#1 Eat well
Number one is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet – this is essential in the fight against cold and flu. Try the following nutrients for an immune-friendly diet.
- Vitamin A & betacarotene – sweet potato, carrots, squash and broccoli
- Vitamin C – kiwi fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, blueberries
- Zinc – pepitas, oysters and other seafood, lean red meat.
- Vitamin B6 – turkey, spinach, eggplant, sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts
- Protein – fish, free range eggs, tofu, beans and legumes.
Limiting sugar, saturated fats and alcohol may also help strengthen your immune system. A diet that is high in refined sugars and saturated fats may affect proper immune function. Alcohol can affect the function of immune cells which may leave you more prone to cold and flu.
#2 Get a good night’s sleep
Sleeping well may also help to keep your immune function at its best for the winter months. If you’re not getting enough sleep, or your sleep is of poor quality, you may be more susceptible to the common cold by suppressing the activity of some immune cells.
Investigations into sleep habits and immunity have found a connection between sleep and susceptibility to the common cold.
In one study, 153 healthy participants recorded their sleep habits for 14 consecutive days before being exposed to the rhinovirus, a common cause of cold. Participants with less than 7 hours sleep were 2.94 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more. Participants found to have a sleep efficiency of less than 92% were 5.5 times more like to develop a cold than those with 98% or more efficiency.
Sleep efficiency is the percentage of time a person actually sleeps between lying down to sleep and getting up in the morning.
How can you get a good night’s sleep? Try going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. You also need the right bedroom environment. Your room should be dark, quiet, not too hot and technology free.
#3 Stress less
When life is busy and we’re under prolonged periods of stress, our immune function can start to suffer, and before you know it the symptoms of the dreaded cold or flu have started to take hold.
Stress leads to an increase in production of adrenal hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones can cause an inhibition of immune cells and suppression of immune function. Stress may also affect the way our nervous system influences immunity. Stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, and our immune system is more positively influenced by the parasympathetic nervous system.
To help reduce your stress and maintain your immunity, take time out and relax by doing activities you enjoy. Regular exercise, meditation and yoga are all great stress reducers. And there’s nothing like losing yourself in a good book while sipping a cup of herbal tea to keep stress at bay.
#4 Botanical immune support
Echinacea spp- probably the most commonly known immune herb, echinacea may help to stimulate immunity and help to prevent upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold.
Eleutherococcus senticosus- siberian ginseng is a great winter readier as it may help to support immunity and may help to support the body’s response to stress, and support vitality.
Andrographis paniculata- andrographis, and Withania somnifera- winter cherry, are both traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine and may help to support immune health. Andrographis may help to prevent the common cold and winter cherry also supports a healthy nervous system and the stress response.
References available on request