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wellness

6 Immune-Boosting Supplements to Help You Thrive This Winter

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My son just got over a nasty upper respiratory infection/ear infection double-whammy, his first of this winter season. So far my husband has had a couple of minor colds, and I’ve managed to avoid being sick completely. This is such a huge change from last year, when it felt like all 3 of us were sick all winter.

In fact, my son had such a horrible, nagging cough last winter that I took him to the doctor several times. We did X-rays, allergy tests, and asthma tests, but all the tests came back negative. The cough didn’t clear up until spring.

I was determined not to let that happen again! Armed with nothing but my will to keep my family well (and the entire internet), I set out to find the most effective, research-backed supplements to add to our routine over the winter. My whole family has been taking these supplements since August and I feel like they’ve made a huge difference.

So, today I just want to share a peek into our winter supplement routine and some of the reasons I chose to add these specific supplements. I’ll also drop a link to my preferred brand for my 4-year old (I buy vitamins for my husband and I based 50% on quality, 50% on sale price). Anyway, on to the good stuff:

1. Elderberry

Elderberry is an immune powerhouse.

In a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial of over 300 people, elderberry reduced the incidence of colds, along with their severity and duration when compared to a placebo group.

Another clinical trial of 40 people with the flu found that taking elderberry syrup reduced the severity and duration of the illness compared to a placebo.

While these are not huge studies, they were both double-blinded, randomized controlled trials, which – as many of y’all already know – are the “gold standard” for health research.

We use Nature’s Way Sambucus for Kids syrup, which my son really likes. My husband and I take elderberry capsules because the syrups have way too much sugar for me.

2. Echinacea

Echinacea is one of my favorite smells on earth. Seriously, it smells so good.

Unfortunately, the research is a real mixed bag in regards to its effectiveness for treating colds and upper respiratory infections.

However, I choose to include echinacea in our routine because it’s a powerful immune mediator, meaning it beefs up your immune system.

While it may not be effective at treating sickness, it can help your body to more efficiently ward off those germs and viruses the next time they come around, and can decrease your risk of getting sick by about 10-20% based on the data pulled from available studies.

My son gets echinacea in his elderberry syrup, and my husband and I take echinacea capsules.

3. Vitamin D

When I was a young, bright-eyed dietetic intern (way back in 2012), I had the opportunity to meet a pediatric endocrinologist who was intensely obsessed with vitamin D. I also cried when he read The Velveteen Rabbit to a group of kids at diabetes camp, but that’s another story for another day.
Long story short, I now share this doctor’s passion for the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is an outstanding immune mediator and anti-inflammatory agent. I could go on and on about it all day, so one of these days it will get its own blog post.

In the meantime, here are the highlights:

  • Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to autoimmune conditions like lupus, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vitamin D promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and helps heal leaky gut (BTW, your digestive system plays a HUGE role in immune function)
  • Your immune cells (and many other cells in the body) have vitamin D receptors

In my personal experience, during the periods in my life where I am consistently supplementing with vitamin D, I do not get sick nearly as often. Full disclosure: it definitely worked better before I had a toddler (AKA, a walking germ factory) in daycare (AKA, a germ factory full of walking germ factories).

My son takes Vitacost InfantHealth Liquid Vitamin D Drops for Kids, and my husband and I take 5000 IU gelcaps. This is one that we take year round.

4. Vitamin C

So, vitamin C has a reputation that is not quite…. accurate. Tons of people reach for vitamin C when they feel a cold coming on, but unfortunately by that point it’s too late for the supplement to do any good.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it pretty much just passes right through you and you will pee out any excess your body doesn’t use. Unfortunately, taking too much can also cause diarrhea, so if you’re unclear on the use of vitamin C for sickness you could end up with a cold, and diarrhea, and a bunch of useless vitamin C in your urine!

Here’s the deal: there is some evidence to show that supplementing regularly with adequate levels of vitamin C can decrease your risk of catching a cold and may make your cold less severe and shorter. The catch is, you have to be supplementing with it regularly, because starting when you’re already sick won’t help!

My son gets vitamin C from his Lil’ Critters Immune C + Zinc and Vitamin D gummies.

5. Probiotics

I hinted at this above when discussing vitamin D, but your gut health plays a HUGE role in your immune function. It is so easy for us to think about all of these different systems as being totally compartmentalized, but that is not the truth. All of these moving pieces fit together very intricately and are 100% interconnected, and it all starts with your gut and the food you eat – which provide the very building blocks for every cell, tissue, and hormone in your body.

Having an overgrowth of harmful gut bacteria can make you more susceptible to disease, while having a flourishing colony of healthy gut bacteria can strengthen your body’s defense against invaders.

Keeping your gut bugs healthy is key to keeping you healthy, which is why I’m including probiotics on this list of immune supplements.

My son takes NOW Supplements BerryDophilus Kids probiotic chewables.

6. Zinc

The last supplement I’m going to discuss in this post is zinc. Like vitamin C, the role of zinc in treating sickness is a bit misunderstood.

Supplementing with it can help decrease your risk of catching a cold.

But, several studies show that zinc has minimal or no effect on the length or severity of a cold. Some people recommend taking zinc within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms to possibly help decrease the length of the cold. Additionally, zinc lozenges may help you get over your cold faster as well.

The research is just too inconclusive to make any real claims about zinc, but I choose to include it because it does have a huge effect on the immune system. It helps to maintain the integrity of your mucous membranes, which can help prevent germs and viruses from weaseling their way in.

My son gets zinc in his Lil’ Critters immune gummies.

Bonus: Lifestyle

In conclusion, I want to add a brief list of other evidence-based things your family can do to help prevent the relentless onslaught of illness in your home this winter:

  • Get adequate sleep
  • Avoid highly processed foods and added sugars, which can disrupt your gut bacteria
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Get a flu shot
  • Manage stress

Additionally, you can get vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and probiotics from healthy foods like red meat (which is totally a health food), fatty fish, dark green leafy vegetables, and full-fat yogurt (sans sugar, preferably).

These six supplements seem to have really made a difference for my family. Have you found success with any immune supplements? Let me know in the comments!

Fitness, Uncategorized

5 Ways Sedentary Freelancers Can Be More Active

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The holidays tend to be a real struggle for me with over-indulging and putting on a few pounds, with the promise to myself that I will work it off in the new year… but it never quite works out that way.

So, I’ve decided to stick to my low-carb eating through the holidays because I know that by eating this way I can at least maintain my weight. Although it can be momentarily hard to turn down more than just a bite of all my holiday favorites, I love experimenting with low-carb recipes and making healthier versions of all my favorites. In fact, as I’m writing this I just pulled some low-carb hoagie rolls out of the oven for French dip sandwiches and they are MONDO tasty. Also, over Thanksgiving I had a low-carb s’more that was incredible, and my dad made some amazing monkfruit-sweetened hot cocoa¬† that was even better than the sugary stuff!

Along with eating the way that makes me feel best, I’m trying to get back into an exercise routine as well. Let me be honest here: until this month, I had not exercised since May. I despise it. The thing is, I know I need it, and I always feel great once I start and especially once I’m finished.

My goal for December is to build some exercise habits that will hopefully carry over into 2020. I have committed to a 10-minute yoga session (my favorite is @SarahBethYoga) and 100 weighted squats daily, and 10,000 steps on my off days.

But after a few days I’ve realized just how sedentary I am. Wearing my step counter for the first time in months shows me I’m barely breaking 2,500 steps per day, so to hit my step goal I’ve been spending 1+ hours on the treadmill every night.

I honestly didn’t realize quite how sedentary I was. So I decided to brainstorm some ways that I, a writer who spends most of my spare time curled up on the couch with my laptop, could be more physically active throughout the day. It’s SO important.

Even one exercise session can boost your energy and mood, slightly improve your focus and memory, and ramp up your calorie burn. However, the compounded benefits of exercising regularly are pretty amazing: increased insulin sensitivity (this is a GREAT thing), a higher resting metabolic rate (which means you get to eat more… sign me up!), increased muscle mass, stronger bones, better mood, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, I could go on and on.

So, let’s get to it: here are 5 ways that us sedentary freelancers (or anyone really, but this article is geared towards people who work from home) can be more physically active throughout the day!

1. Start your day with some physical activity

One way to give your step count a boost is to start your day with some physical activity, like the 10-minute yoga I mentioned above, or even walking in circles around your kitchen while the coffee kicks in (totally have done this before). It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, complicated, or time-consuming.

In fact, the thing I love about yoga AND walking aimlessly around my house is that I don’t have to put on shoes. Sometimes putting on shoes is just too much to ask.

If you have time to do a full-on workout, more power to you! My 4-year-old has a very accurate “mom’s awake” radar that keeps me from being able to do that right now, but I am looking forward to working out in the morning one day again.

Regardless, at least do a little bit each morning to set the tone for an active day. I’m committing to waking up 10 minutes earlier every day to do a short yoga session.

2. Use the Pomodoro technique to your advantage

The Pomodoro technique is a way to increase your productivity by forcing yourself to focus on one single task for a set amount of time (typically 25 minutes). During this time, you are not allowed any distractions: no phone, no Facebook, no TV, and hopefully no uncooperative children.

After the time is up, you take a 5-minute break where you physically remove yourself from the workspace and do something mindless, like watering plants, unloading the dishwasher (I’d rather pull my own teeth), or looking at memes. Basically, you want to give your brain a break.

Lots of writers use Pomodoros as a way to power through writer’s block, distractions, and procrastination to just get some words on the page. However, you can also use the break period as a way to boost your step count and get in some very purposeful physical activity. Here are some of my suggestions for using this little break to your advantage:

  • Take a brisk walk around the house, or – even better – outside
  • Do weighted squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell
  • Do a 1-minute plank or wall-sit, and if you’re anything like me, spend the other 4 minutes recovering from doing a 1-minute plank or wall-sit
  • If you’ve got a kid to keep entertained, have some cheap hula hoops or jump ropes handy, and that 5-minute break can be something fun and physically active for y’all to do together
  • If you’re really struggling with whatever project you’re working on, sob deeply – it really engages the core

3. Make your workspace more movement-friendly

I have NO personal experience with this one. I’m still a part-time writer with no home office, so I write at the dining table, on the couch, or in my bed. But one of my biggest priorities in the coming year for my writing business is going to be getting a dedicated workspace set up that is conducive to both productivity and physical activity.

That workspace is going to include a standing desk, because prolonged sitting is so very extremely terrible for you.

Luckily, standing desks or standing desk attachments are pretty accessible now. It looks like you can get one with decent reviews for about $80 on Amazon, and that will probably be my starting point.

Additionally, you can get a balance ball chair, which is a better alternative to an office chair. Balance ball chairs promote better posture and can help decrease lower back pain from sitting too long. In addition, they encourage “active sitting” – or moving while you sit. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Be fidgety

My husband’s nickname for me is “RLS” (restless leg syndrome) because I’m a chronic fidgeter. I can’t keep still. Typically it’s tapping my foot, but I’m also a relentless pen-clicker. If there’s a clicky pen in my hand… it’s getting clicked. And if it has a clip, I’m gonna fiddle with it until the clip pops off and flies across the room, usually during church, or in a meeting at work. Happened a lot in school, too. All my pens look like this:

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Luckily, there are no downsides to fidgeting unless you’re married to someone who is constantly driven crazy by it! While fidgeting is far from exercise, these tiny micro-movements throughout the day can give you a very slight advantage over being completely still at your computer desk.

In fact, some research shows that fidgeting can help offset some of the negative effects of prolonged sitting and increase your daily calorie burn!

So… drum on the desk. Tap your feet. Dance at the computer. Click the pen… especially if there’s no one listening. You click that pen to your heart’s content.

5. The obvious one: workout regularly

Yes, it’s obvious but also so so so difficult for me, and I’m sure plenty of other people too. Between my full-time job and commute, my freelancing career, my 4-year-old, cooking supper every night, cleaning the house, staying on top of laundry, and getting the minimum amount of sleep I require to function… I have let working out fall by the wayside for far too long.

But this is one that I’m just gonna have to buckle down and do, and I recommend the same to you. Unfortunately, most of us (especially if you do any kind of home-based freelance work) aren’t getting the physical activity that our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were able to get just from living their lives.

Life in 2019 requires so much less physical effort than in generations past, which is why we need to make ourselves be physically active.

So while “power through it and get it done,” may seem trite, that’s just what we gotta do.

Thankfully, once I get started I enjoy my workout and find the motivation to finish it. It’s getting started that is the hard part.

Just remember, your exercise does not have to be extreme, or even daily. Start small and work your way up. 30 minutes, 3 days a week is a great starting point.

I hope these 5 tips have been helpful for you, especially during this time of year when it’s so easy to say “Oh, I’ll get started next year.”

If you are living a sedentary life (talking to myself here also), it’s too important to put off any longer. Get moving!

 

Administrative

Welcome to SaVannaShoemaker.com!

Well, it’s official! SaVannaShoemaker.com is live! HUGE thanks to WordPress for their Black Friday sale that convinced me to pull the trigger NOW instead of waiting until the new year, because I’m physically incapable of passing up a good deal!

FYI, the sale is live through the end of today, if you’re reading this on December 2, 2019. Use promo code BLACKFRIDAY for 20% off all paid hosting packages!

I’d also like to thank Erin Mize Designs for my beautiful logo. She took an idea that was trapped in my head and brought it to life wonderfully.

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I can’t recommend her enough for anything artistic!

Please feel free to browse and let me know if it’s looking crazy on your desktop/laptop/phone/tablet/Xbox One/whatever. I’ve got it looking quite nice on my laptop, but I want to be sure that it’s got a consistently sharp and clean look on all devices.

My goal is to release new content on my blog every Monday, and the other pages of my website will be updated as needed. Hopefully I will have some exciting news later this week!

Best,

SaVanna (savanna@savannashoemaker.com – gotta share my new URL and email address one more time in this post!)

Writing Services

Why I Decided to Start This Business

I have always loved to write.

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Granted, in my younger years it was Harry Potter fanfiction (excuse me while I die of embarrassment), and then eventually writing my own stories during NaNoWriMo and MayNoWriMo. Never was able to finish one though.

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Just FYI: there are gonna be a lot of screenshots of my old Facebook posts in this post, and none of them use capitalization because I thought it was ~cool~. I was also an emoji-abuser. Old me makes me cringe so hard. My deepest apologies for what you just saw and what you’re about to see.

Eventually I moved past fiction and decided to embrace writing non-fiction. I was always a really strong writer in school, and when I found out that you could actually make money to write stuff on the internet, I was totally sold.

I wrote a few pieces for the now-defunct Yahoo! Contributor Network, but eventually moved on to TextBroker, where I made my way up to a 4-star rating (holla) and wrote several pieces over the years. Usually when I was broke and I really needed to come up with some quick cash.

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From 2014-2017, as a newlywed, freshly-graduated dietitian, and first-time mom, I didn’t do a lot of writing honestly (and I had just written a 150-page Master’s thesis, so I was pretty tapped out). I did some free stuff and volunteered for the nutrition newsletter at my job, but that was about it.

I also started and abandoned dozens of blogs. I’m sure you can still find some of them floating around the internet, with only a post or two before I gave up.

However, earlier this year I got a great opportunity to be a contributor for Healthline Nutrition, which I consider my “big break.”

Since I joined their freelance team in March, I have produced at least one article per week. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different editors, to seriously beef up my writing skills, to learn more about the “behind the scenes” work that goes into these websites, and to learn to gracefully accept and appreciate feedback and constructive criticism. My skills have seriously improved.

Now that I’ve been a regular contributor for a while, I’ve seen more and more doors open up to write elsewhere. I’ve remembered just how much I love to write, and I realize now that I have something valuable to offer. And that I absolutely can succeed.

So… I started a business. I’ve got this amazing chance to build my dream job from the ground up, combining writing and nutrition… and I’m going for it!

I think young SaVanna (even though she was really embarrassing) would be proud.

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nutrition

My Nutrition Philosophy

I think every dietitian has a nutrition philosophy that is shaped by their own experiences, relationship with food, and – of course – their education (which, for the record, is very thorough… new dietitians are now required to have a Master of Science degree, and many of us older dietitians got one just for kicks).

As someone who pursued a job in nutrition as a result of my own life-long struggles with my weight, I have thought and thought and thought about my own nutrition philosophy, and now I’m ready to share it.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

If I had to write a Michael Pollan style food mantra, mine would be: “Eat real food. Not too much. And don’t stress out about it.”

As someone who was born over 10 pounds and who has pretty much been fat ever since, I have tried so many diets. I had some fleeting success with Weight Watchers back in high school, but gained all that weight back and then some in the years that followed. Calorie counting, paleo, vegetarian… all failures for me in the realm where it really mattered to me, my weight. It just seemed like I couldn’t trick my brain into being satisfied with a reasonable amount of “healthy” food… ever.

However, the one dietary framework that really seems to work for me is low-carb/keto, along with intermittent fasting. When I stick to it, the weight falls off, my skin clears up, my stomach flattens, and I have so much more energy. Of course, the hard part is sticking to it faithfully in a world that is filled with sugar.

BUT, I’m not so much of a zealot that I think everyone should be on keto. I understand, accept, and embrace the fact that different things work for different people. However, I think there are some low-carb concepts that would work wonders in improving the overall health of most people:

  • Eat fewer carbs. Most carbs are crap, and people are eating way too many of them.
  • Avoid seed oils. Vegetable oil is nasty, inflammatory, and just plain terrible for you. Stick to butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and other natural fats.
  • Drink more water. And definitely don’t drink your calories (because, let’s face it, drinking calories should more accurately be called drinking sugar).
  • Eat more produce. Veggies are delicious. Eat more of them. And fruit too, if your blood sugar is well-controlled.
  • Don’t fear the fat. Fat is good for you. Saturated fat is NOT bad for you. More calories per gram does not equal less healthy.
  • Stop salt-shaming. Your body needs salt. Salt sensitivity is a real thing, but affects a minority of people. There are many other factors that have a bigger effect on your blood pressure.
  • Limit snacks. Snacks don’t cure hangryness. They cause it.

In addition to the diet aspect, though, I have to discuss what I consider some of the biggest keys to wellness. These are just as important as diet… if not more so, in some instances.

  • Get enough sleep. 7-9 hours per night for adults. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
  • Decrease the amount of stress in your life. Work stress, family stress, relationship stress, financial stress, commute stress… all of it. Find ways to decrease the stress in your life. It’s terrible for you. This includes stressing out about your diet and/or weight.
  • Exercise. Focus on resistance training over steady-state cardio. Try to make it enjoyable. (This is my eternal struggle right here.)
  • Connect with others. We need each other.
  • Have fun. And sometimes you just need to drop everything and play with your kids for a little bit, or watch some Netflix, or even on rare occasion eat carbs. (Scandalous, I know).

So those are my basic thoughts on diet, nutrition, health, and wellness. I know they may not jive with everyone, and that’s okay.

I realize they might make me sound like some kind of wellness saint, but I am far from it. I still have weight to lose, I struggle with my sweet tooth, I hate exercise, and I love to stay up late when I know I have an early morning the next day.

But I believe I have found a set of food ideals that I can live with for the rest of my life, that focus on healthy foods without being authoritarian, along with focusing on the other huge lifestyle factors that play a key role in health.

How about you? What’s your nutrition philosophy?

Do you need help expressing it in an elegant, organized, and succinct way for your website, so your potential clients can get to know you better? I can help with that! Click here to contact me.