Support Your Immune Function For The Holidays

December 10, 2022

With the gatherings with families, friends, and coworkers in the midst of the Covid, flu, and RSV viruses, what can you do to keep from getting sick? Ask yourself: are you eating enough real food each day to have all the virus fighting nutrients such as zinc, selenium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E you need to stay well? How’s your protein intake and your quality of sleep? In this show, we’ll discuss the micronutrients and healthy habits that will help you stay well this holiday.

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MELANIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I'm Melanie Beasley, and I am a Licensed and Registered Dietitian for the past 30 years working as a dietitian for many different organizations. And today I'm happy to be teaching and counseling clients who come to Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Our plan is much more than helping people lose weight. I always think we should be Nutritional Wellness and Weight.

BRITNI: Yeah. I agree.

MELANIE: It is a healthy healing plan based on eating real food. Real food is not a magic pill. Wouldn't you agree, Britni?

BRITNI: Yeah. It's a process.

MELANIE: It's a process, but over time the nutrition from real food heals the cells and then the body. It’s magical. But it does take time and commitment. We know eating natural fats and oils are an important part of the healing process. So I often recommend butter, real grass fed butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and bacon grease, my favorite.

BRITNI: People are always surprised when we say that one.

MELANIE: I know. They're like, I can have this? I'm like, I encourage it. So we just see that natural fats are very healing.


MELANIE: Low fat diets have harmed us in the past and we need good natural fats for immunity. And today, Britni Vincent, also a Registered Dietitian, joins us as our cohost and we want to share some information about how we can all keep a strong immune function during the holidays. My reason to support immunity is different than Britni’s and your reason may be different from our reason.


MELANIE: But we all want to stay healthy. I think we can agree on that.

BRITNI: Yeah. Absolutely. Well good morning. I'm Britni Vincent. I'm also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and I'm a mother of 16 month old twins and a two and a half year old son. And there is just so much junk going around. It's crazy this year. You know, COVID, RSV, flu, all of it. And about a month ago, RSV went through my kids' daycare center.

MELANIE: Oh boy.

BRITNI: So they all got it.


BRITNI: But they all got through it really, really well. And I, I really can attribute that to their diet.

MELANIE: Yes. Wonderful. They can't have you as a mother, sorry, but they can't have you as a mother without that.

BRITNI: Yeah. And I mean, they get very, very little sugar, especially the girls who are, are younger. You know, no juice at all. Water is their primary beverage and they're all getting real protein, fat, vegetables, other carbohydrates at their meals. And I know that helps their immune system and if they do get sick, they really do get over it very quickly. And it's not, not severe as what I hear from other children.

MELANIE: Oh. It's scary when you have little ones and they get it.

BRITNI: Yes, it is.

MELANIE: And they get ill.


MELANIE: Well, keeping our immune system strong is important now because of all the current viral infections like Britni mentioned. But also it's important to me because I've had cancer and I eat and live a lifestyle that supports my immune system to keep that cancer from coming back. So I don't, I don't want that.

What is your reason to maintain a strong immune system?


And Britni has her reason and I have my reason. So listeners ask yourself, what is your reason to keep everything possible, to do everything possible and keep a well-functioning immune system? Perhaps you have a chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease or an autoimmune disease such as Lyme or MS or maybe cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, anything. Or maybe you just don't want to miss work. I mean, we got to make a living.


MELANIE: Or you have a trip planned, one you've been looking forward to with friends and if you get sick, you're going to miss out. I just talked to a client yesterday and she had to cancel a trip.

BRITNI: Oh no.

MELANIE: I know. And she was so looking forward to with her girlfriends. So you have to ask yourself what is your reason to give up processed junk food and the holiday alcohol to have a well-functioning immune system so you can actually enjoy what's coming up?

BRITNI: I think it is so important to identify, you know, that why for yourself because that can be hugely motivating.


BRITNI: And going back to that, you know, so I have some of my clients write it on a post-it or put it somewhere where they visibly see it on a daily basis just as a motivator.

MELANIE: Yeah. Or I even have my clients take a screenshot and put it as their screensaver.

BRITNI: Perfect.

MELANIE: Because how many times do we check our phones?

BRITNI: Yeah. Right? Great idea. You know, we know from all reports hospitals are overflowing with both children and older, older adults with flu, you know, RSV, and I want to share a report from Harvard Medical School. This report said that as people get older, there appears to be a reduction in their immune response to infection. It could be due to a reduction in the T-cells from the thymus or even the bone marrow becomes less capable of producing stem cells.

And at this point, all that researchers know is that older individuals and those with chronic conditions need to eat more real food, reduce stress and move more to improve their, their immune function.

MELANIE: Your immune system is so related to movement. So with all the working from home or people who are, you know, tied to a desk, you got to keep that in mind. And this report pointed out that there seems to be a connection between low nutrient level and low immune function. When older people lack real food nutrition, they usually experience a micronutrient deficiency, which affects of course your immune system. What does this mean?

When older adults just don't eat sufficient real food, and I'm talking real meat, vegetables, a good healthy fat, they don't get adequate vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to support their cells. This often occurs, often occurs when older adults live alone and are not in the mood to cook and then grab convenience, processed food void of nutrients because they just don't feel like cooking for themselves.


MELANIE: So ask yourself, are you eating enough real food each day to have all the virus fighting nutrients such as zinc, selenium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E. You need these to stay well. Well of course you can supplement with some vitamins and minerals, but in reality it is important to get as many from a food source because there's so much we don't even know that is supplied in natural real foods.

The importance of zinc for immunity


BRITNI: Yeah, that is so true. You know, you mentioned the mineral, zinc, and most people know that vitamin C is important for good viral immunity, but I don't think a lot of people realize how important zinc is to maintain a healthy immune function. You know, I do think we started to hear more about zinc through COVID, but zinc helps to fight off invading bacteria and viruses; also supports the growth of your immune cells and acts like an antioxidant to control inflammation.

Lots of, lots of benefits and it's been shown to reduce the duration of cold symptoms. So very important for people with an autoimmune disease to, to get adequate zinc. And we know before the pandemic, at least three out of four adults were zinc deficient. And you know, today with COVID, the flu, RSV, I think more adults are probably deficient. And we know, we've seen that for the past few years, as a generalization, a lot of people eat more processed food during the pandemic.

MELANIE: For sure. And they, they become zinc deficient.

BRITNI: So we do often suggest supplementing with zinc, you know, if you've been exposed, if you are sick during those, those times when there's a lot of viruses going around, you can take 30 to 60 milligrams at night during those times.

MELANIE: And I, I tell my clients to take it with food. It can, it can upset the tummy.

BRITNI: Yeah. It's a great suggestion.

MELANIE: And sometimes if they start with 10, work their way up, that might be the best way to see. But it's wonderful and people find they have, they have a better response in even things like adult acne.

BRITNI: Mm. Yes.

MELANIE: So, and you have to ask yourself, are you eating foods containing zinc? Supplements are fine, but getting that zinc from food is the best source. Are you eating red meat and chicken, turkey, oysters or nuts? I don't know a lot of people that are eating a lot of oysters.


MELANIE: But there's, there's great sources out there.


Signs and symptoms of low zinc levels


MELANIE: So how often each day are you eating these foods? And what are some of those signs that you're not getting enough zinc? Well, many older and younger people lose their appetite for good food when they're zinc deficient, but they don't lose their appetite for sugar. If you're craving sugar after a meal, you're no doubt zinc deficient.

So we'll talk more about zinc when we get back from our first break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I'm Melanie Beasley, a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and I'm here with Britni Vincent, our cohost who's also a Registered and Licensed dietitian. The topic we're discussing today is how can you support your immune system during the holidays? The COVID virus, the flu virus, the RSV virus are all very active in Minnesota and a lot of other states. So keeping a strong immune function is extremely important through the holidays. We'll be right back.


Eat real food for strong immunity


BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. The most effective immune boosting habit is to eat real food several times a day. And eating adequate protein is absolutely necessary and including a variety of vegetables is really important. You know, we've all heard eat the rainbow, but that is so true because then we know we are getting a variety of nutrients from those vegetables and having a tablespoon of real natural fat at each meal is absolutely critical.


Vitamin D is critical for the immune system


BRITNI: And for additional support, I would highly recommend having your vitamin D level checked and supplement to achieve a level between 60 and 80. And the supplementation amount really varies pretty widely from person to person. Some need 1,000 IUs daily. Many people in Minnesota need 5,000, and some people need even more than that. So I would recommend if you get your levels checked and you're low, start supplementing and then recheck in a few months to make sure you found that appropriate amount. And I like to recommend the vitamin D with K2.

MELANIE: Me too.

BRITNI: The Nutrikey and the vitamin K2 helps with better absorption of that vitamin D as well as calcium and magnesium. And people with low levels of vitamin D just have generally a lower immune function.


BRITNI: So they're more likely to catch colds, the flu, all of that.

MELANIE: So listeners, here's a challenge for you is go into your MyChart and when your doctor says your levels are fine, check it and see is it between the 60 and 80 mark? Because that's the goal for optimal health and your immune system.


The importance of zinc for appetite and cravings


MELANIE: So when we, we left for break, we were talking about zinc and the cravings for sugar. So if you crave sugar after a meal, you are no doubt deficient in zinc. So in the past I worked with a lady in a senior center who had stopped eating and once her zinc level was restored, she suddenly started eating again, feeling better, had an appetite. Zinc is such an important mineral. As a supplement, it is best to take at bedtime for better absorption, maybe with your bedtime snack. And it can also help with, with seniors with taste acuity. When they feel like they can't taste well, it might be a zinc deficiency.

BRITNI: Yeah. Lots and lots of important functions with zinc in our body. And you know, micronutrients are so important to get from the foods you eat all throughout the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner. So we're going to continue to be discussing good food sources for these micronutrients and how important that real food is for your immune function. And what we mean by real food, I mean anything that's found from our earth, right? Meat, eggs, fish, veggies, fruit, natural fats: those all support your immune system. And sugar and processed carbs break down your immune system.

Sugar and processed carbs are harmful for the immune system


So what are some foods that are harmful for your immune function? Breakfast cereal, muffins, you know, high sugar coffee drinks, cookies, bars, chips, pizza, pasta, pancakes. I mean the list goes on and on. Basically anything that comes in a box or a bag.

MELANIE: Yes. There is no pizza tree. There's no pasta bush. There's no pancake root.

BRITNI: As much as people wish it to be true, it is just not the case.

MELANIE: There's no cookie animal.


MELANIE: So I could go on and on.


Vitamin C is an immune boosting nutrient


MELANIE: I'm having a good time with it. But if you replace processed foods with vegetables, you will boost your immune function. Many people think of vitamin C as an immune boosting nutrient. And yes, vitamin C is believed to in increase the production of white blood cells, which help fight infection. And you might think of drinking a big glass of orange juice. Well, I'm not going to be very popular with this.

But to get your vitamin C to help your immunity, which sounds good, but a big 16 ounce glass of orange juice has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. And one, maybe one orange would be okay. But my husband and I love to go antiquing and it is interesting to me. I love the little juice glasses. I have absolutely no use for them because I don't drink juice.


MELANIE: But they're little, Britni.


MELANIE: They're like four ounces.

BRITNI: Well, and it's enough to hold the juice of one orange versus a huge glass is something like six or more oranges. I mean we're never going to sit down and eat six oranges in one sitting.

MELANIE: Agreed.

BRITNI: Yeah. So thinking about it that way can be eye-opening.

MELANIE: You know, and when you eat an orange, you're going to be getting other things like the pit that's in there, a little bit of fiber in there, so eat the real food. Or perhaps I don't eat oranges, but I'll eat a red bell pepper. So it is some, some clients snack on red bell pepper slices and these are high in vitamin C and low in sugar. And a research study found that the effectiveness of our white blood cells decreases up to 50% for one to two hours after eating sugar. So think about that. You go to a party full of people, you're eating the sugar because you're at the party. You've lowered your immune system for the next couple of hours.


MELANIE: A better, you know, a better option would be think about having the meat, having the vegetables and if, if you're worried about your immune system, kind of a steering clear of the sugar.

BRITNI: Yeah. Thinking of, of sugar as just being an immune suppressant.

MELANIE: Yeah, for sure.

BRITNI: You know, you mentioned bell peppers as a snack. That's, I love bell peppers as a snack and I will eat them as like an apple sometimes, which sounds strange, but you don't have to cut it up. And then I've basically committed to eating the whole thing. Whereas I might not, if I cut it into strips. Or I'll also sometimes cut it in half and use it instead of bread, like for a sandwich.

MELANIE: I love it. Or fill it with chicken salad.

BRITNI: Yes. Yum.

MELANIE: That’s great.

BRITNI: Yeah. Yeah. You know, a better choice than juice for your immune system would be to hydrate frequently with filtered water. A really great article to read on the Weight and Wellness website explains how sugar can damage your immune function. It was written in 2020 and that's exactly what it's called. So you can search that on our website: How Sugar Damages Your Immune System. And I think, you know, the more you hear this, the more you read this, the more it really sticks in and then you're going to think about it when you're faced with that sugar.

MELANIE: Absolutely. And you can think about even boosting your immune system when you're out and about, you know, are you having the broccoli? Which is also a good source of vitamin C.


MELANIE: But it's almost time for our break. But before we go, Britni, the fact that you eat that pepper like an apple, I need a picture because I can't do it. Like if I get one seed, I'm not happy. I'm a strip girl. I have to strip it. So, you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and we are discussing foods and supplements to boost your immune system. Zinc is an essential mineral needed to develop immune cells. Good food sources of zinc are red meat, chicken, turkey, oysters. Zinc has been shown to help decrease instances of respiratory infections. Research found that even minor deficiency of zinc can cause the immune system not to function well, which can lead to increased risk for things like pneumonia. We'll be right back.


L-Glutamine: another immune supporting nutrient


BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. L-glutamine is another immune supporting nutrient that we get when we eat animal protein. It, it's an amino acid and it's essential to slow down the inflammatory response when we come down with a viral or bacterial infection. And L-glutamine also supports our gut health, liver health, kidney health, and as I mentioned, our immune health. So in addition to eating animal protein at least three times a day, some people supplement with two capsules L-Glutamine before each meal just for additional immune support. And, and many people do that for gut healing.

MELANIE: Yeah, It's very effective to heal that, heal that gut up. During the holiday with all the get togethers we get exposed to more germs and we are also faced with special sugar treats. Right?


How to navigate the holidays with all the treats around


So grandma's special cookies or bars. Your neighbor makes this wonderful cake, holiday, alcohol drinks. So when you realize that that cookie or the bar or a glass of wine can reduce your immune function by 50%, how can you get through the holidays without getting sick? You have have to ask yourself this. How can you avoid the temptations and how can you be comfortable saying no thank you?


MELANIE: Sometimes I will have clients just even call if they're gluten free, dairy free or you know, they, they really want to stay on program, call the hostess ahead of time and ask what can I bring?


MELANIE: And then they know they have something they can eat.

BRITNI: For sure. And ask what the hostess plans on serving. You know, I even find that helpful in my mind. Like, okay, I can have this, this and that and it's like a commitment to yourself. Well then that's what I'm going to eat.


BRITNI: Then it's less tempting once you actually get there.

MELANIE: It's really great when you pull into either your garage or a party or function. Take three deep breaths. Visualize how you're going to eat while you're there before you launch out of the car. Take a moment.

BRITNI: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, I love how you said, how do you say no thank you? Because I have a lot of clients that find that very difficult. Maybe they don't really actually want the sugar, but they have a hard time saying no because they're afraid of offending the person who made it. So coming up with, is it as simple as just saying no thank you? Or what kind of phrase is going to be your response?

MELANIE: Yes. Yes.

BRITNI: And you know, with all, all these celebrations, I think these couple little nuggets of research might help make it easier to say no thank you. There was a research study done by Loma Linda University in which participants were fed different forms of sugar found and found that the effectiveness of white blood cells, which are our immune cells, which fight infection, they decreased up to 50% after one to two hours of eating sugar, lasting up to five hours.


BRITNI: Yeah. Here's another one: Dr. Michael Roy Rosin of Cleveland Clinics stated, “Besides being a driver behind other chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, sugar consumption affects your body's ability to fight off viruses or other infections in the body. You know how your body needs certain cells to fight off infections? White blood cells, also known as killer cells are highly affected by sugar consumption.” Like Dr. Rosin mentioned, “Sugar hinders the immune system. The white blood cells are just, they're not able to do their job and destroy that bad bacteria or viruses as well as they could be when we're eating sugar.”

MELANIE: It's great information and it's not listeners, it's not like we are the sugar hater police. It's just we want you to have the tools in your toolbox.

BRITNI: Absolutely.

MELANIE: …to make a decision to say, do I want to compromise myself here because I've got a function coming up there?


MELANIE: And then you can make an informed decision for yourself.


MELANIE: That's really the goal here.

BRITNI: Yeah, absolutely. It's all about choices, right?

MELANIE: Yeah, absolutely.

BRITNI: And that is, you know, when I'm tempted by sugar, especially this time of year, that is one thing that goes through my head. How is this going to affect my immune system? I don't have time to be sick.

MELANIE: No. And if you're, you've got a, a trip planned in January, you don't want to be sick.

Animal protein is key for immune support


BRITNI: No, no. And you know, the other key to my immune support is that animal protein. I mentioned that when we came back from break. So eating that at least three times a day and a lot of times I get it a fourth time with a snack.

MELANIE: Mm-hmm.

BRITNI: But that animal protein provides us with amino acids. And those are really key players in supporting a healthy immune function. And again, that animal protein: meat, eggs, fish, dairy if you can tolerate it.


BRITNI: All great sources.

MELANIE: Great information. Really good. And those amino acids do help support your T-cells, your B-cells, and your antibodies. So basically they become germ fighters. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reported that amino acids in meat activate the natural killer cells, reducing bacteria and viruses before they have a chance to invade your body.

The amino acids, arginine, glutamine, cystine, they are, they're just very important in regulating your immune system. So during this virus and flu season, it's very important to eat animal protein, like Britni said, three to four times daily. And those amino acids from meat or fish act as a guard against bacteria and viruses. You know, most women need probably 12 ounces of protein daily. Then when you're under emotional or physical stress, more protein is usually needed. And sometimes that's the very time we reach for the processed food.

BRITNI: Oh for sure.

MELANIE: But more protein is your friend.


MELANIE: And research has found that you need enough glutamine daily to tackle those darn infections.

BRITNI: Well and then the other benefit with the protein is you feel more satiated. It fills you up, helps balance your blood sugar so you have less cravings. I mean I know that for sure if I don't get enough protein in throughout my day, I'm hungrier. It's way easier to grab the processed carbs, the sugar, all of that.

MELANIE: You're a grazer.

BRITNI: So not only is the protein helping to improve your immune function, but it's also helping to, the cravings to prevent you from eating the sugar.

MELANIE: You know, another little piece is sometimes the holidays can be stressful. And we need that protein to help us make the mood chemicals.


MELANIE: …that keep us calm and relaxed.

BRITNI: Yeah. I just had a client this week. Yeah. She said my protein intake has been low. And I think that's part of the reason why I'm feeling so anxious. I mean, she's made that connection herself.

MELANIE: That's because you're such a good dietitian.

BRTINI: Oh well thank you. But those little connections that you can make with yourself, it's really powerful. And that's what drives behavior change. Because if you can say, well I'm less anxious if I eat more protein, then it's way easier to start eating the protein.

MELANIE: Feeling good is a wonderful thing.

What are some ideas to incorporate protein?


BRITNI: Yeah. It's, it is. Well let, I want to talk a little more about some good protein sources. So grass-fed beef, pork, free range chicken, free range turkey, free range eggs, pasture raised eggs, cottage cheese, again if you can tolerate dairy, wild-caught fish: all really wonderful sources of protein. Also a great quality grass-fed whey protein or Paleo Protein for protein shakes. That was my breakfast this morning.


BRITNI: Some Paleo Protein as my, as my protein. So here are some of my snacks that contain animal proteins. And again, the animal proteins are going to be a good source of, of glutamine that we've been talking about. So deviled eggs are great, but honestly, more times than not it's egg salad because that's just way quicker to make.

I, I had mentioned this morning I did the Chocolate Paleo Protein. That's been a go-to snack for me at work. I do, I do a full scoop or some people can do a half a scoop for a snack. I do MCT oil as my fat, some almond milk or water. And then I just shake it up in my shaker bottle and then have some sort of carb on the side. Super simple, satisfying. I know I get my protein.

MELANIE: And it's fast.

BRITNI: Oh, so fast.

MELANIE: Because you're so busy with those three babies.

BRITNI: Sometimes it's a small amount of soup or another leftover. I know that sounds kind of strange for a snack, but thinking of snacks as just a mini meal can be helpful for some people because a lot of people, when you think snack, they think crackers, chips, that type of thing. So this week it was leftover meatballs I had for a snack. You know, oftentimes I have meat sticks on hand if I need something super quickly. You know, right now I have, they have a huge bag at Costco of little individually wrapped grass-fed meat sticks. I think Archer something is the brand.


BRITNI: So that's a great one. Again, quick on the go.

MELANIE: You've got great ideas.

BRITNI: Thanks. Yeah. I mean, again, it could just be whatever you eat for a meal.

MELANIE: Yeah. I'm a mini meal, a mini meal girl because then I don't have to be too creative.

BRITNI: Yep, makes it easier.

MELANIE: Well, for meals I often suggest making hamburger soup. We've got a great recipe on our website.

BRITNI: I love that recipe.

MELANIE: I use a pound of ground beef. I do a half a pound of ground chicken and then a half pound of ground pork and lots and lots of vegetables. The recipe’s on our website. Another great and easy recipe is the wild rice meatballs. You can make them smaller, use toothpicks, have some fun dipping sauces like Primal Kitchen barbecue sauce or buffalo sauce. Those are delicious, easy way. And it feels like you're having a little party at your snack.

But add a few cooked vegetables, top it with butter and you have an immune boosting meal. So I, I love, I'm a dipper. I love to have me too something I can dip things in. Another really good, wonderful, if you can tolerate dairy is take a sour cream, put some wonderful herbs in it and you've got a great healthy fat with your meatball. Pair it with that pepper that you were talking about.


MELANIE: You're done. You did it. It's great.


MELANIE: And it's something different and delicious.

BRITNI: Yeah. I had a client give me a great tip once about the meatball recipe. Instead of rolling them in meatballs, she just spreads all the meat mixture in like a bar pan and bakes it and cuts it into squares.

MELANIE: Brilliant. Who knew a meatball could be square?

BRITNI: Right. I also recently bought like a scooper for meatballs. That also saves a lot.

MELANIE: That's my go-to. Easy peasy. I don't use it for cookies anymore.

BRITNI: No, no.

MELANIE: So you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Is this the time of year that you are saying, what am I getting for my mother, my sister or friend for Christmas? Well I have a suggestion: a gift certificate to Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Have them come see us. The gift certificate can be of any value and for either counseling or classes or even an immune-boosting building supplement. This type of gift certificate says I care about you and your health. Give us a call at (651) 699-3438.


BRITNI: Welcome back to Dishing of Nutrition. Next week December 17th, 2022, I have a, or we have a very special show planned. Melanie Beasley, who is the host today will be back in the studio with Kelly McGraw. And what makes this show so special is they both are going to share their personal stories, which I think is very brave and very inspiring for other people to hear.

But they're going to share their personal stories about having cancer and what they ate to stay strong during and after treatment. Both of them are dietitians and they're not alone. You know, as of January, 2022, it is estimated that there are 18 million cancer survivors in the United States, which is five and a half percent of the population. So again, they're going to share what they ate and what other lifestyle habits they practice to stay strong during and after treatment.

MELANIE: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Yeah, Kelly's wonderful.

BRITNI: It'll be a great one.

MELANIE: Yeah. She knows a lot and she's going to be fun.


MELANIE: She's going to be fun to cohost with.

More immune boosting foods and nutrients

BRITNI: So we were talking a lot about protein before the break and the importance of all those amino acids in the protein to supporting our immune function. But in addition to that, you know, the vegetables, we've been talking about that as well. You know, we get so many of our nutrients from vegetables and all the different colors offer different nutrients. So again that phrase we've heard a million times: eat the rainbow. It is really important just to get a good variety of nutrients. And that natural beneficial fat. Again, super important. You know, avocado, grass fed butter, olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds; all of that is great.

MELANIE: Yeah. Really helps us to utilize the nutrients and the vegetables.

BRITNI: Yes. And it tastes better. Of course.

MELANIE: Of course.

Probiotics support immune health


BRITNI: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The other thing is I make sure and add some type of probiotic, you know, either in supplement form or from a fermented food source. So and doing both is great as well. So, and with meals I will sometimes add one to two tablespoons of fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or kimchi. And I know that supports my gut health.

MELANIE: Of course.

BRITNI: Sauerkraut: I like it on eggs. I know that sounds weird. I've done, you know, pickle roll ups instead of a pickle. I've done sauerkraut.

MELANIE: That's a great idea. And it, it's key to know you don't wanna heat it up because you don't want to kill the little, little buggers in there.


MELANIE: You want to keep those healthy guys alive.

BRITNI: Yeah. and getting that, those fermented vegetables, I do think people really do notice an improvement in their gut health incorporating those on a regular basis. I also take my probiotic once or twice a day: Bifido or Biotic 7. And it is so critical to know that 70% of our immune system is actually found in our gut.

MELANIE: Say that again because that is astounding to a lot of people.

BRITNI: It is. It is. 70% of our immune system is in our gut. So the importance of our gut health, I mean, it's crucial to our whole body.

MELANIE: And I love Bifido for that very reason because it's kind of the master player strain. And so starting sometimes with bifido, if you haven't been taking a probiotic is a great, great way to start.

BRITNI: Yeah, it is.

MELANIE: And the other thing that we were talking about with anxiety, depression, mood, and you know, sometimes the craziness of the holidays is we make those brain chemicals, the neurotransmitters in our gut.


MELANIE: So we've got to have that good gut health and bifido with some protein: magic.

BRITNI: Mm-Hmm. 90% of our serotonin is made in our gut.


BRITNI: Yeah. Of course the assumption…

MELANIE: It’s one of our happy hormones.

BRITNI: It is. Of course the assumption is it's made in our brain. So a lot of people are surprised to hear that. So I mean, we can't emphasize the importance of gut health enough. I don't think.

Sufficient sleep is important for immune function


MELANIE: I don't think we can. It's your second brain. And so getting sufficient sleep is also something we want to talk about because that's critical to keeping a strong immune system. You perhaps listeners making a commitment to yourself that you will get at least seven and a half hours of sleep most nights. Good sleep habits are difficult for some and just staying asleep can be difficult for others. Being a recovering insomniac, I understand how frustrating it is trying to go through a workday doing the head bob where you're just so exhausted. So most people with sleep problems need help and so we're here for you. Sometimes it is giving up caffeine. I'm going to say that again because no one wants to give it up. They're like, I have it at 5:00 AM Melanie. But caffeine stays in your system full strength for seven hours.


MELANIE: Then it goes to a half strength for seven hours, then it goes to a quarter strength for seven hours. So if you feel like you're a surf sleeper and you wake up and you can't get back to sleep, start slow, so you don't hate Britni and I. But wean yourself to decaf. It's often necessary to just get some nutritional help to help correct that long-term sleep problem. And we have helped so many clients finally get adequate sleep. And I'm sure we can help you too if you are on that sleep struggle bus.


MELANIE: And just a reminder, chocolate has caffeine as well.


MELANIE: I know. I hope no one is going to throw tomatoes at us when we walk out of the studio today. But chocolate and green, the healthy green tea: wonderful for us.


MELANIE: But they have caffeine.


BRITNI: And people are that sensitive that that little amount affects them. And infection fighting antibodies and cells we know are reduced when we don't get enough sleep. I mean, it makes you more susceptible. And during the holiday season, I hear from a lot of people: you're up late wrapping presents, cleaning your house to host, cooking, all of that.

MELANIE: On social media too.

BRITNI: There's, yes. There's never enough time in the day, but making that priority. And I also hear, especially from parents, you know that that's my time of the day to unwind. I totally get it. I hear you. But sleep is such a priority and I know for myself, once I see that clock hit, you know, I'm, I need to allow myself at least seven and a half hours.

MELANIE: And having the 30 minutes to unwind; 30 minutes to an hour to unwind without social media dipping the lights in your house.


MELANIE: Having maybe a bedtime snack of a little bit of fruit and fat.


MELANIE: That can be really instrumental in getting that sleep. And then, frankly, I'm just a nicer woman.

BRITNI: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. So yeah, I can.

MELANIE: If you want to be nice during the holidays.

BRITNI: And the other, the other part of it, when we're sleep deprived, it's more likely you have brain fog, like you said, your mood is off, you're less productive.

MELANIE: You've got cravings.


MELANIE: It really triggers carb cravings.

BRITNI: Yes. So if you get adequate sleep in, you're going to be more productive and then you might be able to get just as much done during the day as you would if you're staying up late scrambling to do things.

MELANIE: And you're protecting your immune system.


MELANIE: So real food, some key supplements, avoid sugar, get sleep.


MELANIE: Get some exercise. Move your body. And this is the way to protect your immune system so you can just enjoy your life. It's a, it's a wonderful time. You want to be present for it and you don't want to be miserable, but you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thanks for joining us today.

BRITNI: Thank you.

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