Winter wellness tips from your naturopath
As the cool winter months set in many people find that they are more prone to catching coughs and colds and other airborne viruses. Rather than await your wintery fate, it can be a good idea to consider a few supplements and dietary changes to help increase your immunity and ward off the winter ills and chills naturally.
One of the most powerful ways to boost your natural defenses against the winter bugs is through diet and lifestyle. By following the steps below you will be on a fast track to a healthier winter!
- Eat plenty of leafy greens that are rich in immune-enhancing phytonutrients.
- Enjoy foods rich in vitamin C. Some of your best winter food sources of vitamin C are parsley, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, leafy greens, red capsicum and fresh sprouts.
- Include antimicrobial, immune boosting herbs and spices in your daily diet – ginger, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and thyme are all excellent options.
- Get adequate, good quality sleep. Sleep has a powerful regulatory effect on your immune system. Studies show that sleep deprivation can lead to compromised immune function, leaving you more at risk of catching coughs and colds.
- Enjoy regular exercise. Exercise will not only boost immune function but also stress resilience.
There are a number of herbs and supplements that have proven immune boosting properties and can be very beneficial to take at this time of year, below are just a few examples of the numerous tools you have on hand to support your good health through winter!
Did you know roughly 80% of your immune system resides in your gut! Thus, a healthy immune system depends on a healthy gut. Probiotics supplements may help reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections as well as supporting your immunity generally.
Vitamin D has excellent immune enhancing properties as well as significantly reducing the risk of respiratory infections in children. This valuable nutrient also takes quite a dip through the winter months as your sunlight exposure drops naturally. It is best to talk to a qualified health practitioner before supplementing with vitamin D as this is one of those vitamins where too little and too much can be dangerous.
Zinc can help to prevent or decrease the duration of sore throats and respiratory infections that are so common in winter. As zinc is generally low in New Zealand soils, deficiencies are commonly found here. We generally recommend most people take a zinc supplement for three months during winter. Excess doses can cause gastric upset and nausea so it is important to talk to your health provider to find the correct dose for you.
Astragalus and Echinacea
Astragalus and echinacea are two powerful immune-supportive herbs that can help to prevent the occurrence of coughs, colds and respiratory tract infection, as well as shorten the duration and severity of these winter ills. Astragalus also has “adaptogenic” properties, which means it helps your body better deal with the effects of emotional and physical stress – both of which can compromise immune health and function.
Vitamin C supports white blood cell activity, which in turn helps to fight off infection and improve your immune resilience. It is useful to take a loading dose of vitamin C at the first sign of infection. As vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient, it cannot be stored for a long time in the body, so small regular daily doses are important. A buffered vitamin C in a drink bottle (ideally glass) sipped throughout the day over a handful of days is a good way to top up your vitamin C levels without upsetting your digestion.
If you are particularly prone to recurrent infections at this time of year then booking in a naturopathic appointment to have a full assessment may be a wise investment. We will be able to prepare a treatment plan with individual herbs and supplements tailored to your specific needs.
Children can be particularly at risk of respiratory infections, viruses and flus during the winter time as their immune systems are still developing, and they are often picky when it comes to eating healthy immune boosting- foods. A naturopath can help you to develop dietary strategies as well investigate other factors that may be contributing to your child’s compromised health, such as food intolerances, nutritional deficiencies and digestive imbalances.
Prevention is always better than cure – and can save you a lot of time and energy in the long run!