As Summer wanes, and we move into the Autumn months, we are being warned about the dangers of a possible ‘twindemic’; the double whammy of a severe flu season combined with an increase in COVID-19 cases.
There are two ways to help protect yourself and your family from respiratory infection this coming autumn. First is to take every necessary step to stop yourself getting any virus infection in the first place and to help stop the spread of the disease, by practicing social distancing, washing your hands, wearing face masks and implementing the guidelines which we have learnt over the last six months. Second, and most importantly, is to increase your resilience to the infection by supporting your immunity.
‘All we can do is be sensible, but that’s easier said then done!’
Supporting your Immunity with diet and lifestyle changes
- Eat nutritious home-cooked food – Avoid highly processed foods. These foods increase inflammation and undermine the immune system. Eat a balance of wholefoods aiming for up to 10 portions a day of fresh coloured vegetables and fruits. Make vegetables your priority, including leafy greens, broccoli, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. When it comes to fruit, berries are best.
- Eat protein with each meal – Ensure that you include good sources of protein which include, meat, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds. Ask yourself, “Where is the protein?” at each meal.
- Include spices, herbs, garlic and onions – Many spices and herbs have antiviral properties, especially oregano. Turmeric, clove, rosemary, thyme, cayenne pepper, chilli pepper and black pepper all give the immune system a boost.
- Avoid sugar and refined foods – Too much sugar weakens the immune system. Refined, processed foods often contain raised levels of sugar or raise levels in the blood.
- Eat fermented foods – Fermented foods such as live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha support your healthy gut bacteria, supporting your body’s immunity.
- Drink water and herbal teas – Your body functions better when it is well hydrated. Herbal teas and green teas contain micronutrients that support the immune system.
- Prioritise sleep – When we sleep the body repairs. People who don’t get enough sleep can have weaker immune systems.
- Minimise stress – Present times are stressful, but regularly practicing meditation or yoga can switch the body into a calm state that benefits the immune system. Too many stress hormones will weaken your body’s defences.
- Exercise regularly – Gyms may be closed but your body will be stronger if you can find time for regular exercise. This can include walks, a yoga practice or a regular bike ride. Excessive exercise can weaken the immune system so be wary of this.
- Get into the sun and nature – Although sun becomes a rarity this time of year, it is needed for the body to make vitamin D. A walk in the woods or a stroll along the beach can boost the body’s immune system.
Supplementing immune boosting nutrients
Many infectious diseases flourishes when the weather is cold and when people spend more time indoors. The reasons for this include poor air circulation, cold temperatures and increased indoor proximity and activity.
Supplementing specific nutrients can help optimise the immune systems to help prevent the spread of infectious disease in the coming months ahead, by becoming more resilient to catching anything in the first place.
Vitamin D helps prevent viral infections
Vitamin D is produced by the action of sunlight on the skin and it has a key role in supporting immunity and defending the body against a multitude of diseases. However, many people are deficient in vitamin D, and this deficiency worsens in the winter months.
There is a lot of evidence showing vitamin D as an important component in the prevention and treatment of influenza and upper respiratory tract infections such as COVID-19. Deficiency is associated with an increased risk of intensive care admission and death in patients with pneumonia and is common in critically ill patients.
During the Spanish Flu pandemic greater numbers of people died during the winter months which may have been due to falling vitamin D levels.
Vitamin C boosts natural immunity
The power of vitamin C as an anti-viral has been known for around 100 years and is being used to prevent and treat COVID-19 in China and Korea with significant success. It does no harm to the body even in the highest of quantities.
We can’t make vitamin C unlike most other animals so we must eat it. It is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system and can help guard against sepsis.
Other nutrients that help prevent viral infections
Zinc helps to optimise immune function and reduce the risk of infection and is often low in many modern diets. Selenium helps lower oxidative stress in the body which lowers inflammation and enhances immunity, but low levels of selenium in foods mean that people are often deficient.
Probiotics are live organisms that can be consumed through fermented foods and supplements. Probiotics give your immune system a boost and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Taking probiotics has been shown to reduce the likelihood and duration of respiratory diseases.
You can supercharge your immunity
The impact of these specific nutrients are enhanced by a nutritionally dense diet and positive lifestyle changes.
However, many people fall in the trap of changing diet and taking supplements for one month or less, and still hope to make a difference. The reality is that a strong immune system comes with prolonged positive change and grows even stronger over time.
Take charge now
Contact us at Tailored Health to review your diet and assess your needs so that you can build a strong, resilient, fully functioning immune system to protect yourself from viral attack, giving you peace of mind over the coming months.