Cold and Flu Fighting this Winter
Boosting your immune system all year will reduce your risk of catching colds or worse the dreaded flu during the colder months. Flu season peaks in the months of January and February within the UK and can cause serious illness for the young, old and at-risk groups. If you fall into one of these categories it is recommended you receive the flu jag. However, we can take steps to help ourselves by leading a healthy lifestyle by eating a nutrient dense diet, getting plenty of exercise, ensuring adequate sleep and keeping stress levels low.
Here are some of my top tips to help you boost your immune system this winter.
Eat your veggies Keeping your body well-nourished helps with more than just weight control; it also supports your body with energy, digestion, immune function and disease prevention. One of the most significant things you can do to start implementing an immune-boosting diet is to add fresh, whole foods when possible. Start with vegetables because they’re one of the foods that are typically missing in most diets (or we just don’t get enough of them) there are so many benefits for your overall health and well-being by consuming at least 5 servings of vegetables each day. Green fruits and vegetables are a nutritional powerhouse and contain lots of the vitamins (including A, C, K and folate) and minerals (even calcium!) we need every day. This includes magnesium and iron, which are highly beneficial for fighting tiredness and energy slumps. Leafy greens like spinach are also a good source of vitamins A, C and K, for strengthening your immunity, supporting your eye health and even helping other vitamins to be absorbed well. An array of green vegetables to choose from include: kale, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, celery, broccoli, cucumber, artichokes, leafy greens (lettuce varieties, collards), peas, and green peppers just to name a few. It’s not just veggies that add more greens to your plate though – don’t forget about your fruits such as green apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, limes, avocado. Foods from the yellow/orange group are also packed with vitamin C, a natural immune booster. Try pumpkin, oranges, pepper, cantaloupe, mango, squash, sweet potato, papaya, pineapple, carrots and lemon. Stocking up on citrus fruits during the colder months or start the day with a half lemon squeezed in some water each day all year round to boost your immunity.
Eat enough protein Proteins are nutrients that are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your body tissues such as your skin, internal organs and muscles. They are also the major components of your immune system and hormones. Protein is found in both animal and plant foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy products, legumes, grains and some vegetables. Try to include protein at each meal to feel the benefits.
Good Fats Consuming sufficient amounts of fat in the right forms and proper proportions have been shown to offer significant health benefits. Among other things, it can strengthen the immune system. Healthy fats are found in foods such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and oily fish, like salmon. Purchase the highest quality you can if your budget allows.
Other good fat sources include olive oil, coconut oil and avocado (i.e. olive oil as part of salad dressing; coconut oil for cooking, baking and more; and avocado in smoothies or on your sandwich or salad). Remember you only need to eat a little of these to get all the benefits from fat.
Exercise reduces infections Moderate workouts temporarily rev-up the immune system by increasing the aggressiveness or capacity of immune cells. That may explain why people who exercise catch fewer colds.
Reducing stress There is a growing amount of research on the effect of stress on our physical bodies. For example, feeling overly worried can trigger stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline/epinephrine. It can also activate the “fight or flight” part of our nervous systems (called the “sympathetic” nervous system). When these are activated, they can physically suppress our immune systems, and make us more susceptible to infections. Try including 10 minutes of yoga or meditation each day to help reduce stress levels.
Improve the quality of sleep Poor sleep can lower immunity. If you seem to get every cough and cold going, your sleep habits may be to blame. Researchers deliberately exposed people to the common cold virus to see how likely they were to go on to develop a cold. Participants who had been sleeping for less than 7 hours per night had lower immunity and were almost 3 times more likely to be impacted. Even a small sleep debt has been linked to lower immunity.
Wash your hands regularly wash your hands to ensure you are not spreading germs. Germs can live for up to 8 hours on any surface, so getting into the habit of washing your hands after your morning commute particularly if you travel by public transport, after using the bathroom and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
If you are struggling to implement any of these changes to your diet and lifestyle, please book a free consultation call with me and see how I can support you.