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Boost immunity with power foods interview

14 August 2017 Print

Featured on Interview by Brooke Hunter with Naturopath Teresa Mitchell-Paterson.

Staying well in winter can be like a game of dodgeball – no matter where you go you're surrounded by people coughing and sneezing and you're hoping the dreaded lurgy doesn't get you next. 

However, armed with an immune-strengthening diet, a healthy lifestyle and the right supplements, you're more likely to successfully avoid those viruses. Consider my top seven immune-boosting tips to help cut down on sick days and keep you fighting strong. 

Top up on vitamin C
The common cold is the most prevalent contagious disease in Australia. Studies show that vitamin C in increased doses may relieve and prevent symptoms of the common cold and flu. 

Zinc at the first sign of a cold
At the right dose, zinc is useful to help reduce the duration of the common cold and boost the immune system. , Usually we can get enough zinc from our diets, however when our immune system is down, we may need to supplement with higher doses of zinc. Consult your health professional for the right dose for you. 

Echinacea short term
Studies have found that this well-known herb reduces the odds of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of a cold by 1 to 4 days. For best results, take it at the first sign of a cold. Always check with your health practitioner before taking echinacea as it may interact with other medicines. 

Regular probiotics to support friendly gut bacteria
70% of our immune system is found in our gut. The gut is often the first entry point for exposure to pathogens (bad bacteria and virus' that can cause disease); therefore your gut immune system needs to be thriving and healthy in order to avoid illness. Probiotics, either from food or supplements, can help to restore healthy levels of -good' bacteria in the gut and also help promote immune cell production. 

Andrographis for an immune boost
This age old herb helps boost the immune system by stimulating the body's antibodies and white blood cells. You can take it for both prevention and treatment of the common cold, however it works most effectively when taken as soon as symptoms start to appear. 

7-8 hours sleep each night
Getting poor quality sleep or not enough sleep means you are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus, and also recover more slowly. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of immune-protective proteins called cytokines and cause a reduction in infection-fighting antibodies and cells.10

A healthy diet is essential
A good healthy diet is fundamental to ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs to support a strong immune system. If you can feel a cold coming on, top up on more immune-boosting foods including miso, ginger, garlic, onion, yoghurt, green tea and seaweed. If you find it difficult to get sufficient levels of nutrients from your diet, you may consider a good quality multivitamin. 

Ask your health professional what supplements are right for you. Vitamin and mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet. 
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Interview with Teresa Mitchell – Paterson, Nutritionist and naturopath

Teresa Mitchell-Paterson ADV DIP NAT, BHSc Complementary Medicine, MHSc Human Nutrition, has a clinical history in Integrative Naturopathy spanning over twenty years. She is an educator of final year clinical studies for Bachelor of Health students (Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine). Teresa has also embarked in writing for evidence based naturopathic texts and is a spokesperson and advocate for naturopathic healthy lifestyle. For the past six years Teresa has been a nutritional advisor for Bowel Cancer Australia, and Health and Medical Panelist for the Memorial Winston Trust Fund. 

Question: What inspired your passion for nutrition and naturopathy? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: A beautiful field of yellow chamomile flowers, as a child my mother told me that they were good for your tummy! We picked them and also stinging nettles – not so much fun – which we used to rinse our hair with to make it shiny. I studied herbalism and was fascinated that a plant could assist heart function, immunity and reduce disease. Then reading about the science around natural food chemicals led me to the conclusion - you can change your health by eating well. 

Question: How can we maintain a healthy immune system, all year round? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: Stress less – I know it is easy to say but what people don't realise is that stress is not just a word. Stress physiologically changes the way you think, sleep, digest food; it can cause weight gain and negatively affect the good bacteria in your gut. 

Question: Is the key to a strong immunity in the food we eat, daily? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: Apart from de-stressing yes your food has a major impact on immunity. Empty calories found in processed foods are basically just fats, carbohydrates and proteins or macro nutrients with very few micronutrients or vitamins and minerals as they are known. In unprocessed foods you will get macro nutrients but also many micro nutrient minerals and vitamins and some natural plant chemicals. Choosing whole vegetables, fruit, whole grains, clean protein sources, nuts and seeds will boost micro nutrient and plant chemical intakes which promote a health strong immunity. 

Question: Are there 'power foods"? If so, what are these? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: I am not a fan of -power foods' per se as any whole vegetable is a power food. I am always wary of the shiny new food as quiet often it is not as nutrient packed as the old power food. Take chia seeds – they are good but not as full of vitamins, minerals and good fats as flaxseeds. Plus not all foods suit every person for various health reasons such as large amounts of kale may affect thyroid function in some people. 

Question: How else can we boost our immunity? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: Ensure you get enough vitamin D. This is a bit harder than you think. You have to have good healthy oil (7 dehydrocholesterol) on your skin to absorb vitamin D3 from the sun, and then it has to be converted in the liver and kidneys to its active form. There are many health conditions, medications and lifestyle factors that may affect this process. The simple act of washing your skin with harsh chemicals can disrupt this delicate skin oil. 

Question: What foods should we consume more of, if we feel a cold approaching? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: You can't beat garlic, onions and peppers they are both traditionally and scientifically proven to fight infection. You may not smell great but you can reduce the severity and length of the infection by consuming these foods. Have some parsley after eating garlic it helps to neutralise -garlic breath'. Avoid mucous producing foods such as dairy during the mucous phase; some people have a histamine response to dairy at this time which can make mucous worse. Drink lots of water or hot ginger tea to thin the mucous so you can breathe freely. 

Question: Can you talk us through how fresh air and sunshine boost our immunity? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: Ever noticed how walking in a tree lined area makes you feel better? It is not placebo – phytoncides are chemicals that plants make to ward off insects. In humans research suggests they help us to relax and lower our blood pressure. Sunlight boosts the -happy' hormone serotonin and the sleep hormone melatonin both of these hormones show promising results in boosting natural immunity. 

Question: Does exercise also aid in boosting immunity? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: 100%. Exercise lowers the risk of developing a disease, improves your immunity if you have a disease, and helps you to live longer. The exact mechanism of how this happens is not fully understood, however exercise protects against inflammation which is often the centre of a disease process. 

Question: What are your non-negotiable rituals for every day? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: Exercise is non-negotiable, eating whole foods and meditating, and loving the work I do – for me it is not a job it is challenging and exciting. 

Question: Can you share with us what a typical day, is like, for you? 

Teresa Mitchell - Paterson: Wow really – please don't think you have to be like this – I've always woken with the birds! 5.15-5.30 wake, drink hot water and lemon, meditate, then a nutrient rich breakfast, take supplements, exercise (sometimes exercise before breakfast if doing a gym class) I like weights, yoga – emphasis -trying' yoga. Go to work – add in another 30-45 minute walk by getting off the bus/train a few stops earlier. Work; eat healthy homemade lunch – protein and some salad, maybe nuts, seeds and good fats, whole grains. Head home, finish the day with a brisk walk back to bus/train, cook amazing varied healthy seasonal dinner, family chat, maybe a bit of Netflix, meditate – 9.30-10 pm bed phew! 

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