Building Your Immune System to Resist Colds & Flu

Building Your Immune System to Resist Colds & Flu

It’s important to build your immune system to resist colds and flu. And it’s good to know, many of the steps we provide here offer additional benefits—including helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even varicose veins!

The start of winter makes us think of exciting snow-covered ski slopes and heartwarming holiday gatherings. Unfortunately, winter is also the height of cold and flu season. But building your immune system and keeping it strong is important all year long.

 

How Our Immune Systems Help Us

Our immune systema help our bodies fight against harmful infections and diseases. It’s made up of a complex balance between our white blood cells, lymphatic system, thymus, and more!

Health care providers will recommend certain vaccines for protection against specific germs or invaders. But getting vaccinated is just part of protecting our health. There are many things one can do, daily, to keep our immune systems strong and our bodies healthy.

 

Immune Systems Weaken with Age

 

An older man with a bad cold with a blanket over his shoulders covering a  cough

 

Immune systems change with age. And aging is certainly out of our control. Many older adults find their immune systems have weakened and they’re more susceptible to certain diseases.

But still there are things we can do at any age to make our immune systems stronger.

Here are ways to improve your immune system to better fight colds and flu. And you’ll find that the health benefits extend way beyond flu season.

 

Eat Healthy Foods

We enjoy foods because of their pleasing tastes and textures. But our bodies depend on food to get the necessary nutrients.

Not only does food give us energy (measured in calories) for activity and growth— it also keeps our immune system robust.

A healthy diet includes:

  • Vegetables
  • Fresh fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Lean protein

A diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables will provide lots of fiber to support your gut’s microbiome production for a strong immune system.

You should avoid:

  • Cholesterol
  • Too much salt
  • Sugar
  • Saturated fats

Read how eating certain superfoods helps fight body inflammation and pain and helps prevent varicose veins and other health problems.

 

Vitamins and Supplements

Key micronutrients for strong immunity include:

  • Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D and E
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium

 

Many doctors recommend taking zinc supplements if you’re developing a respiratory infection to ease symptoms and shorten the length of the infection.

A healthcare provider will let you know the best amounts of zinc and vitamins to take. You don’t want to take too much as some can be harmful if taken in too large a dose.

A balanced and complete diet may even eliminate the need for any additional supplements.

 

Stay Hydrated

 

A man filling a tea kettle with water at his kitchen sink

 

A well-hydrated body will better fight off the flu and colds. Hydration can come from water, teas, and even chicken soup!

Adequate hydration helps the communication and biochemical pathways of the immune system. Your blood will more easily transport nutrients, fluids, and signals to organs to help fight infection.

 

Reduce Stress

Sometimes the thought of reducing stress seems a bit like herding cats—a highly difficult task.  But even if you can’t control the events in your life, you can help your body better deal with the stress you’re experiencing. This is important because stress can harm you.

Stress weakens parts of your immune system and leaves you at greater risk of infection. For example, shingles, a painful and sometimes dangerous rash, often emerges when a person is under constant stress.

 

A warmly dressed couple taking a nice walk on a park trail

 

Some easy ways to reduce stress include:

  • Going for a 20-minute walk
  • Listening to favorite music
  • Practicing yoga or meditation
  • Reading a good book
  • Calling a friend
  • Doing something you enjoy—such as cooking a delicious meal for yourself
  • Watching a funny movie
  • Exercising
  • Relaxing outside in the fresh air
  • Spending time with your pet

 

Exercise

Start exercising to give your immune system a boost. Exercise helps the immune cells circulate throughout your body during the periods of exercising. Afterwards, the immune cells will remain for up to three hours, working to protect your body from harm.

Harvard Medical School published the benefits of brisk walking to boost immune function during the cold and flu season. It reported, “A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.”

Exercise will also support vein health so veins can efficiently help your immune system circulate throughout your body.

 

Watch Your Weight

Keep at a healthy weight for a strong immune system and optimal health.

Health professionals define an obese person as someone with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30. Studies have shown that obesity can decrease the immune system’s effectiveness and is associated with a lower effectiveness of vaccines—including the flu vaccine.

Other studies have found a connection between being underweight and having an impaired immune system.

When it comes to your immune system and your health in general, it’s best to maintain a good weight. Your health care professional can give you the best weight range to strive for.

These factors play a role in weight management:

  • Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising
  • Minimizing stress

 

Get Plenty of Sleep

 

A man sleeping in bed with his arm around his dog

 

It’s an undisputed fact that experiencing a poor quality of sleep hurts your immune system.

Not getting enough sleep will:

  • Dangerously reduce production of cytokines (small proteins that enhance activity of immune system cells and blood cells)
  • Reduce production of antibodies
  • Increase your risk of viral infections

Read more about the effect of sleep on your veins and arteries.

 

 Give Your Lifestyle a Checkup

Two of the most important things you can do to preserve your immune system are:

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol

Smoking will make you more susceptible to getting influenza and pneumonia, as well as making these illnesses more severe and long-lasting.

Excessive use of alcohol will reduce the antibodies your body has to fight off infections. It also disrupts gut barrier function that produces antiviral proteins and eliminates infections.

Are you wondering about your vein health? Contact us at NJVVC to request a free vascular screening.

Superfoods That Can Help Fight Inflammation and Pain

Superfoods That Can Help Fight Inflammation and Pain

Today the word superfood enjoys widespread use and is the highest compliment a food can receive! It means that the food has unusually high levels of nutrients and offers a variety of significant health benefits.

Happily, there are superfoods that can even help fight inflammation and pain.

You probably have heard the term “superfood,” but do you know its origin?

During World War I, the US imported large amounts of bananas. The United Fruit Company called bananas “superfoods” since they were cheap, nutritious, easy to digest, and conveniently came in their own packaging! Bananas quickly became a staple in many Americans diets.

 

Vascular Issues Associated with Inflammation and Pain

Chronic inflammation commonly causes varicose veins. The inflammation damages the valves in the veins. These damaged valves lead to stagnant flow in the affected veins, eventually leading to varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Once this occurs, the veins no longer function well in getting blood back to the heart.

Varicose veins can also create long-term swelling that causes ulcers or sores that won’t heal.

Having a sedentary lifestyle, or needing long periods of bed rest, are just two f actors that slow down blood flow and can also contribute to the development of varicose veins—and to more inflammation and pain.

Poor circulation can cause you to feel pain, numbness or tingling in different parts of your body, including:

  • Hands and fingers
  • Legs
  • Feet and toes

Read more about signs of varicose vein disease.

Here are simple ways to improve your blood circulation.

 

Inflammation

Inflammation is a serious condition. Along with contributing to the development of varicose veins, it can cause plaque to develop and loosen in the arteries, and even cause blood clots that result in strokes or heart attacks.

 

A man massages his hand as if in pain

 

Chronic inflammation contributes to many other serious medical conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression

Inflammation can also cause chronic pain in the muscles and tissues, or can even cause painful skin rashes, such as psoriasis, or joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis.

An anti-inflammatory diet can not only reduce inflammation in your body, helping you to avoid dangerous medical conditions, but can even reduce pain. This diet will also help you control your weight, which will most likely further reduce pain in your body.

Fortunately, we can improve both vascular issues and inflammation with:

  • A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods
  • Elimination of inflammatory foods
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss/control
  • Blood sugar control

So, incorporate some of these anti-inflammatory superfoods into your diet and learn which is the most damaging inflammatory food to avoid.

 

Eat These Superfoods to Reduce Chronic Inflammation and Pain

 

A close-up of blueberries

 

Blueberries, Strawberries, Oranges and Other Fruits

Blueberries are chock full of phytonutrients that fight inflammation. If you can’t find fresh blueberries, buy frozen berries for the same nutrients.

Chili peppers have lots of vitamin C—an antioxidant that fights infections. It’s also associated with elimination of cancer-causing radicals in the body. Hot peppers also help reduce pain due to the capsaicin they contain.

Other fruits that are strong inflammation fighters include:

  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Avocado

 

Sweet and Tart Cherries (Fruits worth mentioning on their own)

Sweet (Bing) cherries and tart (red) cherries both have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and a lot of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are closely associated with reduced muscle pain and reduced muscle weakness.

 

Salmon, Herring, Tuna, Mackerel, Sardines

Wild salmon has lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great inflammation fighters. Salmon helps improve blood flow and reduces inflammation in blood vessels and nerves. It’s also good for your heart and can even help reduce joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis or back pain.

Not a fan of salmon? Try other types of cold-water fish such as sardines, tuna, and mackerel.

But not all fish offer these health benefits. For example, catfish and tilapia have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids which can actually increase inflammation.

 

Some Spices

Consuming these spices leads to reduced inflammation:

  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Rosemary
  • Turmeric

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

EVOO helps lower bad LDL cholesterol. It’s rich in antioxidants (polyphenols) and has other anti-inflammatory properties. Use it instead of butter or other cooking oils.

Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard Medical School reports that the health benefits of EVOO include a reduced risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and dementia for people who consume more olive oil than those who have little or none.

 

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds have powerful antioxidants and magnesium. They can help reduce the number of migraines. They also support a healthy heart and lower blood sugar levels.

Chia and flaxseeds also top the list of anti-inflammatory seeds.

 

Coffee and Tea

Coffee has polyphenols and other compounds that fight inflammation.  It also narrows dilated blood vessels to help reduce headache pain. Just be aware that consuming lots of coffee, and then suddenly avoiding coffee, can cause a withdrawal headache.

 

Pouring tea from a white teapot into a cup with saucer 

 

Healthful anti-inflammatory teas include green tea, black tea, and rosehips.

 

Edamame

Edamame, young soybeans, are a substantial source of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin K. It may reduce heart disease risk, as well as cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood.

 

Yogurt

Yogurt is associated with many health benefits, including decreased insulin resistance and decreased inflammation. Researchers possibly connected the anti-inflammatory powers of yogurt to its probiotics, but more studies are needed. Be  sure to avoid sugar-flavored yogurts!

 

More Foods That Reduce Inflammation

Include these additional anti-inflammatory foods into your diet for better health and to feel great:

 

A close-up of baby spinach leaves

 

  • Vegetables—including leafy greens, broccoli, cucumbers, spinach
  • Nuts and beans—including walnuts, almonds, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, soybeans
  • Whole grains—including whole grain bread, rye bread, brown rice
  • Turkey

Eating a healthful diet will help you look great too! Read about vitamins for healthy skin.

 

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

The number one inflammatory food is sugar. So, skip the sodas, desserts, candies, and fruit juices and look forward to feeling better. There is much debate about whether sugar is actually addictive, but there is no debate regarding the harm it causes the body.

Avoid these other inflammatory foods to feel better:

  • Processed meats—bacon and ham
  • Fried foods
  • Red meat—hamburgers and steaks
  • Refined carbohydrates—white bread, white rice, pasta
  • High-fructose corn syrup—watch for on all food labels
  • Margarine, corn oil, shortening

Learn more about the connection between diet and varicose veins.

Contact NJVVC for treatment of varicose vein disease and venous insufficiency.

Vitamins for Healthy Skin

Vitamins for Healthy Skin

What we eat affects our skin’s appearance as much as the products we use regularly. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you eat healthy foods that contain the following vitamins for healthy skin.

Vitamin D

Most people think that you can only get vitamin D through sunlight. This is not true. There are plenty of other valuable sources. But, getting vitamin D from sunlight may be the easiest way since only 10 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week will produce all your body needs.

That said, it’s important that you protect your skin from harmful UV radiation even in the winter months. As an alternative, you can also increase your vitamin D intake by eating fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and cod. Or, choose fortified foods like breakfast cereals and orange juice. Here are a few more examples of foods rich in Vitamin D:

  • White beans
  • Soybeans
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese

Biotin

Bananas

Biotin is a B7 vitamin that plays an important role in the health of your skin and hair. It also helps to convert certain nutrients into energy. Biotin aids in metabolizing fat, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin.

We recommend that you include meaty foods that are rich in biotin, such as fish, pork, and beef. Other examples include:

  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Raspberries
  • Avocados
  • Bananas

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has important antioxidant properties and supports collagen production. As one of the most important vitamins for healthy skin, you’ll find it included in many anti-aging skin care products. To achieve the maximum benefits from vitamin C, it’s best to utilize a combination of skin care products rich in this powerful vitamin and to incorporate it into your diet.

We recommend that you include foods that are naturally high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and leafy greens. Some of the best options are:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Pineapples
  • Strawberries
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Tomatoes

Vitamin B3

Seeds

A strong form of Vitamin B3 is Niacinamide, which is an essential nutrient for skin health. Topical niacinamide is commonly used to treat acne conditions and eczema. Niacinamide also helps boost your skin’s production of keratin, a protein that keeps your skin firm and plump.

Ideal for oily skin types, this powerful nutrient regulates oil production while also minimizing the appearance of pores. There are many topical niacinamide products available, however certain foods have a high amount of Vitamin B3 as well:

  • Spirulina
  • Coffee
  • Rice
  • Peanuts
  • Chia
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Milk

Vitamin E

The purpose of vitamin E in skin health is to protect it against UV damage and maintaining proper levels of moisture. Ideally, your body will produce sufficient amounts of this antioxidant through sebum, an oily secretion from your glands.

But, when your skin becomes dry, the addition of vitamin E can help restore its moisture. Vitamin E can be applied topically, taken as a supplement or consumed in the form of nuts and seeds. Some of our favorite foods with vitamin E are:

  •  Sunflower seeds
  •  Peanuts
  •  Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Corn

Flavonoids

Flavonoids

Flavonoids are plant compounds that are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dark chocolate is loaded with these powerful compounds, which makes it a popular skin mask if you wish to apply it instead of consuming it.

The best way to boost your diet with flavonoids is through a variety of fruits and vegetables. Many plant-based foods contain flavonoids such as:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Green tea
  • Red wine
  • Berries

Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps your body heal wounds and bruises and aids in your body’s natural process of blood clotting. Vitamin K is especially important for anyone who has spider veins or dark spots, as its ability to promote healthy blood circulation reduces the appearance of these symptoms.

Leafy and green vegetables are the best source of vitamin K, such as kale, spinach, and lettuce. Other options include:

  • Edamame
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Avocados

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2

With its powerful amount of collagen, Vitamin K2 is known to smooth irritated skin as well as plump the skin to appear fuller. Vitamin K is also commonly used to combat acne scars, rosacea, and other skin conditions.

While Vitamin K1 is found in leafy greens and vegetables, Vitamin K2 is mostly found in meats and dairy.

  • Turkey
  • Beef liver
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut

Coenzyme CoQ10

Coenzyme CoQ10

A naturally produced bodily enzyme, Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant. CoQ10 is actually found in every cell of the human body. It’s extremely crucial for the production of new cells, making it a great addition to any anti-aging skincare routine.

Because it boosts the production of new cells, CoQ10 is often used to treat acne scars and can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. CoQ10 can be found in meat, various nuts, beans, and vegetables such as:

  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Pork
  • Beef

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA is a compound that comes straight from our mitochondria, otherwise known as the “powerhouse of the cell”. Our bodies naturally produce ALA, however, it’s often in small amounts.

Therefore, getting an extra boost in your diet is necessary for your skin. ALA is often used to combat dark spots, reverse sun damage, and even protect our skin from harmful pollutants.

ALA also has strong antioxidant properties, making it a great anti-aging aid. ALA can be naturally found in red meat and many vegetables such as:

  • Yams
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Tomatoes
  • Red meat
  • Brussel sprouts

Spotlight: Neocutis and its Restorative Benefits

At the New Jersey Vein and Vascular Center, we are proud to offer Neocutis products for our clients based on their skincare needs. These products are dispensed through select physicians, so you know that you are getting the highest quality of skincare that science has to offer.

These topical treatments work best to combat:

  • Signs of aging
  • Skin discoloration
  • Oxidative stress (the body’s ability to detoxify from free radicals)
  • Skin redness and dryness

They also include many of the beneficial vitamins we mentioned earlier. We want all our customers to look and feel their best, which is why we offer these highly regarded products.

Conclusion

Vitamins from foods and supplements support the health and appearance of your skin from the inside out. The right skin care routine with nutrient rich products will help to create a beautiful look from the outside in. Utilize a combination of both the important vitamins for healthy skin and good skincare products to achieve the best results.  

Contact us today to learn more about enhancing the look of your skin with the right vitamins and our Neocutis products.

This blog has been updated and republished in November 2021.

12 Simple Ways to Improve Circulation

12 Simple Ways to Improve Circulation

Your circulatory system is your body’s method of distributing both nutrients and oxygen. It also functions to clean your body, whisking away carbon dioxide and waste products from all areas. It is very important to keep your blood circulating well so that your body gets all the support it needs to survive. Which is why we have compiled a list of the simplest ways to improve circulation and stay healthy.
The symptoms of poor circulation can vary. Some people experience slight tingling in their extremities, while others might develop varicose veins in their legs. Whatever the symptoms, inadequate blood flow is a major risk factor for issues like heart attacks, strokes, and even amputation of limbs.
Proper circulation is vital for one’s health, and can also prevent varicose veins. If you’re worried about your circulation or experience pain or coldness in certain areas, you should contact your doctor immediately, as this may be indicative of poor blood flow. With these tips in mind, it is easier than ever to prevent and improve poor circulation to keep yourself healthy.

Take a Walk

Poor circulation can be a problem for those who stand for extended periods of time at work. In this position, the blood simply is not recirculating adequately in the body, and it can result in extreme pain in the legs and feet. According to this study, the simple act of walking every day can dramatically increase the circulation throughout your body.

If you find yourself standing for too long, or remaining sedentary for any reason, find a friend, go for a walk, and get that blood moving. A simple exercise like walking is enough to stretch your muscles and restore blood flow.

Stop Smoking

It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes leads to a host of health problems. Not least among them is the fact that cigarettes are extremely damaging to cardiovascular health. Smoking causes swelling of the wrists and ankles. It damages your cells on a molecular level and can increase the risk of blood clots.

Cigarettes kill 140,000 people in America because of their impact on cardiovascular health. Quitting cigarettes is one of the best things you can do to ensure your vital organs receive an increased amount of oxygenated blood.

Try Swedish Massage

A therapeutic Swedish massage, available at most spas, is a luxurious getaway for your body and mind. Though relaxation is tied to healthier blood flow, massage therapy has been shown to increase local blood circulation and lymphatic flow. Trained massage therapists know how to increase your circulation through specialty strokes throughout the session.

Do Some Yoga to Improve Circulation

Regular, gentle yoga is another pleasant alternative therapy for improving circulation. Studies have shown that certain yoga poses have proven beneficial for cardiovascular health, and offer a myriad of other health benefits as well.

The best part about yoga is that simple exercises and stretches can be safely done in the comfort of your own home, without expensive equipment or gym fees.

Put Those Feet Up

Aside from the fact that you deserve a break at the end of a long, exhausting day, there are legitimate health reasons to put your feet up daily. Gravity can cause fluids to build up in your lower limbs if you’re on your feet all day. Laying down with your feet elevated about six inches above your torso is a great way to reduce swelling.

Elevating your feet lets gravity help your blood flow establish a more natural rhythm, especially if you’ve spent a great portion of your day on your feet.

Decrease Stress

When you’re stressed out, your body produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which is linked to cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure. Studies have shown that stress significantly decreases the amount of oxygenated blood flow to the heart.

If you’re experiencing elevated levels of stress, it’s likely impacting your circulation. Try to focus on mediating that stress in your life. Whether you de-stress through hobby time, meditation, phone calls with friends, listening to music, or journaling, make sure you prioritize your peace of mind.

Losing Weight Will Improve Circulation

Like quitting smoking, losing weight takes a little more of a lifestyle change to implement. Weight gain restricts blood flow due to endothelial dysfunction, blocking circulation to the limbs. It’s been shown that having excess fat, especially belly fat, can make it more difficult for your abdominal arteries to expand. This means less blood flow throughout the rest of your body.

Losing weight can help take pressure off those arteries, and lead to better circulation.

Wear Compression Stockings or Socks

Compression stockings are long, tight socks that hug your lower legs and improve blood circulation. They counteract the tendency of blood to pool in the lower legs.  Compression socks squeeze your vein walls in such a way that the blood returns to the heart from the legs more easily. They help mimic the muscle movement created by walking even when you’re sitting still. This discourages stiffness and swelling, and is very useful for people who work long hours sitting at a desk.

Compression socks can be purchased in a variety of styles, fabrics, colors, and levels of compression. Some are designed for dress, casual, and sports, in open and closed toe. There are four main levels of compression from 8-15 mmHg to 30-40 mmHg. The lower the number, the milder the compression. People in many professions wear compression socks daily to improve circulation, and prevent leg fatigue and swelling.

Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Pomegranates and blueberries are great sources of antioxidants, which are thought to increase blood flow by neutralizing free radicals, which can damage your cells. Some other super foods to include in your diet to increase circulation are grapes, nuts, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes, beans and fish.

Wear the Right Clothes

Tight clothing prevents blood flow by placing pressure on the skin. Loose clothing allows blood to flow freely without restriction. Shoes that are too tight or at an odd angle (like high heels) force your feet into uncomfortable positions, causing swelling in the feet and ankles which restricts blood flow.

Choose clothes and shoes that are comfortable if you know you will be on your feet for long periods of time. Save those more form fitting clothes and high heels for date night or special occasions.

Don’t Cross Your Legs

Crossing your legs while sitting can restrict blood flow. Sitting with both feet flat on the ground helps prevent this. If you typically cross your legs, this can be a difficult habit to break, but it is highly recommended that you give it a try.

Crossing your legs not only hinders circulation but it can also lead to poor posture, back pain and leg stiffness.

Drink Water

Your body needs water to move nutrients and waste throughout the blood. It helps keep both your blood and skin cells hydrated so they can repair themselves efficiently. Dehydration can lead to serious health problems.

Keep water on hand and drink it regularly throughout the day. Drinking water will improve circulation, brain function and heart problems.

Poor circulation is a serious health threat that afflicts many Americans, but there are plenty of interventions to consider. If you have been giving extra thought to improving your circulation, the professionals at New Jersey Vein and Vascular Center can help answer questions about vascular health, blood flow, and varicose veins.
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