With all the buzz surrounding immune health at present, let’s not overlook two of the most essential pillars to health: managing stress and getting adequate, restorative sleep.
Why? Both stress and lack of sleep can negatively impact immune function.
When the body is under chronic stress, the immune system is suppressed and loses its ability to down-regulate inflammation. Unchecked inflammation can go on to promote the development and progression of many disease states. Further – both chronic stress and even modest sleep deprivation have been found to decrease production of lymphocytes – types of white blood cells that help ward off infection. If you’re feeling the collective anxiety and aren’t sleeping well, let’s find a way to help support you back into balance!
Most of us are aware of the beautiful lifestyle practices we can turn to for stress management – breathing exercises, mindfulness or meditation practice, exercise (nothing overly exhaustive!) and disconnecting from technological devices and stimulating blue light before bed. Even though we’re currently in the middle of a national lockdown, we can still easily achieve all of these things inside. Once these are in place, we can turn our attention to key herbs and nutrients.
Taking herbs prepared as a tea is a safe and simple way of supporting the body. The groups of herbs that best support the nervous system are known as nervines and mild sedatives.
Chamomile fits both these categories, and can also be found in our Chamomint tea blend. Green tea is also worth a mention, as it contains a well-studied compound called L-theanine. L-theanine increases the calming neurotransmitter GABA, whilst lowering ‘excitatory’ brain chemicals. It reduces stress and anxiety, instilling a sense of calm.
Our tip – brew a matcha latte (a special variety of green tea ground down into a fine powder) or cup of green tea in the morning and then switch to chamomile in the evening, adding a little Manuka honey to counter the signature bitter taste.
B-group vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium are the key nutrients required to support the nervous system.
B-group vitamins are utilised for energy production, turning carbohydrates into your main fuel source, glucose. Wholegrains and legumes are great sources of B-group vitamins, as well as bee pollen which contains a significant amount of B1, B2 and B6. Try sprinkling a small amount of bee pollen over your morning oats.
Vitamin C is rapidly used by the adrenals during the production of cortisol (the hormone released when the body is under stress), infection and chronic disease. Contrary to what you may think – we don’t actually need heroic doses, but we do need some daily.
Great sources are citrus, kiwifruit, feijoas, strawberries, blackcurrants, pineapple and red peppers. When enjoying citrus – slice off the peel but try and eat some of the white pith, it contains bioflavonoids which help promote absorption.
Magnesium is one of our major minerals, responsible for upwards of 500 enzymatic reactions in the body – its role is so diverse. Magnesium calms nervous irritability and reduces ‘excitatory’ neurotransmitters. It is rapidly depleted during chronic stress.
Food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Cacao is one of the richest dietary sources. Ideally, avoid Dutch-processed cacao as the alkalisation process involved here causes a significant loss in antioxidant flavonoids. You can read more about our cacao powder here.
We know particularly at a time like this, there can be so much information out there, it can be overwhelming to think about implementing everything into your lifestyle at once. We recommend picking a few things to focus on each day and overtime they will become healthy daily habits you won’t even need to think about it. Please let us know if you have further questions on this topic! Stay safe.
This blog post was written in collaboration with Lauren Glucina, Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Nutritionist.