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The Foundations of Health

Are the foundations of health holding you back from thriving? Here’s how to implement the foundations of health and nourish your body and mind in order till feel your best all the time.


Are the foundations of health holding you back from thriving?

Welcome to 2021! New year, new you and a new set of (sometimes unrealistic) health expectations and resolutions. Although we strive to be the healthiest versions of ourselves after the holiday period, chances are by February, everything has gone down the drain.

We’re here to remind you that health doesn’t have to be hard, it’s simple if you just keep the basics in mind. It’s about consistently implementing the foundations of health and nourishing your body and mind in order to feel your best all the time. How? It’s easy – que the foundations of health: 

Nutrition

The food you eat can either be your most powerful partner or greatest enemy and at this time of year (where all the days seem to merge into one) it’s easy to overindulge and create unhealthy habits that can be seriously damaging to your health. 

A diet with the right balance of macronutrients, and that is abundant in vitamins and minerals, is essential to help your body function optimally. With so much information available about what we should and shouldn’t be eating, it is more and more evident that there really isn’t a one size fits all approach when it comes to food.

The main aim when it comes to nutrition is to fuel your body with foods that provide the right balance of nutrients so you can function at your best. Creating healthy balanced meals is simple – start by following this formula. 

  1. Fill ½ your plate with fibre. Fibre helps to regulate appetite, slow digestion and keep you feeling satisfied for longer, as well as supporting healthy digestive function. Sources of fibre include: Crunchy salad vegetables, leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables – aim to include a variety.
  2. Fill ¼ of your plate with protein. Protein provides the primary building blocks in the body and is essential for all bodily functions. Your brain, bones, digestion, immune system, skin and hormones all rely on a constant source of good quality proteins to function. Quality sources of protein include: eggs, fish, red meat, poultry, dairy, legumes, tofu, quinoa, raw nuts/seeds, high-quality protein powder like our Clean Lean Protein.
  3. Fill ¼ of your plate with complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the sugars and starches found in foods. The right carbohydrates supply the body with essential fuel for energy. Steer clear of simple carbohydrates (white bread/pasta/rice, cakes, biscuits, processed foods etc.) as they provide little to no nutritional value and contribute to fatigue and hunger. Instead choose complex carbohydrates – foods that have high dietary fibre promoting satiety, fullness and stabilised blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates include: whole grain products (visible seeds), legumes, brown rice, quinoa, oats, whole-wheat products (breads and pasta), root vegetables. 
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of healthy fats. Consuming the right fats in appropriate quantities is important for the structure and function of every cell in the body and is essential for energy production, stabilising blood sugar levels and keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Healthy fats include: Avocado, olive oil, coconut, quality dairy, raw nuts and seeds


How to maximise your nutrient intake: 

  • Follow the above formula to create balanced meals daily
  • Boost your nutrient intake with a daily scoop of Good Green Vitality
  • Always have fresh produce in the fridge 
  • Eat a wide variety of foods daily
  • Avoid highly processed and packaged items 

Water

Water plays a role in almost every process in the body, with our bodies made up of approximately 60% water. Water enables the body to flush out toxins and is important for digestion, brain function, skin health and so much more. 

Water is such a vital element of every biochemical process in the body that dehydration levels as low as 1-3% can have a noticeable impact on body function. 

How to increase your water intake: 

  • When you wake up have a large glass of water
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you 
  • Set reminders or alarms on your phone 
  • Consciously swap soda/sugary drink for water
  • Try herbal teas or add citrus, berries or mint to taste

Movement 

Over the holiday period it’s easy to neglect moving your body or ditch your regular exercise routine but maintaining regular movement and exercise is not only important for your physical health but your mental health too. 

Regular movement helps keep your body functioning and aids the body’s key systems to increase metabolic rate, strengthen muscles, increase energy levels, support mental health, mood, sleep quality and overall cognitive function. 

Getting outside every day will contribute to getting your heart rate up, soaking up Vitamin D and breathing fresh air, as well as releasing endorphins to make you feel happy, healthy and confident. 

How to schedule in daily movement: 

  • Aim to hit 7 000 to 10 000 steps daily through incidental movement 
  • Schedule in exercise and make it a priority 
  • Make it social – enjoy movement with friends and family 
  • Try something new – swimming, dancing, tennis or a yoga class

Click here to read 5 Exercise and Lifestyle Tips to Create a Happier & Healthier You This New Year



Sleep 

Sleep is one of the first sacrifices we make during the holiday season. Ditching a regular sleep routine for late nights, social events and Netflix binges delays the onset of natural drowsiness and gets in the way of quality and quantity of sleep. These activities delay the production of melatonin and disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm (the internal body clock regulating the sleep/wake cycle) and can contribute to anything from weight gain, digestive issues, poor liver function, cardiac problems, congestion and, of course, an ongoing state of fatigue. 

Sleep is classified as one of the foundations of health as without it the body cannot thrive or even perform basic functions like digestion and metabolism of food. It’s a time when your body relaxes and repairs and it’s important to promote quality and quantity sleep year-round. Sacrificing these precious hours and ditching a regular sleep routine can contribute to poor health and long-term illness. 

How to support sleep health: 

  • Prioritise your sleep – aim for 7-8 hours each night 
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine and consistent bedtime 
  • Avoid drinking caffeine after 2pm 
  • Create a healthy sleep environment – quiet, dark and comfortable
  • Avoid screens prior to bed – switch to night mode if needed 
  • Quiet your brain – journal, deep breathing, bedtime meditation 
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid anxiety-driven activities before bedtime e.g., checking work emails or watching the news

Mindfulness

This is the perfect time of year to create some healthy habits around mindfulness that will provide you with the tools and skills for the year ahead. Mindfulness can help with stress management, improve sleep, benefit your relationships and support your physical and mental health. 

A mindfulness practice has been shown to help everyone from children to adults and proves to play an important role in overall health and wellbeing. 

How to be mindful: 

  • Eat mindfully – sit down, chew your food and enjoy every mouthful 
  • Practice self-love and prioritise you
  • Try guided meditations to kickstart a new habit
  • Take deep belly breaths 
  • Actively listen to those around you and be present  
  • Unplug and recharge your batteries 
  • Become intuitive with your body 

January is the time to ditch the resolutions and focus on long term, simple and sustainable changes that support your body. It’s often the foundations of health that will hold you back from reaching your health goals. When these foundations are out of balance, everything is out of whack. Get them right and everything else will follow.

Alex Hamlin

6 Health Mistakes To Avoid This Holiday Season

The holiday season can present a number of challenges when it comes to maintaining healthy habits. The good news? With a little smart planning, you can avoid the speed bumps that may throw you off course so that you can enter the New Year feeling confident and in control of your health and wellbeing. Here,


The holiday season can present a number of challenges when it comes to maintaining healthy habits. The good news? With a little smart planning, you can avoid the speed bumps that may throw you off course so that you can enter the New Year feeling confident and in control of your health and wellbeing.

Here, Sydney-based Dietitian and Nutritionist, Rachel Hawkins, discusses six of the biggest health mistakes that people make during the holiday season, as well as providing some tried and true strategies to help you avoid making them!

Mistake 1: Skipping Breakfast to Save Room for Later

Although breakfast isn’t an essential meal for most adults, skipping breakfast in order to save room for later is a dangerous gamble. Whether it’s the office holiday party, Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas lunch, showing up to an event where there is going to be a smorgasbord of food with an empty stomach only increases the likelihood that you will go ‘all out’ and overeat when you’re there.

Regardless of the time of year, overeating can easily spiral out of control resulting in a number of health consequences. These include bloating, gas, nausea, sluggishness, and unwanted weight gain.1,2,3,4 Chronic overeating may also disrupt the balance of hormones that control your hunger (ghrelin) and fullness (leptin), making it more difficult to determine when your body actually needs food.5,6

Instead of skipping breakfast before a holiday event, enjoy a balanced breakfast that includes a source of protein, healthy fats and low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates so that you are adequately nourished and able to make more mindful choices at holiday events.

Some breakfast suggestions include:

  • Overnight oats made with chia seeds, berries, maple syrup and your choice of milk
  • Poached eggs on toast made with wholegrain bread and a side of avocado
  • A loaded breakfast smoothie made with berries, spinach, rolled oats, chia seeds, a serve of Smooth Vanilla Clean Lean Protein and your choice of milk

Mistake 2: Having an All-or-Nothing Mindset

The all-or-nothing mindset is a mentality that people have, whether it be towards nutrition or exercise, where they are either all in or all out. It is the kind of approach that sees people eat two pieces of pavlova after Christmas lunch and then say, ‘oh stuff it’ and spend the rest of the week bingeing on Christmas leftovers.

The problem with an all-or-nothing mindset is that it is accompanied by unrealistic, self-imposed rules that naturally test our willpower. When these rules are broken, we feel guilty about this and revert to the old ‘stuff it’ mentality. And so, the cycle repeats.

My advice?

Ditch the restrictive diet. Telling yourself that you aren’t allowed to eat any sweets on Christmas Day isn’t realistic. However, allowing yourself a plate of dessert is. Enjoy the holiday festivities but do it in a balanced way. By allowing yourself permission to eat the foods that would otherwise be on your ‘banned list’, you are essentially decreasing the likelihood of bingeing later on.

Secondly, eat more mindfully.Eating slowly and taking the time to chew your food properly is a practical strategy that will help you to savour the flavours of your meal, thus helping you to feel more satisfied after eating (and less likely to go back for second and third servings)! Aim for 20 chews per mouthful. This trick will also help to improve your digestion!

Mistake 3: Failing to Plan on Days You Don’t Have Holiday Events

Not every day between Christmas and New Year needs to involve a smorgasbord of food.

Set yourself up for success during the holiday season by planning your menu on ‘regular’ days when you’re not at an event. This will help to alleviate the stress of not knowing what to cook at the end of the day, thereby reducing the likelihood of you buying takeaway food or making undesirable food choices.

Plan your meals ahead of time by writing a list of what you are going to eat for your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day of the week, and also what ingredients you will need from the grocery store in order to make this happen.

By doing this, you reduce the likelihood of being caught out in between holiday events thus making it easier to make healthy nutrition choices during the silly season.

Mistake 4: Going Hard on the Booze

Food isn’t the only thing that we typically overindulge in over the holiday season. Many festive celebrations involve alcohol, and typically in higher volumes than we would normally consume.

In the short term, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to impaired judgement, reduced inhibitions, loss of coordination, unstable emotions, memory loss, headaches and vomiting.7,8 In the long term, excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact our mental health and fertility and increase our risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.7,8

Regular alcohol consumption can also lead to unwanted weight gain.7,8

Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, which is around the same amount as a gram of fat.9 This, in addition to the added calories found in mixers such as tonic water or coke, means that you could be drinking around 200 calories per standard drink. If you’re drinking a pint of full-strength beer, then this number increases to 240 calories per drink.

It is possible to enjoy the holiday season whilst still moderating the amount of alcohol you drink.

  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks such as water, soda water or zero sugar soft drinks
  • Pour your own drinks instead of accepting refills from others so that you can keep track of how much you are drinking
  • Avoid getting involved in rounds as this often means you will drink more than intended
  • Switch from full strength beer to light beer to save ~90 calories per pint
  • Pace yourself by taking small sips

Mistake 5: Failing to Move Your Body

It may be the holiday season, but this doesn’t mean your normal healthy habits need to completely fly out the window.

Exercise is incredibly beneficial for our overall health and wellbeing. It promotes good cardiovascular and mental health and can also be used to strengthen and maintain our musculoskeletal system.10

Regular exercise can help to keep our mental health on track when our normal routines are disrupted by promoting the release of feel-good brain chemicals that can help to boost our mood and overall sense of wellbeing. 10

Because the holidays are such a busy time of year, it can be a good idea to exercise in the morning before the day slips away from you and excuses start to creep in. But if you’re more of an evening exerciser then that’s ok too!

Ways to stay active over the holiday season include:

  • Going for a hike with a friend
  • Taking the dog for a walk
  • Doing a home workout. We have shared our favourite workout apps here.
  • Going for a bike ride
  • Participating in gym classes or group bootcamps
  • Running interval sprints on the sand at the beach
  • Doing some laps at the pool

Mistake 6: Not Seeking Help

While it might be the most wonderful time of the year for some, for others it can be a really difficult one. The holiday season can remind people of loved ones they have lost, while for others it can be a time they spend alone.

The global pandemic adds an additional challenge this year due to the fact that there will be many people who will not be able to spend the holidays with their families due to restrictions around travelling and group gatherings.

So, it is more important now than ever before to prioritise our mental wellbeing.

Keep active, slow down and take things one step at a time. If you’re lonely, reach out to a friend you trust and talk through how you are feeling. If you’re overwhelmed by the presence of family, schedule out some time for yourself.

If you are concerned about your own mental health, or the mental health of a loved one, there are a number of things that you can do…

  • Start a conversation. If you are struggling with your mental health, consider opening up to a friend or family member about this. Mental illness effects one in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 years each year.11 Starting a conversation with someone you trust can help to alleviate anxiety and make you feel less alone. If you think that a loved one may be struggling with their mental health, simply checking in with a simple phone call and asking, ‘are you ok?’ is a great way to offer your support.
  • Seek support from a health care professional.  This could involve referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist or other specialist doctor from your GP. In Australia, telehealth services are available which help to make mental health services more easily accessible.
  • Utilise online and telephone-based servicesThere are a number of online and telephone-based support services that can be accessed for immediate crisis support. They include LifelineBeyond BlueHeadspace and The Butterfly Foundation.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2754813/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4699282/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK355894/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777747/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777281/
  6. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol/about-alcohol/what-are-the-effects-of-alcohol
  7. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-alcohol-affects-your-health
  8. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calories-in-alcohol/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224225/
  10. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/exercise-and-physical-activity
  11. https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/news/country-mental-health-access-fifth-rate-city/
Rachel Hawkins

Kids Good Stuff – a Parent’s Best Friend

By Nicola Miethke, Clinical Naturopath and Nutritionist  Despite our best efforts as parents to give our children a wholesome, balanced diet filled with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, quality protein and healthy fats, it’s never quite that simple! Perhaps your child is a picky eater and you’re worried that their diet of sausages and


By Nicola Miethke, Clinical Naturopath and Nutritionist 

Despite our best efforts as parents to give our children a wholesome, balanced diet filled with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, quality protein and healthy fats, it’s never quite that simple! Perhaps your child is a picky eater and you’re worried that their diet of sausages and potato every night just isn’t cutting it. Maybe their schedule is so busy or they are so active that it’s hard for them to find the time to eat enough whilst on the go. Or maybe your child has a sensory processing disorder or food allergy/intolerance which limits the variety of foods they are able or willing to eat. Whatever it is, most of children won’t eat everything we give them.

So how we can be sure that our children are getting everything they need for healthy growth and development whilst still having the energy to just be kids?

First and foremost, the priority is continuing your best efforts to help your child get the nutrients they need from a predominantly wholefood, unprocessed diet. But, with various issues affecting our children’s food intake (as mentioned above) and the following statistics to prove it, there are a lot of gaps that need to be filled:

  • 95% of children eat insufficient serves of vegetables
  • 40% of children eat insufficient serves of fruit
  • 40% of our children’s energy intake is from discretionary foods
  • On average, only boys aged 4-11 and girls aged 9-11 meet the recommended daily intake for grains
  • Almost all children aged 4-18 do not meet the recommended serves of dairy products, meat and alternatives1,2,3

In short, almost all children are missing the mark in at least three of the five primary food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and alternatives, dairy and alternatives) making it very difficult for them to get all the essential vitamins and minerals they need to thrive. “Thrive” being the key word here. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamins and minerals set out by government guidelines are purely a baseline for survival. They do not take into consideration individual needs, activity levels or requirements for optimal wellbeing.

It doesn’t help that we are busier and more time poor than ever, and packaged convenience foods are so readily available. Unfortunately, it’s these foods (biscuits, crackers, muffins, potato and corn chips, snack bars) that children tend to love because they are the highest in sugar, salt and saturated fats, providing them with little other than high levels of kilojoules or what we call “empty calories”. They’re great at keeping them quiet but far from nourishing.

Some of the most common nutritional deficiencies we see in children are vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron and zinc.4 Approximately 85% of girls aged 12-18 have inadequate calcium intake, 70% have inadequate magnesium levels and 40% are low in iron.2,5  Whilst 60% of boys aged 12-18 have inadequate magnesium levels and 70% don’t get enough calcium.5 It’s also very common for children, particularly teenagers, to show signs of low levels of B group vitamins (such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating and irritability) when the pressures of school life start to create additional stress. The reason why we see these deficiencies creep up as our children get older is because the period between the age of 4 and 14 is characterised by rapid growth, and cognitive and emotional development. Therefore, giving them a strong nutritional foundation during these years is the best strategy for avoiding problems later on.

Is there is an easy solution?

Thank goodness, YES! Nuzest’s Kids Good Stuff (KGS) is the nutritional insurance for our kids that we have all been looking for to put our minds at ease. Adding it to your child’s normal daily diet it will not only fill the gaps to help them reach their RDIs, it will help to ensure they are going above and beyond these recommendations for optimal health, growth and development.  

For example, every serve of KGS contains 200% of the RDI for Vitamin D for children aged 4-14, 261% of Vitamin C, 278% of Vitamin B12, 83% of zinc, 63% of iodine and 21% of calcium. Not to mention a host of other essential vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables, herbs, protein and probiotics to support all 11 body systems through this time of rapid growth.

Is Kids Good Stuff easy to take?

One of the things that kids love the most about Kids Good Stuff is that it tastes too good to be healthy. So good that even the fussiest of eaters will be happy to take it. With 8g of the highest quality pea protein per serve, Kids Good Stuff makes the perfect addition to breakfast or is a healthy and satisfying snack all on its own. Alternatively, it can be blended with your children’s favourite smoothie ingredients or added to raw snacks and treats for a nutrient boost.

As a parent, knowing that just one scoop a day can be the difference between your child not getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly and your child thriving, it’s an absolute must! It will make you feel confident that you are giving our children the best start in life.  

Why is it better than a regular multivitamin?

If you ask me, Kids Good Stuff is a clear winner over any multivitamin capsule or gummy. Not only do children associate gummies with candy, deeming all varieties of chewy confectionary to be “healthy” to them, but it’s impossible to get all the nutritional support children need in just one small chew or capsule. Because Kids Good Stuff comes in a concentrated powder form with no fillers, it’s able to deliver over 50 ingredients in quantities that will actually have a beneficial effect.

Even more importantly than the quantity though is the quality of the ingredients. And Nuzest have absolutely assured this. Every vitamin, mineral, herb and probiotic in Kids Good Stuff has been selected based on maximum bioavailability, meaning that the body can recognise and absorb every ingredient and none of it goes to waste.

In summary, if you are looking for nutritional insurance to give you peace of mind that your child is getting all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive then there is nothing like Kids Good Stuff. With everything they need for healthy development, strong immunity, good digestion and gut support, healthy bones and long-lasting energy without any of the bad stuff, it’s the best way to keep them happy and healthy from the inside out.

Please note that vitamin and mineral supplements can interact with medications. If your child has been prescribed medication by a GP or specialist, it’s important to consult them before taking a nutritional supplement.

References:

AIHW (2018). Australia’s Health 2018. Retrieved 13 October 2010 from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/indicators-of-australias-health/fruit-and-vegetable-intake

AIHW (2018). Nutrition Across the Life Stages. Retrieved 13 October 2020 fromhttps://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/fc5ad42e-08f5-4f9a-9ca4-723cacaa510d/aihw-phe-227.pdf.aspx?inline=true

AIHW (2019). Poor Diet in Children. Retrieved 13 October 2020 https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/food-nutrition/poor-diet/contents/poor-diet-in-children

Raising Children Network (2020). Vitamins and Minerals. Retrieved 12 October 2020 from https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/healthy-lifestyle/nutrients/vitamins-minerals#vitamin-and-mineral-deficiencies-nav-title

ABS (2015). Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes. Retrieved 12 October 2020 from https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/australian-health-survey-usual-nutrient-intakes/latest-release

Is ageing the secret to happiness?

While you probably don’t need me to tell you that ageing, mental health and happiness are all deeply intertwined phenomena, their relationship is actually bit more complex than you might imagine. Allow me to explain. According to WHO data, global life expectancy has increased by over five years since the year 2000. 1 In fact,


While you probably don’t need me to tell you that ageing, mental health and happiness are all deeply intertwined phenomena, their relationship is actually bit more complex than you might imagine.

Allow me to explain.

According to WHO data, global life expectancy has increased by over five years since the year 2000. 1

In fact, there are more people aged 65+ on earth than at any time before in human history.

This wonderful new reality is at least partially a reflection of in improvements in modern medicine and enhanced living conditions, but also brings with it new challenges.

The 70+ age demographic, for example, has the highest prevalence of global depression and is followed closely by those aged 50-69.2

There are also a number of chronic conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, that disproportionately affect older adults.

On top of all of this, we are also faced with recent research published by the American National Bureau Of Economic Research that suggests happiness across the lifespan is “U-shaped”, meaning that it actually peaks in older age.3

So how do we reconcile these diverse findings?

Let’s find out.

The U-Shaped Happiness Trend

David Branchflower, an American professor of economics, published a paper in late 2019 which looked at happiness trends across the lifespan in over a hundred countries across the world. 

His work led him to the conclusion that trends in subjective happiness across the globe tended to follow a U-shape distribution.4

This essentially suggests that people start their lives incredibly happy as children and teens and eventually this happiness decreases over time as life’s responsibilities add up before it reaches a low point in our late 40s, after which happiness starts to increase again until it once again peaks later in life.

Several years before Branchflower demonstrated this U-shape trend using data from around the world, the United Kingdom’s Office For National Statistics did so with local data across the UK.5

Their study also found that life satisfaction, a sense of worthwhile and happiness ratings were highest in the 65 to 79 demographic and suggested afew potential reasons to explain the trend:

  1. The accumulation of life experiences and inevitable changes in the way we look at life that comes with age and may contribute to enhanced sense of wellbeing. Things that bothered us when we were younger, for example, may cease to do so in older age.
  •  The accumulation of wealth over time and an increase in leisure time that accompanies retirement and a potential decrease in responsibility as compared to working life.

The U-shaped trend doesn’t tell the whole story though, because in the 80+ demographic the risk of health issues and loneliness (perhaps due to a partner death) can take a serious toll on happiness.

In fact, the data out of the UK suggests that those aged 80+ were 2x as likely to report feeling lonely as the younger demographics.

So knowing this, how does can an older adult optimize their chances of being on the right side of the health and happiness curve as they age?

Mental Health, Happiness & Healthy Ageing

In order to explore this question, we must first understand the term healthy ageing,

The World Health Organization defines it as5:

 “The process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age”.

This definition heavily weighs the importance of older adults being able to engage in activities that they value, whether physically, socially, intellectually or otherwise.

It probably comes as no surprise that healthy eating, especially a diet which includes fruits and veggies, as well as regular physical activity habits at mid-life were predictive of healthy ageing later in life.6,7

This should serve as an important lesson to those currently middle aged who perhaps may undervalue the role these lifestyle factors play in a happy, healthy life in old age.

It’s also important to acknowledge that although these behaviours are more advantageous if maintained from a younger age, a 2013 paper out of the British Journal Of Sports Medicine found that it is never too late to start and even those who became more active later in life still enjoyed significant increases to their physical health and mental wellbeing8.

Blood cholesterol levels also appear to be an important consideration in cognitive decline in the elderly, with higher levels associated with greater rates of decline9.

The food groups that are most strongly associated with reductions in blood cholesterol levels include10:

  1. Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans
  2. Legumes include lentils, chickpeas and all varieties of beans
  3. Soy-based foods like tempeh, tofu, soy milk, edamame and so on
  4. Soluble fibres such as those found in psyllium husk and flaxseed*
  5. Plant-based components (plant sterols) found in most fruits/veggies*

**Both of which are part of Nuzest’s Good Green Vitality blend

With these points in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to pivot away from the physiological contributors to healthy aging and happiness and shift towards the social support considerations.

If you’d like to learn more about the nutritional aspects of mental health, please refer to our previous article on the topic here.

Social Support, Family & Happiness In Old Age

A strong social support network is considered one of the most powerful predictors of healthy aging11.

It follows that a healthy home environment and the presence of family and community play massive roles in maintaining happiness and mental health in old age.

In fact, family plays an even bigger role than you might think.

Scientists have determined that certain genes in the APOE grouping are heritable and associated with longevity and a longer lifespan12.

Although we can’t do much to alter our genetics, I certainly found this an interesting finding to end today’s article on.

I hope you found it insightful start to finish.

Until next time,

Andy

Andy De Santis

How to balance your hormones naturally

Hormonal health is central to our overall health and well-being. From our brains to our hearts, skin, kidneys and muscles, each part of our body is in some way controlled by hormonal signals. These hormones are released by a series of glands around our body which, along with tissues and organs, make up our Endocrine


Hormonal health is central to our overall health and well-being. From our brains to our hearts, skin, kidneys and muscles, each part of our body is in some way controlled by hormonal signals. These hormones are released by a series of glands around our body which, along with tissues and organs, make up our Endocrine System.

So, what are hormones?

Broadly speaking, hormones are our body’s chemical messengers which control several physiological functions including:

  • Growth and development
  • Metabolism
  • Reproduction
  • Electrolyte balance and composition[1]

Each hormone class differs in terms of their mechanism of action; that is their ability to target and activate specific cells in the body.

The endocrine system receives input from the nervous system, which directs the activity of hormones throughout the body[2]. The amazing ability of our nervous system to communicate information between body systems in a fraction of a second is what keeps those systems healthy, functional and efficient[3]. Hormone production and secretion is tightly controlled by a process called homeostasis – our body’s way of bringing everything back into its ideal state[4].

There are many hormones produced by different endocrine glands throughout the body. Our major endocrine glands include[5]:

  • Hypothalamus (brain)
  • Anterior/Posterior Pituitary Gland (brain)
  • Adrenal Cortex (brain)
  • Testes (reproductive)
  • Ovaries (reproductive)
  • Thyroid gland (metabolic)
  • Parathyroid gland (metabolic)
  • Pancreas (metabolic)

My aim is to summarise a list of common hormonal imbalances, and support those facts with the latest scientific evidence on optimal health and nutrition support.

How do hormones become unbalanced?

Hormones fluctuate naturally over time in response to physiological changes, or changes in the external environment.

During various life stages, hormonal shifts can occur naturally; notably during women’s monthly menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy and menopause, which all cause changes in female sex hormones[6].

Our modern environment exposes us to many stressors including psychological, environmental and medical[7]. Often the foods we choose, and lifestyles we engage in (known as our modifiable risk factors), are strong contributors to hormonal health[8].

Metabolic

Insulin and glucagon are two of the more well-known hormones affected by our diet. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to increased glucose (carbohydrates) in the blood; it therefore plays a key role in modulating blood glucose levels[9].

Glucagon is also a hormone released by the pancreas, this one in response to decreased glucose in the blood; thus, playing a key counteracting role to insulin[10].

When glucose intake is high and energy surpluses are sustained long term, insulin resistance and/or Type 2 diabetes may result. This occurs when insulin is overproduced as a compensatory effect to manage blood glucose levels. Over time these insulin-producing cells become worn out[11].

Development of Type 2 diabetes is greatly increased if a number of modifiable risk factors are present[12]:

  • Physical inactivity;
  • Overweight/Obesity;
  • High blood pressure; or
  • Blood lipid imbalance – low HDL (good cholesterol), high LDL (bad cholesterol).

Symptoms of Diabetes/Insulin Resistance [13]:

  • Increased thirst and urination;
  • Lethargic
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness/tingling in hands or feet
  • Poor wound healing

* Many conditions can result in these signs and symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Stress

Stress begins in, and affects, the brain, as well as echoing physiological effects throughout the entire body[14].  Our adrenal glands (located on the tops of our kidneys) produce cortisol and epinephrine, which are also referred to as our main ‘stress hormones’.

Stress (the ‘fight or flight’ response to perceived danger) causes the release of cortisol and epinephrine[15]. Whilst stress is extremely useful in responses to short term danger, chronic or excessive secretion of cortisol may actually contribute to dysfunction (i.e. secondary effects of inflammatory/oxidative damage)[16].

Chronic stress is often accompanied by lifestyle choices or personal behaviours (i.e. surplus energy intake, alcohol intake, smoking, drugs or sleep quality[17]) and can impact further physiological processes, of which the effects are continuing to be investigated[18].

Reproductive Hormone Disorders in Women

Reproductive hormonal conditions pose a major challenge for many women, due to the increased risk of adverse reproductive, foetal or maternal outcomes[19]. These conditions result when abnormal levels of sex hormones are produced (or insufficiently produced), and cause health repercussions[20].

Some common conditions, and symptoms of these conditions in females are listed and analysed below. If you are experiencing any symptoms listed below, please consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Most commonly developed during a women’s reproductive years, PCOS affects one in ten women of child-bearing age[21]. PCOS can cause irregular or missed periods, and may lead to to infertility, and/or development of cysts in the ovaries[22].

Many women suffering PCOS have insulin resistance, which is when the body’s cells do not respond efficiently to insulin from increased glucose levels.

PCOS has been linked to other health conditions, including diabetic and cardiovascular complications later in life[24]. Symptoms are heterogenous in nature, but are generally characterised by excess hair growth, irregular periods, acne, thinning hair or weight gain[25].

The cause of PCOS is not definitive, however, like all disease processes is multifactorial in nature. Research suggests hormonal imbalance as a cause to part of the issue. Increased levels of androgen (a predominate male hormone, however women produce small amounts) in the blood can prevent ovulation and cause acne and excess hair growth[26].

Endometriosis

Estimated to affect 10% of women in their reproductive years, endometriosis is defined by the growth of tissue (endometrium) on the outside of the uterus and other parts of the body[27].

Similar to PCOS, the definitive cause of endometriosis is unknown, however research suggests oestrogen as a promotive factor – when tissue grows on the outside, oestrogen signalling is disrupted, causing dominance[28].

Symptoms and clinical presentations are highly variable, however, may include painful menstrual periods, pelvic pain, bleeding/spotting between cycles, infertility or digestive problems[29].

Acne

One of the most common skin disorders affecting 9.4% of the world’s population, with highest prevalence in adolescents, and in women (when compared with men)[30].

Acne may present as a cause of excess levels of androgen hormones (hyperandrogenism), as well as the activity of other hormones, particularly flaring up around the time of menstruation due to their ability to stimulate sebum production[31].

What we eat also impacts on skin health, with nutrients such as Vitamin A (found in carrots, capsicum) Vitamin D (found in egg yolk, mushrooms, oily fish), Omega-3s (found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, oily fish, seaweed) and Vitamin E (found in nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables) [32] having beneficial effects. Furthermore, consumption of low-GI carbohydrates (i.e. rolled oats, wholemeal bread, brown rice and fruit) has shown promising effects towards promoting healthier skin[33]. Studies are still evolving in finding best clinical practice to treating hormonal acne[34].

Infertility

Reproductive disorders which affect ovulation (PCOS, endometriosis, adenomyosis and uterine fibroids) share infertility as a symptom of a hormonal dysfunction[35]. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies infertility as a ‘global public health issue’, estimating that over 10% of women will experience this[36]. Causes are highly varied, and can include complications in males, females, or a combination of contributing factors[37].

A diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, dietary fibre and healthy fats have been shown to improve fertility in women[38].

Amenorrhea

Often indicative of a health problem/hormonal imbalance rather than being defined as a ‘disease’ itself. Amenorrhea can be defined as primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea is the failure of menstruation to start by sixteen years[39].

Potential causes may be genetic or hormonal, where problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland may cause imbalances[40].

Secondary amenorrhea can be defined as the absence of a period for at least six months after normal menstruation. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is where our hypothalamus fails to produce enough gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which is the hormone which signals the start of a menstrual cycle[41].

Common causes of this type of amenorrhea in women include:

  • Low body fat percentage/low body weight
  • Very low caloric intake
  • Extreme exercise without adequate caloric compensation
  • Leptin deficiency (appetite regulating hormone)
  • Certain medical conditions

If any of these issues are of concern to your current health, please consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How to Support Hormonal Health

Hormonal balance is extremely complex and very individualised. Increasing awareness on hormonal actions in the body can help bring some awareness when things just aren’t feeling right!

Fortunately, there are many ways we can support our hormonal health which involve engaging in balanced eating patterns, healthy lifestyle behaviours, and taking time for yourself:

  1. Engage in regular physical activity. Do something that you ACTUALLY look forward to! If the gym isn’t, for you, try outdoor walks, dancing, yoga, Pilates, gardening etc.

  2. Consume a balanced diet, abundant in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein sources. Limit intakes of discretionary items such as red/processed meats, sugar sweetened beverages, sugar confectionary, saturated fat and sodium. Incorporating plant variety into your diet is an excellent way to cover a broad range of essential vitamins and minerals.

    For some, the pace of everyday life can limit our ability to fit this into our day. While we cannot ignore the irreplaceable benefits of a balanced, whole-food diet, Nuzest’s Good Green Vitality can help support those nutritional gaps in your day. With a spectrum of 20 plant foods, this easy to take powder contains 24 vitamins and minerals, probiotics, fibre and herbal blends to help support your general and hormonal health.
     
  3. Limit alcohol to no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion and aim to increase your amount of alcohol-free days.

  4. Find a qualified health professional you feel comfortable discussing your symptoms of concern to.

  5. Reduce lifestyle and mental stressors. Ensure you are taking time to evaluate what is stressing you out during the day and to seek support to reduce it. Find something each day that makes you smile!

I have covered a broad range of hormones (which has barely scratched the surface of how complex these chemicals really are!) and have hopefully provided you with some guidance on how to best support your hormonal well-being. As stated, if you think any of this information applies to you, please seek guidance from a trusted, qualified health professional.

Tahlia Claringbold

Nutrition for Boys: from Birth to Early Adulthood

Throughout life our nutritional needs change to meet differing demands due to growth and development, activity, puberty and some health conditions. Birth to adulthood is a time of rapid changes, and our needs for the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) differ according to age and stage. If your child has


Throughout life our nutritional needs change to meet differing demands due to growth and development, activity, puberty and some health conditions. Birth to adulthood is a time of rapid changes, and our needs for the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) differ according to age and stage. If your child has a health condition which affects his nutritional needs, your paediatrician can refer you to a registered dietitian or nutritionist for advice specific to your child.

0-6 months

Before six months, babies should be getting all their nutrition from breastmilk and/or formula; animal and plant milks aren’t appropriate for babies. If your formula-fed baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA), there are soy and hydrolysed formula options available.

You may have read (or been told by your doctor) that you can begin offering solid food between four and six months of age; most dietitians agree that you should wait until at least six months unless there is a true medical need.

You should wait to see the following signs of readiness before offering your son solids, such as:

  • he is sitting unsupported
  • he shows interest in your food
  • he has lost the tongue-thrust reflex.

Be sure to familiarise yourself with safe feeding practices and the difference between gagging and choking so you are more confident that you are feeding your baby safely when you start solids.

6 months – 3 years

This is a period of rapid growth, when children’s nutrient needs are higher, per kilogram of bodyweight, than at any other time of life.1 In particular, children need more total energy (kilojoules), protein, essential fatty acids and water – especially when they have a fever or diarrhoea, or on very hot days.1 Iron needs also increase and are difficult to meet through breastmilk or formula, so it is important to ensure that you are offering an iron-rich food source with every meal and snack. Great food sources of iron include meat, mashed beans and lentils – if you’re serving the same foods you eat and the meal is low in iron, an easy and quick addition are chia or hemp seeds sprinkled on top of their food!

Good sources of protein and unsaturated fats for children include eggs (serve scrambled or hard boiled and cut into quarters or mashed on toast for younger babies), seeds like chia or flax, oily fish like salmon or homemade pesto and hummus – you could even replace some of the extra virgin olive oil with walnut or flaxseed oil to boost the level of omega-3!

If your family already eats a varied diet there’s no need to make big changes for your baby or toddler, he can eat everything you eat (except honey if he’s under the age of one) as long as it’s served in a safe way to reduce choking risk; but be conscious of his extra needs for iron, protein and fats, and build meals around this. If your family’s diet isn’t as varied as you’d like, now is a great time to make some changes! Encourage your baby to eat intuitively – that means allowing him to eat until he is full without pressuring or cajoling him to eat more. Children are excellent intuitive eaters if given the chance and will rarely over or under eat; encouraging this from a young age will set him up to have a positive relationship with food throughout his life.

3 years – puberty

This is a period of slower growth between the high growth periods of infancy/toddlerhood and puberty. Puberty starts about age 10 or 11 for boys, though this is an average and may be a little earlier or later.2

Continuing to offer a varied diet, without restricting eating or pressuring children to eat, should be all you need to do to ensure adequate nutritional intake. Remember that a varied diet doesn’t mean no treats are allowed! Moderation is key – it’s not helpful to ban foods which are often labelled “unhealthy”, like high-sugar or high-fat convenience foods (both of which can have a place in a healthy diet, it’s all about balance), as this is likely to lead to overeating when the opportunity arises.

To learn more about smart snacking and support your children intuitively eat and reach for healthier foods, read our article on Children and Snacking: the good, the bad and the interesting.

Puberty and adolescence

At puberty your child once again enters a period of extremely rapid growth – in boys, weight gain increases from an average of 3kg per year to 9kg per year (almost all of which is made up of lean tissue, i.e. muscle and bone) and height increases from about 5cm per year to 9.5cm per year on average.2 All this growth requires a lot more food! This teenage growth spurt means both sexes need to increase their intake significantly (especially if they engage in a lot of sports or athletics) though boys usually need a bigger increase than girls, simply because they tend to be taller with bigger frames; the number of kilojoules per kilogram of bodyweight is the same for boys and girls.2

During this growth spurt, protein needs are increased; however, the body becomes much more efficient at using dietary protein.2 It’s still important to offer protein regularly, in the form of meat, eggs, tofu, beans and lentils or a high quality protein shake (great for a quick snack after sports!), but you probably don’t need to worry that they aren’t getting enough – protein deficiency is extremely rare in a standard western diet.

Of the micronutrients, there is an increased need for calcium, zinc and folate.2 Dairy is a good source of calcium, but there are other sources too, like fortified dairy alternatives, green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale (not spinach, though, which is low in calcium compared with other green veggies) and edamame beans. Zinc can be found in meat and shellfish (especially oysters) with chickpeas, nuts and seeds being great plant-based sources. Green vegetables are a good source of folate, as well as beans and lentils, eggs and beetroot.

Late adolescence and early adulthood

In late adolescence, a boy’s nutritional needs become approximately what they will be for the remainder of his early adult life (i.e. until around age 50).1 In late adolescence and early adulthood, boys and men have increased needs for several vitamins and minerals – vitamins C, K, B1, B2 and B3, choline, magnesium and zinc.1 Total energy needs may increase or decrease in the transition from school to work, depending on the type of career – for example an office-based job often includes long periods of sedentary behaviour compared with the regular physical activity frequently undertaken in high school.

Vitamin C is found in lots of fruit and vegetables, but is particularly high in citrus fruits, capsicums and kiwis. Salmon is a good source of most B vitamins, including all the ones mentioned above, as is liver; beans and lentils, eggs, dairy and seeds are vegetarian sources of B1, B2 and/or B3, though in lower amounts – in fact the B vitamins are in most plant-based foods so eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains should mean an adequate intake. Foods high in choline include chicken and fish, eggs, beans, broccoli and peas. High magnesium foods include nuts, especially almonds, green leafy vegetables and whole grains; this is, however, another of those nutrients found in most foods.

The takeaway

More important than focussing in on individual macro- and micronutrients is looking at the diet as a whole – ensuring your child gets the nutrition he needs in different life stages doesn’t need to be overwhelming! By offering a rainbow of vegetables through the week, encouraging your child to eat to fullness and not restrict foods, following healthy eating guidelines, offering morning and afternoon tea as well as regular meals and encouraging him to be active in a way he enjoys, it should be easy to ensure your child gets all the nutrients he needs to grow and develop. And while food should always be used as a primary source of nutrition, there may be times in your child’s life where you may like to consider including a good quality multi nutrient supplement, such as Kids Good Stuff, in their diets to help fill any nutritional gaps. However, I always recommend that you speak to your doctor before doing so to ensure it is appropriate for your child’s individual needs.

Skin Deep: The Causes of Common Skin Concerns

You may not think of your skin as an organ, but it is in fact, the largest organ in your body, functioning as a barrier to protect us from pathogens (microbes like viruses and bacteria), physical threats and helping to regulate body temperature. Our skin also ‘waterproofs’ the body, has receptors for heat and pain


You may not think of your skin as an organ, but it is in fact, the largest organ in your body, functioning as a barrier to protect us from pathogens (microbes like viruses and bacteria), physical threats and helping to regulate body temperature. Our skin also ‘waterproofs’ the body, has receptors for heat and pain to alert us to immediate threats, and helps us to excrete bodily wastes.

Signs your skin is not as healthy as it should be:

  • Inflamed or irritated skin
  • Excessively dry, flaky or oily skin
  • Poor wound healing
  • Premature ageing
  • Chronic conditions like eczema or dermatitis

Note: Many conditions can result in these signs and symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these, consult with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What causes common skin concerns?

When we think of skin health, we probably think of creams and serums, cleansers and toners, face masks and exfoliators, but the true foundations of skin health start on the inside.

The skin is one of the body’s largest organs of elimination, thus if other organs of elimination such as the liver, kidneys and bowels are compromised, a skin outbreak may ensue as the result of the body attempting to excrete wastes via an alternate route.

Other systems of the body, including the gastrointestinal system, also impact the health of our skin. The relationship between these two organs is often referred to as the gut-skin axis, with numerous studies having linked the health of the gastrointestinal system to the health of our skin. For example, it is believed that gastrointestinal disturbances, such as constipation, may play a role in skin problems due to the increased amount of toxins circulating in the body.1 Accordingly, a large part of managing skin conditions is to restore the body to a state of internal harmony.

Outside of internal systemic function, skin health also reflects many things, such as genetics, diet, stress, environmental and occupational exposure, medical conditions, medications and certain lifestyle choices. We discuss some of these below.

Stress

It has long been known that stress causes an increase in symptoms of skin problems, affecting skin immune function, barrier function and wound healing.2 Stress is not the only mental state to affect the skin; it is proposed that anxiety and depression are associated with acne via changes in gut bacteria.3 

Sleep

One of the things that happens while we sleep is repair and renewal of our cells, including skin cells.4 Sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can negatively impact the skin, and is associated with skin ageing, self-perception of skin and facial appearance (or, how we think we look), and skin barrier function.4

Smoking

Stopping smoking is one of the most beneficial ways to improve your health almost instantly, and skin health is no different. As well as a negative impact on the look of skin, with fine lines around the eyes and mouth, greying skin and gauntness being a ‘characteristic look’ of a smoker, smoking has been indicated as a factor in skin diseases such as carcinomas and melanomas, psoriasis, eczema and acne.5

Sun Exposure

Although we need a little sunlight in order for our skin to make vitamin D, too much has a harmful effect on the look and health of our skin. It is well known that excess sun can cause skin cancers as a result of damage to the DNA in the skin cell.6 UV light also contributes to ageing of the skin, increasing wrinkling, sagging and dryness.7 A good quality sunscreen which protects for both UVA and UVB is important to wear daily for skin protection, as well as staying inside, in the shade or wearing a hat during the hottest parts of the day when the sun is strongest.

Diet

Nutrition has been long associated with skin health, including all of its possible aspects from beauty to integrity and even ageing. Nutritional deficiencies or excesses have been shown to impact and promote the onset and recurrence of various dermatological disorders.8 For example, nutritional imbalances and the ingestion of high-glycaemic-index foods are two factors commonly associated with acne.

In addition, the excessive consumption of sugar and charred meats are thought to promote the visible signs of ageing by promoting the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) – compounds that form when protein or fat combine with sugar in the blood stream. AGEs are believed to decrease the body’s resistance to structural stress and interrupt the skin’s blood supply, thus having a negative impact on the health of the skin.

Conversely, a diet that is calorically balanced and full of essential nutrients such as probiotics, antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamins, have been scientifically proven to help promote healthy skin, optimise skin physiology, maintain skin density, improve skin firmness and prevent some skin diseases.8

To learn more about the nutrients that are beneficial for skin health, read our article by Nutritionist Amy Butler ‘The Best Nutrients for Skin Health’.

How Inflammation Works: Skin Conditions

There are a wide variety of inflammatory skin conditions that can be characterised as either acute (short-lasting) or chronic (long-lasting). These range from conditions such as acute contact dermatitis which causes the occasional rash, to more chronic diseases such as acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. Acute skin conditions such as contact dermatitis will usually last


There are a wide variety of inflammatory skin conditions that can be characterised as either acute (short-lasting) or chronic (long-lasting). These range from conditions such as acute contact dermatitis which causes the occasional rash, to more chronic diseases such as acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.

Acute skin conditions such as contact dermatitis will usually last anywhere from a couple of days up to two weeks and are usually the result of coming into contact with an undiagnosed allergen.

Inflammatory skin conditions can result in discomfort, frustration and embarrassment among sufferers. Read on to learn more about some common inflammatory skin conditions and nutrients that are beneficial for our overall skin health.  

The role of inflammation in common skin conditions

Rosacea is an inflammatory response that can cause blushing on the cheeks, chin, forehead and nose, swollen cheeks and nose, pustules, burning, rash and visible or enlarged capillaries1. Research supports the theory that the symptoms associated with this condition are a chronic response to an increased presence of a mite called Demodex folliculorum, – a microscopic arachnid that commonly inhabits the hair follicles on the skin of mammals2, particularly around the face, however usually results in no abnormal side effects when present in common levels.3,4

Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin conditions that result in a red, dry and easily irritated rash following contact with a particular trigger such as jewellery, perfume, plants or fabrics, that stimulate the response5.

Atopic Dermatitis falls under this group and refers specifically to the response as a result of an allergic reaction caused by a defect in skin barrier function and immune dysregulation when exposed to an environmental or infectious toxin6.

Psoriasis is an immune-mediated condition characterised by inflammatory thick, red, scaly, itchy and dry patches of skin to form over the surface of the body that can be triggered by stress, illness/infection or cold weather. During a flare, vasodilation allows for an influx of inflammatory factors and white blood cells and there is a significant increase in the production of keratinocytes resulting in patchy appearance on the skin which is actually keratinocytes that have aged prematurely and flake off the skin in silver scales. The systemic inflammatory processes involved in psoriasis are associated with the co-morbidities that often present with the condition and are also inflammatory in nature, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke7.

Acne affects almost 80% of young adults, often persisting well into adulthood, and can result in scarring and hyperpigmentation. Inflammatory acne lesions occur when the pores of our skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Each pore on your skin is the opening to a follicle, which is made up of a single hair and a sebaceous (oil) gland. Normally, the oil gland will release sebum (oil), which will travel up the hair, out of the pore, and onto your skin, thus helping to keep it soft and hydrated. However, in people with acne this normal lubrication process is impaired resulting in the oil being unable to escape the pore. This results in a clogged pore which forms a pimple.

The acne lesions themselves were once thought to be the only inflammatory related aspect of this skin condition, however emerging data has revealed that inflammation actually occurs at all stages of acne lesion development, meaning that acne can be classified as an inflammatory disease.

Does what we eat effect the health of our skin?

The health of our skin reflects many things, such as diet, genetics, sunlight, environmental and occupational exposure, medical conditions, medications, stress and certain lifestyle choices. Interestingly (and thankfully), nutrition has historically been one of the earliest and most important factors for improving skin health8.

When it comes to nutrition, a diet that is packed with essential nutrients, and provides sufficient energy, protein and essential fats appears to be at the foundation. Many nutrients have been shown to improve skin health, some of them include:

  • Omega 3 fats – considered crucial for healthy skin. Dry or flaky skin is often a sign of low omega-3 fat intake, while omega-3 fats might also help to reduce the incidence of skin cancers9.
  • Vitamin A – both dietary and topical vitamin A has been clinically shown to improve photoaged skin by increasing smoothness and decreasing fine wrinkles and hyperpigmentation10.
  • Vitamin C – vital for collagen synthesis and is found in both the upper and deeper layers of the skin. Its antioxidant activity helps with wound healing and can help protect against damage from UV light11.
  • Zinc – which might improve acne and dermatitis12.

Combination supplements that include a variety of ingredients, such as collagen (or collagen-supporting vegan nutrients), vitamin C, vitamin E, biotin, zinc, grape seed and rosehip extracts, silica and marine nutrients (i.e. kelp or marine algae) have also demonstrated benefits to skin hydration, wrinkles and other measures of skin health13,14,15,16.

Skin health is a reflection of internal health, so it’s important to ensure that you are consuming a high-quality, varied and wholesome diet that supports all body systems. Bridging the gaps in your diet with Good Green Vitality is one way to ensure you are getting the top up you need in one daily serve of many of these important skin health ingredients. Good Green Vitality also has the added benefit of nutrients that support gut health and your body’s natural detoxification pathways, that all play a critical part in your overall skin health.

To learn more about the role of inflammation in different heart, autoimmune, neurological and endocrine conditions, continue reading our series by student nutritionist Eleanor Good, How Inflammation Works: Heart Disease.

To skip the rest of this series and learn how to fight inflammation with food, read our article from Registered Dietitian, Andy de Santis, on the foods he recommends to combat inflammation.

The information provided in this article is intended for educational purposes only and is general advice. It should not, nor is it intended to be, relied on as a substitute for individual medical advice or care. If the contents of this, or any other of the blogs in this series raises any concerns or questions regarding your health, please consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Life After Professional Sport – an interview with retired Olympian Martin Reader

Prior to the global pandemic closing office spaces across Australia, Nuzest HQ were fortunate enough to have had 2012 London Olympian, Martin Reader, attend our office to present a keynote speech on mastering personal performance. We were so inspired by his story of hardship, struggle, challenge and success throughout his career as an athlete, that


Prior to the global pandemic closing office spaces across Australia, Nuzest HQ were fortunate enough to have had 2012 London Olympian, Martin Reader, attend our office to present a keynote speech on mastering personal performance. We were so inspired by his story of hardship, struggle, challenge and success throughout his career as an athlete, that we asked if he would come onto our blog to talk about his experiences transitioning out of professional sport.

Martin had an incredibly successful career as a professional volleyball player, representing Canada in Beach Volleyball at the 2012 London Olympics. Martin announced his retirement from professional sport shortly after the 2012 Olympic games and moved to Sydney, Australia – a place he now calls home. Today, Martin works as the Sport Operation Manager at Volleyball NSW, coaches volleyball at Sydney Grammar School, is a performance and cultures consultant around Sydney and acts as a mentor for athletes around the world through his @OFFBALLathlete platform which provides personal and professional development opportunities for athletes in mind, body and life. Should you wish to learn more about Martin, you can find him on his personal Instagram @martinjreader.

How did you come about your decision to retire from professional sport? 

It was not my intention to retire as early as I did, however, after an incredibly challenging and cutthroat experience qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London, I realized my life dream of becoming an Olympian was complete. I still had some great years ahead of me, but I felt a calling to take my effort, focus, passion and work ethic into building a life outside of sport. 

How would you describe your transition out of professional sport?

It was really hard to take the leap of faith and transition myself beyond sport. It took me 4 months to decide fully but I am happy to say it happened on my own terms. I left after my greatest season and a lifetime achievement, so I had a lot of personal momentum and had the confidence to apply myself in “real life”. The biggest challenge was learning how to actually work in a non-professional sporting world. Effort, intensity and enduring pain were my currencies as an athlete, but it took me a while to realise strengths that brought immediate value in a working capacity. Second to that I had a lot of ideas but not a lot of expertise on how to execute them. Thank goodness I wasn’t afraid of a good challenge because it took some time for me to find my niche in health and fitness. Developing and leading a culture similar to a competitive team environment was key to my transition and once that was thriving, I felt right at home. 

Olympic Games 2012, Beach Volleyball, Preliminary Round 28.07.12, Horse Guards Parade, London Foto © Conny Kurth / www.kurth-media.de

What impact did your transition out of professional sport have on your mental and emotional health?

I was always very conscious of being more than my identity and achievements within sport. I always had other pursuits and interests outside of the court and was connected to a purpose greater than myself, so I didn’t have a crisis or a period where I was lost. That said, what I valued and had valued for a decade plus as an elite sportsman wasn’t necessarily what other people valued. It took some time to ease my regimented life of sport specific training and competing, but physical fitness and healthy eating remained my anchors. I am so grateful to have had such loving and supportive parents who were there for me unconditionally, that was a huge help. 

Have your attitudes and behaviours towards health changed since transitioning out of professional sport?

They have absolutely changed! I went from the pinnacle of performance to becoming a fitness business owner and trainer to now coaching people in more mental performance and stress reduction. I always thought the harder you went the better you would be but over time I have naturally moved more towards more functional training, breath-work, ice baths, recovery practices and playful outdoor activities. I have gone from the idea that performance is about pushing yourself to the outer limits at all costs (health, injury, balance) and have evolved my philosophy to believe that health and the balance of mind and body actually live at the centre of personal performance. 

How do you like to stay healthy?

I live a very free life when it comes to being healthy. My fiancée and I eat a diet rich in vegetables, greens, whole foods and we do our best to source free range or pasture raised meats from local butchers. We go for morning beach walks almost every day, do yoga together (my partner @juliahamer is a yoga teacher at Virgin Active), workout together and simply do our best to be active. More specifically, as an individual, I mentor and train with a young talented athlete, so he keeps me motivated as I get to share my strength and conditioning knowledge and challenge him to be better by challenging myself. We train 2 or 3 days a week focusing on mobility, athletic body building, core strength, hill sprints and sport simulated conditioning. Lastly and most importantly, my breath practice lies at the foundation of my health. I have learnt to better manage my relationship with stress, become more present in my life and simply live with more gratitude on a daily basis by being more connected to myself, my partner and my purpose. 

Martin Reader from Canada

What advice would you give to someone transitioning out of professional sport?

You have been conditioned to work hard for something your whole life. Embrace that skill (because it is) but move into the space of working smarter not harder (which is likely where you will default). Secondly, what you learned competing and pushing yourself to the limit is a competitive advantage in every other field. You may think you are entering “real life” behind other people who went right into school or the work force but your experience pushing at the tip of the spear of sport is actually something businesses and leaders are seeking. Believe that what you have gone through has equipped you with self-awareness and leadership skills other people haven’t harnessed, so use that to your advantage.

Performance in any capacity comes down to stress management under pressure and you know how to do that better than most. Be humble enough to start from the beginning but be confident enough to know that your work ethic, sportsmanship and ability to contribute to a team will get you noticed and into rooms other people would kill for. But know that getting into the room means nothing, it is then on you to prove yourself and show your value. Take it for what it is worth – your time as an elite athlete is a competitive advantage but it is up to you to learn how to move past your career in sport while bringing your hard-earned lessons with you on your new journey. 

Interested in learning how to fuel your performance? Check out our interview with Sports Dietitian Jonathan Steedman.

Rachel Hawkins

The Truth About Sports Supplements

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a supplement store, you’d be forgiven for being…overwhelmed. The myriad of sports supplements to consider, the impossible ingredients to pronounce, the overbearing branding, the colours. It’s a lot and that’s just the start. It’s enough to bring on a migraine. Instead, we’re going to have a migraine-free look at


If you’ve ever stepped foot in a supplement store, you’d be forgiven for being…overwhelmed. The myriad of sports supplements to consider, the impossible ingredients to pronounce, the overbearing branding, the colours. It’s a lot and that’s just the start.

It’s enough to bring on a migraine.

Instead, we’re going to have a migraine-free look at some of the more common sport supplements you might come across and see if they really work, so you can decide what is right for you and what’s best left on the shelf.

Caffeine

In a world filled with supplements of dubious effectiveness, caffeine stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is easily the most thoroughly investigated, evidence based (legal) supplement available to improve your performance, whether that be endurance exercise1, strength & power sports2, team sports3 or chess4.

Although there are a number of proposed mechanisms by which caffeine improves performance in these (and many other) areas, it appears that its role as an adenosine antagonist is the most powerful5. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that causes us to feel fatigued. This effect increases as more and more adenosine binds to adenosine receptors, but caffeine can run interference by binding with these adenosine receptors before adenosine get the chance to, thus reducing feelings of fatigue and thereby decreasing our “rate of perceived exertion”, or RPE. If the RPE of any given activity is lower, it’s fairly likely that our performance is going to improve.

I know for a fact that the less I feel like I’m going to die, the faster I tend to run.

To achieve the greatest benefit from supplementing with caffeine, aim for 3-6mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight around 60 minutes before exercise5. For a lot of people, this is a large dose of caffeine, so it’s best to save this for a hard/heavy training session or an important match, and just have a regular cup of coffee before your normal sessions.  

It is also important to note that the way you metabolise caffeine is linked to your genetics. If you find it makes you feel anxious, hot or awful, either try a lower dose, or cut it out entirely6.

Creatine

If caffeine is the king of sports supplements, creatine is queen. Creatine also has a large body of evidence supporting its effectiveness7, particularly if you want to get big and strong. Creatine may allow you to perform an extra rep or two before becoming fatigued. This may not sound like much, but imagine being able to complete an extra rep or two at every session for the next six months? That’s going to add up.

Supplementing with 5g of creatine each day helps you to maximise your body’s stores. Creatine monohydrate is the best form of creatine, it doesn’t matter when you have it, and you don’t need to do a “loading” phase8.

It’s safe, it’s cheap and it works. It’s a yes from me.   

Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps your body produce carnosine, which can help reduce the build-up of hydrogen ions (and therefore the acidity) of your muscle during intense exercise. Put simply, it slightly delays you reaching that point during intense exercise where your muscle burns so badly that you have to stop. This potentially allows you to perform at your peak for longer9.

So, if that’s you, supplementing with 2-5g per day may help. If you find that this dose of beta-alanine gives you the sensation of ants crawling on your skin, don’t panic you’re perfectly safe! A side effect of beta-alanine supplementation is developing an unusual sensation of ‘tingling skin’. You can also split that 2-5g into multiple doses throughout the day to avoid that unpleasant sensation10.

Collagen

We’ve now reached the less rosy section of the article. Although collagen has recently enjoyed a massive surge in popularity, we may all be getting carried away here. Evidence to suggest it improves hair, skin or nail health is unfortunately rather weak, with many studies either suffering from small participant numbers, poor study design or troubling sources of funding (ie. the company selling the collagen supplement11).

The one ray of light is its potential benefit on recovery from ligament or tendon injuries12. There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that using 10-15g of collagen hydrolysate or gelatin and vitamin C 60 minutes before a rehabilitation session at White Sands can improve recovery13. So, if that is something you’re currently working through, it might be worth investigating. 

Branched Chain Amino Acids

If you’ve ever seen someone wandering around the gym with a shaker full of liquid that glows in the dark, there’s a pretty high chance that it contains branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and three branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) have been identified as being particularly beneficial for muscle growth and recovery. This has led to a massive rise in popularity of supplementing with these specific amino acids, rather than whole proteins, particularly during exercise. 

Although this kind of makes sense on paper, there isn’t a whole lot of support for it in the research14,15. It appears that you are far better off regularly consuming complete sources of protein as this is not only going to provide you with more than enough BCAAs, but all of the other raw materials required by your body to support muscle growth and recovery. My favourite analogy, which I have unashamedly ripped off of Dr. Brad Schoenfeld: ‘Building muscle is like building a house. Branched chain amino acids are like the building site’s foreman. They run the show and tell people what to do. But without the bricks, timber and other materials you need to build a house, you won’t really achieve much”.

L-carnitine

Before we talk about L-carnitine, we have to talk about fat oxidation, or “burning fat”, because this misunderstanding is the main reason why L-carnitine keeps getting promoted as a fat burner (when it shouldn’t16). You can burn/oxidise as much fat as you want, but if you’re replacing that fat as fast as you’re burning it (because you’re eating too many calories), you won’t see any change. Yes, some studies do show that L-carnitine can increase rates of fat oxidation17,18, but there isn’t a correlation between increased fat oxidation and increased fat loss. I honestly wish I had better news, but here we are. 

Fat Burners

Speaking of L-carnitine, let’s very briefly touch on “fat burners”. Once again, the news here is grim. There are no legal fat burners that work19. None. On top of that fact, this family of supplements pose a very real risk of dangerous contamination20,21. Please, save your money and spend it on real food and active wear.

Preworkouts

These are a little bit of a mixed bag, as some of them do contain some ingredients with some evidence supporting their use (eg. caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine) but these are often either dosed too low and/or combined with a whole host of other ingredients that either don’t work or aren’t relevant to your needs. If you manage to find one that ticks all of your boxes, great! Otherwise I often recommend supplementing with the specific supplement you want, rather than getting a giant mix of things you don’t need.

Protein Powder

Although its best to aim to get the majority of your daily protein from food, protein powders can be an easy, cost effective way to boost the protein content of a meal that may otherwise be lacking. Protein oats anyone?

Whey protein isolate, or WPI, is the most common form of protein powder and is produced when almost all of the lactose, fat and casein is filtered from whole milk. WPI is a great quality source of protein, but it’s not suitable for anyone who’s looking to stay dairy free. If this is you, you’ll be wanting a good quality vegan protein powder.

The only problem is, many vegan protein powders contain an incomplete spectrum of amino acids. A protein lacking certain amino acids will be less effective at supporting muscle growth and recovery than something that provides the full spectrum of essential amino acids. This is why I generally recommend a high-quality pea protein powder, such as Nuzest Clean Lean Protein, to ensure you’re getting the full spectrum of essential amino acids. That way you can be confident you’re not leaving any muscle gain or recovery on the table! And there you have it! This can be a very confusing topic, so hopefully this has answered some of your supplement questions.

If you’ve still got further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via my Instagram @jonosteedman or website. I’m always happy to nerd out over some sport supplements and a hot cup of creatine.

Jonathan Steedmen

Fuelling Your Performance: An Interview with Dietitian Jonathan Steedman

So, you’ve set yourself a goal. A charity run? Perhaps an ironman event? Or maybe you’re an athlete aiming to improve your training and stamina? Regardless of the goal, the food that you eat and drink plays a large role in your performance. We recently spoke to Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Jonathan Steedman (or Jono as


So, you’ve set yourself a goal. A charity run? Perhaps an ironman event? Or maybe you’re an athlete aiming to improve your training and stamina? Regardless of the goal, the food that you eat and drink plays a large role in your performance.

We recently spoke to Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Jonathan Steedman (or Jono as he is known to thousands of people on Instagram) about his advice for fuelling for endurance, speed, strength, and power performance. He also explains how people can adapt their nutrition choices to achieve a weight loss goal in a healthy and sustainable manner.

Jono is passionate about cutting through the noise, and delivering simple and informed nutrition advice, so you just know that this is going to be a great chat! Continue reading for Jono’s advice when it comes to fuelling your body for performance.

Nutrition for Endurance Performance

What are the main nutrition considerations for someone training for an endurance sport?

The two mains areas of focus for endurance athletes should be total energy intake and hydration.

Unless you’re doing ultra-endurance events or competing in high heat, hydration is relatively straight forward. Make sure you’re keeping your water intake at a level where your urine is light-straw coloured to clear throughout the day, and drink to thirst during your training session or event. Follow this with a salty meal or snack and some more water, and this will get you through most normal situations.

When it comes to food, we can’t talk about endurance sports without talking about carbohydrates. During longer events, your body is going to slowly shift from using mostly carbohydrate as fuel to using mostly fat as fuel. Our goal is to delay this shift to using fat as fuel for as long as possible, as using carbohydrate as fuel allows you to perform at a higher intensity.  

This goal, paired with the energy demands of some endurance sports, can result in some rather insane recommendations for carbohydrate intake. Some athletes will require up to 12g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. If you’re a 60kg athlete, that’s 720g of carbohydrate per day. To put that in context, 200g of potato provides around 35g of carbohydrate. You’re basically going to have to quit your job and take up eating potato full time.  

Fortunately, including some processed carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, cereal, and other snack foods can help provide you with a much easier, job-sparing way to hit your carbohydrate intake. Focus on including these processed carbohydrates in the meals immediately before and after your sessions, and include more complex sources of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes) in the meals further away from these sessions. This is a good way of finding a balance between the two.

Before anyone asks – no, I am not giving you permission to subsist entirely on Nutrigrain.

Although we tend to focus initially on carbohydrates, adequate protein (lean meats, eggs, fish beans, legumes, high-quality protein powders), healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, nuts and seeds), fruits and vegetables are still extremely important to help with overall health and recovery. If you can tick off these boxes each day, whilst hitting your total calorie and hydration needs, you’ll be on the money.

Examples of endurance sports: long distance running, cycling or swimming

Should nutrition plans look different on training days vs event days?

Nutrition on event days should look quite similar to the nutrition you’ve already practiced around your training sessions. Event days are not the time to test out new foods or amounts, only to find out that they don’t agree with you (which is putting it extremely politely). It’s very common for people to feel the pressure to add gels, bars or powders to their race day nutrition, in an attempt to maximise their performance. These things can be useful additions to your nutrition plan, but it’s important that you’ve trialled them in training to make sure that your carbohydrate gel doesn’t go through you a little too quickly…

Want to know more about sports supplement? Discover everything you need to know in our article The Truth About Sports Supplements.


Nutrition for Speed, Strength and Power Performance

What should the main nutrition priorities be for someone training for speed, strength or power sports?

The demands of speed, strength and power sports pair very nicely with a carbohydrate-rich diet (anyone sensing a theme here?). These sports are all about explosive bouts of energy: you don’t have to do all that much, but you have to do a LOT of it in a very short amount of time.

The types of carbohydrates I’d recommend for these sports are pretty similar to what I’d recommend for endurance sports, just in amounts that are a little more appropriate for the energy and body composition requirements for that specific sport. It’s unlikely that an Olympic weightlifter is going to burn as much energy as a triathlete, so it’s important their overall carbohydrate and energy intake is adapted to account for this.

Dietary protein recommendations also tend to be a little higher for these sports, as total muscle mass plays a bit more of a role in generating the speed, strength and power needed to excel. Its particularly important to make sure that we’re aiming for four to six decent serves of protein spaced out fairly evenly throughout the day. Don’t get too hung up on this though! Just aim to eat a decent meal/snack every two to four hours and you’ll be smashing your muscle growth and recovery.

Examples of speed sports: sprinting, ice hockey, speed skating

Examples of strength and power sports: powerlifting, gymnastics, football


If you’re finding it hard to get protein into every meal, supplementing with a high-quality protein powder, such as Nuzest Clean Lean Protein, can help support your protein-intake without the worry of digestive issues. It’s a high-performance protein containing all nine essential amino acids, that’s a natural source of iron, tasty and 100% plant based. It’s perfect for every diet and every-body.

Nutrition for Weight Loss

What is the healthiest way for ‘the everyday person’ to lose weight?

Hands down, the number one mistake I see with weight loss is people trying to eat as little as possible. Most of us understand that we need to eat less to lose weight, but somewhere along the way that message morphs into “be as hungry as possible, all of the time”. This approach is very difficult to maintain, and probably isn’t going to last for very long. 

Yes, you might need to reduce your food a little, but please remember the phrase “slow and steady wins the race”. A slower, more sustainable approach to weight loss is one that still contains all of the food groups, as it is the one that is going to give you the long term, more permanent results, instead of fleeting weight loss.

Ever considered using a fat burner? Discover the truth about fat burners.


Does this approach differ to the way that someone competing in a weight class sport should approach weight loss?

This approach is actually not that dissimilar to the way I’d approach reducing an athlete’s body weight to fit into a weight class. Losing weight as quickly as possible greatly impacts someone’s ability to perform in their chosen sport. Not good. Instead, slower rates of weight loss allow us to reduce bodyweight without having a detrimental effect on performance.  

For weight class sports, we may also manipulate some of the food choices (opting for foods lower in carbohydrate and fibre) and/or water intake in the final week before competition, to lose some body weight that is neither fat nor muscle. Unfortunately, it’s quite easy to get these strategies wrong, so I wouldn’t recommend them if you’re new to a sport and aren’t working with someone who knows what they’re doing.

Examples of weight-class sports: boxing, rowing, wrestling

Rachel Hawkins

Holistic Immunity: a multifaceted approach to supporting and managing your immune system

In light of the corona virus (or COVID-19) pandemic and its impact worldwide, it’s natural to be wondering whether there’s anything we can do to give our immune systems a helping hand. Our immune systems are complex, and the chances of contracting an illness are multifactorial and complicated; even those among us with the healthiest


In light of the corona virus (or COVID-19) pandemic and its impact worldwide, it’s natural to be wondering whether there’s anything we can do to give our immune systems a helping hand.

Our immune systems are complex, and the chances of contracting an illness are multifactorial and complicated; even those among us with the healthiest habits get ill sometimes, and whether or not we contract an illness is certainly not solely under our control. However, understanding what aspects of our lifestyle may compromise the strength of our immune system, and conversely what lifestyle habits can support it, can help to alleviate anxiety and allow us to feel more confident in our ability to provide our immune system with everything it needs to function as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Hygiene

Any discussion about supporting immunity must begin with hygiene – the easiest way to protect your body from a viral or bacterial illness is to make sure none of the virus or bacteria enters your body! Washing your hands properly and regularly is a vital step; you should use enough soap to completely cover your hands, scrubbing the palms, backs and between your fingers, for about 20 seconds, and you should wash them before eating, after using anything that lots of people touch (like handrails and shopping baskets/trolleys), after being on public transport and after using the bathroom. In addition, avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes. Soap is the most effective, but if it’s not available to you, hand sanitiser is also a great option.

Nutrition

Immunity and nutrition are tightly linked. While one part of our immune system is always working, another springs into action only when needed, for example when we come into contact with a virus. This increase in activity requires extra energy. Cells in the immune system can get energy from carbohydrates, protein or fats, either from the diet or from body stores, and extracting this energy requires a number of vitamins and minerals.1 It is therefore important to ensure you are not only eating enough food, but that you are eating a diverse diet, to ensure your immune system can function well.

The following vitamins and minerals are particularly important for immune function:2

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate (vitamin B9)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Copper

Eating a balanced diet of wholegrains, fruits and veggies in every colour of the rainbow, complete proteins and healthy fats, will help you to fit in all of these vitamins and minerals each day. Although if you are vegan you will need to seek out foods fortified with vitamin B12, or take a supplement (containing calcium carbonate powder), as this vitamin is only found in animal sources. Check out this article by plant-based dietitian Kiah Paetz for more information. Fermented foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and yoghurt are also beneficial in the diet, as these contain probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to help to improve our body’s immune response – they should be eaten every day, as this improvement is not permanent.2

Interested in learning more about foods that can help to support your immune system? Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist Rachel Hawkins shares her favourite immune-supporting plant-based foods here.

Exercise

The effects of exercise on immunity are both acute (short term) and chronic (long lasting) and depend on the length and intensity of the exercise session.

Regular moderate or vigorous exercise, lasting less than 60 minutes per session, enhances immunosurveillance (the process of the immune system looking for bacteria, viruses and precancerous cells) and reduces inflammation.3

A high exercise workload, for example prolonged or intensive endurance exercise like marathon training or elite level athletics, is linked to immune dysfunction and inflammation, which can last several hours to days after exercise. This change in immunity has been linked to an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. colds and flu), though this may also be due to other factors like reduced sleep and higher stress, which is common in athletes.3

The summary of evidence suggests that 20-60 minutes of exercise almost every day could reduce your risk of upper respiratory tract infections by 40-50%.3 This doesn’t mean that moderate daily exercise will prevent you ever catching a cold, but your body is more likely to be able to fight off the infection than if you didn’t exercise at all.

Looking for some workouts to help you stay active during lockdown? Check out our list of favourite fitness apps  – all of which can be used at home!

Sleep

Our immune systems are influenced by the amount and quality of our sleep, but it also works the other way – a lack of sleep can negatively impact our immune systems, too. Sufficient sleep is important for our bodies to fight illness (that’s why we tend to feel more tired when we’re ill).

Consistently sleeping too little affects immune function and increases our risk of illness. Unfortunately, a single night (or even two) of good sleep probably isn’t enough to restore your immune system to full working order; you’ll likely need an extended period of good sleep at night, but daytime naps can help as well.4

We also know that increased activity in the immune system, like when you have an illness or infection, can disrupt normal sleep. Some illnesses make you more tired, like fevers, which might be because your body needs to conserve energy to fight them off.4

Making sure you practice good sleep hygiene (the habits and routines occurring before bedtime) helps to ensure enough sleep to both decrease your risk of illness and help your body recover more quickly if you become ill. Sleep hygiene includes:

  • Ensuring your room is dark and free of distractions; try not to use your bed as an office or to watch tv, as the goal is for your mind to only associate your bed with sleep!
  • Avoiding screens for an hour before bed, as the blue light can disrupt our sleep hormones; even if you have a blue light filter, the activities that we do with screens tend to be very stimulating.
  • Avoiding caffeine after lunchtime, or even earlier if you are particularly sensitive.
  • Taking a warm bath or shower before bed for relaxation.
  • Having a regular routine can signal to your body that it’s time to rest, for example a cup of herbal tea followed by a shower, then reading for half an hour.
  • Waking and going to bed at the same time every day, even weekends.
  • Getting some natural sunlight first thing in the morning, which can help to regulate your body clock.

Stress

The way in which stress effects immunity is dependent on one major factor: the duration of stress. Short term stress (lasting minutes to hours) appears to enhance the immune response – a necessary feature from our evolutionary history, when short term stress may have involved injury from a predator. However, stress lasting longer than this, such as the type of stresses we encounter in our modern world (family, work, personal), which can last days, months or even years, has a negative effect on immune function.5

There are some lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce your stress levels. These include sleeping enough so you are rested, eating a healthy and varied diet, moderate exercise, gratitude and compassion, ensuring adequate social support and engaging in activities that you find calming. Such activities can be anything that you enjoy; meditation and yoga are often touted as stress-relieving, but music, art, hiking, fishing or any other leisure activity can work.5

It is likely that the reason for the effect on immunity of any category spoken about in this article (exercise, sleep, nutrition, smoking) is down to the way they activate or reduce the stress response, and so being mindful of stress levels may be the most important tool in your immunity arsenal.

Smoking

Unlike stress or exercise, which can have a positive or negative effect on immunity depending on various factors, it can categorically be stated that there are no positives to smoking, neither on immunity nor on anything else. There can be no better advice than to stop, immediately and completely, to almost instantly improve your health. Speak to your doctor for help and resources to quit.

Cigarette smoke alters the immune response in several ways; by directly impacting the cells of the immune system, and by affecting the immune response, both of which leave the body more susceptible to infection.6

Supplements

Along with the lifestyle advice mentioned here, you may also like to consider a nutritional supplement to ensure your body has enough of the right nutrients needed to support your immune system. I’m sure most people have heard the advice to take vitamin C when they’re coming down with a cold, some may have also heard about the benefits of vitamin D, but these are not the only important nutrients.

When it comes to supplementation, it is often best to take a multi-nutrient approach – that is, not taking a single nutrient in isolation, but taking a range of nutrients which work together in balance for optimum results.

Below are a list of important nutrients and their role in the immune system:

  • Vitamin C stimulates both the production and function of several important immune cells.2 Taking 1,000mg of vitamin C alone is probably not going to do much, despite it’s popularity as a cold and flu remedy – but taking smaller amounts alongside other nutrients could help your immune system when it’s working hard.
  • Vitamin D stimulates the immune system to produce more immune cells, which enhances the ability to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.7
  • Vitamin E enhances the function of a specific type of immune cell, called T cells, and has been shown in animal studies to reduce the symptoms of flu.7
  • Vitamin A is important for the function of certain immune cells, and also to maintain the barriers which stop bacteria and viruses entering our bodies in the first place.2 As vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is possible to experience vitamin A toxicity if you take too much of it. Check with a health professional if you are taking more than one vitamin A-containing product to ensure you are not taking too much.
  • Zinc is vital for the immune system to function correctly as it is involved in the development of immune cells. It’s important to get enough zinc, but not too much, as too much zinc can also negatively affect the immune system.7 Check with a health professional if you are taking more than one zinc-containing product to ensure you are not taking too much.
  • Selenium is an essential nutrient for many processes within the immune system, and deficiency can lead to a worsening of symptoms of some viral infections.2
  • Probiotics have been shown to reduce the length of respiratory infections (for example colds and flu) and reduce the risk of catching the common cold.7 A large part of your immune system is in your gut, and probiotics can help to temporarily improve the mixture of beneficial bacteria in your stomach and intestines, helping the portion of immune system hosted by the gut to work effectively.

These nutrients do not work in isolation and a deficiency in one area can prevent other nutrients doing their job. It is for this reason that it’s important to take such nutrients in combination and in appropriate doses.

Nuzest Good Green Vitality is a multinutrient supplement that contains many of these immune-supporting nutrients! One daily serve of Nuzest Good Green Vitality  will provide your body with a combination of nutrients that work synergistically together to support your immune health.

If you are taking multiple nutritional supplements or regular medication, it is recommended that you consult a health care practitioner to provide individual advice regarding supplementation and what is appropriate for you.