Every year we’re warned of a flu season worse than the one previous. But a pandemic and the disruptions it has brought to our normal routines means keeping on top of your immune health this winter could be more important than ever.
Here’s a few ways to support your health and boost your immunity. Remember colds and coughs can happen at any time of the year so anytime is the right time to consider extra efforts.
1. Eat a nutrient rich diet
We know a healthy diet is good for us but what does that look like? For immune health, Body and Soul recommend looking out for foods high in Vitamin C. Think lemons, kiwi fruit, capsicum and broccoli.
If you’re struggling to reach the recommended daily intake of two serves of fruit and five serves of veggies, consider juicing them for a quick boost. Try a blend of carrot, beetroot, spinach and lemon.
In addition to fruits and veggies, also include plenty of lean meats, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds and get creative with herbs and spices. Mind Body Green recommend adding garlic and ginger for immunity.
Garlic is a powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiviral and natural decongestant that can be added to pretty much any meal. Ginger also possesses decongestant benefits and is a natural antihistamine. Try grating the root to add to stir-fry’s or boil it to make a tea with honey and lemon for a healthy and healing drink that will warm your soul.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, try this superfood and Vitamin C packed recipe Turmeric and Cauliflower Soup.
2. Regular exercise
When it’s cold outside it can be tempting to curl up and stay cosy but according to Blackmores, moderate activity may benefit your immune function. If you do participate in high intensity training, be sure to balance it out with rest days or low intensity days for the best results for your immune health.
Exercising outside also allows your body to absorb Vitamin D, so while the gyms and fitness studios are closed, consider walking, running or cycling as long as it’s safe to do so. Right now there are plenty of organisations offering free online programs that you can do from home. And don’t forget things like gardening which help keep your body moving.
Haven’t exercised in a while or have a lingering injury or health concern? We recommend seeking the guidance of a trusted health or exercise professional for personalised advice.
3. Get adequate sleep
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, sleep-deprived people may have lowered immunity putting them at risk of catching viruses. The recommended amount for adults is seven to nine hours a night, more for kids and toddlers.
To ensure you have the best chance of a good night’s sleep, the Sleep Health Foundation suggests putting aside some “worry time” in the evening to reflect on the day, make plans and solutions so you can put aside any concerns until the next day.
Use the hour before bed as your wind down time. Put down your phone and laptop and stick to a regular time that you go to bed and get up.
4. Reduce your stress levels
Sounds easy right? We know it’s not that simple, but stress has been found to compromise the immune system.
Make time each day for the things you love and consider incorporating mindful meditation or yoga into your routine. The COVID-19 outbreak can bring a level of anxiety and uncertainty and it’s important to remember the situation isn’t permanent.
Regular contact with our friends and loved ones also helps manage stress levels and maintain a positive outlook. If you can’t catch up face to face, reach out via phone and use apps like Facetime, Zoom, Skype and House Party to stay connected.
5. Supplement your vitamin intake
While it’s best to aim to get all your vitamins and minerals from our diet, supplements can help boost our immune system and can be used in the management of colds, to reduce the severity and duration.
We’ve all heard of the benefits of Vitamin C and Zinc for a healthy immune system. But some that you may not have used before include Echinacea, Elderberry and Astragalus. According to Mind Body Green, Elderberries are packed with quercetin which is an antioxidant with both antihistamine and anti-inflammatory benefits. Elderberry syrup may help with flu like symptoms.
Echinacea is both an antiviral and antibacterial herb that boosts the body’s production of white blood cells, allowing you to better fight infection. Astragalus is an apoptogenic herb which can improve our body’s response to stress and improve blood counts. Both are available in tablet form and included in several over the counter immune supplement products.
6. Consider a flu vaccination
Flu vaccines are provided by a variety of recognised immunisation providers and you may be eligible for a free flu vaccine under the National Immunisation Program. The Australian Government recommends anyone who wants to protect themselves against influenza to speak to their doctor about getting immunised.
Flu vaccines protect against the most common strains of the virus which changes every year. For most people the chance of a serious side effect from the vaccine is much lower than the chance of serious harm if you caught the disease.
Maintaining good hygiene habits, even after the COVID-19 outbreak has subsided, including washing your hands regularly and cleaning surfaces like your phone will help to minimise the risk of picking up bugs.
While most of us are spending more time at home at the moment than ever, it’s still important to stay home if you’re unwell, get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Don’t forget your local Pharmacist and Healthdirect (call 1800 022 222) are able to provide advice and may even help you avoid a trip to the doctors.
If you have any concerns about your health or immunity, our recommendation is to seek medical advice from your GP.