In Scotland children are back to school this week. It has prompted me to write on preventing infections as we enter the Autumn and Winter months. This will apply for students returning or starting university in September.
Today I am focusing on 4 nutrients. For more information on immune system support see previous blogs here and here.
I will start with Vitamin C. This is a cupboard must in our house. I take a daily maintenance dose and increase if I feel I am coming down with something. It is hard to get decent levels from food however I encourage you to eat an abundance of colourful fruit and vegetables to add the the content. I won’t recommend dosages on here, make an appointment or ask in your local health food store.
Vitamin C food sources: berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, citrus fruit, parsley, peppers, sauerkraut or raw cabbage, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Zinc is the next nutrient that is helpful for prevention. It becomes depleted in times of challenge and not enough of us eat enough foods that contain it. It is something I also have in the cupboard however supplementing should be advised and monitored as you don’t want to take too much or take for too long.
Zinc foods: Pumpkin and sunflower seeds – add to breakfast, salads, pasta dishes, curries and soups. I make a lovely green lentil dish where I add pumpkin seeds right at the end of cooking.
Other sources are: Beef, interestingly I read an article in The Telegraph on how higher meat consumption lead to lower incidences of depression in females. Zinc is needed to make the brain chemical known as the mood neurotransmitter – serotonin – could zinc be the link here?
If you like eating meat, then source local grass fed where possible. I on a weekly basis make dishes like chilli, cottage pie, pasta ragu or pasta with meatballs and also burgers. I also make casseroles with stewing steak to make sure we all eat enough meat. The research suggests too much can be detrimental to mental health, I cook a meat dish 2-3 times a week. I always serve plenty of vegetables with meat dishes as this helps with the digestion and excretion of it. Vegetables contain fibre and fibre is essential for gut motility.
Eggs, dairy such as milk and seafood are also good sources of zinc.
Vitamin D years ago was used but not really with them knowing to treat infections such as tuberculosis before the advent of antibiotics. Patients were sent to sanatoriums and were treated with sunlight, vitamin D is absorbed through the skin from sunlight. Cod liver oil, a rich source of vitamin D has also been used in the treatment for tuberculosis and also has been used for protection for other infections. According to this paper a report on 19,000 people showed that those with lower vitamin D levels were more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections compared to those with acceptable levels. I suggest getting levels tested so you know how much to take. If you are prone to recurring infections, the antimicrobial effect of Vitamin D should be something worth considering.
Mushrooms – This is something I started to take in supplement form last year after a bout of infections. It certainly stopped a theme of contracting a cold every 2-3 months. There is quite a bit of research on the anti-viral properties of mushrooms. The simple white button mushroom has been shown to be effective at fighting viruses, add these to your weekly shop and eat once or twice a week, serve with breakfast or a simple mushrooms on toast with parsley on the top at lunch time. If making a casserole or a Bolognese then add mushrooms for flavour and goodness.
Lastly this tip is not a nutrient but to encourage you to wash your hands regularly but not excessively. I have noticed that this also makes a difference. However I really encourage you to source hand wash that avoids nasty chemicals such as triclosan. Triclosan is an antibacterial substance and is partially banned in soaps by the FDA. It strips the skin on healthy bacteria, healthy bacteria is protective against infections. It is also found in some toothpastes – find ones that do not have it.
I use natural hand washes in the house and always check the ingredients and I carry around Dr Bronner lavender hand spray when I am out and about. It is a natural antimicrobial so will not strip away my natural healthy bacteria that lives on my skin.