With autumnal colours filling the landscape there is no denying that winter, and all it's associated ails, is rapidly approaching. Do you dread the onslaught of endless winter bugs? Stocking up on tissues and mentholated rubs and lozenges? Would it surprise you to learn that it doesn't have to be that way? It's very simple; avoiding the winter bugs is all about having a strong immune system. If you have been watching 'Food Hospital' on Channel 4 you will be very aware of the power of food, and our nutritional status for keeping us healthy. Well, here is my prescription for staying healthy this winter and beyond.Thanks to Louise's advise the boys have been taking supplements and we are currently reviewing the Higher Nature range of Childrens Vitamins and I have to say I am really impressed. Rather comically the boys have taken to calling them their "chemicals" and have not missed any since we got them. They are using the Kids Vitamin D3 Spray 625iu, which is mint flavoured, the Kids Vital Vits, Kids Smart Focus and Kids Fruit & Shake. We also have Kids Relax & Unwind, but neither of the boys like the taste.
In my personal experience this immune boosting plan will keep you free from all manner of bugs. I find that illness only strikes when I have been well for so long that complacency sets in and I drop too many of the balls. But the great thing is that if you do most of the suggestions, most of the time your immune system will be so strong that you won't even notice:)
- Top up your friendly bugs. Those that reside in our intestines have been proven to have a very positive impact on our immune system. Too few and we get ill. It's very easy to give them a boost with a quick course of probiotics which are available in both capsule and powder form. Top Tip: Always take probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off the good bugs as well as the bad ones.
- Boost Your Vitamin C and Zinc. These are the primary immune boosting nutrients. Unfortunately to get the immune boosting benefits you will need to supplement as it is virtually impossible to obtain a sufficient dose through food alone. Take 1-2 mg of vitamin C and 15mg of zinc a day. Top Tip: Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron from your food, so take some of your vitamin C when eating iron rich foods for an added boost.
- Take a high quality multi vitamin/mineral. There are lots of other nutrients involved in keeping your immune system in optimum working order such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, selenium and molybdenum. Top Tip: All supplements were not created equal. Avoid cheap version where costs are kept down with dosages too low and ingredients the body finds difficult to process making them an expensive waste of money. If you only have to take one a day, it's not enough!
- Clean up your diet. All the advice above will be more effective if you eat a nutrient rich diet too. Fresh food in a rainbow of colours provides added benefits that these supplements can never hope to live up to including enzymes, fibre and helping your body to absorb all these extra nutrients you are fuelling yourself with. Refined, processed food often use more trace minerals to digest them than the 'food' itself actually provides. Finally, cut right down on your refined sugar intake. Studies have shown that eating sugar suppresses our immune system for up to 5hrs; plenty of time to catch that cold. Top Tip: Xylitol is a widely available natural sugar substitute that looks and tastes great, doesn't spike blood sugar levels and is even good for your teeth.
- Catch more ZZZZZZZs. There is a close association between immune function and sleep. Sufficient sleep, believed to be at least 7 uninterrupted hours a night, enables the immune system to recharge. Interestingly the onset of an illness of any kind also increases our need for sleep as our immune systems go into battle. Having a young family of my own I know this is not always easy to achieve, but I find knowing how important it is helps me focus on getting more sleep, even if not enough. Top Tip: Start 'winding down' an hour before you want to sleep...log off and switch off and choose reading or listening to a relaxation track before drifting off.
- Take some Exercise. The important word here is 'some'. Those of us that have 30-45 mins a day of moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking or gentle jogging are 20% less likely to catch colds and coughs. It is equally important not to overdo it however, as strenuous exercise actually depresses the immune system making you more susceptible rather than less. Top tip: Try to exercise outside whenever possible for the added bonus of a mood boost too.
- De-stress. The hormones released when we get stressed are further immune supressors. Reducing stress is not easy to achieve as we are often reacting to situations outside of our control but it is important to take action to reduce the negative impact where we can. The suggestions above will all help; more sleep, more outdoor exercise, and a better nutritional status will all help our bodies to 'stand down', fight or flight not required! Top Tip: If you find it hard to wind down try a warm bath, take slow, deep breaths from a couple of drops of a relaxing essential oil (lavender, chamomile, frankincense)on a tissue or listen to a guided meditation/relaxation track, often available as a free download.
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