Top immune boosters to get you through winter
Recent reports indicate the current cold and flu season is one of the worst yet and we aren’t even half way through Winter. Who has time to be sick when there is work to get done, a family to provide for and children to run after?
Read on for simple strategies you can incorporate into your lifestyle to help boost your immune system and ideally protect you and your family from the dreaded cold and flu this season.
Just like a keen driver uses the best petrol to ensure performance and efficiency, our body needs quality foods and some key nutrients to keep it functioning optimally and boost our immune system this Winter.
Zinc is critical for healthy cell development and function. It is needed for gut health, wound healing, blood clotting and has been shown to reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms.
Eat oysters, lean red meat, chickpeas, pumpkin, flax and sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and fortified cereals to help boost your zinc intake.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in that we cannot make or store it ourselves, therefore we need to consume adequate amounts of vitamin C rich foods daily. Vitamin C in an antioxidant that boosts the immune system, assists wound healing by producing collagen and keeps our teeth, gums, hair and bones healthy. The best sources of vitamin C include chili, capsicum, kiwifruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and citrus fruit. Like Zinc, vitamin C has also been shown to reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms.
Iron’s key role is to help transport oxygen around the body, though it also plays an important role in optimizing immune function. Interestingly iron deficiency is the most common micro nutrient deficiency. Best sources of iron include red meat and fish, as well as non-heme or plant based iron sources of oats, legumes, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Good gut health
Our gut is the basis of our immune system, everything we eat passes through there. If the number of bad bacteria in the gut outweighs the good bacteria, then the immune system is weakened. Therefore to boost our immune system, we want to feed the gut the right foods to help it thrive. These include prebiotic foods (non-digestible fibred) such as onion, garlic, legumes, barley, oats, just ripe bananas and plenty if vegetables, as well as probiotic foods – often fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, kimchi and pickles.
More and more research is showing a healthy gut means a strong immune system.
Get enough sleep
The words “Get enough rest” are so often linked recovering from illness. Sleep is key! While sleeping at night your body undergoes many repair and renewal processes, some of which likely support your immune system. Studies have shown that those who get eight hours of sleep at night develop better antibody response when exposed to a cold or virus.
Try not to stay up late and if needed set an alarm for yourself to go to bed working back eight hours from when you need to wake up. Avoid caffeine during the later parts of the day and reduce bring lighting in the evening as this reduces melatonin production – a hormone needed for sleep.
Watch your stress
The more stressed you are, the less effective your immune system is. Hormones released during stress include adrenaline and norepinephrine, which increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and cortisol releases more glucose into the bloodstream. These hormones are useful when a fight-or-flight response is required, however they are still released during everyday stress, and when they build up, can lead to increased inflammation in our body and therefore suppress the immune system.
The good news is, you can reverse these effects by alleviating our stress. Breath deeply, meditate, do yoga, or take time for you to relax.
On top of these, regular hand washing, getting some fresh air and sunshine (vitamin D) and keeping active all help to improve your immune system and hopefully fend off the cold and flu this year.