Flu season is here 2021, and unlike this time last year (2020 COVID-19 lockdown), when nobody got sick because everyone was being sensible at home, I am already seeing many patients with colds and the flu.
Many people have compromised immune systems for a number of reasons, including age, autoimmune conditions, being under stress (physical, mental or emotional), insomnia, certain medications (such as for heartburn and reflux), poor diet (lots of takeaway and or sugary options) and lifestyle choices (such as smoking and excess alcohol consumption).
As a naturopath, I wanted to give you a holistic snapshot of simple changes or additions you can bring into your life for yourself and your loved ones.
My 5 top tips are about being proactive around building and enhancing your immune system strength, so that you can fight off viruses and to ensure your COVID-19 vaccination works most effectively for you.
- Eat whole foods
Vitamins A, Bs, C, D and Zinc all help to boost and modulate your immune system. Eating a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables daily (2 pieces of fruit and 4 cups of salad/veg) will strengthen your immune system.
- Think stewed fruits and smoothies,
- Shots of turmeric, ginger, lemon and honey
- Baked vegetables ( I normally make a huge tray to last a few days) to add to scrambled eggs, wraps, pastas, frittatas,
- Stuffed capsicums, zucchinis or pumpkin,
Where possible, buy organic or from local Farmers’ Markets.
2. Start taking a pre and probiotic daily
It all starts in the gut where your hopefully friendly bacteria live. These bacteria form 90% of our immune system defence, and should be ready to attack when a foreign invader tries to take over.
Things that can upset the balance of your bacteria, or make it not function as efficiently (like soldiers asleep on the job) include:
- Certain drugs such as anti-depressants, laxatives and PPI medication (for heartburn and reflux), and of course antibiotics
- Stress and anxiety will affect the function of your bacteria (the gut-brain axis connection)
- People who suffer with gastritis or Irritable Bowel Disease
It’s a good idea to begin taking a good quality probiotic and prebiotic throughout the Winter months. If you would like to know more, I have 3 specific prebiotic powders, and a variety of probiotics I use in clinic that you are more than welcome to purchase.
Yakult and Activia yoghurt also have research behind them for gut health benefits.
3. Get your sleep sorted
A good night’s sleep is fundamental to the strength of your immune system. As stated by the Sleep Foundation, “Sleep provides essential support to the immune system. Getting sufficient hours of high-quality sleep enables a well-balanced immune defence that features strong innate and adaptive immunity, efficient response to vaccines, and less severe allergic reactions.”
Practising sleep hygiene will add years to your life, and will definitely boost your immune system. Some tips include:
- Come off electronic devices at least 1 hour before bed (including your phone)
- Reading, listening to music or mindfulness apps such as Headspace before going to sleep (if you are looking for more ideas on this please connect with me)
- Have a routine bed time
- Consider an Epsom salt foot bath or bath or take a magnesium supplement
If you have tried these things and more before but nothing seems to work, please book in an appointment with me for further investigation.
4. Minimise stress
Chronic stress has a major effect on your gut bacteria, compromising your immune system, and can lead to less effective metabolism of drugs through the liver, causing harm to your body.
We all experience stress, and for some it may be unavoidable, but there are strategies you can put in place, to help your body cope better with stress, for example:
- Get a massage,
- Practice mindfulness and/or yoga,
- Be connected with nature (hiking, gardening, ocean or lake swimming),
- Commit to regular exercise – even if it’s a 20 minute walk 3 x week
- Seek help from a professional if you need to
I am lucky enough to work with a number of fantastic Allied Health Professionals that can assist with managing stress – please reach out to me for these connections!
5. Have a few things on hand just in case
If you do start to sneeze or feel a throat tickle, chest tightening or headachy, don’t delay in taking supplementation. Once a virus takes hold, there is really nothing you can do but let it run its course.
I always have these in my cupboard:
- Vitamin C powder or tablets (you can take up to 5,000-6,000mg daily in divided doses (NOT ALL AT ONCE!) So that might look like 2 tablets, three times daily for 2-3 days. Vitamin C is crucial for good immune system function and is also wonderful for nervous system support.
- Zinc (I have a vitamin c and zinc combo powder) – Zinc is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, as well as being a star player in immune system function and modulation.
- Manuka honey – don’t add to hot water, as this will kill the antiviral and antibacterial properties – just have a spoonful 3-4 times for 2-3 days
- Herbal supplements – ArmaForce from the chemist or I have a supplement (Andrographis Complex) that I swear by that fights off everything!
But you need to act EARLY rather than wait for a couple of days to take hold.
My best advice to you is to stay home if you are unwell……we proved last year that we could work from home, and it just isn’t fair to your work colleagues, family and friends, to be spreading viruses while not knowing if they, or the people they love, have a compromised immune system.
By building a stronger immune system, you will be more able to fight off viruses or at least reduce the duration of being unwell. A strong immune system will also put you in good stead for your COVID-19 vaccination.
I hope you enjoyed this piece, and please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any further queries.
I look forward to seeing you in clinic to assist you with your health goals!