The cold weather and Christmas rush can wreak havoc with our minds and body, often leading to an unhealthy immune system and the onset of the flu, so we’re sharing tips on how to fight the flu this winter.
Christmas is a time to be enjoyed, not propped up in bed fighting the flu, so we have some health experts share their advice on how you can fight it before it takes over this winter season.
Keeping your immune system high
General Manager of Health Plus Simon Bandy offers his top tips to keep immune systems on a high:
Get 8 hours of good sleep
A suitable amount of sleep is vital for a healthy immune system as this is when your body naturally repairs and heals. Doctors recommend eight hours of good quality sleep and in order to achieve this eating lightly in the evenings and taking a warm bath before bed can help. It can also help to have a supply of fresh air in your bedroom even when it’s chilly outside.
Try to go out in the daylight as much as possible in winter. The sun delivers essential vitamin D to the immune system giving it a boost and helping to improve resistance to some illnesses such as flu.
Boost your antioxidant intake
Antioxidants help to protect against free radical damage and fight infections. Include berries, dark green vegetables and beans in your diet as much as possible. A simple way to boost your intake is through the Health Plus Immunade Pack (£15.75/28 days) which contains daily sachets of supplements packed with antioxidants and vitamins.
It may seem like a given, but it is absolutely vital to maintain personal hygiene during the winter season. This includes practising sneezing etiquette and thoroughly washing your hands as this is the easiest way for germs to transfer. It can help to keep an antibacterial gel on hand.
Stress can make you ill, and Christmas time can cause plenty of stress so it's important to be aware. “Cortisol, the stress hormone that is released alongside adrenaline, suppresses the immune system. It then makes you more susceptible to thrush, cystitis, mouth ulcers and recurrent colds and flu,” explains Dr Glenville.
Eat yourself well
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is one of the best ways to ensure your immune system stays strong through winter. Getting enough of the right nutrients helps to aid the renewal, repair and defence against infection and illness.
The Mediterranean diet has been found to help boost your immunity greatly, so try eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oily fish, olive oil, legumes, nuts and seeds. It's all about avoiding refined and processed foods.
6 supplements to help fight flu this winter
Eating too much garlic might wreak havoc with your breath, but it has many health benefits which make it a great ingredient to use. If not you could try a supplement.
Garlic contains allicin, which has been found to help fight infection and bacteria. It supports the immune system by increasing the efficiency of the production of antibodies.
You can boost your omega 3 intake by increasing how much oily fish you eat, but if you prefer you could try a supplement to ensure you get enough.
Omega 3 helps to reduce inflammation, as well as protecting the lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
Mushrooms can have ‘magical’ powers when it comes to immunity. Although they're pretty much a love them or hate them food, so if you don't like the taste try a supplement to get the beta glucans into your body. These compounds enhance your immune system because they stimulate white blood cells.
It has been found that Zinc can help to cut how severe your cold is and help shorten its life too by a couple of days. You'll find zinc naturally in lots of different foods, like milk, cheese, mushrooms, oysters, prawns and more. But you could also start popping a supplement the moment you feel the symptoms coming on.
A large portion of your immune system is in your gut, so having a healthy gut is important to support your immune system. Taking probiotics can be important to ensure that there is enough good bacteria which helps with the severity of a cold.
You can take supplements, or try eating more live yoghurt and fermented foods.
Vitamin C may have several roles in the function of the immune system. ‘It increases the activity of immune cells, the production of antibodies (particles that help the immune system identify foreign bodies such as bacteria) and production of chemicals that help to stop viruses replicating inside our cells. Vitamin C is also known to protect our cells from ‘oxidative stress’ – damage from free radicals. ‘ explains Wilkinson. You can also nip inflammation in the bud by taking anti-inflammatory supplements, such as Nature’s Plus AgeLoss Immune Support (www.nutricentre.com, £27.45). Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals it can help you to stay healthy and strong during this difficult season.