NATUROPATH ANTHIA KOULLOUROS SHARES HER TIPS TO BUILD UP YOUR IMMUNITY AND STAY FIGHTING FIT.
Naturopath Anthia Koullouros reveals her hints for staying healthy, the natural way, this coming winter.
I HOPE YOU’RE not reading this article wrapped up in a woolly throw, surrounded by crinkled tissues with a nose like a beetroot. In fact, as we move through winter, I hope you barely encounter a sneeze. Unfortunately, wishful thinking hasn’t been proven to boost immunity — but there are plenty of things which have. You can find them in the garden, on your plate, in your grandmother’s pantry. They exist in your gut and outside in nature. Holistic wisdom, beyond the pharmacy. This is my naturopathic guide to immunity, to help you build a solid foundation before winter. Where to start? With you, of course. How are you feeling? Take a moment to check in. Frequent infections, ‘catching everything going around’, a persistent sore throat, cough or swollen glands, and feeling run down are all signs of an ailing immune system. Rather than just blaming public transport germs or simple bad luck, you might be surprised to learn that the biggest affront to immunity is stress. It’s the most pervasive and easily overlooked factor in getting sick (chronic illness included) and one I see daily in the clinic. While modern society rewards productivity, achievement and the endless pursuit of perfection, the body responds less favourably. Burning the candle at both ends, sacrificing sleep and failing to rest all suppress the immune function. This is because stress is designed for emergencies, not every day. Under stress, we stop producing lymphocytes (a type of immune cell). Levels of cortisol rise, promoting inflammation and suppressing white blood cell count, leaving you vulnerable to infection. Then there’s the gut. Only a healthy gut can extract vital nutrients from food — the kind required to aid immunity such as zinc, vitamin A and amino acids. And did you know that two thirds of the immune system is located in your intestines? The bacteria that naturally lives there plays a huge role in its development and regulation and is the subject of ongoing research. Oh, and I can’t move on without talking dirty. We’ve passionately cleansed dirt, grime and bacteria from our environment with wipes and sprays, banishing bugs to our detriment. With less immune ‘education’ and more chemicals to compromise it, an obsession with hygiene has curbed our resilience. A modern lifestyle at odds with optimal immunity sounds grim, but there are plenty of things you can do to restore the balance. Starting with a brisk, sunny walk. The combination of vitamin D from (sensible) UV exposure and movement is a simple immune improver. Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in immune regulation, while muscle contraction is the best way to transport antibodies and filter waste through the lymphatic system. Add big gulps of fresh air and a clear head, and you’ll feel stress receding, too.
“While modern society rewards productivity, achievement and the endless pursuit of perfection, the body responds less favourably.”
Tucking into fresh seasonal produce is another immunity boon. Gravitate towards farmers’ markets or community gardens for food at the height of nutrition and flavour. More nutritious than supermarket fare (often stored for months or grown in poor soil), seasonal produce mirrors seasonal human needs. Citrus is plentiful in winter, delivering vitamin C to fight colds and flus. Broths, stocks and stews made with pastured meats, bones and in-season vegetables provide healing factors to warm, comfort and nourish when we need it most. Want more? Add seaweed and mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, and reishi for a traditional Chinese medicine elixir. Always choose organic. And then there’s the backyard medicine cabinet. Everyday herbs like thyme, ginger, turmeric, mint, sage, cinnamon and chilli are traditionally used to bolster immunity and speed recovery from infection. Add generous handfuls to meals before serving (think mint and parsley adorning roast lamb), or use garlic, onion and ginger as an antimicrobial base for almost anything. Turmeric, chilli and cinnamon add spicy flavour and heat to stews, curries and casseroles, imparting anti-inflammatory and immune benefits. As far as prescriptions go, this one’s a treat. Don’t forget about Aussie natives. Levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in indigenous plants are exceptionally high. Our own Kakadu plum, also known as Gubinge, is the best natural source of vitamin C on the planet — it contains about 50 times more than oranges! Alongside gallic acid, vitamin E, folate, lutein, essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium and zinc, there’s nothing hyperbolic about calling Kakadu plum a ‘superfood’. It all falls under simple self-care. Adopting a daily practice that tends to mind and body is essential for immunity, energy and disease prevention. Bathe in sunlight, hydrate well, move your body, source and prepare whole, local foods, connect with loved ones and embrace early to bed and early to rise. Simple, delicious and sometimes tricky. If you’re stuck, unsure or frequently battling infections, seek the support of a health care practitioner. They’ll help you address poor gut function, eliminate other causes of immune system compromise, manage allergies, nutrient deficiencies or post-viral states. For more information or to contact Anthia, telephone (02) 9380 7863 or visit ovvioorganics.com.au
“Bathe in sunlight, hydrate well, move your body, prepare whole, local foods, connect with loved ones and embrace early to bed and early to rise.”