Top 7 Immune Enhancing Foods and Nutrients to Beat the Flu Season!
An apple a day might keep the doctor away when itâ€™s warm and sunny outside. But during the cold flu seasonÂ months it might just not cut it! In order to help us stay healthy this winter we need a whole bunch of immune â€“ boosting natural wholefoods to help give us much stronger chances of resisting or fighting any nasty cold and flu bugs this colder weather is well known for spreading.
More than 200 different individual strains of viruses can cause flu and colds. Strains of these viruses are constantly changing, which is why it is important to always support our immune systems as much as we can naturally, even if we have been vaccinated against the flu. Furthermore, although the flu is not a life â€“ threatening condition on its own, secondary infections such as throat and lung infections, can lead to more serious complications, especially amongst the elderly or anyone who suffers chronic health conditions including heart and lung disease which compromise immune function.Â
Donâ€™t Jump the Gun Just Yet
Before looking at foods and nutrients to boost our immune system, it is important we recognise a few aspects of our health and lifestyle which may put us at a higher flu and cold risk category, causing our immune system to not be firing at full speed:
Over â€“ Fed and Undernourished?
Multiple nutrient deficiencies, single nutrient deficiencies and imbalances amongst individual nutrients have all been shown to compromise the performance of the immune system and impair our resistance to infection. Some of the most common immune â€“ related deficiencies we come across include the vitamins A, E, C, B6, B5, folic acid, iron, copper, zinc, Co Enzyme Q10 and the amino acid Lysine.Â It is important to be aware that even if we do over eat, over â€“ indulge or over â€“ feed ourselves or our children, our bodies can still be undernourished; Regular consumption of refinedÂ sugar (including soft drinks, energy drinks and commercial fruit juice) refined carbohydrates (such as white flour based products including white bread, bakery goods, savoury or sweet biscuits etc.) and junk food in general will compromise our nutritional status as these nutrient â€“ empty, calorie â€“ dense foods over time â€˜robâ€™ our bodies of its precious nutrient stores.
Take a Chill Pill
When our natural stress response or our Sympathetic Nervous system is hyper stimulated for long periods of time, it will compromise our natural immune competence and our ability to resist infection. Recent research has also associated prolonged stress with inflammation in the body, which is very demanding on our immune system to say the least. Practicing yoga, meditation and pranayama (yogic breath â€“ control exercises), can help calm our Sympathetic Nervous System (our â€˜fight or flightâ€™ response) and stimulate our Parasympathetic Nervous System, also known as our â€˜rest and digestâ€™ Nervous System, bring more balance to the body and take some pressure off the immune system.Â
Get Your Beauty ZZZZZ
When mum said you need to get some sleep to stay healthy, she knew what she was talking about. There is now evidence to show that people who regularly get 7 hours or more of good quality sleep per night are less likely to get sick. When sleep is compromised, the number of our immune â€“ stimulating T cells decrease, while the number of inflammatory cytokines increase which can potentially increase our chances of catching a cold or even the flu. Furthermore, lack of good quality sleep can increase our cortisol levels, which can then compromise the health of not only our nervous system but our immune system too.
Exercise for a Healthy Immune Boost
Although the bed feels much more cosy and attractive during the cold winter months than going out for a walk or a jog, this time of the year is the best time to get started on a regular exercise program. Exercising in the colder weather will not only burn more energy (as the body utilises more energy warming up when itâ€™s cold than cooling down when itâ€™s hot, believe it or not!), but it will also stimulate our immune system and help us resist infections and flu.
But beware â€“ over â€“ exercising can have the exact opposite effect as it is quite taxing on the body and our immune system. So make sure you choose the types of exercise which make you feel energised once youâ€™re done, not the types that make you want to crawl back under the blankets for the rest of the day. And make sure you enjoy at least 30 minutes to one hour of (energising) exercise daily.
We are what we eat and digest. Simple food and beverage choices we make every single day can contribute towards not only building and supporting a stronger immune system, but also towards fighting the winter bugs and improving the severity and longevity of any cold or flu.