Posted on 02/24/2014 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
By: Lisa Metzger, PhD
The number one New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. We have an obsession with looking thin but often don’t take into consideration what it does to our health. How many people do you know who go on crash diets and start strenuous exercise regimes in January only to have a life event take them right back to their old habits? One event that seems to throw many people off-track is feeling under the weather. January and February are prime cold weather months where staying healthy is the hardest. Our immune systems are more challenged during these months than any other time of year. So what do we do? We tax our immune systems even more by going on crash diets, exercising excessively, and increasing stress on our bodies that can actually lead to weight gain and poor health.
Our immune system can be greatly affected by diet and exercise habits, both positively and negatively. Striking a balance in diet, exercise, immune strengthening supplements, and stress management can lead to responsible, sustainable weight loss and better health. Crash diets, however, tend to be very low in calories and don’t provide the right balance of nutrients to sustain the amount of energy needed in the body. Getting enough sleep, eating enough calories, and getting the right nutrients in our bodies will help the immune system keep up the energy it needs to fight off all the challenges that bombard us this time of year.
While moderate exercise helps strengthen our immune system, we also know that vigorous exercise programs can put a strain on our immunity. When we over-exercise our bodies tend to produce more free radicals. Free radicals are by-products that can cause damage to cells. Coupling that with a diet low in the proper nutrients, especially antioxidants, can make it hard for your immune system to fight off challenges. A better approach? Start off slowly with an easy exercise regimen and eat a variety of non-processed foods high in antioxidants to help keep your immune system strong for optimum health.
Another adverse effect of crash diets is to throw off our gut flora. Our gut contains trillions of bacteria that play a crucial role in keeping our immune systems healthy (over 70% of our immune cells reside in our gut!). Healthy gut flora aids in proper digestion and helps metabolize undigested fibers in the gut. A healthy balance of gut flora also aids in the ability to burn fat. Crash diets disturb this balance and actually hurt dieting efforts in the long run. An out-of-balance gut can lead to carb intolerance, insulin resistance, and even thyroid imbalances which all lead right back to weight gain.
The key to keeping your New Year’s resolutions while staying healthy is to strike a balance in diet, exercise, immune strengthening supplements, and stress management. Losing weight shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. A healthy, balanced life and strong immune system will keep you feeling good, looking your best and enjoying a better quality of life.