Thanks to our amazing in store naturopath Vanessa Vujcich for this months article all about family immunity and wellness over Winter - we hope all of you are keeping well and warm!
Keeping yourself and your family well through winter can be challenging, but if your immune system is strong you are less likely to catch a cold. We've got a couple of top tips to support doing just that.
Minimise Sugar & Mucus Forming Foods
It’s important to avoid excess sugar as well as mucus forming foods particularly bananas, dairy, gluten and egg whites which can compromise immune function. If you do get sick, support your body with good nutrition and rest, letting the infection take its course rather than suppressing symptoms.
Support Vitamin A & Beta-carotene Levels
Beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A protects the membranes lining the respiratory tract from inflammation and damage and is the body’s first line of defence against winter sniffles. Beta-carotene is mostly found in orange coloured fruit and vegetables but butter, egg yolk, dairy products and liver are direct sources of vitamin A as well as vitamin D, with low levels of both being linked with poor immunity.
Keep Vitamin C Levels Up
Vitamin C can ease the severity and duration of cold symptoms through stimulating our immune system and activating white blood cell function. Vitamin C is used up rapidly during infection so I like to add some powder to a drink bottle and sip throughout the day.
Consider Zinc & Other Mineral Supplementation
Demand for Zinc is high as it is involved in nearly every aspect of immunity including having direct anti-viral activity. New Zealand soils are generally low in several minerals necessary for a strong immune system. Supplementing your diet with a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement can ensure you’re not missing out on any essential nutrients. Minerals in liquid form can also be added to water or juice is an easy and effective way for the whole family to increase mineral intake safely.
Foods like garlic, turmeric, ginger, acai, camu camu berry, spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass and medicinal mushrooms are superfoods for the immune system and can increase energy and vitality. Medicinal mushrooms provide support for the immune system through compounds called polysaccharides and beta-glucans. Although mushrooms have been used traditionally for thousands of years for their healing properties in Asia, more recently these compounds have been found through clinical trials to increase the activity of many immune cells including our natural kill cells to enhance and support the immune system especially against viral infections. You can also add them to soups, broths and stews over winter as they provide a lovely nourishing earthy taste and texture.
Look at Herbal Formulas
There are formulas with herbs carefully selected to support babies, toddlers and children. Herbs can be taken to strengthen the immune system and build resistance or to provide fast and effective relief at the onset of symptoms. Olive leaf, Andrographis, Echinacea, Pelargonium, Propolis and Elderberry are some winter favourites for their antiviral and antibacterial properties, whilst Astragalus can strengthen the body’s resistance to infection. Tickly and chesty coughs keeping you awake at night can be soothed with herbs. There are many formulas available straight off the shelf however, herbal formulas can be made specifically for you with one of our in-store naturopaths to suit your individual symptoms.
Essential Oil Support
To ease congested and stuffy sinuses a steam inhalation with essential oils like eucalyptus and peppermint can help clear the sinuses. Rubbing a balm or salve into the chest, back or feet containing wintergreen, marjoram, and menthol and eucalyptus essential oils is effective for easing chest congestion particularly when left on overnight.
The Gut Health Connection
Lastly, don’t forget the connection between your immune system and gut health. Last month we discussed gut health and with 70 to 80 percent of your immune tissue situated in your digestive tract, this plays an important role in our immunity through winter.