Sandra Greenbank is a Registered Nutrition Practitioner based in Hertfordshire, and is a wealth of knowledge on all things health, nutrition and wellness. Here she shares her top tips for winter wellness, to help keep you and your family healthy through these tough months.
Five tips for winter wellness
By Sandra Greenbank, Registered Nutrition Practitioner
With cold and flu season upon us, frosty mornings, and our schedules growing more and more hectic in the run-up to Christmas, it’s more important than ever to look after our own health as well as that of our family.
Here are my five top tips for winter wellness for all the family.
Look after your gut microbes
Up to 70% of our immune system resides in our gut, so it’s important to keep it well nourished for optimal health. One of the best ways to promote good gut health is to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria by eating fermented foods – 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.
Countless studies have shown that probiotics can have a significant impact on our immunity and I recommend supplementing too, especially if you or your child has had a history of antibiotics. I like using Wild Nutrition or Optibac for general wellness. They have a range of powders for children which is easier to get into them than a capsule. For a 10% discount at www.naturaldispensary.co.uk use the code ‘SGB10′ and pop my name in the practitioner box when ordering.
Boost Vitamin C
Vitamin C is vital during the winter months, as it helps support the immune system and it has been proven to help shorten the duration of a cold.
Vitamin C is water soluble, and we don’t store it or make it, so it’s important that we get this from our diet. Peppers, kale, papaya, Brussels 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 – light steaming is best.
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is the main vitamin our body can become deprived of during the autumn and winter months, but it’s essential for our immunity.
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 to April.
If you wear sun screen or don’t spend time outside during the peak hours of 10am-2pm during the summer months, you won’t be making it then either. Our bodies don’t store it for very long, and while we can get it from 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.
It’s actually quite easy to become dehydrated during the winter months as we wrap up warm and crank the central heating dial up. We tend to forget about drinking during the cold weather, but adequate hydration actually supports our immune system, helps us stay warm, and can reduce the risk of hypothermia.
Remember to offer regular drinks to your little people, ideally warm or room temperature rather than cold drinks. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks can be dehydrating, so try swapping for herbal teas or alternating with a glass of water on nights out.
Practice good hygiene
80% of infections are transmitted by hand. 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.
Instead, practice good hygiene – wash hands properly after each toilet visit, after changing nappies, before eating and after spending time in public places. Teach your children the importance of good hygiene. My kids got really in to ‘germ busting’ after I showed them a couple of YouTube videos.
About Sandra Greenbank
Sandra Greenbank is a mum of three, and a Registered Nutrition Practitioner specialising in fertility and pregnancy. Her motto is ‘a healthy baby begins with a healthy you’. For daily tips and advice, you can connect with her via Instagram and Facebook. You can also join her Facebook group, which is designed to support women who are trying to conceive with positive nutrition and lifestyle changes.