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It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

Mahatma Gandhi.

Winter Wellness

Winter is really upon us now, with cold nights and chilly mornings. While this makes me think of cosy nights at home with pots of soup or stew and board games, with it comes an array of viruses that can bring us down. The minute that someone at work gets a cough or sniffle the whole office seems to be affected. Not to mention how runny noses and coughs seem to spread like wildfire at school or daycare. It doesn’t have to be this way. The best defence is to make sure our own defences are strong. Arm yourself and your family with the tools to build strong immune defences to reduce your risk of getting sick. If you do get sick a strong immune system will also reduce the severity of your cold and fly symptoms, and help to speed your recovery.

What makes a healthy immune system?

How we nourish and care for our bodies and minds is crucial. Good food, a variety of plant-based foods, superfoods, essential fats and protein are all important. Clean water, exercise and a low intake of processed foods all contribute to strong immunity, which all helps towards a healthy gut microbiome. This microbiome describes the trillions of bacteria, yeasts and other microorganisms that colonise your digestive tract, literally more cells than that of the human body. These mini soldiers support health and wellness by regulating your digestive processes, bowel function and immune health. Restoring balance in the microbiome can help you get on top of your health again.

You can help this by minimising your sugar intake. Eat less canned food, breakfast cereals, baked goods, desserts, sweetened dairy products, condiments, fruit juices, lollies, chocolate and fast foods – these often contain sugar which encourages the growth of harmful pathogens in the gut. Be mindful of pharmaceutical overuse. Whilst over-the-counter medicines may be required in some circumstances, unnecessary overuse of these agents may compromise the microbial balance within the gut.

Keep on top of your stress. Through a complex network of nerves and tissue, it’s a two way street as the gut and brain communicate with each other ; also influencing your digestive and immune function. When we go through periods of stress our body tends to get rundown, especially affecting our energy regulating glands, the adrenals. Bring rundown leaves us more vulnerable to circulating viruses. Stress busting techniques include gentle exercise such as Yoga and Pilates, regular meditation and ensuring you achieve 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night.

Sunshine! With the days being shorter and the days colder we are less likely to be outdoors. Not only does the sun help regulate our circadian rhythm, our waking sleep cycle, it also triggers Vitamin D synthesis. Our levels tend to be lower in the winter further weakening our defences.

Natural Medicines to Prevent and Treat Symptoms

There are many Natural Medicines that are beneficial in preventing, treating and shortening the duration of colds and flus. These tools can boost your immune system as well as provide the necessary support to help you fight against infection. Look out for these immune boosters:

  • Zinc: Optimal levels of zinc in the body have been found to inhibit the common cold and influenza viruses.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C supports healthy immune function by enhancing the activity of your immune defence army of white bloody cells; also reducing the severity and duration of symptoms. Also important for nourishing the adrenal glands.
  • Probiotics: These friendly bacteria live in your digestive system and enhance health, and even immunity. Certain strains have been scientifically proven to enhance immune responses by providing healthy gut immunity, you are providing the best defence against inhaled and ingested pathogens.
  • Andrographis: This powerful herb stimulates the body’s natural immune response and significantly reduces the duration of colds. You or your loved ones can take this herb as a preventative to keep your immunity strong; it can also be used acutely as soon as you get cold symptoms.
  • Vitamin D: Has an important role in regulating immune responses.

There are many more effective nutrients and herbal medicines that play an important part in immune function. This is where a Naturopath can direct you in the best way for your specific health needs.

Lifestyle and Dietary Recommendations

Incorporate these handy tips into your life to improve your resistance and support recovery from colds and flus:

  • Rest! Give your body a chance to gather strength and make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat warm, nourishing foods. Homemade chicken and vegetable soup can help break down mucus that often comes with colds and flus. If you don’t have an appetite, the broth alone will provide minerals and vitamins to give you strength.
  • Eat foods such as garlic, ginger, onion and chilli to help fight off illness, warm you up and reduce inflammation.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself well hydrated.

Be Prepared

Recently the flu virus has gained a lot of recent media attention, creating more fear around sickness. The key is to make sure you are prepared this cold and flu season – and remember, prevention is better than cure! Have all the essential immune nutrients on hand this winter. You may want to include zinc, Vitamin C, strain specific probiotics and Andrographis in your immune first aid kit but find out what might be effecting your immunity. Talk to our Naturopaths about how to keep you and your family well this winter. Everyone will want to know your secret of how to keep well.

If you can follow these recommendations to help boost your immune system you will be more likely to thrive this winter and not just survive it!

Best of Health
Jess Welsford
Naturopath 

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