Self-Care for the chillier months ahead…

How to prepare for Winter and maintain a healthy immune system for the chillier months ahead by Jen Mackinder, Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist at Gusto Organic

 Top Tips

  1. Eat well – Providing your body with essential nutrients is key, so eating an abundance of seasonal fruit and vegetables (at least six portions a day), dense in nutrients will keep immune systems in tip top condition. Opt for warm Autumn foods such as sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, squashes, parsnips, and kale all high in antioxidants and packed full of goodness.

Try to reduce how much sugar and processed foods you consume as these deplete our immune system and can have a major impact on energy levels.

  1. Eat Organic - Whenever possible, eat organic. It’s more nutritious, containing higher antioxidants, easier to digest and free from toxins and harmful chemicals. It also ensures the highest standards of animal welfare and helps towards reducing climate change. Try buying local produce that hasn’t travelled far and every few days to reduce storage. And the more colour the better. Essentially eat a rainbow for optimal health benefits
  1. Take a dip - It’s a well-known fact that cold immersion, wild swimming, or cold showers are proven to reduce muscle aches, relieve depression and strengthen the immune system. Give it a go, you’ll feel euphoric. A wonderful way to boost vitality. It’s reported to be life changing.
  1. Take regular Exercise – Exercise lifts our mood and makes us feel good, enhancing endorphins. You don’t need to do high intensity training or a ten-mile run, a brisk walk or online yoga session can be just as effective for getting the blood pumping and your muscles moving. Try and get at least 30 mins a day, preferably outside.
  1. Love your Gut Health – Your digestive tract houses 70% of the cells that make up the immune system, so an unhealthy gut can lead to a compromised immune system. Feed your microbes with fermented foods, nuts, seeds, good fats, and protein and try introducing probiotic foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and Kombucha for a healthy gut. Avoid inflammatory or acidic foods including refined sugar and pasteurised dairy which trigger imbalances and can create an unhappy gut environment.
  1. Get enough sunlight – As daylight hours wane, make sure you capture enough sunlight and connect with nature daily to keep vitamin D levels topped up. This amazing vitamin regulates immunity. People low in vitamin D recover slowly from infections and can be prone to autoimmune conditions. In the UK, 1/3 of us are deficient in the sunshine vitamin. Deficiency can cause symptoms such as frequent boughts of illness, bone pain, insomnia mood issues and depression and menstrual irregularities. In the Autumn and Winter months, it’s hard to absorb enough vitamin D due to the lack of UV rays and daylight hours. Be sure to take a supplement or enjoy Super DC, a delicious drink with 200% vitamin D as part of your daily routine.
  1. Reduce coffee consumption – Try to reduce coffee as it interrupts with nutrient absorption and increases cortisol production, the stress hormone, which reduces melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. A bit of a rollercoaster for the nervous system. Instead, opt for turmeric lattes, herbal tea, or water to keep you hydrated.
  1. Get your vits - Battling with bugs can mean free radical production can increase quickly, that’s why it’s important to ensure you consume high levels of antioxidants and essential vitamins for immune health. Antioxidants can prevent and repair such damage. Essential vitamins for immune health include:
  • Vitamin C which has positive effects on blood vessels, wound healing, mood, energy levels, immune support and preventing tissue damage. Consuming high levels will mean you are well prepared for oncoming pathogens, essential for the winter months
  • Vitamin D – Aids calcium absorption, helps to strengthen muscles, supports immune function, and helps fight off infection. With 1/3 deficient in the UK, getting enough Vitamin D is essential for immune health
  • Zinc is proven to reduce the severity of colds and flu and is important for the maintenance of our immune cells. It’s also essential for the health of hair, nails, and bones.

These three vitamins strengthen our T-cells that attack pathogens and viruses, so getting a daily quota of these vitamins in crucial for a healthy immune system.

  1. Up your antioxidants - Eat your berries. Not only do berries have a low glycaemic index meaning they don’t spike your sugar levels, but they are also packed full of antioxidants. In fact, Elderberries, known as natures medicine chest, are proven to reduce the severity of colds and flu. Elderberries have been used for centuries to tackle illness. Take daily throughout the winter months to ward off bugs. Also trying adding blueberries, blackberries, and other seasonal berries into your daily routine. 
  1. Sleep on it – Sleep and recovery are fundamental to immune health, not just the quantity but the quality too. Better habits can pave the way to better sleep, helping you gradually unwind. Going to bed at the same time every night by setting a consistent sleep schedule will help regulate your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) which will help your sleep-wake cycle. Try a magnesium or Epsom salt bath before bed to relax muscles and help you wind down. Make sure you unplug an hour before bed, as technology devices emit a wavelength of light that effects our sleep. Avoid stimulants such as coffee and alcohol and be sure to dim the lights after dark to also regulate your cycle. Consider black out blinds or an eye-mask to aid restful sleep.

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