Winter health tips? How can you help prevent bugs from knocking you out for the count?

It is that time of year, when because we are indoors more we can be at risk of coming into contact with more bugs.

Three questions I am commonly asked are:

  1. How do I limit or avoid my contact with bugs?
  2. How do I help fortify my your immune system?
  3. What are some key nutrients I need to ensure are in my diet?

You know the drill, read on.

The role of the immune system

Resistance is the body’s ability to protect itself against damage or disease  through the use of its defence systems.  Our immune system is our body’s defence system.  Its function is to protect the body against harmful substances and bugs (pathogens) that find their way into our bodies.
Immunity has several lines of defence which we can categorise as specific and non-specific immunity.
  • Non-specific immunity provides immediate but general protection.  It is also called innate immunity.
  • Specific immunity develops as a result of the body coming into contact with a pathogen.  These are cells and tissues that respond to carry out an immune response.  The body has the ability to develop a memory that a pathogen has previously invaded so it can mount a quick response.

Why we get sick and how to avoid illness

We generally come into contact with bugs one of three ways:

  • Through eating and drinking – we ingest them.
  • We breath them in – we inhale them via our mouth or nose.
  • We come in contact with them – we touch them, then touch our nose, eyes or mouth or we have a break in our skin.

Simple tips you can adopt to avoid or limit your contact are:

  1. Wash your hands.  Did you know it takes approximately 45-60 seconds to wash hands thoroughly.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose – doing so increases your risk of ingesting or inhaling bugs.
  3. Cough on the back of your arm, not on your hand – you do not want to pass bugs onto others.
  4. Get outdoors – the risk of coming into a bug is greater the longer we remain indoors and you will receive your important dose of Vitamin D.
  5. Layer clothing – this allows you to better control your body temperature particular to changing temperature.

Fortify your immune system

To fortify your immune system I recommend you:

  1. Look after you gut health.  Up to 80% of your immunity resides in the your GUT.
  2. Limit your stress, long-term unresolved stress can undermine digestion and prevent you from getting the benefits of your healthy diet.
  3. Go easy on the alcohol, your liver is one of your major detoxification organs, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol distracts the liver from its other important functions including detoxification.
  4. Eat whole fresh produce that is in season.  And do not forget you to wash your hands before preparing meals and before you eat.
  5. Keep added sugar intake down as it undermines the function of immune fighting white blood cells.  Research indicates that the immune suppressing effects of sugar can start approximately 30 minutes after a meal however may last up to 5hrs after a meal.

What are the key nutrients to include in your diet?

  • Vitamin C  promotes and supports non specific and specific immunity.  Research indicates it reduces the severity and duration of colds. Sources include kiwi fruit, oranges, mandarins, capsicum, blueberries, sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, Chinese cabbage, avocados and squash.
  • Vitamin A helps maintains the health of epithelial skin cells in the body which form an important barrier to infection and immune system function, it also supports and promotes numbers of white blood cells and antibody response.  It is also a highly effective antioxidant.  Sources include fish, milk, eggs, cheese, leafy greens and liver.
  • Zinc plays a key role in immune response and growth and development.  Over 100 different enzyme reactions in the body are dependent upon zinc.  It maintains the integrity of the immune system, being essential for functioning of non-specific and specific immunity.  Research indicates it use can reduce the severity of colds.  Sources include nuts, meats, eggs and grains.
  • Selenium.  It is a trace element essential in small amounts.  Selenium concentrations significantly decrease during stages of acute infection, suggesting increased use and/or excretion or decreased absorption during this time.  It is important as an antioxidant and a key factor required for good thyroid function.  Sources include Brazil nuts (from overseas), salmon, chicken, brown rice, bread and milk.
  • Essential fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and hence great to controlling inflammation.  Great sources are cold water oily fish, nuts and linseed.
  • Vitamin E that may enhance our T immune cells and promote the production of antibodies.  Found in oils, nuts, seeds and avocados.

And if you wake up and feel congested and feel as if you are producing lots of mucous, I recommend you drink lots of water, limit your dairy for up to a week and get lots of rest.

Did you know an orange can give your daily intake of Vitamin C.  Because nature knows what is best for us they are currently in season.  So add them to your shopping bag.

Stay happy, health and free.

ciao Jan