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- Health Concerns
The leaves are dropping and the mornings are getting chilly. Its time to start talking about immunity boosters for a New Zealand winter.
Winter immunity is a little different in New Zealand than some other countries with warmer climates. In winter we tend to spend more time indoors. This usually means we are closer to other people and susceptible to picking up their bugs. Everyone knows the value of social distancing nowadays! That is fairly much the same where ever you are.
But what is significant to New Zealanders is our distance from the Equator. Potentially this may affect our immune health. From about this time of year, we stop making as much vitamin D from the action of sunlight on our skin. There may be consequences for our immunity around this. It may also be part of the reason we get more colds and flu in winter.
Vitamin D has many roles in the immune system. A number of studies (see references below) show lowered vitamin D status may increase rates of colds and flu. Autoimmune issues may also be impacted by Vitamin D. So personally, as soon as we have to put on a jumper when outside, I know its time to start taking Vitamin D. In New Zealand, Vitamin D supplements usually come in 1000IU (International Units). If you are interested to learn more about the appropriate dosages, its worth checking out the Vitamin D Society here.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and should be taken as a liquid (which can be inside a capsule). Many supplements have it dried, and as soon as oils are dried, they may not be as effective. Vitamin D supplements are usually produced from lanolin or sometimes fish oils. Cod liver oil is also another good supplemental option for Vitamin D. Immunity boosters for a New Zealand Winter for vegetarians include mushrooms. Many species of mushroom also contain Vitamin D2, which has to be converted to D3 to be beneficial. These are a good option for those on a plant based diet. On a different note, Vitamin D can also support reduction of the winter blues (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is another good reason to take during winter. For recommendation on Vitamin D, click here.
There are many different types of Vitamin C on the market. Todays article is not about what is best, but rather what is the best way to use it.
Vitamin C has many roles in immunity, from assisting in the epithelial barrier (skin & mucous membranes), to powering up white blood cells to form armies of immune cells that dispose of pathogens. When mounting this response the immune system requires extra vitamin C to allow it to increase & differentiate the white blood cell ‘soldiers’.
So if you start to feel a cold or chill coming in, we suggest you take vitamin C, every couple of hours. This will support your white blood cell immunity army to replicate & fight the invader. Supplemental Vitamin C can be helpful, as can hot (but not boiling) lemon drinks, and even snacking on raw broccoli, peppers & kiwifruit. But please make sure that they are spray free. And rest & wrap up warm. Allowing your body to ‘sweat it out’ within reason is not a bad thing!!! But be sensible and keep an eye on your temperature & signs of getting worse, or if you are harbouring something more sinister than the common cold. To purchase Vitamin C, click here.
Zinc is another of the important immunity boosters for a New Zealand Winter and is deficient in NZ soils. Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, from the barrier of the skin to gene regulation within lymphocytes. A crucial mineral for normal development and function of cell mediating immunity, zinc supports neutrophils and natural killer cells, and B & T cell activation and certain immunoglobins.
On a different note, zinc activates both taste and smell and therefore it is possible to complete a zinc taste test as a sign of zinc status. This test involves swirling liquid zinc in the mouth and describing the taste experience. In short, if you can’t taste it, your zinc is likely low, as its not available to activate your taste buds. Given than one of the covid signs is losing sense of smell, one theory is that is happening because the body is using zinc to fight off the virus, leaving none to activate smell.
Foods containing zinc include red meat, shellfish and some nuts and seeds. Those most at risk of deficiency are people who have digestive issues affecting mineral absorption and those who eat limited amounts of these foods. If you are frequently getting colds, find wounds are slow to heal, or your nails don’t grow, check your zinc status. Zinc comes in different forms & for effective zinc that is very cost effective click here.
Each of these herbs have their merits, displaying some antiviral and antibacterial properties. In general, they tend to work best at the beginning of an infection as each is involved with the increased activity of the immune system. Some people choose to take these daily throughout winter as prophylactics’ and others only as they start to feel unwell.
Review Am J Clin Nutr, 1998 Aug;68(2 Suppl):447S-463S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/68.2.447S. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection, A H Shankar 1, A S Prasad, PMID: 9701160, DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/68.2.447S
Photos by Unsplash, Oranges by Duy Pham, Fish by Vladimir Gladkov