actually need

How to boost your immune system amid coronavirus – and only supplement you actually need

  • January 6, 2021

Our immune system is the the first line of defence against illness – everything from colds to Covid.

The coronavirus outbreak has pushed our immune system centre-stage and made us realise the importance of having healthy defences.

The core of the immune system is a vast army of white blood cells, otherwise known as immune cells, which fend off against viruses, fungi and parasites that make us ill.

There are two types of immune cells, the front line defenders that are all about speed and aggression and the specialists that come in to produce custom made attacks over a longer period.

These cells are vital to us fighting the disease – but how much do we all really know about how to keep it strong?

In tonight’s BBC documentary The Truth About Boosting Your Immune System, Dr Ronx Ikharia, an emergency medicine doctor, delves into the latest science to find out what we can all do to make our immune system as healthy as possible.

Dr Ronx uncovers the unexpected things that do and don’t work, the one key vitamin that can make a difference and the surprising truth that for many of us, ‘boosting’ our immune system is the last thing we should be doing.

Supplement myths

Dr Ronx gazes at the camera while sat behind a range of supplements
Dr Ronx delves into the world of supplements to see how effective they really are


There are a growing number of products promising to boost our immune systems – with people in the UK estimated to spend £1billion a year on vitamins and minerals.

Almost every vitamin and mineral is claimed to have immune-strengthening powers, but do any of them actually work?

Professor Michael Heinrich, from the UCL School of Pharmacy, explains that many are beneficial as food items but have no specific therapeutic effect.

There is very little evidence that elderberry or garlic supplements do much for our immune health.

Echinacea can prevent and treat symptoms of cold and mild forms of flu, but in one sample there was unbelievably close to nothing in it.

Explaining that most people should be able to get what they need from a healthy diet, Professor Heinrich says: “Normally you shouldn’t need it.

“It is certainly unlikely if you take a high dose of a supplement that it has any specific health benefits. It will simply go through your body – that’s not very useful.”

Most people associate Vitamin C, which helps immune cells fight infection, with oranges and other citrus fruits.

But red peppers are twice as rich, with half a sweet pepper a day giving the body what it needs.

Dr Ronx puts her arms out to signify her confusion over supplements
Dr Ronx finds out the truth about vitamin supplements

Zinc helps body produce new immune cells and comes in meat, cheese and a wide range of seeds and kernels.

B Vitamins, which help provide energy to immune cells, can be found in peas, fortified cereals and yoghurts.

Seafood is the real champion, as one serving of muscles contains seven times your daily recommended intake of vitamin B12.

“It doesnt harm to add certain supplements if you think it helps you,” says Professor Heinrich, but he has a stark warning.

“The worry is if the diet is not adequate and rich and you try to compensate it with some sort of a suppliment. That’s when things go wrong and get pear-shaped.”

It is almost impossible to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D, which makes immune cells better at killing virus and bacteria, during dark UK winters.

According to the professor, Vitamin D is the one supplement we should all be taking, even in the summer if you work inside for long periods.

Worrying impact of alcohol

Dr Ronx looks at the camera
Dr Ronx admits she is a lightweight, so her tolerance is lower

Alcohol reduces your defences and makes you more likely to get ill.

A small bit of alcohol in moderation won’t do much harm to your immune system – with a glass of red wine over dinner actually improving your circulation.

But a lot of booze is not good.

Alcohol significantly reduces the amount of lymphocytes you have, with some dropping by as much as half after a drinking session.

This makes you more prone to infection, so drinking too much alcohol makes your immune system suffer.

The good news is that it does recover over time, so having breaks between boozing does let your immune cell levels bounce back.

Surprising benefit of stress

Getting stressed for a short period is actually beneficial to your immune system


A surprising way to bolster your immune defences is to actually get stressed.

Stress obviously has a bad reputation and is related to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

However, the ‘fight or flight’ response we have to stress can actually be beneficial to the immune system.

But it’s all about the duration, as long-term chronic stress you experience for a long time every day does harm, while short-term acute stress is a survival mechanism.

When the body sees something it perceives as danger it needs to prepare to respond appropriately.

Just 20 minutes after being terrified by holding a tarantula, there is a big change as Ronx’s white blood cell count goes up by over 20%.

Dr Glen Davison from the University of Kent explains: “It means when you’re exposed to a challenge like a pathogen or bug the immune system is more primed. It’s about the speed of that response.”

But you don’t have to go through a stressful ordeal to get the same benefits, as a shower switched to cold at the end for just 30 seconds initiates the stress response.

Frightening yourself with a scary movie or public speaking has been show to produce the same effect.

Exercise pros and cons

Dr Ronx discovers there are positives and negatives surrounding exercise


Moderate exercise is great for stimulating the immune system to help it work optimally and increase certain lymphocyte cells by six times.

When blood flow increases, immune cells move more rapidly into our veins, responding to the physical stress in our body.

Some research has found exercising five times a week can cut the duration of colds in half, but it has to be the right intensity.

“To get the benefit we’re talking about moderate exercise. Getting yourself warm, heart rate going, maybe a bit of a sweat up,” explains Professor Sheena Cruickshank, an immunologist at the University of Manchester.

“If you do really extreme exercise regularly, real power athlete stuff, that can make you more susceptible to upper respiratory tract investions. It’s around a two-to-six-fold increase.”

Regular bouts of exercise at a level where you can talk will help you get ill less often, but too much extreme exercise may leave you more vulnerable to infection.

Dangers of boosting too much

Diet plays a very important role

The surprising truth that for many of us is that ‘boosting’ our immune system is the last thing we should be doing.

If our blood is constantly flooded with aggressive cells, it means our immune system is fully active even if there is no infection to fight.

Continuing this state can mean our immune cells damage healthy tissue and make you feel fatigued.

Evidence shows we are actually more prone to illness if we remain in a heightened state as the immune systems is too overworked to fight off threats.

In the UK, over 44% of us live with a condition caused by an overactive immune system – allergies.

Every allergic response is an immune overreaction, as the immune cells go into attack mode to fight off the perceived threat even though it is harmless.

While it’s based on genetics, our modern lifestyles are also to blame, with the number of allergy sufferers in the UK ballooning in the last decade.

Dr Mohamed Shamji from Imperial College London says: “Diet plays a very important role. Eating junk food can make you predisposed to allergies.”

Another reason is that we are exposed to fewer microbes, so the immune system is prone to overreacting when we do encounter harmless foreign entities.

Those children who grow up on farms have fewer allergies than those who live in cities.

While allergies can’t be cured, you can reduce the chances of them developing in the first place by getting out in nature more.

Immune makeover

There are lots of things you can do to help


Ronx teams up with Professor Cruickshank to run a unique experiment.

They recruit a group of volunteers and give them an ‘immune makeover’ – changing their diet, exercise and sleep habits for six weeks to test the impact on their immune health and discover how we might all benefit.

The best way to test their immune systems is to work out the neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio (NLR).

Having a lot of neutrophil, the front line white blood cells, indicates the immune systems is agitated and aggressive, which is not necessarily a good thing as good cells can be damaged.

A healthy immune system should have a good balance of neutrophil and specialist lymphocyte cells.

Five out of six of the volunteers had a really high neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio, which suggests their immune system is out of kilter.

A recent study found patients with the highest NLR scores were six times more likely to have Covid illness.

While researchers found gut bacteria train immune cells to spot friend from foe, teaching them that not every germ is bad for us.

Fibre promotes growth of gut bacteria and provide vital ammunition to immune cells, allowing them to fight off infection.

*The Truth About Boosting Your Immune System airs tonight on BBC One at 9pm

What are the best anti-aging vitamins? How vitamin E and D fight aging

What are the best anti-aging vitamins? How vitamin E and D fight aging

  • January 4, 2021
  • Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, E, and K, impact the skin’s health most directly and help to maintain a youthful appearance.
  • Beyond cosmetic effects, aging is associated with health conditions such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, and dementia.
  • Curcumin, resveratrol, and CoQ10 are popular anti-aging antioxidants that may stimulate the immune system and help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress that leads to many chronic, age-related conditions.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Getting older is a fact of life. As you age, you might see more wrinkles or your hair turning gray. 

While there’s no way to turn back time, Trista Best, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, says that some vitamins may slow premature aging.

Some vitamins have anti-aging properties — the ability to delay the biology of the aging process.

Scott Antoine, DO, physician and owner of The Center for Fully Functional Health®, says that vitamins can help slow the aging process through their ability to overcome toxins that accumulate in the body over time.

“Oxidation is a process in your body where you build up reactive oxygen metabolites over many years, and they are damaging to your body. Also, as you age, your immune system becomes less active. Fortunately, vitamins and minerals work with the immune system and have antioxidative properties to lower the risk of age-related disease,” Antoine tells Insider.

Here’s a list of vitamins that have anti-aging properties.

Anti-aging vitamins 

While there are many vitamins on the market, Best tells Insider that the most effective ones are those that work to counteract the damage caused by oxidative stress. A majority of vitamins can be obtained through your diet or a supplement.

  • Curcumin: This substance is found in the turmeric plant and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties at the cellular level, which may promote skin health and protect against cancer. Whether administered orally, topically or as a powder, the Cleveland Clinic recommends taking 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day for the general population. Best says risks associated with curcumin range from headaches and digestive issues, as well as interactions with medications that treat heartburn and GERD, to interference with the body’s ability to stop bleeding.
  • CoQ10: Coenzyme 10 is an antioxidant that promotes the production of collagen. According to a 2018 review, its anti-aging effect improves how cells transform energy, known as bioenergetics. However, Best says that CoQ10’s effectiveness in treating signs of aging is likely skewed by other products used in a skincare routine. “I do support adding it to an already existing skincare routine,” she says, “just not making it the foundation of your regimen and not going out of your way to make sure it is present.”
  • Collagen: This is a protein in the body that improves skin elasticity and reduces fine lines and wrinkles. Best says women may start losing collagen in their twenties,  some as early as 18 years old. “Collagen doesn’t exactly result in age reversal, but it can stop additional loss. The best collagen for anti-aging is a combination of the three types. Type 1 and Type 3 are the most effective at anti-aging and are ideally taken as a powder,” says Best.
  • Resveratrol:  This antioxidant is found in red wine and is popular for its anti-aging effects, which are most effective in supplement form, says Antoine. Based on a popular theory of aging where the ends of human chromosomes, called telomeres, are linked to DNA damage, Antoine says that resveratrol’s anti-aging properties are likely due to its ability to lengthen chromosomes. In addition, Antoine says resveratrol can also protect the body against aging by activating a gene called SIRT1. Though not severe, gastrointestinal side-effects have been linked to resveratrol. 
  • Vitamin C: A 2017 review reports that vitamin C helps boost the immune system by making more immune cells. In the skin, it protects against oxidative stress. With that in mind, another 2017 review finds consistent evidence that vitamin C is protective against premature aging. Not only is it a powerful antioxidant, but vitamin C can also be used as a lightener to address “liver spots” and darkening around the eyes, which are also signs of aging. Vitamin C can be found in food or taken in supplement form. The daily recommended amount for an adult is 65 to 90 milligrams. However, excessive amounts can cause side-effects, including but not limited to vomiting, heartburn, and diarrhea.
  • Vitamin E: The function of vitamin E, according to Antoine, is that it protects against collagen crosslinking, and stops the oxidation of lipids linked to both aging and the skin. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin —similar to vitamin D and K — that’s useful in treating wrinkles, dark spots, and skin elasticity, says Best. However, she says these vitamins E and other fat-soluble vitamins need to be closely monitored by a doctor, considering they can reach toxic levels in the body. 
  • Selenium: This is a trace mineral that prevents vitamin E deficiency. Antoine says selenium helps by reducing DNA damage. Selenium can be found in food, especially Brazil nuts, or as a supplement with a recommended daily dose of 100-200 mcg. That said, long-term use of selenium supplements may be linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer — but there is conflicting evidence that suggests selenium may lower your cancer risk. More research is needed.

Insider’s takeaway 

Aging doesn’t just produce cosmetic effects. The World Health Organization reports that aging is also associated with severe health conditions such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, and dementia. For this reason, Antoine recommends increasing vitamin D and vitamin E levels, which can affect immune function.

“Chronic, low-level inflammation causes oxidative stress in the body that leads to many chronic conditions common to Western nations. Antioxidants stimulate the immune system and are responsible for reducing inflammation,” says Best. Curcumin, resveratrol, and CoQ10 are popular anti-aging antioxidants.

While there are many vitamins essential for a healthy body, Best recommends fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, E, and K, which impact the skin’s health most directly for maintaining a youthful appearance. 

Why This Mushroom Supplement Is The Secret To Staying Healthy

Why This Mushroom Supplement Is The Secret To Staying Healthy

  • December 23, 2020

By now, we all know the foundation needed for a healthy immune system: don’t smoke, maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, drink in moderation and get good sleep. For an extra boost, doctors will advise you on the importance of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E, which can be found in various supplements and multivitamins, but with the rise of herbals taking center stage in western market trends, many are quickly learning that nothing is quite as effective as medicinal mushrooms done right. The idea to launch Mushroom Design came to co-founders Ashley Southard and Jonathan Gilinski when they recognized that the mushroom supplements and multivitamins they were taking for immunity were actually burdening their immune systems. “Jonathan’s background in the nutraceutical industry brought with it stringent standards of supplement quality, knowing how shoddy most supplements on the market are and how minimally they’re regulated, I wanted to ensure that what I was taking was, well, genuinely good,” says Southard, “And thus, our Multimmunity formula was born: a supplement that was dosed for daily immune support and to change the way [we consume] mushrooms.’” Mushroom Design, in essence, is the upgrade of your daily multivitamin with 9 daily essential vitamins and 9 immune-boosting adaptogenic mushrooms in 1 easy serving. It is completely vegan, non-GMO, naturally colored and carbon neutral. Below, we spoke to co-founder, Ashley Southard on the health benefits of mushrooms and why until now, they’ve been a best-kept secret. 

MM: The question on many people’s minds, who are unfamiliar with mushrooms, is likely going to be how is this different from regular hallucinogenic mushrooms? 

AS: Hallucinogenic mushrooms contain psilocybin, which, when ingested, is broken down by the liver into psilocin, which then activates neurotransmitters in the brain that result in psychedelic and/or hallucinogenic experiences. Medicinal and adaptogenic mushrooms, on the other hand, do not contain compounds that induce psychoactive effects, but rather bioactive compounds such as antioxidants, terpenes, and beta-glucans, and mushroom-specific compounds that can reverse harmful DNA transcription (helpful for combatting cancers and viruses), support myelin sheath formation (helpful in memory and cognition), inhibit cancerous and tumorous cell growth, promote tissue repair (great for anyone physically active), lower cholesterol, and of course, enhance the body’s immunity. Interestingly, [medicinal] mushrooms enhance immunity through microaggressions on the immune system that prompt inflammation; the body recognizes the beta-glucans and other compounds as foreigners to be on guard for – it’s the exact same way the immune system is activated by bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other pathogens. Inflammation is a good thing – it’s what activates the immune cells to fight off pathogens and/or remove damaged cells/debris. Inflammation is what recruits immune cells and blood flow which can help repair sites of injury. Special molecular bonds in the mushroom cell walls called beta glucans are recognized by immune cells and trigger an inflammatory response. When dosed correctly, all is well; however, an overactive immune system can cause more harm than good; chronic “overdoing” of immune boosting can negatively impact the immune system through chronic inflammation.

MM: What are some other health benefits of mushrooms? 

AS: Mushrooms vary in benefits; while all support the immune system via alternating methods (such as activating immune cells or inhibiting toxic activity), many lend support in more specific ways, such as lion’s mane, which supports myelin sheath formation; shiitake, which supports cholesterol; reishi, which supports heart health; chaga, which supports the regulation of blood sugar; oyster, which naturally manages cholesterol, maitake, which is one of the top natural supplements recommended for HIV/AIDS patients, agarikon, which is an antiviral; cordyceps, which improve cell metabolism, and turkey tail, which contains specific polysaccharides that have actually been approved for clinical use in Japan as adjunct cancer therapy since the 1980s — all of these are mushrooms found in Multimmunity.

MM: If mushrooms are so effective, why have they gone so under-the-radar? Why aren’t people buying them as easily and quickly as they’re buying Advil, for example?

AS: Medicinal mushrooms are herbal supplements; they’re just under-the-radar (but are currently ‘trending’ like other adaptogens) because western society doesn’t focus on herbals. 

MM: What time of day should Multimmunity be taken? Will there be immediate effects? 

AS: Multimmunity should be taken before 2pm daily – there is no caffeine, but there are B-vitamins that could contribute to slight energy increase. Since Multimmunity is a daily vitamin with immune support, there are not tangible, immediate effects, but you should notice within 7-10 days a bit more pep in your step — such as still being awake and alert.

MM: What are the common misconceptions with medicinal mushrooms?

AS: So often medicinal mushrooms are confused with psychedelic or psychoactive mushrooms, but that cannot be further from the case! In fact, there are 700 documented medicinal mushroom species with hundreds of medicinal functions, from cognitive support to diabetic management. Mushrooms have been used for centuries in Eastern medicine – they were even, at some point, denied to the commoners and kept only for royalty due to their value.

OTC Product News (December 2020)

OTC Product News (December 2020)

  • December 18, 2020

: SmartyPants Vitamins
SmartyPants is offering 3 new lines that aim to boost immune health for adults and children. Healthy Immunity Daytime features a combination of B6, B12, C, D3, and zinc, as well as echinacea and elderberry to help maintain energy throughout the day. Healthy Immunity Nighttime contains the same key nutrients, in addition to melatonin to help induce asleep. The Healthy Kids Immunity formula contains American ginseng, elderberry, prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins D3 and C, and zinc to provide multifunctional immune support.

: Arcadia Consumer Healthcare
The Opti-Nail Fungal Nail Repair Pen is now available at CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens, in addition to Target and Publix, which both launched the product earlier this year. Nail fungus can result in discolored and
damaged nails. Specially designed with a precision-tip, no-mess applicator, the pen is clinically proven to improve the appearance of fungus-damaged nails, with visible results in 2 days. Its unique nail brightener formulation accelerates results.

MARKETED BY: Vizuri Health Sciences
This new, flexible tape tackles pain relief by combining a 4-way stretch patch inspired by kinesiology tape with 4% lidocaine to help numb pain. According to the company, the tape is comfortable, flexible, and provides a pain-relief solution for people with active lifestyles. The tape’s fabric is extremely lightweight, breathable, and thin, and it features a proprietary dry adhesive technology that can stay in place for up to 12 hours on moving joints, including knees and elbows. The tape is available in packages of 10 precut strips and contains the maximum amount of lidocaine allowed by the FDA without a prescription.

: Liquid IV
Liquid IV is expanding its offerings with the new tangerine-flavored Hydration Multiplier+ Immune Support blend. The nongenetically modified organism drink mix with cellular transport technology is designed to enhance rapid absorption of water and other nutrients into the bloodstream. The ingredients feature a blend of vitamins C and D, zinc, and Wellmune (a naturally sourced beta glucan) to maintain and strengthen the immune system. Vitamin C works to maintain overall good health, and vitamin D3 facilitates immune system function and improves the body’s defenses.

Pandemic will boost vitamins C & D, zinc and ALA in 2021, retailer says

Pandemic will boost vitamins C & D, zinc and ALA in 2021, retailer says

  • December 4, 2020

The company recently issued its ‘top 10’ trends for 2021.  As the company looks into its crystal ball, the continued importance of vitamin D emerged front and center among those trends specific to supplements.

Vitamin D deficiency has been a topic among health care professionals for years.  This essential nutrient is manufactured in the skin as a result of UV exposure.  A combination of indoor living, sedentary lifestyle and other factors conspired to make vitamin D deficiency common among populations of industrialized countries. 

No one gets enough vitamin D

Vitamin D fortification in milk and other foods stamped out rickets, a deficiency disease affecting bone development, but it has not brought people up to a level of the vitamin that supports maximal health.  As an easy way to test for 25-hydoxyvitamin D in the blood became available, the levels of deficiency become evident.  This led many health experts to recommend higher intakes that the official recommendations, which at 600 IU a day for adults.

Now, with emerging evidence that people with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood streams fare better when battling COVID-19, the vitamin has achieved even greater recognition. And that emphasis is like to last, said Shelby Miller, Natural Grocers’ manager of scientific affairs and nutrition education.

“Our trends this year are dramatically different than previous years’ in that they’re far less fleeting. COVID-19 is a pandemic that sits on top of another pandemic in the United States of malnutrition and poor long-term health,”​ she said.

Fortifying milk with Vitamins A and D can improve children’s nutrition, boost immunity to infections

Fortifying milk with Vitamins A and D can improve children’s nutrition, boost immunity to infections

  • December 2, 2020

A glass of Milk has always been considered healthy. Over the ages, mothers have depended on milk to provide nourishment to their children. Milk has always been acknowledged as the complete food; providing energy from fats and carbohydrates, giving the required proteins for muscle building, and aiding in vital functions of the body with vitamins and minerals.

Milk is a natural carrier of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A and D, and is a rich source of minerals, like calcium, potassium and magnesium. Although milk is able to retain most of its minerals, it loses some amount of vitamins during the supply chain and processing phase due to heat and light exposure.

During this processing the milk fat is adjusted, based on consumer preferences, to 1.5%, 3% and 4.5% vis-a-vis its original composition of 6-7% fat of whole milk. As a result of this, the vitamins also get reduced to a quarter or half of its original composition – as the vitamins are fat soluble. It’s specially observed that vitamin D comes down to almost negligible amounts or is not detectable in unfortified milk.

The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey data 2019, commissioned by the ministry of health and family welfare, shows that vitamin A deficiency is 18% among pre-school children, 22% among school-age children and 16% among adolescents; vitamin D deficiency is 14% among pre-school children, 18% among school-age children and 24% among adolescents.

This is where lies the importance of fortifying milk. Fortified milk, without altering the taste, colour, and flavour, is able to provide 11-15 % of the required RDA of vitamins D and A, on an average consumption of 200 ml in one glass of milk.

Today, 176 lakh litres of milk is getting fortified across 26 states of India, with cooperatives and private dairies fortifying their skimmed, toned, double toned and standardised milk. This constitutes 44 % of the total fortifiable milk in India. FSSAI is working on the standards for the full cream and cow milk fortification, which has the potential to add 220 lakh litres of fortified milk per day.

The infrastructure and mechanism to fortify milk has been laid out, and this can be enhanced to meet the requirements of the government in addressing vitamins A and D deficiency. Fortified milk can be easily recognised as all its packets carry a +F logo in blue for easy identification. The fortification is done as per the standards and specifications provided by FSSAI, which in turn, is monitored by a panel of eminent scientists from leading organisations of India like NIN-ICMR, AIIMS, NIFTEM, HBTI and CFTRI.

In today’s times of Covid-19, it’s important we also focus on developing immunity and prevent any kind of infection or illness due to any kind of virus. Both vitamins A and D have known functionalities to improve the immune system and fight against illness. It’s important that the right levels of vitamins are maintained in the body. A recently published study in Indonesia indicated the correlation between Covid-19 mortality and insufficiency of vitamin D. Vitamins A and D deficiency is a growing public health concern.

Fortification of milk with vitamins A and D can act as a complementary strategy in improving the deficiency levels of these vitamins in the population. The Government of India’s recent announcement to make milk fortification mandatory has the potential to directly benefit 450 million people across the country.

When served to young children in government schools, or in anganwadis, under the ICDS scheme, it has the potential to benefit children directly. NDDB’s gift milk scheme provides a glass of milk to 60,000 children across India. Many state governments have taken this noble initiative to provide a glass of milk to school children in the morning, in addition to the mid-day meal scheme provided by the central government.

Today, India is the world’s largest milk producer, and we cannot forget the contributions of Verghese Kurien in making India self-sufficient. This sufficiency of milk provides an opportunity to use fortified milk and add impetus to making India a nutrition-positive country for generations to come.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Boosting Immunity While Breastfeeding: Vitamins and Their Safety

Boosting Immunity While Breastfeeding: Vitamins and Their Safety

  • November 30, 2020

Staying healthy is critical for both you and your baby, especially during cold and flu season. Boosting immunity by eating nutritious food is a great place to start.

But sometimes (OK, all the time!), life gets hectic, and eating is something you do between nursing, work, and caring for other kids.

To fill the gaps, a lot of breastfeeding folks consider taking immune-boosting supplements in addition to their daily postnatal multivitamin.

But is that safe?

Here’s what you need to know about boosting immunity with supplements while pregnant.

Taking a multivitamin while breastfeeding is something your doctor will likely discuss with you during a prenatal visit or your 6-week checkup.

Since many people continue taking their prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding, most of the key nutrients needed during the postpartum period are already covered.

That said, there are some essential nutrients breastfeeding moms should make sure they are getting daily. According to Sherry Ross, MD, an OB-GYN in Santa Monica, California, if you’re breastfeeding, you should focus on the following essential nutrients:

  • calcium
  • folic acid
  • iodine
  • iron
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D
  • DHA — docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat

Looking for the right postnatal vitamin?


To help boost immunity, check the label of your multivitamin for vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B complex, probiotics, and zinc.

Some immune-boosting supplements also contain echinacea and elderberry, but according to the National Library of Medicine’s Drug and Lactation Database, no data exists on the safety and efficacy of elderberry or echinacea in nursing mothers or infants.

In addition to a multivitamin or additional supplements, making healthy food choices can also boost your nutrient intake. Mary Gollan, RD, a certified lactation consultant on the team at Preg Appetit!, recommends that breastfeeding moms follow these dietary guidelines when preparing a meal:

  • 1/2 plate fruits and veggies
  • 1/2 cup whole grains
  • 3 ounces lean protein
  • dairy at every meal

To help with energy and keep you producing milk, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend breastfeeding moms eat about 450 to 500 extra calories a day. Generally speaking, for most women this equates to about 2,500 calories per day.

Whether or not you should take supplements is a conversation you need to have with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says if you follow a restrictive diet, you may not get adequate nutrients through food, which increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies.

With that in mind, Ross says that supplementing with certain immune-boosting supplements, in addition to a multivitamin, is safe as long as you take a well-established brand that delivers safe dosages.

The key is not to exceed the recommended daily amount and to only take supplements that are proven safe to consume while breastfeeding.

Moreover, Rachel Borton, PhD, director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Online Program and assistant professor of nursing at Bradley University, reminds us that each mom and baby has a unique individual health history.

Because of this, you cannot assume that every over-the-counter supplement is safe to consume, since breastfeeding moms will also be sharing the supplements through their breast milk with the infant.

“There are some supplements that mothers want to avoid (for their own health safety or for milk production effects), and their provider will have the best knowledge as to what is appropriate for both mom and baby,” Borton says.

An important note

Below, we dive into the details about specific immunity boosters. Keep in mind that if you’re taking a prenatal or postnatal vitamin, you need to account for the dosage in that multivitamin when knowing how much is safe to consume in a secondary supplement.


  • Safety: Yes, vitamin C is safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: 120 milligrams (mg) is the daily recommended amount for people who are breastfeeding.
  • How it helps boost immunity: You need vitamin C for the growth and repair of all tissues. According to clinical research, vitamin C may decrease how long you experience cold symptoms.
  • Remember this: Most vitamin C supplements will contain more than the recommended amount for breastfeeding people. Always check with your doctor before taking a vitamin C supplement.
  • Consider shopping for: Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C.

  • Safety: Yes, vitamin D is safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: 600 IU (international units) is the daily recommended amount for people who are breastfeeding. That said, “Getting your vitamin D level checked is important in knowing how much supplementation is necessary,” according to Ross. Your doctor may recommend a different amount of supplementation daily, based on your blood test results.
  • How it helps boost immunity: Vitamin D helps your immune system function properly. And some research says it may help lower the risk of acute respiratory infections, especially in people who are deficient.
  • Consider shopping for: Garden of Life Vitamin D3

  • Safety: Yes, vitamin B complex is safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) varies by B vitamin. Here is the RDA for consumption daily during lactation, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:
    • B1 (thiamine): 1.4 mg
    • B2 (riboflavin): 1.6 mg
    • B3 (niacin): 17 mg NE (niacin equivalents)
    • B5 (pantothenic acid): 7 mg
    • B6 (pyridoxine): 2.0 mg
    • B7 (biotin): 35 micrograms (mcg)
    • B9 (folic acid): 600 mcg DFE (dietary folate equivalents)
    • B12 (cobalamin): 2.8 mcg
  • How it helps boost immunity: The B vitamins are the building blocks of a healthy body, so they help you maintain overall good health. They work together to help keep energy levels up and boost the body’s defense system against germs.
  • Consider shopping for: Garden of Life Raw B-Complex or Integrative Therapeutics Active B-Complex. Most vitamin B complex supplements will contain more than the RDA for lactation. Always check with your doctor before taking a vitamin B supplement.

  • Safety: More reliable medical studies are needed to make recommendations on the dosing and how it can potentially affect a breastfeeding baby. There’s not enough evidence to determine safety for breastfeeding moms — some medical studies say it’s safe while others say it should be avoided. Check with your doctor before taking echinacea.
  • Amount: There are no dosage recommendations for echinacea while breastfeeding.
  • How it helps boost immunity: Echinacea may help boost your immune system by combating infections and viruses. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), echinacea may slightly reduce your chances of catching a cold.

  • Safety: Yes, probiotics are safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: Probiotic supplements contain a wide variety of microorganisms and amounts. You’ll see the number of colony forming units (CFU) listed on supplement labels. Ask your doctor or registered dietitian for the safe amount to take while breastfeeding.
  • How it helps boost immunity: “When it comes to breastfeeding, we know that breast milk contains healthy probiotics that are passed onto the baby that help strengthen the gut flora that can protect against infections and helps their developing immune response,” Ross says.
  • Consider shopping for: Jetson Probiotics Immunity. Ross says this product provides probiotics that can help strengthen your immune system and help reduce your chance of getting colds and upper respiratory infections. Also consider Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Probiotics Once Daily Prenatal.

  • Safety: Like echinacea, Ross says elderberry is also controversial to take while breastfeeding. Some medical studies say it’s safe, while others say it should be avoided. More reliable medical studies are needed to make recommendations on the dosing and how it can potentially affect a breastfeeding baby. There’s not enough evidence to determine safety of elderberry for breastfeeding moms. Check with your doctor before taking elderberry.
  • Amount: There are no dosage recommendations for elderberry while breastfeeding.
  • How it helps boost immunity: According to the NIH, elderberry may relieve symptoms of the flu or other upper respiratory infections. One 2016 study found that elderberry may reduce the duration of a cold and reduce cold symptoms.

  • Safety: Yes, zinc is safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: 12 mg is the daily recommended amount for breastfeeding moms. The NIH says the tolerable upper limit for adults is 40 mg.
  • How it helps boost immunity: Zinc can help the immune system fight off viruses and bacteria, according to the NIH.
  • Consider shopping for: Garden of Life Raw Zinc, suggests Ross. It’s important to note that while this product is below the upper limit for adults, it contains more zinc than is recommended during breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor before adding extra zinc to your multivitamin.

Ross says dietary supplements like Airborne and Emergen-C are not recommended while breastfeeding since adequate medical studies have not been performed to show their effectiveness and safety.

“The amount of vitamin C in Emergen-C exceeds the recommended dose for breastfeeding moms,” she adds.

If you’re concerned about getting sick, Ross says it’s probably best to take a probiotic and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help prevent illness while breastfeeding.

Taking immune-boosting supplements while breastfeeding can provide health benefits to both mom and baby. At a minimum, you should take a postnatal multivitamin or a product that includes the necessary nutrients for breastfeeding.

If you want to take additional supplements, check for safety, and make sure you are not exceeding the daily recommended dose. But before you take any supplements while breastfeeding, make sure to talk with your doctor.

Study: Nutrition, immunity and COVID-19. Image Credit: Tatjana Baibakova / Shutterstock

Healthy diet plays vital role in warding off COVID-19

  • November 30, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread globally, with over 62.26 million people infected. With the rapid spread of its causative agent, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), it is crucial to determine ways to prevent infection.

The immune system protects the host from pathogenic organisms, including viruses, bacterial, fungi, and parasites. To deal with a broad range of threats, the immune system has evolved to include many specialized cell types that communicate and work in tandem to fight off infections.

Since the immune system is active in carrying out surveillance throughout the day, it needs adequate nutrients. Several vitamins and trace elements have been shown to reduce the risk of infections.

A researcher at the School of Human Development and Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, explored nutrition’s role in boosting the immune system to combat COVID-19 infection.

The study published in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health highlights the importance of nutrition in boosting the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.

Study: Nutrition, immunity and COVID-19. Image Credit: Tatjana Baibakova / Shutterstock

The immune system

The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. It keeps a record of every pathogen it has ever encountered to recognize and kill it if it enters the body again.

Immunological memory refers to the immune system’s ability to quickly recognize an antigen that the body has previously encountered and initiated a corresponding immune response.

Many factors could alter the body’s immune response. Aging can be tied to a loss of immune system competence, called immunosenescence.

Immunosenescence is characterized by reduced immune cells, including T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, dendritic cells, neutrophils, monocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells.

One factor associated with immunosenescence is a reduction of immune cells from the bone marrow, where these cells come from. All these processes that occur in old age could predispose older people to more severe COVID-19.

Obesity is also tied to a reduced immune response. Usually, obese people experience impairments in the activity of helper T lymphocytes, cytotoxic T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and natural killer cells. They also have reduced antibody and interferon-gamma (IFN-y) production. This predisposes them to develop severe COVID-19.

Also, obese people may have a poorer response to vaccination. Obesity has also been linked to increased blood concentrations of many inflammatory mediators, a state of chronic low-grade inflammation. When infected, the immune system may mount an excessive inflammatory response like a cytokine storm, making them vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

Nutrition and immunity

The immune system functions at all times, but specific cells become activated by the presence of pathogens. The activation leads to a marked increase in the immune system’s demand for energy-yielding substrates, including fatty acids, glucose, and amino acids.

Some nutrients, such as vitamin A and D, are direct regulators of the gene expression in immune cells. They play essential roles in the maturation, differentiation, and responsiveness of immune cells.

Antioxidants also play critical roles in protecting the body against oxidative stress. Classic antioxidant vitamins include vitamin C and E, including antioxidant enzymes such as catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase.

Hence, keeping the body well-nourished is crucial to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Good nutrition provides an environment where the immune system can respond quickly and appropriately to infection. Meanwhile, nutrient deficiency makes the body and the immune system unable to work correctly.

In a nutshell, keeping the body nourished with vitamins and minerals is essential in the fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In some cases, even if a person gets infected, the body’s immune system can readily fight off the pathogen, reducing the risk of developing severe illness.

Vitamin A, B6, folate, C, D, and E, including trace elements like zinc, copper, iron, and selenium, have been demonstrated to play key roles in supporting the immune system and reducing the risk of infections.

“It would seem prudent for individuals to consume sufficient amounts of essential nutrients to support their immune system to help them to deal with pathogens should they become infected,” the researchers explained.

“Consumption of a diet of diverse and varied plant-based and animal-based foods that are consistent with current healthy eating guidelines would be best to support the immune system,” they encouraged.

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