Hacks to boost your immune system for winter
We talk to Sarah Carolides, Nutritional Therapist and Genetic Health Consultant, on how to keep well in winter
These are the top tips and tricks we can all embrace to feel our best when the temperature drops.
Many people find autumn a problematic period health-wise. It’s as if the first cold snap catches them unawares and they come down with an infection or unexpected bout of ‘flu before winter has even started. It’s time to start nourishing ourselves with food and targeted supplements.
Roughly 70% of our immune cells are housed in the wall of the gut. This is why most functional medical practitioners look at the gut even when you present with seemingly unrelated diseases. Our digestive health literally affects our entire body. Here’s how to give yourself a boost…
1. As well as looking after the gut wall itself, we need to look after our microbiome, which is the colony of bacteria and fungi that live inside our gut. It is vital for immune health to make sure we have the right balance of good vs. bad bacteria to fight off the viruses and bugs that come our way over winter.
Autumn and spring are the best times to have a course of probiotics and prebiotics, to make sure our microbiome is in tip-top fighting condition. As well as the supplement, try making some home-made sauerkraut or kimchi. It’s easy, cheap and kids will love helping massage the cabbage with salt to tenderise it. Fermented foods act as natural nourishment for the gut bacteria. Other fermented foods to try include kefir, kombucha and miso. Try dining out on miso - CW picks the best in Japanese dining right here.
2. Vitamins C and D are vital for immune health. Most people in this country are deficient in Vitamin D, and I recommend all my clients to start a supplement from the beginning of October until April.3. One thing I am really excited about this year is the availability of concentrated mushroom extracts. Recent research has shown the potency of medicinal mushrooms, which can be taken alongside any other medication as they have no contra-indications.
I am very keen on the Turkey’s Tail mushroom, which you should start taking at the first sign of a virus. It acts directly on the immune system, boosting the body’s response against pathogens. The Polyporus mushroom is another one that works amazingly on mucus and nasal congestion just like an expectorant without the side effects. Look at Hifas da Terra as a supplier of top quality medicinal mushroom supplements. One I recommend for general prevention during the winter is called Bio-Defence (£28.30).
4. Turmeric and ginger are all round anti-inflammatories and immune boosters. I am already starting my mornings with hot lemon, grated turmeric, ginger and a half teaspoon of local raw honey. We love the London Honey Company to stock up on all your amber nectar.
5. There is a lot of buzz in the health world at the moment about ‘intermittent living’. This is an extension from the intermittent fasting trend where you are supposed to stress your immune system by taking cold showers or going cold swimming even in winter. Intersperse this with hot saunas (infra-red ones especially have benefits). Try Glow Bar London. Even when it gets cold, I would advise getting outside as much as possible as the mental health benefits of natural daylight become more important during the short winter days.
6. Bone broths are an excellent habit to get into at this time of year. The book Brodo by Marco Canora is a lovely introduction and has some great recipes to get you started. Bone broth helps nourish gut bacteria and boost the immune system. Either on their own, they make a great alternative to the afternoon coffee fix, or as a base for all sorts of nourishing autumn soups and stews.