Feeling the cold? With the sudden drop in temperature, it’s a prime time of year for coming down with a cold, cough or flu. Here are our top tips for keeping the winter bugs at bay.
1. Keep up your fruit and vegetable intake
Fruit and veg is, of course, our best source of natural vitamin C, which is vital for a strong immune system. Remember that vegetables can be just as high – if not higher – in vitamin C than fruit. Include lightly steamed broccoli and kale, as well as red peppers and red cabbage. Aim to include seven servings of vegetables and fruit per day – not just five! And get a variety of different colours for a broad range of natural plant nutrients such as flavonoids that support the work of the vitamin C.
2. Get plenty of sleep
When you’re run down and tired, you’re more likely to succumb to winter bugs. Good-quality, adequate sleep is vital for a strong immune system: it’s a necessity – not a luxury. See our post on Seven Steps to Better Sleep if you need extra support.
3. Take vitamin D over winter
You may know of vitamin D as an essential nutrient for your bones, but it’s just as important for your immune system. Your vitamin D stores will drop over winter – unless you’re lucky enough to go on a long holiday somewhere hot and sunny!
Consider taking a vitamin D supplement providing around 1000 to 2000 IU (25 to 50 μg) of vitamin D over winter to keep your level topped up. Better You D Lux 1000 is a good choice for daily use, but there are plenty of other options in tablets, capsules and chewables too. Children will need a lower amount – choose a kids’ vitamin D supplement such as Higher Nature Kids Vitamin D Spray.
4. Look after your good gut bugs
The ‘friendly’ bacteria that live in your gut play an essential role for your immune system as well as your digestion. One way you can naturally encourage them is by getting plenty of fibre. But don’t load up on high-fibre wheat-based breakfast cereals and breads. Most of your fibre should come from vegetables; and secondary sources can include fruit, gentle grains such as oats and brown rice, and lentils and beans if you tolerate them well.
Natural fermented foods are also a fantastic way to support your gut bacteria. Raw sauerkraut and kimchi (similar to a spicy sauerkraut) are rich in natural probiotics – make sure it says ‘raw’ on the label if you’re buying them, otherwise you won’t get the same benefits. You can also make your own! Kefir and kombucha are traditional fermented drinks with similar benefits.
5. Consider an immune support supplement
If you’re prone to colds and flus, you may want to consider taking a general immune support supplement over winter, as a preventative measure. Look for one containing a range of helpful nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C, selenium and beta-glucans. Good options include Quest’s Immune Biotix – which also contains a probiotic – or Nature’s Aid Immune Support+. For young ones, Immiflex Kids is a nice option. They often include vitamin D, so you may not need to take a separate vitamin D supplement if you go for one of these.
6. Make bone broth
We’ve previously talked about the benefits of traditionally made bone broth in reference to joint health. But it can also be great for the immune system, and is the reason behind the expression ‘chicken soup for a cold’! Search online for simple methods to make your own bone broth, and try to get in a cup every day – either as a hot drink with a squeeze of lemon, or use it to make homemade soups or warming winter stews. It’s also possible to buy traditional bone broth that’s been simmered for 10 to 24 hours, which is another great option – but it’s much cheaper to make your own!
7. Keep your hands away from your mouth and nose
And lastly, a practical tip. Washing your hands regularly is, of course, important – especially if you’re in a public place or workplace, or around someone else who’s ill. But over-washing can lead to dry and cracked skin, especially at this time of year. While keeping up a sensible hand washing routine, it can be equally as beneficial to get into the habit of keeping your hands away from your face as much as possible. Bad news for nail-biters!