BY CHRISTINA MARTIN – It’s that time of year; we feel lethargic as the nights draw in and we are prone to catching colds and flu. Viruses seem to be everywhere – on the buses, in tube carriages, at the office, in the gym – and the same germs that thrive in air conditioning systems in the summer revel in heating pipes and radiators.
So what to do? First make sure you get enough sleep. The body needs quality rest to regenerate, especially in winter as most of us leave for work and return home when it’s dark.
During winter a lack of vitamin D, which is important to support mucus membranes and other auto-immunity functions, is not unusual. A shortage of Vitamin D, combined with an increase in melatonin, the mood regulator that decreases energy at the sign of darkness to help you sleep, contributes to increased fatigue and even depression. We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin, so it’s not surprising that it’s in short supply in the dark winter months. Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods, such as oily fish and eggs. To boost your Vitamin D intake – which incidentally is also beneficial to those with Dementia – you may wish to take it in supplement form but make sure you always select a food-state formula that is recognised by the body as food.
In order to support your immune system it may be worth considering a multi-vitamin and mineral complex – also a food-state formulation. Vitamins and supplements have their supporters and detractors, probably in equal numbers, which is why a food-state type is essential as it is better absorbed by the body
A must when I feel any flu or cold symptoms is Beta Glucan. The best defence against viral infections is a healthy body and healthy immune system and Beta Glucan activates the immune system to defend itself against viral and bacterial invaders. Usually found in baker’s yeast, mushrooms, and cereal grains, it is impractical for many people to absorb Beta Glucan through regular food intake, so I am always careful to select and recommend a food-state supplement that is free-from GMO and is also suitable for vegans and those suffering from candida, a condition of yeast growing in the gut.
Other immune system boosters include Vitamin C, Omega 3 oils, and Probiotics. Vitamin C, which is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables such as oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, is very helpful in reducing the number of infecting microbes and protecting healthy cells. Vitamin C is not stored by the body and needs to be replenished each day with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Omega 3 acts as an anti-inflammatory and provides EFA (Essential Fatty Acids), which are not produced by the body, and helps support healthy cell membranes and joints. Over the festive season, when we tend to indulge by partying, drinking and eating more than usual with friends and family, we put stress on our digestive system, which is why a Probiotic will usefully support our immune system by repopulating the gut with good gut bacteria. A number of Probiotic drinks are available on the market, but again should you go the vitamins and supplements route, make sure they are clearly labelled ‘food-state’.
A naturopathic technique I like to recommend in support of the lymphatic system is ‘dry skin brushing’. Equipped with a bristle brush (available from any good health store), apply short upwards strokes towards the heart, starting with the feet and working your way up throughout the body – this removes dead dry skin and allows the skin to eliminate more efficiently.
And for those so inclined, gentle exercise and Yoga will keep the blood flowing and get rid of toxins.
So sleep well, eat sensibly and take care of your body – all a bit sedate perhaps – but you’ll sail through winter with redoubled energy and you’ll be full of the joys of spring.
Christina Martin DHNP, AIT is a naturopath with a three year post graduate diploma in holistic nutritional practice. She specialises in food intolerance therapy, gastrointestinal disorders, stress management and weight loss using traditional Chinese philosophies (five Chinese elements) and therapeutic practices when developing a case history. As a fully trained clinical naturopathic nutritionist she practices in a number of London venues including the Wimpole Street Clinic, the Dorchester Collection and the Ealing Chiropractic Clinic. For more information see www.futurehealthmanagement.co.uk.