By Linda Vezzoli / Nutritional Therapist
As the weather gets colder and we spend more time indoors, our ability to resist winter illnesses is compromised due to many factors: lack of sunshine, poor ventilation, overeating and central heating drying out our mucous membranes. Add to that the heightened risk of infections such as flu virus and colds between October and February; it makes sense to focus our efforts on strengthening the immune system.
We can help boost our own natural resistance to illness this winter before it becomes necessary to take prescribed medication. Here are some of my favourite winter wellness tips:
- Open your windows for 10-20 minutes every day Even in the bitter cold, airing out your house every day will get rid of condensation (which leads to mould), toxins, dust, viruses, bacteria and indoor air pollution, all of which can have a negative effect on our health.
- Eat a rainbow coloured array of vegetables (and some fruits) to boost nutrients including vitamin C, that protect against excess free radical damage which is associated compromised immunity. Zinc-rich foods such as seafood, lean protein, seeds, and whole grains are important for immunity provided by your mucous membranes, including the gut lining – which is fundamental for immune health. Also include plenty of garlic and ginger in your diet for their natural anti-microbial benefits.
- Reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates which can significantly reduce the number of white blood cells that our immune systems require in order to destroy foreign particles and micro-organisms.
- Drink plenty of fluids to ensure your eliminatory systems are able to work optimally. Replace fluid lost during a respiratory infection, prevent dehydration and mucous build-up. These can include filtered water, herbal teas, soups and broths.
- Exercise enough to boost immunity Studies have shown that regular exercise can improve immune system defence significantly: as little as 30 minutes walking five times a week can increase white blood cells and antibody response. But don’t overdo it: excessive intensive exercise can temporarily suppress immunity due to stress hormones produced.
- Sleep well Getting a regular eight hours of sleep and finding time for rest and relaxation replenishes the immune system and improves resistance to infection. Lack of sleep depletes many nutrients especially magnesium. If you are struggling with your sleep, look at practising good sleep hygiene such as avoiding screen use 2 hours before bed, dimming the lights in the evenings and keeping your room temperature cool.
- Minimise personal and work-related stress, which lowers immune function and depletes nutrients important for health defence, such as zinc and vitamin C. Easier said than done, but one important thing to remember is that most stress is a mindset – your brain cannot distinguish from actual stress (i.e. being chased by a bear) and perceived stress (i.e. sitting in a traffic jam) and will activate the same physical stress response system, which can have damaging repercussion on your health. Look at including mindfulness and relaxation in your daily life and working on a mindset shift.
- Take an immune tonic There are many useful natural immune tonics available such as echinacea and elderberry; however, some of these cannot be taken continuously (echinacea). The clinically proven nutritional supplement called BioBran Plus can be used indefinitely through the winter for continued benefits without any tail-off in effectiveness. BioBran is supported by research and will also quickly knock a cold on the head if taken at its onset.
- Whilst high-dose BioBran is used for its immune support by people with severely compromised immune systems, including those undergoing chemotherapy, Biobran Plus was developed to meet demand for a similar but lower dose product to help prevent illness and maintain health. Biobran itself is the subject of much peer-reviewed research and clinical studies to support its efficacy , and it works by boosting the activity of T cells, B cell and NK cells of the immune system by up to 300 per cent. BioBran Plus contains two key compounds: Arabinoxylan and Brewer’s Yeast.1) Arabinoxylan are complex polysaccharides found in the cell wall of rice bran, broken down with the enzymes from shiitake mushrooms. Studies in the US, Canada and Switzerland have demonstrated its immune modulating function and ability to boost the "Natural Killer" cells which form the body's front line of defence against disease.
2) Brewer's Yeast, rich in plant polysaccharides called beta-glucans, nutrients including B vitamins, amino acids, and such trace minerals as chromium and selenium, strengthen BioBran's effect.
When our immune systems are optimised, not only are we healthier and more resistant to disease, but we psychologically feel better too. So in following some of the tips above, the winter months will not look so bleak!
- Oral administration of BioBran MGN-3 alleviates common cold syndrome in elderly people. Tazawa K. (Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical Univ., JAPAN) : Journal of Traditional Medicines, 20 (3), 2003 This placebo-controlled, double-blind study of 50 elderly patients, a group at high risk for colds, showed that those who took BioBran endured less severe symptoms and the number of days when symptoms were manifest was shortened from 2.6 to 1.2 days in the BioBran group compared with the control group. Common cold symptoms such as "cough," "fatigue" and "fever" were less prevalent in the BioBran group. This study also demonstrated that the necessity for symptomatic treatment was reduced through the extract's immunostimulatory action.
- BioBran’s functions including immunomodulation, active oxygen scavenging, and reduction of chemical toxicity and clinical use in cancer patients have been widely investigated. Visit www.biobran.org to see all studies, including those published in peer-reviewed journals.