Women’s Winter Health – Your Guide
Many of today’s women lead extremely hectic lifestyles.
Not only are they holding down a job, they are also managing a household.
Living life at such a chaotic pace undoubtedly affects sleep patterns and impacts time for regular exercise, not to mention the missed meals and diet of convenience foods.
These factors can lead to fatigue, poor complexion and low libido. As we head into winter, immunity and susceptibility to colds and flu may also be affected.
Repercussions of Low Immunity
When the immune system is not performing to its full potential, resistance to disease is lowered and there is increased susceptibility to infections
and illnesses. Suffering from recurrent infections, e.g. Candida, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus infections, is a sure sign that the immune system is weakened as the body fails to effectively deal with the infection at the first presentation and stop it recurring.
Supporting the integrity of the immune system requires a healthy balance between diet and lifestyle.
Nutrient deficiency is the most frequent cause of a depressed immune system and there are many clinical and experimental studies to show that a single nutrient deficient can significantly impair the immune system.
Zinc is one of the most crucial nutrients for healthy immune function as many immune cells rely on zinc- dependent enzymes and transcription
factors to respond to immune challenges. Low levels of zinc have been shown to impair immune function and increase risk of infections.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that is important for the function of phagocytes as they engulf and neutralise offending microbes. If these cells do not receive adequate vitamin C, the response to infection may be impaired.
Vitamin A is central to the development of many immunologic cells and its deficiency compromises the integrity of epithelial barriers. Poor resistance to infection is one of the earliest recognised features of vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin D is involved in the production of endogenous antimicrobial peptides known as cathelicidin; having low levels of vitamin D has been shown to increase susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections such as the common cold and flu.
Further immune support may be provided by the milk protein lactoferrin. Lactoferrin acts on both innate and adaptive immune responses to help fight microbes and protect against the harmful effects of inflammation.
The herbal medicine Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) assists in the relief of common cold symptoms.
It enhances immunity by increasing antibody activity and macrophagic phagocytosis. Like vitamin C, andrographis additionally stabilises mast cells which, when de-stabilised, release histamine. Histamine is most known for allergic symptoms, but also causes many common cold symptoms.
As a broad-spectrum immunomodulator that influences both innate and adaptive immune responses Echinacea has been shown to reduce the severity of common cold symptoms by 23% and the duration of symptoms by 1.5 days.
Echinacea seems to be most effective if taken at the first sign of cold symptoms and continued for several days. Two meta – analyses suggest that taking echinacea prophylactically may reduce the risk of developing the common cold by 45-58%.
Olive leaf (Olea europaea) has bacteriostatic and antioxidant activity. It is traditionally used to support immune function and provide relief from cough and feverish conditions.
Get Some Sleep!
An increasing amount of research shows that sleep deprivation has harmful effects on immune function.
A lack of sleep may negatively impact immune responses by disrupting circadian rhythms at the level of immune cells.
Studies have shown that getting adequate sleep protects against the common cold.
Taking a midday nap or going to bed early to catch up on sleep also improves alertness and returns leukocyte counts to baseline values.
Interestingly, the biological consequences of sleep deprivation in young adults include metabolic, systemic, inflammatory and immune changes that mimic those of age-related disorders.
Regular moderate exercise reduces the risk of infection compared with a sedentary lifestyle, although prolonged or intense training increases the risk of infection.
In older populations, regular exercise has been associated with delayed onset of immunosenescence.
Immunosenescence is a term used to describe the progressive age-related changes of immune function. It is why we see an increased incidence of infection in the elderly.
Ageing affects both cell-mediated (T cells) and humoral (B cells) divisions of the adaptive immune system with the greatest change observed in T cells.
Age-related decline in T cell function is recognised as the primary immune defect in immunosenescence.
The impact of ageing on innate immunity is more complex. The term “inflammageing” has been used to describe the chronically upregulated inflammatory state that occurs with age-related diseases.
Inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase reaction proteins (e.g. C-reactive protein) have been observed to increase 2-4 fold, and therefore may exacerbate or prolong a typical response to illness.
Furthermore, natural killer cell activity decreases to increase the incidence of viral infection while decline in neutrophil activity lowers resistance to pathogens such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi.
Fortunately, impaired immunity and poor resistance to infection associated with ageing is reversible with appropriate nutritional intervention. Of the supportive vitamins, nutrients and herbs discussed earlier, zinc and vitamin C deserve special attention.
Individuals aged 60 years and older have been shown to have zinc intakes below 50% of the RDA on a given day. This may be the result of altered intestinal absorption, inadequate mastication, psychosocial factors and/or drug interactions.
In regards to relieving the severity of cold symptoms, a study found that in elderly patients hospitalised with acute respiratory infections, those who received 200mg of vitamin C daily fared better than patients receiving placebo.
Achieve better women’s health this winter with these extra essentials:
- B group vitamins
- Withania during times of stress
- Antioxidant Pomegranate Seed
- Iodine for normal thyroid function and metabolism
- Selenium to guard cells from free radical damage