Supporting immunity

I am receiving lots of enquiries about how to support their immune system and health through the winter season. I’ve put together some information on key nutrients to consider for support and why, together with some practical suggestions of what and how much to take. There is no substitute for eating a healthy nutritious diet but if you regularly suffer from colds, flu or infections over the winter season this extra support may be useful. As always please consult your GP or health practitioner if you are already taking medication or supplements to ensure there are no contraindications.

Vitamin D3

Recent studies show vitamin D3 supports the immune response to infection and protects against respiratory tract infection especially in vitamin D deficient people1,3. UK NHS guidelines recommend 400 IU per day 2 but many researchers recommend more especially if you aren’t getting at least 10 minutes sunshine per day. I usually recommend 1000 IU but it’s always a good idea to test first. Finger prick tests are available. I use a company called FORTH but you can also ask your GP to test. Use this link to benefit from my discount code:

https://www.biomarkertracking.com/p/store/DNRMAXWELL/2/

Zinc

Has been shown to stimulate antiviral immunity 4.  Best taken with copper, 15mg per day should be sufficient for prevention 4.  Lower serum concentration of both vitamin D3 and zinc have been detected in patients suffering with moderate Covid 19 symptoms as compared to mild or asymptomatic patients5.

Propolis

Propolis honey bee resin is formed from the resins which the bees collect from trees which form part of the plants natural immune system. It contains more than 300 naturally derived bio-active compounds. These flavonoids and phenolics are what make Propolis a powerful natural defence which may soothe sore throats and support upper respiratory tract infections.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fascinating powerhouses of nutrients and compounds that provide many positive health promoting actions including antiviral and antibacterial.  We share 40% of their DNA making them more similar to us than plants. Many mushrooms have anti-viral properties and can inhibit viral replication. They can improve T-lymphocyte proliferation and increase Natural Killer cell activity to increase our natural defences against cancer and provide immunomodulatory benefits 6.

Quercetin

Quercetin is a flavonoid found in plants such as onions, brassicas, apples, grapes and berries. It is known to stimulate the immune system to generate aniviral activity and decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory mediators. It has also been shown to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) due to exercise and can be utilised in URTI’s such as asthma and allergic reactions. 7

Ginger

Ginger has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory benefits and positive effects on acute respiratory distress syndrome.8

Ginger tea - take a large palm sized piece of ginger and cope into a few pieces.  Bash each piece to release the flavour better or grate it and boil in 1 litre of water for 30 minutes.  Optional - add 1/2 tsp of ground turmeric and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper. Once it has cooled a little you can add the juice of 1/2 a lemon about 3 tbsp. Strain if desired and pour the liquid into a flask to drink when desired.

Get in touch for more information on nutrition to support your health and immunity. Call 07740 876233 or email me at helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk. https://helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk/contact-2/

Please use this link to access product information and immune boosting juice and smoothie receipes

https://www.dropbox.com/s/qxd4bx7lynr4ucu/IMMUNITY%20.pdf?dl=0

References1 Calder, P.C. et al. (2020) Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections Nutrients 12(4) p1181. 2 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/ 3 James, P.T. et al. (2021) The Role of Nutrition in COVID-19 Susceptibility and Severity of Disease: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Nutrition;151 pp.1554-1878. 4 National Academies Press (US) (2001) Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Washington (DC) 5 Golabi, S. et al. (2021) The Association between Vitamin D and Zinc Status and the Progression of Clinical Symptoms among Outpatients Infected with SARS-CoV-2 and Potentially Non-Infected Participants: A Cross-Sectional Study Nutrients 13(10) pp. 3368.6 Chan, G.C-F. et al. (2009) The effects of beta-glucan on human immune and cancer cells; Journal of Hematology and Oncology 2(25)   DOI: 10.1186/1756-8722-2-25 7 Micek, J. et al. (2016) 7 Nyguen, H.A. et al. (2020) Quercetin and its anti-allergic immune response; Molecules 623; doi:10.3390 8 Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials 12(1) 157 https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010157

Breathing for runners

Maximise your performance through

BREATHING

Learn how to

Functional breath training and simulation of high altitude training with

 Helen Maxwell certified Oxygen Advantage® Instructor

Contact Helen on 07740 876233

Breathing-pattern - could it be the missing link?

The way we breathe is intricately linked to the way our body functions on both a physical and psychological level. When we breathe correctly we oxygenate our organs to maximise their function.

Between 50-80% of the general population have some level of breathing-pattern disorder

The researcher and professor of physical therapy, Kiesel (2017), has found that between 50-80% of the general population have some level of breathing-pattern disorder.  The Oxygen Advantage® programme is designed to reset and optimise your breathing-pattern to improve your overall health and well-being.  It also works specifically on performance for sports and exercise.

Signs and symptoms that your breathing is disordered

Signs that your breathing may be disordered or that you need to improve your breathing include.

Why consider learning to breathe correctly?

Correcting how you breathe may be the missing link in your health journey.  For example if you wake up tired or struggle to focus in the morning this may because of how you breathe during the night. 

When we learn how to breathe properly we can impact all kinds of health issues such as:

DigestionImmune function
Weight lossEnergy levels
AnxietyChronic fatigue
AsthmaExercise induced breathlessness
ConcentrationFocus
Sleep problemsSnoring
Sports performanceCOPD

How is breathing connected to weight loss, energy levels, chronic fatigue and anxiety?

There is a close link between breathing and metabolism which is connected to energy and weight. There seems to be a relationship between the amount we eat and over breathing. Exercises designed to stimulate the para sympathetic nervous (PNS) system seem to bring the body back into balance. This PNS stimulation helps to lower anxiety levels, reduce emotional eating and appetite as well as improve the basal metabolic rate. This is through complex interactions between respiratory rate, heart rate, and the increased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen.

What about asthma and breathing difficulties?

This is one of the key reasons people undertake the programme.  The mechanics and depth of how we breathe affects the amount of air and blood in our lungs. If we breathe well our lungs will protect us against pulmonary infections and we will generate an important molecule called nitric oxide. This molecule is generated in the nasal passages and is our first line of defence against foreign particles. Nitric oxide is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral and it dilates our airways and blood vessels to enhance delivery of oxygen and micronutrients to the tissues. Generating nitric oxide has been found to have significant health benefits especially with regard to chronic and age related disease.

By learning to breathe correctly, improving oxygen uptake and controlling the amount of air you breathe asthma symptoms may reduce or resolve and the need for medication can diminish.

Why does our breathing affect our digestion and our immune function?

Our gut membrane is the barrier between our internal and external world. It is the vital link between what we eat and the nutrients our body digests and absorbs. It’s surface area is as big as two tennis courts but it is delicate, only one cell thick and half the width of a human hair. Most of our immune system is situated just behind this membrane which starts in the sinuses and runs all the way down our throat to the stomach and intestines. It works to protect us from any unwanted substances we may ingest.

Many of us eat on the run, in a rush or whilst feeling stressed.  When we learn to breathe correctly we oxygenate our gut so it can relax, digest and function optimally which in turn supports our immunity.

How can changing how we breathe improve our exercise performance?

Many of us gas-out too soon when we exercise.  This breathlessness can actually put us off exercising.  We instinctively think this is because we can’t get enough oxygen. It has much more to do with being unable to tolerate the build up of carbon dioxide and lactic acid in the body combined with weak respiratory muscles. This chemical oversensitivity can be retrained and reset so the body can do more with less.  We can also retrain the mechanics of breathing to improve the strength of our diaphragm, and the inspiratory and expiratory muscles.

What is the Oxygen Advantage® programme ?

The Oxygen Advantage® programme teaches you the science and the practice of breathing right.  You learn the science of breathing and the ‘how to’ practical part which has two stages. The first stage is to assess your breathing and then learn how to retrain and repattern this for optimal function.  The second stage of the programme uses exercises which simulate high altitude training.  This teaches the body to do more with less, improving athletic performance for both recreational and professional sports people. 

Once you have learnt the exercises and reset your breathing receptors you simply incorporate it into your daily activities.

Benefits

The physiological benefits will depend on how your body responds to the core benefits of:

We pay little attention to the way we breathe because it’s such an automatic process. The Eastern philosophies such as yoga and Tai Chi have always taught that it is a key component of health.  We have never been taught to address it but with the Oxygen Advantage® programme you will learn the science and the practice from a fully qualified instructor.

You can read more about the Oxygen Advantage® programme here.

Helen Maxwell

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

07740 876233

References

Kiesel, P.T. et al (2017) Development of a screening protocol to identify individuals with dysfunctional breathing. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 12(51), DOI: 10.16603/ijspt20170774

Djupesland, P.G. et al. (1999) Nitric oxide in the nose and paranasal sinuses – respiratory tract physiology in a new perspective; Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 119(27); pp.4070-4072.

Bryan NS, et al. (2017) Oral microbiome and nitric oxide: the missing link in the management of blood Pressure. Current Hypertension Reports:19(4):33.

Stephan BCM, et al. (2017) Cardiovascular disease, the nitric oxide pathway and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia; Current Cardiology Reports: 11;19(9):87.

Weight loss: What’s breath got to do with it?

Excess weight is often thought to be the result of an imbalance between energy from food consumed less energy spent throughout the day. However, well known researchers such as Zoe Harcombe, have pointed out that weight is not simply the end product of calories in less calories utilised for metabolism and exercise. Weight loss is more complicated than adjusting food intake, nutrients and exercise levels although this is usually part of the picture. Apart from the emotional and mental aspects of eating there is also a close link between breathing and metabolism. 

Metabolism is the biochemical process by which your body combines food and drink with oxygen to convert it into energy. Your basal or resting metabolic rate (BMR) rate is how much energy you burn at rest to perform autonomic functions breathing; heart rate; digestion etc. determined by your: age; sex; body size and composition (muscle uses more energy). This rate is generally fairly consistent although physical activity and exercise can have an impact. However our respiration rate (speed, volume), our breathing mechanics (upper/lower chest, lung capacity) and the cadence (rhythm) of our breath affect this metabolic equation and ultimately tissue and organ function.

I first came across Butekyo breathing when I studied at Westminster University, whilst learning about the pathophysiology of asthma and nutritional support strategies.  Dr. Konstantin Butekyo was a Russian Doctor, who taught breathing techniques to his asthma patients.  This method is now taught by Patrick McKeown. He has combined Butekyo with other exercises to improve breathing for both sport and health into the Oxygen Advantage® technique in which I am trained.

Through over a decade of working with thousands of people to improve their breathing Patrick has observed that there seems to be a relationship between breathing volume and food consumption. Many of his clients would be using the techniques to resolve asthma, anxiety, stress or snoring but report a secondary benefits such as reduced appetite, weight loss, increased water intake and less craving for processed or unhealthy food choices.

When we eat less our energy expenditure often reduces in tandem. Carrying extra weight can also make exercise more challenging.  This is partly because of the extra pounds but often being overweight leads to the development of poor breathing habits such as hyperventilation, sighing, upper chest breathing and mouth breathing.  This means breathing increases during rest and quickly becomes erratic during exercise.

Poor breathing habits are common. One study estimates as many as 50-80% of the general population have some element of dysfunctional breathing.  The drivers are believed to be: pollution; poor quality food; central heating; lack of physical exercise and so much time spent sitting down. In addition many holistic practitioners and some forms of exercise such as yoga and pilates promote the idea of big, deep breaths. If the breath is taken into the upper chest it will activate our sympathetic nervous system or stress response. This way of breathing can become a habit. If we regularly take even occasional large upper chest breaths throughout the day this can upset pH balance, blood oxygen saturation and even food digestion and absorption can suffer. It is not a time to digest food if the body is primed to run away from a predator.

Using the Oxygen Advantage® breathing techniques to reduce and normalise breathing helps to bring the body back into balance. Reducing and softening the breath helps to normalise blood pH which is often too acidic. The resulting stimulation of the para-sympathetic nervous system can help to reduce emotional eating.  Some of the exercises simulate high altitude training and we have known for many years that animals and people lose weight at high altitudes. At altitude blood oxygen saturation reduces which seems to diminish appetite. Reduced breathing and breath holding temporarily lowers oxygen saturation in the blood inducing an anaerobic state which forces the body to burn fat stores.  The body adapts by releasing hormones to raise the concentration of red blood cells in the blood to increase oxygenation levels and aerobic capacity.

In 2018, researchers Yong, et al., found a significant increase in VO2 max and the BMR of healthy subjects when they tested them pre and post diaphragmatic breathing exercises.  This is important because 70% of our energy supports our BMR and as lean tissue requires more energy than adipose tissue (fat) to maintain itself, lean tissue may be preferentially lost when we try to lose weight. So raising BMR may be another way the technique supports healthy weight loss.  

Our blood vessels, airways and organs including our digestion system are lined with a hundred thousand miles of smooth muscle.  If we over breathe and don’t move much our tissues receive less oxygen and constrict, impairing function and sensitising our sympathetic nervous system.  When we correct how we breathe tissues dilate and function improves, stimulating our metabolism to self-regulate and correcting issues such as breathlessness, constipation and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Breathing is first on the list when it comes to survival, before food and water but often it’s last on the list of our health priorities. We pay little attention to getting it right. It is a very overlooked aspect of health and can be a key component to achieve weight loss and better health with less effort and less focus on food intake.

Get in touch to see how the Oxygen Advantage® training can help you to lose weight, address dysfunctional breathing, breathe better during exercise or just to improve your overall health.

Signs that you may have sub-optimal or dysfunctional breathing: feeling tense; cold hands and feet; a low body oxygen level test score; frequent sighing or yawning; mouth breathing at night; exercise induced asthma; snoring.

Helen Maxwell

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

07740 876233

REFS

Harcombe, Z. (2010) The obesity epidemic, Columbus Publishing.

Kiesel, et al. (2017) Development of a screening protocol to identify individuals with dysfunctional breathing’, International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy’, 12 (5), pp.774-786.

Mayo clinic staff (1998-2020); ‘Metabolism and weight loss: how you burn calories’; [available at]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508.

McKeown, P. (2015) The Oxygen Advantage, Harper Collins Publishers: New York.

Parkes, M.J. (2017) Reappraisal of systemic venous chemoreceptors: might they explain the matching of breathing to metabolic rate in humans? Experimental Physiology https://doi.org/10.1113/EP086561

Rothenberg, R.L., (2020) Restoring Prana, Singing Dragon, London and Philadelphia.

Yong, M-S. et al., (2018) Effects of breathing exercises on resting metabolic rate and maximal oxygen uptake, Journal of Physical Therapy Science; 30(9), pp.1173-1175.

Enter 'The zone'

An air of mystery surrounds ‘The Zone’, a near mythical state of mind-body alignment which athletes seek but few master. Rupert Sheldrake (author and biologist) suggests that sport may be one of the few remaining ways for people to experience an altered state of consciousness.  Sport requires: total concentration on the ‘present’; dedication; discipline and a will to explore and stretch beyond normal physical and mental capabilities. These qualities are all elements of committed spiritual practice potentially leading to similar experiences.

HeartMath® research suggests that this flow state is about heart-brain synchronisation achieved by connection with your intuitive heart.  When we do this over and over, with intention, it gradually becomes easier. We begin to understand it’s not a one-shot experience but a place we can train ourselves to enter at will.  There is a formula to get there to become physically, mentally and emotionally coherent. When we are coherent we are present, we think clearly, react intuitively and can play great sports.

The biofeedback from HeartMath® technology helps to build awareness of how our different emotional states affect the rhythmic pattern of heart activity.  It gives real time information on your heart rate variability (HRV) which is a measurement of the time intervals between consecutive heartbeats. 

Physically active individuals tend to have a higher HRV and this is associated with better health status. Athletes (recreational and professional) with a high HRV can respond, flex and adapt to the demands of their training and sport more easily.  But like most things in life it’s about balance and sport has a positive and negative relationship with HRV.  Your heart-beat is affected by your respiratory/cardiac cycle known as respiratory sinus arrhythmia or RSA. The sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is activated to cope with the demands of sport or exercise. If this exceeds available resources then vagus nerve function will diminish, negatively affecting our RSA and HRV. 

Teaching people to sustain positive emotions facilitates emotional and psychological coherence, enhancing mind-body co-ordination and shortening reaction time.  Tiger Woods was once asked during a championship game if there was a specific area players should look out for.  His response “No, not really.  I think the guys who are really controlling their emotions are going to win”.  I remember some years ago watching my son play football and thinking how much time and energy the players were wasting on emotions like frustration and anger at referee’s decisions or missed goals.  At the height of competition the ability to manage emotional reactions, make clear decisions and trust your intuition is often the difference between winning and losing.

Studies have shown that coherence can spread through entrainment, so team chemistry may result from a kind of collective team coherence or resonance. Perhaps a shared sense of energy, rhythm and intuitive knowing occurs to generate interaction and a successful team outcome. High school teacher and basketball coach Beth McHamee included HeartMath®  techniques in their training.  Before each game the team did a Heart Lock -in® and they used Quick coherence® on court and at half time. They ended the season with a record 15 wins compared to the previous six.

In Sweden hockey players trained in HeartMath® have used the techniques to switch from a chaotic to coherent emotional state when they are in the box watching the game.  This has improved their game observation ability but in addition they improved their physical stamina. Master Kelly (World Martial Arts Champion) also found benefits outside of his sport.  He used

HeartMath® techniques to maintain his edge to fight whilst competing in a younger competition category. He also used them to relax and handle stress from competition and travelling as well as to overcome injury setbacks and spark creativity and focus when writing his book.

HRV training and biofeedback have also been shown to play a useful role in the psychological response to injury and the rehabilitation process. The techniques can help them to deal with their roller coaster of emotions and the inevitable pain catastrophising which can become predictive. Compared to controls the HRV trained subjects lowered their respiration rates and improved on all psychological outcomes.  Their perceived level of control increased with the opportunity to become an active participant in their treatment.

Get in touch to learn how to use the Heartmath® biofeedback technology and techniques to tackle those situations where you react emotionally rather than respond intelligently. 

Experience science-based technology and coaching for taking charge of your life.

Proven to help you reduce stress and anxiety by increasing your inner balance and self-security.

Learn to access your heart’s intuition to become the best version of yourself more often.

“The brain thinks, but the heart knows” Joe Dispenza (neuroscientist) 

Helen Maxwell

HeartMath® certified coach

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

REFS

Perry, J., et al. (2018) Effectiveness of athletes’ mental strategies in maintaining high heart rate variability: Utility of a brief athlete-specific stress assessment protocol, ‘Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology’, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1123/jcsp.2017-0016

Ravi, S., et al. (2018) Heart rate variability: biofeedback and controlled breathing, competitive and recreation sport athletes, 2nd International conference on lifelong education and leadership for all, Latvian Academy of Sport Education, pp.413-418.

Rollo, S., et al. (2017) Effects of a heart rate variability biofeedback intervention on athletes psychological responses following injury: A pilot study; International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine, 3(6) DOI: 10.23937/2469-5718/1510081.

Sheldrake, R., (2019), Ways to go beyond and why they work: 7 spiritual practices for a scientific age, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.

Connect to your heart to be your best self

There is a physical as well as a mental component to fear and anxiety.  We know this: our hearts race, we sweat, our stomach churns, eyes dilate. Dr Bessel Van der Kolk, eminent psychiatrist and a world expert on traumatic stress, explains in his book ‘The body keeps the score’, how the body records and stores our emotional experiences.

I once experienced this first hand.  Many years after a traumatic hospital experience, I took my son to a GP surgery.  Within seconds, I could feel my body going into a panic attack, something I hadn’t experienced for over 5 years. I couldn’t understand why this would be happening until I looked around and saw a doctor who reminded me of the event.  What amazed me was that my body reacted before I actually saw him.

Sarah Garfinkel of the University of Sussex, UK, also discovered this when she was working with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to understand the brain circuitry involved with trauma. She realised it was their bodies which were influencing their minds and, no matter how safe they were in reality, their body continued to express fear until it became their way of being. So she set out to discover the ‘mind-body’.

Incredibly Garfinkel found that “ signals from the heart can really drive and override conditioned fear responses”.  This is the ‘scientific principle’ behind the success of Heartmath®  techniques. They have been used for over 30 years to teach people to listen to their heart and to intercept the body’s messages to the brain in order to improve autonomic nervous system function.

Our internal organs, including our heart, generate electrical activity which is conveyed to the brain by our neurons.  Science now knows that the electromagnetic field of the heart is sixty times more than that of the brain, whilst it’s magnetic field is an enormous 5000 times more.  Incredibly the field of the heart extends outside the body and can be measured across the room so people around you feel, and respond to, your ‘heart waves’.  The number of signals travelling from the heart to the brain vastly outstrips those going in the other direction and their effect on brain function is significant: cognition, memory, perception, emotion, problem solving.

Back in 1991, Doc Childre, after setting out to understand both the physical and the metaphorical heart, founded Heartmath®. He did this by testing, measuring, researching and analysing data to provide scientifically validated tools to access the heart’s intelligence. Doc Childre combined forces with Deborah Rozman, who, whilst studying ‘attitude change theory’ at University, discovered that people would receive different answers about the same issue, depending on whether they listened to their heart or their head. Together they researched and developed the powerful HeartMath® tools and techniques.  They used their deep understanding of heart-brain dynamics to teach people to take back their power over their emotional well being. Over 300 peer reviewed papers show that when you live, work and play from the heart, you influence your physiology on many levels (nervous, immune, hormonal), to transform stress, raise your energy and improve well-being.

Get in touch to learn how to use the Heartmath® biofeedback technology and techniques to tackle those situations where you react emotionally rather than respond intelligently.  

Experience science-based technology and coaching for taking charge of your life.

Proven to help you reduce stress and anxiety by increasing your inner balance and self-security.

Learn to access your heart’s intuition to become the best version of yourself more often.

“The brain thinks, but the heart knows” Joe Dispenza (neuroscientist) 

Helen Maxwell

HeartMath® certified coach

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Refs:

Spinney, L., (2020), Body Consciousness, New Scientist pp.29:32;

Childre, D & Rozman, D. (2005) Transforming stress: The Heartmath solution for relieving worry, fatigue and tension; NewHarbinger Publications Inc; Oakland;

Van der Kolk, B. (2014) The body keeps the score, Penguin.

Dispenza, J. (2017) Accessing the heart’s intelligence, www.joedispenza.com.

Seedy nut loaf

Lentil, tomato and spinach soup

Coconut, cacao and nut balls