Written by Kirsty Gillmore, Nutritional Therapist (BA Hons, DipCNM) and Nutrition & Sales Support for G&G Vitamins. www.livelovebalance.co.uk
Summer is nearly over, and the smell of autumn is in the air. It’s a time of transition, a time to reflect on the summer months and to start preparing for the winter ahead. Maybe you’ve indulged in one too many barbeques this year, or perhaps you just feel ready for a health kick to boost your protection against the bugs of the colder months.
Whatever your circumstance, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is imperative to feeling good, both mentally and physically. Staying healthy requires continuous work to ensure our bodies are receiving all the nutrients needed to function optimally.
Consuming quality food and water should be our priority for obtaining all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, healthy fats and other essential nutrients needed by our cells. Sometimes, we need extra support to achieve optimal nutrient levels, and this is where supplements can be helpful.
Here are five supplements that you may wish to include in your health regimen this autumn.
If you’ve found yourself consuming some less-than-desirable foods and drinks this summer, then a probiotic might just be your new best friend. Probiotic supplements are filled with heaps of living microorganisms, which are commonly referred to as ‘good bacteria’. When consumed, these bacteria populate the gastrointestinal tract, to form what is known as the gut ‘microbiome’ or ‘flora’.
These good bacteria form around 80% of the body’s immune system, making them a very important part of maintaining our overall health. The microbiome helps regulate many processes, including fighting off pathogens such as ‘bad bacteria’ and viruses, maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining, and metabolising nutrients from our food.
There are a number of factors that can negatively affect the quality and diversity of the gut microbiome. Artificial foods, refined salt, processed oils, alcohol and high sugar drinks are all examples of substances that can create an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria. Alongside a healthy diet, taking a high strength, multi-strain probiotic can help rebuild the gut environment and get your health back on track.
2. Vitamin D
Recent summers have brought us many days of glorious sunshine here in the UK. The radiant rays have not only given us the opportunity for seaside retreats and barbeques, they have also provided our bodies with a boost of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, because nature intended for us to obtain it through the sun’s rays. When our skin is exposed to direct sunlight, the skin cells work to produce vitamin D using our cholesterol stores. This vitamin D is then stored in our fatty tissue for use in the winter months.
However, even with many opportunities to absorb the summer sunshine, our modern day lifestyles can get in the way of us reaching our optimal vitamin D status. Many people are still hidden away from the sun during the summer months, working inside offices or catching up with home life after a busy week.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is required for many bodily functions. It helps contribute to normal calcium levels, which is needed for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps regulate the immune system, maintain normal muscle function, and is involved with our natural circadian rhythm.
As we go into the colder months, vitamin D is often required in larger amounts to help our bodies defend against winter illnesses that cause colds and the flu. For those individuals who are deficient in this vital nutrient, taking a vitamin D supplement can be highly beneficial for restoring cellular levels.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that we need to obtain from food sources, because our bodies cannot produce it. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges and kiwi. It is also found in large quantities in leafy greens, including broccoli, spinach and kale.
Vitamin C is required for normal function of the immune system, before and after vigorous exercise. The immune system also calls upon more vitamin C than usual, when defending against an infection. In these circumstances, foods rich in vitamin C will need to be consumed in greater volumes, and a supplement may also be useful to achieve optimal levels.
Vitamin C is also essential for the production of energy inside our cells. It is used in collagen formation, which is required for our blood vessels to function normally. The formation of collagen is also essential for maintaining the health of our skin, cartilage, bones and gums. In addition, vitamin C helps regulate the nervous system and protect our cells against oxidative damage.
The colder, darker months of the year can sometimes leave us feeling foggy and fatigued. That’s because our body’s natural circadian rhythm relies on sunshine to differentiate between night and day, which is not the most abundant when the sun rises later and sets earlier. Certain nutrients are required to generate more energy in the body, and magnesium is one of them.
Magnesium is used alongside the B and C vitamins to help our cells produce energy from the foods we eat. It is also needed to balance other minerals known as electrolytes, which help regulate many cellular processes. Magnesium can be obtained in moderate amounts by eating plant foods such as leafy greens, legumes and grains. Since magnesium is required for the immune system to function optimally, extra may need to be consumed during times of illness, stress or high intensity activities.
Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can include fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, calf cramps and an excitable nervous system which can cause a ‘pins and needles’ sensation. Taking a magnesium supplement can help restore the body’s natural levels of this vital mineral when the diet is not sufficient.
5. B Complex
Building a good supply of energy to power us through the colder months also requires plenty of B vitamins, which occur in many food sources such as whole grains, legumes, seeds, vegetables and animal products. Taking a high quality B Complex supplement is another way to ensure the body is receiving enough B vitamins to keep the body fit and healthy.
Just like vitamin C and magnesium, the B vitamins are needed in far greater amounts during times of illness, stress or intense physical activities. B vitamins are used to regulate the nervous system, hormone levels, and to metabolise homocysteine.
Vitamin B12 is particularly important for the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body so our tissues and organs function properly. This is why individuals who have a low vitamin B12 status may experience unwanted symptoms such as tiredness, brain ‘fog’, breathlessness and palpitations.
Kirsty Gillmore is a Nutritional Therapist and Nutrition & Sales Support for G&G Vitamins. Kirsty is also the Founder of LLB Nutrition, an online nutritional therapy clinic and wellness blog. www.livelovebalance.co.uk