6 tips to boost Your Immune System and Sail though this Cold and Flu Season
Flu season is well and truly here. My family has been knocked around for the best part of the last 6 weeks and it’s been brutal. We’ve decided to step up our immune health and are.making it our number 1 priority to proactively prevent any future illnesses.
By strengthening your immune system, you can markedly reduce the risk going down to the flu or other common infections, which there are plenty of at the moment. So, today I am arming you with you evidence-based approaches and tips (and a couple of delicious, nutrient-dense recipes) to help you boost your immune system and stay healthy during this flu season.
Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet & Power up with Immune System Boosting foods.
A well-balanced diet plays a fundamental role in supporting your immune system. Make sure to include as many of these immune-boosting foods in your daily diet;:
Food rich in Vitamin C: think orange, kiwi, lemon but also cruciferous vegies; Broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower.
Leafy greens (loaded with vitamins and antioxidants): Spinach, Silverbeet (Swiss Chard), Beet Greens, Kale (if it’s your thing), Dandelion greens and Cress.
Berries (packed with antioxidants): the brighter the better and choose organic – we don’t want the side of pesticides! Grab yourself a few packs of frozen organic berries, and throw some into smoothies or a warm pot of apple and berry compote packed with spices like cinnamon and ginger, seriously good (and good for you).
Yogurt or kefir and other ferments (probiotics): Research shows that the populations of bacteria in your gut have a profound impact on your immune system. Fermented foods can boost the good guys found in your digestive tract and intestines and can help reduce your risk of common infections.
Garlic; There is nothing not to love about Garlic and it’s immune-strengthening compounds. Research shows that it can help bolster the immune system to fight infections with the key ingredient, allicin, produced when garlic is crushed or chewed. Add crushed garlic to broths, ferment it in honey (seriously, it turns into garlic candy) or add it to your dinner, and LOTS of it!
Turmeric (anti-inflammatory properties): Turmeric is one of my go-to’s. Research has shown that turmeric can modulate the activation of many of our immune cells (without getting too science-y here, T and B cells and foreign-invader- gobbling macrophages among others).
Here are a couple of tried and tested recipes:
Immune-Boosting Green Smoothie
Handful Frozen berries
½ Peeled Kiwi
¼ Cup Greek yogurt
1 cup Almond milk (or any milk of choice)
1 tbsp Chia seeds
1 tbsp Honey (or to taste)
Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy knowing you're getting a boost to your immune function
½ cup honey (local and raw if possible)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ginger
Mix well and store in fridge. Take 1 tsp spiced honey daily.
Prioritize Sleep and Minimise Stress
Getting adequate sleep and managing stress are vital for a robust immune system. Lack of sleep and chronic stress can weaken your immunity. I know it’s not always easy but try to incorporate these practices into your routine.
- Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga- daily if possible
- Engage in activities that fill your cup and prioritise spending time with loved ones
Regular Physical Activity
Research has shown that regular physical exercise modulates the immune system and leads to lower incidence and intensity of viral infections (da Silveira, 2021). A simple way to boost your immune system!
Try to aim for at least 1.5 - 2 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Some exercise options include going on a brisk walk, jogging, cycling, or swimming. Exercise improves immune response and reduces the risk of respiratory infections.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, alternately, opt for herbal teas and homemade fruit-infused water which are also excellent options. Ideally, limiting sugary drinks is wise as excessive sugar intake can impair immune function.
Practice Good Hygiene
Prevent the spread of germs by practicing good hygiene, surely we’re all experts post-COVID right?
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizer when soap is unavailable. Think of those high risk moments like filling your car up with fuel [those pumps are pretty filthy], door handles at your local and supermarket trolleys.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when sneezing or coughing. I am still surprised how many people don’t do this!
While it’s best to get all your nutrients from whole foods, certain supplements can be used to level-up your immune health. We do recommend consulting with a healthcare professional before adding any supplements to your routine. Some evidence-based options to discuss with your health care advisor include:
Vitamin C: This antioxidant is well known for its immune-boosting properties. Supplements may be beneficial for individuals with deficiencies or at high risk of infections as Vitamin C is involved in immune health by stimulating the activity of white blood cells.
Vitamin D: Adequate vitamin D levels have been implicated in properly functioning immune systems. If you have limited sun exposure, are known to be deficient in Vitamin D, consider a supplement, especially during the winter months.
Zinc: This mineral plays a crucial role in immune system function, more specificallty, healthy levels support normal growth and functioning of immune cells. Even a mild deficiency can have a significant impact on the function of lymphocytes (White blood cells), neutrophils and macrophages (Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board). Zinc supplements may help reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu.
Probiotics: As noted above, beneficial bacteria supports optimal gut health, which is closely linked to immune function. Look for reputable probiotic supplements that have multiple strains of the good guys or incorporate more probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and fermented vegetables into your diet.
Elderberry: A small study (that needs more research) showed that elderberry was able to reduce the symptoms of upper respiratory infections (Hawkins et al, 2019).
By kicking some of (preferably all) these evidence-based approaches and tips into gear you can proactively boost your immune system and navigate the flu season with confidence. Should the sniffles take hold, grab yourself a naturally clearing decongestant balm for your little ones or not so little ones.
Remember, it all about a holistic approach that includes a nutrient-dense diet, adequate sleep, stress management, regular exercise, good hygiene practices, and appropriate supplementation can contribute to a strong immune system. Be sure to prioritize your well-being, and consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice. Stay healthy, stay strong, and embrace a flu-free season!
Stay well & Healthy,
da Silveira MP, da Silva Fagundes KK, Bizuti MR, Starck É, Rossi RC, de Resende E Silva DT. Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature. Clin Exp Med. 2021 Feb;21(1):15-28. doi: 10.1007/s10238-020-00650-3
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc: a Report of the Panel on Micronutrients. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222317/ Accessed 10/17/2019
Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Feb;42:361-365. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004. Epub 2018 Dec 18. PMID: 30670267.