As we approach the autumn and winter months, temperatures drop, we have less daylight hours and we can end up spending more time indoors.
Fundamentally we know that there are things that can help keep our immune system strong: A healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, plenty of Vitamin C, relaxation, hydration, exercise, a warm dry environment, lowered stress levels and a good mental attitude. But there are a few others that we can add to the list:
The Sunshine vitamin
The ‘Sunshine Vitamin’, Vitamin D, can be more difficult to find in winter with less sunlight hours available. Natural sunlight supports our immune system by stimulating the production of Vitamin D. Generally, 5-15 minutes per day of sun exposure on bare skin will be enough, but many people lose out on the benefits because of limited sun exposure.
Good levels of Vitamin D support the body’s natural immune defences:
- Vitamin D absorption needs fats in your diet for optimum absorption
- Help your Vitamin D levels by including nuts, avocados, walnuts, flaxseeds, egg yolk, trout, tuna, herring, and salmon into a meal, and consider taking Vitamin D supplement if your diet is lacking these foods
- If you think you are low in Vitamin D due to diet or you don’t get enough sunlight you could always ask your doctor for a blood test to check your levels
Our Internal Guardsmen
The body system that controls about 70 per cent of our immune system often goes overlooked – it is our intestinal tract. The gut contains hundreds of different types of bacteria; some of them do helpful things like break down carbohydrates in the intestine and produce infection-fighting antibodies and vitamins, while other destructive bacteria secrete toxins and promote disease.
In healthy guts, the good bacteria outnumber the bad. When this is in balance, we are not even aware of the role that they do. However, when the bad outnumbers the good, we can have some health issues. There are two important things we need to help keep our intestinal tract robust: Prebiotics and Probiotics.
Prebiotics are like a fertilizer for good bacteria to thrive upon. They are indigestible fibres that help to create a good environment in the gut and cleanse the body by helping keep our bowel motions regular. Found naturally in several foods: asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, beans, chickpeas, lentils, and supplementary fibres such as psyllium, pectin, guar gum and slippery elm.
Probiotics: These bacteria are not just restricted to the intestinal tract but also populate the vagina, bladder, bowel, mouth, and lungs. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common probiotic bacteria, and there are several strains in each of these families.
Our western modern diet has unfortunately managed to process out any naturally occurring beneficial bacteria in many foods while at the same time feeding harmful bacteria with a feast of processed starches and sugars. In contrast, most traditional cultures have some form of fermented food that keep our bacteria balanced. We need regular intake of these fermented foods to ensure balance. These include yoghurts, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha and tempeh.
- A recent course of antibiotics (or other medication), overseas travel, signs of digestive imbalance, and a change of season are all good reasons to add fermented foods to your diet or take a multi-strain probiotic supplement if your diet needs some support.
The On/Off Switch
Proper sleep is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is like an on/off switch that helps us to reboot, rebuild and rebalance daily. When we fail to get enough good sleep, our body is not able to function well which potentially lowers our immune defences.
If you are not sleeping well or getting inadequate sleep, you must ask why. Is your sleeping environment suitable? Are you drinking too much caffeine? Are you stressed?
- Make sure the room where you sleep is completely dark
- Turn all devices to flight mode; you could even turn your Wi-Fi box off at night to reduce EMF (electromagnetic frequencies)
- Have a bath before bedtime
- Listen to relaxing music or meditation to help you sleep
Power of Vitamin C
Let’s not forget Vitamin C, an important antioxidant for your immune health.
Antioxidant rich foods are essential. Fruits & vegetables, whole grains, and nuts