Arm yourself this cold and flu season with these top tips to strengthen your immune system and general wellbeing.
1. Nourish your Gut
Did you know that around 70% of your immune system is in your gut? Although we may think of it as a mere ‘food processor’, your digestive system is responsible for breaking down and absorbing all the essential nutrients from your diet, as well as recognizing and eliminating any ‘bad bugs’. Basically, the digestive system is your first line of defense in making sure the good stuff gets in, and the bad stuff is kept out!
Consuming a good dose of probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, helps promote a healthy balance of ‘good’ bacteria, which help fight off the ‘bad’ infection-causing bacteria. Probiotics are naturally found in yoghurt. It’s best to choose a natural tub set yoghurt for optimal probiotic activity or you can find probiotics in convenient capsule or powder form.
2. Get Your Vitamin C
An oldie but a goodie! Vitamin C is involved in the production of our white blood cells, which are like our army of ‘soldiers’! The white blood cells defend our body, fighting off bad bugs and infection, and Vitamin C helps make sure they’re primed and ready for attack!
Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, cranberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, cauliflower, kiwi fruit and green pepper.
Vitamin C however, is a very unstable nutrient, meaning it’s easily lost during cooking or processing, so it’s best to consume foods fresh, raw or just lightly cooked to optimize vitamin C content.
Vitamin C supplements are also a great way to boost your intake over the winter season. Ascorbic acid is the purest form of vitamin C, but can be harsh on the stomach for some people; calcium ascobate can be a better source for those with a sensitive stomach. Some supplements will also contain bioflavonoids, which are naturally found alongside vitamin C in foods, and provide a similar action thereby boosting the vitamin C activity.
This is one of my all time favorites. Taken at the onset of a sore throat, propolis can help stop it in its tracks! Collected by honeybees, this naturally dark, slightly sticky liquid possesses potent antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and antibiotic properties, which make it an excellent broad-spectrum immune support. Propolis can be found in convenient capsules, lozenges or in liquid form.
The increased incidence of cold and flu during the winter months may not just be due to the drop in temperature, but also the drop in our physical activity. Research shows that moderate daily exercise boosts the immune system, reducing the incidence of cold and flu.
Moderate exercise can also help reduce stress and improve sleep patterns, both of which have a positive effect on immune function. But don’t worry, there’s no need to set the alarm for a 20km morning marathon! Just 30 minutes of moderate activity, most days, is all that’s required.
Tasha Jennings is a qualified naturopath and nutritionist, presenter and author with over 10 years experience. Tasha is a contributor to major media publications including the New Idea, Herald Sun, medical journals and Mouth of Mum’s website as well as author of the Vitamins Guide. Inspired by her desire to start a family and the subsequent birth of her son, Tasha now specialises in pre and post-natal nutrition and is Managing Director of Zycia, which means ‘life’ and provides premium nutrition for conception, pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond (www.zycia.com.au). You can also follow Tasha’s blog at www.tashajenningsnutrition.com.