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.
The most common way to spread a virus is from direct contact from an infected person to another. It’s often the little things that we don’t think twice about that can be contributing the most. Some simple, yet effective tips include: Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing/coughing, wash your hands regularly, dispose of used tissues and minimise sharing objects with others such as towels.
There is an increasing amount of research 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. As always, balance is important, as too much exercise at a high intensity can lead to burn out, increased fatigue and increased susceptibility 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, exercise in the outdoors as the fresh air is a better alternative to recycled air that may be circulating inside the gym.
During the cooler months it’s not unusual to lock ourselves indoors and turn on the heater. It is important to check filters regularly as 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 affected. 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.
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, and this can result in the organs and us feeling 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 is warming, can help boost the immune system and has a number of digestive benefits. Avoid adding sugar to your tea, use good quality Manuka honey instead as this has added antimicrobial effects.
Be careful to avoid over-consumption of richer, nutrient deficient, convenient foods as our attention should be turned to consuming healthier, nutrient-rich foods. Foods such as soups, casseroles and stir fries are great winter dishes that plenty of nutritious vegetables and herbs can be easily added. Sweet potato and carrots contain betacarotene which can be converted to vitamin A to help prevent and fight off infections. Onions contain flavonoids, particularly quercetin which is a powerful antioxidant that is also a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory compound. Garlic is rich in sulphur-containing compounds which can add to their anti-bacterial health benefits.