Written by Joanne Hill (DipCNM, mBANT, CNHC)
As we approach winter, it is vitally important that we take steps to protect our immune system. As we know, in normal years we see a spike in flu and viruses over the winter and of course this year we have more to worry about than normal. Whatever the outcome of the latest tier system, now may be the time to take some extra steps you to give yourselves the best chance of staying healthy wherever you live.
Our team of registered nutritional therapists have provided these nutrition and lifestyle suggestions:
Stress reduction techniques. Through various mechanisms, stress impacts the immune system which may make us more susceptible to illness. Clearly for many, the current situation we find ourselves in is very stressful so do consider ways to give your body a break from these stressors. A warm bath with relaxing essential oils, 10 minutes with a meditation app such as Headspace, getting lost in a book or taking a long walk. These can all have positive effects on the immune system.
Sleep. Whilst it is not known exactly how, experts agree that a lack of sleep can impair the immune system and leave you more vulnerable to infection. Studies suggest that this may be because sleep helps our bodies produce the immune cells we need to fight off pathogens1 There has never been a better time to go to bed early and get a good nights sleep. If you struggle with your sleep my top tip is a warm bath with magnesium flakes and lavender oil but you also need to consider factors such as technology and caffeine which maybe disrupting your sleep patterns. The team have many more suggestions for healthy sleep so ask for advice.
Gentle exercise. Strenuous and endurance exercise can be a source of stress to the body which has negative effects on the immune system. Gentle exercise however can boost endorphins and improve physical and mental wellbeing. A gentle jog or long walk in the fresh air or an online yoga class are just some suggestions.
Vitamin C rich foods. Good old vitamin C, probably the oldest and most famous immune boosting nutrient. Kiwi fruit, peppers, green leafy vegetables and strawberries should all be enjoyed alongside your orange and citrus fruits. This article from Viridian Nutrition explains how vitamin C can help to strengthen immunity in three ways – by strengthening the skin as a protective barrier so that the virus can’t enter as easier, by increasing and specifying white blood cells and antibodies to target the virus and by helping to clear spent white blood cells to maintain tissue health. (note : I am always happy to share articles from Viridian Nutrition, they have a brilliant technical team and all of the information shared is well researched and credible).
- Zinc rich foods. Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. It is crucial for normal development and function of many of our immune cells2. Zinc can also act as an anti-oxidant and may help to control inflammatory processes. Zinc rich foods include seafood, red meat, chicken, beans, pulses and dairy products. People following a vegan diet may struggle to get adequate zinc and so a supplement may beneficial.
Immune Boosting Supplements
Supplementation always raises questions – should we supplement? with what? And how much? Ideally we would get everything we need from food but I don’t believe this is always possible due to restricted diets, modern farming, food preferences, and busy lives. Over the years, I have studied the research, tried and tested many immune supplements and gathered a lot of feedback from my clients and I believe that supplementation has a very valuable role in health improvement when used appropriately. Here are details of my immune system favourites, these have worked for me and many clients I have worked with. We are very happy to give personalised advice to make sure that you find the right remedies for you.
Beta Glucan. I love beta glucan and they have really helped to keep the winter bugs away over the last few years. Research has shown that daily use may help reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, especially when due to increased mental and physical stress. Viridian Nutrition explain more in their article. Read here
Vitamin D. There is now evidence that Vitamin D may help in the prevention of colds and flu viruses. Whilst research in this area is still ongoing, the importance of Vitamin D is such that Public Health England now recommend that everyone takes a Vitamin D supplement all year round.
Vitamin C. A superior form of Vitamin C, such as Viridian Extra C can be well absorbed and utilised by the body. This will provide a good top up alongside your vitamin C rich foods.
Black Elderberry. Elderberry is naturally rich in vitamin c and zinc and elderberry syrup has long been at the top of our list for immune health. Research has shown elderberry to be a potent cold and flu remedy by reducing the severity and shortening the length of symptoms, it is also delicious and easy to take.
Zinc in either a food grown zinc, citrate or picolinate form. Zinc picolinate is an acid form of zinc that has shown to have superior absorption qualities so you can maximise the benefits from supplementation. Food grown supplements are derived in real food so that your body absorbs these nutrients just as you would if consuming them in food. Either of these are a good choice
Allicin Garlic. My family all reach for the Allicin at the first sign of a cold or illness. Allicin is the activated extract of garlic and many studies show the ability to reduce the symptoms and duration of infection. These small capsules are suitable for children over the age of 3.
Of course these are my favourites, they may not be right for everyone and other options are available. You should always consult with your GP, especially if you have health concerns or are taking medications. The registered nutritional therapists at Amaranth help with more information about each of these nutrients and remedies
Questions? Ask the team you can find us at
Amaranth Bramhall : 19 Bramhall Lane South, Bramhall SK7 1AL 0161 439 9856
Amaranth Manchester : 11 to 13 Royal Exchange Arcade, Manchester M2 7EA
Email email@example.com or Manchester@amaranth-wellbeing.com
1 Sleep Enhances Serum Interleukin 7 Concentrations in Humans https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17524612-sleep-enhances-serum-interleukin-7-concentrations-in-humans/
2. Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/