“I just keep getting sick.”
Have you heard that before, or is it something you say yourself?
Being immunocompromised can be a permanent or a temporary state. When it’s a temporary state, it’s often because of numerous pathogenic infections and a general feeling of being “run down” and being unable to recover between bouts.
Even a temporary immunocompromised state can last a long time. In our recently released podcast (listen here) with scientist and ex-elite athlete, Emma Sutherland, we spoke about a time when her immunity crashed. She was cycling at an elite level and had become underweight as she pushed herself to the edge to achieve peak performance. Her body crashed and she became immunocompromised and very unwell, taking over a year to recover. For a driven, high-achiever in her 20s, being bed-ridden was a tough pill to swallow and the experience effectively ended her cycling career, as she decided she couldn’t put her body through that again.
For many people, being immunocompromised is a permanent state. This can come about through a chronic disease, a genetic condition or age. Darcy often speaks about his pandemic fears, in relation to his immunocompromised state, and these fears were a key driver for us in forming Zestt Wellness.
It is difficult for healthy people to truly understand what it is like to live with those fears and I am reminded of another of our podcasts when we spoke with Dr Jonathan White (listen here), who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.
He spoke of the “complete invisibility” of chronic, debilitating fatigue and the misunderstanding sufferers get from well-meaning people when he speaks about chronic fatigue. A healthy person equates this fatigue with being “a bit tired,” but Jonathan describes it as much more than that – it’s more like suffering from “jet lag, the flu and a hangover all at once” – and still, somehow, needing to get on with life.
A challenge for those who are immunocompromised, can be that feeling of powerlessness and that’s where we want to be able to provide support. A pathway of small steps, incremental improvements, to improve health, via nutrition, exercise, mental health and sleep. Together these add up to make big differences.
Too often we look for the big solution or a “silver bullet” – often in the form of pharmaceuticals – when these often don’t work for chronic illness, or help only when we hit rock bottom.
One of the small changes to focus on, is to introduce more antioxidants into your diet.
There is so much nutritional and dietary advice out there, it can get incredibly confusing. In filtering the science-based evidence from the “fads,” what the science tells us, is that eating more, and a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, which contain both prebiotic fibres and antioxidants, is critical for good health and fighting inflammation. Whole plant foods also keep you fuller for longer, making it less likely you will eat highly-processed, “junk” foods.
All of our Zestt Wellness products are rich in antioxidants, particularly, anthocyanins. To understand how antioxidants work, it’s important to understand free radicals and oxidative stress.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging. We are all made up of atoms. These atoms are surrounded by electrons in layers called shells. Each shell needs to be filled by a set number of electrons to be stable. If an atom has an outer shell that is not full, it may bond with another atom, using that atom's electrons to complete its outer shell.
An atom without a full outer shell is known as a free radical. Free radicals are like missiles with random targets - in an effort to stabilise, they will react quickly with any other substance to fill their outer shell.
Oxidative stress is caused when oxygen molecules split into single atoms with unpaired electrons - turning them into unstable free radicals. They then seek other atoms to bond with, beginning the process called oxidative stress.
Of course, as humans, we need oxygen to breathe, we can’t avoid that one! But the side effect of breathing oxygen can be oxidative damage - much like rust on a car. Fortunately, as a species we have evolved so that via nutrition, our bodies are able to counter-punch the free radicals and stablise them with antioxidants.
Antioxidants, like quercetin and anthocyanins, are compounds present in plants. The antioxidants mop up the damaging free radicals by binding to them and stabilising them – no more random missiles causing oxidative stress!
We cannot hammer home the message enough - eat as many antioxidants as you can, in the form of fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, and/or good quality supplements.
For those who want to stay healthy, for those who are sick of being sick and for those who are immunocompromised and feeling run down - part of our bigger vision at Zestt Wellness is to share support, knowledge and scientific evidence around what to eat, how to live and how to manage stress. We do this, without judgement, to provide a forum which inspires us to live the best life we can, with hope – no matter our path.
Please contact us if you have any queries firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to check out our new Zestt Wellness range, full of wonderful antioxidants!