Supercharge your immunity

Give your immunity a kick this winter and help keep winter bugs at bay. Simone McClenaughan discovers 15 ways to strengthen your immune system.


1. Scrub up

Wash your hands! That’s the number one rule for keeping seasonal nasties out of your system. Although it’s something that’s drummed into us during childhood, it seems as if we’ve forgotten how important it is. Only 75 per cent of females and 58 per cent of males wash their hands. Yep, that’s what American research has reported. Which is disconcerting since a little scrubbing can help prevent a number of illnesses such as colds and tummy bugs.


2. Take a tea break

Curling up with a cup of green tea can help fight off infections and even rejuvenate your skin cells. It has to do with the chemicals called alkylamines in the tea. Experiments found that blood exposed to the alkylamines produced a defensive reaction against bacteria that was five times stronger than blood that hadn’t been exposed to the specific chemicals.


3. Add some spice to your life

You can add some flavour to your cooking and boost your immunity in one hit with spices. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that spices had antibacterial and immune lifting properties. Spices such as chilli, clove, cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg were found to prevent free radicals from occurring, stimulate the immune system, and reduce inflammation and antiviral effects.


4. Double up

An oldie but a goodie, vitamin C is long been known to ward off infection by supporting the immune system. But when combined with zinc, you get a powerful team of bug fighters. Zinc is essential for the immune system and without it; your immune system doesn’t work properly.


5. Hit the sack

Getting enough rest and plenty of sleep is crucial if you want your body to avoid winter lurgies. During sleep, the immune system’s fuel tank is topped up. Additionally, the natural hormone called melatonin that is released at night, not only encourages sleep, it is also an antioxidant, which rids the body of free radicals and supports the immune system.

German research discovered that people who are sleep deprived – even for just one night – have half the amount of antibodies in their body than people who get a full night’s sleep.

To help you sleep easy, add some lavender essential oil to your bath, or put a few drops on your pillow. Lavender can reduce stress and induce sleep.


6. Munch on garlic
Garlic is packed with antioxidants, which is good for eliminating free radicals from your system. Plus is can help you avoid infections, bacteria and viruses. Include garlic in your cooking, or take a supplement if you’re not keen on the taste.


7. Aim for an A

Harvard University reports that a deficiency in vitamin A is linked to an increased risk of infections and lower levels of immunity. In fact, low vitamin A levels are problematic throughout half of the world, according to the World Health Organization. Good sources of vitamin A include eggs, cheese and yellow or orange fruits and vegies such as rock melon, apricots, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato.


8. Go ginger

Ginger is popular in Chinese medicine for treating ailments such as nausea, but the Chinese also use it to ease cold symptoms. Ginger can help restore balance to the immune system and even enhance the performance of the system. Try ginger in salads, cooking or make it into a tea.

9. Butt out

Smoking is detrimental to your health in a number of ways, including damaging your immune system. It is more common for smokers to develop serious infections such as pneumonia and influenza. They are also more likely to be hit harder by diseases and take longer to get over them. Smoking also wipes out the body’s antioxidants needed to help keep your immune system strong.


10. Take a probiotic

Besides from keeping your gut in good health, probiotics can also help your immunity. According to the Harvard Medical School there is a link between the bacteria in the gut whereby certain gut bacteria can correct deficiencies in the immune system.


11. Supplement your diet

Want to reduce your chance of developing a cold? Then take a vitamin E supplement. People taking vitamin E supplements get 20 per cent less colds than those who don’t take a supplement says research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


12. Move more

Don’t use winter as an excuse to avoid exercise, as it might just stop you from catching a winter bug. Exercise can flush bacteria and waste from the body through the lungs and via sweating. This is believed to reduce the chances of developing colds and coughs. The key is exercising regularly at a moderate intensity. English research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that high-intensity exercise lasting for more than 90 minutes can decrease immune function for up to a day after the exercise session. Furthermore, if you repeatedly do exercise to this degree for a week, longer lasting immune dysfunction may occur.


13. Team up

Echinacea is well known to fight colds by boosting white blood cells and chemicals that help the immune system. But combined with elderberry, it also helps reduce the severity and duration of colds.  This is also a great tasting combo for kids to take!


 14. Go herbal

Consuming olive leaf extract may very well improve your immune system’s capacity. Studies suggest that olive leaf extract’s main active ingredient, oleuropein, has a beneficial effect against disease producing micro-organisms through its effect on natural immunity. Taken daily, it may help to reduce the risk and incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. Used in acute situations it can soothe a sore throat, relieve a cough and reduce nasal congestion.


15. Roll in the hay

We’ve saved the very best till last! To boost your immunity this winter, stay in bed! American research found that people who have sex at least once a week produce more antibodies that protect the body against infections.

Simone McClenaughan is a freelance writer with a personal interest in health, wellness and lifestyle issues. She was formerly the features editor of Weight Watchers magazine.  


This article originally appeared in the May edition of Go News published by Go Vita

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