Don’t forget yourself

As the year starts to wind down and we are getting closer to the festive season, many of us tend to run around like a headless chicken, forgetting that we also need some TLC.  I have written previous blog posts about how to take “time-out” for yourself; so, in today’s blog post I want to remind you that it is not just a good night’s sleep and exercise that holds the key to a strong immune system, but also your diet and mind-set.

Winter is a time when most, if not all of us, lean more towards creamier, richer dishes and comfort foods.  An easy-to-follow guide is to make smart choices, for example instead of using full cream milk, go for low fat milk; swop the thick cream in sauces and use yoghurt instead; instead of eating mainly starches like pastas and breads, opt for more vegetables and soups.  Wintertime is not a time when we want to eat salads, so add more vegetables, apples, pears and other ins-season fruits and berries to your plates.  Adding ginger, garlic, turmeric and lemon to dishes and/or drinks are a fantastic way to not only boost your immune system, but also to keep viruses at bay.  Spices have been used for centuries and have wonderful medicinal properties as well.  For more information on this, why not have a look at some of my previous blog posts where I discuss the wonders of spices.

During the summer months don’t steer too far off the healthy earing-routine either!  Have an ice-cream or milkshake, but make sure to eat / drink in moderation.  Use low fat / fat free salad dressings instead of the creamier ones; or make your own.  Olive oil and/or vinegar is a wonderful salad dressing and you will be getting the much-needed omega oils in!  Whether it is winter or summertime, make sure to stay hydrated!  Water with lemon or mint in and black tea (no milk and sugar) are great.  Vitamins and minerals are also important.  Vitamin C, Zinc, Iron, Vitamin B12 and probiotics all play a part in building and maintaining a strong immune system.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it doesn’t stay in the body for a long period.  Taking it every morning, before breakfast, is a good idea and, for those who have a sensitive gut, I would recommend using a buffered vitamin C.  NRF and Biogen are good brands; as well as Solal and Solgar.  For those of you that exercise regularly, vitamin C is a must, as it plays a role in maintaining your energy levels and helps to get rid of rogue molecules in the body.  Sweet potato, tomatoes (plucked when they are ripe), red peppers, citrus foods and potato in the skin, all contain vitamin C.  Best to try to eat organic as much as possible, as it is more nutrient-dense.

Zinc plays an important role in keeping our immune system strong.  Shellfish is a good source but for those who are allergic or vegan, spinach and legumes (like chickpeas, lentils and beans) are great alternatives.  Red meat is another good source for those who do eat meat.

Iron is another mineral that plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong.  It can be found in red meat, beans, lentils, tofu, cashews, green leafy vegetables and in baked potatoes (with the skin).  Do take care if you are taking an iron-supplement.  In a multi-vitamin, the dose is not high, but when taking it on its own, do make sure to check with your health practitioner how much.  Too much iron can cause toxicity in the body.

Vitamin B12 not only supports the immune system but it also helps the body to cope when tired and/or stressed.  Did you know that, when you are ill, run down, tired or stressed, your body uses vitamin B6 & B12 first as a means to protect the immune system?  When you are depleted of these 2 vitamins, your chances of becoming ill are doubled, so to speak!  Therefore, make sure to add more fish, eggs, milk and cheese to your diet.  And for all the chocolate-lovers and vegetarians out there – eating dark chocolate is a must!  A quick tip:  taking vitamin B6 & B12, in combination form, is a great way to give your immune system that extra boost.

Vitamin D, found in eggs, milk, vegetables, fruits, protein and whole grains, play a key role in keeping the immune system strong.  For those living in a country where there is not plenty of sunshine, it is always a good idea to take a vitamin D-supplement.  This vitamin is also important for keeping depression at bay, as well as the absorption of calcium and magnesium in the body.

Probiotics is important for our gut.  When our gut is not in balance (especially when it is too acidic), then our health starts to suffer.  As mentioned earlier, tiredness, stress, feeling run down, and so forth, can create havoc on our immune system; as well as our gut.  Thus, taking a probiotic regularly, or and acid / alkaline powder (to balance the pH in our gut), is a wonderful way to make sure that the pH-levels are in balance and the immune system is working.

Lastly; mind-set.  Thoughts can create harmony or havoc in our lives.  Make time to relax, meditate, unwind and letting go.  When our minds race, when there are hundreds of “what ifs” running around, not only do we deprive ourselves of a good night’s rest, but our whole body starts to become run down – and we end up being ill.  Not to mention how it affects the people around us in a negative way!

Even if it is cold outside, put on a warm jacket and get out into nature – nature is a wonderful “medicinal” tool to help us to focus again on what we can change, what we can do and to stop worrying about the things we cannot change.  Grounding yourself is vital; not matter what life throws at you – after all, that which we fear we attract.  Our thoughts do create our reality, so be aware of your thoughts, but also watch your words!  Once a thought or a word has been uttered, it cannot be taken back.  Our minds are very powerful.  Focus on the positives, be grateful for what you have and stop dwelling in the past.  Your immune system and your gut, will be grateful!!

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