Norwich nutritional therapist Catherine Jeans tells you how to support your health in lockdown
Well, here we go. Lockdown 2.0. It may be a different experience doing lockdown in the winter, especially now the dark nights are back and we’re less able to spend time outside. I’m getting a lot of questions about how to support our health during this second lockdown, so I wanted to share three practical tips you can use to support your family’s health and wellbeing.
Are you getting your Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the most essential nutrients during the winter months, because it’s vital for our immune defences. Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a greater risk of respiratory tract infections, and it’s generally recommended by Public Health England that everyone over 65, pregnant and breastfeeding women, all children under five and anyone with darker skin should supplement. However, some experts, including myself, are recommending that most people should be supplementing right now. This is especially important if you’ve spent more time indoors this summer whilst shielding. This is because our main source of vitamin D is from the sunshine on our skin. We can get a little bit from foods – mainly mushrooms, oily fish and some fortified foods, but it’s not really enough to keep us at optimal levels.
Vitamin D is not just for our immunity – it also helps to support bone health, cardiovascular health, mental wellbeing and many other systems in our bodies. If you want to start supplementing Vitamin D3, do check with your GP if you take any prescribed medicine or have any pre-existing health conditions. You need to make sure there are no interactions with your medication – and it’s a good idea to take it a couple of hours away from any medication. Also opt for Vitamin D3 rather than D2, as it’s better absorbed by our body, and have it with a meal to support absorption. I recommend emulsified and liquid forms, as these may be better absorbed. Most adults need around 1000iu or 25mcg per day.
Get outside every day if you can.
Did you know our bodies have a natural daily rhythm, called our circadian rhythm, which is really important for optimal health and wellbeing. If we don’t get any natural daylight in our eyes every day, this can affect the release of certain hormones such as melatonin, which supports a good night’s sleep. Also serotonin, which helps to balance our mood. Even if it’s pouring with rain, try to spend some time looking out the window or drink your morning cuppa on the front porch. When the rain eases, go out for a walk and any glimpse of sunshine, try to take a break and get outside when you can.
Keep up the Vitamin C rich food.
In winter we naturally tend to have less Vitamin C rich food, because we are eating less raw foods. Also seasonal fruits, rich in Vitamin C such as berries, are less available. So during the winter, and especially during lockdown, you can support your Vitamin C intake with plenty of frozen fruits. I always have some frozen berries in my freezer, and these make a nice compote or smoothie to have with breakfast. Those with dark pigments like blueberries and blackberries are especially great, because they are also rich in phytochemicals which support our immunity. I also make sure we’re getting in plenty of raw leaves from spinach, rocket, watercress and other dark green lettuces, and include a couple of portions of other fruits such as citrus, kiwis and red peppers. Cucumber is also another fantastic source of Vitamin C. You can also get Vitamin C from fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, as long as they have not been pasteurised. The beneficial bacteria they contain also helps to support a healthy immune system by feeding your gut microbiome. There are some lovely local brands producing fresh sauerkraut which you can get in local health food stores.