Lets Talk Winter Wellness.

Optimising Your Immune System With Naturopathy.

With winter soon upon us in the Southern Hemisphere now is a good time to put together a winter wellness plan. Each season is a good time to check in with yourself regarding your health, it’s a routine you can follow to assess the next 3 months and the things you need to be doing to stay healthy. You might want to check the medicine cabinet, cough mixes, decongestants, analgesics etc, even your herbs and spice drawer, to replace any missing or expired products that you would use for winter. Do a healthy house checklist to keep warm and dry and if you take supplements or herbal medicines you may want to make some changes there too.

Immune Health

With the colder temperatures and the short days approaching some of us start to think about our immune defences. The immune system consists of cells belonging to 2 types of immune responses the innate and the adaptive – once a pathogen enters the body the first reaction is mediated by the innate response this is quick and non specific, the adaptive immune response provides better protection against more complex / or recurring situations where pathogens need to be destroyed.  

The Winter Cold 

The cold weather affects us in many ways, it affects our physical activity, our time spent outdoors, the respiratory, cardiovascular, skin and immune systems are affected, our energy metabolism changes and body composition changes.

Optimising immune Health With Naturopathy

So what does optimising your immune system with naturopathy look like? Naturopathy focuses on whole body health. Firstly prevention using exercise, sleep and nutrition. Optimising gut health, aiding immune health using nutrients and herbal medicines as needed, reducing environmental causes, and supporting the nervous system. It’s a synergy of health care for optimal immune function . 

When you put together a health plan for the winter you begin with the basics: optimise your exercise, sleep and nutrition.

Exercise Has Been Shown To Improve Immune Function.

 Both low intensity and moderate exercise creates a positive adaptation in the immune system.  

  • Low intensity is known as zone 1, you are doing zone 1 when you are walking, zone 1 can reduce inflammation and improve immune function.
  •  Moderate intensity exercise zone 2 is when exercise is performed at a high respiratory threshold zone 2 can reduce inflammation and increase white blood cells.

Exercise is important, doing a little bit of movement is better than nothing. Exercise snacks are a good way of adding exercise in your working day. These are snippets of exercise usually lasting a minute or two and done often through the day examples of exercise snippets would be star jumps, burpees, running up stairs etc. 

Aim for 150 minutes of movement weekly, if you need to diary exercise times for yourselves do that, so you have made the time in your weekly calendar to exercise. It’s good If you can exercise in nature away from busy streets and traffic.


Henry IV, William Shakespeare
Henry IV, William Shakespeare

Sleep is important because of the crosstalk between sleep and the immune system.

Immune system activation alters sleep. We have all experienced this with the enhancement of sleep during an infection.  

  • Sleep feeds back to the immune system improving host defence.
  • Sleep affects the innate and adaptive arm of our body’s defence system. 

To improve sleep  – wake up at the same time each morning,this reinforces the circadian rhythm, get outside to view natural sunlight in the first hour of waking, this practice helps reset your body’s “inner sleep” clock.  With the winter months and waking in the dark you can view artificial light upon waking and when the sun is up go outside, and depending on the light (blue sky or cloudy day) spend 10 – 30 minutes outside.


There is a strong relationship with nutrition and maintaining good immune health.

  • The consumption of specific nutrients have a profound effect on the immune function.
  • A diet that is nutrient dense will maintain an appropriate immune function.  
  • Any deficiency in the macro or micro nutrients can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. 
  • A diet with excess calories that is deficient in either macro and micronutrients can affect immune health. This is a common pattern of eating in developed countries

A Mediterranean diet is an example of immune enhancing nutrition because it provides vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, carbohydrates, protein and fats needed from vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, dairy, fish and chicken.

Macronutrient – Protein 

A deficiency in dietary protein is long known to impair immune function and an increased susceptibility to infectious disease. The amino acids from protein have important roles in the immune response, and are critical in the regulation and activation of the white blood cell response.  An example  is L -arginine and L tryptophan critical for macrophages appropriate activity. 

The RDA for protein is 0.8gm per kg of body weight; this was adopted in 1941 to serve as a basis for food relief efforts during times of war or economic depression to prevent malnutrition or starvation.  

To meet functional needs for physical strength, to promote skeletal muscle health, for the optimal growth and development of human health and the immune system many researchers and health experts are recommending 1.2 gm -1.6gm of protein per kg of body weight for good health.  

A person weighing 65 kg for example would need 78gm of protein per day, if they are aiming for 1.2 gm of protein per kg of body weight. 1 egg provides 5-6gm of protein.

Good Quality Protein Foods Include

red meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes – beans, and soy

Housing Quality 

Houses that are cold, damp and mouldy increase susceptibility to respiratory tract infections especially in the young and old.

Get the house ready for winter – stop any draughts, put up thick curtains to maintain heat, reduce damp areas in the house and air the house during the day. The World Health Organisation has recommended a house temperature should be at 18 degree celsius to maintain good health.

Gut Health And The Immune Function 

Short chain fatty acids and the mucosa – associated lymphoid tissue have important roles in immune function and support.

Short chain fatty acids are metabolites produced from specialised bacteria found in the human gut. They are produced from dietary fibre breakdown; some examples of SCFA are butyrate – propionate – and acetate; these metabolites support an healthy intestinal epithelial barrier (gut lining) and regulate the host immune function.

Mucosa associated lymphoid tissue is a group of mucosal tissue that defends the mucosa from antigens and pathogens. They can be found in the gut and the respiratory tract because both areas are continuously exposed to pathogens and antigens etc. The immune system devotes enormous resources to the defence of the mucosal tissue. 

Prebiotic Fibres

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that pass through the upper GI intact and ferment in the lower colon producing SCFA. They are useful dietary tool to modulate the gut flora toward a healthy balance and support immune function and defences in the gut 

Examples of Foods with Prebiotic Activity 

onion, garlic, leeks, bananas, asparagus, artichoke, whole grains that are intact, fermented foods and drinks, aged cheeses.

Vitamins – Minerals and Omega 3 

There are certain vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that have a particular impact on the immune system. 

These are vitamin A, C E D, minerals zinc and selenium and omega 3 fatty acids. 

Vitamins and minerals impact and affect immune function. They factor in all immune responses and immune development.

Omega 3 DHA and EPA has anti inflammatory, immunomodulatory and possible antiviral activity. 

  •  Zinc –  oysters, pumpkin seeds, fortified cereals and meats
  • Selenium –  brazil nuts, seafoods and organ meats  
  • Vitamin A –  liver, leafy greens,  coloured vegetables, eggs
  • Vitamin C –  citrus, berries, peppers, kiwi, leafy greens, rose hips
  • Vitamin D –  sunshine, fortified  foods, diary products
  • Vitamin E  – nuts, olive, avocado 
  • Omega 3 / DHA and EPA,  fish, flax seed, walnuts chia and hemp seeds.

Herbal Medicine 

Reishi – Ganoderma Lucidum has a long history of promoting health and longevity in China, Japan and other Asian countries. It has been recognised as a medicinal mushroom for over 2000 years,Ganoderma is a immunomodulatory mushroom that can potentially bolster immune defences against opportunistic infections 

Adaptogens are herbal medicines that enhance resistance of the human body under a wide range of external stressors (physical, chemical and environmental)  their actions are multi targeted, with network like actions. These herbal compounds affect the immune-neuro- endocrine system and the hypothalamic – pituitary – adrenal axis (HPA). They assist the body in resisting a wide range of adverse conditions, and they may aid in the resistance of the body from the harm of a bacterial or viral pathogen. 

The term adaptogen was first used by Russia scientists in 1940 when describing the actions of Schisandra. 

Examples  – Rhodiola – Schisandra – Siberian Ginseng

ElderFlower can be used for the symptoms of cold and flu such as cough, nasal congestion, mucus discharge, muscles aches and headaches. Can be combined with Vitamin C and Zinc for symptom relief.

Fire Cider Recipe  – for symptom relief from cold and flu

So many recipes for Fire Cider ….. this one is originally by Rosemary Gladstar: herbalist 

Cut your vegetables, pack in1 liter jar, add vinegar and wait a month before straining.. Feel free to experiment!

 ½ c Onion ½ c Garlic ½ c Ginger ½ c Horseradish root ½ t Cayenne powder 1 Parsley bunch 946ml Apple Cider Vinegar 

By adding a lemon rind honey with all the bioflavonoids it would potentize this already powerful herbal mix 

Serve size 1 tablespoon in 1/2 cup of warm water.

You can personalise your winter wellness plan with Autumn. Phone the office for an appointment.

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