Employee wellbeing is rapidly becoming known as one of the building blocks for running an effective business. Studies show that a healthy workforce is more motivated, focused, and dedicated to the company’s goals, while performing better overall (Mind, 2013).
A study by Workwell FTSE (2013), showed that FTSE 100 companies which prioritised employee health and wellbeing outperformed the rest of FTSE by as much as 10%. Good nutrition and low levels of stress are both essential for maintaining a fully functioning immune system, and therefore for limiting the time taken off work.
So as employers, we need to be asking the question – by ignoring employee wellbeing in the workplace, are we just making a rod for our own backs? Do those missed lunch breaks and late nights just come back to bite us in the form of employee absences?
Perhaps it is time to take a more nuanced view of the relationship between productivity and a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Here, I explain the importance of nutrition to maintaining a healthy workforce.
Boost Your Immune System To Boost Your Business!
With winter looming, and a global pandemic still very much a part of our lives, now is the time to think about optimising our health and building a resilient immune system.
To ensure survival, our immune system is our body’s defence mechanism, designed to seek and destroy unwanted organisms and any damaging molecules; viruses are detected in the body as a ‘non-self’ invader.
This triggers an adaptive immune system response which is tailored to attack the virus and develop an ‘immunological memory’ to enable a targeted and efficient response, should we experience a repeat exposure to the same virus.
To function optimally, our immune system requires key nutrients and a healthy lifestyle, but with the global pandemic causing unprecedented stress, with many of us having insufficient Vitamin D intake during the winter months, and with Western diets being low in nutrients and high in refined, processed foods, our immune system’s resilience is facing a challenge when we need it most.
Personalised nutritional therapy can help you to identify specific factors that could be affecting your resilience and immune health. These can include nutritional deficiencies, bacterial imbalances of the gut (80% of our immune system resides in our gut), and impaired digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking caffeine and alcohol, experiencing chronic stress, and having poor quality sleep, can also impact our resilience. Certain environmental factors, such as low air quality and high exposure to toxins, will place a burden on our health and our immune system too.
Eating well-balanced, healthy, and regular meals which contain good quality protein, healthy fats, and an array of brightly coloured plant-based foods, will help to provide us with the key nutrients to promote an anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive diet.
Inflammatory foods, such as processed and sugary products, should be avoided. In short, eat ‘real food’ – anything that grows on the land, in the soil, grazes on the land, or swims in the sea.
There are certain key nutrients that we can specifically use to support our immune system by including them in our diet, and/or through additional supplementation.
Vitamin A – this supports the body’s ability to fight infection (particularly respiratory infections), and helps to maintain gut integrity
Vitamin C – this is extremely effective against a broad range of viruses, and is essential to maintain a healthy immune system
Vitamin D – this enhances the immune system response, and modulates inflammation – particularly in upper respiratory tract infections
Selenium – this supports the body’s defence system, and increases glutathione activity – a powerful antioxidant to enhance immune function
Zinc – this boosts immune cells and reduces the frequency, duration, and severity of infections
Beta Glucans – this stimulates the immune response and increases the body’s first line of defence in the innate immune system
Elderberry – this is an anti-viral shown to increase the immune response to flu, and to reduce the ability of viruses to enter body cells and replicate
Probiotics – these contain healthy bacteria to support gut health and influence the function and regulation of the immune system. Specific strains of bacteria have been linked with decreased risk of upper respiratory tract infections.
Mental Health And Wellbeing
Stress management also plays a key role in building our immune resilience. Studies have shown that social isolation can contribute to reduced levels of oxytocin in our brain.
Sometimes called the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’, oxytocin is a chemical messenger released into the blood when our neurons are activated through arousal, or if we experience a loving bond (think puppy dog eyes!). Oxytocin is important for human social behaviour, and short supplies of this hormone are linked to raised levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Chronic stress can also impact BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which is a protein that works synergistically with oxytocin in the brain to protect our brain cells from stress or damage. It helps with weight loss and sleep, and is protective against neurodegenerative disease – thereby keeping us mentally alert, improving our memory, and delaying ageing of the brain.
Little wonder then, that with lockdown, social isolation, and anxiety all now taking their toll, there is an increased risk of poor mental health and depression.
Good sleep hygiene, appropriate relaxation techniques, and regular exercise (without over-training), will help to dampen any inflammatory processes and foster adequate rest and repair throughout the body.
In summary, by including key nutrients to support our immune system, maintaining a healthy weight, balancing our blood sugar levels, and adopting good lifestyle practices, we can ensure that our resilience is sound, and our immune system defences are armed and ready for battle.
We can also support our local businesses in these difficult times by purchasing locally grown, organic produce which is full of the essential vitamins and minerals that our body needs.
If you would like to find out more about how to get yourself ‘winter ready’ by optimising your immune system and strengthening your resilience, book an appointment today for a nutritional therapy consultation at Foreshore Nutrition.
We will work together to come up with a personalised and sustainable plan to support you on your journey to optimum health and wellbeing!