There is always an increase in the amount of colds and flu going doing the rounds at this time of year and we are all likely to come into contact with these viruses at some point this winter in particular during the festive period when our bodies are often put under strain due to over indulging and lack of sleep, however we can all take some simple steps to help boost our immunity and lower our risk of getting ill.
Eat a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidants.
We need antioxidants to protect our cells and fight disease, making sure we are eating lots of antioxidant rich food will help strengthen the immune system and will help to prevent us getting ill. vitamins A, C, B and E are thought to be particularly beneficial so increase your intake of foods containing these such as sweet potato, leafy greens, avocados nuts & seeds.
Tip: Try a green smoothie like this one for breakfast to fuel your body with a big dose of flu fighting antioxidants before you head out of the door.
Take a multivitamin for insurance
While we should all try and get our daily dose of vitamins and minerals from food but sometimes we might struggle to meet the recommended daily amounts particularly during the festive period so try taking a multivitamin as insurance.
Tip: Invest in a quality brand multivitamin I love Viridian and Solga.
We need adequate levels of vitamin D for our immune system to function optimally and for our cells to fight infection. The number one source of vitamin D is sunlight so make sure you get outside and spend time in the sun whenever we have any which unfortunately isn’t that often in these dark winter months. The best dietary sources are oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel) and eggs . Because we don’t get that much sun in the UK especially during the winter months you may benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement.
Garlic is often described as natures antibiotic so if you’re like me and prefer natural methods of preventing and treating illnesses then include lots of garlic in your diet and more anytime you start to feel unwell. Garlic has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties and for this reason it is one of natures true superfoods.
Studies show that you only need to exercise a few times each week to reduce your risk of catching colds and flu viruses. In addition to reducing the amount of times you get ill exercise also boosts immunity and improves the body’s ability to fight infections which means you are likely to recover quicker if you do get ill.
Tip: Try exercising at a moderate – high intensity for 30 minutes 5 times a week.
The negative effects of stress on the immune system are well documented, if you are under a lot of stress you will also be more likely to catch a cold (and other illnesses). Removing stress from your life is easier said than done, but anything you can do to reduce stress levels will be beneficial. Exercise is one of the best weapons against stress, no matter how you feel try doing some form of exercise. Meditation or a massage are also excellent stress reducers.
Tip: Stress busting exercise doesn’t always have to be something strenuous many people find that a dog walk or yoga class works best.
Catch your zzzzs
Sleep is fundamental for your body to be able to rest and rejuvenate and not getting enough sleep can have a detrimental effect on the immune system, lack of sleep is one of the reasons we seem to pick up more colds during the party season, we should all be aiming to get 7-9 hours sleep every night all year round but particularly at this time of year when there are more viruses going around.
Tip: If you struggle getting enough sleep take steps to improve the amount and quality of sleep you get by minimising time spent using technology and watching tv before bed, taking a magnesium supplement if necessary. I also find that a warm Epsom salt bath before bed helps me get a really good nights sleep.
Get plenty of fresh air
I have already mentioned exercise but did you know that low level aerobic exercise such as walking has shown to be particularly beneficial at helping to strengthen the immune system, so get outside and go for a walk whenever you can. It is also important to get outside and have a break from centeral heated offices (bacteria and viruses love these environments).
Tip: Aim for 3-5 hours of low level aerobic activity every week, it sounds like a lot but think dog walks, cleaning, taking the stairs at work instead of a lift… it all quickly adds up.
Staying adequately hydrated is such a basic simple health habit that we can all manage yet it is often forgotten about. Around 2 litres of water a day is the recommended amount but if you do feel a cold coming on you should aim to drink an extra couple of glasses throughout the day.
Tip: Start every day with hot lemon water to rehydrate after the nights sleep and the vitamin C will give your immune system a boost.