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  • Writer's pictureInna Wellness


It’s that time of year when colds and flu are in full swing. Our immune response could be compromised by the temperature change, exposure to viruses, daily stressors, poor sleeping habits and poor diet.

As with any other part of our health, prevention can go a long way in supporting the immune system, even if everyone around you is getting sick. Nutrition and lifestyle are very important in combatting viral infections naturally by harnessing the power of our immune system. There are lots of ways you can take advantage of foods with the right vitamins and minerals to help the body stay strong and healthy.

So what can we do to avoid getting sick?

1. Wash your hands - a lot.

Viruses can enter the respiratory tract through a person’s eyes, nose and mouth. A person can infect themselves by touching a contaminated surface and the touching their face. Washing hands regularly and thoroughly with clean water and soap is an effective way to protect against viral infections. If soap is not available use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

2. Think Zinc

This mineral is essential for a healthy immune system. Zinc levels must be adequate in order for your immune system to function properly, and it is well known that zinc deficiency makes you more susceptible to infections. Therefore it is important to get zinc regularly through your diet and if needed, supplements.

Foods high in zinc include meat like grass-fed beef or lamb, eggs, chickpeas, cashews, almonds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, buckwheat.

3. Get vitamin D

We are prone to sub-optimal vitamin D levels during winter. Vitamin D status could be measured by vitamin D test. Too low of vitamin D is associated with increased seasonal illness. Levels of at least 50nmol/L is what I recommend to clients to help maintain overall health. For most people 30nmol/L is too low and may have negative impact on your immune health. Foods that are good source of vitamin D include egg yolk, mushrooms, salmon, canned tuna and beef liver.

4. Immune superstars

Vitamin A and C are powerful antioxidants. It has been shown deficiency in vitamins A and C make us more prone to infections.

One of the first lines of defense for our immune system is making sure that the insides of our nose, mouth and throat are healthy because they serve an important barrier between the outside world and our bodies.

Free radicals are compounds that can attack these areas, causing cracks in the linings of our nose, mouth and throat. It gives viruses and bacteria an easy way to enter and infect our bodies. Antioxidants help to bind up these free radicals, preventing them causing damage to our nose, mouth and throat and thus reducing the chance of viruses infecting our bodies.

You can get vitamin A from animal sources like meat, eggs, fish, liver. Vitamin A can be formed from beta-carotene (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash) and dark green leafy vegetables.

Good sources of vitamin C include red and green sweet peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, pineapple.

5. Get enough sleep

You need plenty of sleep to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Research has shown that those with less than 7 hours sleep per night were up to three times more likely to develop the common cold than those with more than or equal to 8 hours sleep per night.

Therefore aim for 8 hours or more of uninterrupted sleep per night with the help of an eye mask, ear plugs, relaxing bath and meditation before bad, to facilitate the protective effect of sleep on your immune defence.

6. Keep moving

Do your best to follow a regular exercise routine.

Research shows that regular exercise not only improves immune function and decrease risk of respiratory infections, but it can reduce stress and keep inflammation and chronic disease at bay.

…. and watch your sugar and alcohol intake since both can have a draining impact on our immunity. Try to choose healthier alternatives, such as dark chocolate, nuts and non-alcoholic drinks such as kombucha.

As we get further into cold and flu season, I hope you will enjoy the delicious flavours and health benefits of the foods that contain these valuable nutrients. Remember, food is medicine! And by taking action now to prevent illness you can stay well all year long.


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