It’s the time of year where illness can stop you dancing, or you risk sharing an unwelcome gift with your fellow dancers. So here are Sam’s top tips on how to boost your immune system to help avoid getting the dreaded cold and flu this season and make sure you can keep on dancing!
Sam Silvester – www.whatseatingyou.co.uk
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is critical for immune health; unlike most essential nutrients however, you can’t rely on food to replenish your stores. The main source of vitamin D is sunshine; your bare skin produces vitamin D when it comes into contact with the sun’s UV rays. Public Health England now recommends that everyone should supplement vitamin D from October to March. Vitamin D is best supplemented as D3 (cholecalciferol) since this is the form produced naturally by the body in response to sunlight. Growing evidence suggests that vitamin D works in synergy with vitamin K and it is often recommended that they are supplemented together.
If you want to know your levels of Vitamin D, Birmingham city hospital do an inexpensive home Vitamin D test (cityassays.org.uk)
Zinc – A deficiency of zinc is known to suppress immune function, and immune system’s ability to deal with infection. The body doesn’t have much ability to store zinc so it’s crucial that your daily diet supplies plenty of this immune boosting mineral. You’ll find high levels of zinc in meat, chickpeas & lentils, pumpkin and sesame seeds. You can also take extra zinc in supplement form to keep your levels topped up and gently support your immune function. If you regularly take zinc in supplement form however (such as in a daily multi) it is important to balance this with copper, as excess zinc can cause copper deficiency and vice versa.
The immune system and our microbiome
Beneficial bacteria live mostly in the gut but regulate every system of the body and health. They are the frontline of your immune system that defend your body from outside invaders.
If you take steps to nurture this important internal army, you will support your immune system and experience better health overall.
Fermented foods feed good bacteria. Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha and kimchi are a great addition to the diet as they supply beneficial bacteria that are quickly incorporated into the gut population.
A daily multi strain probiotic supplement helps to support an optimal balance of bacteria in the gut. It’s crucial to choose a supplement that contains specific strains that have been well researched and demonstrated a high level of effectiveness. Lactobacillus acidophilus is considered to be the world’s most widely researched probiotic strain, additional well-researched strains include Lactobacillus paracasei lpc-37, Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07, Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-04 and Saccharomyces boulardii.
Spicy Vegetable Soups – add plenty of garlic, onions, ginger, chili and greens for immune support. Add immune boosting herbs such as rosemary or spices such as cumin
Vitamin C rich foods – berries, pomegranates, kiwi, oranges, greens, peppers & lemon juice in warm water or on salads – all of these support immune function
Up your Antioxidants with dark coloured veg such as dark greens, red cabbage, tomatoes, kale, beetroot, herbs, green tea and spices such as turmeric
Reduce dairy, wheat, and sugar which can inflame the digestive system and cause mucus prolonging colds and congestion
For sore throats try sage tea & Manuka honey (mixed with teaspoon of cinnamon and turmeric – optional)
Reduce alcohol which robs essential vitamins, depletes sleep and lowers immunity
Increase hydration – Lots water of warm water with lemon and ginger
Eat a variety of mushrooms e.g. shitake and oyster each week with have immune boosting properties. Use these in soups or stir fries or on their own with garlic
Increase your sleep – we repair and heal whilst sleeping, especially the hours before midnight.
If you are prone to cold sores supplement 1000mg of lysine as a prevention during stressful times, and 3000mg when you it is active. Lysine an amino acid that halts growth, whereas arginine is an amino acid that feeds it, found in lentils, nuts and chocolate.
If you are getting lots of mouth ulcers this could be a sign of an inflamed digestive tract as a result of food intolerances– avoid wheat, dairy and reduce sugars or too much stress
Don’t reach for antibiotics too quickly – most colds clear up in 7-14 days and most sinus infections clear up in 14 days – 18 days
Or for paracetamol too quickly – a temperature helps to burn off bugs (but don’t let children’s temperature’s get too high)
Rest & Relaxation – Chronic stress can have debilitating and widespread effects on your health. Unfortunately, the immune system doesn’t escape from the deleterious effects of stress either. Stress raises cortisol which over time can increase inflammation. Stress also decreases white blood cells leaving you more vulnerable to infections such as the common cold and flu viruses. So the final and most important lifestyle tip is ‘Rest and Relaxation’ you will find it in a good night’s sleep, a relaxing hour on the sofa, in a weekly yoga or pilates class, a regular walk in nature, a barefoot stroll on the beach, time spent offline or in a daily 10-minute mindfulness practise.
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