Nutrition during Covid-19
Please see below for the latest blog from Fleur
Your immune system is a marvel of complexity and defends you against threats from your environment; both external and internal. It surveys and counters cancer cells and destroys viruses and bacteria that threaten us. For the most part, it will do this well if supported correctly by your lifestyle.
And your immune system depends on a regular supply of vitamin D to work well. This is a hormone that you produce from the action of sunlight on cholesterol under the skin. Many have overlooked how powerful an ally this molecule is in supporting your immunity and your defense against a multitude of diseases.
What is vitamin D
Vitamin D is best known for its ability to prevent rickets, a softening and bending of bones in children, first described in 1651. Rickets reached epidemic proportions following the industrial revolution, which began in the 1750s. In the 19th century the importance of exposing children to sunlight was recognized to prevent the adult form of rickets which is called osteomalacia.
Epidemiological studies suggest that vitamin D also reduces the incidence of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, viral infection, auto-immune disease and cancer. It also leads to a significant reduction in all-cause mortality when supplemented.
How we produce vitamin D
Your body makes vitamin D from cholesterol through a process triggered by the action of the sun's ultraviolet rays on your skin. White skin, with less melanin, produces vitamin D in sunlight six times faster than dark skin. Often vitamin D deficiency is a problem for darker skinned people.
What makes the situation worse is that the amount the skin can produce decreases from age 20’s (it will have decreased by 75% by age 70). This may make the elderly more vulnerable to a multitude of diseases, including viral threat.
An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have a vitamin D deficiency. This is mostly attributable to people getting less sun exposure because of climate, lifestyle, and concerns about skin cancer.
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) values for vitamin D, established in 1997 were initially established to prevent rickets and osteomalacia, but are now considered too low to prevent chronic disease (and for that matter to impact significantly on the immune system). Subtle symptoms of milder deficiency include loss of appetite, diarrhoea, insomnia, vision problems, and a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.
Fatty fish ( salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna), mushrooms, eggs and meat are rich in D, as well as foods specifically fortified with D. Vitamin D is essential for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphate; explaining vitamin D’s critical role in bone health. However, no dietary source for "The Sunshine Vitamin" even comes close to vitamin D levels made naturally from ultraviolet light exposure.
Make it your responsibility to keep your Vitamin D levels up!
Often vitamin D deficiency will not be picked up so make it your responsibility to ensure you have adequate levels.
1. Get your blood levels tested at least twice a year, the end of summer or winter are good times to run tests to see where you might be, at your highest or lowest levels. You can ask your doctor to do this.
2. If your blood levels of 25(OH)D are below 100 nmol/L (40 ng/ml), take high dose vitamin D3 supplements (4000 IU [100 mcg] or more daily) to bring yourself back into range. Ideally test again 3 months after starting supplementation. The rate at which you optimise will vary greatly in different people. If in doubt, seek the support of a suitably qualified and experienced nutritional practitioner.
3. Be less fearful of the sun and skin cancer risk – just avoid getting burned. Try to get fifteen minutes of warm sun on your skin during the summer. Don’t slap sunscreen on until you have had a chance to be in the sun.
4. If you can consume oily fish and fish oil, these can help boost your levels, but typically, the levels are not high enough to remedy severe deficiency.
Fatigue: Metabolism and supporting your immune system
By Fleur Borelli
Supporting your metabolism to support your immune system
Your body is an incredible living, breathing human organism created according to your unique genetic blueprint. And one of the systems in your body that is important to support is your metabolic system.
In a nutshell, your metabolism is the sum total of all the activities that take place in your cells that produce energy for your body to function. And like other systems, this one does not always work efficiently if we do not treat it correctly. One of the main reasons people visit their doctor is because they are tired-all-the-time.
By supporting your metabolism in the right way you will improve your energy levels. And the great news is by supporting your energy levels, you will be supporting your immune system too. More energy for the immune system means you are producing more immune cells to protect you against infection.
So why does our metabolic system stop producing the energy we need? One of the reasons is that we do not burn fat easily. Your body is like a hybrid motor car and can use carbohydrate and fat as fuel. The more dependent we are on eating little and often and the more we eat simple refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and other baked goods the less likely we are to burn fat.
Burning fat has an advantage that it produces much more energy for your body to function. But if we don’t use our fat burning system we lose it and become dependent on constant top-ups of energy through snacking, particularly on sugar-rich foods.
And being in lockdown currently may make matters a little worse as we may also be stressed, not sleeping properly or sitting for too long during the day. Then we start to crave snacks and eat more often and this means we store fat around the body, in particular around the middle. This can predispose us to chronic low grade inflammation which can compromise the immune system.
Supporting your metabolism to use carbohydrate and fat as an energy source:
- Try to avoid snacks between meals, especially ones that are rich in sugar such as biscuits and cakes.
- Maintain at least a 12-hour overnight fast on at least 5 days a week. This means that if you finish eating by 8pm in the evening, you should have your breakfast at 8am or later the next morning.
- Leave at least 5 hours between meals or any form of food intake to allow the body to fast and avoid pushing it into low grade inflammation. If you feel this is leaving it too long between meals then you can try a gap that you are comfortable with e.g. three hours and then gradually increase the gap.
- Engage in at least half an hour of activity per day and as much as you are comfortable with. Try not to sit for too long in your day. Get up and stretch as often as you can as this can kickstart your metabolism and help you burn fat.You would not believe it but the short movements that you typically do through your day…
- Stretching up to get something
- Reaching over to pick something up
- Bending down to do your shoe laces up
- Turning round to look back at something …can shift a load of calories and this is often more effective than a session in the gym or a cycle ride.
- Eat plenty of vegetables at mealtimes as these are a great carbohydrate source with plenty of vitamins and minerals to keep you well. Keep your root vegetables for your evening meal as research shows the energy is burned off the next day by the muscles.
- Eat a good portion of healthy protein at each meal to keep your blood sugar levels stable e.g. eggs, chicken, fish, occasional red meat, nuts, tofu and tempeh.
- Also have a good portion of healthy fat with your meal as this will also keep your blood sugar levels stable. Healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, avocados and avocado oil and avocados.
- To get a better sleep, turn off screens and electronic equipment at least an hour before bed. Think about your lighting and dim the lights as you move towards bed. Let your evening activities gently wind you down as you head towards sleep. You burn fat whilst you sleep.
- Stress can impair fat burn and so bring in some appreciation sessions during your day, where you just spend 1-3 mins focusing on something/someone you feel grateful for.
Sometimes big changes use up a lot of your energy. Why not try with the smaller changes first. Start to implement a few of the recommendations above. When your energy levels start to improve a little you will develop more immune resilience.
Boosting your immune system to fight infection
Never has there been a more important time to strengthen your immune system so that it is more resilient. Rest assured that it is an extremely complex system that has been fine-tuned over the millions of years of our evolution to be able to fight infection and protect us. It is a system that keeps us alive every day of the week and so anything we can do to enhance its ability to fight infection will help in the fight against the new virus Covid-19.
Immune resilience is hugely supported by eating a balanced and healthy diet, getting good quality sleep, exercising daily and managing stress. Whether you are male or female please take comfort from the fact that whilst our genes load the gun, it’s our environment that pulls the trigger. What this means is that by living a healthy lifestyle, you can greatly boost your health and resilience.
Here are five ways in which you can boost health:
1. Eat a balanced diet:
Fruits and vegetables: Eat a rainbow everyday if you can from what is available to you in the supermarket (green, orange, red, yellow, purple etc).
Avoid processed foods and ready meals: Now that we are all at home and not rushing about so much, we have more time to prepare foods from scratch that are more nutrient dense than those we buy ready prepared from the supermarket.
Avoid highly refined carbs: These are foods that are going to compromise our immune system. Cut out or minimise sugar, avoid pasta, bread and potatoes. Instead have colourful root vegetables like sweet potato, parsnips, beetroot and carrot.
Don’t be afraid of healthy fat: Healthy fats like avocadoes, nuts (not peanuts), extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter and ghee should be regulars in your diet. Chicken and fish are also great sources of healthy fats and protein.
Boost your anti-inflammatory fats: These are omega 3 fats that come from fish, particularly oily fish and eggs.
Eat your calories, don’t drink them: Tea and coffee can be dehydrating so instead of drinking ten cups of tea, for example, you swop some of these for water. Avoid fruit juice and fizzy drinks.
2. Drink hot fluids like herbal, immunity-enhancing teas throughout the day.
Normally I would say drink plenty but right now hot drinks help to wash any virus particles caught on the mucosal surfaces of your mouth into your stomach acid and if herbal, also provide resources to help support your immune system. Use fresh herbs that you have or any herbal teas such as peppermint or sage that you might have in your cupboard.
3. Stay calm and manage your stress with techniques that work for you because anxiety is your immune system’s enemy.
From meditation and mindfulness, to exercise and activity, to family time or more self-reflective re-evaluation of your life, lock down provides us a rare opportunity to stop and recalibrate. Try breathing techniques, yoga or meditation to give yourself peace of mind, get yourself grounded in nature, practice living in the moment and not the future. Rest, rejuvenate, find things to laugh about.
4. Get outdoors if you can.
Luckily for us in the UK we’re still allowed to exercise outdoors once a day. Make the most of that time and take time to smell the roses…
5. Cut the chemicals!
This recalibration time is perfect for reducing the number of harmful chemicals around you. Think household cleaners, garden products and personal care products like skin and hair care and make up. You don’t need to fill your house with harsh disinfectants and anti-bacterials at this time - simple soap and water is enough to kill the virus. So too is coconut oil rubbed into your hands.
Take great care of yourself and look forward to next time when I can update you with some more immune-boosting tips.
Love Fleur x