How to dodge the common cold this winter
We get it, you wouldn’t mind a day in bed to binge on Netflix with a cold. But do you really have to be sick to enjoy a day in bed? Schedule one in sister, you won’t regret it.
If you’re looking for a magic bullet to help you avoid getting sick this winter I have some bad news for you – no such thing exists. However, that’s not to say you can’t have a healthy, flu-free winter, it just requires a bit of work. Just because you’re surrounded by sick people doesn’t mean you are destined to get sick. In fact, some people can go back to back seasons without getting sick at all. Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy lifestyle in keeping your immune system strong, robust and functional, and ultimately combating the common cold. Here are my top 10 tips for avoiding the flu this season.
1. Focus on gut health
Seeing as 70-80% of your immune system resides in your gut, focusing on gut health seems both logical and essential. Consume foods that promote a healthy gut and avoid foods that destroy gut-health (grains, gluten, lectins, nightshades, sugar, and processed/refined foods).
2. Eat loads of vegetables (prebiotic fibre), fruit, and healthy fats
Consume non-starchy, green, leafy, cruciferous vegetables and some starchy vegetables too. When it comes to fruit, aim for high-fibre lower fructose fruits such as berries. The prebiotic fibre in fruit and vegetables feed the good bacteria (probiotics) in the gut. The fermentation process produces a by-product called SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids), namely acetate, butyrate and propionate, which are essential in a healthy gut and ultimately boosts immunity. Aim for as much variation as possible. ‘Eat the rainbow’ is a good mantra to live by. Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and oily fish are excellent too.
3. Eat probiotic-rich food or supplement with probiotics
You want to create a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut. Most of the bacteria in your gut was colonised when you were born (which you had no control over), but eating healthy probiotic-rich fermented foods on a daily basis as well as supplementing with probiotics is a great way to ensure you tip the scale in the way of the good bacteria rather than the bad bacteria.
4. Aim for 8 hours of unbroken high-quality sleep
Sleep is possibly the most undervalued and under-utilised tool in the toolkit. Research has shown a direct correlation between sleep and the immune system. Too little sleep increases your chances of getting a cold/flu, while optimal sleep significantly reduces your chances. During sleep all of your physiological processes get repaired and rejuvenated. Things like damaged cells, your brain and most importantly in this case – your immune system! A wearable device like a Fitbit is a great way to track your sleep quality and quantity. It even tracks the different sleep stages!
5. Spend time in nature
Spending more time in ‘green space’ isn’t just good for you, but it also means you will subsequently spend less time in crowded indoor places (like offices, planes, trains etc). Heavily populated areas increase the chance of infections spreading due to the sheer number of people in close proximity. You’ll also get sunlight, fresh air, and expose yourself to healthy microbes! The point is: Become a recluse and ditch all your friends…Just kidding. Strive for balance.
6. Get Some Sun, eat food rich in Vitamin D, or consider a Vitamin D supplement
A daily dose of sunlight is vital for stimulating Vitamin-D synthesis which ultimately improves your immune system. Aim for 5-15 mins of direct sunlight on your arms and face without burning! If your environment doesn’t allow you to get adequate sun exposure, you may want to consider taking a Vitamin-D supplement as well as eating VD-rich food such as salmon, fish liver oil, organ meat such as beef liver, and egg yolks.
7. Exercise (but not too much)
Exercise is a wonderful acute stressor that helps to boost immunity, but if you overdo it (like many elite athletes do), exercise (especially chronic cardio) can actually significantly suppress your immune system leading to an increased susceptibility of getting sick. Focus on a balance of HIIT, resistance/strength training and some cardio. Don’t underestimate the benefits of walking! Aim for 10 thousand steps daily. On active rest days when you aren’t working out you can even try push it up to 15 thousand steps. A wearable fitness tracking device like a Fitbit is a great way to help you track your both your workouts and your step count.
8. Make a pot of anti-inflammatory immunity tea!
I like to mix grated fresh turmeric and ginger, cinnamon, black pepper (to make the curcumin bioavailable), and loose-leaf chai mix with hot water.
Once again, the combination is a great immune system regulator.
9. Drink Bone Broth
Bone broth is not only packed with macro- and micro-nutrients but it is great for gut health and immunity! It helps to maintain a health gut lining and reduces intestinal permeability keeping you well.
10. Drink Lemon & Manuka Honey Tea
It should come as no surprise that both lemon and Manuka honey have excellent gut healing properties. Manuka honey is well known for its natural anti-bacterial properties both systemically and locally i.e it destroys the ‘bad bugs’ and feeds the ‘good bug’ allowing them to flourish! Lemons are packed with essential vitamins and minerals which makes this super-food combo a wonderful immune booster!