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Healthy Solutions�Alternative Medicine Cabinet�For the Long Run
By Bryce Edmonds
Exercise is good for you. Right? Well, mostly. Research shows that moderate and regular physical activity benefits the immune system and increases resistance to infections and even cancer. But some studies have found that too much exercise or acute exercise—meaning intense, just-got-off-the-couch workouts or big leaps in training—can suppress immune function and lead to what is known as an “open window” for illness. The exercise can actually suppress the activities of natural killer T cells, which fight invaders.
Luckily, certain nutrients, herbs, and supplements can give your immune system the boost it needs to keep it pumping along with your elevated heart rate. These may become as essential to your get-fit-quick fitness routine as logging time on the trail or in the gym.
Focus on whole, nutrient-rich foods. “When you eat a lot of foods that are light on nutrients but calorie heavy, you aren’t feeding your system,” says Robin DiPasquale, ND, RH (AHG), chair of the Botanical Medical Department at Bastyr University outside of Seattle. Getting enough fuel and nutrition from food should be common sense, she says, but perhaps we don’t all pay enough attention to this essential component. Up your intake of whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat flour, fruits, and vegetables. And cut out “empty” foods such as white flour and white sugar.
“Adaptogens are the name of the game,” says Julie Plunkett, a medical herbalist and certified nutritionist in San Diego. “They are nonspecific agents that prevent and reduce the damaging effects that stress has on the body.” Any physical activity out of the norm, such as doing your first 15-mile run, impacts the body, and these five herbs can help it cope.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus). The root of a prickly herb formerly known as Siberian ginseng. Take 2 to 3 grams (about one-half teaspoon) of standardized extract.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng). Also a medicinal root. Take 100 mg to 200 mg daily of standardized extract.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea). A plant native to Siberia. Take 250 mg daily of standardized extract.
Schizandra (Schizandra chinensis). An herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Take 250 mg daily of standardized extract.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). A shrub used in ayurvedic medicine. Take 250 mg daily of standardized extract.
Immune modulators come in handy, says DiPasquale, “when people are just trying to shift up a gear in their activity level.” The three supplements below help support the immune system so it can more readily fight off germs.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous). This member of the bean family is used extensively in TCM. Take two or three 500 mg pills three times daily.
Mushrooms (such as maitake or reishi). Dose will depend on the individual, so consult your healthcare practitioner.
Probiotics. Take one to two capsules per day of t...
Author: Bryce Edmonds
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