Make it a winter of wellness, not illness

November 1, 2022

Colder weather, less sunshine , economic stresses and strains can all add up to pile on the pressure and maybe leave up more susceptible to winter bugs.

With talk of a ‘twindemic’  of Covid and flu infections, now is a good time to review supplements and our diets with a plan to maintain wellness and  look after ourselves.

Having a healthy immune system can help steer us through the winter months and with a little planning we can ensure that our bodies are working as well as they can.

Vitamin D has rarely been out of the news in the past couple of years, important for healthy bones and teeth, it also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system. During the summer months, we are able to manufacture our own vitamin D from the reaction of sunlight on the skin, but from October to March is it much harder to get vitamin D from Sunlight.

Government guidelines recommend that an adult needs 10mcg or 400iu of vitamin D a day. During the winter, we need to rely more on our diets as a source and this can be difficult. The NHS recommend that taking a supplement through the winter is a good idea to ensure adequate intake.

Government guidelines recommend that everyone takes a vitamin D supplement through the winter months.

The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that babies from birth to 1 year of age should have a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they are breastfed. Children aged 1-4 years old are recommended to take 10mcg/400iu, throughout the year.

Vitamin D is present in oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods. If you are not regularly consuming these foods, a supplement is the best way to ensure you are getting enough. As a supplement, we can have vitamin D from fish oil and a vegan source from lichen. Available as capsule as drops, it is easy to find one that suits your lifestyle.

Vitamin C is another nutrient that plays an important role in the health of our immune system. This water soluble vitamin needs to come from our diet as we can’t manufacture it in the body. You will find it in fresh fruits and vegetables, but it is very sensitive to heat and light. So if you boil your veg to death, there won’t be much vitamin C left!

A vitamin C supplement is an easy way to add this nutrient into your healthy living regime. Look for additional co factors such as bioflavonoids too, these help you absorb the vitamin C.  Vitamin C is also important for collagen production. Our skin can be under greater pressure in the winter, so ensuring a regular intake of vitamin C will look after your skin too.

One good way to make the most of nutrients that can leach out of food while cooking is to either make soups or add the veg water to gravies and sauces. Soups are a great way of using up tired and vegetables and cheap beans and pulses to make a nutritious, tasty and economical meal. You will find some great starter recipes here.

Making soups can be an economical way of making healthy and filling dishes that are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

The mineral zinc also plays an important role in the health of the immune system. Found in seafood, nuts and seeds and meat. You can also take it as a single supplement or as part of a multi nutrient formula. Ideally, your supplement will also include copper to maintain a balance of these minerals in the body.

Having a healthy gut microbiome, the colony of good bacteria we have in our digestive system, does far more than keep the gut clean and aid digestion. Around 70% of our immune system originates from the digestive system. Keep it in good condition with fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi or consider a supplement of friendly bacteria to build your microbiome.

Regular exercise is important for a healthy circulation and good mobility, both of which can suffer in the colder weather. Exercise doesn’t have to be hours in a gym, a brisk walk can be very beneficial too. It is well recognised that being outside in nature on a regular basis can be good for our mental health too.

Talking a walk in a green space has been shown to calm and relax the mind. Aim to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day.

With the current climate, many people are feeling stressed and worried about many issues so little steps to help support good mental health is all important. Getting outside, meeting friends, investigating your local library for something new to read can all be simple and free ways of giving yourself a boost.

A diet rich in B vitamins and the mineral magnesium is important in helping maintain a healthy nervous system. B vitamins can also help reduce tiredness and fatigue and work well with magnesium which also plays a role in helping muscles to relax.

Look for wholegrains, seeds nuts and lean protein or consider a supplement. B vitamins are most easily absorbed in their active forms where the body can recognise them and easily transport them into the cells.

Taking time to review your diet and make little tweaks to your lifestyle can make a big difference. You can make it fun by involving the family on walks or challenging yourself to introduce one new food a week. Trying out different vegetables can not only add something different into your mealtimes, but it can also be a good source of nutrients and often an economical way to boost your diet.

Simple steps can go a long way in helping us all maintain good health and stay well this winter. Don’t try to change everything at once, remember that achievable goals bring little wins and that always makes us feel better.

Little changes can lead to positive gains when it comes to our health. Give yourself achievable goals.

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