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The Benefits of Zinc

The Benefits of Zinc

Muscular body builder workout

Zinc is the second-most common mineral in the human body (after iron) and is found in every one of our cells. It plays a vital role in many of the body’s functions, so ensuring that you get enough zinc in your diet is important. It is essential for helping the body to heal and for the maintenance of a healthy immune system. It is also important is supporting the senses (taste, sight and smell), blood clotting and healthy thyroid function.

Zinc is one of the most important minerals for fertility and general reproductive health. It is necessary for proper levels of testosterone in men and the maintenance of a healthy libido. The mineral also plays a key role in the healthy development of sperm, and abundant levels of zinc have been shown to be protective of the prostate, reducing the risk of prostate cancer. The belief that oysters have aphrodisiac properties actually does have some basis in truth. Oysters have one of the highest concentrations of zinc of any food. In women it regulates estrogen and progesterone and supports the proper maturation of the egg in preparation for fertilization.

Ensuring you have an adequate level of zinc can help reduce your risk of insulin sensitivity, one of the precursors to diabetes. It supports T-cell function, which boosts the immune system when the body is under attack by bacteria and viruses.

Zinc deficiency is not common in the developed world, but those with anorexia, alcoholics, the elderly and anyone with a malabsorption syndrome such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease is at higher risk. Zinc deficiency symptoms include frequent colds, poor wound healing, poor growth, loss of appetite, weight loss, dermatitis, psoriasis, hair loss, white spots on the nails, night blindness and depression.

Following is the recommended daily intake of zinc for different age groups:

Infants birth – 6 months: 2 mg/day

Infants 7 – 12 months: 3 mg/day

Children 1 – 3 years: 3 mg/day

Children 4 – 8 years: 5 mg/day

Children 9 – 13 years: 8 mg/day

Adolescent boys 14 – 18 years: 11 mg/day

Adolescent girls 14 – 18 years: 9 mg/day

Men 19 years and older: 11 mg/day

Women 19 years and older: 8 mg/day

Pregnant women 14 – 18 years: 12 mg/day

Pregnant women 19 years and older: 11 mg/day

Breastfeeding women 14 – 18 years: 13 mg/day

Breastfeeding women over 18 years: 12 mg/day

Children should never be given zinc supplements without first consulting with a pediatrician. If supplements are necessary, a copper supplement should be taken as well, as a high intake of zinc can deplete levels of copper.

You should be able to get adequate zinc from eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in whole foods. The body absorbs between 20% and 40% of the zinc present in food. The best sources of zinc are oysters, red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, cheese, legumes (such as soybeans, black-eyed peas and peanuts), cooked greens and seeds (such as pumpkin and sunflower).

 

Have a Cold? Top Ten Tips for Getting Better Faster

Have a Cold? Top Ten Tips for Getting Better Faster

sick-man-with-thermometer
sick-man-with-thermometer

The common cold: Even though Americans have over a billion colds per year, there’s nothing “common” about it when you’ve got one. The sneezing, the scratchy throat, the runny nose, the nasal congestion, and the watery eyes can make your life miserable. Even though most colds go away within three to seven days, there are steps you can take to boost your body’s immune system and help get rid of your cold sooner than that. Read on for our “Top 10 Tips” on getting over your cold quickly, consolidated from healthcare experts all over the world.

  1. First, make sure you’ve really got a cold. The symptoms listed above are those of the common cold, which is a disease of the upper respiratory tract caused by a number of different viruses. But if these symptoms are accompanied by more severe ones such as muscle aches, high fever, chills, headache, and fatigue, chances may be that it’s not a cold at all, but the flu instead. This is important to find out, because if you have a serious case of the flu, you may need to see a doctor and take an antiviral medication like Tamiflu, which can shorten the length of the outbreak. However, if you’ve got a cold, not only will the antiviral medication be ineffective, it can even weaken your immune system in the long run.
  2. Don’t “tough it out”—stay at home and get some rest. Going to work will only make your cold last longer, and you can expose all your coworkers to the virus as well. So take a few days off and give your body the rest it needs to recover and heal faster.
  3. Drink lots and lots of liquids, including—yes, really—chicken soup. Your mother’s advice to drink lots of fluids was correct, as it turns out. Research has shown that drinking warm fluids helps to relieve the most common cold symptoms and also loosens sinus secretions that cause a buildup of mucus. Hot tea or broth is a good choice, as is coffee, which has been shown to increase alertness in people with colds. And interestingly enough, the centuries-old prescription to “Have a nice bowl of chicken soup.” is also correct—it has been shown to be more hydrating and thus more beneficial than other liquids.
  4. Gargle with salt water. Gargling with 1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of water can help to relieve your sore or scratchy throat.
  5. Use over-the-counter medications (very selectively) to deal with runny nose and coughs. A pharmacy has reliable saline nose drops or sprays and cough syrups that can help to make these cold symptoms more bearable, although they won’t make the cold go away any faster.
  6. Steam the cold away. If you have access to a steam bath, take one—or many. If you don’t, you can improvise by leaning your head over a bowl of hot water or by taking a long, steamy shower. Inhaling warm, moist air helps to loosen and thin out mucus.
  7. Boost your immune system with supplements. Research has shown that taking zinc supplements during the first couple of days may help shorten the duration of your cold and perhaps reduce its severity. But don’t take zinc on an empty stomach, and don’t use intranasal zinc nose drops or sprays; the FDA has warned that they can permanently impair your sense of smell. Vitamin C can also help to shorten colds, whether in supplement form or in fruits and vegetables. Echinacea, elderberry syrup, and raw honey have also been shown to shorten colds.
  8. Avoid smoke and polluted air. Anything that affects your ability to breathe properly is going to extend your cold.
  9. Don’t reinfect yourself or others. Practice “safe sneezing and coughing” by covering your nose and mouth and carefully discarding any tissues you use. Wash your hands often and consider using hand sanitizers to keep from infecting family, friends, coworkers, and yes, even yourself. If you contracted the cold at work and others there still have their colds, avoid the place for a few days if you can until people get better.
  1. Use over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce inflammation. Used in moderation, aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can all help relieve minor bodily aches that may accompany your cold, but they also act as anti-inflammatories and can reduce a fever and speed up the healing process.
The Joys of Swimming for Fun and Fitness

The Joys of Swimming for Fun and Fitness

man-swimmming-200-300With summer weather heating things up across much of the country, swimming is a great way to cool off and have some fun!  But did you know that it’s also an excellent way to increase your fitness, help control your weight and improve your overall mood?  Plus, swimming is a type of exercise that people of any age and physical ability can enjoy.  It’s easy on the musculoskeletal system while at the same time providing a good aerobic workout.

Swim for Fun

Even among avid swimmers, boredom in the pool is one of the common reasons for losing interest in sport.  While swimming laps in the pool may not seem like a recipe for fun, here are a few things you can do to add some variety to your in-water workouts.

  • Plan your in-pool workout ahead of time and vary your activities so that variety is built-in.
  • Swim with buddies who have the same water fun and fitness goals that you do.
  • When swimming laps, do things to keep your mind engaged in your activity and help sharpen your technique.  Counting how many strokes you need to complete a length of the pool and how quickly you can do it is one way to look for improvements.  Experimenting with stroke length is another.
  • If you have the option, change up the locations of your swimming workouts.  A change of scenery—from an indoor pool to an outdoor one, or from a lake to the ocean—can make a big difference in how your workout feels.
  • Add to your “playbook” of swimming drills.  You can reach out to others or go online for suggestions to help mix things up.
  • Learn some new strokes or make up some of your own.  You might look silly doing it, but it adds to the experience!

Swim for Fitness

While swimming may not be as accessible as walking, running or even biking in some communities, it has distinctive health benefits that make it well worth the trip to a local pool.  The organization that governs all swimming-related activities in the UK (called the ASA) compiled a report of scientific findings from all over the world about the health benefits of swimming.  Some of them are truly striking.  For instance, researchers have found that swimming regularly reduces men’s risk of dying early by a staggering 50% relative to those who run, walk or do no physical activity.  Experts estimate that just two and a half hours per week of swimming can significantly reduce your risk of chronic disease.

A good all-around exercise, swimming involves both aerobic activity and working against resistance.  Unlike most aerobic activities, however, swimming involves little in the way of jarring impact (like the shocks and jolts involved with running) and doesn’t require you to support your full body weight while doing it.  When submerged up to your neck in water, your body weight is effectively reduced by 90 percent.  As a result, overweight and obese people can get a good workout without placing large amounts of painful stress on the lower body’s muscles and joints.  This removes a common deterrent to exercise for a large (and growing) part of the US population and suggests that swimming could be an attractive option for people trying to manage their weight.

Arthritis sufferers or those with musculoskeletal injuries can also benefit from swimming, since studies have shown that it improves range of motion without causing a worsening of symptoms such as pain and stiffness.  In fact, according to the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, swimming as a form of exercise (as opposed to running or practicing other impact sports) can reduce your risk of osteoarthritis.

Beyond increasing fitness levels and helping to manage weight, swimming may provide a variety of other health benefits:

  • Studies performed on people suffering from fibromyalgia have found that exercise performed in a warm pool reduced anxiety and depression and caused an improvement in mood.
  • For older adults, swimming has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  Post-menopausal women in particular are at increased risk of bone loss, and swimming provides a safe and effective form of the resistance exercise that is needed to maintain bone density.
  • Pregnant women find that swimming strengthens their shoulder and abdominal muscles, which are put under increased stress during pregnancy.  Obstetricians recommend swimming as a good form of exercise for most pregnant women, as it provides them with temporary relief from the extra weight they are carrying.

It’s hard to exaggerate the potential fitness benefits of swimming.  Swimming helps to build cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance.  It tones your muscles and helps to maintain healthy heart and lung function.  It also improves flexibility, reduces blood pressure and alleviates stress.  Whether in a community pool, at a nearby lake or in the ocean, swimming offers an ideal way for most people to keep fit that’s also easy on the body’s musculoskeletal system.

So get out there this summer and have some fun in the water!

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