I’m hearing this every single day at the moment. It seems like almost everyone is getting sick so we can’t avoid coming into contact with viruses, but we can certainly be more resilient against them.
Here are my top tips that can be used for the whole family to prevent getting sick in the first place, but also to make sure it isn't as bad and doesn’t last as long if you do.
Vitamin D is vitally important for the immune system, I’ve even heard it said that flu season should be renamed vitamin D deficiency season. Winter is obviously the time when we generally have less sun exposure and our vitamin D levels drop. We have vitamin D receptors in the cells all throughout the body so lower vitamin D levels can have a major impact on our health.
Vitamin D levels of <75 nmol/L mean that you have a 50% increased risk of contracting a viral respiratory tract infection.
Vitamin D levels of <50 nmol/L mean that you have a 70% increased risk of contracting a viral respiratory tract infection.
For context, vitamin D level below 75 nmol/L are extremely common when clients first come to see me. This level is also considered ‘normal’ pathology by a GP and wouldn’t be flagged as needing to be addressed at all. Yet there's a much greater risk of contacting viral infections and of many other adverse health outcomes and should most certainly be addressed.
20 minutes per day of sunlight, with no sunscreen, no sunglasses, with the larger areas of the body exposed like the torso, thighs and shoulders is ideal.
Supplementation may be indicated depending on your needs but nothing beats sun exposure and daily sun should be part of your treatment when you feel like you might be getting sick. People will often say, “but I get plenty of sun” or “the kids are in the sun at school”, but often that sun exposure is fully clothed, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen on, which is all blocking the synthesis of vitamin D via the skin and iris of the eyes.
Around 70% of the immune system is located in the gut and supplementation of strain specific probiotics have been shown to reduce the occurrence of upper respiratory tract infections in both children and adults. Good quality fermented foods and drinks should also be consumed daily in addition to, or as an alternative to a probiotic supplement.
Bone broths and soups
Broths and soups contain an abundance of nutrients in an easily absorbable form and are very healing which is perfect for when the family aren’t well. Simple broths and soups also give the body a break from the job of digestion so energy can be spent on recovery.
Refined sugar should be avoided during any infection as it suppresses immune function and leads to prolonged infection with worse symptoms. Dairy foods should also be kept to a minimum during this time as they can be mucous forming and can worsen symptoms.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fatty acids either from food or supplements, increase the activity of cells like phagocytes which consume bacteria and other pathogens.
Omega 3's are highly anti-inflammatory and help to protect the lungs from respiratory infections. High levels of inflammation suppress proper immune function and daily consumption of omega 3 fatty acids decreases inflammation in the respiratory tract and throughout the the body. Omega 3 also supports brain function, healthy eye development and central nervous system development, as well as maintaining general health and wellbeing.
Pineapple contains a substance called bromelain which is highly anti-inflammatory. It’s important that you include the core of the pineapple which contains most of the bromelain. It can be very useful when consumed daily as part of your treatment strategy for colds, flus and sinus infections.
Hands down one of my favourite herbs for the immune system. It’s been proven to support healthy immune system function and reduce the duration of colds and flu’s by up to 5 days as well as prevent infection and reduce severity of symptoms. It also acts as an expectorant to clear respiratory tract mucous. High in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and in our Elderberry Immune Tonic we have combined this amazing berry with Echinacea, Astragalus, Cinnamon, Rosehip, Ginger and Clove to cover all bases when it comes to your immune health. From post viral fatigue to preventing infection in the first place, this blend has got it all. You can get yours here.
There are few things more powerful than medicinal mushrooms when it comes to the immune system. They work in a variety of ways to modulate and enhance immune function, they have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and the biologically active polysaccharides are effective in both children and adults to prevent and treat upper respiratory tract infections. In our Whole Body Tonic we chose a blend of Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Maitake and Shiitake to not only provide a wide range of therapeutic benefits for the whole body but also to provide a blend that tastes good and is versatile enough to mix into hot or cold foods without being overpowering. You can get your here or save 10% on the Immunity Bundle which includes the Whole Body Tonic and a large Elderberry Immune Tonic kit.
Zinc and Vitamin C
Both of these nutrients are extremely important for the immune system. Therapeutic doses can be used acutely to treat viral and bacterial infections if required and foods high in these nutrients should be consumed regularly to keep the immune system strong and healthy.