Immunity is the way we defend ourselves against other bacteria and viruses. The most important thing you can do to support your immunity this winter is to support your gut microbiome. Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that perform many vital health functions such as making vitamins, hormones, digesting fibre, fighting off pathogens and eliminating toxins. A healthy and diverse range of gut bacteria is essential for optimum health and function.
Certain factors affecting the immune system are stress, lack of sleep, low nutritional status and low levels of healthy gut bacteria. Individuals more prone to upper respiratory tract infections including tonsillitis, bronchitis, and common colds as well as asthma, eczema and allergies, have a compromised immune system.
These are the five strategies I use to keep my and my family’s immune systems in tip-top condition during the chillier months. Here they are in no particular order:
EAT THE RAINBOW
So, easy… all you have to do is to consume at least one food from each of the colours of the rainbow e.g. purple/ blue, red, orange/ yellow, green and white, on a DAILY basis. This will ensure you are topping up your vitamin A, C, B, zinc and selenium stores. Eating the rainbow helps in two ways. Firstly, it ensures you are getting a diverse range of nutrients from all the different colours which provide our bodies with antioxidants. Antioxidants help our bodies mop up free radicals in our circulation which are a result of normal metabolism as well as the extra toxins we are exposed to in our homes (non-natural/ non-organic cleaning products, soaps, creams, etc), in our environment (vehicle fumes, non-organic foods, non-wild fish, etc). If we do not consume enough brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, we are at risk of toxin/ free radical overload and this increases our risk of inflammation in the brain and killing off of brain cells.
Secondly, eating the rainbow ensures we are providing our gut bacteria with a diverse range of foods to help our gut bacteria stay alive and thrive. Our gut bacteria is important as it is involved in producing serotonin, melatonin and dopamine – neurotransmitters which are important for mental function and mood too! Healthy bacteria will also result in healthy gut lining integrity, therefore preventing pathogens and toxins entering our system.
GET YOUR BROTH ON
Vegetable and bone broths are an excellent source of L-Glutamine which supports the gut lining, improving the health of the gut wall, keeping toxins and pathogens out and reduces inflammation. These will also help reduce the likelihood of food intolerances.
FILL UP ON GOOD BACTERIA
Increase your daily pre and probiotic-rich foods – onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, sauerkraut and kefir are personal favourites of mine.
Regular water intake keeps the body healthy for numerous reasons. In order to support immunity, regular water intake can flush down lingering pathogens, which will be killed by the stomach acid, keeping us resilient.
Ensure you are moving daily! Get outside, breathe in the fresh air and if you are lucky enough to soak up some sunshine while you are at it, you will also improve those Vitamin D levels which will further strengthen your immune system.