Posts Tagged ‘immune system’

What about Ginger?

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Did you know…as one of the oldest spices known in Asia and Europe, ginger has a long history as a seasoning and was once as common as salt and pepper. People would add ginger to everything, including teas and beers leading to modern drinks like ginger ale and ginger beers.

Ginger is one of the world’s favorite spices and has been acclaimed for its medicinal benefits since ancient times. A perennial herb native to southern China, ginger was imported early on to India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Europe. Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale).The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger adds a special flavor and zest to stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Due to its various medicinal benefits, ginger is considered a herbal remedy in many cultures. Over the years, it has been used to reduce inflammation, help with digestion, improve cardiovascular health and even historically to even ward off diseases like the plague.

In the Ayurvedic tradition, ginger is highly regarded as having many diverse healing properties, and is used prominently in treating disorders of the digestive tract. In the Asian medicine tradition, ginger is considered to possess hot or warming attributes. It is also favored as a remedy for digestive conditions ranging from upset stomach to diarrhea to abdominal bloating.

Ginger is still widely used for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The gingerols found in ginger are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the production of nitric oxide, which helps relieve joint pain that is associated with arthritis. It also provides substantial pain relief from gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and also decreases swelling and helps with morning stiffness. In a research study published in 2005, investigators found that ginger may reduce inflammation more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.

Ginger is an excellent herb to use for strengthening and healing the respiratory system, as well as for fighting off colds and flu. It removes congestion, soothes sore throats, and relieves headaches and body aches. Ginger is loaded with antioxidants, which have immune-boosting properties. By strengthening the immune system, it protects you against all sorts of infections and diseases.

Although scientific research into the health benefits of ginger is really just beginning, over 2500 years of herbal wisdom, plus some recent scientific studies strongly support the use of ginger as an effective digestion aid. Ginger root has a great reputation for controlling nausea of all types. Several studies have found that ginger is more effective than placebo in relieving morning sickness. In a small study of 30 pregnant women with severe vomiting, those who ingested 1 gram of ginger every day for 4 days reported more relief from vomiting than those who received placebo. In a double-blind, comparative test at Brigham Young University, Utah, researchers found ginger root to be more effective in coping with motion sickness than the popular, over-the-counter drug, Dramamine.

Fresh ginger roots can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Ginger is also available in other forms including dried root, capsules, tablets, tea, extracts and tinctures. A simple ginger tea can be made by pouring hot water over one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and allowing it to infuse for 10 minutes before straining. Lemon juice and a little honey can be added to it if desired.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

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Vitamin D and Its Impact on Your Health

 Vitamin D also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is a fat-soluble vitamin required for normal growth of teeth and bones, and many other systems. It is found in foods such as fish, eggs and fortified drinks. Skin production of vitamin D depends on exposure to sunlight. Active people living in sunny regions produce most of the vitamin D they need from their skin. In less sunny regions, the skin production of vitamin D is greatly diminished especially during the winter months, during which time vitamin D supplementation becomes vital.

Vitamin D is activated in the kidneys and it works as a hormone, regulating, among other things, the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, and promoting normal growth and strength of bones. Vitamin D deficiency can result in thin, brittle or misshapen bones, while enough vitamin D helps prevent rickets (softening of bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity) and osteomalacia (milder form of the same disease) in adults. These are extreme cases of vitamin D deficiency, but today, the impact of vitamin D deficiency is evident in every system of the body, from the immune to the nervous system.

It is very important to have your vitamin D levels tested so that you know if your current lifestyle, nutritional intake, and overall health are providing you with the adequate levels of this vital nutrient. First you need to know how low you are, which will determine how much you need to take, and then you need to be retested after a few months so that you know when to reduce the amount you are taking.

Vitamin D and Infection

The role of vitamin D as an infection fighting nutrient is now obvious. Researchers have shown that vitamin D plays an essential role for activating immune defenses from T cells in the body. A study published in 2009, by the researchers at the EMNet Coordinating Center in Boston, linked vitamin D deficiency with increased risk of respiratory infections and asthma. Another study done in 2006 by the UCLA researchers showed that vitamin D deficiency is connected with higher susceptibility of tuberculosis. Vitamin D increases the body’s production of naturally occurring antibiotics, namely the antimicrobial peptides. Antimicrobial peptides are produced in numerous cells in the human body where they directly and rapidly destroy the cell walls of viruses and bacteria.

Researchers have found a link between vitamin D deficiency and the flu. Most vitamin D is created from exposure to sunshine, therefore vitamin D deficiency is more common in winter exactly when cold and flu levels reach their peak. A large study appearing in the February 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine found that people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having more recent colds or flu. Vitamin D plays an important role in the prevention of common respiratory infections such as colds and the flu.

Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention

A study published by the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 2010, showed that the role of Vitamin D in overall health including cancer prevention is undeniable. There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that the risk of colorectal cancer is reduced with adequate Vitamin D status. The sunshine vitamin has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Vitamin D may help prevent cancer in several ways, including maintaining healthy cells with normal life spans, discouraging out-of-control cell reproduction, and hindering the formation of new blood vessels for tumors.

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system, resulting in loss of muscle control and sensation. One environmental factor influencing the risk for developing MS is sunshine, and in particular a vitamin D deficiency, therefore people in parts of the world that get less sunlight (such as Canada) are more likely than others to get multiple sclerosis. Studies showing the involvement of vitamin D in immune and nervous system functioning bring evidence to support this. It has also been shown that Vitamin D helps control a gene known to increase the risk of multiple sclerosis. Thus adequate levels of vitamin D taken during pregnancy and early in life may help prevent the disease in those predisposed to MS.

Vitamin D and Lung Function

A study published in August 2010 by researchers from the University of Cincinnati, showed a high occurrence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with interstitial lung disease and connective tissue disease, and thus vitamin D deficiency has been connected with reduced lung function. Another study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado in April 2010 showed that in asthmatics, reduced vitamin D levels are associated with weaker lung function, suggesting that supplementation with vitamin D may improve the severity of asthma symptoms. Vitamin D has potent anti-inflammatory properties, one more reason why vitamin D is useful for asthmatics.

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Recent studies show that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for people with diabetes or insulin resistance and may prevent or delay symptoms of diabetes. While increasing vitamin D levels is not considered a cure for diabetes, vitamin D supplementation have been shown to be helpful in treating diabetes, improving insulin secretion and reducing insulin sensitivity.

Vitamin D and Mood

Vitamin D may help increase the brain’s serotonin levels, having a positive impact on depressive symptoms. In June, 2010, the researchers from the Loyola University in Chicago found that the effective detection and treatment of low vitamin D levels in depressive patients may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health as well as their quality of life.

A recent study conducted by VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam showed that vitamin D may be an effective and intriguing possibility for the treatment of depression, especially in older patients. The study indicated that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to depression symptoms.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a situational mood disorder caused by decreasing daylight in the winter months. High doses of vitamin D during winter have been proven to be a very effective natural remedy for SAD.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy

In a very recent study, published in September 2010, researchers from the CHA University, School of Medicine in Seoul stated that an adequate vitamin D intake is essential for the health of the mother and child during pregnancy, and there is sufficient evidence that many pregnant women have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus and an increased risk for C-section delivery. Vitamin D has also been proved to decrease the risk of infection and improve the length of gestation, and infant bone mineralization.

Vitamin D and Kids

Vitamin D plays an incredibly important role when it comes to the growth and development of children. In an extreme case, vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a disease that results in soft, weak bones in children. But there are other cases such as impaired brain function and asthma in kids that have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.

A study published in April 2008 by the researchers from the Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, showed that vitamin D is vital for the brain development of children because of the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain. Hence, adequate levels of vitamin D have been shown to improve memory, learning ability and concentration.

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that asthma symptoms may be worse for children who had low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D plays a critical role in all body functions, helping many systems including the immune, nervous and respiratory system. In order to enjoy the wonderful benefits of Vitamin D, such as healthy bones, lower cancer risks and better mood, make sure you get your vitamin D levels checked, take the appropriate dosage for your specific needs and also enjoy moderate sun exposure several times a week, weather permitting.

Vitamin D testing is available at the Wellness Naturopathic Centre.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.