Can you beat the winter sniffles?

 It's that time of year where everyone you meet has a cold, and people sneeze and cough and splutter spreading germs in your direction! Sadly, nothing can be done about that, but you can do a lot of simple things to help support your immune system through the cold winter months. Hopefully the information below will give you some ideas to get started...

Your Immune System
The immune system is the body's natural defence against infections and illnesses that lurk in our environment. Whilst immune function is robust, it is a delicate system that can be quickly tipped off balance by many factors, including stress, poor diet, low mood, tiredness and many other things.

Your blood contains White Blood Cells which help form part of the body's immune system by fighting invading organisms within the body and destroying them. Increased alcohol consumption and a diet too rich in sugar can depress the action of these cells, weakening the action of the immune system. Obviously, this is not a good thing when it comes to winter!

How can I help myself?
To help your immune system, there are several things you can do to influence its status. Firstly, consider lifestyle factors that could affect it, such as stopping smoking, reducing obesity and taking regular exercise to kickstart your body into a healthier way of going. And what better time to start than with the approaching new year?!

It's important to make sure you get a decent night's sleep. The suggested "7 hours a night" really is important to help the body restore and repair itself, ready to face the challenges of the new day ahead of you.

There are herbal preparations available from all good health food shops and supermarkets, including Echinacea and Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus) that claim to help to boost your immune function, but please be cautious if you plan to take these and you already take medication or other herbal concoctions. Ensure you seek medical advice from your GP or Pharmacist that is it safe for you to take these.

Good health requires many things, including a good, balanced diet to ensure you get a range of vitamins and minerals to support your body. An increase in green leafy vegetables such as cabbage and kale are useful in the winter, and readily available for you to turn into soups, salads and dishes of your choice. Other foods can supply a range of nutrients required to support immune function, and below is listed a small selection of vitamins, with why it's important to the body, and where it can be found in whole foods.:

  • Vitamin A- Plays a variety of roles throughout the body including immune function, skin health, bone health and visual health. Among other functions, it's also an antioxidant. Vitamin A can be found in many foods, such as Kale, Carrots, Broccoli, Apricots, Melon, Pumpkin, Milk, Cheddar Cheese, Eggs, Spinach, Sweet Potato and Liver.
  • Vitamin B complex- Helps to support metabolism, skin and muscle tone, cell growth, nerve function and immune system. Vitamin B complex can be found in food substances such as Whole Wheat, Mushrooms, Milk, Pulses, Bananas, Nuts, Fish, Avocados, Beetroot, Lentils and Potatoes.
  • Vitamin C- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports immune function. Commonly found in blackcurrants, oranges, green peppers, brussel sprouts, broccoli, red peppers, kiwis, cabbage, spinach and grapefruit among many other foods.
  • Vitamin E- again, a good vitamin to help support the immune function. Found in foods such as Wholemeal cereals, eggs, butter, broccoli, sweet potato, pumpkin, mangoes, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach and turnip. However, as with all, these lists are not exhaustive!
  • Zinc- has antioxidant properties and speeds up the healing process of the body. It is found commonly in foods that take up zinc from the soil they are grown in, including, wholegrain cereals, wheat germ, beans, and seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Zinc is also found in red meat, oysters, cheese, blackcurrants and in foods fortified by the manufacturers with zinc. 
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