Look after your gut microbes

Up to 70% of our immune system is situated in our gut, so it’s important to keep it functioning well for optimal health. After all, we are what we absorb – not what we eat! One of the best ways to promote good gut health is to eat fermented foods which promotes the growth of friendly bacteria – think sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, kefir and miso. It’s important to make sure the food is ‘live’ and when it comes to yoghurt, natural is best. Bone broth is another food that is fantastic for both gut and skin health, and it’s very easy to make it yourself.

Vitamin C

Focus on Vitamin C rich foods during the winter months, as it helps support the immune system and it has been proven to help shorten the duration of a cold. Peppers, kale, papaya, brussel sprouts and cauliflower all contain more vitamin C than citrus fruit. The main thing to remember is not to over cook food as this destroys the Vitamin C – raw or light steaming is best.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is essential for our immunity and deficiency is very common. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of a host of health issues, including autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infections, particularly chest infections. It also helps the body absorb calcium, which we need for healthy bones and teeth.

Our main source of Vitamin D is from the sun – when the rays hit our skin it’s converted to Vitamin D. However, the sun is not strong enough for us to be able to convert it to Vitamin D in the UK during October – April. Whilst we can get it from eating oily fish and eggs, it’s very difficult to get enough from food alone. I recommend that everyone considers a vitamin D supplement during the winter months, for babies too (but not bottle fed babies as the formula milk is fortified already) and it’s also a good idea to get your Vitamin D levels checked; you can do this simply using a skin prick test which is posted to you via www.BetterYou.com

Don’t forget to drink

It’s actually quite easy to become dehydrated during the winter months as we tend to forget about drinking during the cold weather. Making sure we are well hydrated actually supports our immune system, helps us stay warm and can reduce the risk of hypothermia. Water and herbal teas are best.

Practice good hygiene

80% of infections are transmitted by hand and studies have shown that washing your hands reduces our chances of catching a cold by 45% so it makes sense to practice extra good hand hygiene at this time of year. I don’t recommend antibacterial soaps or hand gels, as they contain potentially harmful chemicals that may be linked to cancer and have been banned in many other countries, for good reason. Antibacterial products also destroy the beneficial bacteria on our skin that are there to protect us. You can buy natural antibacterial products from health food shops. They don’t contain the harmful chemicals, but killing the germs on our hands isn’t necessarily in our best interest as most of the bacteria is there to protect us. Instead, practice good hygiene – wash hands properly using regular soap after each toilet visit, after changing nappies, before eating and after spending time in public places.

Find out more about Sandra on her website.