The news is full of stories about Corona Virus and there is a huge amount of uncertainty and confusion. This virus is in its early stages and we do not know where it is going to take us. Shops are selling out of antibacterial wipes and hand gels and people are stockpiling in fear. One of the best ways to protect yourself, other than washing hands thoroughly and good hygiene, is to keep your immune system is in tip-top condition. This means a good, diverse microbiome (good bowel flora), a diet rich in nutrients, and good quality sleep. We can also look at supporting our immune system with additional supplementation such as:
Probiotics - a diverse microbiome is the key to good health, good digestions and supports the immune system. Many things kill off our good gut bacteria or disrupt the mucosal lining of the gut, including mediations such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, Laxatives, hormone therapy, and contraceptives. Environmental factors also impact our microbiome, including pesticides, food additives, emulsifiers, detergents, antibacterial products, pasteurised and sterilised products, stress, poor diet, high sugar consumption. Please do not be tempted to get your probiotics from yoghurts or yoghurt drinks – sadly it not sufficient and often does not reach all of your gut. I sell a wide range of probiotics to suit the individual, including those specifically for children. Contact me for more information. You can also help your good bacterial thrive by eating a range of foods such as natural yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut as well as eating prebiotic foods such as onions, leeks, garlic, artichoke.
Vitamin C – We know that vitamin C can help fight infection, boost our immune system, help with the formation of collagen and the absorption of iron. It also plays a role in energy metabolism as well as nervous and cognitive function. In relation to fighting infection, there have been reports that high doses (around 5-8g per day or to tolerance) have been used successfully to help combat viruses similar to Corona Virus. I would highly recommend you take vitamin c supplements with additional antioxidants if needed, either in powder or tablet form to boost the immune system. I offer a range of vitamin c to suit the individual, including powders that are gentle on the stomach. Increase your intake of Vitamin C-rich foods such as berries, citrus fruits, papayas, broccoli and red peppers, though please note, whilst many foods contain vitamin C, many people are simply not getting enough vitamin C. Poor diet, poor gut health, medication, mental health, smoking, alcohol, can all impact our vitamin C levels.
Vitamin D - Our ancestors used to take patients outdoors for at least an hour every day, no matter how sick they were. There is a good reason behind this, and the reason is Vitamin D, which helps to prevent the flu and can also regulate our immune response. We really underestimate the importance of Vitamin D. In the UK, we lack exposure naturally from autumn to spring, so it is vital to supplement with Vitamin D3. Taking one daily not only boosts the immune system and fights infection but can also help with depression, bone and joint and heart health. I have a range of vitamin D3 supplementation available to my clients, including variable strengths, liquid drop form, child formulas and vegan formulas. You can also increase your consumption of oily fish, dairy, eggs and some mushrooms.
Zinc – Zinc is a great mineral to support the immune system and fight infection. It is also anti-inflammatory. Some reports recommend zinc lozenges to help prevent infection. I always recommend including plenty of zinc-rich foods in your diet, such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, beef, wheat germ and cocoa. You can also take a good quality supplement such as a Zinc Citrate daily, especially when suffering from any ear, nose or throat problems.
Please note, you can’t have a bad diet and think it's ok to supplement with a multi-vitamin, especially with cheap high street multi-vitamins. A 99p multi is not going to have much effect. Similarly, grabbing handfuls of different pills is not advisable. First start with diet changes – nothing is more powerful than a diet of real food, ditching all processed foods, refined carbs and sugars. If you feel you need to boost, take advice and contact me for more information on what suits you.
Some supplements are easy to overdose, and some can have contraindications. For example, St John’s Wort is a popular choice, especially in winter months to combat the winter blues and SAD but can have contraindications with lots of medication. Echinacea is another popular herb linked to boosting the immune system and fighting the common cold but this should not be taken by anyone with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Asthma, Lupus, MS, Leukaemia or tuberculosis.
You can also adopt better lifestyle habits such as:
Hydrate – Keeping yourself well hydrated is absolutely vital to help ‘flush’ out the cold, help break down congestion and keeps your throat lubricated. Try to avoid sugary or milky drinks especially if you have a lot of mucus as this can often make it worse. I would opt for water (sparkling water with lemon can be very refreshing), you can also try soothing warm herbal and fruit teas. Herbal teas such as sage, ginger, lemon, chamomile, liquorice root, slippery elm and green tea can help ease a sore throat. Fresh turmeric (not powder) tea is really light and is perfect as an anti-inflammatory.
A Breath of Fresh Air – We tend to spend more time indoors in the winter, in our centrally heated homes, with windows shut. This creates the perfect environment for bugs to thrive. Opening windows helps the air to circulate and for nature to naturally eliminate anything in the air. Try to get out for a walk in the winter months and breath in the fresh air. Exercise is also good, not just to keep weight under control but it also boosts the immune system, encourages lymphatic drainage, strengthens the heart and produces ‘feel good’ endorphins that can help keep the winter blues at bay.
Keep Calm and Carry on - Stress is a massive factor when looking at our health, especially the health of our gut and the immune system. If you are stressed or suffer from anxiety issues, it would be worth following the protocol for immune support whilst taking measures to improve your stress. I use CBT in my clinic, which works brilliantly for a lot of stress and anxiety issues, alongside good nutrient support, especially support for the adrenals, gut, immune system, all of which can have a positive effect on our mental health.
Good quality Sleep – Sleep is a time when our body can move in and repair and rejuvenate, as well as conserve our energy. Research has also shown that those who are sleep deprived have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood, making them more susceptible to whole-body inflammation, putting them at risk of ill health. Lack of sleep also lowers the immune system, in fact, it has been shown those who have long-term sleep problems have a shorter lifespan. Our whole body goes through a relaxation period when we sleep. Our muscles relax and repair, out breathing slows down, our blood pressure lowers and our heartbeat reduces.
In order to get a good night’s sleep, our body has to convert serotonin into melatonin. Melatonin synthesis in the pineal gland is triggered by darkness which helps induce and maintain sleep. The production of Melatonin is affected by lack of nutrients as well as computer and TV screen glare, which is why we should not have TV and electrical screens in our bedroom. Research has shown that exposure to noise and light during sleep can suppress the immune system as well as disrupt natural sleep patterns.
Fill up on foods to help the melatonin cycle and can aid sleep, such as foods rich in Tryptophan, found in turkey, fish, nuts, seeds and bananas. Magnesium is a great mineral to aid a good night’s sleep. It helps relax muscles (so great for those suffering from restless leg syndrome) as well as regulating blood sugar and balancing electrolyte potential across cell membranes. Increase your magnesium-rich foods, filling up on green leafy vegetables, yoghurt, nuts, and dark chocolate. You could also opt for a magnesium-rich Epson salt bath, a great way to relax your muscles. B vitamins are essential for the production of serotonin and melatonin, especially B1, B3 and B6.
For more information on my work, visit www.sarahflower.co.uk or call 07545 287 816