By Naturopath Jade Signorino
It’s official…cold and flu season has officially arrived and is spreading its mucusy misery all over Melbourne!
Instead of suffering the wrath of winter this year, support the vitality of your body and boost your immune defences with my top Winter Wellness Tips.
ENSURE YOUR GUT IS HAPPY
A happy gut = a healthy immune system as at least 80% of your immune system lives in your gut. The good bacteria of the intestinal microbiome “train” the immune system and help it to fight invaders , such as viruses and bacteria.
An optimally functioning digestive system also ensures that you digest and absorb vital nutrients from the food you eat such as iron, B vitamins, zinc all of which support a healthy immune system.
Nourish and feed your gut flora and fortify the immune system in your gut by including prebiotic sources such as Jerusalem artichokes, whole oats, garlic, flaxseeds, legumes and green leafy vegetables, and probiotic fermented organic yoghurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, kimchi and sauerkraut. A slow introduction of prebiotic fibres might be best for some people to avoid digestive discomfort.
A good quality immune enhancing probiotic might be beneficial also.
Warming, easily digestible bone broths are perfect during the colder months as they provide an abundance of nutrients to help support the health of your gut lining and immune system.
It’s also important to try and avoid foods that can damage your gut and disrupt the balance of healthy intestinal flora, allowing opportunistic bad bacteria to move in. The worst culprits include sugar, processed foods, excess alcohol, caffeine and grains. Sugar depletes your immune defences, displacing vitamin C out of white blood cells.
EAT WELL, FEEL WELL
Aim for a wholefood diet, plentiful in a variety of seasonal, preferably organic plants, good quality proteins such as legumes, organic, pasture-raised, grass fed beef, and organic eggs, and healthy fats such as those found in nuts and seeds, avocados and oily cold water fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon.
These foods will arm you with antioxidant, immune stimulating nutrients such as Vitamin C, A, E, zinc, selenium, calcium, omega 3 essential fats and iron – vital for a robust immune system and maintain your energy and vitality.
Again, get stuck into fermented vegies as researchers at Cornell University found that that amount of available vitamin C in red cabbage skyrocketed when fermented into sauerkraut.
Keep the viruses (and vampires) away with garlic, onions and shallots as they contain, antimicrobial compounds. Fresh garlic has the strongest activity, however, keep in mind that most if its action is lost after 5 minutes of heating. Add the garlic in as late as possible when including it in your cooking, or alternatively, eat it raw, although be weary, it doesn’t agree with everyone.
GET AS MUCH VITAMIN D AS POSSIBLE
One of the greatest challenges of winter is the decline in sunlight exposure and subsequent low levels of vitamin D.
Whilst we are certainly more inclined to hibernate indoors, it’s vital to get outside as much as possible as Vitamin D enhances the immune systems response to both viruses and bacteria and, can increase your immune function by up to 5 x.
Small amounts of vitamin D are found in fatty fish such as herring, salmon, sardines, beef and liver, butter and eggs. If you’re really keen, the best dietary source of Vitamin D (and A) is actually cod liver oil. Of course, a good quality supplement is always a good idea if your levels are really low. Always speak to your practitioner about what dose is right for you.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS
Conditions such as stress, anxiety and insomnia change the balance of your gut flora and, that chronic exposure to stress hormones such as cortisol may predispose you to lowered immunity and repeated infections.
There is no better time to nurture your mind and body with mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation. If you do catch ‘something’, give yourself permission to slow down, rest and recover properly. A healthier mind and body recuperates quicker.
TAP INTO THE POWER OF HERBAL MEDICINE
Finally, indulge the herb nerd in me and consider the many beautiful and effective herbal medicines that help to modulate your immune system and strengthen your immune defences, whilst also supporting your vital energy or Qi. My favourites include Astragalus, Andrographis and Echinacea.