STAY WELL THIS COLD & FLU SEASON
Cold and flu season usually starts in October and runs through until the end of March. But this year we have the added complexity of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). At the time of writing, there are 798 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK and 133,860 worldwide but there are likely to be many unconfirmed cases. And although we should be at the tail end of the respiratory virus season, it’s clear that that COVID-19 will linger around well past the normal cut off.
So given this how can you help yourself to stay well and avoid becoming infected with COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses?
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
The very first step is prevention. In other words, do what you can to avoid putting yourself at risk of getting infected in the first place.
To do this you want to follow the basic hygiene practices these include – regular thorough hand washing, catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue before disposing of them and maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter between you and anyone who’s coughing or sneezing.
You’ll also want to make sure that your immune system is ready to handle whatever this season throws at it – because the best offense is a good defense!
To be effective your immune system needs to be in balance. Anything that contributes to good overall health will support a healthy immune system.
That starts with lifestyle – making sure that you are sleeping well, you are active and not chronically stressed. Good quality sleep is restorative and increases immune system function. Daily movement reduces anxiety and improves sleep but intense, prolonged, strenuous activity can be immunosuppressive and increase the risk of infection. When it comes to stress, short term stress has less of an impact on immune system but chronic stress will actually suppress immune function.
SUPPORTING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
In terms of food and nutrients a whole foods, plant based diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit is most beneficial for the immune system. But in terms of specific foods and nutrients here are my top five immune boosters.
- Vitamin D is required for proper immune function. It is key to activating T-Cells and is made in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. But at this time of year many of us may have insufficient Vitamin D levels in the body. To increase levels, once you know your levels are insufficient or deficient you can supplement or increase comsuption of oily fish like salmon and sardines and fortified products like cereals, orange juice and milk.
- Curcumin in turmeric increase T-reg cells proliferation and B cell function. In addition, it’s also a glutathione enhancer. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant found in the body that helps to reduce oxidative stress in immune cells and support optimal functioning of immune cells. Curcumin is not readily absorbed by the body without the influence of piperine the active compound in black pepper.
- Medicinal Mushrooms – like Shiitake, Reishi and Coriolus boost the immune system by increasing Natural Killer cell function. These cells that patrol the body looking for cells that have been infected or become malignant.
- The cruciferous vegetable family that include cabbage, cauliflower, kale brussel sprouts and broccoli – these are the king of the vegetable as they have so many health benefits. In addition they promote intestinal immune function and contain sulforaphane which like curcumin is a glutathione enhancer
- Elderberries boost immune function and act as antioxidants. They can be consumed as a juice or made into a tea with some grated ginger which itself has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.