Winter is coming!
Sorry I had to use that G.O.T line, but couldn’t help myself!
But winter IS coming if you live down under, in fact it’s only 3 weeks away and it’s predicted to be a chilly one, with the influenza season also predicted to be worse than last year!
So you can either ignore this advice and go and get yourself a jab in the arm and do nothing about boosting your immune system through nutrition or you can actually focus on naturally strengthening your immune system through well established methods of which I will go through in this post AND use the flu shot as a secondary measure.
Take a probiotic and eat fermented gut friendly foods. The first practice to keeping a strong defence against catching viruses or being prone to infections is by remembering bacteria we carry on our skin and in our gut plays a key role in fighting off a dreaded loogie.
In a recent 10 month study carried out last year on children aged 2-6 clearly demonstrated that particular strands of beneficial bacteria, Bifidobacterium longum BB536, in a probiotic supplement had numerous benefits when comparing the results to the group who did NOT supplement with this strand of bacteria/pro-biotic. They were 1: A 46% decrease risk of developing a sore throat, 2. a 27% decrease in duration of fever when present, 3. 15% decrease in runny nose, 4: 16% reduction is coughs.
During the winter months it’s a good idea to supplement with Vitamin D. 58% of Australians are deficient in Vitamin D! 58%! Vitamin D contributes hugely to the functioning of our immunes system through many different ways. There’s a reason why we all feel much better during Summer.
“The optimal level is around 120nmol/L. A level below 80 nmol/L is considered insufficient and below 50nmol/L is deficient. Given that most children in Australia and New Zealand are vitamin D deficient in the winter (below 50nmol/L), it is likely that your child’s vitamin D will be insufficient and that he or she will benefit from a vitamin D supplement (or a trip to Fiji :). In the winter the sun is at an angle at which it is just too weak to produce vitamin D in our skin. Vitamin D up-regulates cathelicidin, an antimicrobial protein, which is powerful at killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The lower the vitamin D level, the higher the risk of an asthma exacerbation, a viral infection, eczema, allergic reactions, as well as low moods, and of course – everyone knows that – vitamin D deficiency can cause soft bones or rickets. In Northern European countries children receive a daily dose of vitamin D from the government to boost their immune system and strengthen their bones. The recommended dose varies from country to country – about 400-1000 IU per day.” (Dr Leila Masson)
And if you’re a breast feeding Mother there’s research suggesting you need to take a whopping 6400 IU (International Units) in order to have enough to go through your milk supply for bub! Because we know that Mums Vit D levels are around 25% higher than bubs. For more information about Vitamin D you can read all about it here: https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/
Ensure you’re having a well rounded diet full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Some specific antioxidants and minerals would be selenium and Zinc!
Unfortunately Australian and New Zealand soil is typically quite low in Zinc and Selenium and therefore we probably don’t get enough through our diet… One way to tell if you or your child is deficient has white spots on his fingernails, this may be a sign of low zinc or selenium stores. Zinc is essential for the immune system, fighting infections, skin healing, brain function and mood. Children with a zinc deficiency can get more frequent infections, may be irritable and can struggle with learning and attention and the same goes for adults – if you find that you’re tired but you just can’t seem to just chill and slow down this could be a warning sign that you’re low. We can over do it if we supplement zinc so it’s best to speak to a health practitioner about how to cycle this. Or you could simply add a handful of organic pumpkin seeds to your daily diet and this may boost your zinc levels up. Selenium is a fantastic anti-oxidant, it’s vital for the immune system and the thyroid gland and may also help to prevent certain cancers. You only need a tiny dose every day – which you can get from eating 3 Brazil nuts per day.
And so there you have it, three tips on how to strengthen your family immune system before winter! Good luck and instead of just surviving the winter, may your thrive!