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Top Tips to Maintain Immune Health this Winter


As a registered nurse working on the ward, winter months were quite difficult. If one person was unwell it would quickly spread through the workforce until most people had contracted it. Before COVID we were encouraged to come to work regardless of illness, as I'm sure it was similar in most other professions.

Frequently it was the same group of people who got sick each time and the same group of people would resist the illness or virus. So how can we improve our immune system and resilience in order to be better able to resist or weather these episodes of illness.

If you're one of those people who gets sick multiple times every winter, you may need to optimise your immune health. In our society it is common to be low in vital nutrients needed for immune system functioning. Therefore, it is vital to be aware of these and other practices that can prevent illness.


What is our immune system?


Our immune system involves several different organs and white blood cells all working together to create a defence system and neutralise substances which can harm the body. 70% of the immune system is actually located in the gastrointestinal tract and is composed of good bacteria and other microbes. The other major parts of the immune system include the white blood cells, the compliment system (proteins from the liver that protect against invaders), antibodies (proteins produced by plasma cells that protect against invaders), bone marrow, lymphatic system. spleen, and the thymus. When your immune system senses a threat, it triggers this system of defences to protect your body.


So what are the causes of poor immune health?

  • Unhealthy lifestyle (unhealthy diet, poor sleep, smoking, or drug use can all affect immune health)

  • Stress (stressors lower immune functioning via cortisol release and increased inflammation)

  • Trauma (via increased stress in the body)

  • Decreased intake of nutrients vital for immune functioning (such as vitamin D, C, zinc, etc)

  • Poor gut health (good gut bacteria is vital for good immune system functioning)

  • Lack of exercise (via increased inflammation in the body)

  • Social isolation (has been proven again and again that the more isolated we are the more likely we are to become ill)


How to maintain immune health?

  • Get adequate levels of sleep (7-8 hours)

  • Eat a wholefoods diet (the Mediterranean diet is best)

  • Add herbs and spices to cooking (ginger, turmeric, rosemary, thyme - are great for immune health and anti-inflammatory)

  • Avoid drug use (quit smoking and enjoy moderate alcohol use - one drink per day for women, two for men)

  • Reduce stress (practice mindfulness, spend time in nature or self care)

  • Exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week (gentle walking, qi gong, yoga, etc)

  • Take a probiotic designed for immune health or consume kefir, yogurt, kombucha or kimchi.

  • See a naturopath or herbalist and try herbal medicines such as adaptogens which help you to deal with stressors while balancing immune health (astragalus, echinacea, withania, siberian ginseng).

  • Socialise (visit friends, hugging increases hormones that boost immune health and calm the nervous system, if unable due to illness or lockdown do a video call such as zoom, skype or facetime).

  • Get adequate levels of nutrients for immune health:

  1. Vitamin D (10-15 minutes of sunlight a day or sardines, egg yolk, dairy, sprouted seeds)

  2. Vitamin C (citrus fruits, lime, lemon, berries, tomatoes, use fresh - oxidises with heat and time)

  3. Zinc (pumpkin seeds, brewers yeast, egg yolks, red meat, oysters)

  4. Vitamin E (olive oil, almonds, egg yolk, beef, corn)

  5. B Vitamins (wholegrains, liver)

  6. Iron (red meat, legumes, avocado, oysters, pumpkin seeds, liver)

  7. Protein (legumes, meat, hemp, rice, grains)

  8. Folate (broccoli, leafy greens, lentils, liver, beans)

  9. Vitamin A (red meat, fish oils, liver, egg yolk. Beta-carotene - spinach, green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables - carrots, pumpkin - must have adequate enzymes to convert from beta-carotene)

  10. Selenium (brazil nuts, fish, wholegrains, organ meats, eggs)

  11. Magnesium (green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, eggs, mineral water, legumes, dark chocolate)

  12. Copper (avocado, beans, chocolate, mushrooms, oysters, wholegrains, buckwheat)

I hope this helps you to maintain your immune health and avoid frequent infections this winter.


If you would like any further help with immune health, I am available for naturopathic or homeopathic appointments via the website.


Love and light,


Branwen


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