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Natural World Safaris

Nutrition Inner Nutshell

25 Mar 2020

In light of the current situation, we here at ‘Nutrition Inner Nutshell’ have decided to team up with ‘Natural World Safaris’ to offer you some basic nutritional and lifestyle tips that may help to support, not only your immune system ....but your sanity! Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some suggestions on topics such as vitamins and minerals through foods, gut health, anti-inflammatory foods and mental health support through diet and lifestyle.

Today I’m going to start with a general overview on food groups that may help to support your immune system.

 

Strawberries

Antioxidants

Our immune supporting warriors that help to neutralise free radicals (molecules that can lead to cell damage and may contribute to chronic disease over time). Aim to ‘eat the rainbow’. See how many different coloured fruit and veg you can eat in a day. Foods high in antioxidants are- berries, spinach, pecans, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, artichokes, kale, broccoli, wild caught salmon.

Protein

Not eating enough protein has been linked to dysfunction within the immune system. Aim to eat a palm size serving of good quality protein at each meal. Eg-grass fed red meat, chicken, fish, turkey, legumes, tofu, tempeh, eggs.

Asparagus

Wholefoods

Foods that are eaten in as close to their natural state as possible to retain optimal nutrients.E.g- fresh fruit (as opposed to juice), whole grains (brown rice/pasta), Cous Cous, quinoa, legumes, vegetables.

Avoiding or limiting certain foods is just as important in supporting the immune system as adding in foods.

Oranges

Avoid/limit

Sugar- Studies show that sugar intake reduces the optimal function of the white blood cells and acts as an immune suppressant. E.g. Avoid/limit- cakes, pastries, sweets, fruit juices, store bought cereal and sauces, fizzy drinks. (Aim for 5g/100g sugar or under on labels).

Caffeine- Try to limit yourself to one caffeinated drink per day (eg tea, coffee, energy drinks). Caffeine is a diuretic (therefore adds to loss of nutrients through urine) as well as being thought to be a stressor to the immune system.

(None of the above is meant as a substitute for medical advice or to suggest that following the above would guarantee no sickness. Please ensure you consult your GP or call 111 if you are concerned or have any ongoing symptoms).

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed in a wide range of the body's systems from cardiovascular, reproductive, neurological and (a crucial one in the current environment!) immune. However, it is thought that around 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in this vitamin, with approximately half of the world's population thought to have insufficient levels. Surprisingly, Australia has one of the highest levels of Vitamin D deficiency in its population due to their 'slip, slop, slap' motto (suncream!) and advice to cover up and remain in the shade at all costs.

So, it can get very confusing, I know! On one hand we are told to stay out of the sun due to the risk of cancer and on the other we are advised to get into the sun for Vitamin D intake! Hopefully these next few paragraphs will help to give you a bit more insight and clarity into how you can support your intake and just how much sun is 'enough'

Sunflower

Although the two main causes of vitamin D deficiency are not enough exposure to sunlight and inadequate intake through dietary sources; there are some conditions that cause malabsorption (e.g. coeliac, cystic fibrosis, short bowel syndrome and gastric bypass) and certain medications that may also lead to low levels within the body. In order to try and maintain optimal Vitamin D levels there are a few simple things you can do for yourself at home.

Firstly, get outside! Our bodies have an amazing ability to be able to synthesise Vitamin D by the action of sunlight on our skin. Although many of us may be finding this simple luxury more challenging at the moment (with the current restrictions) it has never been more important for both Vitamin D levels and mental health. It is recommended that twenty minutes of sunshine each day, ideally with 40 % of you skin exposed ( eg face, arms, legs) is needed to help avoid deficiency (1). Some suggestions to obtain this are; try and eat outside as much as possible (temperatures allowing!), go for your daily exercise that the government has granted (a walk, run, bike ride), take a book and read it in your garden, backyard, balcony or next to an open window (if the sun can directly reach your skin), meditate or wander outside whilst you take a phone call. Every little bit of sun exposure throughout the day helps!

Mushrooms in a dish

Although Vitamin D is one of the more difficult vitamins to obtain purely through dietary sources; there are some foods that you can focus on to up your daily intake. Cod liver oil is one of the highest dietary forms of this vitamin, closely followed by oily, high fat fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, eggs and meat. It is harder to find vitamin D sources if you do not consume animal products, however look out for foods fortified with Vitamin D such as cereals, yoghurts, tofu, some breads and cheeses. Fortification does vary from country to country, so be sure to check the labels to see if it has been added; especially in regards to milk and other dairy products in the UK and Europe. However, for a powerhouse of vitamin D in the vegetarian and vegan world you won't get much higher doses than in the mighty mushroom! Sun-dried mushroom- even better!

It is believed that during the summer months (end March- Sept in UK) we should be able to obtain sufficient amounts through skin exposure to sunlight. Supplementation is available and is often necessary for many of us (especially in the darker, cooler countries such as England, Norway, Iceland, Alaska, Canada) during the winter. However, it is possible for too much Vitamin D to become toxic within the body, so it is always recommended to get tested and consult with a health professional (e.g. a GP or nutritional therapist) before adding any Vitamin D supplement to your schedule.

So open those windows, get those summer clothes on and soak up those rays; but most of all- relax and enjoy!

Stay safe and well.

Sammy.

( None of the above is meant as a substitute for medical advice or to suggest that following the above would guarantee no sickness. Please ensure you consult your GP or call 111 if you are concerned or have any ongoing symptoms).

(1)- Sizar.O, Khare. S, Goyal. A, et al, Vitamin D deficiency, ( StatPearls), found at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/hashtag_NBK532266_pubdet.

Hechtman.L, (2012). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, (Elsevier), pp66-67.

Murray, Dr.M, Pizzorno, Dr.J & Pizzorno. L, (2005). The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods, (CPI Group),pp 100-101.

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