Easy ways to boost your immunity and avoid colds and flu this season. Nicola Conville shares her top five tips for staving off colds and flu over the chilly season.
Boost your diet
Eating foods that are high in vitamin C will help keep your immune system strong, so include fruit and vegies such as lemons, kiwifruit, capsicum and broccoli in your weekly shop.
If you’re struggling to get the recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegies each day, try juicing them. Nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin recommends making juices that consist of two-thirds vegetables and one-third fruit. A blend of carrot, beetroot, spinach and lemon is a stress-busting combination that will boost your immune system.
Ensure your diet also includes plenty of lean meats, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, and use lots of herbs and spices.
It’s vital to keep your workout regimen up during winter, with a recent study showing that a moderate level of regular exercise has a long-term cumulative effect on immune response.
Lead researcher Professor David Nieman from Appalachian State University in the US reported that study participants who went for a brisk walk several times a week reduced the number of sick days they took by about 40 per cent.
“Regular aerobic exercise, five or more days a week for more than 20 minutes a day, rises above all other lifestyle factors in lowering sick days during the winter cold season,” Professor Nieman says.
But don’t go overboard. Overly strenuous exercise releases the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body, which can weaken the immune system.
Socialising helps strengthen your immune system by keeping you active and reducing your stress levels, so avoid the temptation to rug up on the couch all winter.
Invite friends over for dinner or host a games night, visit local museums and art galleries, wrap up warm and go for a walk in the park with your family or plan a cinema date with your partner.
Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness as it limits the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes, according to the Mayo Clinic in the US. This is important during winter when we tend to cough and sneeze more frequently. Wet your hands and lather up with soap for 20 seconds to help dislodge germs and rinse well under running water.
Lack of sleep can have a serious effect on your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching colds. A study from Brazil found lack of sleep can result in a substantial decrease in the white blood cells that help to fight infection in the body.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as listening to soft music or soaking in a warm bath. Avoid watching TV or using your computer just before bedtime and turn the lights down low an hour before you turn in for the night, as it will boost the release of melatonin in the brain.
Also try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.