How to nurture your immune system this winter

If like me and you have children at school, you will have been in a relentless battle with coughs, sneezes, snots and sore tummys. Some unfortunate households have been dealt chest infections, bronchitis, even chicken pox.

Just when you think you’ve beaten one thing and you have a little victory dance, another attack is launched by another bacteria or virus. You realise you may have won the battle, but not the WAR!

So, why are getting sick?

It is only natural that people are tentative when they hear that such and such has a cough, or such and such has aches and pains, after everything we have experienced during the pandemic.

Naturally, pre-pandemic, our immune systems would have come into contact with a wide range of bugs, many times a day. This process is beneficial for our immune system, as it gives it lots of practice in fighting a mixture of infections.

Our immune system even remembers what it has come into contact with. So, the next time they meet that pathogen, the immune system fights back much quicker. The problem now is that we have been in lockdown for so long and our immune system has missed out on those frequent opportunities to meet and recognise bugs.

Now that we interact with each other more, with less and less restrictions, coughs, colds and flu have returned and many of us are experiencing symptoms that feel much worse. We have missed out on the opportunities to build natural immunity to these infections through regular exposure.

What can I do to help my immune system?

I am here to tell you that we don’t have to roll over and let these infections take victory! There are many things you can do to support your immune system. You can take action by making diet and lifestyle changes.

  • Food First:

    Our immune system requires a lot of vitamins and minerals to function effectively. It is easy to reach for a supplement, but the beauty with food is that these vitamins and minerals co exist and work synergistically to have a more powerful effect on the body. In some cases, a supplement is required to give the body an extra BOOST, but you ideally want to aim for a nutrient dense diet.

  • Eat a RAINBOW

    Colourful fruit and vegetables contain a wide range of vitamin and minerals, antioxidants and fibre. All of these are essential for supporting the body and the ‘good bacteria’ in its fight against viruses and bacteria.

    Especially increase your intake of foods rich in:

  • Vitamin A (squash, pumpkin, kale, organic liver or liver products, eggs, cheese, oily fish),
  • Vitamin C (bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, citrus fruit- oranges, lemons, spinach, parsley, kale, blackcurrant, kiwi),
  • Vitamin D (oily fish, mushrooms, organic liver, red meat, egg yolks and sunlight)
  • B vitamins (liver/organ meats, red meat, seafood, nuts & seeds, beans, leafy vegetables, eggs) and
  • Zinc (shellfish, particularly oysters, fish, eggs, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sprouted seeds).

These nutrients are key players in activating and supporting the immune system and can even prevent infections from entering the cells in our body. Aim for up to 8 portions a day.

salad with vegetables
  • Support your gut microbiome (good bacteria)

    Did you know that 70% of your immune system is located in the gut?

    So, if you have a disrupted gut microbiome (meaning you have fewer ‘good’ bugs or an overgrowth of ‘bad’ bugs in there), you are fighting with an extremely impaired immune system. You are effectively fighting with one arm behind your back.

    Some handy hints to protect your ‘good’ guys:

  • Reduce/Avoid processed foods, excess caffeine, sugar and alcohol and smoking
  • Get out into nature, get sunlight into your eyes
  • Eat a high fibre diet which feed the bacteria (also known as prebiotic foods)- inc, chicory, onions, garlic, bananas, artichoke, cooled potatoes
  • Eat fermented foods- inc. kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tofu, tempeh
  • Make lifestyle changes

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep

Persistent stress or poor sleeping negatively impact our immune system and create inflammation in our bodies, making us more susceptible to infection. In addition, our sleep cycle (circadian rhythm) has many functions. If disrupted, if we have poor sleeping habits, we increase the risk of disrupting our gut microbiome, we fail to make adequate levels of the hormone that helps us sleep (melatonin) and increase the risk of continued inflammation in the body.

Golden sleeping eye mask on the bed, top view. Good night, flight and travel concept. Sweet dreams, siesta, insomnia, relaxation, tired, travel concept. Do not disturb, sleep, bedtime concept
A deep forest with sunlight at the end
  • Get out in nature
  • Get sun in your eyes and turn technology off at least 2 hrs before bed
  • Try cold water therapy
  • Exercise
  • Meditation/Breath work

The benefits include regulation of our circadian rhythm, reducing stress levels and improving wellbeing, activating immune cells/response and/or moving our lymphatic system, which has a vital role in protecting us from infections and removing waste. Our lymphatic system does not move through our body like our blood, so it is essential we move our bodies to activate it.

  • Supplements

    In some cases, particularly in the early stages of infection, supplements may be necessary. Essential toolkit supplements are:

  • Vitamin C- up to 4g/day in divided doses
  • Vitamin D- It is essential to get your levels checked before taking a supplement. The NHS test is very affordable. It can be done at home and sent via posted. Results are then emailed to you. Make sure to take at least 1000IU-4000IUs of D3 during the winter months.
  • Zinc- do not exceed 50mg/day

Always consult with a trained practitioner for advice and guidance before taking any supplementation.

Remember ‘prevention is better than cure’ so take action now and nurture your immune system before winter cold & flu season begins.

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Whether you want to improve your general health & wellbeing, or you are suffering from more chronic disease, which is leaving you in the ‘AT RISK’ category, I am here to help, support and guide you.

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