Once again, the seasons turn...
Posted on 11th September 2019 at 08:46
With a real nip in the air for the last few mornings and everyone back at school or work – grown ups as well as children (!) – this week we’re looking ahead to the autumn. Not only to glorious September days – where it’s too nice to be indoors (!) – but also to the less welcome start of the Colds and Flu season.
And, yes, we can hear a collective groan at the mere mention of another winter. Let alone the start of another school – or work (!) – year. But, please, bear with us there’s a very good reason for us mentioning it now.
There are so many simple things you can do now that will pay dividends later. Not only in avoiding the lurgies doing the rounds but also to improve your overall health. As so often is the case, if you get these right then everything else falls into place.
Let’s start with a very obvious one that’s easy to overlook. Putting the right fuel in your tank. In other words, getting your diet right. You’ll be relieved to hear that we’re not going to repeat the usual advice which, all going well, you should know off by heart now (!). Instead, we’re going to give you a few different ideas of ways to easily improve your diet.
Eat local. Not only does this minimise the food miles – so you’ll feel good about it – but you’ll know it’s fresh and in season. And, as an aside, there’s a good reason why root vegetables and more robust greens take centre stage over the winter months. Quite simply their fibrous nature provides more fibre and carbohydrates to keep you going in the colder weather. And, conversely, fruit and vegetables tend to be more watery in warmer months to provide the fluids and water soluble minerals / vitamins lost in sweat.
While we’re on the subject of veg, why not steam them rather than boiling them to death?!? Not only is it a gentler form of cooking but more of the nutrients survive the cooking process. Even better, there are some great electric steamers out there which are simple to use, easy to clean and come with a built in timer to remind you when they’re done.
If you have a juicer, how about doing some vegetable based juices instead? Carrot, celery, beetroot and the like are packed with nutrients and taste great too.
And, finally, can we dispel one very common myth about ready to drink fruit juice? That it’s packed full of Vitamin C to help boost your immune system. While it’s true that fresh fruit does contain high levels of Vitamin C these start to be lost as soon as they’re picked.
Even worse, once it’s been cut or processed then the rate of loss increases greatly. Sadly, by the time it reaches the supermarket shelves there’s very little Vitamin C left in it at all. Added to this, fruit juice is high in fructose, which is acidic and hits the bloodstream quickly, leading to a rapid rise – and then fall – in blood sugar. If you want to enjoy fruit juice, get a juicer and do it at home. Even then, make it more of an occasional treat and include vegetables in it to reduce the fructose levels and the speed with which sugar hits your bloodstream.
During the colder weather it’s all too tempting to fall back on all those “naughty” comfort foods. Cakes. Heavy puddings. Other sugar laden goodies. While it may feel as though they’re helping to keep the cold out, unfortunately, they do the exact opposite. Not only do they waste valuable resources in being hard to digest, their high sugar content makes the body more acidic, which reduces the efficiency of the immune system. Processed foods and red meat have a similar effect.
Experiment with fruit and herb teas to find one – or more (!) – you really do like. They’re such an easy way to drink more fluids, as well as being warming. While you may not get so thirsty during the winter, central heating is very drying and it’s easy to become dehydrated without realising it.
Make sure you spend some time outside every day, whatever the weather. And it’s not just about taking some gentle exercise, breathing in the fresh air and taking a break from all the madness of the modern world.
Natural daylight, regardless of how sunny it is – or not (!) – plays an important part in resetting our body clock and other internal rhythms. Just as important it helps manufacture that an important vitamin. Vitamin D. More about this in a minute.
Taking regular exercise is also important, with the emphasis being on a form of exercise you enjoy (!). Not only does it improve the way in which your body functions, it also stimulates the movement of lymph. If you think of lymph as one of your waste disposal systems, you’ll quickly see how important regular exercise can be!
And don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep. The key is to have a regular bedtime all week, not to rely on sleeping in at the weekend. While you’re asleep your body is hard at working doing all those important housekeeping and detoxing tasks, that can’t be done during the day. Multiple studies have confirmed that a lack of sleep – whether for the odd night or more regularly – suppresses the Immune System and increases the chance of catching a Cold or Flu.
Once you’re got the basics right, here are a few other of the best pre emptive measures you can take:
Vitamin C has been repeatedly shown to support a healthy Immune System; as well as helping to detox the body and reduce the inflammation associated with acute illnesses. The usual advice is to take 1,000mg each morning during the winter and increase it at the first sign of any lurgy. And, for those of you worried about taking too high a dose, it’s very easy to tell when you have. Just think of what happens if you eat too much fruit!
Vitamin D, particularly Vitamin D3, is rapidly joining Vitamin C as one of the most researched vitamins. Not only does it play an important part in the overall immune response, but it also a direct effect on levels of white blood cells found in the blood.
While some Vitamin D does come from the food we eat, it’s also manufactured in the skin, in response to natural daylight. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to get outside into natural daylight every day, whatever the weather. Research has found that reduced exposure to natural light during the winter is closely associated to lower levels of Vitamin D and an increased risk of Colds and Flu. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the amount of Vitamin D3 to take each day, with figures ranging from 400mg to 1000mg.
Two other vitamins worth bearing in mind are Vitamins A and E. Like Vitamin D, Vitamin A helps to increase the levels of white blood cells found in the blood. While Vitamin E is an antioxidant like Vitamin C and plays an important part in helping to prevent getting a Cold or Flu in the first place.
Useful minerals include Zinc and Selenium, which both play an important part in immune function. In particular, Zinc is particularly well known for helping to protect against viruses.
One other supplement you may not have thought about are Probiotics. Not only is the Digestive System an important first line of defence for the Immune System, it’s also vital to ensure that the body receives the best nutrition from the food eaten.
Which takes us on to Herbal tinctures, which are another useful way to support the Immune System. While Echinacea is probably the best known – and most researched – tincture, many others are available. These include Astragalus, Sambuccus (Elderberry) and Hydrastis (Goldenseal).
Tinctures can be taken once a day as a preventative measure and then increased to 2 or 3 times a day, if need be. We hold a wide range of tinctures, so if you want to find out more please do call or e mail us.
Finally, don’t forget the basic hygiene things your Mum – or Granny (!) – used to make you do. Washing your hands before preparing food or eating AND after going to the toilet. You’d be amazed – and horrified – by how many people seem to have forgotten about those (!). Carry a hanky in your pocket AND remember to use it! Then dispose of it properly afterwards. ie, in a bin. If you don’t have one, at least cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze / snuffle OR use your armpit. And then, wash your hands afterwards. Keeping your hands away from your eyes / nose / mouth when you're out and about.
By getting the simple things right not only will you feel better in yourself, but also have you reduced your susceptibility to the bugs doing the rounds. As well as helping those around you.
So what if, despite all your best efforts, the worst does happen? Well, that’s what we’ll be focussing on in a couple of weeks’ time, with all the things you can do at home to help speed any unwelcome lurgy on its way.
As always, the choice is yours.
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