MakeWell - coronavirus

N-acetylcysteine is classified as a dietary supplement. It is an acylated form of the semi-essential amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is a sulphur containing amino acid which can become essential in certain conditions, such as regeneration of wounds or recovery from an infection.

The amino acid is typically found in protein-rich foods such as turkey, chicken, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and sunflower seeds. It can also be found in legumes and other meats. One of the dietary supplement versions of cysteine is N-acetylcysteine, or NAC for short. So what are the benefits of N-acetylcysteine? And could N-acetylcysteine serve as a potentially beneficial agent for patients with COVID-19? Let’s find out.

 

What is N-acetylcysteine used for and how does it work?

There are many uses for N-acetylcysteine. Research has shown that the supplement may be helpful in regeneration and wound healing, and could also provide antioxidative properties, as cysteine is a part of the tripeptide glutathione, a master antioxidant. It has also been used in the past as a way to treat paracetamol intoxication, which is an overdose of acetaminophen, and as a mucolytic agent.

The way it works differs depending on what it is used for. In the case of overdose, the supplement works through protective mechanisms. Being a precursor to glutathione, a substance produced in the liver, NAC has the ability to essentially excrete the harmful substances out of the body as quickly as possible. When it is used as a supplement, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help to keep the body free of inflammation and balanced when it comes to free radicals. It also helps to increase blood flow and enhance oxygen delivery throughout the body and its tissues.

 

Image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash: Could the NAC supplement be a viable treatment aid for COVID-19?

 

N-acetylcysteine benefits

As mentioned above, N-acetylcysteine helps the body create glutathione. Since glutathione acts as a powerful antioxidant, it helps to ward off oxidative stress, which can cause damage to the cells. By balancing free radicals, NAC can help to eliminate or reduce any damage. Because of its ability to ward off oxidative stress, it has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and infertility.

The supplement can also help to prevent liver and kidney damage by encouraging the body’s natural detoxification process. Glutathione is an important antioxidant when it comes to brain health, and NAC can help to restore and replenish it, increasing the brain’s ability to function properly.

Some research has found that N-acetylcysteine could also help different chronic health ailments including chronic fatigue, mental health and mood disorders, and respiratory conditions such as COPD. Recently, NAC has been investigated as a potentially beneficial agent for those suffering from the COVID-19 virus.

 

Is taking a NAC supplement good for viral infections?

COVID-19 has been running rampant since its initial outbreak a year ago, and medical professionals have been consistently looking for ways to help treat people who become infected. A recent study of N-acetylcysteine in patients with COVID-19 infections found that because of its anti-inflammatory characteristics and its ability to modulate the immune system, NAC may be a beneficial addition to the treatment protocol in some cases when it comes to COVID-19.

The study also notes the possibility that patients who take NAC during treatment with other antiviral agents could see a reduction in how long they are in the hospital, how long they need ventilation, and even their rates of death.

 

MakeWell - pandemic
Image by Erik Mclean on Unsplash: The COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for over a year, but could NAC help make treatment better for a brighter pandemic future?

 

The newly explored research on the subject has led many scientists to the conclusion that there may be several benefits of using NAC against the viral infection. One particular study notes that because of the oxidative stress imbalance that occurs in some COVID-19 patients, using NAC to encourage higher levels of glutathione could reduce levels of oxidative stress, thus helping to restore balance to the body.

The current research on NAC and COVID-19 is promising, but yet many facts need to be elucidated and many trials in the future are to be conducted to learn more about those connections. N-acetylcysteine is not to be looked at as a cure, though – only as supplemental treatment that may help to prevent a grave outcome in patients suffering from the viral infection.

Featured image by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

MakeWell - vitamin c

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that aids in many processes. It is an essential nutrient that is neither produced nor stored by the body; daily intake is recommended to ensure the body is getting enough. The many benefits of regular vitamin C intake include management of high blood pressure, prevention of iron deficiency, and protection of memory and cognitive function.

One system that reaps many benefits from vitamin C is the immune system. It protects against diseases by aiding the producing white blood cells that fight against infection, as well as helping them to function once they are produced. Vitamin C also helps the skin by strengthening it, which leads to a better skin defence system. Read on to learn more about the connection between vitamin C and infectious diseases.

 

How does vitamin C affect the immune system?

Since the immune system is the first line of defence against all outside pathogens, keeping it strong and functional is of the utmost importance. This means participating in the right types of lifestyle activities and ensuring that you’re feeding your body everything it needs in the way of nutrients. Vitamin C is one of those essential nutrients that has been proven to be a great immune booster. Specifically, vitamin C has the ability to influence natural killer cells.

Natural killer cells are lymphocytes, or white blood immune cells. They go throughout the body during the immune response to target and kill cells that are infected. Vitamin C promotes and enhances natural killer cells’ activity, making them even better at their job. It can also influence B and T cells in the immune system, as well as stimulate other immune cells that are required to fight off infection.

 

MakeWell - citrus
Image by Anda Ambrosini on Unsplash: Is vitamin C good for infections?

 

How much vitamin C should I take to boost my immune system?

When it comes to dosages of vitamin C, everyone may have different needs depending on how well they absorb the nutrient and other lifestyle factors. For example, a person who smokes may need 35 mg more vitamin C per day then a person who has never smoked. Healthy adults typically require anywhere from 75 to 90 mg per day. To boost the immune system, the dosage required may also be higher.

Research has shown that to boost the immune system with vitamin C, it may be taken in high dosages after consultation with a healthcare professional. This amount may help to shorten the duration of colds as well as boost the immune function. However, the side effects that may come with high-dose vitamin C include stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhoea.

Does vitamin C supplementation prevent or treat infectious diseases?

According to recent research regarding vitamin C and COVID-19, supplementation with the nutrient could potentially be of use in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. One particular study for example found that during an infection, high-dose vitamin C was able to normalise levels of vitamin C in serums and leukocytes.

 

MakeWell - COVID-19 virus
Image by CDC on Unsplash: The vitamin C antiviral mystery: does it work to help treat viral infections such as COVID-19?

 

When it comes to prevention of infectious diseases, vitamin C cannot cause someone to be immune to a virus or other type of infection. But it may make a difference in the severity of the illness or the duration of symptoms. Vitamin C is not meant to be used as a treatment alone, nor is there any evidence to support that it can cure any infectious disease, but studies have shown that it may help to boost the efficacy of treatments and management routes when it comes to viruses.

Featured image by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

MakeWell - Lentil Curry Patties With Tomato & Coriander Salad

Loss of taste and smell due to COVID19 is common. Good nutrition is one of the best ways you can support your body when recovering from viral infection. This is made so much easier when you maintain your appetite through the pleasure of eating. Meals strong in taste and beautifully decorated like this month’s recipe suggestion are perfect for this kind of appetite stimulation.

 

Ingredients  (makes roughly 15 lentil patties)

  • 200g of red lentils
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • ½ bunch of fresh parsley
  • 1 cm fresh ginger
  • 3 teaspoons of curry spice
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • 5 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil to brush on patties prior to baking
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 

For the Tomato & Coriander Salad

  • 5 large and ripe organic tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of organic coriander
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of native Olive Oil

 

As a side: 

  • 200g of whole grain rice

 

Instructions:

Boil the lentils as indicated on the package. Meanwhile, mince garlic, onion, parsley and ginger, then set aside.

After the lentils are done, preheat the oven to 190 degree celsius and prepare a baking tray. Smash the lentils roughly with a fork and add garlic mix along with the soy sauce and spices. Mix all together and add breadcrumbs. Leave aside for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat water for the rice and wash and chop the tomatoes and the coriander. Squeeze lemon and prepare a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil.

Take the lentil dough and form into golf balls (should be easily doable with wet hands; if the dough is too sticky you can add some more breadcrumbs). Place them on the baking tray and flatten with your palm. Brush with some olive oil and bake in the oven for 30  minutes (turn after 15 minutes). Meanwhile boil the rice. Serve all together and decorate with fresh mango, spices and cream cheese/yoghurt! Enjoy!

 

Featured image by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

MakeWell - vitamin D

With the rampant spread of COVID-19 across the globe and the death toll rising over two million, many people are trying to find ways to prevent catching the virus. People have also been heavily focused on staying as healthy as possible to fight off the infection in the event that they do happen to contract it.

There have been copious amounts of information circulating providing tips and ideas to help prevent infection or grave consequences of catching COVID-19. Some of the health claims made have been dangerous, while some may be helpful. So, what’s the deal with COVID-19 and vitamin D? Is there a connection between a vitamin D deficiency and coronavirus? Let’s find out.

 

What is vitamin D and what does it do for the body?

Vitamin D is both a vitamin and a steroid hormone that can be synthesised by the body through sunlight exposure. It can also be absorbed through various vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish and some mushrooms. It plays a vital role in many body parts and processes, including bone health, calcium and phosphorus metabolism, and even the regulation of mood. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is absorbed better with fat and can be stored in fatty tissues.

 

Is vitamin D important for the immune system?

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of vitamin D, research has shown that it can be incredibly important for fighting off infection and boosting immune health. The vitamin is a key player in the initiation of an immune response when a pathogen shows up in the body as well as the regulation of the immune system. Vitamin D can also encourage the immune system by supporting different immune cells.

 

What are good sources of vitamin D?

People typically get a good bulk of vitamin D from the sun. However, this can sometimes be difficult due to lack of time spent outside or limited sunlight during winter months. During time spent indoors and without adequate access to sunlight, the intake of foods rich in vitamin D should be increased to help prevent a deficiency.

Foods that can contain vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon
  • Foods that are fortified with vitamin D such as some juices, dairy products and breakfast cereals
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks
  • Some mushrooms

The recommended daily intake for vitamin D may vary slightly from person to person, but on average, people should be getting at least 7 µg/day.

 

MakeWell - egg yolk
Image by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash: Egg yolks are a great source of vitamin D in the event that you’re not getting enough through sunlight.

 

The dangers of a vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many health issues because of the vitamin’s importance in several different bodily processes. Studies have shown that not getting enough vitamin D can lead to an increased risk for respiratory diseases, viral diseases, bacterial infections and cognitive impairment.

Deficiency has also been associated with heightened risks of developing certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, glucose intolerance, diabetes and hypertension. Since vitamin D is involved in calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, it is also important for bone and muscle health, and deficiencies can lead to increased bone weakness and brittleness as well as muscle weakness.

 

Does vitamin D protect against COVID-19?

When it comes to COVID-19 and vitamin D, different studies have been conducted recently on how Vitamin D intake or deficiency may be a protection from coronavirus or the severity of the illness associated with the virus.

One study, for example, found that patients with severe cases of COVID-19 were more likely to have markedly low levels of vitamin D, leading to a heightened inflammatory response. This deficiency in vitamin D led to the assumption of an increased risk of a severe course or mortality in those with COVID-19.

Some more  current research draws the conclusion that vitamin D deficiency in some cases may lead to a worse outcome if someone catches COVID-19, but studies on the benefits of vitamin D supplementation in COVID-19 are still rare or inconsistent. Clinical trials are on the way to get a better picture of the vitamin D and COVID-19 connection, which is still not fully elucidated, especially as much of the published literature is unable to prove a causal link and/or shows various limitations, such as a low sample size or a study population with numerous other potentially confounding risk factors.

It’s important to remember that just because this research seems promising, clear and solid results are still lacking. There is no evidence yet to suggest that vitamin D supplementation can prevent a person from getting COVID-19, and it is in no way a cure for the infection. However, vitamin D is important for our immune health and contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.

 

MakeWell - masks
Image by Julian Wan on Unsplash: Research surrounding COVID-19 and vitamin D has found a potential connection between the two, so it’s important to get as much (safe!) sun as you can during the pandemic.

 

Are there vitamins or supplements that prevent COVID-19?

The answer to this question, to date, is no. Transmission of COVID-19 can only be prevented by following the safety measures in place (social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands thoroughly and often, etc.). No vitamin or supplement will prevent transmission on its own. However, some supplements can support immune health as a general preventive measure or address deficiencies that may influence the occurrence of infectious diseases.

It’s important to continue to follow safety measures to ensure you’re staying as safe as possible as the virus continues to circulate. Supplementing with the appropriate vitamins and minerals, as well as maintaining a nutritious diet, is crucial to staying as healthy as possible so that your body can fight off infection to the best of its ability.

Featured image by Jude Beck on Unsplash

MakeWell - immune system

Having a strong immune system can make all the difference between being healthy and being susceptible to illness and chronic disease. The immune system is the body’s first line of defence against any invading pathogens that may come to harm your health in a big way.

There are two aspects to the immune system: the innate and the acquired. The innate system is the one you are born with and it is non-specific in nature. This means that it doesn’t remember pathogens, and is there to initiate the immune response to anything it deems a threat and also includes physical barriers like skin and mucosa. The acquired immune system is a little different. It’s built up over time and can develop specific defence systems against particular bacteria and viruses. But how does the immune system work, exactly? And why is boosting the immune system so important?

 

How does your immune system work?

When antigens make their way into the body, the immune system senses that they are there. This triggers an immune response. First, the innate system recognizes a pathogen. This can cause a release of cytokines, small proteins designed to signal immune cells to recruit and activate and do their job. This release can lead to an inflammatory response designed to contain the infection.

Following the initial immune response, the acquired system is then activated. T-cells initiate the formation of a targeted immune response that is designed to attack a specific pathogen using B-cells, which create the antibodies needed to fight it off. This is when the body does what it can to fight off infection and get you back to being healthy.

 

MakeWell - immunity
Image by Kristine Wook on Unsplash: One of the most important benefits of a strong immune system is illness defence. 

 

Why is it important to keep your immune system strong?

The most important benefits of a strong immune system are illness defence and improvement in overall levels of health. It’s impossible to avoid foreign invaders from getting into your body at all times, but when they do, all manner of health risks can be posed.  With a healthy immune system, however, pathogens that enter your body are warded off, and in many cases, you may not even notice that you have encountered potentially harmful bacteria at all.

When the immune system is weakened, it can lead to frequent infections that can be more severe in nature. For example, if a person with a healthy immune system gets the common cold, their immune system will likely fight it off quickly. If someone with a weakened immune system gets that same cold, the symptoms may be worse, stick around longer, or even lead to further complications such as pneumonia. Other health issues that can be caused by a weakened immune system include digestive issues and blood disorders.

 

Diet and immune system

What you eat plays a vital role in how well your immune system will function. The body needs a plethora of different vitamins and nutrients to operate at its best, and when it comes to immunity, those vitamins and nutrients could be the deciding factor between a strong and weak immune system.

For your immune system to be as healthy as it should be, you will need to maintain proper levels of numerous micronutrients, such as:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Without proper levels of these essential nutrients, the immune system may falter and chronic disease may be developed over time.

There are many foods that contain these vitamins and minerals, and you should aim to incorporate them into your diet regularly to help boost your immune function. They include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Almonds or other nuts
  • Oily fish such as salmon
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Beans and lentils
  • Lean meat such as chicken or turkey
  • Whole grains

The list is not exhaustive; however, eating a diet rich in wholefoods, fruits and vegetables will help you ensure you’re getting everything you need for a healthy immune system. Sometimes, though, diet isn’t enough and supplementation may be required.

 

MakeWell - vitamin C citrus
Image by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash: Vitamin C is vital to a strong immune system.

 

Supplements to boost immune system

Eating a healthy diet 100% of the time is near impossible for most people. With fast-paced modern lifestyles and a plethora of food options, healthy eating can often fall by the wayside, and many diets fall short of including every essential vitamin and nutrient. That’s where good supplementation can come in.

Supplements such as those in MakeWell’s product range can help to boost immunity by giving the body everything it needs. For example:

  • Zinc is one of the most important trace elements needed in the body and contributes to the normal function of the immune system. The high dosage and high bioavailability of the Zinc25 supplement ensures that you’re getting as much zinc into the body as possible, thus reaping the most benefits.
  • The ImmuneDefence Supplement by MakeWell utilises immune-boosting ingredients such as Vitamin C and Vitamin D which contribute to the normal function of the immune system, as well as other high quality ingredients like beta glucan. It can be taken as daily support to keep the body well defended against pathogens.
  • SAG Plus 300. SAG plus 300 contains selenium which contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress,, vitamin B12 and premium quality acetylated glutathione to help promote overall heal It has a high bioavailability rate, and can help protect the body’s cells from damage caused by oxidative stress.

Having a well-functioning immune system isn’t just a part of overall health, but a vital component in it. Ensure you’re eating the right foods and taking the right supplementation to keep your immune system strong.

Featured image by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

MakeWell - cognitive function

Since cognitive function is vital in performing any task proficiently, it’s crucial to take care of your brain health. It is typical for cognitive function to decrease as part of the natural aging process; however, there are certain things you can do to help improve any declines in brain ability and slow down the natural loss of memory, information processing or decision-making.

How can I improve my cognitive function?

To improve your cognitive abilities, it’s best to start with some simple changes. There are a variety of different tasks or tools you can implement to boost your brain’s abilities and function. Mental stimulation is one of the most important factors when it comes to boosting cognitive function – that old cliché, ‘If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it’, applies to several brain abilities.

Ongoing mental stimulation will help improve connections between nerve cells within the brain and may also have the ability to help the brain regenerate. Reading, furthering education through things like courses and word and math puzzles, and even undertaking artistic endeavors such as painting or crafting can provide the mental stimulation you need.

Physical exercise can also help improve cognitive function. More exercise creates more oxygen-rich blood transfer to the brain. It also increases synapses, which results in a more efficient brain altogether.

What foods improve cognitive function?

Food is a simple tool that all people can use to help boost brain function. Some foods reign supreme when it comes to helping cognitive abilities, and incorporating these foods into a healthy diet can lead to an increase in brain health and a decline in the risk of cognitive disorders such as dementia.

Fatty fish

Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Fat is vital for brain health and therefore, in maintaining cognitive function. Other than fatty fish, several plant-based oils, specifically linseed and rapeseed oil, have beneficial fatty acid ratios and noteworthy omega-3 content.

It has also been shown that omega-3 can lessen the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the slow mental decline that often comes with age. One particular study found that when people had a diet full of fish, the grey matter in their brains was found in higher amounts. Since grey matter is behind decision-making, memory and emotion control, omega-3 is vital to overall brain health.

 

MakeWell - fatty fish
Image by Harris Vo on Unsplash: Eating fatty fish can lead to a boost in memory and learning abilities.

Blueberries

Research has shown that eating blueberries can help cognitive function because they are full of antioxidants that can contribute to the protection of neurons from oxidative stress. These tasty berries have the ability to help ward off short-term memory decline.

Turmeric

Turmeric might be on the current list of ‘fad’ spices, but it’s all for good reason. Curcumin, the active ingredient in the yellow spice, has been investigated for its numerous health effects and benefits. It provides the cells with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Turmeric has been linked to improved memory, lessened depression, and brain cell growth.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are jam-packed with minerals that the body needs to maintain and improve cognitive function. They also have antioxidants that protect the body and brain from damage by way of free radicals.

The nutrients in pumpkin seeds that give them their brain-boosting power are zinc, magnesium, copper and iron. Zinc is required for proper nerve signalling; magnesium provides a boost to learning and memory; and copper helps control nerve signals, while a lack of iron can lead to brain fog.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is full of different compounds that can help boost brain health, such as flavonoids, caffeine and antioxidants. The flavonoids in dark chocolate set up shop in the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory; they also help to ward off age-related mental decline.

 

What supplements help cognitive function?

Sometimes it can be difficult to get everything you need through diet alone. That’s where supplements come in. When you’re worried about brain function or just want to be more apt in regard to your cognitive ability, there are a few good supplements that can help boost brain function.

Fish oil

Fish oils contain two types of the omega-3 fatty acids mentioned above. The two omega-3s in question are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA helps to maintain the structure of the brain as well as its function, and EPA has been linked to improvements in mental illnesses such as depression. Although mental illness isn’t always linked to cognitive dysfunction, having a mental illness can cause some symptoms of cognitive decline.

Acetyl-L-carnitine

L-carnitine is naturally produced and is a vital component in metabolism and energy production. Research has shown that people who took acetyl-L-carnitine supplements experienced more alertness, an improved memory, and the slowing of age-related memory loss.

Some studies have also found that this supplement may positively influence the onset of certain cognitive diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, or improve the function in the brain for those who have already been diagnosed with these conditions.

Ginkgo biloba

This powerful herb has the ability to increase blood flow to the brain, which helps to improve focus, memory and thinking skills. Some studies have suggested that the regular use of ginkgo biloba can also slow the natural cognitive decline that comes with age.

 

MakeWell - gingko biloba
Image by Jerry Wang on Unsplash: Ginkgo biloba is derived from the ginkgo biloba tree and can help with focus, memory and thinking skills.

Resveratrol

Resveratrol can help to prevent the deterioration of the part of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is associated with memory.

What can be important supplements for focus and concentration?

In today’s busy world, distractions are a dime a dozen. Being able to focus and concentrate on the task at hand has never been more difficult. Fortunately, there are a few effective supplements that can help improve your focus and keep you productive.

B vitamins

B vitamins affect a significant number of functions within the body, and boosting concentration and focus is just one of their many benefits.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 has a hand in how the brain’s signals are fired. It can help boost focus and concentration because of the effects it has on healthy nerve functioning in the body and brain.

Featured image by Siora Photography on Unsplash

MakeWell - optimism

The importance of the immune system cannot be overstated. It is the first line of defence against illness and disease, and if it isn’t functioning at its best, the body is open to various threats that can compromise the health of every other bodily system.

Although the immune system tends to change throughout one’s life, especially during the natural aging process, it can stay healthy relatively easily if it’s being fed all the right things. Diet, exercise, and proper hygiene are all things that can help keep the immune system running at its best and defend us from harm – but what about mindset? Is there a link between positivity and immune system function?

How does optimism affect the immune system?

It’s well-known that being positive can help lead to healthy changes in the mind, such as improved mood and lessened symptoms of anxiety or depression. But can optimism have a similar effect on the body – more specifically, the immune system? Recent research says yes.

One particular study found that those with more positive attitudes towards life may experience better immunity outcomes. Examining law student participants, the study observed for example, that as they began to think more positively facing certain stressors, their bodies began to react more positively  to foreign invasion of pathogens.

 

MakeWell - positivity
Image by Amadeo Valar on Unsplash: Being more optimistic has been proven to help boost immune function and could lead to better outcomes for people with chronic illnesses.

Immunity and positive thinking

Immunity is typically viewed as a physiological process, and it can be hard to fathom how just a little more positivity can have any effect at all. After all, the brain can’t think disease away, no matter how much it wants to. Positive thinking in and of itself is no cure – but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a helpful tool on the road to recovery, or even during the coping process for those with chronic disease.

For example, findings out of Johns Hopkins Medicine concluded that positive thinking can lead to a decreased risk of heart disease in those who have a predisposition to it because of genetics or family history. One of the reasons for this boost in health because of a positive outlook was attributed to protection against the body’s inflammatory stress response, which is tied in with the immune system and how it functions.

Since inflammation is set off by an immune response, it’s thought that those with positive thinking can mediate inflammation because their immune systems respond more appropriately to both psychological and physical stressors.

Can a negative outlook weaken the immune system?

On the other side of the coin, some research has found that negative thinking may have a  direct opposite effect and actually weakens the immune system. One particular study found a link between lowered immunity and negative emotional brain activity in the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with depression).

Participants of the study were asked to think negatively, or replay distressing situations in their minds. Those with more brain activity in the prefrontal cortex during these sessions were found to have lower antibody levels. An influenza vaccination was used in order to have a measurable set of antibodies to seek out during the study. The participants in the study who were asked to think positively or recall happy events had significantly higher levels of antibodies in their system following the vaccine.

Another study published recently found that elderly people with depression had markedly lower immune cells (lymphocytes and T-cells) than their more mentally well counterparts.

How to be more optimistic

It can be hard to stay positive, especially with the current state of the world. It can seem as if everywhere you look there’s another new negative thing to dwell on. But it’s important to search for the silver lining in the clouds, for more than just your mental health.

Being more optimistic can be difficult for a person who is used to negative thoughts; however, there are some simple tips and tricks to help anyone become more optimistic overall.

Practise gratitude

Taking some time every day to write down three things you’re grateful for can lead to feelings of contentment and optimism towards your life as you continue to practise the exercise.

Seek out awe-inspiring experiences

Recent research has found that experiencing something that takes your breath away, such as hiking to a great view or quietly gazing up at the stars on a clear night, can lead to a boost in mood and positive thinking.

Meditate

Meditation has been proven to help regulate thoughts and emotions and give people better control over their thought patterns. By meditating, you can learn how to hold onto feelings of optimism longer while letting go of negative thoughts with more ease.

 

MakeWell - meditation
Image by Simon Migaj on Unsplash: Meditation has been proven to help with the development of a positive mindset.

Get lost in the woods

Getting out in nature can be great for the mind and body. Research has shown that spending time outside, specifically in the woods or a forested area, can decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Do positive things, even in the midst of negative thoughts

If you are experiencing a negative mindset towards life, it can be hard to muster up the gusto to do the things you usually love to do. But it’s important to try your best to do them anyway. Research has shown that putting yourself in a situation you enjoy can bring about positive emotions and encourage more positive thinking overall.

Staying optimistic in the face of nothing but negative situations can be a difficult task, but it’s harming more than just your mindset. If you want to be healthy and able to ward off disease as best you can, it’s important to stay positive – or at least work to train your mind towards having positive thoughts.

Featured image by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash

MakeWell - long-life fruit & veg

Storing vegetables throughout the winter months can pose some problems that are hard to avoid. For vegetables and fruits to stay fresh after harvest, they need ideal conditions. What makes it even more difficult is that different products require different conditions. Things such as temperature and humidity both need to be taken into account when storing produce for the cold winter months.

How do you store vegetables over winter?

There are three specific conditions that can be used to store various types of produce, and they all apply to different fruits and vegetables. For example:

  • Cool and dry, between 10–15°C and with 60% humidity
  • Cold and dry, between 0–4°C and with 65% humidity
  • Cold and moist, between 0–4°C and with 95% humidity

Seeing as these temperature and humidity ranges vary significantly, it can be difficult to store all your fruit and vegetables in the same place and have them keep throughout the winter. Depending on where you live and what type of storage setup you have, these conditions may be difficult to maintain. Some vegetables are better than others when it comes to storing, though, and choosing the right produce can make all the difference.

 

MakeWell - radish
Image by Foodism 360 on Unsplash: Radishes are a great choice when it comes to storing vegetables for the winter.

What food should I store for winter?

There are some general rules to follow when storing vegetables and fruits throughout the winter. Fully mature vegetables will have a longer shelf-life during storage, so it’s best to start with those. Remove all soil and avoid storing fruits and vegetables with bruises or any signs of early rot. The storage area should be clean and dark. Once you remove the produce from storage, use it immediately.

The type of produce you should store depends on whether your storage option is dry or moist. If your storage area is dry, you can store pumpkins, onions and garlic more easily, for example. Vegetables such as cabbage can be stored in a moister storage area.

Other foods that you can store over winter include:

  • Winter squash
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Parsnips
  • Rutabagas
  • Turnips
  • Winter radishes
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Dry beans
  • Celery
  • Grain corn
  • Leeks
  • Shallots
  • Tomatoes

What are the best vegetables for long-term storage?

Although you can store many fruits and vegetables for the entire winter season, some are better than others at staying healthy and edible for longer. If you want to make sure you have no spoilage or wastage, it’s important to know which vegetables fit the bill.

  • Beets are a great vegetable to store, because in the right conditions they can last anywhere from four to six months.
  • Sweet potatoes fall into a similar time range.
  • Late cabbage and potatoes will last anywhere from five to six months for the former and five to ten months for the latter.
  • Carrots are a great storage option because they can last up to nine months.
  • Winter squash can keep fresh for up to six months.

Fruits with long shelf life that you can store over winter

Fruit is a trickier type of food to store over the winter because it tends to rot more quickly. It’s not impossible to store fruit, but it does require a little more care.

  • Apples and pears are both great options for storage because they have a longer shelf-life than other fruits, such as berries. Apples will last in the refrigerator for up to two months. Winter-variety pears are the best option to choose if you want to store them for the winter, and if done correctly, they can last anywhere from two to three months in a low temperature.
  • Tomatoes can be stored for longer if they are green when harvested. This will give them the chance to ripen slowly in your storage area. They may not keep as long as the other fruits and vegetables, but they will stay fresh for longer than most other fruits.

 

Image by Natalie Grainger on Unsplash: Apples are one of those fruits with long shelf lives that are a perfect snack all winter long.

Tips and tricks for storing fruit and vegetables

Aside from the aforementioned temperature and humidity guidelines, there are other tips you can use to help keep your fresh produce stay fresh throughout the winter months. Some root crops, such as carrots or turnips, can stay in the ground while winter rolls in to preserve freshness, just so long as you mulch heavily and avoid leaving them in below –3°C.

Most vegetables should also be stored in a container as opposed to openly, as exposure can lead to rot; finding the proper storage containers that will maintain humidity, temperature and ventilation can go a long way. Freezing can also extend the life of stored fruits and vegetables, but bear in mind that fruits and vegetables do lose their freshness if you freeze them yourself.

Storing fruits and vegetables throughout the cold winter months can seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be when you choose the right produce with long-life spans and know the ins and outs of what the produce needs.

Featured image by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Make Well - Tricolour Quinoa & Warming Green Savoy Cabbage Pan

Cold days mean cravings for cosy, nutrient-dense comfort foods, like our delicious and fulfilling Tricolour Quinoa & Warming Green Savoy Cabbage Pan!

When it comes to winter superfoods, nothing quite stand out like cruciferous cabbage and kale. Despite being rich in nutrients and fibre, these kings of convenience are also cheap to buy, quick to prepare and enjoy a really long shelf-life in the fridge!

 

Ingredients (~4 portions)

  • 350g green savoy cabbage, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 350g tricoloured organic quinoa
  • 150g chickpeas (canned or dried. If dried, soak overnight before boiling)
  • 40g dried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 handful natural pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon of raisins
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon almond butter 
  • Nut and seed mix for sprinkling

 

Method:

Soak the grated garlic and sliced dried tomatoes in hot water for 5 Minutes. Reserving the water, drain the garlic and tomatoes and set aside.

Cook the chickpeas and quinoa as instructed on the package in slightly salted water (if you use canned chickpeas, drain them and set aside).

Mix a dressing with the leftover soaking water, olive oil and almond butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

On a medium-high heat, fry the onion in a large pan until soft (around 3-5 minutes). Add the green savoy cabbage to the pan, turn down to low and fry for a further 5 minutes. (If you are sensitive to cabbage and/or suffer from related bloating issues, steam or saute the cabbage prior to adding it into the pan with the onions). 

After 5 minutes, add in the chickpeas and quinoa along with the soaked dried tomatoes and garlic.

Once mixed and heated through, pile mix into a bowl and decorate with raisins, roasted pine nuts and the nut sprinkles of your choice on top. Drizzle over the almond butter dressing and serve!

MakeWell - new year's resolutions

As a new year begins, the scent of change is often in the air. It’s almost obligatory to make some sort of goal for yourself when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. For many, those goals include losing weight, eating better or quitting unhealthy vices.

For those living with chronic illness, the idea of making goals is just as enticing as it is for the next person, but it’s important to take health limitations into account. Setting attainable goals is the best way to ensure that you can be successful while managing your condition and living happily and healthily.

How does chronic illness affect mental health?

Living with a chronic illness can be difficult due to the physical manifestations, but it can also take a toll on a person’s mental wellbeing. If you’re experiencing symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue and disturbed sleep, it can be easy to fall into a mental rut. The stress of having to live life a certain way and the added challenges of completing daily activities can leave a person feeling guilty, resentful and exhausted.

The psychological toll of having a chronic illness can be just as harmful as the illness itself. Often, people with chronic illness experience mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. That’s why it’s important to factor mental health into your New Year’s resolutions.

How can you be positive with chronic illness?

It’s not an easy feat staying positive in a negative situation, no matter what that situation may be. Dealing with a chronic illness can make it hard to stay positive, particularly when it gets difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and you feel as though you have no control over your health.

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or have dealt with a chronic illness for the majority of your life, there are changes you can put in place to help you make 2021 the best year yet when it comes to the management of your chronic disease.

 

MakeWell - berries
Image by Cecilia Par on Unsplash: Living with chronic illness can be difficult, but a diet change might just make it a little easier.

New Year's resolutions for people with chronic illness

1. Tweak your diet

Diet is a vital component of overall health. The body needs essential vitamins and nutrients on a consistent basis in order for it to run optimally. For those with chronic illness, diet becomes even more important.

When it comes to making changes to what you eat, it’s best to start small. Doing a complete overhaul of your diet might sound like a good idea at the time, but it’s important to make resolutions that will stick, and easing yourself into it will increase your chances of success.

Taking away or adding in foods here and there can go a long way when making this lifestyle change. For example: if you suffer from chronic inflammation, adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, such as berries, fatty fish and green tea, can help to lessen the body’s inflammatory responses. These foods contain high levels of antioxidants, which are great for inflammation.

It’s also wise to limit your intake of certain things, such as foods with added sugar, white breads and fried foods. Cravings for these foods will not stop on their own, so being mindful of that and changing your diet gradually will help you make better food choices. If you have a sweet tooth, try switching a bag of candy for a bowl of fruit – you’ll get the same effect with a lot more benefits. Small steps will lead to big changes.

2. Move in your own way

If you have physical limitations because of your chronic illness, setting a resolution to run a marathon might not be the best idea. That doesn’t mean moving more in general is out of the question, though. Getting regular exercise can help lessen the impact of any depression or anxiety you may have because of your illness, and can also reduce the risk of your condition worsening.

To get moving, first you’ll have to determine what kinds of exercise you can do and what kinds you can’t. For example, if you have difficulty walking, joining a fitness centre with a pool might be a good way to get some low-impact aerobic exercise. If you are able to walk but can only do it for a short period of time, start off with small increments and work your way up, five to ten minutes at a time.

3. Prioritise your health

Dealing with doctor’s appointments and medication schedules can be tedious, but staying on top of things is a must when you have a chronic illness. Make a promise to yourself to avoid cancelling appointments unless absolutely necessary and give yourself a set medication schedule to stick to. This will help you stay on track with managing your disease.

Self-care also falls into this category. Your version of self-care may be different from someone else’s, but it’s important that you make your health a priority. Say no to things when you have to, find time for yourself whenever you can, and treat yourself every once in a while for never giving up in the face of adversity.

4. Learn to give yourself a break

It can be easy to see your physical limitations as character flaws, but it’s important that you remember that you are not your illness. If there’s something you can’t do because of your health, let go of any guilt you may feel.

It’s also important to let yourself take actual breaks. Maybe one day you’ll feel like you can take on the world, and the next you have a hard time doing simple day-to-day tasks. On that second day, let yourself rest. If you push yourself too hard you will likely end up worn out. Learn to know your limits and let yourself work within them without guilt or fear of judgement.

 

MakeWell - mental health
Image by Ashley Byrd on Unsplash: In the management of chronic illness, it’s important to recognise when to take breaks – and to do so without guilt. 

5. Practise gratitude

While managing a chronic illness, you might forget to be grateful for the good things in your life. After all, dealing with illness on a consistent basis can make it difficult to see the bright side.

To stay positive and help you stay on your path to happy, healthy living, practising gratitude goes a long way. Give yourself a few moments a day to write down, say out loud, or even just think about all the good things in your life. This will help you keep going on the more difficult days.

Making New Year’s resolutions may seem daunting if you have a chronic illness, because it’s hard to know what you’ll be able to do on any given day. But that doesn’t mean you are unable to aspire to the betterment of your life. Knowing what goals are attainable for you and formulating a plan to achieve them will help you deal with your illness in the new year, and for all the years to come.

Featured image by Ava Sol on Unsplash