A varied, well-balanced diet, regular exercise, lots of water and good sleep are keys to avoiding illness in the lead in to the long winter ahead. On top of this I also swear by my daily routine of vitamin and supplement intake as an added preventative. Every day I take 4 supplements religiously, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc and a probiotic. I very rarely miss a day and I always take them with me when I travel.
I have been following this routine now for nearly two years. In this time I have not had a common cold, sinus infection, throat infection or the flu (although I also make sure I get the flu shot every year). This is despite being in close contact with hundreds of people a week and also working closely with colleagues who have all been struck down by the same virus within a few days of each other. I’m sure many factors are at play here, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my immune system has built up with keeping up a good level of vitamins.
Of course other things like hand washing, general cleanliness and drinking lots of water help reduce risk of catching a virus around sick people. I also listen to my body. If I’m starting to feel run down or get the inkling of feeling unwell, I rest. I don’t go for a 10km run or smash the gym to “push through”, I get as much sleep or rest on the couch as I can, and I increase my intake of Vitamin C, water and fresh fruit and veggies. Carrot, orange and ginger juice is my go-to remedy if I’m starting to feel run-down (or around someone complaining of a sore throat!!) and usually within a day I am back to my normal self and have managed to stave off any nasties.
So why did I choose these 4 supplements? Well I spent a fair bit of time researching vitamins and supplements and talked to dietitians, naturopaths, and my Chinese acupuncturist. I also had blood tests with my GP just to check if I had any deficiencies in anything like Vitamin D (quite common in females despite our hot summers). Through this process I decided that these were the best 4 for me.
Vitamin C is the Queen of vitamins. It’s a powerful antioxidant, free radical scavenger and is thought to lower cancer risk. It also helps maintain blood vessels and cartilage, and increases iron absorption. Vitamin C is also thought to help your body fight against infections and repair damaged tissue, thereby supporting the immune system. It’s found in capsicums, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, dark leafy greens such as spinach, kiwifruit and broccoli, so adding these to your regular diet will increase your Vitamin C intake. I also take one sugarfree chewable tablet each morning, just to boost my intake. Vitamin C, being a water soluble vitamin, will be excreted if your body doesn’t need the extra dose and you’re getting enough from your diet, so be aware of this if your diet already includes good amounts of the above foods.
I take a probiotic daily to maintain and strengthen gut health. The gut is full of good and bad bacteria and when the balance is out of kilter this can cause malabsorption of nutrients from food, constipation, bloating, gas and other nasty symptoms. The balance of bacteria in the gut can be disturbed by the use of antibiotics, eating sugary foods
The advice I received from a naturopath is to regularly rotate through different probiotics as they all have slightly different strains of bacteria. I have three that I rotate through (all are dairy free due to a milk protein intolerance), Inner Health Plus, Orthoplex Multiflora and Microgenics Probiotic 8.
Magnesium is on my list due to the amount of running, gym and pilates I do each week. Magnesium assists with energy levels, muscle recovery, prevention of muscle cramps and spasms and is important in the maintenance of bone health. In the stomach Magnesium neutralizes stomach acid and assist with digestion. Legumes, whole grains, broccoli, leafy greens, seeds and nuts all contain Magnesium, and I also take one Blackmores Super Magnesium+ tablet in the morning after breakfast.
Zinc is a little known supplement that is great for boosting immunity, helping to get over colds quickly and also has the added benefit of helping maintain healthy skin. It is found naturally in oysters, red meat and poultry. I take Blackmores Bio Zinc after breakfast.
These four supplements are what I’ve worked out to be the best routine for me, but these may not be right for YOU. I always recommend you book a consult with your GP before commencing any vitamins, to ensure you’re not interacting with any other medications or condition, and they can also organize a blood test to determine if you have any deficiencies. Booking a consult with a registered Dietician or Naturopath before you introduce new vitamins into your routine is also a good idea, as a well balanced diet including foods from each food group may be enough to ensure you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals. Everybody is different and has different needs, depending on your exercise routine, what you’re already getting from your diet and your stage of life. Also be aware that you can actually over-consume certain vitamins, therefore you want to ensure you are taking the correct dosage, and as such professional advice is necessary.
We spend a lot of time maintaining our musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system with exercise/massage/stretching, a little time spent working out how to best maintain and boost your immune system might just be the key to avoid you getting sick this winter. For any advice regarding supplements please book in to see our Dietitian, Margs from Fuel Right Nutrition, who currently works Wednesdays and Thursdays at PMPP.