Support Your Health This Autumn

Support Your Health This Autumn

In the past couple of years we have experienced times of uncertainty and fear in relation to personal and global health. One of the most empowering things you can do at times when so much feels out of your control is to manage your health by taking charge of your diet and lifestyle.

Your immune system is the most powerful weapon you have against disease. Strong immunity means that your body is better able to fight off viruses and germs. 

Here are my top tips to keep you fighting fit all the way through Autumn and Winter.

Eat real food

Your body needs real, unprocessed food to stay healthy and not the processed foods that you kid yourself are OK to eat.  Focus on eating natural, unrefined, unprocessed food as much as you can and cut out (or at least cut back on) sugar. 

That means focussing on eating meat, fish, eggs and vegetarian sources of protein like tofu, beans, lentils and chickpeas, and nuts and seeds, plus a broad range of fruit and vegetables. Follow the 80/20 rule (for the avoidance of doubt, this means eating healthily 80% of the time – think fresh apples rather than apple juice, or wholegrain bread instead of a white bread sandwich).

Eat food that your tummy loves

Did you know that up to 80% of your immunity to germs and disease is in your digestive system?

The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) in the gut is part of the first line of immune defence so getting the right balance between beneficial or ‘good’ gut bacteria and the ‘bad’ or potentially pathogenic bacteria is key.

How to do this:

The gut environment takes a beating year after year, owing to poor diets, too much sugar, stress, antibiotics and other factors. Even if you have no obvious tummy troubles, digestive health is vital, so it’s worth the extra effort to take care of it.

Add probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet, as these re-populate the gut with good bacteria and feed them well enough to crowd out bad bacteria.

Here are some gut-friendly choices to get you started:

  • Organic, probiotic, natural yoghurt – sometimes called ‘live’ yoghurt. (Always buy full-fat yoghurt, as the 0% or no-fat options have increased levels of milk sugars – and fat isn’t the enemy, either in life or in weight loss).
  • Miso soup or miso bouillon paste (add these to soups and stews).
  • Oats (soak first, as you would to make overnight oats, in order to release the goodness).
  • Onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Green bananas.
  • Beans.
  • Cooked, then cooled, potatoes.

Cook with herbs and spices

Adding flavour to food is a smart way to include delicious immune boosters on your plate. Garlic is a potent superfood. It is antimicrobial, thanks to the active ingredient allicin, which helps fight viruses, and has been used for thousands of years to boost the immune system and prevent sickness.

To make the most of allicin, crush, chop or grate the garlic cloves and allow them to sit for a few minutes. This releases more allicin. Once formed, it is fairly resistant to heat. Most culinary herbs contain anti-inflammatory properties due to their phytonutrients, but oregano and thyme are particularly rich.

Spice up your cooking with turmeric and ginger, too, as these are well-documented in supporting your immune system. 

Say no to sugar

Even if you don’t consider yourself a sugar addict, it’s worth taking a look at how much you do consume – and trying to swap sugary treats for something more wholesome.

Sugar fans the flames of inflammation and affects the ability of white blood cells to fend off viruses and bacteria. In fact, the immune system stays depressed for hours after consuming sugar, according to recent studies.

Enjoy raw cocoa or cacao hot chocolate on chilly evenings, adding your favourite milk or milk substitutes.

If you really miss that chocolate hit, try a few squares of pure, dark chocolate like Lindt or Green & Blacks (make sure it’s at least 75%).

Drink more water

Styling well-hydrated is important for health in general. When it comes to bolstering your defences, water is a miracle worker. It flushes germs from your system, helps your blood to carry plenty of oxygen to your body’s cells and allows those cells to absorb important nutrients.

A filter jug or bottle is a great way to avoid taking in high levels of chlorine and fluorine along with your tap water. 

Hello sunshine

As difficult as this is to achieve sometimes (particularly in winter and spring), spending sufficient time in sunlight is a vital immune booster.

Vitamin D is made by your skin absorbing sunlight, so planning an hour or two outside during daylight hours is a good reason to leave work early or take your children to the park when you’d rather sleep late. Even sitting outside in while you have your morning cuppa is a good thing right now.

Expose as much of your bare skin to the sun as possible, and don’t wear sunscreen during that time either as it inhibits the process.

You can boost your vitamin D levels by eating more of the following foods: oily fish (salmon, mackerel and fresh tuna), beef liver, mushrooms, cheese, egg yolks and vitamin D-fortified foods, such as dairy products and orange juice.

It’s worth checking whether you are low in vitamin D, and these days it’s easy to check this yourself (rather than asking your doctor) by taking a finger-prick blood spot test. I can give you recommendations of where to get it done – just ask!

Get enough sleep

Being tired is not good for your health. Simply, your body needs rest to stay healthy. In one study done at a private research university in Pennsylvania in the US found that, even if people said they felt fine and dandy, if they’d had less than 7 hours of sleep a night, they were three times more likely to catch a cold than people who had had an average of 8 hours or more of shut eye.

Move in a way that feels good

Your lymphatic system, a parallel universe to your bloodstream, contains a network of tissues and organs that help your body get rid of toxins and waste. Its main role is to transport a fluid called lymph around the body, which contains infection-fighting white blood cells. Unlike the blood, which moves around thanks to your heart pumping, there’s no automatic way of moving lymph about. The only way to shift the stuff from A to B is by moving yourself.  

A recent study from a university in North Carolina in the US showed that people who move themselves for 5 or more days a week experience 43% fewer days with upper respiratory infections (that’s throat, sinuses and or lungs – basically the common cold). The aim is 30-60 minutes of exercise 5 times a week.

If we haven’t met before, my name is Gemma Lawlor, and I’m a Nutritional Therapist, Functional Medicine Practitioner & Health Coach. 

If you’d like to find out more about how to work with me take a look around the website. If you’d like to book in for a free 30 minute clarity call to see how I can help you just click here. 


Back to blog