By HEALTH EDITOR | UPDATED: 08:28, 07 May 2020
Many of us have naturally fallen into a much slower pace of life during lockdown and feel protected and safe at home.
With the end of lockdown looming, some are feeling anxious about the dangers and challenges of returning to their busy lives.
For many of us, lockdown has meant waving goodbye to the stressful commute and the daily pressure of producing clean school uniform and a healthy packed lunch.
All over the country people have enjoyed a temporary pause in their gruelling schedules; whether it be managing a stressful job or juggling work with afterschool clubs, the idea of returning to ‘normal’ life may excite some, but others are left wondering how they’ll cope with the pressure after such an extended break.
Dr Michael Mosley gives his advice on how we can keep ourselves healthy and calm and not allow life’s pressures affect our physical health:
What can we do to protect ourselves and our families as we return to work and school?
The recent outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus has shown us just how vulnerable we are to the emergence of new infectious diseases. Our best defence is a fully active immune system.
Your immune system is a complex army of cells which are there to identify and destroy any potentially dangerous invaders. But to do this effectively the army needs to be in the best possible condition for combat.
So, what can you do to keep yours in good shape and ready to take on all comers?
One way is to bolster your microbiome, the microbes that live in your gut. They are central to our health, our mood, better sleep, allergy prevention, and importantly at the moment – immunity.
Along with the gut’s ability to help manage a healthy weight, it’s clear that for long-term health, we need to start from the inside.
The microbiome is a community of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that live mainly in the large intestine or colon. Our personal microbiome is shaped by your genetics, but it is also strongly affected by what we eat, how we exercise and how we live day-to-day.
What practical steps can we take to boost our immunity via our gut?
One of the best ways to improve the ‘good’ microbes that live in our gut is through eating a Mediterranean diet packed with health promoting nutrients. The high fibre content is a great way to supercharge your microbiome.
The Mediterranean diet is widely seen as the healthiest, most nutrient rich diet on the planet, containing lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, spices and olive oil, as well as some oily fish, cheese and full fat yoghurt.
Other foods which are beneficial for our microbiome, and therefore immunity, include live yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut or kimchi, and sourdough bread.
These probiotic rich foods are also rich in vitamin c, iron and zinc, which are known to boost the immune system. Green tea, mushrooms, garlic and vitamin C containing foods like citrus fruits are also beneficial.
It’s also important to try and avoid (or at least cut down) on processed foods like takeaways and ready meals, as tempting as they may be during self-isolation, as these encourage the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the digestive system. Treat your microbiome with care; feed it well and it will look after you.
Eating loads of sugary or processed foods, on the other hand, will just reinforce and feed the ‘bad’ microbes that also live down there. Try one of our microbiome friendly recipes from The Fast 800 – www.thefast800.com
There is a proven link between gut health and the brain’s capacity to cope with stress; which at times like these, we need all the help we can get. Studies show that having a healthy microbiome can have a positive impact our mood.
I love foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, fermented and picked foods, which will all help maintain healthy levels of bacteria in the microbiome.
If you’re suffering from anxiety about post-lockdown, what can you do to help?
Keeping your mind healthy is equally as important keeping your body healthy – now more so than ever. It’s so important to ensure you’re in a positive headspace and you’re equipped to deal with these strange, unsettling times emotionally.
Both Clare and I spend around 15 minutes a day practising mindfulness and we’re both determined to maintain this new routine post-lockdown as it’s so important.
There are plenty of apps such as Headspace or Calm, but I’ve also got some great mindfulness videos on The Fast800 online programme too.
Most of us are aware of the financial and time saving benefits of mass-cooking and freezing in batches. Now is a great time to clear out the freezer and start cooking larger batches of food, dividing the meal into small containers, ready for freezing.
Being organised will help ease the stress and anxiety caused by returning to work and will mean you won’t have to leave the office for lunch. Frozen pre-cooked meals will last up to 2 months so you’ll have plenty of choice with minimal effort.
Aim to freeze the meal as soon its cooled to avoid ‘picking’ from the fridge!
Our chickpea soup with greens from www.thefast800.com is the perfect dish to freeze for nutritious and filling midweek lunches:
Chickpeas are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and offer a variety of health benefits including boosting mood (at the moment most of us need more of that) and maintaining your immune system. They are also fairly high in protein and an important vegetarian staple.
Serves 1 with leftovers
Calories per serving: 222
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 55 minutes
· 1 tbsp olive oil
· ½ red onion, chopped finely
· ½ garlic clove, chopped finely
· 1 celery stalk, sliced into 1/2cm or ¼ inch pieces
· 1 carrot, thinly sliced into batons
· ¼ tsp dried oregano
· 1/8 tsp chilli flakes
· Sea salt
· Black pepper
· 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
· 200g tinned
chickpeas, rinsed and drained
· 500ml water
· 30g spinach leaves
· 50g silverbeet (swiss chard), tough stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
1. Put a large pot on the stove and heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot and then stir to sauté until the onion has softened.
2. Sprinkle over the oregano, chilli, sea salt and pepper and mix through. Add the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and water and combine and heat.
3. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover and cook for approx. 40 minutes. Keep an eye on the soup to ensure it doesn’t dry too much – add water if required.
4. Next, add the spinach and silverbeet (swiss chard) and stir through for 2 – 3 minutes to wilt and heat. Divide and freeze half the soup in an airtight container for future meals. Serve the remainder in a warm bowl and season with pepper. Enjoy!
What other tips do you have to boost your immunity post lockdown?
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can weaken your body’s immune system and reduce its ability to fight off infections
Keep your blood sugars in the normal range, People who have prediabetes (raised blood sugar levels) or diabetes are much more vulnerable to infections
Manage Stress; an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, reduces your ability to fight infections
Get more good quality sleep; a range of infection-fighting chemicals are released when you are in deep sleep.
Being active will promote good blood circulation, which means the cells of your immune system can travel freely round your body and do their job efficiently.
Supplement with immunity boosting vitamins and minerals, such as a moderate dose of Vitamin D (depleted at this time of year) and consider vitamin E (in almonds, seeds and spinach) and B6 known as pyridoxine (in milk, dairy, chicken, fish, carrots, spinach) and the mineral zinc (plenty found in a med-style diet) which may reduce cold viruses by 50%.
Follow sensible advice to maintain good hydration, limit alcohol intake, ensure you are getting adequate protein and iron, and avoid smoking as your lungs can show a rapid recovery even within a few weeks to reduce risk of pneumonia.
A 12-week programme – do-able in your own home – on www.thefast800.com costs £99 and includes:
Gut-friendly, immune-boosting menus, calorie-counted and based on Med-style food
An online personal assessment to determine the right level of fasting for you
A flexible meal planner and automated shopping lists to keep your plan simple
More than 300 easy-to-make and “taste great” recipes
Loads and loads of support on how to adapt your routine, especially at a time of COVID-19
Guided exercise programmes you can do at home, and without equipment
Online support from our team of Health Coaches, on hand for advice, support and motivation
A lively and inspirational cohort of members united by the goal to improve their health
Weekly educational articles and videos, so that you are empowered to make these changes for life!