When layers of yellow cover your car, the street and sidewalks, you know allergy season is here. In an ideal world avoiding the allergens completely is the best solution for minimizing allergy symptoms. However, now that the weather is finally warmer, it’s tough to stay indoors all day long. Last year we mentioned foods high in querectin, probiotics and green tea (as well as liquids in general to help thin mucous) as potential options that may help minimize some of your allergy symptoms. And this year we are adding a few more natural remedies to our anti– allergy arsenal.
Vitamin C Rich Foods
Vitamin C is an antioxidant necessary for healthy skin (the largest organ in the body and your first line of defense against bacteria and pathogens), wound healing, the absorption of plant-based iron, immune health and many other functions. In addition, some research studies suggest that vitamin C may decrease airway constriction due to allergic reactions. There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that vitamin C supplements are warranted however, be sure to eat enough vitamin C rich foods. Bell peppers, oranges, kiwi fruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and baked potatoes are all excellent sources of vitamin C.
Over-the-counter nasal rinsing products that contain sterile saline help moisten nasal passages and also clear out allergens and debris. If you’re using in a device at home with tap water make sure you follow the FDA instructions for safety to ensure that you do not get sick from your nasal rinse.
Choose Your Fruits and Vegetables Wisely
If you know you’re allergic to certain environmental allergies you may also have an allergic reaction specific raw fruits, vegetables and nuts that have proteins similar to those in pollen. When the immune system reacts to these proteins you have oral allergy syndrome. Symptoms are typically isolated to the face and mouth and may include itching or swelling in the mouth, face, lips, tongue and throat after the consumption of certain raw fruits, vegetables, or nuts. Here are the common environmental pollen and potential cross-reactions with fruits vegetables:
Birch pollen: apples, almonds, hazelnuts, celery, cherry, hazelnut, cherries, kiwi, peach, pear, plums, coriander, fennel, parsley, carrots.
Grass pollen: celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes.
Ragweed pollen: bananas, cucumbers, melons, tomato, sunflower seeds or zucchini. Chamomile tea and Echinacea may also cause a problem in some people.
You don’t need to give up any of these fruits or vegetables completely. Instead, just cook them or consume them in processed form such as canned fruits and vegetables.
Be Aware of Exercise and Food Interactions
If you find that you get itchy, feel lightheaded, develop hives or have an anaphylactic reaction during or after exercise, take a close look at what you ate beforehand. Some individuals develop an allergic reaction to foods after exercise. Common culprits include crustacean shellfish, alcohol, tomatoes, cheese, and celery.
Allergies can be a nuisance and tricky to manage. However, if you avoid the environmental allergen is much as possible, take a shower and wash your hair and wash the clothes that you were wearing when outside while also avoiding eating any raw foods that could also cause a reaction, you may get through the allergy season a little bit easier this year.
Getting Older? Strength Training is a Must
As you age there are some things in life that get easier. For instance, you are exceedingly wiser (hopefully) and don’t get embarrassed as easily as you did when you were young. But one thing you must take into consideration as you age is your health. Many people take up walking or even jogging as they get older in an effort to stay heart healthy and that is an excellent idea but it is also wise to start strength training 2-3 times a week.
Strength training is vital as you age because it allows you to improve your functional strength and therefore keep your independence and quality of life!
What can strength training actually do for you though? Here are 3 reasons that strength training is a must as you age:
- Fight Osteoporosis
One major thing women have to contend with as they age (and men to a lesser extent) is osteoporosis. One way to help fight osteoporosis is through strength training. Strength training can actually help build your bone strength. Get this a study from McMaster University found that post-menopausal women in a SINGLE year increased the bone mass in their spinal column by 9% via strength training. Also mentioned was another study in which those that strength trained 2 times a week for a year increased their bone density by one percent BUT those that didn’t had a decrease of 1.8-2.5 percent. That is a major difference; strength train for healthy bones!
- Improve Functional Strength
One way to perform strength training is simple body weight exercise in order to increase your functional strength. Functional strength is what you need to complete your daily tasks. For example, doing body weight squats can help you stoop down and pick things up easier, while body weight push ups can increase your upper body strength for lugging around your toddler or grand kids. It’s even been found that functional strength (body weight) training is just as effective, if not more, than traditional weight lifting. Basically, either one you choose can help improve you functional strength!
Some of the most common body weight exercises are also the best for you: squats, lunges, push ups, dips, wall-sits, and planks (these can all be modified to make them easier and more doable).
- Fight Cellular Aging
Stress gets to each us on a daily basis. How could it not with our busy, hectic lives? One way to fight the effects of cellular aging (e.g. the shortening of telomeres) is by living a healthy life that revolves around three factors: quality nutrition, proper sleep, and exercising/strength training. A study out of UC San Francisco in Molecular Psychiatry found that in post-menopausal women (all participants were nonsmokers) over a course of a SINGLE year, those that maintained a proper sleeping, nutrition, and exercise regiment had significantly less cellular aging than those who did not even though all participants had the same stress level (according to the study).
While the study did not specify the form of exercise, with the other added benefits of strength training already listed, it’s a good idea to add it to your routine. What better way to increase your bone/muscle strength and decrease the effects of stress like lifting weights (or your own body weight).
Don’t Be Intimidated
One of the first responses I get when I tell my clients that they need to perform more strength training or even body weight exercises is that they simply can’t do them because they aren’t strong enough. The fact is that you have to start slow and work your way up. Sure you won’t be able to do 10 normal push ups (or even one) but you can do one modified push up with your knees on the ground to help support your weight. Modifications like that will allow you to build your strength until you are able to perform them normally. I realize body weight exercises may be a hard thing for people to grasp but I love recommending them because they are so easy, so effective, require no equipment, and can be done in your own living room!
The same goes for other types of strength training like dumbbells. Start with a low weight no matter what in order to get the form down. When it comes to strength training it is all about form. Start light with great form and work your way up as you build strength!
[Note: as with any exercise program, consult your physician before starting.]
Let’s face it, the older we get the harder daily tasks can become. We need to increase our functional strength to not only maintain, but improve our lives. Strength training can be one of those methods to keep and improve your quality of life! Add 2-3 sessions to your weekly activities!
Visit Josh at Always Active Athletics: “Your #1 Online Magazine For At-Home Fitness” for more at-home fitness and health tips!
Knee problems impact everyday life. From walking up the stairs to fitting in planned exercise sessions, healthy knees are essential for movement. Yet, many Americans have knee pain due to constant wear and tear (lifelong physical activity or movement), age-related changes in tendon health, injuries, poor bio-mechanics (if certain leg or butt muscles are weak or your patterns of movement aren’t ideal, your knees may be stressed), carrying around excess weight, or any combination of these factors.
Strengthening and stretching exercises can help keep your knees healthy by reducing stress placed on your knee joint while also keeping your muscles flexible.
- Sit on a chair with back straight but not using backrest (do not sit all the way back in the chair). Knees should be bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Slowly raise one leg off the ground so that it is straight (making a 90 degree angle).
- Hold the leg in this position for 30 seconds and then return it to its previous bent position.
- Repeat this 5-10 times with the same leg.
- Once finished switch to the next leg.
- Complete 2-3 sets for each leg.
- You can make this move harder by adding ankle weights.
Straight Leg Raises
- Placed two chairs facing each other. Sit in one chair and stretch your leg out straight so the back of your foot rests on the other chair. Your second foot should be flat on the ground with your knee bent at a 90° angle.
- Raise the leg that is stretched out straight on the chair up so that it hovers above the seat of the chair but does not touch it (this is a small move and the back of your foot should be just a few inches above the chair).
- Hold this position for 30 seconds then lower it back to the seat of the chair.
- Perform this exercise 5 times for each leg and then switch legs.
- Perform 2 to 3 sets per leg.
Lying Leg Lift
- Start by lying flat on your back on the floor.
- Rest your hands at your side and use them to balance yourself as you perform the exercise.
- Bend your left leg so that the bottom of your left foot is flat on the floor (knee should be in a 90 degree angle).
- Raise your right leg until both knees are parallel.
- Repeat 8-10 times for each leg (1 set) and perform 2-3 sets per leg.
- You can make this exercise harder by using ankle weights.
- Start by standing so that your back is against the wall.
- Slowly bend your knees in a sitting position so that your lower back is supported against the wall and you look like you’re sitting in a chair.
- Stop once your thighs are parallel to the ground (do not go any lower than this).
- Stretch your arms out in front of you and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Return to standing position and rest for 15 seconds.
- Continue this exercise 5-10 times
- Start in a normal standing position with your hands at your side and hands placed on a chair or against the wall (if using a chair be sure the chair will not move).
- Raise up on your tip toes flexing your calve muscles.
- Return to standing position with feet flat on the ground.
- Repeat this exercise 8-10 times and complete 2 to 3 sets.
- Start by standing next to a wall or sturdy chair.
- Stand straight with one hand against the wall or chair if you need it for balance.
- Bend your knee and bring your heel up to your butt. Hold your foot so you stay in this position for 20 to 30 seconds. If this stretch is painful do not do it.
- Switch legs and repeat.
- This stretch should be performed at least 2-3 times for each leg.
- Start by lying on your back.
- Bend your knees so they are at a 90° angle with your lower legs parallel to the floor and upper legs perpendicular to the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Grab the back of the left thigh with both hands and pull your knee towards your chest until you feel a good stretch.
- Once you find a good position that is free of pain, hold that position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Switch to the other knee and repeat this stretch.
- Continue to alternate for 3 sets on each leg.
Lying Knee Hugs
- Begin by lying on your back.
- Bend the right knee and bring it up to your chest and grab the knee with both hands.
- Continue to pull the Knee up to your chest until you obtain a position that is comfortable and pain free.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and switch to the left knee.
- Perform 3 times with each knee.