HOW TO BOOST OUR IMMUNITY IN WINTER, BY JULIET LEGER MAIRRY
"I am a naturopathic practitioner and so many of the messages I get these days come from people who are constantly getting sick and seeking a magical recipe to avoid colds and flus in the winter months.
This said, for several years, I was not setting a very good example. Through naturopathy, I began to feel healthier and better resist falling ill in the colder months. I'm happy to share some of these simple gestures and eating habits, to begin implementing without delay!
THE BODY IS A SMART MACHINE
Our bodies are highly sophisticated and highly experienced machines. When you overload on heavy foods, lack of sleep, over drinking and stress the body compensates to keep working. But when our digestion is slowed down, this means less energy goes to the immune system. Excessive alcohol keeps the liver busy dealing with detoxing, and therefore it must compromise on producing new immune cells.
Most of us know that physical movement is necessary for good health, but first and foremost we need good, healing sleep. While sleeping, our bodies detox and regenerate. When we have short nights - rather through behavioral choices, bad habits or because of issues like insomnia - our bodies start each new day with less potential for resisting outside invasions. Also, sleep in the dark! A single little light can stimulate the pineal gland and the melatonin secretion - sleep's neurotransmitter - will be troubled.
LET’S SHOW SOME LOVE FOR THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM, THE LIVER & GUT FLORA
Our bowels control our metabolic and immune functions. This is why it’s so important to take care of your gastrointestinal tract and intestinal flora. Whenever we eat, it's the digestive system that tries to ensure we get the most out of every bite. Winter’s bounty yields a lot of vegetables that facilitate our bowl function due to their high fiber content. Think: spinach, leeks, chard, lamb's lettuce, celery…
The cabbage family - kale, cauliflower, green cabbage, broccoli - is good for your liver, too, because they contain sulphur. We tend to talk more about digestion than we do about the liver, despite the fact that this is one of the organs we use the most when we're sick. The liver does not like the cold and therefore needs to be warmed up by hot drinks (a rosemary infusion, for example) or by cuddling up with a hot water bottle. It’s also best to avoid eating too many unhealthy foods, excessive alcohol consumption and over medicating.
I am a proponent of giving the digestive system a break by going on a mono-diet. The process is simple: consume only one kind of food in its most simple state twice a week for dinner. I would not recommend doing this for a whole week - it is too intense. In winter try warm food like semi-whole grain rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, apples. Slowly steam the food in order to keep the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals. This could also become a vegetable soup or a vegetable juice but keep it at room temperature. This allows the body to produce only the minimum amount of enzymes needed for digestion.
FOOD AS FUEL
Proteins are key in terms of immune system support as they keep the machine functioning properly. It is important to consume enough protein. I recommend 1 gram by kilo a day - 15% of our daily ration - seems like a good quantity. Meat, fish, grains, plant proteins, superfoods - mixing it up is best.
Also let’s stop giving fats a bad rap! They are essential to proper bodily function as they are part of cell membrane make up. Of course, it’s important to absorb the right ratio, eat the “good” fats and don’t forget that Omegas 3s have anti-inflammatory proprieties. Try taking 2 tablespoons of an Omega 3 rich oil per day. Some examples are linseed, camelina, walnut and hemp oil, preferably organic and cold pressed. Also remember that nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews are all an amazing source of key vitamins and minerals.low
Some specific nutrients that our immune systems needs includes:
Vitamin C: Supports the immune system and antioxidant as well (this means that it will help you stay young!). In the winter, we find it in kiwis and citrus fruits.
Zinc: It's a good thing to eat oysters during the holidays! Zinc is also found in animal proteins and wheat germ.
Selenium: It's simple - a Brazil nut a day provides the recommended daily allowance of selenium. It's also full of magnesium, a key mineral because it feeds the immune system.
Magnesium: Easily found in almonds and bananas. Notorious for helping our muscular and nervous systems relax. And yes, there is magnesium in chocolate but the liver doesn’t like it as much as we do so just go for one piece!
Vitamin D: Obviously sunlight provides a really good source of vitamin D, but in winter it’s hard to come by. And even then, I believe that in order to get the daily dose we would need to expose our upper bodies 30 minutes per day (topless!). While we wait for this to be possible, try salmon, trout, herring and in the liquidy egg yolk of a soft boiled egg.
SUPERFOODS FOR THE WIN
Our food these days has lost a huge percentage of its nutritional value. Researchers say that an apple from the 1950s is the equivalent of approximately 100 apples cultivated today. This said, there are many things that we can bring into our diets before stocking up on dietary supplements. Enter: superfoods! There are a lot of good ones out there, but my favorites for winter include the following:
Sprouted Seeds: These are the definition of a living diet, and they have so many nutritional properties! Have a good handful of these every day.
Super Mushrooms: Aka shitake, miitake, reiki, chaga, etc. These funky fungi are major immunity boosters.
Barley Grass Juice: Another jackpot for of vitamins, minerals, proteins, iron and calcium.
Fresh Bee Pollen, Propolis, Royal Jelly: I am sorry for those who are allergic to products from beehives because these are amazing healers and protectors.
Freshwater Seaweed: Spirulina, Klamath, Chlorella and Quinton water (isotonic solution).
GO AHEAD! FALL OFF THE WAGON
The last piece of advice I have to offer is an important one: Fall off the wagon sometimes! Our bodies need to be reminded how to deal with certain types of foods that they are not so used to processing. Foods that are hard to digest, alcohol, rich foods - don’t become excessive but allow some flexibility. The more that we eliminate the harder it can be to keep going (and for our bodies to process different things). If it's good for the heart and the mind, it will also be good for the body. The key is to consume consciously.
According to Juliet Leger Mairry, studying naturopathy is learning what is good for you, and not for someone else. It's an individualized pedagogy that will allow you to optimize your health with natural techniques.
For Juliet, everything is about balance and when she's not busy making green juices or practicing yoga, she does not say no to a good meal with friends. Her philosophy? Enjoy every moment. Like Paracelse would say "All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison."