With winter approaching, I have had many people wanting to talk about how they can use nutrition to support their immune system and keep winter bugs at bay.
As Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine.” We know that real food contains nutrients, vitamins and minerals that support the immune system. However, your body will only benefit from these if it is able to absorb them from the food you have eaten. It is possible that you could be eating a wide variety of whole foods but suffering from low levels of key nutrients.
It is estimated that 80 percent of the immune system lives within the gastrointestinal tract. If the gut is damaged, it is highly likely that you won’t be able to fully absorb key nutrients and your immune system will be compromised.
Therefore, if you want a strong immune system, focus on the health of your gut.
Here are three important ways you can look after the good bacteria within your gut:
Food: Regularly consume fermented foods. These are packed full of enzymes, vitamins and various strains of healthy gut bacteria: sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, natural yoghurt, kombucha. – Regularly consume prebiotics: These are the fuel source for healthy bacteria. Foods with high levels include leeks, raw garlic/onion, cooked onion, asparagus, dandelion greens, bananas, nuts. – Eat a diverse range of foods: diets rich in whole foods provide your gut with a variety of nutrients that help promote the growth of different types of bacteria.
Lifestyle: Exercise regularly as this promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Certain strains of bacteria including Bifidobacterium, which are present in active people, are not seen in people who are inactive. – Limit the baddies for gut health: alcohol, caffeine, smoking and excessive medication. – Value the importance of sleep. Studies have shown that regular disruptions to the circadian rhythm have a harmful effect on gut bacteria.
Supplementation: L-glutamine helps regenerate the lining of the digestive tract; zinc forms digestive enzymes and regulates hormones; and good quality fish oil helps reduce inflammation. – Take a probiotic supplement periodically to help increase the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This is especially important after a course of antibiotics.
It takes time to build a healthy gut, but taking these steps will help you to strengthen your health from the core so you can better fight winter ills.