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Winter Wellness - how do we avoid colds and viruses?

Updated: Jul 9


Do you find it hard to shake off a cold or flu every winter - or even at other times of the year?

Or do your grandkids come to stay and they always have snotty noses and you end up getting sick as well? Some people seem to have more robust immune symptoms than others. There are many reasons why this can happen.

Stress has a huge impact on the immune system and subsequent recovery time.

When we are stressed, whether it be from work, relationships, or other life challenges, our body's natural defense system may become compromised, causing our body to become more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

What actually happens to cause this? The answer is in the intricate connection between our brain and immune system. When we are stressed, our body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which can suppress the activity of the immune cells. This suppression can make it harder for our immune system to fight of pathogens (viruses, pathogens, bacteria and funghi)


Managing and reducing stress plays such an important part in immune health. I have written a number of articles that discuss stress and how to manage it.



Here are my 6 top tips for keeping your immune system in its best form in the colder weather.



1) Stay warm: there is scientific proof that warmer body temperatures help prevent the cold virus from multiplying. 'Using mathematical models, the researchers found that when infected cells were exposed to healthy core body temperatures, the virus died off more quickly and wasn't able to replicate as well.'

So that means wearing a warm singlet, sweatshirt, socks and even a hat when outside. Infants and children do well wearing a merino singlet under their clothes. Remember young children don't notice the cold so will run around in the cold quite happily.



2) Get enough sleep: this is so important. Have you ever noticed that when you stay out late, burning the midnight candle or when your children don't get enough sleep (such as when you spend the day at a sports event (and they get cold) and then you take them to a function!) you or your kids end up getting sick??

Our body needs deep sleep for the immune system to be replenished and repaired. See my blog about the functions of different stages of sleep here.



3) Wash your hands regularly: viruses capable of being transferred to hands and causing an infection can survive on hard surfaces for 24 hours. Not all viruses are this infective, but it is better to be safe than sorry. So that means wash your hands regularly and wipe surfaces such as door handles, benches and other areas where an infected person has been touching (or sneezing).

Also, don't touch your hand to your nose, eyes or mouth, as these are easy ways for the viruses to get into the body. This is also why people should stay home when they are sick - to reduce the risk of infecting others.




4) Keep processed sugar a to a minimum (white sugar, brown sugar, fruit drinks, fizzy drinks, molasses, cane sugar)​: one of the problem with sugar is that it suppresses our immune system for 4-6 hours after you eat it. So instead of the army of immune cells being able to kill off the bacteria or virus, your body’s immune system’s ability to fight is DECREASED. It is LESS able to fight the infections, thus the infections spread.



5) Keep all dairy products to a minimum (milk, ice-cream, cream, yoghurt, cheese): these foods are cause your body to create more mucous or phlegm. (You know, that sensation of having to clear your throat? That is mucous). So even though dairy may be fine to have in summer, in winter when there are bacteria and viruses around the mucous/phlegm provides a medium for them to multiply in. When the phlegm is green or dark yellow it may indicate a bacterial or viral infection.



6) Increase nutrient dense foods: such as fresh green vegetables, fresh seasonal fruit. lean protein, raw nuts, garlic: our immune system is like an army of cells, and we need lots of vitamins, minerals and protein to keep the army growing, and able to fight. These include the vitamins C, D, E, B6, and the minerals iron, selenium and zinc.

It isn't an old wives tale .....

Chicken soup or broth is a definitely a winner when you are in bed with a cold or a virus. Studies show it is anti-inflammatory and the chicken, which is rich in the amino acid cysteine, plays an important role in thinning mucus. Add in all the vegies and herbs and it is full of the nutrients our body needs to boost the immune system.


For those that are vegetarian or vegan, download this nutritious vegetarian / vegan broth alternative.



Vegetarian Bone Broth
.pdf
Download PDF • 561KB

Vitamins and herbs

One of the first nutrients I always take as soon as I have the hint of a cold is vitamin C. It is important to take divided doses 3-4 times a day, don't just take it once a day as that won't be effective. I like to take the powder, but a chewable or swallow tablet will also be effective if you get a good brand.


Food sources of vitamin C : it isn't just in citrus fruits - leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, strawberries and papaya are also excellent sources. Or you can drink parsley tea.


Zinc: This is an important mineral for immune health. Foods rich in zinc include seeds, nuts, dairy, red meat, shellfish, legumes, eggs and whole grains. Read more here.

If you are struggling with a cold or cough I offer 30 minute acute consultations where I can advise on supplements, specific nutrients or make you up a specific herbal tonic (this is not included in the consultation fee) to help fight off the infection.




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