The human body is incredibly resilient and yet in the very same moment, hugely fragile. Taking great care to ensure it is supported and strengthened by what we put in it can help to avoid opportunistic pathogens infecting our bodies and so illness developing.
Our environments become increasingly removed from the natural and nurturing states they once were and huge stresses build up on us – work, life, finances, family… This combination of increased psychological and physical stress requires us to take action with how we manage our health and mental resilience.
Each body is different and so each of us has varying nutritional and mindfulness requirements. However, having said this, there are things that we can all do to support our bodies, particularly in the colder, darker winter months when lurking lurgies seem rife!
Research points towards the positive effects of various probiotic strains helping to reduce effects of psychological stress, depression and increased intestinal permeability, in both human and animal models (Rudzki et al., 2019), (Ait-Belgnaoui et al., 2012), (Zareie et al., 2006). One thing we can all do to help reduce the effects of stress on our bodies caused by the pressures of modern life, which can cause us to feel unwell or be prone to infection, is to ensure we have a well populated microbiome and that those friendly bacteria are well fed by the nutrients they need. Many bacteria thrive when they have enough fibre to use as food. Keeping them well fed and happy not only helps the reduction of stress and its effects but a bonus is that when the bacteria digest this fibre, they produce a waste product in the form of SFA’s or short chain fatty acids. These SFA’s have been linked to weight-loss and maintenance of a healthy weight.
Taking a quality probiotic with the right strains and in sufficient quantities alongside either dietary or supplemental fibre is a great way to help boost your microbiome health. Sources of prebiotic fibre include raw chicory roots, raw Jerusalem artichoke (wonderful shaved on top of a salad), dandelion greens, garlic, leeks and onions both raw and cooked, asparagus, and bananas. This is a good preventative approach, but what about when the lurgy has already taken hold and you might already have a gross snotty cold and feel like sleeping for a week?
For moments like that, I have a handy and very swift recipe for a natural immune boosting recipe up my sleeve, not for the faint-hearted.
Find my recipe below for Tatu’s Dawa (which means medicine in Swahili)
1 inch of ginger, roughly chopped
1 inch of turmeric, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
½ cup water
Organic honey to taste
Simply whizz up the ingredients in a handy blender and take a teaspoon every hour until the mixture is finished.
Rosemary has historically been used as a medicinal herb as well as culinary and now we see it being used in food preservation and agriculturally as a natural bactericide and pesticide. (de Medeiros Barbosa et al., 2016), (Sienkiewicz et al., 2017). Garlic, ginger and turmeric also have been used in a similar way, so I created a tonic using all of them and seasoned with honey and lemon for taste. These wonderful pathogen-fighting plants can be used to help support the immune system when a yucky cold takes hold. It doesn’t taste so great but it’s worth it to feel back to your fighting self. This is not to be taken as a daily tonic as the ingredients can be strong enough to compromise the good bacteria in your body too, so please limit just to when you need it.
So now you have banished the lurgies and have a happy microbiome, we can turn to look at ways to help ensure you have plenty of micronutrients to keep you fit and healthy this month.
Eating seasonally and locally often, but not always, means that the nutrient content of the food and the use of chemical products on the produce is less, meaning greater nutrients for better health. January in the UK is a season for wonderful root and cruciferous vegetables both praised for their health benefits. Enjoy beetroot, known for its effect on lowering blood pressure. Experiment with swedes: with their high sulphur compounds, they provide support for liver function and metabolism of hormones. Try adding leeks to your weekly shop for their prebiotic fibre content.
I have always been a big fan of pasta but honestly, it doesn’t make me feel so good. That’s when I started experimenting with spiralising swede to make the most perfect spaghetti to go with lentil and walnut bolognese. You can find my recipe below:
Super swede spaghetti and vegan bolognese
2 small swedes, peeled and spiralised
½ cup cooked puy lentils or lentils vertes
1 large handful of soaked walnuts
1 leek, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin of organic tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to garnish
A few handfuls of kale or cavolo nero
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Sautee the leeks in 1 tbsp olive oil until soft then add the garlic and oregano and further cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and allow to simmer for 2 minutes before adding the lentils and walnuts and further simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cavolo nero or kale 2 minutes before serving to wilt.
Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water and when you are ready to eat, submerge the swede for 30 seconds to simply warm it. Drain and arrange on the plates, top with your tasty bolognese and feel smug that you are eating to support your health and tastebuds!
Have a healthful January.