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Powering up our Winter Immunity

As the frosty embrace of winter settles in, our immunity often takes centre stage. The chilly season brings its own set of challenges to our health. But by harnessing the power of key nutrients, we can fortify our immune systems and glide through this season with resilience.

Our immune support begins with a healthy and diverse diet full of colourful whole foods whilst avoiding processed foods and sugar. Engaging in in a balanced lifestyle with regular exercise and prioritising rest, sleep and mindfulness is also important.

There are some crucial nutrients that play a pivotal role in our immune function.

Vitamin C works tirelessly to strengthen our immune response. It is a powerful antioxidant and helps to neutralise harmful molecules called free radicals, which can damage cells and weaken the immune system.

Vitamin C can also help to reduce the severity and duration of certain inflammatory conditions, contributing to a balanced immune response.

This powerhouse nutrient is found in abundance in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, as well as in leafy greens, peppers, and berries. Even vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale contain vitamin C. And don't forget herbs like thyme and parsley too.

If you feel you might need some additional support, consider 1000 mg a day as a maintenance dose. In times of increased stress or infection, you can increase the dose through the day (safely up to 5000mg) or until a point of experiencing loose bowels.

Vitamin A is an underrated nutrient when we consider immune support. It is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system and plays several vital roles in immune function.

It helps in maintaining the integrity of mucosal surfaces in the body, such as the lining of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. These surfaces act as barriers against pathogens, preventing their entry into the body.

Vitamin A is involved in the production and function of various white blood cells and in the production of antibodies.

It also aids in regulating inflammation, helping to ensure that the immune response is balanced and appropriately targeted against infections without causing excessive inflammation.

You can obtain vitamin A from foods such as cod liver oil, beef liver, eggs, and fortified milk. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. You can find beta-carotene in orange and yellow fruits and veggies, as well as in broccoli, spinach, and other dark green leafy veggies.

If you're thinking about taking vitamin A as a supplement, the usual amount is around 800 mcg (micrograms) daily.

Vitamin D is another crucial nutrient important for a robust immune system. 

It assists in maintaining a balance in the immune system, preventing excessive inflammation and promoting appropriate responses to pathogens.

Vitamin D can stimulate the production of antimicrobial peptides, which are natural antibiotics that help the body fight off infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

One of the easiest ways to get vitamin D is from the sun, so try to spend some time outdoors when you can. Planning a sunny holiday mid-winter is a helpful boost if you can make it happen!

You can find vitamin D in certain foods like fatty fish (like tuna, salmon, and mackerel), fortified dairy products, egg yolks and mushrooms.

The winter sun is low and weak and so it’s a good idea to consider supplementation through the winter. It’s a simple and affordable option and a good starting point is around 2000IU per day.

Zinc is involved in the development and function of immune cells and in the production of antibodies. It also helps regulate inflammatory responses, which are necessary for the body's defence against infections but which need to be balanced to prevent excessive inflammation. A deficiency in zinc can impair immune function, increasing susceptibility to infections.

 You can obtain zinc from delicious foods like oysters, red meat, shellfish, and poultry. If you're a vegetarian, you can find zinc in the following foods: chickpeas, lentils, beans, seeds (like hemp, pumpkin, and sesame seeds), and nuts (like cashews and almonds). Even cheese and milk contain some zinc.

The usual dose of zinc supplementation is between 10 to 30 mg daily.

The gut is where a significant portion of our immune system resides, so a balanced and diverse gut microbiota is crucial for overall immune function.

Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut, which is essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. A healthy gut lining also prevents harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the bloodstream, supporting the immune system's function.

Some probiotic strains produce antimicrobial substances that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, thereby reducing the risk of infections and supporting the immune system.

And they can modulate the immune system by regulating the production of certain immune cells and substances.

Yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods are excellent sources of these beneficial bugs. Supplemental support can also be very helpful.

And lastly…. staying positive is important for your overall health. Overwhelm and stress can all have a detrimental effect on your immune system. Build in regular time to relax, unwind and find a few things to be grateful for.

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