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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 ovvioor­gan­

“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.”

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