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  • Writer's pictureEmily V

Immune boosting this Winter....

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Winter has arrived with a different feel to it off the back of a global pandemic, it feels like the universe decided this was the year to teach us all a lesson on appreciating the small things, basics of hygiene and keeping your families health in check.

It is important now more than ever to focus on what we can do especially when it comes to staying healthy, supporting our mood and nervous systems as we see less sunlight, and of course give our immune system a kick.


The following are some of the things I am personally doing to boost my immune function, and a brief (very brief) outline of each one.

*Please note for specific advice on individual requirements for supplementation, dosage and herbs contact me or your natural healthcare practitioner.

*Reduce stress & anxiety: Prolonged stress and anxiety means we are in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, which is a beneficial physiological response when needed in short bursts in order to run from danger for example. However, prolonged elevated levels of adrenaline and stress hormone cortisol can lead to inflammatory responses which affect the immune system in a detrimental way. Some simple ways to reduce stress include being amongst nature, meditation, yoga, listening to music, exercise (which lowers cortisol and releases endorphins which improves mood), put on a comedy - laughter is a great way to relieve anxiety, practice mindfulness (simple breathing exercises, noticing what is around you, feeling the breeze and the sun on your face), whatever brings you back to the present moment.


*Zinc: This essential micronutrient is necessary for the normal development and function of our cells which mediate our innate immunity and the development of our acquired immunity. Zinc deficiency rapidly diminishes antibody and cell-mediated responses leaving the body potentially vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens, and interferes with the metabolism of Vitamin A also essential for proper immune function. Studies have also found supplementation may reduce the incidence of lower respiratory infections in children*. Natural sources of zinc include: shellfish, beef, nuts, and legumes.


*Vitamin C: The immune systems little helper has several roles to play, most essentially it stimulates both production and function of leukocytes namely neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes which attack foreign bacteria and viruses. It also protects the integrity of immune cells from oxidative damage. Phagocytic leukocytes in particular also produce and release cytokines which have antiviral activity. Yay! Sources of dietary Vitamin C include: peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and tomatoes.


*Vitamin D: Necessary for activating immune responses to pathogenic infections. Studies have shown a correlation between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of respiratory tract infections. Sources include UVB exposure although this is difficult to do in a safe amount of time, and through the diet however, there are limited dietary options i.e oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon, cod), eggs, butter, milk, fortified bread and cereals. Most of us need to supplement in order to achieve an optimal level*.


*Vitamin A: Known as the ‘anti-infective’ vitamin due to its vital role in the normal functioning of the immune system, in particular the cells which line the lungs and create a barrier against infection. It also plays a central role in development and differentiation of lymphocytes and activation of T-lymphocytes which are the major regulatory cells of the immune system. Sources of Vitamin A include: Cod Liver oil, egg, butter, milk, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, mango, spinach, and broccoli.


*Probiotics: Gut health is the key to a proper functioning immune system given 80% of our immunity lies within the gut! Making sure you have an abundance of friendly gut bugs will help keep you healthy, and there is scientific evidence showing certain strains have the capability to modulate the immune system.


*Herbs: Immune modulating and anti-viral herbs include Andrographis, Echinacea, Astragalus and Elderberry. If you don’t have access to these your herbalist/naturopath will be able to help you.

*Adequate Sleep: The body needs time to rest and repair and a minimum of 7 hours in order to effectively do so. Sleep plays an important role in the regulation of the adaptive and innate immune responses. Evidence indicates that sleep disturbance induces a down-regulation of adaptive immunity, indicated by an impaired response to infection.


*Avoid sugar: Studies have observed what happens in the blood after consumption of excessive amounts of sugar, and in short, the depressing effects on the innate immune system were seen. In particular a decrease in neutrophil activity by up to 50% and this can last for up to 6 hours!


References:

· Buckland. D, 2016, Mediherb – Clinical Applications of Vitamin D, viewed 27.3.20

· Braun, L & Cohen, M 2015 , “Herbs and Natural Supplements, An evidence-based guide”, Volume 2, 4th Ed, Pg 1201

· Crouch. W, “Added sugars Negatively Impact the immune System”, Metagenics Institute, viewed 2.4.20.

· Higdon. J, Drake. V, 2012, “An Evidence-based Approach to vitamins and Minerals”, 2nd Ed, Pg 44, 74

· Segerstrom. S, Miller. G, “Phsycological stress and the Human Immune system” PMID 15250815, viewed 31.3.20

· Yan. F, Polk. D, “Probiotics and immune health”, PMID 21897224, viewed 2.4.20

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