Autumn is one of my favourite times of year! The countryside becomes a beautiful array of amber, the fallen leaves in the park are a source of endless delight and it’s a time of year you’ll find me hopping in my car to go for a drive along tree studded roads just to admire their beauty! Unfortunately for us, it’s also the time of year when winter lurgies begin to come out of hibernation!
Good news is there are many effective and easy ways to support your immune system naturally through the colder months and looking at your diet and lifestyle are two of the best places to start.
Did you know that up to 80% of your immune system resides within your gastrointestinal tract? Achieving optimal balance of good bacteria and therefore nurturing the micro flora within your digestive tract is one of the best things you can do to support your immunity and overall health.
The best ways to replenish good bacteria
Fermented foods are the best source of probiotic rich foods. My personal favourite is Kefir – which is a cultured milk product of Bulgarian origin. I add kefir to my smoothies, but it can also be taken by itself or poured over cereal/porridge. Kefir can now be found in the refrigerated Polish food section of most large grocery stores, Eastern European food stores, natural health food stores like Wholefoods and you can also order it online through Ocado! Kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut are other examples of good foods sources of probiotics.
You can also take probiotics in either capsule or powder supplement form. I personally recommend taking probiotics last thing at night with a little bit of water – my reasoning here is that your stomach acid is lowest at night and taken with water away from food doesn’t stimulate digestive process, allowing for easy transition to the intestines – which is where it needs to get to.
The best ways to look after good bacteria
The good news is our gut bacteria react to our diet in a very similar way to what we do – feed them a diet of fresh, whole and healthy foods and good bacteria will thrive. Feed them a diet of junk, processed foods & foods high in sugar and the not so good bacteria like Candida will thrive.
Growing up in the Southern Hemisphere I have a particular fondness for our sunshine vitamin and to my delight further research into vitamin D means the list of its beneficial properties is continually growing. Vitamin D plays a vital role in supporting our immune system. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that people with low vitamin D status may be more susceptible to catching the flu and general colds & winter sniffles. Sunshine is by far our best source of vitamin D and as I’m sure we’re all very well aware it becomes a bit of a scare commodity at this time of year! I believe that everyone living in the UK should supplement with Vitamin D between October and March to help maintain healthy levels over the darker months. Vitamin D Supplements are available in several forms: capsules, sublingual sprays or liquid drops which are usually in an oil base as its a fat soluble vitamin.
Keeping along a similar theme, I’ve always thought of turmeric as little dose of sunshine on a plate – for slightly different reasons to vitamin D – but you can be sure it will add a dash of colour to any meal it joins. It is quite possibly the most beneficial culinary spice that you could add to your diet.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and has very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin offers fantastic support to the immune system and studies have shown that it helps to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Curcumin only constitutes 3% of turmeric but taking it together with black pepper greatly enhances your body’s ability to absorb it. Turmeric is also available in supplement form if you would prefer to take it that way, if this is something you choose, finding a supplement containing bioperine/ black cumin seed to enhance the absorption of curcumin would be the most effective way to take it.
Cinnamon, Cloves, Mixed Spice and Chilli are other culinary spices to think of when it comes to additional immune support.
Garlic is often referred to as nature’s antibiotic and has been known through the ages for its immune boosting properties. A tip when preparing your garlic, leave your garlic for just a few minutes after crushing or chopping before adding it to your meal – it is during this time that allinase acts to produce allicin which is one of the most potent components of garlic’s immune boosting properties.
A Rainbow Diet
Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is a good way to help ensure that you are getting a wide range of nutrients, in particular vitamins A, E and C.
The colder weather may entice your body to start straying towards foods which promise to heat it up quickly… and you may find carbohydrate rich foods like cakes and treats somehow landing in front of you on a cold winters day!!! J Eating lots of root veg, stews and soups and making sure that you eat frequently so as to avoid any substantial dips in blood sugar will all be helpful with keeping you on the straight and narrow.
Keep on moving!
It is oh so tempting to go into hibernation mode when it starts getting a little chillier outdoors but it’s really important to find ways to keep on moving. Low intensity exercise stimulates the immune system and helps improve mood, strength, digestion and so the list continues.
Joining a local walking group or looking up local walks in your area could be good incentives to go out walking. Indoor activities like pilates and yoga are amazing for core strength and flexibility and can be a lovely opportunity to meet like minded people.
Remember to enjoy the colours of change, the starkness of winter landscapes, the festivities that come with Christmas and the New Year and most of all remember to look after you!
If you would like to source or try any of the above recommendations and need some advice on where to get them from please don’t hesitate to get in touch.