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Cold Season Immunity Booster: Elderberry

Cold Season Immunity Booster: Elderberry

    Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
    – French Solider, Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1974)

    The first time I ever heard of elderberries was from watching TV. While Monty Python’s quote is easy to remember, I also remember the pioneer shows where “good, old fashioned” remedies included elderberry wine, syrup and tincture. I just assumed it was the alcoholic properties of the wine that did the “job” in reducing cold symptoms, but a year ago my wife joined the elderberry team. She made us some tincture, and insisted I have some every time I started the cold season sniffle. At first, I thought she was just being silly, but when I made it through the cold season without getting sick, I thought maybe there was something to my mad-scientist, real food ninja wife’s elderberry magic.
    Simply put, if you want to fight a cold this season, look no further than the old fashioned remedy of elderberries.

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    The Benefits 

    Below are a few of the many benefits that elderberries can give you through this cold season:

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    1. High in antioxidants
    2. Treatment for flu, cold or sinus infection due to anti-inflammatory and anti-viral qualities.
    3. May have potential anti-cancer properties
    4. Diuretic, laxative and emetic
    5. Speeds up recovery times

    (source: University of Maryland Medical Center)

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    Those are some serious benefits and thus the age old remedy actually makes sense.

    Elderberry Solutions

    What are some ways to take elderberries?

    1. Pies, tarts and other treats
      A great way to enjoy elderberries, but one has to balance out the bitter berries with large amounts of sugar.
    2. Wine
      Probably one of the better known solutions and the wine can be made from either the flowers (the white wine) or the berries (the red wine). Both provide great results. Often, people used it as an aperitif.
    3. Tincture
      This is a great way to get a solid dose of the elderberry benefits. However, it is also extremely bitter. It feels like it works because no self-respecting cold would go near something that tastes that bad. With that said, it is very common and a great way to boost that immune system. This is alcohol based, typically made with a proof of 80 to 100, often vodka.
    4. Syrup
      This is my favorite way out of the solutions. It has a long shelf life. It is sweet, and it doesn’t have any alcohol. Drinking the syrup is similar to drinking Nyquil. It is thick as it coats your throat, and you are getting the great health benefits and boosts. You also get great benefits from the honey and spices used to sweeten the syrup.
    5. Tea
      I have not tried the tea, but it is a very common solution mentioned. While there are a lot of options, one of the simpler tea options is to mix the tincture in with tea in the morning. However, it is also possible to brew the flower petals or berry into your tea solution.

    Considerations

    As always, consult with a qualified health care provider before trying remedies. Do not eat an elderberry without first cooking it. While the remedies used widely in Europe and in the homes of many real foodies for cold and flu treatments, elderberry is not recognized by the FDA to manage flu conditions.

    Sources For More Information:

    • Real Food and Health Digital Magazine (kindle or pdf)
      The November issue contains a recipe for elderberry syrup along with additional information
      (Disclosure: my wife is the editor for the magazine and wrote the article on elderberry syrup)
    • LiveStrong.com – Elderberry Section
      A great selection of articles on elderberries.
    • Mountain Rose Herbs
      A place to order elderberries in bulk if you do not have a local health food store that carries them.
    • Deep Roots At Home Elderberry Tincture
      A good tincture recipe is hard to come by, but Jacqueline’s recipe is pretty good. It made my wife’s seal of approval.
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    Last Updated on October 15, 2018

    Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

    Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

    “Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. When tiredness is persistent, however — when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get— it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

    While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here’re some of the most common causes of fatigue:

    1. Dehydration

    If you want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions.

    If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energising oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

    You cannot cure this crash with caffeine – the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

    2. Lack Of Exercise

    A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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    Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of our everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

    3. A Poor Diet

    The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats. The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

    An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by pizza or cheese.

    Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

    4. Skipping Breakfast

    Physician Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan advises that eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

    Ingesting food signals to your brain that there is enough food available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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    Some great ideas for a healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

    Or if meal-prepping isn’t your think, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit: 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

    5. Poor Quality Of Sleep

    We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed. But did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is.

    TO feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

    Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time. And before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to prepare for a restful night.

    Read more about how to develop a routine that will get you better sleep: Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

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    6. Sleep Apnea (A Person’s Airways Get Blocked off While They Are Asleep)

    Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while they are asleep. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

    Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing as well as the use of a special breathing machine to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

    If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

    7. Depression

    Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating.

    Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling and lifestyle changes like stress management to help manage this condition. You can take a look at these 15 Ways To Overcome Depression And Sadness.

    Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

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    8. Hypothyroidism

    If a person has hypothyroidism, their thyroid gland does not produce adequate levels of these important hormones— and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain and feeling cold all the time.

    Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills like Synthroid. Check here for signs of having a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

    9. Anemia

    People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

    However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements or B-12 shots.

    While here are some drinks you can try to relieve symptoms of Anemia, it’s best to do a blood test and consult your doctor in case of any hidden medical conditions.

    10. Cancer

    While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surround tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

    Diagnosis is usually by biopsy and treatment often focusses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery— and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

    Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

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