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Boost immune system, prevent diseases, say experts

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One fallout of too much stress in the body is the negative effect it has on the immune system.         Health experts note that when stress levels are too high, it weakens the immune system, rendering the body vulnerable to infections and diseases. This can range from ailments such as the common cold to more serious diseases like cancer and AIDS. 

  "The immune system helps protect the body against bacteria, viruses and micro-organisms that try to invade it," stated Mercy Oki, a nutritionist and lifestyle expert. She explained that when the stress level in the body is too high, it suppresses the immune system, thereby preventing it from doing its job of fighting infections. "When that happens, the body is exposed and vulnerable to infection and disease. Common illnesses brought on or worsened by stress are cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, skin conditions, poor memory function and others such as cancer, AIDS and other autoimmune disorders," she added.

 Speaking further, she said: "While it is near impossible to avoid some level of stress in the fast paced, modern world we live in today, too much or chronic stress is unhealthy to the body system. So, we need to learn to control the level of stress to avoid the immune system being affected adversely. Learn to deal with stress in a healthy way."  

 To reduce chronic stress, she recommends certain lifestyle, dietary and personal changes that will help boost immunity and prevent infections from invading the body. "People should learn to relax more. I know there's a lot of pressure in the society presently for people to make it, be successful and have lots of money. All this chasing after money and material things is putting so much pressure on so many people that it's contributing to the stress levels they are facing.  

 This is not good for the health as it can lead to ailments such as high blood pressure, heart diseases that can result in strokes or heart attacks among others. I just lost a cousin of mine, a young lady in her 30s who died of a heart attack. She was having marital and financial problems and probably thinking too much which must have increased her stress levels. You know, too much stress can cause high blood pressure, irregular heart beat and other symptoms of hypertension which are not good for the health. Her BP was very high and before we knew it, she was gone. 

 "So, if you are prone to high blood pressure, avoid situations that will raise your stress levels. Take up exercise, eat healthily especially plenty of fruits and vegetables as these contain antioxidants that can strengthen your body's ability to fight infections and diseases; avoid too much alcohol and learn to relax more. Life is not all about chasing money or big positions," advised Oki. 

Also speaking on the issue, Joy Onukwu, a physiotherapist at the Eupraxiaphysio Clinic, Lagos stated: "Stress is the way our bodies would react to any kind of demand or load sent its way. Stress could affect us both positively and negatively. In our body, the Nervous system reacts by releasing hormones known as adrenalin which (positive stress) in time of danger helps us to flee.

 "The issue comes when the stress level is very high which could be caused by place of work, school, family problems, depression, lack of sleep, and so on. When this happens, it would in turn affect our immune system which is known as the soldiers of our body, due to low immunity, diseases can attack our body."

 For good health and general wellbeing of the body, she advised: "My general advice for good health is that for good nutrition, people should eat balanced diet, a lot of fruits and vegetables as they supply vitamins and build the immune system. We should also endeavour to exercise. Ensure you exercise at least 30 minutes through walk, and do it three times a week. This would improve circulation, muscles, bones, brain function and so on. We should also sleep and rest well-as an adult, required hours of sleep is about 7 hours, ensure you rest well."

  Dietary and lifestyle changes to help boost your immune system 

Too much stress can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heart beat and other symptoms of hypertension which can be harmful to health. While there are some medications that help reduce stress and depression (especially antidepressants), natural remedies are advisable as they are less addictive and with few or no side effects unlike drugs.
  Avoid unhealthy habits
Don't rely on alcohol, smoking, caffeine or even hard drugs as your ways of coping with stress or life's challenges. Studies show that men more than women are likely to do this as women are better at seeking support from their social circle. Known as the avoidance behaviour, these habits will not solve whatever problem you have but worsen the situation by creating new ones. It might provide temporary relief but it will not make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.

 Take up regular exercise
Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and enabling you to deal with your problems more calmly.

 A little regular exercise can have a profound effect on all aspects of your emotional well-being. It can relieve stress, ease depression and anxiety, improve your memory, help you sleep better, and boost your overall mood. No matter your age or fitness level, you can use enjoyable physical activities to improve your emotional health and change your life for the better.

 Cycling, swimming, tennis, jogging or regular walks not only reduce stress, but encourage efficient functioning of the lymphatic system - a network of vessels that picks up toxins and removes them from the body. Unlike circulation which relies on the heart to pump blood around the body, the lymph system is dependent on muscular contraction. Working the muscles prevents the lymphatic system from becoming sluggish and promotes efficient removal of toxins.
 The expert's advice: Choose an exercise programme that will keep you motivated. Avoid the temptation to dive in at the deep end. Instead, slowly build up your fitness level to avoid putting undue strain on your body.

 Get enough sleep
Sufficient sleep combined with diet and exercise helps prevent infection. Sleep gives our immune organs - tonsils, sinus and lymph glands - the chance to regenerate. While we are asleep, our bodies undergo certain important processes - from repair and renewal to energy restoration. Sleep is important for our immune system - the part of the body that is responsible for fighting infection. 

 Some scientists believe that during sleep, we secrete higher levels of cortisol - the hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that protects the immune system than during the day.
The expert's advice: Although each person needs different amounts of sleep, aim for at least six hours per night. Learning to relax and steering clear of alcohol will help achieve refreshing, deep sleep.

Herbs for stress
Herbs that calm include passionflower, St. John's wort, kava, oats, damiana, chamomile. Those that reduce the effects of stress on the body include licorice and ginseng. Avoid caffeine which is a stimulant that increases adrenaline in the body, the very hormone you are looking to reduce. Avoid coffee (decaf is ok), colas, chocolate and more than 2 cups of tea daily.

Take up a stress reducing technique such as meditation. Meditation is a technique used to empty the mind of thoughts, achieved through deep breathing and focusing the mind. Breathing deeply and rhythmically aids the uptake of oxygen and releases tension throughout the whole body. This creates a sense of calm, clears the mind and sharpens general awareness.

 By Patience Saduwa-  Blog Author


Healthy Cleansing after the Holidays 
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The Christmas/New Year holiday season is often a time to celebrate with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many it also becomes a time for over-eating and weight gain. If you have over indulged during the holidays and you feel tired and bloated, it's time to do a detox or body cleansing to remove all the toxins and waste that might have accumulated in your system during the festivities.
When deciding to cleanse, the first thing to remove are all processed foods and refined foods. Meats, dairy, eggs, seed or nut oils, and grains are all very strengthening to the body and it is best to leave these out of your diet during the cleansing process, which can be anywhere from 1 - 3 days. 

Beginning and ending your day with a warm cup of lemon juice and water will support the detoxification process. In the body, lemons are alkalizing and according to Chinese medicine theory, they disperse phlegm and mucous. Also, be sure to include probiotics, the friendly microflora that benefit the immune system and help break down toxins and carcinogens in the intestinal tract.
Throughout the cleanse, avoid toxins and allergens such as processed meat, sugar, wheat (or any kind of gluten), dairy, soy, peanuts, coffee, any artificial colors or flavors and other processed foods of any kind. Stick to whole foods, fruit, vegetables, and gluten-free grains.
Drink a lot of fluids, especially water during the cleansing period to help remove toxins from the system. A juice fast is also a good way of detoxifying the system, leaving it clean and toxic- free. It's advisable to make your own juices rather than store bought, packaged ones which contain additives and sweeteners that are often toxic.
Fruits and vegetables that are suitable for juicing include grapefruit, oranges, lemons, paw-paw, apple, cucumber, pineapple, coconut, tomatoe, carrot and mango. You can add some spices such as ginger, turmeric or a pinch of pepper to your juice for extra taste.
  For those who do not mind the bitter taste, bitters are also good cleansers. They help in purifying the blood and support the liver and large intestine, two of the main organs involved in the cleansing process.

The benefits of detoxification are many. These include, increasing energy and vitality, boosting immunity, thus reducing ailments and diseases, clearer skin and sparkling eyes, shiny, luscious hair and improved mood among others.

Article by Patience Saduwa, Blog Author

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Exercise and wellbeing

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Are you one of those who think exercise is a waste of time and of no benefits at all to the body? You might have to have a rethink, considering the immense advantages and benefits of regular exercise to the overall health and wellbeing of the body. 
Research shows that regular physical activity can improve your overall quality of life as well as  reduce risks for several diseases and health conditions. Besides, exercise will make you feel better, have more energy and even live longer.

On this Dr Wole Ogunkoya, a medical practitioner in Lagos, stated: 
"Muscle cannot work by itself. When it is attached to a particular part of the body, the tendon for instance, it contrasts like an elastic, pulls the bones, that is how God created it. So if the fibers around the body are not exercised, they will become dormant. After a while, they go weak and once they go weak, they die slowly. So they need to be exercised and developed.

That happens to every part of the body. We need to exercise every part of the body, every muscle must be exercised. For people with pot bellies, they need to exercise the muscles in that part of the body. If you exercise that part, it comes alive and starts to work and slowly the belly returns to a normal shape.

"Same goes for people who are fat, they need to exercise and burn off the fat. Food, on the other hand, is important while exercising because in doing exercises, you are burning out. While doing the exercises, we use glucose and lots of it. So most of the carbohydrates that we eat, are used up at that period. But if the carbohydrates in the body are not enough, then the body borrows from the protein in the body but that must be replaced. That is because some muscles can function during exercise when there is a shortage of glucose, but it is advisable that we take lots of food that can give us glucose which we need during exercises. Vitamins are vital too, eat food that gives vitamins." 
To health experts, regular physical activity, can help protect from some health problems such as high blood pressure. It does this by reducing body fat, which is associated with high blood pressure. So, those with high BP can benefit from regular exercise, experts note.
Exercise also controls weight. Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. For the obese, exercise is very important as it helps reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle mass and improving the body's ability to use calories. When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and prevent obesity, a major risk factor for many diseases.
  When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. Besides workouts at the gym, your body can benefit from other forms of exercise such as jogging, fast walking, running, playing games, taking the stairs (instead of the lift) among others.  
Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart's working capacity. Optimizing each of these factors can provide additional benefits of decreasing the risk for Peripheral Vascular Disease.
Self Esteem And Stress Management.
Studies on the psychological effects of exercise have found that regular physical activity can improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself. Researchers have found that exercise is likely to reduce depression 
Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily activities.
Another benefit of exercise is mood improvement, say experts. A workout at the gym or a brisk walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.
Exercise is also a sleep booster. So, if you struggle to fall asleep at night or suffer from insomnia,  
regular  physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and make you sleep deeper. You should avoid exercising too close to bedtime so you don't feel too energized to fall asleep.

By Patience Saduwa and Paul Ukpabio 

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