It’s that time of year again when you may be starting to worry about whether you are going to get a cold or flu this winter. It is also a time when the pharmaceutical industry will prosper from the surge in the need for antibiotics along with cold and flu remedies. However with the worrying news that we are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics due to its overuse, now is a good time to start thinking about measures that we can all take to improve our immune system, naturally.
Did you know that you have a whole arsenal of ammunition in your body to fight off disease and infection but you just need to create the right environment for your immune system to prosper? I’m sure you’ll agree prevention is certainly better than cure and there are certain steps that you can take to boost your immune system so that you are able to fight off colds and flu.
I always say that for best health it’s always important to start with a healthy diet. This should consist of:
Proteins including fish, poultry and some red meat, eggs, tofu, beans, pulses, peas, rice, quinoa, organic milk and/or fermented dairy products such as yogurt, buttermilk, kefir.
Vegetables and fruit for your daily supply of vitamins and minerals. Make sure you get lots of varying colours so that you can be sure you’re getting a good variety of all of the vitamins and minerals that you need. Raw and organic are always best. You can easily include raw vegetables and fruit in your diet by including salads, smoothies and sprouted beans, pulses & seeds in your diet. If you struggle to eat raw vegetables then just steam them lightly rather than boiling.
Wholemeal grains and cereals e.g. brown rice, oats, bran, barley, wholemeal wheat, rye, millet, buckwheat, quinoa etc.
Healthy unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish, cold pressed unsaturated oils e.g. olive, safflower, sesame oil etc., olive/sunflower spreads.
Dairy alternatives such as almond, oat, coconut rice milk/cream.
Plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
If you follow this sort of diet and cut down on junk/unhealthy/processed food & drinks such as refined flour/sugar, caffeine, alcohol, artificial additives, preservatives, colours & flavourings, you’ll be doing your body and immune system a whole lot of good.
And of course no smoking!
Giving your immune system an extra boost
There are also some extra measures that you can take to boost your immune system.
Zinc is known to be a necessary mineral needed by the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. You can get zinc from your food; it is present in spinach, pumpkin seeds, wheatgerm, nuts, dark chocolate, red meat, chicken, beans and mushrooms. You can also take zinc as a supplement; 70 mg per day would be sufficient but always check the directions on the bottle.
Vitamin C is also necessary for a healthy immune system and for fighting off infection. By eating a diet containing lots of different vegetables & fruit you can be sure that you will be getting enough Vitamin C in your diet. It is particularly prevalent in bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi fruit, broccoli, berries, oranges, tomatoes, green peas and papayas. You can take it as a supplement; 500 mg per day would be sufficient but as mentioned before check the label.
Garlic has the ability to boost your immune system by increasing the rate at which your natural killer cells are made. The more killer cells you have in your body the more likely you are to be able to fight off infections. Raw garlic is best and can easily be added to your diet by adding it to salad dressings and smoothies. Understandably you may be concerned about the odour from eating garlic so you can always take it in the form of odourless garlic capsules (take as directed on the bottle).
Note: Taking supplements should never be regarded as a substitute for having a good diet.
Manage your Stress Levels
Stress, if it is continual, can have a negative impact on your body; particularly your immune system (you can read more about stress and how it affects the body here). When you become stressed your immune system becomes repressed. If you are constantly stressed then your immune system will be constantly repressed. How can you possibly expect to fight off any type of infection if your immune system is not working as it should? Therefore, taking steps to manage your stress levels and taking part in some form of relaxation is important. Methods such as meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, hatha yoga are all great ways to relax. Have a read of my blog "Keep Calm and Meditate" or "What is mindfulness and how it can help you lead a stress-free life".
If you check out Youtube you will find plenty of guided meditations, visualisations, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises etc. to help you find ways to relax.
I hope you have found this information helpful.
Hope you stay fit and healthy this winter!
Check out my website to find out how else I can help.
Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor before embarking on any health regime.