Wintertime is here in Australia, and there is no better time than now to start boosting your immune system to prevent cold and flus. There are many nutritional deficiencies that can lead to inadequate immune function, as can the effects of stress and insufficient sleep. The following tips will assist your body’s natural immunity and resistance to infection.
Eat garlic daily
Garlic is considered to be a natural antibiotic, and boasts immune boosting, antibacterial and antifungal actions. It is best when eaten raw, but be aware that it may seep from your breath and pores for a few hours following. Thankfully parsley comes to the rescue here, helping to offset excessive odour when chewed afterwards. Otherwise, it may be advisable to roast it or add it to your cooking in the final stages.
Assess mineral deficiency
Deficiency of the minerals zinc and selenium can lead to impaired immune function. Zinc is needed in the body for its disease fighting ability. Loss of taste, poor appetite and slow wound healing are some other common signs that your levels may be low. You can boost your levels with pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), whole grains and wheat germ. Selenium boosts immune function and is a powerful antioxidant. One of the highest food sources of this mineral is found in brazil nuts, and mushrooms are also a good source4.
Add some light to your life
Have you been getting less sunshine on your skin in the colder months? Your body manufactures Vitamin D from the effect of UV rays on your skin, and is important for regular immune function2. The most common factors associated with its deficiency are aging, obesity, overuse of sunscreens, complete covering of the skin and inadequate exposure to the sun in general3. The best time to maximise Vitamin D absorption is during 10am and 2pm. You can confirm deficiency via a blood test from your GP, and it is not recommended that you take a Vitamin D supplement unless you are actually deficient.
The importance of sleep
Never underestimate the value of a good nights sleep for keeping your body healthy and warding off infection. Research has shown that quality sleep is necessary for fighting infectious diseases, and lack of it can also cause a longer recovery time from illness. Seven to eight hours is sufficient for most people5, and the best hours of sleep are obtained before midnight.
Have you got moving lately?
Moderate exercise has been proven to assist in the prevention of infections, and to actually slow down the release of stress hormones, which affect our immunity.
Aim to include 20 to 30 minute walks daily or go to the gym every other day6. Intense exercise on the other hand can actually have the opposite effect, so remember to take it easy.
Make wise food choices
A varied diet full of nutrient dense foods is priceless in supporting the function of your body’s immune system. Base your diet on whole foods, and if you are rushed for time during the week, make a large nourishing vegetable soup and freeze batches so that you prepare meals quickly.
Don’t forget your C
Vitamin C is well known or its immune boosting effects, but did you know that it is best taken with citrus bioflavonoids for optimal absorption? Both occur naturally in citrus fruits and capsicum varieties. Green smoothies and fresh vegetable and fruit juices are a great way to increase your intake.
If your body does succumb to the ill effects of a cold and flu this winter, remember to continue to eat well and rest as much as possible. Sip on ginger and lemon tea, inhale some tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils and eat plenty of hearty vegetable soups and curries to warm your soul.
References available on request
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