Cold & Flu Season: Tips to boost your immune system

Nutrition to prevent a cld
By Hannah E. Whitcombe

It’s that time of year again and it seems that ‘something is going around’ and everyone is shamelessly passing on their germs to one another. But why do some people become infected while others exposed to the same virus seem to dodge the bullet?

Nutrition to prevent a cld
Though there is no fool-proof way to avoid the common cold (usually caused by the rhinovirus), there are things we can do to strengthen our immune systems and improve our chances of self-defence!
Here are my top five tips to help you stay happy & healthy this winter!
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep really does help when it comes to fighting off illness. Conserving energy allows the immune system to focus inwards and fight off any lurking virus or bacteria.
Aim for about 7-9 hours sleep per night, or slightly more if you feel you may be at the onset of a cold or flu.
2. Stay hydrated
Increasing your water intake is one of the cheapest, easiest and most effective ways to improve your overall health! Keeping your mucous membranes moist will enable the nasties to pass through without taking hold and making you sick! It will also ensure that nutrients can reach your cells and do their thing to keep you well and healthy.
Aim for about 1-2 litres of pure water per day! If you feel that this is unachievable in the colder months, try hot water with lemon or herbal tea for a more comforting alternative.
3. Stay active
Staying active all year round will keep you strong as well as delivering fresh blood to the tissues, which helps to support your overall immunity. Again, this is an amazingly simple and cost effective way to boost your overall health. Moderate exercise such as brisk walking for 45 minutes per day may be all you need to reap the rewards.
Consistency is key, and it has been found that brisk walking for 45 minutes 5 times a week can reduce your chances of developing a cold by a third!
4. Maintain a healthy diet
Maintain a healthy diet! A diet lacking proper nutrition is likely to result in more frequent illness. So, here is another plug for a whole-food diet rich in whole grains, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and all of those good fats that we keep banging on about.
This is because certain nutrients are directly responsible for the work and activities of a healthy immune system. Mother nature has done the hard work for us by providing us with a range of healthful foods that really can be considered as medicine. Top foods to support a healthy immune system include;
  • Garlic and ginger for their antiviral and antibacterial  properties
  • Mushrooms are immune powerhouses. They are able to destroy microbes and balance the immune system. Further they are a fair source of vitamin D which can further help to boost overall immunity
  • Lemons for their high content of vitamin C and their antiviral and antibacterial properties. In addition, lemons help to cleanse the liver and kidneys, particularly important during times of illness
  • Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables to provide the body with immune-building vitamin C and antioxidants
  • A range of herbs and spices to help fight infection, inflammation and free radicals
  • Organic honey to support the mucous membranes and help fight infection
  • Fermented foods such as yoghurt, tempeh and sauerkraut to provide the body with probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria, which help to balance a healthy immune system. They actively destroy pathogens and fight bad bacteria.
Which leads on nicely to my next tip…..
5. Add supplements 
It is commonly argued that a diet rich in nutrients consumed by a healthy individual will not require any additional supplementation. However, due our modern lifestyle, overconsumption of caffeine, high stress levels and a reduction of nutrients found in the soils, we may want to consider on-going supplementation.
Here are my top recommendations for a healthy immune system;
Vitamin D
It has been suggested that most of us are deficient in vitamin D. This reduced status can be partially responsible for increased frequency of illness. Most vitamin D is synthesised by the body when large areas of skin (legs, backs and arms) are exposed to the sun for at least 30 minutes per day. So, even with a beautiful summer like the one we just had, many of us will still fail to reach this level. I recommend supplementing with a sublingual (under the tongue) spray for optimum results.
Zinc
It has been found that oral zinc helps to prevent and reduce the length of colds.
Vitamin C
Taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C per day appears to reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children.
Elderberry
Elderberry may even have the ability to block the flu virus! Quite a claim but worth a try. The typical dose is 1-2 teaspoons per day for prevention and 1 teaspoon every 2-3 hours if fighting a virus, safe for children as well.
Teas
A cup of hot water with lemon, ginger and honey may be the best thing to help fight the symptoms of a cold. The honey offers antibacterial qualities and soothes the throat, while the lemon provides a cleansing dose of vitamin C and further adds to the antimicrobial properties of ginger. 
White, green and black teas all deliver disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants actively find the free radicals and destroy them. Caffeinated and decaf work equally well. Great news for the caffeine lovers!
Probiotics
Probiotics can be taken in supplement form, best as a powder, but there are plenty of food sources of probiotics as well! Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, and pickles just to name a few.
Echinacea
Best taken at first signs and symptoms of a cold, Echinacea can reduce the length and severity of an illness. It is a flowering plant that research shows increases the number of white blood cells in the body, which fight infections. However, it is worth mentioning that it has been found to interact with certain medication, so please consult your health care professional prior to use.
If you would like to speak to a member of our team, please call on 0208 088 0614 and we would be happy to help, or to book a FREE consultation, please click here.

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