Winter Wellness

Winter Wellness

Today’s busy lifestyles mean we are all too often exposed to stress, poor diet and many different toxins. While many of these toxins are unavoidable, it’s important to understand the real impact these factors can have on our health and how you can minimise the effects.

You can’t expect your body to fight off infection if it is not strong enough in the first place, so preparation is the key, starting in September or October. It takes a long time to build up a depleted immune system and this should be done over a period of months. Generally, this process should begin in the spring with a good detox. During the summer months one should build up the immune system with good quality foods- organic is best.

It is important to keep our immune system strong throughout the year, because as well as protecting us against pathogens, it also has a role to play in keeping our system clear of old or mutated cells. There are however, nutrients that could be increased during the winter months to give greater protection. This may not prevent a cold from happening in the first place, but may help the body fight and clear it more quickly.

The Culprits

There are many reasons why immunity can be compromised, and diet is key. Colds and flu are very common during the winter months as people do not get sufficient quantities of vitamins, minerals and good quality protein intake. People tend to stay inside more, high central heating will dry the nasal mucus membranes, thus allowing more germs to be breathed in, and people tend to cut back on a fresh, healthy diet in winter consuming more ‘comfort’ foods high in sugar. Added to that, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol and lack of fruit and vegetables will weaken immunity. In fact, a winter diet generally contains less immune-boosting Vitamins, and is higher in comfort foods- think potatoes, pasta, rice, biscuits and chocolate. Excessive sugar will upset your immune balance- in fact some studies have shown a spoonful of sugar damages your immune system for several hours after consumption. If you are having a few cups of tea or coffee with sugar everyday your immune system will be really sub standard.

Our immune system is connected with every other system in the body, so a burden on one has a knock on effect on others. In the winter months, we often spend less time outside so are exposed to other peoples germs through physical contact, coughs and sneezes and air conditioning.

Stress is also a major contributor. When under stress, we produce a number of hormones that include adrenaline and a hormone called Cortisol. As the stress response is our emergency ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mechanism. It is important that any injury does not prevent us from protecting ourselves or escaping. The process of inflammation, which is part of the immune response, is suppressed by the action of corticosteroids, which are produced when stress is high. The stress response therefore lowers immune response. Caffeine found in drinks and foods may have the same effect, as caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline and cortisol.

The presence of good bacteria in the digestive tract has been shown to prime but also regulate immune response. They act to protect there digestive tract invasion of other pathogenic microbes. About 70 per cent of immune activity is directed towards the digestive tract, so if this is healthy, than more immune activity can be made available for protection against colds and flu.

Good sleep is critical as studies have shown those who have less than seven hours a night sleep are more prone to infection. In addition, smoking will cut Vitamin C levels in the body and central heating is a factor as it encourages bacterial or viral replication.

Immune Boosters

Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation is often important for immune health, particularly because the soils on which our foods are grown may be deficient. A good diet with a wide colour of vegetables, plenty of water and exercise help to insure a healthy immune system.

Echinacea is the hero of immune boosters. Echinacea has been used traditionally to help improve the way the immune system deals with winter infections along with a good Vitamin C supplement.

Zinc is also a very important for all aspects of immunity. It has a role to play in cell replication on which the immune system relies for the rapid production of its immune cells when challenged by a virus or bacteria. The main source of zinc in our diets is from dietary protein.

Aloe Vera contains an arsenal of vitamins and minerals also and is excellent for the digestive system. Black Elderberry is rich in Vitamin C and A and contains flavonoids that have antimicrobial properties. It is particularly useful when fighting off symptoms of colds and flu.

Olive Leaf extract, which contains phytonutrients that have immune supporting and antimicrobial properties.