Winter is upon us. It’s time to make sure you are well prepared and feeling hearty. There are many theories about why we get more colds and flus in the winter but what we do know is that 1000’s of germs are harboured on our hands which can be spread easily. Hand hygiene should be taken seriously and not sneezed at!!
Wash hands using hot water and soap for 20 seconds. The length of time is more important than the temperature of the water and I know it’s a bit dull but do it! Don’t share towels either.
Immunity and the Gut
It turns out that 70% of our immune cells actually reside in the gut and not only that but we also have an enteric system, which is a mesh of nerve cells which govern the gut so a lot going on there apart from food breakdown.
As we age absorption of nutrients becomes lower, so you need to take particular care to keep up levels of protein and fats unrefined carbs and vitamins and minerals. In general, we tend to over consume carbs and be stingy with the rest.
Getting your Gut in great shape
Give yourself a varied diet and eat as much organic as possible. Make sure to include a rainbow colour of vegetables and fruits and include some berries every day. They are particularly high in antioxidants which help to protect the body and strengthen immunity. It has been found that people who eat the most vegetables and fruit are the healthiest.
Eat some meat, poultry, fish, dairy or vegan proteins such as beans, pulses and tofu every day. Eat whole grains, root veg, seeds and nuts.
Do you need to fix your Gut?
Are you digesting and absorbing your food properly or are you getting bloating, pain or tiredness after a meal? Are you eating at sensible times, or are you overeating and choosing random foods? A healthy gut is your ticket to good immunity.
Eat lots of prebiotic and probiotic foods – a must have. Prebiotic and probiotic foods maintain and increase beneficial flora in the gut. They say probiotics are like the soil and prebiotics are the fertilizers. Good levels of gut flora go hand in hand with good health.
Some prebiotic and probiotic foods:
- Kefir and organic live yogurt
- Miso, fermented soya paste, a great condiment for seasoning
- Tofu, and tempeh are fermented soya
- Soluble and insoluble fibre: jerusalem artichokes, leeks, asparagus, oats, barley, quinoa brown rice and many more.
Check your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is critical for immune health. However, unlike most essential ingredients you can’t rely on it from food. It needs your skin to be in contact with the sun’s UV rays to make vitamin D. In fact, Public Health England now recommends that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement October to March.
Beta Glucans in foods
Beta Glucans boost immunity and are sugars that are found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeast, algae. Foods which have high levels are:
- Seaweed and algae
- Shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms have a long history of use and can be bought fresh or dried and can be used in cooking. Alternatively, they can be purchased as powders in health shops.
Zinc in foods
This is an essential mineral and critical for immunity, supporting growth and development and much more. It is often found to be low because it can only be found in food. Vegetarians often have lowered zinc levels as it is harder to breakdown zinc from vegetarian foods. High levels of zinc are found in:
- Beef, lamb, turkey poultry and liver
- Chickpeas, lentils and beans
- Whole grain such as brown rice
- Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds.
Stress. Doing something about it.
The immune system can suffer badly from the effects of stress. Stress decreases white blood cells which help to protect you from colds and flu viruses. Stress raises cortisol levels which if ongoing can lead to inflammation which weakens the body resulting in lowered immunity.
The name of the game is REST and RELAX every day, go to bed before midnight, take a regular walk in nature or walk to shops for food, do a yoga or pilates class, 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation, or anything else which will rest and relax your mind.
If your gut is struggling or you get run down in the winter I would love to help and am available on 07815 111502