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Ep 11: Winning at Winter Wellness

Hosted by: MegaFood | Podcast



Ep 11: Winning at Winter Wellness

runtime: 27:20


Ep 11: Winning at Winter Wellness

It’s WINTER: a time notorious for your immune system’s downfall. But there’s hope! Join Dr. Erin Stokes as she talks with Abigail and Killeen about lifestyle habits and supplements that can keep you going strong this season.


Products Mentioned:

How to Make Elderberry Syrup

Abigail:  [00:00] Is the mic on?

Announcer:  [00:01] You're rolling.

Abigail:  [00:02] Oh, good. Hey, there, listeners. Before we get started on today's episode, I wanted to tip you off on the giveaway that we're running through the month of February. To enter, all you have to do is visit MegaFood on Facebook and tell us what you enjoyed most about Episode 11. One commentor will win an immune support gift basket to help keep your winter health at its prime.

[00:21] Just share your thoughts with us by February 28th on MegaFoods official Facebook page.

Announcer:  [00:25] Wow, that's it, huh?

Abigail:  [00:27] That's it.

Announcer:  [00:28] It'd be silly to pass that up. I'm going there now. Well, as soon as we finish recording this episode, that is.

Abigail:  [00:35] And we appreciate that. So, do you want to do the intro?

[00:38] [background music]

Announcer:  [00:38] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

[00:46] Welcome to Episode 11 of "That Supplement Show," "Winning at Winter Wellness." Today, naturopathic doctor Erin Stokes joins Abigail and Killeen to discuss her favorite tips for keeping immunity high and ailments low during the darkest and coldest time of the year.

[01:00] Even if you're not in the ice fortress of New England, you're sure to gain some immune‑boosting insight from the conversation, so stick around, and let's get to it.

Killeen:  [01:09] Hey, Abigail.

Abigail:  [01:10] Hey, Killeen. How's it going? You surviving the cold spell?

Killeen:  [01:12] I think surviving is a really good word to use, and you know, I'll admit that the weather we've had this past month, or few months, has got me going a little stir‑crazy. My kids have been stuck inside more than anyone would like, and with the holidays just passed, I'm a little worn out, even if ours were kind of on the low‑key side.

[01:31] I should mention that right now, we're in the middle of another snow storm. I think they're calling it a bomb cyclone, right as we record this.

Abigail:  [01:38] Which is a phrase I'd never heard before. Pretty interesting. [laughs] But the solstice is past, so we're technically over the hump now. Here in New England, our days are getting longer. They're still super short.

[01:49] I took note this morning at 7:00 AM. It was still dark out. I thought, "It should be light by now."

[01:54] But still long days, and statistically as well as personally, I think, for all of us on the line here today, it's that time of year where it could be more challenging to maintain our optimal health.

Killeen:  [02:04] All of that together really stirs up to create one rather ominous cocktail, doesn't it? I feel like the odds are stacked against us when it come to wellness.

Abigail:  [02:13] That is actually why we've brought Doctor Erin Stokes on the show. She's going to share her tips with us. Hey, there, Erin.

Dr. Erin Stokes:  [02:20] Hi. Thanks so much for having me, Abby and Killeen. I'm happy to be here. Thinking back to our most recent chat on our last episode about gratitude, there's just so many ways and so many things that we can do to improve our health. Gratitude's right up there, but let's talk about some other ideas as well, as we get through the winter.

Killeen:  [02:41] Yeah, that would be awesome, Erin. We feel like this time of year, our health can really benefit from even just a little supplemental support, and by that, I don't just mean supplements in the sense of vitamins, but other things too. So, yeah, Abigail and I were hoping that you would share your expertise with us. How's that sound?

Erin:  [02:59] Sounds great, and I think that in the winter, in the winter months, even going into the early spring, we need to focus on our health more. We really do.

[03:08] I think sometimes those carefree days of summer, it feels like we can maybe let things slide a little more, but in these days where the days are shorter, the nights are longer, it's really important to have health routines.

[03:25] Speaking of long nights, this really was a time of year when we ideally should be sleeping more. When you look at seasonal patterns, whether you look at humans, historically, or even looking at animals, we really should be getting more sleep during these months.

Killeen:  [03:42] I think that's a great point to bring up, Erin, and it's something I think about a lot this time of year. I think also something that we can chat about today is we trudge through the year, or power through the year, I should say, every single day ‑‑ kind of with the same energy, more or less, but there are some things to the seasons that we should consider.

[04:00] Sleeping more with the darker hours is a great example of that.

Erin:  [04:03] Even beyond the seasons, did you know that even just a century ago ‑‑ which sounds like a long time, a century ago, but in the whole span of things, not so long ago ‑‑ Americans were averaging 9‑10 hours of sleep per night.

[04:17] I don't know about you, but I don't know many people that are sleeping 9‑10 hours a night. There's much to learn from history and also from the seasons, and so one of the things that I like to encourage people to do and try to do myself, practice what I discuss, is going to bed earlier.

[04:36] Sometimes it's hard because as you said, we sort of have this routine with work and life that we should just sort of be the same, that we should stay up as late, that we can stay on our computers, but this is a time of year when sleep can make such a big difference.

[04:51] It's kind of like, "Why does it matter?" Restful sleep contributes to a positive mood. There is no question about that, and this is the time of year when we can all use a little mood lift. It also helps to improve memory, and it even helps to support healthy inflammation levels.

[05:08] Beyond that, we all know intuitively that a good night's sleep helps us recover physically, mentally, and emotionally. It gets you ready and restores you for the next day. Sounds so basic, but it's something that is really important.

[05:28] I was on a different podcast recently, where the host was sharing with me that he had just been talking with a sleep expert, and this sleep expert had been talking about the power‑down hour. Basically what he was talking about was that you should really have an hour every night where you power down.

[05:49] You spend about 20 minutes getting things ready for the next day, if you need to lay out your computer or plug in some devices, prepping. If you need to put some stuff out for your own lunch, or if you're packing your kiddo's lunch.

[06:03] Then you should do your nighttime ritual, whatever that might be. It could be a warm shower, the basics like brushing your teeth, and then the last 20 minutes should be something restful, whether it's reading a book or some light stretching.

[06:18] I really like this idea of this power‑down hour, and I think it could go a long way, especially this time of year.

Killeen:  [06:25] That reminds me, Erin, of a conversation that we had offline about putting our phone down half an hour before we go to bed, and not picking it up for half an hour after we get up in the morning. These even some tiny little ways you can use some power‑down, or even power‑up time, without committing to a whole hour, if that sounds like a little too much to chew at once.

[06:45] Abigail. I try to do that as well. I can't say I'm always successful. But another thing that personally has worked for me is, like you said, Erin, getting to bed earlier, not even with the thought that I'm actually going to achieve sleeping 9‑10 hours for that night, but the idea that I'm in bed, and I'm at a peaceful state, and I feel less pressure to fall asleep immediately.

[07:10] If it's past 11:00 PM, I start to worry, like, "What if it takes me too long to fall asleep? Then I'm not going to get a good night's sleep," so it's actually kind of reassuring to have more hours ahead of me in the night to be able to just relax, and I think I fall asleep much faster that way.

Erin:  [07:27] I like that idea that, and yes, just for the record, I'm not necessarily suggesting we can get 9‑10 hours of sleep a night, but I think it's good to shoot for around 8, and of course, every person's going to be unique.

[07:39] But absolutely in the winter months, if you can just even be in bed for nine hours, and maybe use some of that time to just read or relax, I think that there's a natural cycle to be a bit more still. Sometimes, some of the frustration in the winter is that we're trying to constantly push against that.

Killeen:  [08:00] Even though sleep seems like this elementary concept, you're totally right that not everybody is really committing to a good night's sleep, so it's a great reminder.

Erin:  [08:10] Also even though it does seem elementary, approximately 60 million Americans have insomnia. That's about one in five people, so this is a real big topic, no matter what the season, and I think it's especially appropriate to talk about it in the winter months.

Abigail:  [08:27] That number just blew my mind ‑‑ 60 million?

Erin:  [08:30] Yes. Yes.

Killeen:  [08:32] I wonder if it's been going up increasingly, because I'm sure we're doing less physical labor than perhaps those a hundred years ago, like you said, and our bodies might not actually always be ready to say good night, [laughs] so there's that.

[08:51] And then I think talking about those screens. There's so much to catch up on, and we kind of use those hours to do some of those extra things, where that wasn't an option when there wasn't electricity. We had some candle light.

[09:04] Maybe we could read. Maybe we could chat, but it kind of ended there.

Erin:  [09:09] Yes, and speaking about being ready to rest and ready to sleep, the other side of this is the importance of exercising. Understandably, often people exercise less during the winter months. The allure of the gym is definitely there, and I think it's great when people belong to a gym, or even have a home gym, and are really consistent about being able to get there.

[09:36] Sometimes I think people get a little bored with just being inside all the time. There are some very tangible benefits to exercising outdoors. I know that you are in the ‑‑ what did you call it? The ice castle right now, in the frigid weather that you're having.

[09:54] There's certainly exceptions. If you're in the middle of a winter storm, if it's super icy outside, use common sense, of course. But there's studies that show that when people make the effort to get outside in these months, it really improves their mood, more dramatically than exercise alone.

[10:13] Exercise is good no matter what. We know that, we know that it helps you sleep better, that it has positive effects on your mood. Exercising outdoors, it appears, can be even better. When you can get outside, what they've found is that people exercise longer, that they spend more time with it.

[10:33] They finally get over that hurdle of just getting themselves bundled up and out there, and they also feel even more positive, that they have more energy, that they want to come back and do it again. A little plug there for it.

[10:46] I know that we are all connected to the natural world, and that's why nature can be supremely calming and also uplifting, and no matter where you are, you can get outside in nature, whether it's in Central Park in New York City, or your local park, or for some people, they're lucky enough to have a trail in the woods right by their house.

[11:07] But no matter where you are, you can get into a little bit of nature, and I think that that helps us just tap back in. It helps us ‑‑ even the fresh air. It's very invigorating. When you come back inside, you appreciate that cozy house. I think that that's another thing that we can do during these winter months.

Abigail:  [11:27] Erin, that reminds me of something that my father always said to me growing up, when I would complain about going out in the cold, and obviously a day like today with subfreezing temperatures, maybe it's not so true, but he would always say, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, so you can get out there." [laughs]

Erin:  [11:44] That's right, and that sounds very much like a New England statement to me. I love it.

Abigail:  [11:49] Very much New England. [laughs]

Erin:  [11:49] I think you both know that I ran a half marathon in Manchester a few years ago with some of our co‑workers, and it was brutally cold and unbelievably windy, and the positivity and the cheerfulness of all of the people at the starting line just blew my mind.

[12:07] I think being from Colorado, I certainly enjoy and like winter weather, but this was a whole different level of positivity about some very extreme weather, [laughs] so I appreciate that.

Killeen:  [12:20] Let's pause for a quick second just to have a word from our sponsor, and then we'll get right back into this conversation.

[12:25] [background music]

Announcer:  [12:26] Today's episode is brought to you by Kid's Daily Immune. This convenient, blend‑able powdered formulation is designed for kids ages five and up, but is completely suitable for adults, too.

[12:35] It contains astragalus and echinacea, which promote and help to strengthen a healthy immune response year round. Elderberry helps even further to maintain optimal immune health during the fall and winter season, while organic oranges, blueberries, and cranberries round out the blend to provide deep pigmented natural phytonutrients for additional antioxidant protection. No wonder it's such a nice color.

[12:56] Speaking of color, all MegaFood products are free of artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, herbicides ‑‑ including glyphosate ‑‑ gluten, dairy, and soy. All the stuff you want, none of the stuff you don't.

Killeen:  [13:07] Yeah, we talked about what to do with our bodies, so now what should we put into it?

Abigail:  [13:12] Should we talk about some supplements? We talked about some good lifestyle points that I think are really important, and I think that there's some good supplements and herbs that we should touch on. What do you think?

Erin:  [13:25] Vitamin D, I knew that I was going to probably talk about that first. Vitamin D is so important for healthy immune function, for healthy mood, and for healthy bones. Vitamin D, we're learning more and more about vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat‑soluble vitamin. It's not one size fits all, and so this is one that I think is really important to get tested and to know what your vitamin D levels are.

[13:58] What's so interesting, Killeen and Abby, is that people have generally been surprised, has been my experience, about vitamin D testing. Sometimes surprised that they were in the normal range. More often than that, surprised at how low. Some people are, that they just didn't think they would be.

[14:18] When you have your level, it helps inform you about how much you should supplement with. It's the sunshine vitamin, and so we really are able to manufacture vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin, particularly in the summer months.

[14:36] However, in northern latitudes, this becomes pretty hard in the winter months, and by winter, kind of looking at a long view of winter, kind of November to about April, it's pretty tough to get that vitamin D from sunlight alone. Certainly you could get it your diet. There's some good sources, and it's also fortified in different foods, but it's one that we need to have a watch out for, because it does play such a crucial role in winter wellness.

Killeen:  [15:09] Your point's actually bringing up a question for me. With vitamin D, let's say that somebody decides to supplement just out of that common knowledge. "Oh, gee, I live in this very cold area where I'm not getting out in the sun as much as I would like to."

[15:27] Perhaps maybe they were one of those people who didn't have low levels. Is there any harm in that supplementation?

Erin:  [15:33] That's a great question, Killeen. It really depends on the level of supplementation, meaning what potency are you taking? If you look at vitamin D, for example, in our MegaFood collection of multi vitamins, so our doctor‑formulated multis, we'll look at first.

[15:52] The levels of vitamin D are perfectly appropriate for daily intake, and that's very intentional. What I'm talking about is that some people hear about vitamin D, and they hear about its vital importance, and they may be taking much higher potencies than for example, would be found in the MegaFood multi, or even most multis out there.

[16:16] Because it's a fat‑soluble vitamin, what that means is that as opposed to a water‑soluble vitamin, your body does store that vitamin, and so it's good to know. Knowledge is power, always, and honestly, vitamin D testing has become so common. I know that my medical doctor tests vitamin D routinely with all of her patients, and many people tell me that their medical doctor wanted to test vitamin D.

[16:49] In fact, it was just some family in Los Angeles, and even there because it's a myth that vitamin D deficiency doesn't exist in places like Los Angeles, San Diego, or even Phoenix. It can, and it does.

[17:03] If you think about our lifestyles, we spend a lot more time indoors in our society than we used to, and when we go outside, we often put on sunscreen immediately, which I support good, healthy, middle sunscreen and sunblock.

[17:19] I'm not advocating anyone getting sunburned, but it's important to know that when you put that on your skin, you block vitamin D production. Some people may decide to go outside for say 15 minutes and then put on sunblock so that they can actually get that vitamin D production going.

[17:36] That was a long way to answer a question, but in general, in the multi vitamin category, you're not going to be getting too much vitamin D. I'm talking more about when people are doing high dose supplementation, which some people do without having the data to back that up.

Abigail:  [17:52] Great distinction, thank you.

Killeen:  [17:54] What else?

Erin:  [17:54] My favorite herb for winter wellness is elderberry. I really look at elderberry as a winter tonic, and an herb that I've loved for many years, and definitely use in our family with our son and my husband. It's this long history of elderberry is very well‑supported.

[18:16] In fact, Hippocrates referred to elderberry as his medicine chest, so that gives you a sense of how long elderberry's been incorporated, particularly in Europe. It's basically used to support optimal immune health, and especially during the fall and winter seasons, some people will take elderberry regularly, either as a syrup.

[18:39] Or for example, our Kid's Daily Immune, which I like to say, "Not just for kids anymore." Many, many adults I know love our Kid's Daily Immune. It tastes really great, and it has elderberry that I talked about, which is this beautiful dark purple berry. It's a great source of anthocyanins, which are very health‑promoting, and it also has other herbs in this blend that help support immune health, such as astragalus root and echinacea, which are two other go‑tos.

[19:12] I think that taking the steps to have, for winter health, by doing things like looking at vitamin D, considering elderberry, and then the other thing that is so important, that some people are really making the connection, and some people are kind of still wrapping their heads around, is that having probiotic gut health, so the microbiome is absolutely essential to a healthy immune system.

[19:41] One of the major focus for many people in the winter is often mood and immune. Those are the two things that I see that people are really looking to support. Having healthy probiotics, taking a probiotic, I think it's great to take a probiotic daily to support your microbiome, absolutely it supports a healthy immune system, and interestingly enough, as we do more and more research around the microbiome, there are some interesting research emerging, too, about how a healthy microbiome may also support optimal mood.

Abigail:  [20:20] That's a connection that I'm really fascinated in, too, the whole microbiome. I remember reading that it's like this new frontier, and kind of considered this largely unexplored organ of the body, because it's so important to our health.

[20:33] Something else that you said about elderberry, I wanted to mention. You briefly touched on elderberry syrup, but all these supplements can be kind of daunting to individuals, especially if they're newer to supplementation.

[20:45] Elderberry syrup is a really delicious way to get that into your diet on a daily basis, and I think, Killeen, you and I should link to a yummy elderberry syrup recipe in the show notes.

Killeen:  [20:56] Will do.

Erin:  [20:57] I love it. It is a really nice way to take it, as is the Nutrient Booster Powder. I think that people are looking for different ways to take herbs, to take supplements, and the one thing I like about the Nutrient Booster Powder is in general, and Kid's Daily Immune, particularly, is that sometimes a smoothie...

[21:17] That's another thing I was going to add in terms of routine. Of course, we want to look at healthy nutrition, and we are post‑holidays now. We're in the time of New Year's resolutions, so people are focusing on what can they do differently ‑‑ maybe having less sugar, which is always a good goal.

[21:37] Getting some fresh fruits, and perhaps even some fresh greens like kale and spinach, and making a super vibrant smoothie during the winter months, not only is good for your nutrition, but it kind of makes you feel good, because you might have some frozen ‑‑ not too much frozen, especially if it's cold outside ‑‑ but frozen pineapple or frozen mangoes, some of those tropical fruits.

[22:03] You can have a lot of fun with the smoothies, and it can be a way to get in some of those fruits and vegetables that we usually don't get as many fresh fruits and vegetables in during the winter.

Killeen:  [22:14] I was just looking at my Instagram feed where my cousin, who's 20 weeks into her pregnancy, posted this picture of her current craving, which was all of these gorgeous fruits. I think she drizzled a little agave nectar on there and some fresh‑squeezed lemon juice.

[22:33] It looked absolutely delicious to me, and I just kept thinking hats off to her for making that her craving. [laughs] It looked so good, but so healthy, too.

Erin:  [22:42] Yes, that sounds delicious. There is something uplifting about getting all of those different colors and having fun blending it together. You can add a scoop of Kid's Daily Immune or Daily Turmeric, Daily C Protect. Those are all good nutrient booster powders to incorporate in the winter months.

Abigail:  [23:02] The idea of the smoothie or the fresh fruit, too, is something I hadn't considered about how it makes you happy, and there's this uplifting nature to it. This morning, I made fresh fruit spring rolls, like a different take on a fresh spring roll, and I did it with fruits and made an almond sauce. It was so exciting to eat that this morning on a snowy day. It was this psychological component. It's cool.

Erin:  [23:27] I love that. That's great. I was looking at a blog. I like to keep up with what's happening, whether it's something that you've written, Abby, or I've written, or really, I like to look at what other people are doing. I saw that one of our awesome Mega bloggers, Sara, put this beautiful sunshine smoothie bowl recipe up, just that kind of thing.

[23:50] She added in Daily C Protect, but it has oranges and pineapple, and vanilla yogurt, which could totally be coconut milk or almond milk yogurt, and some orange juice. It's really lovely recipe, and I love the way it's a nice thing to do for yourself in the middle of the winter.

Killeen:  [24:08] I'm glad you mentioned her recipe, because our same Mega blogger, her name's Sara Rotavera, she also has a recipe up for a beet citrus salad. There was a little bit more of an entree, and I have to say that for me, the combo of beets and oranges together is absolutely perfect in winter.

[24:28] I feel like we're eating a little bit seasonally here in New England with the root vegetable, the beet, and then we're adding in these bright citrus notes that really just make you feel so uplifted, just like you said, Abby. It's just that that sensation, it sort of transports you back to the summer months, and not to mention, it's this ridiculously healthy salad full of benefits from the beets.

Abigail:  [24:52] I think we're going to be making our listeners hungry. [laughs] I know that's what we're doing to me.

Killeen:  [24:57] Winter immunity equals this really delicious food. I love it.

[25:02] [laughter]

Erin:  [25:03] With a special attention to the ingredients of what that delicious food is. That means different things to different people, but yeah, there's a lot of good eating to be had in the winter.

[25:13] We think about that being a more sedentary time, and maybe that's when people tend to gain more weight, because not only are they not exercising as much, but they're also maybe eating more of these holiday sweets and treats, or just tucking in for the winter and eating more as a result of it being a social activity.

[25:33] Whip up the sunshine smoothie or the beet salad. It's have your cake and eat it, too.

[25:38] [laughter]

Erin:  [25:39] You can have your gluten‑free cake and have a smoothie on the side.

[25:43] [laughter]

Abigail:  [25:45] Your kale cake.

Killeen:  [25:47] Was there anything else, any burning tips that you wanted to share with us today, Erin?

Erin:  [25:51] No, I think those are my top ones. I think it's good to maybe leave it at that and give some real tangible and actionable things that people can do. I think we're all set.

Abigail:  [26:03] Thank you so much, Erin. You provided us with a ton of great info for today, and to get us through these long winter months.

Erin:  [26:09] It's my pleasure. Thank you both for having me.

Killeen:  [26:11] So, Abigail, it's going to be a long winter, I think, but we can do this, right?

Abigail:  [26:16] I think we can, and I reminded our listeners at the beginning that we're providing a giveaway to help brighten the forecast for them. I think we should give one lucky listener a bottle of each of the supplements that we mentioned today.

Killeen:  [26:27] That sounds like a good idea. What do they have to do to enter?

Abigail:  [26:30] Super simple. They just need to post what they liked about today's episode over on the MegaFood Facebook page.

Killeen:  [26:36] That's really important for us to know, because we do want to make this show better with age.

Abigail:  [26:40] My thoughts exactly. Stay well, Killeen.

[26:41] [background music]

Killeen:  [26:42] Stay well, Abigail.

Announcer:  [26:43] This podcast is brought to you by MegaFood. Keeping it real, making vitamin and mineral supplements in New Hampshire since 1973. Committed to making products that use real food from family‑owned farms to make a real difference, they've produced some of the most effective and far out supplements available today.

[26:58] Fresh from farm to tablet, there's no psyche about it. MegaFood is as real as it gets. Do yourself a solid and catch them on the flip side at

[27:06] If you have a moment, leave a review on iTunes and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.

[27:11] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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