Last week I fell victim to a flu-like bug. I know it wasn’t flu because I wasn’t in bed all week. I think I might have been if it had been a choice! Having said that, by Fiday I was feeling a lot better and quite proud that I had managed the week as well as I did. A week in bed would have left me feeling very different. Sometimes just ‘getting on with it’ helps your mind re-set from self-pity to self-worth and it’s a great feeling if you can do it.
This week has seen the return of my usual energy levles and time to reflect on effective ways to boost my immune system, so I can better fend off colds and flu. This blog is a sharing of what I found out so we can all check that our defence soldiers are equipped to fight for us when we need them to to!
Stay on top of your vitamin D levels. Because I am outdoors a lot I didn’t think I needed this supplement until I read more about it. In the UK, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation in winter (October to early March) for our skin to be able to make vitamin D. Vitamin D not only strengthens your bones and calms inflammation but also fights colds. Recent research has shown that people with low vitamin D levels are 36% more likely to catch a cold than those who are not. The reason for this is that vitamin D helps your body produce a protein called cathelicidin that fights bacteria. It’s recommended to take a supplement over the winter period.
The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements. You can’t get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food sources alone.
Knowing this last fact convinced me to go shopping! We also need vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
Strengthen your gut: The microbes in your gut not only help your body to digest food, but they also help to regulate your metabolism and your immune system. In fact, almost 70% of your immune system is in the gut. Eating fermented food will help.
Bio-live yogurt (has been fermented with live culture bacteria. )
Kefir, (a cultured, fermented beverage that tastes like a yogurt drink ) found in all major supermarkets.
Sauerkraut, (finely cut raw cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria.)
Sourdough Bread (made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. )
Taking a probiotic boosts the level of good bacteria in your gut. The good bacteria in probiotics influence your body’s T cells, the crucial white blood cells that help power your immune system. They also help reduce inflammation, which prevents infection.
More shopping for me!
3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet: Studies have shown that a high intake of simple sugars decreased white blood cell production by up to 50%. Eating a diet based on whole foods and loading up on antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruit will boost your overall health and help protect you from other viruses and infections. A diet that is high in refined foods and sugars will dramatically decrease your immune function.
Feed your body nutrients, not empty calories – I talk about this a lot to clients who want to improve their diet and increase energy levels. Adding it to the list of ‘weapons to fight the dreaded colds & flu’ is a joy 🙂
Sleep some more: I have blogged about this before but just in case you didn’t memorise it….! Getting enough sleep is crucial for keeping winter colds at bay and it also aids a speedy recovery if you do get one. A lack of sleep leads to an increase in the body’s level of cortisol, a stress hormone that can take a toll on your immune system. Lowering your levels of cortisol = stronger immune system.
Don’t sacrifice sleep, even for exercise. Aim for at least seven hours a night and, if you don’t get that, then try to have a nap (hilarious I know if you work, but worth knowing that it would help if you could get away with it!)
5. Reach for zinc and vitamin C when you all else fails and you start to sneeze: Vitamin C should be part of your winter diet (think citrus fruit and fresh veg) and the other nutrient that can help curb cold symptoms fast is zinc. Research has shown that zinc (found in fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds) can also help shorten the duration of a cold by a few days. That’s because it has powerful immune-boosting and protective effects and studies suggest that it helps stop the replication of a cold’s cell.
Fascinating stuff but do remember that when it comes to suppliments, more is not better. For instance, long term use of zinc can lead to copper imbalance. Try and get as much immune boosting nutrients through your diet and only add supplements when needed.
I hope this has been helpful and you learned something new. The only disclaimer I would like to add is: “If you get sick, it’s not my fault!!”