With Christmas and New Year behind us, it’s time to get back into work, school, and our daily routines. The days are slowly getting longer, but we're still in the midst of winter. That means it can be hard to escape the colds and flu doing the rounds. But there are some things you can do support your immune system and give it a boost. Here's how to stay healthy this cold and flu season, to try and keep those colds and flu at bay.
How to Stay Healthy This Cold and Flu Season and Support Your Immune Health
Wondering how to stay healthy this cold and flu season? Give your immune system a much needed boost with these useful tips.
The Sunshine Vitamin
A great place to start if you hope to keep both you and your family’s immune systems in tip-top shape is by supplementing vitamin D. The popular ‘sunshine vitamin’ is very important for proper immune function.
Vitamin D is hard to come by in the winter months because we're not seeing as much sunshine. Plus skin's exposure to sunshine in winter is often almost non-existent, as we wisely wrap up warm against the cold. The few foods which contain vitamin D are not typically eaten in the quantities required to maintain our levels.
A deficiency of vitamin D is well known to be a cause of poor bone health. Studies have reported that low levels could be linked to the increased frequency of respiratory infections. But when supplemented, it helped to reduce the severity and duration of chest infections.
A study in University College Cork has shown that up to one in eight people in Ireland could be deficient. The elderly, coeliac, and those who study or work inside are most at risk. Vitamin D is available in a variety of potencies, with something suitable for every age range.
Bump Up Your Meal’s Nutritional Value
When it’s cold and wet outside, we often don’t want the chilled salads or ‘light’ meals which are so much more appealing in the warmer months. Instead we gravitate towards rich and hot foods (herbs and spices are a great addition). But this doesn’t mean we need to compromise the nutritional levels.
1. Porridge in the mornings can be given a nutrient make-over by adding omega rich chia or flax seed, chopped kiwi that is chock full of vitamin C, sweet and nutritionally dense goji berries, and drizzled with a delicious honey.
2. Try to always include side salads with your hot meals, and maybe toss a little sauerkraut through these to get all the benefits of fermented foods, which are excellent at supporting your gut flora.
3. We are learning that the bacteria in our digestive tracts can have a huge influence on our immune health, so if sauerkraut isn’t for you, consider replacing your usual cosy winter soups with delicious Japanese fermented miso soups which are rich in both flavour and benefits.
Work On That Sleep Routine
Getting back into a routine for many of us can be a stressful and tiring time. On top of this, it's almost too easy over the holidays to fall out of our usual routine, and much more difficult to slip back into a good sleep routine. Our bodies absolutely need adequate rest in order to function at their best. Our bodily functions, like our immune systems, can quickly be compromised by lack of sleep.
1. If you are struggling to get to sleep at night, try cutting out caffeine and refined sugars or limiting their intake to well before your bedtime.
2. Also try to reduce screen time in the hour before you go to sleep.
3. If you are struggling to find enough time in the day to fit in your eight hours of rest, consider snatching twenty minutes to meditate. Even if that just means closing your eyes and listening to your breathing.
Maximise Your Defence
When it comes to avoiding picking up any of the colds or flu doing the rounds, your exterior defence can be as important as your inner immune defence. Here's how to stay healthy this cold and flu season:
1. This time of year is the most important for consistent and thorough handwashing.
2. As well staying on top of handwashing, it's important to give your home a good clean to try to keep those bacteria at bay.
3. Consider carrying a hand sanitiser with you and keeping one at work or school to use as you need it.
4. Try to avoid close contact with those feeling under the weather if you can. If you can’t, try to follow the other tips to give your immune system the best chance of defending itself!
Preparation Is Vital
When it comes to staying healthy this cold and flu season (and tackling bugs that do get to us), preparation is vital. Unfortunately, this time of year is called the cold and flu season for a reason. It is possible for those winter bugs to slip past our defences. In preparation for this happening, make sure you and your family are ready, so that your recovery can be as quick as possible.
1. Double check your cupboards and medicine boxes. Ensure everything is in date and that you have enough of your preferred products to overcome any winter bugs. This could include all sorts of aids, ranging from your favourite essential oil to burn at home (like eucalyptus or thyme) to your tried and tested remedies to combat your symptoms like Echinacea, Ivy Thyme and Manuka honey.
2. It can be a good idea to have some handy ingredients in the cupboards to throw together foods which are both nutritious, comforting, and easy to prepare.
3. Above all, if you don’t feel in tip-top shape, stay at home and rest as much as you can.
Please note, this blog is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, treatments or remedies if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medication.
Checked and updated: 25 August 2021