We’re Making a List and Checking it Twice…

December 1, 2020

Immune health, mental wellbeing, healthy digestion, all the things we want on our list this year

As we post this blog, we won’t actually know what Christmas and the next few weeks will be like as we will be in the last couple of days of ‘Lockdown2’ as it has become. At a time of year when many people are used to visiting families and friends, having nights out and chilling out with a favourite film and a large tub of chocolates, it is going to be very strange  and possibly quite difficult, if we are plunged into Lockdown3 or at least be subject to lots of restrictions.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it is still often a time of activity and reflection, or simply having fun and allowing yourself to over-indulge a little. Considering that it is going to be different to what we would normally do, how can we prepare ourselves and keep ourselves well?

Considering Christmas is going to be a bit different this year, how can we prepare ourselves?

Of course, making sure you have a healthy immune system is possibly one the hot topics of this season. As we head into Winter and what is normally one of the key flu seasons, this year it is even more relevant. There are some simple steps you can take that can help keep your immune system functioning as it should.

As always, eating a healthy and balanced diet comes at the top of the list, the great thing is that a lot of seasonal favourites can be good for us. Tangerines and clementines, those small and juicy oranges can be a source of vitamin C, which we know we need for immune health. How about nuts? They can be a source of the mineral zinc, which is also needed for the immune system. Some salmon for a special lunch? Oily fish like salmon can be a source of vitamin D as well as the important fatty acid EPA and DHA.

Lots of festive foods such as tangerines and nuts can be a good way to top up on important nutrients.

Drink plenty of water and herbal teas too, lay off the caffeine especially if you are already feeling stressed. It may seem obvious and you have heard it before but keep alcohol intake to sensible levels. If you are going to be drinking more than usual, try to alternate your alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one or water, your body will thank you for it the following day.

Supplements can be useful too, especially for nutrients such as vitamin D. Although we can manufacture this vitamin by exposing the skin to sunlight, it is much harder to get enough at this time of year. As you have probably seen in the media, vitamin D has the potential to play a key role in the current pandemic, the NHS recommend taking 400iu daily and the government are considering supplying it to the elderly and vulnerable. As a supplement, it is easy to take it is also available in drops. Although often from animal sources, you can also get it in a vegan form from lichen.

Being in lockdown, physical distancing, restrictions on travel and not being able to do simple things such as meeting friends have all taken a toll on many of us. It is not just the face to face contact; it is physical things like hugs and greeting colleagues with a handshake that have vanished too. All of these can have an impact on us in our everyday lives. People of all ages are feeling the effects of the pandemic mentally, even if they have not had the illness themselves. So how can we help this situation, especially at this time of year?

There is plenty of research that shows that getting outside can made a big difference to our mental health. We may not be able to travel as far as we would like, but just half an hour or an hour outside, ideally in a green space, can recharge us mentally and help physically too. Gentle exercise helps our circulation, joints and gets more oxygen into the system.

Even with physical distancing, a walk in a park with a friend can give us both mental and physical benefits. Gyms may or may not be closed, so take your exercise routine outside or follow the likes of Joe Wicks and he exercise sessions. These can also be a great way to get the family involved and all release a bit of the pressure of feeling cooped up.

Try to get outside and get some daylight once a day.

The mental health charity MIND has a lot of resources for supporting individuals. From talking and texting services, to fact sheets and advice pages, they can be a great starting point for getting help if you feel overloaded. They even have pages dedicated to coping specifically with COVID-19 related issues. Organisations such as the Samaritans also offer telephone and texting support. The important thing to remember about these services is that they are not judging you or telling you to ‘pull your socks up,’ they are there to listen and to help point you in the direction of further help if needed.

Again, that healthy diet comes into play, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, seeds and nuts, can all be a source of nutrients that help the nervous system including the B vitamins. How about some good news? Good quality dark chocolate can also be a source of the mineral magnesium which helps us relax and is needed for normal psychological function. So, a treat of a small amount of dark chocolate can do you good on a number of levels.

Building supplements into your routine that will support your nervous system are a good idea too. B vitamins help reduce tiredness and fatigue and can support energy-yielding metabolism. Taking a supplement where the vitamins are in their active form, means they are absorbed more quicky and efficiently, so always look at the label of your B complex. Magnesium is ideal as a supplement too. Many users find that if they take it in the evening that they feel more relaxed and sleep better. Magnesium and B vitamins are synergistic, meaning they work well together, they can be a valuable addition to your supplement regime.

Maybe you feel that it is hard to focus and concentrate or maybe a bit less calm than normal. Other useful supplements are Omega 3 oils, DHA an essential fatty acid, is important for cognitive function. If you don’t want to use the usual fish source, there is not a vegan alternative from algae. While the amino acid L-theanine, found in green tea, is known t help us relax and feel calm without making us drowsy.

With this time of year, often comes overindulgence and eating foods that you might not normally eat such as more fatty or sugary foods. If we are all still restricted, we may well find that we are comfort eating even more than usual. So have a think about your digestive health too.

There is nothing wrong with a treat or two but try not to let it get out of hand. Keep to a couple of snacks a day or with a meal, rather than grazing on chocolates all day. Help keep your digestive system in good shape by eating a wide variety of fresh foods and also include some fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut or kimchi. Maybe have a glass of kombucha instead of a glass or wine, or a drink of kefir at breakfast. All of these contain healthy bacteria that help to keep the gut clean. If you are not that keen on the taste of fermented foods, you can try a friendly bacteria supplement.

There is nothing wrong with a treat or two, just don’t let it get out of control!

Peppermint tea is perfect after a meal and can help perk you up after a big dinner. If you have trouble digesting food, try small portions and chew more. You can also take digestive enzymes, a supplement that will add to your own digestive enzymes and help you break down food more effectively. Trying to have relaxed mealtimes will help too!

Whatever you do, however you celebrate or not, we wish you well, here’s hoping we can all move forward into a happy and healthy 2021. All the best from the AOR Team.

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