Are you getting the nutrition you need to fight colds and illness? Take these tests to find out.
Your immune system serves as the body’s guard force: it fights off dangerous invaders like bacteria, viruses and parasites. If you find that you’re frequently sick, you may not be getting the vitamins and nutrients you need. These quick, easy self-tests that can help you find out what you’re missing.
The Sternum Thumb Test for Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps to keep the "guards" of your immune system alert, and is also important for bone and muscle health.
What to do: Take your thumb and press it against your breastbone, which is your sternum. (You can also press on your shinbone as an alternative.) If it feels tender or if it hurts when you press down, you may have a vitamin D deficiency. Though there are some dietary sources of vitamin D (salmon and other fatty fish, fortified milk and cereals), it has been estimated that 90 percent or more of our required vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. Read this daily dose on Vitamin D to learn more about how you can replenish your stores.
The Balance Test for Vitamin B12
Low levels of vitamin B12 can not only compromise your immunity but also cause your energy levels to dip. A B12 deficiency can also alter your ability to think clearly.
What to do: Stand up. Put your feet together with your hands on your sides. Then, close your eyes and stick out one of your legs in front of you, and try to hold it for three seconds. (You may want to do this near a wall or a loved one for support.) If you start to lose your balance, it could mean you're low on vitamin B12 (although it could also mean that you just have bad balance). You can find ample sources of vitamin B12 in clams, liver, fish, yogurt and cheese. Vegetarians may want to consider taking a daily vitamin B supplement or multivitamin.
Vitamin B6 also strengthens your immune system. Not having enough B6 can cause confusion, depression, irritability and sores on the mouth or tongue. Low levels of vitamin B6 have been linked to chronic inflammation in the body.
What to do: At home, check your mouth in a mirror. Start with the outside of your mouth and look around its edges for signs of cracking. Then, open your mouth wide and look for any sores (don't forget to peek under your tongue—you may need to the help of a flashlight). If you notice any sores, it could mean that you aren't getting enough vitamin B6. There are ample sources of vitamin B6: chicken, fish, kidney, liver, as well as whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
The Skin Test for Vitamin A
This important vitamin helps your body form and maintain healthy skin, teeth and bones. It also helps your immune system stop and kill germs as soon as they come in contact with your body.
What to do: This test will require you to do a full-body examination. Check for dry, rough and cracked skin, brittle hair, and peeling or splitting nails. These may indicate a deficiency in vitamin A. You can find ample sources of vitamin A in these vegetables: broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.