1. Building Your Immunity Naturally

        “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”

       A wise prediction from Thomas Edison at the turn of the 20th Century, but maybe one we have lost sight of.

       Modern medicines focus on destroying the invader once it has attacked, but surely a better approach is to build our immunity naturally to fight the bugs off before they take hold?

      So how does our immune system work?

      The thymus gland, located in our chest in front of our heart, produces T-lymphocytes or T-cells, which are a critical feature of our immune system. These immune cells create and mobilise a defence army within us which then identifies the foreign invaders and attempts to destroy them. The thymus gland relies on a number of nutrients:

      Vitamin C, sometimes referred to as the ‘master’ immune nutrient, is thought to nourish the thymus gland, in doing so helping immune cells develop and increasing our white blood cell count. It also has both anti viral and antibacterial properties and can act as a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory.

      Zinc also supports the thymus gland and helps increase white blood cell count, increasing the defence army and so reducing the duration of an infection.

      Vitamin A supports the mucous linings found in the nose, throat, lungs and digestive tract, and can therefore help prevent viruses from taking hold. (Note: Pregnant women should beware Vitamin A rich foods since high levels in the diet can harm the foetus.)

      Herbal remedies can also be incredibly powerful for both boosting the immune system and fighting infection

      Echinacea has anti viral properties which stimulates production of immune cells. Trials published in The Lancet in 2007 indicated that those taking Echinacea were 35% less likely to get a cold when directly in contact with rhinovirus than those not taking the supplement. It also reduced duration of colds by 1.5 days. Trial participants saw greatest effectiveness when taken Echinacea alongside Vitamin C (reducing infection by 86%)

      Golden Seal has antibiotic properties; Garlic and Calendula are both antiviral and anti bacterial.

      Tea Tree oil works against staphylococcus, the bacteria responsible for infections ranging from a simple boil to MRSA which is now resisting conventional antibiotic treatments; hence the rise in popularity of Tea Tree hand washes and wipes.

       The importance of probiotics:

      With an increase in virulent infections such as the Norovirus vomiting bug over the winter, it is particularly important to try and improve the balance of good versus bad bacteria in the gut. Our gut provides a home to billions of bacteria , and the ‘good guys’ form a large part of our immune defence system; particularly from pathogens ingested through food. ‘Friendly’ or good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, L-Bulgaris and Bifidobacteria are key to helping us fight infection, acting as nature’s antibiotic by consuming the nutrients that can feed and encourage ‘bad’ bacteria. They also proliferate to fill the receptor sites that harmful bacteria need to replicate infection.

      Sugar is an important food source for all forms of bacteria, so best to avoid a sugar rich diet (white bread and pasta, refined carbohydrates, sweets and cakes, and sugary yoghurts)  and instead include prebiotic foods (also known as Fructooligosacchaides or FOS)  in your diet which will specifically help  feed the good guys. Foods rich in prebiotics include chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, legumes and whole grains.


      A diet rich in a variety of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and essential fats (oily fish, nuts and seeds) should give you a good supply of all these vital nutrients, but avoid too many processed foods and sugary foods. Go wild with the herbs and spices;  a win-win since they are not only nutrient-rich but also to add flavour and interest to your cooking.

      Good quality sleep is also vital for your immunity since much of our repair and rebuilding takes place whilst we are asleep, so try  to ensure you get a good night’s rest as often as possible.

      Drinking plenty of water will also not only help flush toxins through, but is required for every chemical reaction in our cells, so water is also an important immune support. Aim to drink around 2 litres or 6 large glasses a day, and for an extra immune boost, start your day with a glass of hot water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

      The Power of Eleven: Eleven Top Tips for Weight Loss

      Eleven is the magic number today being 11.11.11, so here are eleven top tips to help you plug into the magic and lose weight.

      1. ‘Break the Fast’ and start your day with a good meal. Porridge and wholegrains are in the news today and will give you great slow releasing carbohydrates to fuel you through the morning and help avoid that chocolate biscuit fix at elevensies.

      2. Avoid sugary snacks and choose options such as a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts or an oat biscuit with hummus.

      3. Cut back on your starchy carbohydrates. Meals packed with pasta, potatoes, biscuits, cake and too much bread can quickly pile on the pounds.

      4. Try eating 5 portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit a day. These are packed with nutrients, will fill you up and help you avoid reaching for the more fattening snacks.

      5. See if you can break those bad snacking habits. If you always reach for a biscuit or chocolate at a particular time of day, distract yourself, do something else at that time (go for a walk, tidy a drawer) and tell yourself you can have it in half an hour if you still want it. Chances are the moment will have passed!

      6. Cut back on your alcohol intake to help do up your trousers! Alcohol is effectively pure sugar and empty calories so can encourage quick weight gain; particularly around the waist.

      7. Don’t eat whilst watching the TV. If you are distracted when you eat, you are likely to miss your body signalling that you have had enough and will therefore eat more.

      8. Watch your portion size. Try eating off two side plates rather than one large dinner plate, with vegetables/salad on one and your protein on the other.

      9. Grate cinnamon on your porridge. Cinnamon can help regulate your blood sugar to moderate the peaks and troughs of energy which can send you running for a sugar hit.

      10. Add ginger, spices or mustard to your meals. These are thought to increase your metabolic rate and help burn fat more quickly.

      11. Drink more water. We often reach for food when we think we are hungry and are, in fact, really thirsty. Green tea is also a good alternative to black tea or coffee since it is also thought to help burn fat.