Has anyone else got a cold that won’t seem to shift, or may be it’s the cough that’s doing the rounds. I’ve noticed that all my family and friends seem to be dropping with the latest bugs. And unfortunately my family aren’t immune. I’m sure we’re just passing it from one person to the other and it keeps on going! I’ve been told that’s what happens when you have small germy children!
So how can we give our immune systems a little helping hand?
Your immune system is your defence system, protecting you against all those little bugs that like to invade us and set up home in our nice warm bodies. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? But in reality our body and our immune system keeps us well most of the time. There are a few things we can do to help our immune system and boost our defences.
Eat the rainbow
Colourful foods are full of nutrients and high in antioxidants. Antioxidants can help fight free radicals in your body that can impact your immune system. Increasing your fruit and vegetables is so important for your health and wellbeing and can really support your immune system. Whilst the government recommend 5 a day, I’d recommend between 7-10 portions a day to really give your immune system the boost it needs. If this seem’s overwhelming and too much, just aim to eat a diet that is full of fresh foods and see how you go.
Having a good balance beneficial bacteria is essential for your immune system. Not only does the good bacteria keep the bad guys at bay, they create substances such as lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide which stop harmful bacteria from growing. I’d recommend taking a high dose probiotic*, and avoid the drinks which promote good bacteria as they generally don’t contain enough of the good bacteria and are high in sugar.
Sugar just isn’t good for you, whether it’s the more natural forms such as honey and maple syrup or the processed version, they can all suppress your immune system.
Have lots of hot lemon and ginger
I love a hot lemon and ginger in the morning but it’s all the more satisfying when you have a cold. Drinking lots of hot lemon and ginger throughout the day will keep you hydrated when you’re feeling under the weather and will give your immune system a boost with the antioxidants they contain.
Eat as much garlic as you can possibly manage
Garlic along with onions are anti-bacterial and can be really helpful in banishing colds and supporting your immune system. Put garlic in your dinner, soups and if you’re really brave in a green smoothie!
Watch your mood
According to Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno when you’re happy and optimistic your immune system functions better. And when you’re depressed, so is your immune system. I know that when I’m feeling happy, I feel better all round.
Learn how to manage stress
Stress can severely impact your immune system; it can impact the production of white blood cells and antibodies and it also depletes the body of essential nutrients. Learning how to manage stress can help improve your health and wellbeing. Find what works for you. It could be listening to music, practising yoga or simply taking deep breaths whenever you feel anxious or stressed.
Practice meditation and mindfulness
I’ve experienced the benefits of meditation but I still struggle to make this a daily practice. However having done more research for this post I’m going to make it a new priority and you should do the same. There are now numerous studies that show the benefits of meditation on health and some that specifically show improvements to the immune system. Meditation and mindfulness can also help in managing stress, it’s a win, win, win!
Get a good night’s sleep and rest
Have you ever felt a bit run down only to carry on with work, looking after the kids, going out with friends and before you know it, you’ve got a full blown cold or some other illness? When you’re run down this is the body telling you that you need to rest. I can’t stress this enough. You and your body need to rest. When you’re asleep your body does all of it’s repair work. If you’re going to get better quickly you need to rest. Carry on and it will take longer for you to feel well again, and sometimes a lot longer.
Balance is key to this one; over-exercise and you’ll do your immune system more harm than good. Gentle exercise such as yoga when you’re feeling under the weather and when you’re well regular exercise to keep you fit and healthy.
Get a daily dose of vitamin C and vitamin D
In fact I’d recommend a regular supplement programme that gives you the full range of micronutrients that we just can’t get from our food alone. For our immune system to function properly it needs over 20 different micronutrients and deficiency in a number of micronutrients actually suppresses your immune system. I take a multivitamin every day, along with vitamin D in the winter and essential fats. When I’m under the weather, or feeling like I’m coming down with something I’ll add a large daily dose of vitamin C*.
And finally wash your hands (and get your kids to do the same!)
Stop the spread of germs and wash your hands regularly, particularly if you’re sneezing a lot!
* Make sure you consult with either your GP or a nutritional therapist before starting a supplement programme, particularly if you’re taking medications as there could be interactions between the two.
Sources and references
Clayton P (2004) Health Defence (2nd Edition) Aylesbury: Accelerated Learning Systems
Courteney H (2008) 500 of the most important health tips you’ll ever need London: Cico Books
Creswell JD et al (2012) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: a small randomised controlled trial (abstract only)
Davidson RJ et al (2003) Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation (abstract only)
Dorling Kindersley (2007) The Human Body London: Dorling Kindersley
Holford P (2004) New Optimum Nutrition Bible London: Piatkus
Lipski E (2004) Digestive Wellness (3rd edition) USA: McGraw-Hill
Murray M & Pizzorno J (1998) Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine (2nd edition) New York: Three Rivers Press
The material on this blog is provided for information only and must not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this publication; readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and wellbeing. The blog is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Nicky Duffell.