Nutrition for winter wellness jan 2012

Nutrition for Winter Wellness – beat the bugs from the inside out
By Andrea Cullen
Pharmacist, Nutritional Therapist, and Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine When I was asked to submit a piece for a journal on “Food for Winter”, my mind couldn’t help wandering a little onto the broader meaning of what a strong immune system is. If I go online to Wikipedia, then I am told that an immune system is “a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease”. Many of you may not be aware, but I am also a pharmacist with more than 15 years experience at the coal face of winter-bug symptoms. On the odd occasion that I do work as a pharmacist I spend most of my day diligently responding to requests on how to treat a cough, cold or flu. On the rare occasion, I am asked to respond to the more thoughtful request on how can someone improve their immune system? This really fires me up, so let me get to the core of the matter, an approach that I much prefer! Cough and cold remedies only treat the symptoms, and the evidence supporting them is, at best, weak. Often the risk for potential side effects is greater than the limited benefit, especially in young children. Gargling aspirin or paracetamol or sucking medicated lozenges can however benefit a sore throat; speak to your pharmacist. Most pharmacies hold only a very limited stock of well formulated nutritional supplements or herbal remedies, if any at all. If you come down with a cold I recommend several strategies; in brief: It is vital to catch the infection at the first signs of symptoms. These are often sneezing, tickly/ sore throat, runny nose, feeling under the weather, headache, increased thirst, fatigue, shivers, aches and pains, and also inability to maintain high intensity training sessions with a perceived increased heart rate. Vitamin C as buffered Vitamin C, natural Vitamin C, or Ester C; take several 1g doses a day up to bowel tolerance, which may even be as high as 10,000mg. Avoid ascorbic acid as this may irritate your stomach. Elderberry extract sold most often here as Sambucol is an excellent anti-viral. Zinc gluconate lozenges may be effective to cut the duration of symptoms. If you are not already taking Vitamin D, then start taking it. Echinacea tincture or Echinacea with cat’s claw as tincture has been documented to reduce frequency, duration and severity of symptoms. Steam inhaling (up to three times a day with the addition of essential oils) is actually the best treatment for a blocked sinus. For overall anti-inflammatory effect consume a drink made with freshly grated or crushed ginger, lemon juice, cayenne pepper (good pinch!) and hot water. Add several whole cloves and a pinch of cinnamon for additional anti-bacterial effect OR purchase specialist herbal teas for colds in the health store. Many herbs have documented immune stimulating or immuno-modulatory effects such as Astragalus; Andrographis; medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Shiitake, Cordyceps and Maitake; Beta glucan, Oregano oil, Olive leaf extract, etc. I suggest speaking to an herbalist or someone well trained in herbal medicine to ensure appropriate herb selection, dosage and quality of purchased herbs. Many formulations on the shelf for general sale are poorly formulated blends of sub-optimally dosed herbs. So now that you know what to do in an acute situation it is important to address the cause of why you may be ill and how to restore your suffering body to optimal health. Health has been defined by the WHO as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. What does this mean? It is important to remember that health maintenance is a dynamic process better assessed in terms of ability to adapt to stress and maintain physiological homeostasis. Based on what I see in clinic I propose that all the following areas at least should be addressed in order to maintain optimal health throughout the winter months. 1. Spend enough time in the sack.
Sleep is crucial for the optimal functioning of the immune system; aim for 7-9 hours good quality sleep every night with some of this before mid-night. And it turns out that a healthy sex life is also good for the immune system! 2. Get your D
In the absence of adequate sun exposure, most people need a Vitamin D supplement of approximately 2,500 to 5,000 IU daily throughout the winter months to maintain optimal blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. Ideally have your levels checked by the GP. 3. Cover the bases
A broad spectrum highly bioavailable multi vitamin and mineral supplement and a high quality contaminant-free fish oil are recommended for most persons. Using more sophisticated testing methods than in previous studies, this was confirmed by Wienecke and Saluto who concluded that “Today, an adequate supply of nutrients is often unattainable solely through a well-balanced diet, so a targeted, individually designed dietary supplement regime is necessary” (Adv Ther. 2007 Sep-Oct;24(5):1126-35). 4. A happy gut = a happy immune system
Maintaining the correct balance of healthy bacteria and unwanted pathogenic bacteria is crucial for the optimal functioning of the immune system. Probiotic supplements and foods that support a healthy gut ecology play an important role in the functioning of the immune system. This is currently a hot area of scientific research. 5. Broaden your mind
Emotional health and the ability to cope with stress are vital for over-all health and immune system strength. If your stress levels are off the Richter scale evaluate what stress can be eliminated from your life, and learn techniques to help you handle how you cope with the stressful situations that you cannot avoid. 6. Move your body
The secret is to exercise appropriately; neither too little nor too much. Many athletes run into problems with their immune systems when daily training levels are excessive and appropriate recovery is ignored. When the adrenals are continually over-stimulated our stress hormones cortisol and DHEA impact the functioning of the immune system. In these situations exercise load must be examined, recovery prescribed, and cortisol balancing and immune supporting nutrients and herbs recommended. 7. Nourish your body
I. Cover the basics by ensuring that:
Breakfast is always eaten and that protein, vegetables and or fruit are included in this meal. Meals and snacks are eaten every 3 to 4 hours. Healthy protein is included in most snacks and meals (fish, poultry, red meat, game meats, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and limited quantities of organic dairy foods) 6 portions of vegetables are eaten daily and one of these portions must be green leafy vegetables. Up to 4 portions of colourful low sugar fruits are consumed most days. Carbohydrates are wholesome, unrefined and as much as possible are gluten free (e.g. oats, quinoa, root vegetables, millet, amaranth, and rice). Fat is included in your diet from nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut, oily cold water fish, and small amounts of organic animal fats. You drink ample water and that it is of good quality (filtered) II. Include the super-foods:
I believe that Mother Nature supplies us with the answers to health in our indigenous surroundings, and that one need not buy expensive Goji berries from Tibet or Acai from Brazil to be healthy. So super-foods for us mean seafood and seaweeds; dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, broccoli, kale and watercress; colourful fruit such as berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and currants), plums, apples, cherries and damsons; home-grown sprouts such as wheatgrass, lentils, mungbeans, radish, broccoli, and seeds; and finally onions, garlic and leeks. And don’t forget all those herbs and spices that are in your spice rack and on the window sill! These are a veritable powerhouse of nutrients and antibacterial, anti-viral and immune stimulating substances. If you wish to include some other non-native foods then I highly recommend pomegranate, rocket, avocado, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, turmeric, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, raw coconut and coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and green tea. 8. Quit the junk
This includes sugars in all forms, artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, processed and Trans fats, fried foods, burnt foods, excess alcohol, chemical additives, refined soya foods, and processed or non-organic dairy products. Salt is best limited and when used choose Himalayan or Celtic sea salt. Remember that many foods have been subject to spraying and so ALL fruits, vegetables and grains should be washed before consuming to remove traces of pesticides and herbicides. 9. Maintain optimal pH in the body.
An important strategy to achieve this is to include the recommended 6 portions of veggies in your diet daily and when possible adding in a fresh home-made vegetable juice. Drinking electrically alkaline water is also something worth looking into as the research is compelling.


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