As the temperature drops and we spend more time indoors, it’s inevitable that we’ll experience the symptoms of a cold or flu. Runny or congested nose, sore throat and cough are just some of the most common and unwelcome symptoms of illness. We sat down with naturopath, nutritionist, author and host of The Shift podcast, Katherine Maslen, to discuss her top tips for boosting your immune system and strengthening your body against those dreaded winter bugs.
As winter approaches, what can people do to best prepare their immune system?
When preparing for winter we need to think about all of the aspects of the immune system. It's about more than just taking vitamin C; we need to be thinking about some of the major things that can deplete our immunity - stress and lack of sleep. Stress depletes our immune function and leaves us much more susceptible to viruses and bacterial infection.
When we are sleep deprived it also impacts us - studies show that people that are sleep deprived or have a lack of quality sleep (the type that leaves you feeling great when you wake up in the morning) are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus.We also need to be thinking about the nutrition that is needed for your immunity - a lack of vitamin C, zinc and even iron can leave us more susceptible to colds and flus, as can a depletion in vitamin A, selenium, and vitamin D.
What are your favourite ingredients to support a healthy immune system and why?
- Vitamin C is only available in fresh food - heat damages it so it is important to include raw foods in the diet to cover this. Fresh citrus, kiwifruit, pineapple, papaya, and berries are great sources. Capsicum and raw salads also contain some vitamin C.
- Berries are a must have - containing both vitamin C and immune enhancing bioflavonoids.
- I recommend that my patients eat raw nuts and seeds - especially pepitas that are high in zinc and Brazil nuts that are rich in selenium.
- Many people don't realise that citrus peel is actually more active than the juice or flesh - it contains high levels of bioflavonoids which are highly valuable for immune function.
- Garlic is an old remedy but a good one - it has both antiviral and immune enhancing properties.
- Anything coming from bees - raw honey has been shown to enhance immunity and bee pollen (propolis) also has antiviral and immune enhancing properties.
- Anything yellow for vitamin A - organic butter, sweet potato, pumpkin, and carrots will help the immune function.
What foods should people look to increase their intake of?
Vegetables and fresh fruit, raw nuts, and seeds. If you follow a varied whole food diet, you really can't go wrong! Generally, if you eat a lot of brightly coloured fruit and veggies, you'll be covered well.
Any other tips to help conquer the cold and flu season?
Sugar depletes immunity so cut back where you can. When you're exposed to the cold it can deplete you and lead you to, you guessed it, catching a cold!
And most of all manage your stress and sleep well!
Want to find out more on how you can slay the winter nasties? Check out our blogs: