Not to be sneezed at: 10 Winter immunity tips to ward off colds and flu

Colds and flu are caused by viruses and since there are over 200 of these in existence, it’s easy to see why we get so many. The other problem is that cold and flu viruses are very easily spread, as we are only too aware.

Many are highly infectious and spread quickly from person to person through nasal droplets secreted during coughing and sneezing. You only have to be one metre or closer to someone to be infected by a sneeze.

The virus attacks the lining of the nose, throat and sinuses which swell and produce increased amounts of mucus and fluids. Typically, symptoms tend to include blocked sinuses, a runny nose, sore throat, coughing and sneezing as well as a general feeling of being unwell.

The following tips can go a long way to keeping you fit and well:

1. Wash your hands

Transferring germs from your hands to your mouth and nose is the quickest and easiest way for bugs to flourish. To prevent germs from even getting near your immune system, wash your hands regularly, and try to avoid shaking hands with bug-ridden companions. The ‘elbow bump’ is a safer form of greeting.

2. Keep stress in check

While this might be easier said than done, stress takes its toll on your immune function and weakens its fighting spirit. Take time each day to relax – even 10 minutes can make a big difference.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Having a little extra weight or being underweight can lead to problems with immune function. Following a healthy diet and exercise programme goes a long way to solving many weight-related health conditions.

4. Increase your nutrient intake

Specific vitamins and minerals can also lend immune support. Research shows that zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C all contribute to the normal function of the immune system. 

Food sources of vit C include peppers, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons, kiwi fruit, melon, tomatoes… the list is long. Egg yolks, soy milk and cereals are good sources of vitamin D and pumpkin seeds, cashews and chickpeas are great for getting your fix of zinc. Immune Support from A.Vogel combines zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C, as well as the edible flower Nasturtium, in itself a source of vitamin C.

5. Keep your tummy smiling

Roughly 70% of your active immune cells are found in your gut, and they don’t work very well without the ‘good bacteria’ that live there. When you are first exposed to a virus, your immune system uses antibodies to bind to the virus in the respiratory and digestive tracts. These antibodies work to prevent the virus from entering the body further, and also identify it to be destroyed.

Live, natural yoghurt is a good food source of probiotics, or if supplementing with a probiotic, aim for 5-25 billion friendly bacteria daily.

6. Herbal helpers can also lend support

Perhaps one of the most effective and well-researched is Echinacea. A powerful immune-supportive herb, it works by improving the way the immune system responds to bugs, especially the common cold. In one report researchers found that Echinacea purpurea can more than halve the risk of catching a cold and if you’ve already caught a cold, reduce its duration by a day and a half. Try Echinaforce Echinacea Drops.

7. Sleep

Sleep deprivation and sleep problems are rife in today’s society, leading to all sorts of problems, not least fatigue at school and work. Establishing a healthy sleep routine and getting the optimum seven and a half to nine hours of sleep a night is important for keeping your immune system ticking at top speed.

8. Work up a sweat

Exercise is important for strengthening your immune system and of course your overall physical and mental wellbeing. It encourages white blood cells (disease fighting cells) to flow through the body at a quicker rate so that your immune system is prepared to fight infection.

9. Avoid smoking, passive smoking or smoky environments

Your immune system doesn’t like smoke. It suppresses the action of white blood cells, damaging organs and the all-important immune response. Just one cigarette can destroy 25 mg of Vitamin C, that’s nearly half of your recommended daily allowance. We’ll leave you with that thought.

10. Laugh

Strange as this may seem, laughter is great for your immune function. It boosts infection-fighting white blood cells and reduces the levels of stress hormones in the blood stream. What is it they say about laughter being the best tonic?

About lyndahamiltonparker 528 Articles
Lynda Hamilton Parker is an award-winning PR consultant, journalist, editor and publisher based in Scotland. She is the founding publishing editor of Good Health Magazine.

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