How the right nutrition combats stress and enhances immunity
Stress has become a constant companion to our modern, fast-paced lifestyles, and while a little stress has its benefits, lots of us experience more than just a little.
Long-term chronic stress can have a profound impact on our overall health, sometimes leading to poor dietary choices, hormonal imbalance, weight gain and digestive issues. The immune system is our body's defence against disease-causing microbes including bacteria, parasites and viruses. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to support the immune system through diet and lifestyle that can easily be woven into our daily lives. Keep reading for nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr’s 24-hour guide to optimising your immune system and combating stress with considered nutrition.
Optimise your day to keep your immune system fighting fit
Good morning H20
First things first – have a glass of water. Rehydrating first thing is a great way to start the day. In a well-hydrated state, our lymphatic system, which contributes to removing toxins and waste in the body, works effectively to support our immune system and transport white blood cells around the body. To avoid dampening the lymphatic system, I recommend one large glass of water upon waking and aim for 1.5L of water per day as a minimum.
Squeeze in some exercise
If possible, try to fit in your exercise in the morning before you start your day. This will allow you to take advantage of your circadian rhythm, which governs your wake-sleep cycle and gives you more natural energy in the morning, rather than later on in the day.
Regular exercise has been shown to support the immune system and can also help with weight management, which is another important factor when we discuss immune system health. The NHS suggests adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise. So, try and fit in a run, online class or have a dance around the house.
Grab a balanced breakfast
You may think that you are not hungry, that you don’t have time for breakfast, or that lunch will come around soon enough. But, skipping breakfast can make it harder to maintain stable blood sugar levels which can lead to decreased energy, concentration, productivity, mood and adversely impact stress levels. Aim for a plate with a mixture of protein, complex carbohydrates, fats, fruit and veggies to give you an adequate amount of energy for the day. A well-balanced breakfast could be rye bread topped with salmon and avocado or an omelette with butternut squash and yogurt topped with oats and nuts.
Breakfast is also a great time to take an immune supporting supplement, such as bioniq IMMUNE, which contains the highest-grade antioxidants and Swiss manufactured vitamins, including Zinc, Vitamin D3, K2 and C. It is blended into tiny granules that should be taken in the morning and then again in the evening for optimal absorption. Simply mix the formula into smoothies, on top of yogurt or with juice or water.
Incorporate Omega-3 & colours into your lunch
Lunch is a great time to pack in the colours of the rainbow alongside a healthy dose of protein rich sources of Omega-3.
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that contribute to immune system function, as well as having an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Our bodies can’t actually make Omega-3 and we are therefore left reliant on getting adequate intake through our diet. The best sources come from oily fishes like mackerel, anchovies and salmon, or walnuts. Alternatively, if you’re following a plant-based diet, flax and chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Aim for a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet in order to obtain an array of vitamins and antioxidants. Plus, certain colours of fruits and vegetables can provide different benefits. For example, red fruits such as tomatoes contain Lycopene, a potent antioxidant, whilst orange vegetables such as carrots can provide beta-carotene, which is a form of vitamin A. Try pairing mackerel or salmon with a salad filled with orange, green, red and yellow vegetables, or top a colour-filled plate with a sprinkle of walnuts and flax seeds.
Balance your blood sugar
When your blood sugar levels go on a roller coaster ride throughout the day, your mood and stress levels often follow suit. If your blood sugar dips you may feel irritable, moody, tired, find it difficult to concentrate and experience cravings for sweet foods as a result. To maintain optimal blood sugar, I would advise eating healthy meals regularly and avoid foods that are high in sugar and refined flours, like as white bread and pasta, instead substitute refined carbs for wholegrain alternatives.
Try a desk detox
You might have all the will power in the world, but if you have a bag of your favourite, go-to snack in your direct eye line, when stress comes crashing in, you are going to reach for that food and potentially demolish the whole thing. The reason for this is that when we are stressed, we are more likely to mindlessly snack. I recommend trying a desk detox by removing all of the temptations from your desk. Instead, I would advise keeping raw nuts, a pot of edamame beans or a small bar of dark chocolate in your office drawer for safe keeping…
Cut out caffeine
When we consume caffeine, we secrete cortisol, one of our stress hormones. This is fine in moderation, but too much cortisol in the body can suppress our immune system over time. Swap your afternoon cup of coffee for a turmeric tea or turmeric latte, which will provide you with a hit of curcumin, the active component of turmeric that’s linked to supporting the immune system.
It’s recommended to never exceed 400mg of caffeine a day, this equates to four espresso shots or eight cups of medium stewed green or black tea. If you are concerned about your stress levels or notice an adverse effect when you consume caffeine, I would advise reducing your intake but avoid going cold turkey. When we cut out caffeine abruptly, we can be left with withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea, mood changes and shakes.
Eat dinner early
Eating a lighter dinner early in the evening has a number of benefits, including reduced stress on the digestive system and better sleep quality. I recommend you avoid sugary snacks at this time but you might like to fast, which has been linked to reduced inflammation and weight loss in those fasting for a minimum of 12 hours.
Get serious about sleep
Sleep is incredibly crucial to our immune function, and the deeper sleep we get, the more refreshed and restored we feel. When we enter a deep sleep many of the essential systems in the body reset and restore. To help your body reach deep sleep, ensure you are reducing blue light exposure from technology, use stress management techniques and try to limit alcohol consumption, particularly when it gets late.
The views expressed on these pages are the views of the cited experts only and do not necessarily represent the views of Wellness Edit. Please always get a second opinion where specific medical advice is required.
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