“What can I do to avoid catching colds?” “How do I keep fit and healthy as winter approaches?”
These are genuine questions that I get asked by clients, friends and online. Ultimately we’re all trying to feel well all year round and it’s generally easier during the warmer months. An abundance of vegetables appear in our stores and markets, vitamin D is knocking on your window in the morning inviting you to come out, you find yourself breathing again with walks, outdoor fitness, grounding and so forth. So once all this has left us for shorter and greyer days, how do we keep well physically and mentally?! How do we not hibernate and compromise that great human energy we all have as cold and flu season approaches? What can we do to try and stave off those nasty colds? Here are my Top 5 tips to keep your defences up!
1. Immune-Boosting and Antimicrobial Foods:
This includes your seasonal fruit and vegetables! Don’t give in to the temptation of turning to the takeaways when the weather gets colder. This is the time to keep your resolve and give your immune system the fuel it needs to battle those bugs! Depending on which country you live, you might find the fruit and veg offerings at the supermarket can be less than inspiring and lacking somewhat in the taste department (not naming names, the UK). We love getting a little help from Abel & Cole in winter, as they still do their best to offer tasty, quality products. If they get them from abroad, they still source them well. Some great antimicrobials include turmeric, garlic, ginger, extra virgin coconut oil, Manuka honey and onions. Add to the list plenty of culinary herbs, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, coriander, parsley among others. They possess properties to help knock those baddies out!
2. Sleep Sleep Sleep
First of all it might be a good opportunity to catch up on those hours of sleep you’ve been skipping all summer. The earlier nightfall will certainly help. A good night’s sleep is the base for your body to recover and recharge its batteries! Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on our lives. From our performance at work and training, to the food choices we make when sleep deprived and also the impact sleep deprivation has on our immune system, giving the viruses that cause colds the perfect opportunity to pounce! Consequently, being adequately rested is vital to staying in tip top shape. Read more of what I recommend as a nutritionist for those good nights’ sleep!
3. Fermented Foods to Nourish Your Gut Flora:
Around 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut, so it’s incredibly important to keep it healthy. You can do this by giving the good bacteria (gut flora) food they’ll thrive on! Fermented foods provide nourishment they love. These include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, natto, tempeh and probiotic yoghurt. Make sure you’re getting adequate fibre in your diet too!
4. Supplements may be the little boost you need. We’re trialling Kyani!
Ideally we should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need from the food we eat. Sadly, we don’t live in an ideal world and there are various aspects of our lives, the food/farming industry and environmental factors that compromise this potential. So supplementation may be necessary and this will vary from person to person and even from season to season. A good quality multivitamin can fill in some of the gaps left by the foods we eat (or don’t eat). In fact, it may not even be necessary all year round.
As autumn sets in we’re starting our trial with Kyani and their Triangle of Wellness. It’s a trio of supplements to take throughout the day based on plant extracts and vitamins. Some friends of ours have given us some great feedback on how Kyani has made them feel so keep your eyes out for an update from us on how our trial goes! You can easily order your Kyani trial here.
Vitamin D also plays a role in a well-functioning immune system and during the colder months we aren’t exposed to enough sunshine for our bodies to produce enough, so a supplement is a good way to keep those levels topped up.*
5. Stay Active:
Don’t let the cold weather become an excuse not to stay active. Get warm and keep that metabolism ramped up with a good gym session, run/cycle in the park or a few laps in the (heated) pool! Exercise of different intensities affect the immune system in different ways. Studies show moderate intensity exercise (40-75% aerobic capacity) has a protective effect on our immune system. Paradoxically, whilst vigorous exercise (75-80%+ aerobic capacity) appears to have a short-term weakening effect in some facets of our immune system, over the long-term the immune system is actually more resilient to colds and flu.
Bonus Tip: Wash Your Hands:
This may seem like a no-brainer and possibly not what you’d expect from a nutrition/wellness-type article but it’s super important in the fight against getting sick. Droplets contaminated with rhinovirus (the most common cause of colds) and influenza can remain active on a hard surface for 24 hours! That means handles/surfaces on public transport, café tables, even kitchen surfaces in your own home can harbour nasties. These are easily transferred to you if you touch your mouth, nose or eyes after touching a contaminated surface. They can also survive on the hands for 15-60 minutes (depending on the virus). So this is why it makes this list to keep those infections away.
*If you’d like more specific advice on deficiencies you may have and how to help resolve them, make an appointment with your qualified nutritionist to get you on the right track.