Whilst it’s traditionally the season to be jolly, Christmas is also the time of year when colds and nasty bugs proliferate. And this year is no exception, plus there is the ongoing risk of more Covid infections.
It’s certainly time to boost defences this festive season and there are many ways that you can support your health through diet and lifestyle changes.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top ways of boosting immunity this Christmas.
Take a Vitamin D supplement
In terms of supporting the immune system, this is probably one of the best defences you can employ. With so much research on vitamin D now emerging, the essential role this vitamin plays within the immune system is unquestionable.
Whilst Government guidelines recommend a minimum supplementation of 10 micrograms daily, many people need more than this. If possible, it’s worth having your blood levels checked by the doctor. However, if you have lots of aches and pains or are suffering with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), chances are you may need more vitamin D for a while. In terms of diet, mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D so try to add these to your festive menus.
Eat plenty of colour
Vitamin C is another essential nutrient to help support the immune system and it’s rich in most fruits and vegetables. If you’re eating plenty of colour, then the chances are you’re getting sufficient vitamin C.
However, vitamin C is quickly lost from the body and is also utilised more during stressful times; unfortunately, as we know, Christmas can be challenging for many of us. Why not give your vitamin C levels a boost by enjoying a daily vitamin C-rich juice including apples, celery, carrots, and parsley to really get the day off to a healthy start?
Try to ensure that as many meals as possible contain green leafy vegetables, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash. These vegetables contain beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A, as needed, as well as providing loads of vitamin C.
Enjoy some R & R
Stress raises cortisol levels which in turn can suppress the immune system – definitely not what you need right now! It’s important, therefore, to try to keep everything balanced and take some time out to rest and recuperate.
This is often difficult if you have a really busy life and/or have young children demanding your attention. However, just taking 10 minutes out to lie on your bed and do some deep breathing, meditation or listen to some music, can work wonders.
Having a warm bath before bedtime and adding some Epsom salts which are rich in relaxing magnesium, can also have an amazing restorative effect. Try to find what works for you and practice it every day.
Take some exercise
Moderate exercise helps to increase production of viral-fighting immune cells. This doesn’t mean spending hours tormenting yourself in the gym, but just taking regular exercise that raises the heart rate.
Walking is an incredibly effective form of exercise. It helps to maintain strong bones and supports your mental wellbeing. It’s also important to do some form of resistance exercise, which is especially key for ladies during and after the menopause; women can lose as much as 30% of their bone mass after menopause. Lifting a few hand weights, doing some weighted squats, or using your own body weight in postures which form part of a yoga practise such as plank can really help.
Support your mental wellbeing
There’s so much being discussed right now around mental wellbeing which is a positive change. However, many people are still unwilling to admit they’re struggling. If this sounds like you, then are many walking and talking groups, or online forums you can join, which can provide much needed support. The most difficult part is admitting that you have a problem. If you reach out, there is plenty of help available.
If anxiety is a problem for you, then both the herbs Rhodiola and Ashwagandha are incredibly effective at calming the nerves. They are known as adaptogenic herbs, which means they help to manage the stress response and reduce cortisol levels. Both are available in supplement form.
Prevention is always better than cure so ramp up your immunity defences this festive season and enjoy a healthy Christmas.
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