Support Your Immune System This Cold & Flu Season
HOW DOES COLD AND FLU SPREAD?
Cold and flu season tends to start mid-September – just after the kids have gone back to school. The indoor environment, central heating and close contact make schools the perfect breeding grounds for cold and flu bugs. Children then bring the viruses home, spreading them to their families – and so it grows.
To make matters worse, lower levels of vitamin D as winter progresses hinders our ability to fight these bugs off. Add to this the fact that viruses live longer on surfaces in colder conditions – winter is the perfect time for infections to spread.
So, the question is, what can we do about it? Is there any way to prevent these bugs running rampant through our families, forcing us to take time off work and school? This is particularly important for people who work in schools and childcare, nurses and for those who are in air-conditioned offices.
Our immune system is responsible for fighting off these invaders and keeping them at bay, so really, the answer lies in how to improve immune function.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM:
What causes poor immune function? The most common causes of low immune function include:
- Poor diet & unhealthy lifestyle choices
- Poor digestion
- Poor sleep
- Major life changes
How to improve immune function? The best ways to support and strengthen the immune system are:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, to provide key immune supporting nutrients.
- Try and avoid having too much sugar, caffeine and alcohol. These can all have a suppressive effect on the immune system.
- Limit your intake of refined and processed foods, as their nutritional content tends to be quite low. Choose fresh, unrefined and wholegrain foods instead.
- Try and limit the effects of stress. Engage with breathing exercises – breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 8 will help to calm and relax your body. Exercises like Yoga and Pilates will also help.
- Get outside. Maximise your exposure to vitamin D, which will help to support your immune system.
- Try to sit down to eat, chew your food properly, and don’t rush around afterwards. This will help to support your digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Will probiotics help the immune system? Our good bacteria are said to play a vital role in our immune health, so it is worth looking at foods which will support the bacteria in the gut. These include fermented foods and live yoghurt. Failing that, it may be worth considering a good strong probiotic supplement.
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM SUPPLEMENTS:
In the real world, doing all these things is not always possible. It can be a struggle to fit it all in and, even with the best will in the world, life can sometimes be stressful and out of our control.
This is why supplements can be helpful, to fill in some of the gaps and provide ingredients shown to help support the immune system.
The best supplements to support a healthy immune system include something known as Beta Glucans. There are over 600 studies published on the actions and effectiveness of this wonderful product.
What do Beta Glucans do?
Beta Glucans have been found to have the ability to improve our immune response. One study found that when stressed women took Beta Glucans for 12 weeks, they reported fewer Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI) and better wellbeing when compared to placebo.
Beta Glucans can also reduce the number and severity of cold and flu infections. Another study, which involved 162 patients of all ages (18-70), who had suffered cold infections at least 3 times in the previous 6 months, showed 25% fewer infections and a reduction in the severity of infections.
A good Beta Glucans supplement could combine this fascinating ingredient with other supportive nutrients.
What nutrients contribute to immune function?
Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc. These nutrients have all be shown to be vital in supporting immune health and many – particularly Vitamin D and Zinc – are often lacking in the diet.
Why not take a look at Natures Aid products to support Immune Health here.
Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years.)