The average adult has two to three upper respiratory infections each year. We are exposed to viruses all day long, but some people seem more susceptible to catching colds or the flu.
Here are a few tips that may help you to ward off the nasty symptoms of a cold or flu this winter.
1. Proper Hygiene
The most common way to spread a virus is from direct contact from an infected person to another and often it’s the little things that we don’t think twice about that can be contributing the most. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and make sure to wash your hands regularly, dispose of used tissues and minimise sharing objects with others, particularly towels. Simple but very effective.
There is increasing research surfacing that is showing that regular, moderate intensity exercise can boost the immune system. This is as a result of increased circulation of immune cells throughout the body resulting in an increase in the production of macrophages; the cells that attack bacteria and viruses. After exercise the functioning of the immune system will return to normal within a few hours however consistent, regular exercise can increase the longevity of these immune boosting properties. There is however a fine balance, as exercising too regularly and at a high intensity can leave us burnt out, feeling fatigued and more susceptible to infection. Research has also found that during intense physical exertion, the body produces certain hormones that temporarily lower immunity. This is important for people who are regularly involved in high intensity sports as their immunity will need to be supported more, as well as encouraging rest and recovery. When possible get outside to exercise. It is often difficult to step outside in the cold to go for a run however the fresh air is a better alternative to the recycled, air that may be circulating inside the gym.
3. Minimise the Use of Heaters During the cooler months it’s not unusual to lock ourselves indoors and turn on the heater. If this is the case it is important to check the filters of these heaters regularly, particularly if there is someone in the house already sick. A dirty air-conditioning filter can’t effectively capture mould spores, dust particles or other irritants and they end up being spread around the home. Those in the home with respiratory allergies, breathing problems, asthma or an already compromised immune system are more likely to be effected. Heaters also dry the air which can in turn dry out the mucous membranes of the nose and upper respiratory tract, reducing defences against infection.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
During summer it is easy to drink water during the day as it also acts to cool the body down, in winter however we often don’t drink enough water and can become dehydrated. The body needs water to remove waste from the body and to transport minerals in and out of the cells. When the body lacks water it has to work twice as hard to get oxygenated blood to the cells, this can result in the organs and us feeling fatigued and exhausted. A good way to increase our water intake during the cooler months is through herbal teas which also have their own added health benefits. Fresh ginger and lemon tea can help to stimulate the liver to eliminate toxins, it is warming and has a number of immune boosting properties. This tea is antibacterial which can aid in a sore throat, is anti-viral, and has a number of digestive benefits as well. Avoid adding sugar to your tea, use good quality Manuka honey instead as this has added antimicrobial effects.
5. Eat Healthy
In the cooler months we tend to crave warmer, richer, denser foods in the attempt to keep our bodies warm. Care should be taken during this time to avoid over-consumption of convenient foods and our attention should be turned to consuming healthy, nutrient rich foods. Sweet potato and carrots contain betacarotene which can be converted to vitamin A to help prevent and fight off infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses. Onions contain flavonoids, particularly quercetin which is a powerful antioxidant that is also a natural anti-histamine and antiinflammatory compound. Onions and garlic are both rich in sulphur-containing compounds which can add to their anti-bacterial health benefits. Foods such as soups, casseroles and stir fries are great winter dishes that plenty of nutritious vegetables and herbs can be easily added.
Foods to Fight Colds and Flu
People generally love or hate the taste of Garlic and if you have cooked with it, you have experienced the dreaded ‘Garlic hands’ after chopping it! Garlic is one of the most ancient herbs that has been used since the beginning of documented history, for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Garlic has a variety of beneficial effects on the immune system. It induces white blood cell activity, stimulates the release of important cytokines and stimulates the proliferation of lymphocytes and the activity of natural killer cells. It has also been shown to act against viral infections including rhinovirus and parainfluenza virus.
Button mushrooms are an Aussie favourite in cooking however more exotic mushroom varieties such as Reishi, Shiitake, Enoki, Maitake and Oyster are just a few of the readily available mushrooms that you can add to your diet. These medicinal mushrooms contain long chain polysaccharides called beta-glucans which have been found to be potent immune enhancers. Beta-glucans stimulate white blood cells of the immune system involved in breaking down bacteria, and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Mushrooms can easily be added to stir fries, winter soups, pies, pasta and omelettes.
Red, Yellow & Orange Vegetables
Rich in antioxidant nutrients, lycopene, betacarotene and vitamin C, the red, yellow and orange coloured vegetables are a great support to immune function. Red capsicum contains almost 3 times more vitamin C than oranges and can be used in a wide variety of dishes! Other great nutrient rich vegetables include pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, beetroot, radishes, red onion, chillies and carrots. Vitamin C increases the number of circulating immunoglobulins, which are antibodies that attach to the pathogen to help the immune system identify and destroy it. Supplementation increases the activity of neutrophils, which act to identify and destroy both bacterial and viral pathogens and increase their vitamin C concentrations. Many of these vegetables can be juiced as well as cooked, so get colourful with your vegetables to support your immune health.
Berries are a rich source of proanthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants. One berry in particular, Elderberry has been found to inhibit viral binding to cells and reduce the severity and duration of viral infection such as influenza. It can be eaten when fully ripe and traditionally has been made into jams and as an addition to pies! Other berries such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants also contain cyanidins. Blackcurrant has been shown to inhibit influenza virus in in vitro testing and blackberries protect against inflammation of the lung pleura. A great start to a wintery morning is some organic oats with a mix of these berries on top! Green Tea Green Tea contains catechins and theanine which have been found to reduce the incidence of influenza infection amongst aged care workers. Green Tea catechins may affect enzymes found within the virus responsible for its binding and replication capability. When selecting Green Tea look for organically produced teas, you may even like to try Japanese Matcha Tea. This is a powdered Green Tea, where you consume the whole product, rather than just an infusion.
Green Tea contains catechins and theanine which have been found to reduce the incidence of influenza infection amongst aged care workers. Green Tea catechins may affect enzymes found within the virus responsible for its binding and replication capability. When selecting Green Tea look for organically produced teas, you may even like to try Japanese Matcha Tea. This is a powdered Green Tea, where you consume the whole product, rather than just an infusion.
Sourced from Eagle Natural Health 2014