With the Coronavirus outbreak being very much in the news and as we enter the last month of Winter, some tips on how nutrition and lifestyle can really support your immune health at this time of year.
Your 7 step plan
1. Look after your gut by increasing your intake of prebiotics (fibre) and probiotics (good bacteria). Enjoy foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, and kefir, live yogurt and sauerkraut on a daily basis.
2. Include nutrients that are essential for your immune system to function well:
Beta-glucans - from oats and shiitake mushrooms
Zinc- include, brown cap mushrooms, spinach, courgette, asparagus, broccoli, spring greens and kale as well as poultry, fish and wholegrain.
Vitamin A - eggs and liver
Vitamin C - peppers, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries, cauliflower and citrus fruit.
Vitamin D - while you can get some from oily fish, egg yolks and vitamin D fortified mushrooms, the most efficient way to increase vitamin D is sun exposure or supplementing (see below).
3. Consider taking vitamin C at a higher dose, short term - as it is a water soluble nutrient it is best to spread the dose across the day to ensure a steady supply. It is always advisable to get in touch if you are considering supplementing a high dose of any nutrient.
4. Use a vitamin D test to guide you in optimising your vitamin D status. We are all prone to sub-optimal vitamin D levels in Winter, especially as we approach Spring and the last thing we need is something as basic as this increasing our infection risk. The Department of Health recommends supplementing daily with 400ius vitamin D3, from age 1 to adult. Its important to not this isn't enough to correct a deficiency.
5. Include essential fats - a good balance of omega 6 fatty acids (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, chia and hemp seeds) to omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish and flaxseed) is needed to reduce inflammation.
6. Make time for good quality sleep and relaxation. Sleep allows your body to 'rest and repair' and is just as important as nutrition when looking to strengthen your immune system. Research has shown we are 3x more likely to develop a cold if we have less than 7 hours sleep per night compared to 8 hours sleep per night.
Black out blinds, an eye mask, ear plugs, calming teas (chamomile and sleep teas) and nutrients such as magnesium may all help to ensure a restful 8 hours.
7. Watch your sugar and alcohol intake - both can have a very draining affect on our immunity. Try healthier alternatives such as 74% or more dark chocolate and nuts and reduce your alcohol intake!
NB if you are under medical supervision, please get in touch before supplementing.