Updated: Mar 17
Taking steps to reduce your chance of being exposed to viruses by following recommendations such as regular hand washing, not touching your face, and now limiting socialisation can help reduce the spread. However, there are also lots of things we can do to support the immune system to lessen the impact of the illness if we are exposed.
Supporting your immune system will protect you, and those around you. It would also protect those at greater risk of developing serious symptoms, and help lessen the overall burden on the NHS.
Only a good thing at this time!!
Tips for supporting your immune system.
Practice regular activities that relieve stress. Chronic stress lowers immunity and hinders the bodies ability to fight off offenders. Carrying out regular stress relieving activates such as gentle walking, meditation or deep breathing helps our immune system to do it's job properly.
Sleep hugely influences the immune system so it’s essential to get plenty of sleep. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation. Establishing a routine can help improve the quality of sleep. This is a good link for anybody struggling to get off to sleep or stay asleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips
Regular activity helps raise immune fighting cells and antibodies. Exercise is not only shown to prevent respiratory infections but also physical resilience to fight viruses and infections.
Eat lots brightly coloured plants foods. Colourful fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that benefit our immune system in a multiple of ways! A diet full of different colours and fibres will also support your gut health, where the majority of your immune system resides! Aim for that 10 portions per day!
Reduce the sugar and refined carbohydrates. These suppress the immune system making it difficult for your body to fight off invaders and viruses. Too much sugar promotes inflammation and suppresses immune cells hindering their ability to respond to pathogens.
There are several nutrients and supplements that are needed for optimal immune function and preventing respiratory infections, and there are others that are shown to shorten the duration of illness if you do succumb.
- Vitamin D - Get yourself tested! There is a lot of research on the benefits of vitamin D on immunity and with a large amount of the population shown to be deficient you are very likely to have low levels. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report). Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin D helps reduce the risk of colds and flu.
Zinc plays a big role in immunity, and can help reduce frequency as well as duration and severity of a cold. Found in chicken, beef, pumpkin seeds, nuts, chickpeas and kidney beans, a good multi vitamin/mineral may be beneficial.
Vitamin A is essential for the health of the mucous membranes and the first line of defence against respiratory infections. Again including it in your muti-nutrient will be beneficial in helping the body fight off infections.
Vitamin C is shown in studies to help prevent infections, including those caused by viruses. Taking high strength vitamin C is also shown to shorten the duration and severity of respiratory infections in some studies.
Selenium is another key nutrient for immune function, and is also an antioxidant that helps boosts the body’s defenses against viruses. It’s also shown is some studies to be helpful in protecting against certain strains of flu virus. The richest source of selenium is found in Brazil nuts, and other foods it is found in include; beef, turkey, chicken, eggs, rice and sunflower seeds.
(Ensuring you eat a wide variety of different foods such as those in my 6 day immunity meal plan below :) will help you increase your nutrient levels. Supplementation may also be beneficial. However, if you are on medication, or have other health conditions you should always check with your Gp or a qualified nutritionist before taking supplementation).
Probiotics and fermented foods contain “good bacteria” that not only support the health of the gut but also influence immune system functioning and regulation. Studies have shown that probiotics can decrease the number of respiratory infections suffered. Saccharomyces Boulardii a probiotic yeast is shown to be particularly useful in protecting against infections.
Oily fish is also beneficial for your immune system with omega 3 fatty acids shown to enhance the function of immune cells. Omega 3s have other well researched benefits helping you reduce the severity of illness. Try to eat oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel 3 times per week, or take supplementation.
There are lots you can do to support immunity and help your body build resilience to either avoid illness or reduce its severity. Something so important at the moment.
Diet and lifestyle is a powerful tool in helping you improve your health and wellbeing. Sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference.
I hope that has helped and please get in touch if you need any advice or help.
P.s If you'd like a 6 day meal plan with some yummy immune boosting meal ideas and recipes to get you started Click here to download.