Keeping well over Winter

This year has to have been one of the worst I can recall for people going down with various ‘bugs’.  Tummy bugs and nasty colds seem to be spreading like wildfire through workplaces, schools and families.

What can we do to keep well?

Understanding that around 70% of our immune system is in our digestive tract gives you an idea of how important it is to have a healthy gut.  If you have had antibiotics, a tummy bug, surgery, or been unwell, or you have been under long term stress, then taking a good probiotic is worth doing.  A low level of probiotics in the body may mean a low immune system.  For more information on probiotics and good bugs/bad bugs, check out the article on my website here.

You might not realise how much stress can lower your immune system, but it certainly can.  Ongoing chronic stress diverts energy from our adrenal glands at the expense of our immune system.  Who doesn’t know someone who has been under stress, then goes on holiday and relaxes, only for the bugs to get them?

Likewise, a poor diet, low in protein and vitamins and minerals can also lower your immunity.  We all know that vitamins and minerals are important for good health, but did you know that amino acids, which is what protein is made of, are also vital for the strength of your immune system?

Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc are very important for a healthy immune system and they also help when bugs do strike.

Where do we get these vitamins and minerals?

Vitamin A
The orange vegetables like pumpkin, kumara, carrots, plus red capsicums, apricots and dark green vegetables like kale and spinach.

Vitamin C
Most fruit and vegetables, but especially kiwifruit, citrus fruit, tomatoes and dark green vegetables.  Remember that a great way to start your day is to have a glass of hot water with the juice of a lemon in it.  (if anyone has spare lemons, I’m always a grateful recipient!)

Vitamin D
The main source of Vitamin D is the sun, but it is found in some fish and fish oils, eggs, mushrooms and fortified dairy products. 

Oysters, beef, lamb, pork, toasted wheatgerm, spinach, seeds and nuts and mushrooms.

While a healthy, balanced diet always comes first, I do believe that supplementation may be a good option for a lot of people.  Most soils in New Zealand are low in minerals and we can’t always guarantee the level of nutrients in our fruit and vegetables. 

If you are taking a multivitamin, or taking minerals separately, remember not to drink tea or coffee within an hour either side of taking the supplements, or the absorption of the minerals may be compromised.

If you are looking for advice on the right kind and right level of supplements to take, then I can highly recommend the naturopaths at Ideal Health in Glenfield.  You can call them, or email them from their website and ask their advice, which is free.

Sleep, rest and recovery
Sufficient sleep is also vital for a strong immune system.  While we sleep our bodies repair and rejuvenate.  Sleep allows for tissue repair, protein synthesis, liver processing and growth hormone release.  It may be a good idea to go to bed a little earlier in winter to ensure you are getting enough sleep.

Regular, moderate exercise enhances the immune system.  Sitting on the couch does not!

Wash your hands
I know this seems obvious, but think of how many times a day your hands touch your nose or mouth, both of which are pathways into the body through the mucous membranes.  The recommendation is to spend 20 seconds actually washing your hands and then 20 seconds drying your hands.

Posted on July 1, 2014 .