Winter Immunity 101

It’s almost winter, so you know what that means? All of the colds, flus, sniffles, bugs you name it, are on their way. If you have small kids in school, you know this already. Work in a big office? Well they’re probably lining you all up for the flu shot.  It’s time to boost your winter immunity.

Everyone braces themselves at the first sign of the cool winds, and the colds and viruses seem to come thick and fast.  

So our aim of attack is to keep your adaptive immune system strong. This means supporting natural killer cells and lymphocytes to help develop new antibodies. Our environment is always changing and this is why we must allow our immune system to adapt and change too.  

What we want:  

For you to recover quickly 

To support your body’s resilience and endurance  

For your defences to allow you to surpass 9 out of the 10 bugs that gets sneezed, coughed and blown in your direction 

For your winter immunity to be at it’s best

What we don’t want:  

For you to come down with everything and anything  

You to be out of the count for weeks on end

For you to never get over the cold or flu that you get 

Here are some tips to build your winter immunity: 

  • Eat smarter  

Its no secret that food is also medicine. The diet is our first port of call for nutrients. During the colder months, favouring nutrient rich foods will help reduce or even eliminate your need for supplements. Focusing on vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin A and also vitamin D. Vitamin D is a huge for immunity, and your levels start going down as soon as the cooler months begin. Try Gigi’s Onion Immune Syrup as a simple home remedy!

  • Stock up on some immunity favourites 

There are a few herbs and nutrients that can prevent the onset or severity of a cold if taken at the first sign of getting sick. They work by modulating your immune system. Remedies that our naturopath Gigi likes to prescribe for that first sign of getting sick contain andrographis, echinacea, zinc, vitamin c and medicinal mushrooms.

  • Hydrate 

 Keeping hydrated will help cover fluid loss from coughing and runny noses. Drinking warm teas and broths will help provide nutrients to keep you stronger. Drinking warm tea with the classic combo of garlic, chilli, ginger and lemon helps raise the core temperature a little, fight bugs and reduce inflammation. 

  • Rest and restore 

Give your immune system a chance to do it’s job and rest when you feel under the weather. Remember that convalescence is an important part of getting better too, so allowing a day or two to rest and regain your energy will do you a world of good.  

  • Don’t go it alone 

Book your 15 minute immune review with Gigi now so you’re prepped for the cooler months  

Oh my GORD I have reflux

Gastro Oesophageal Reflux disease (GORD) or ‘reflux’ is a very common condition which can be experienced at any age. Babies can suffer silent reflux right from birth, and many adults experience reflux up into later life. Just like all health conditions, reflux is caused by a combination of factors.

What is reflux?

Reflux or heartburn is the backwash of acid and the contents of the stomach up the oesophagus. This causes inflammation and a burning pain in the middle of the chest up to the back of the throat. Sometimes it can even cause a cough, or regurgitation of food up into the mouth. In babies, silent reflux can present as constant dribbling, coughing, wheezing and a runny nose. It can seem as if they have asthma. The condition can be aggravated by both mechanical and external factors.

First of all, let’s clear up the acid confusion. Reflux feels like burning, yes. This is because our stomach produces hydrochloric acid (as well as enzymes) to digest your food. Even though reflux feels like burning as if there’s too much acid, quite often it is not the case.

The pH of hydrochloric acid secreted into our stomach is as low as two. For comparison, water is neutral around the pH of seven. Have you noticed your mouth or throat become slightly burnt after you’ve thrown up a lot? This is how powerful your stomach acid is. It will cause burning on tissues it shouldn’t be in contact with. 

https://ib.bioninja.com.au/standard-level/topic-2-molecular-biology/24-proteins/the-ph-scale.html

How does it happen?

Understanding more about the power of stomach acid helps explain how reflux happens. If production and secretion of our acid levels are low, then we find that reflux will occur. Low stomach acid levels means digestion of our food doesn’t happen properly in the stomach. This slows the speed at which the food leaves the stomach to move through the gastrointestinal system. The food in your stomach begins to ferment, and washes back up the oesophagus causing that burning feeling. Even though it feels like the acid is high, the cause is usually low levels. It’s a bit confusing to get your head around.

Another common cause of reflux is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. It secretes an enzyme that converts to ammonia in the stomach. This buffers the acid levels of the gut to become more neutral so they can survive. Then, you understand how the lack of acid begins the development of the condition.

What else apart from the acid?

We must also consider the first line of defence, your lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS). Your LOS is responsible for contracting and keeping the stomach contents down in the stomach where they belong. This sphincter can become lazy and relaxed in response to a different variety of triggers. Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, stress, fatty foods and oils, garlic, menthol, tomato, just to name a few. If you consume foods you have an intolerance to, this can also aggravate this sphincter. Common food intolerance triggers are dairy and wheat, but an IgG test is the best way to identify yours.

You may not always feel the burning from the acid, and that is why reflux can be quite a sinister condition. You may be consuming too much of a trigger that is causing the tone of it to slacken. A cough only present in the morning can be caused by reflux. You can also have silent reflux which doesn’t feel like anything at all!

The danger of having constant reflux lies in the damage that the acid can cause to the oesophageal lining. The stomach has cells that secrete a protective mucus to protect it from becoming damaged by the stomach acid. The oesophagus does not have the same cells, so the mucosa is a lot more susceptible to damage and inflammation. Silent or not, chronic reflux will cause changes in these cells, which can lead to cancer in later life.

How do I fix it?

The quick solution is to stop the pain of the backwashing acid by using medications that either buffer the acid so the pH becomes closer to neutral (= less burning and pain) or by reducing the production of acid and enzymes by our body ( = less secreted into the stomach that can then back wash). While these temporarily address the burning and pain of reflux, they are short term and will not prevent reoccurrence.

Buffering the acid, or reducing the production of acid and enzymes only leads to reduced absorption of nutrients from your meals. This puts you at a high risk to develop nutritional deficiencies over time from using these medications. They can also contain aluminium as an ingredient which isn’t something you want to be ingesting.

Seeing a naturopath can help you to identify what is triggering your reflux, as well as address the functionality of your gastrointestinal system so that you can live comfortably and reflux free. There are ways we can improve the functionality of your LOS, and herbal medicines we can prescribe for symptomatic relief with no side effects to relieve pain in the meant time. Call the clinic to book an appointment

Gigi Cumbers
Naturopath & Nutritionist

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