As we head towards yet another winter facing the prospect of soaring covid rates alongside increased rates of influenza, it has never been more important to ensure that your immune system is in tip top condition.
So, is there anything you can do to help optimise your immune function to help fight off infections?
The answer is definitely ‘yes’ and research suggests that eating a good diet (rich in nutrients and fibre but low in processed foods and sugar) plus moderate exercise, getting enough sleep (8 hours per night), not smoking and managing your stress levels all support healthy immunity.
While eating a good diet may provide adequate amounts of nutrients like zinc (best sources in meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds) and vitamin C (in citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, broccoli and potatoes) that are known to support healthy immune function, it is unlikely that diet alone will provide sufficient levels of vitamin D. The best dietary sources of vitamin D are from oily fish, red meat, egg yolks, liver and fortified foods like breakfast cereals - but the majority of vitamin D in our bodies is generated by the action of sunlight on our skin. Obviously, in the UK (particularly after the summer we have just had!) this may be problematic, and studies have found that up to 75% of the UK population may have sup-optimal vitamin D levels – particularly by the end of winter.
Since 2016 government advice has been that between October and March, all adults and children over the age of 5 should consider taking a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms per day. In addition: people with darker skins; those who are not exposed to much sunlight; breastfeeding infants; or children aged 1 to 4 should consider taking 10 micrograms of supplemental vitamin D per day all year round.
What is vitamin D and what does it do?
Vitamin D behaves like a hormone and nearly every cell in our body has receptors that interact with it. Traditionally vitamin D was known for its importance in bone health and preventing rickets, but it has become increasingly apparent that it is also an important modulator of immune function. It does this by supporting the part of our immune system which is the first line of defence against viral invaders, and also by modulating the inflammatory response.
Multiple large observational studies have documented that having a lower vitamin D level is associated with increased risk of developing: upper respiratory infections 1; influenza 2; HIV 3 4; autoimmune diseases like MS 5 and rheumatoid arthritis 6; and even Covid 7.
These studies, however, do not prove that having a lower vitamin D level is what causes the problem, and the evidence is less clear when we look at studies that examine whether administering supplemental vitamin D protects against developing infections.
So, should you take a vitamin D supplement?
The good news is that there is very good evidence that vitamin D supplementation can indeed reduce the incidence of upper respiratory infections8 particularly in those who have low baseline levels of vitamin D.
The evidence for any reduced Covid risk is however far from clear. While there is some preliminary indication that supplementing with vitamin D may reduce Covid infection rates, symptom severity and mortality9 10 11 - much more evidence is needed to prove any conclusive link. Watch this space!
In the meantime, I would suggest that in addition to regularly including vitamin D rich foods in your diet, everyone should follow current government guidelines to take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D3 per day through the coming winter. More advice can be found on the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/
While this may be sufficient for most people, genetic variation can mean that a minority may need a higher intake to ensure optimal vitamin D status. Private testing for vitamin D levels is possible and anyone who would like to discuss this option can contact me via the reception at Personal Best.
1. Laaksi I, et al. An association of serum vitamin D concentrations < 40 nmol/L with acute respiratory tract infection in young Finnish men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(3):7147. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
2. Cannell JJ, et al. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect. 2006;134(6):1129–40. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
3. Villamor E. A potential role for vitamin D on HIV infection? Nutr Rev. 2006;64(5 Pt 1):226–33. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
4. Rodriguez M, et al. High frequency of vitamin D deficiency in ambulatory HIV-Positive patients. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2009;25(1):9–14. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
5. 21. Munger KL, et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis. JAMA. 2006;296(23):2832–8. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
6. 23. Merlino LA, et al. Vitamin D intake is inversely associated with rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Arthritis Rheum. 2004;50(1):72–7. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
11. Cangiano B., Fatti L.M., Danesi L., Gazzano G., Croci M., Vitale G., Gilardini L., Bonadonna S., Chiodini I., Caparello C.F., et al. Mortality in an Italian nursing home during COVID-19 pandemic: Correlation with gender, age, ADL, vitamin D supplementation, and limitations of the diagnostic tests. Aging. 2020;12:24522–24534. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
‘I was inspired to get this by seeing all your cooking demos on FB before this went to print, it’s such a wonderful idea to create this book for a very worthwhile cause. It’s not just a cookbook, it has a lot of insight into the work that Stroud Women’s Refuge does, which is invaluable in these testing times. Love the artwork too, it truly is inspirational.’
‘I've just bought my copy of the cookbook from Stroud Bookshop - what a triumph. I've been sitting reading and looking at it for the last couple of hours and it's certainly a visual feast! You have done brilliantly in every respect, and I think it's so distinctive in its approach with the artwork, personal stories, and local emphasis. Thank you so much for having the vision and determination to develop the overall concept with such flair and for seeing this project through to completion!’
‘I think it's really fantastic - there is a great range of recipes, including leftovers, which is really excellent, and the photographs of the food are so good. I also like the fact that it's not just a cookbook, I've just been reading about our R.A.S. (which took me back a few years !!!!) and also about 'everything in moderation’ which is a reminder of my years of 'weight watchers' as that was their punchline. So much more than another cookery book.’
‘What a lovely book! I love the mixture of recipes, artwork, stories and gorgeous pictures of food and it seems a really good idea just to have a limited number of recipes for each type of food so that you don't get overwhelmed by choice. I've bought one for myself and one for my sister and am thinking of giving it to everyone at Christmas!’
'The cookery book is a huge success! I think I said that the courgettes and chickpeas were yummy. I’ve also made the cauliflower tikka - a winner. It seemed a bit time consuming but that is because the recipe was new to me. Next to try is the butter squash and cashew and coconut korma!'
A foot with poor support is like a building with poor foundations!
The sole of the foot is the primary method of supporting and propelling the body.
One other side effect of the bare foot summer is the increase in hard skin and calluses. Fortunately, our Foot Health Practitioner Louise Reynolds is able to diagnose and treat most type of foot problems.
Everybody can benefit from a general foot treatment. It ensures all your hard skin is removed, and corns and callus are dealt with, leaving your feet in great condition.
Appointments available every Wednesday 9-5pm.
The benefits and freedom of wearing flip flops or going bare foot in keeping your feet cool and avoiding ‘tan lines’ are outweighed the potential harm to your feet, ankles, knees and hips. Dr Kristine Hagen explains; ‘Although it takes time for your gait to change, continued wear of non-supportive shoes can ultimately lead to serious complications, especially in your ankles, heels, and the soles of your feet.’
Constantly moving without good footwear increases your risk for painful conditions like:
As a result of dysfunction in your ankles and feet, you may also develop pain that radiates up into your legs and back.
Inadequate footwear, especially flip flops, forces the ankles to turn inward, changing how you walk and the length of your strides. Your constant, but subconscious, efforts to keep your flip flops in place can lead to aching muscles and persistently tired feet.
Data from NHS Digital showed that 70.9 million prescriptions for antidepressants were given out in 2018, compared with 36 million in 2008 1. Even more alarmingly, the statistics showed that 23% more patients received an antidepressant item in the third quarter of 2020–2021 compared to the same quarter in 2015–2016 2.
Clearly, there is a huge problem ……. but the good news is that there are many things we can do that may help to improve our resilience and protect our mental health. Research is beginning to show that our diet and lifestyle choices can have a big impact. In fact, there is a burgeoning discipline called nutritional psychiatry with a small but growing body of evidence behind the gut-brain connection.
It has long been proposed that eating the Mediterranean diet may offer protection against various health complaints including depression. It was not until 2017, however, that the SMILES trial 3 was able to demonstrate a more direct relationship between food and mood. During the trial, a group of adults with moderate depression were allocated randomly to two groups. One group received seven sessions of individual dietary advice and support from a dietician based around eating the Mediterranean diet, while the other group received seven social support sessions. After 12 weeks, the dietary advice group had significantly reduced their depression symptoms and by significantly more than the social support group.
Several more studies have subsequently demonstrated improvements in depression or anxiety scores after a Mediterranean dietary approach was instituted – with bigger benefits seen in moderate to severe depression compared to mild depression.
An inflammatory mechanism is one theory for what causes mental health disorders, in fact some scientists are now questioning whether antidepressant medications such as SSRIS may primarily be beneficial because they have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Interestingly, the plentiful coloured plant pigments, high fibre content and omega-3 fats in the Mediterranean diet all add up to a powerful anti-inflammatory cocktail which helps to combat the raised inflammatory markers that are often observed in people with depression and anxiety.
In addition to being anti-inflammatory, the low content of sugar and refined carbohydrates in the Mediterranean diet supports better blood sugar balance. Having poorly controlled blood sugar levels or a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates are both known risk factors for developing depression or other mental health disorders 4.
Plant fibre is important for good gut health – and there is increasing evidence for the link between gut health and brain health. Gut microbes produce chemicals that can act directly on the brain to influence mood and it is clear from animal studies that changing the pattern of gut microbes can influence behaviour. It is also a little-known fact that the gut makes large quantities of the same neurotransmitters that are used in the brain - although it is currently unclear exactly how these may be acting on the brain. Eating a Mediterranean diet is certainly associated with having a much more diverse and healthier pattern of gut microbes.
Finally, the quality protein from fish and white meat provides essential amino acids and other nutrients that the body needs to make neurotransmitters without high levels of the more inflammatory fats that are found in red meat and dairy products.
So, what does it all add up to?
Following these few simple dietary rules may help to increase your resilience and lower your risk for developing mental health problems.
Future articles will cover the importance of lifestyle factors such as exercise, sleep, stress and social connection on mental health.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. Mark Twain
Starting your day on a positive note, sets you up perfectly for the rest of the day.
Having the right morning routine will help especially if you are looking to make changes in your lifestyle or looking to achieve optimum performance.
If you can follow a consistent and predictable sleep routine and regular mealtimes as well as being consistent with your exercise, you will give yourself a better chance at improving your quality of life!
Try this simple stretch routine, it’s a great way to start your day!
We are now offering 3 studio based classes each week, but due to Covid restrictions class size will be limited to 6 people and will have to be booked in advance via https://www.personalbeststudio.co.uk/book-classes.html#tmup=/p/3515255-personal-best/
To take part in these classes, you will need to register with Team Up, as all bookings and payments will go through this app (we suggest you book several weeks in advance, as they can always cancel up to 24 hours before without charge).
Online classes will continue, but the number of classes have been reduced.
THURSDAY 12-1PM CIRCUITS (TOM)
FRIDAY 12-1PM CIRCUITS (TOM)
FRIDAY 1-2PM STRETCH CLASS (JAMES)
MONDAY 12-12.30 STRETCH CLASS (CARL)
WEDNESDAY 12-12.30 STRETCH CLASS (CARL)
sign up to the newsletter here https://www.personalbeststudio.co.uk/newsletter-sign-up.html
In his spare time, he enjoys exploring the Cotswolds, listening to music, practicing yoga and “rounding off the day with a good mug of tea”.
Moving to Gloucestershire from London with his young family for a better quality of life, Karl can maintain his online clients plus join the team at Personal Best.
When not working or looking after their baby boy, he loves cycling, tennis, snowboarding and cooking delicious food.
Salacia Baldwin has joined our reception team and will be with us on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday each week. Salacia is a Yoga teacher and maker of Vegan Cakes! We hope to be able to offer one of her classes in the autumn and maybe get to sample her delicious cakes.
This recipe features in our book which I am delighted to say is on the printing press as I type! Hope you enjoy making it.
Thanks to everyone who has pre ordered a book, we have now sold over 200 copies. As this is self-funded, we will be looking to generate as many pre orders as possible to cover, photography, design, and print. PRE ORDER HERE https://www.inspiredcookbook.co.uk/
Thanks for your support.
Please feel free to share this link and if you know anybody who is able to help or support this project, or might like the book for Christmas, please pass on their details to me
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