Immune Boosting Tips for Winter Chills

The ugg boots and dressing gown have been dragged from the back of the cupboard. The coconut oil finally needs to be dug out with a spoon and the cat is back sleeping on my feet.

Autumn has arrived! 

I love the morning chill that slowly warms up to a beautiful day. However along with the cooler weather comes the inevitable colds, flus and sneezes. 

I have already seen the news reports on this being possibly "The Worst Flu Season Ever!!!" I swear they recycle this headline every year. 

So what can you do to help reduce the chances of catching the 'lurgy' this year? Here are my top 10 tips and tools:

  1. Get regular sleep!! I know I go on about this all the time, but it has been proven through many studies that having at least 7-9 hours sleep a night is beneficial for not only the bags under the eyes but also the immune system. For more tips on getting to sleep see my sleep blog post.
  2. Wash your hands - this is a simple one, but often over looked. Taking the time to wash hands (especially the kids) is so important. Good ole soap and water and drying with a clean towel is sufficient, no need to 'Dettol' your hands all the time. 
  3. Cut out the sugar and artificial sugar - When you eat or drink sugary foods your immune system is suppressed for a period of time. This occurs with sucrose and artificial sugar - so the diet yoghurt isn't a better choice!
  4. Manage your stress - It has been shown in long term studies that when we have ongoing stress, the increased Cortisol (produced from the adrenals in response to stress) suppresses the T-cells (our immune system fighters) in the body. This gives viruses and bacteria a leg up in making us sick. So include some daily relaxation to bring the pressure down!
  5. Regular exercise - it's so tempting to curl up under the doona as soon as the cold weather hits, but resist the urge and keep active. Regular exercise lowers your cortisol, helps manage weight, mood, blood pressure, maintains muscle tone and improves bone density - amongst other benefits. 
  6. Vitamins - at the first onset of any lurgy head straight for the vitamin C and Zinc. These, along with a good multi vitamin are a first line of defence. I also like to include in the initial few hours of a cold the Tissue Salt Ferrum phos. This remedy works to support the immune system and I use it for myself and the family.
  7. Herbs for the immune system include, Echinacea, Astralgalus (do not use if you have a fever - just if you feel the beginning of a cold or recovering from illness)  Garlic, Cats Claw, Horseradish, Ginger and Olive Leaf (great for viruses). One of my favourite homemade recipes for a sore throat is grated ginger, turmeric, garlic and honey. A teaspoon of this liquid is soothing, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, a perfect one to keep in fridge. 
  8. Probiotics - 70% of our immune system is in the gut so it makes sense to keep it healthy. Maintaining great gut function helps in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from our food and supplements. Also when the gut is inflamed and not functioning well it adds stress to the body - which is not beneficial for great immune function.  Aim for a probiotic containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidiobacterium lactis.
  9. Get into the sunshine when you can!! Vitamin D is not just beneficial for healthy bones, but is an essential part of maintaining great immune health, and helping with autoimmunity. If you are low in vitamin D you may need a high dose of Vit D3 (see your practitioner for dosages) for 3 months and then reduce to a maintenance dose of 1000IU daily. Look for a Vitamin D3 and take it with healthy fats to increase the absorption (as it is a fat soluble vitamin).
  10. Stay social - Winter may be a time to hibernate, but keeping up with friends and maintaining relationships is essential to not only your mental health but also physical wellbeing.  
Honey, Ginger, Turmeric and Garlic Throat Soother

Honey, Ginger, Turmeric and Garlic Throat Soother

If despite your best efforts you do manage to catch the lurgy this year, my best tip is to rest and recover. Sometimes 'soldiering on' is not the best option, and can leave you feeling worse for much longer. 

What are your favourite tips for the colder months?