Anna Marie Trotman
Certified Nutritional Coach
According to the Center for Disease Control, there is an increased circulation of
respiratory viruses floating around this fall and winter. Airports are crowded,
people are traveling and flocking to their local shopping malls. We are going to
sporting events, concerts, and holiday gatherings, and we’ve all but abandoned
Feeling crummy anytime is not the ideal situation, and it can be especially hard
over the holidays. (We had to postpone Thanksgiving due to COVID). When you
start to feel symptomatic, take a COVID test to rule out any possibilities of
spreading the virus. Follow CDC guidelines, stay home and rest. If you test
negative and feel crummy, stay home and rest.
Here are some guidelines to help you get through the holidays and beyond. It’s
worth the effort.
First a Little Science Lesson – The Microbiome
Definition: The microbiome is the collection of all microbes, very tiny critters, such
as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes that naturally live in and on our bodies.
This collection of organisms contributes in a very big way to your health and
wellness, and they support your immune system.
Your gut microbiome houses the largest number of immune cells in the body and
plays a fundamental role in fine-tuning how your immune system functions. Your
gut microbes (the good guys) regulate your immune system to help it recognize
pathogens (the bad guys) while maintaining proper immune responses within the
The key to a healthy gut is to nurture your gut-immune axis. The gut-immune axis
is the collection of intricate pathways connecting your immune system to your gut
(simple as that). Because the microbiome is a fundamental bridge between your
body and your environment, these microbes affect health in many ways and can
even affect how you respond to certain environmental conditions.
Five Ways to Cultivate a Healthy Gut
Don’t wait until you get sick! Cultivating a healthy gut microbiome can have
positive effects on your whole-body, your health and your immunity. Here are five
ways to protect yourself now!
- Focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods: Food has the power to heal, so it’s
especially important to up your intake of nutrient-dense, immune-
supporting foods during the cold and flu season. From dark leafy greens like
kale and spinach to nuts/seeds, and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit
aim to integrate these natural powerhouses in your daily diet. Foods that
contain beneficial live microbiota (organisms essential for the fermentation
of non-digestible foods) like kefir, yogurt with live active cultures, pickled
vegetables, tempeh, kombucha tea, kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut all
support a healthy gut.
- Cut Out Sugar – Avoid Processed Foods: Ouch….Sugars and simple
carbohydrates are digested so quickly that your little microbes don’t have a
chance to have a proper meal. A steady diet of processed foods can starve
your microbiome to death, and starving microbes resort to munching away
at the lining of the intestine leading to inflammation. Foods with complex
sugars like honey, fruits of all kinds, frozen grapes, dark chocolate,
smoothies, and sweet potatoes are excellent choices.
- Cultivate Good Sleep Habits: A well-rested body is more likely to respond
effectively to illness than one that’s fatigued and/or run down. Routine
sleep optimizes your circadian rhythm, lowers stress hormones, and helps
your body to repair itself and ward off illness. Getting adequate sleep each
night can make all the difference in building resilience and supporting your
body with what it needs to perform properly.
- Let’s Get Physical: Getting regular exercise has many benefits including
weight management, digestive regularity and increased circulation of
immune cells in the body (makes sense). It may also contribute to better
sleep, all factors that contribute to a healthier immune system.
- Practice relaxation and stress management: We tend to take on too much
which can leave us feeling frazzled and burnt out. Living in a frequent state
of high stress can sabotage your immune system and make you more
susceptible to illness. Whether it’s taking a warm bath, reading a book or
meditating, knowing when it’s time to listen to your body and “turn off” is
important so your body, mind and spirit can rejuvenate and heal.
Cultivating good eating habits, resting, getting physical and having a good stress
management program in place is not easy, but neither is being sick and passing it
on to family and friends. Make some tweaks here and there and move towards a
healthier and happier lifestyle.