It might seem a bit early to be talking about colds and sniffles, but already I’ve had 5 clients walking into my clinic room this week complaining of coughs and colds. The kids are back at school, it’s starting to get a bit damper and colder – it’s the perfect time for bugs and bacteria to take hold and make you feel groggy. Here’s some practical advice on how to give your body a boost and get your immune system fighting fit for the autumn and winter.
I know sugar has become man’s worst enemy lately, but when it comes to your immune system, it really is one of the things to knock on the head. Sugar can actually weaken and slow down your immune army, which means if bugs are lingering, they are more likely to overpower your immune system and take hold. Have a look at how much sugar you’re really eating – perhaps keep a food diary and you might be shocked at just how much you eat. Also watch out for hidden sugars – in things like yoghurts, cereals, baked goods, dried fruit and processed foods.
Eat a rainbow of colours
The vibrant colours in fruit and vegetables come from the different antioxidants they contain. These plant chemicals are known to support the immune system. Often we eat a very bland diet and stick to the same foods – but get a rainbow of colour on your plate, with at least 3 different coloured vegetables, and try some new ones! The goal is to eat at least 5 different fruit and veg per day.
Did you get much sunshine this year?
One of the most important nutrients for your immune system is Vitamin D. This essential nutrient is made from the sun’s action on your skin, and it’s vital for so many different functions. In fact, we have Vitamin D receptors all over our bodies, including our brain, bones, heart, skin and kidneys. If we sit inside all day and cover ourselves in sun cream when we do get outside, we’re probably not getting enough Vitamin D. You can ask your GP for a Vitamin D test, or nutritional therapists such as myself offer them privately. Whether you test or not, Vitamin D3 should be supplemented throughout the winter, as it’s estimated that over 85% of the UK population are low or deficient in this essential nutrient. I recommend 1000 – 2000iu of Vitamin D3 per day, which should ideally be taking alongside some Vitamin K2 to support calcification within the bones.
What’s your gut telling you?
Our digestive system is also an important part of our immune system, not only to absorb the key nutrients required for immune strength, but also due to the high numbers of bacteria in our guts. These bacteria form a big part of our immune system, helping to prevent any pathogenic bacteria or unwanted organisms from taking hold. Feed your beneficial bacteria in your gut with fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, cottage cheese and sauerkraut, and you could even supplement with probiotics (beneficial bacteria) to give your immune system a boost.
What are the key nutrients?
We all think of Vitamin C and Zinc as the most important nutrients for our immune system. It’s true, they play a vital role, but many people don’t realise the importance of the mineral magnesium. It’s the second most common mineral deficiency, and foods such as green vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, soya beans and dark chocolate are really rich in this essential mineral. So don’t forget your greens – they are also rich in vitamin C too!