The rates of cold, flu and respiratory infections go up in winter due to the viruses that cause these health conditions living longer indoors where the air is less humid than outside. This, alongside the ongoing public health crisis we’re currently facing, means it’s never been more important to look after your health. With this in mind, we asked our very own functional nutritionist, Amy Morris, for her cold and flu prevention tips. Follow the advice below to give yourself the best chance of staying healthy in 2021.
1)Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D: Analysis has found that vitamin D helps the body fight acute respiratory infections which are the cause of millions of deaths globally each year. This conclusion was based on the results of a robust study, which was a participant data meta-analysis of 25 randomised controlled trials that included more than 11,000 participants. Foods that contain good amounts of vitamin D include oily fish (like mackerel and salmon), red meat, liver and egg yolks. But despite this, many people may need to supplement given the fact that 1 in 5 people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D. When choosing a vitamin D supplement, the preferred type to look for is one with vitamin D3 inside instead of vitamin D2, like the one found in Yumi Sunshine Vitamin D Gummies, as this is easier for the body to absorb.
2)Avoid alcohol and refined sugar: There is evidence to show that alcohol consumption damages an important part of the immune system, the dendritic cells. The more alcohol that is consumed, the higher a person’s chances are of not being able to adequately fight a bacterial or viral infection due to the suppression that takes place to the immune system. The same is true of sugar. When too much sugar is eaten or drunk (think soft drinks loaded with sugar and some types of fruit juice) this stops immune system cells from functioning and adequately attacking bacteria.
3)Sleep properly: Sleep is one of the most important but overlooked aspects when it comes to building optimal health, including being exposed to a cold or virus as it can impact how well your body is prepared to fight and keep you well. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, adequate sleep is vital if you have been exposed to a virus (that is typically responsible for causing a cold or flu) and those participants who slept a minimum of eight hours a night over a fourteen-day period, showed the most resistance to the virus. Whereas the same study showed that people who slept for seven hours or less were three per cent more likely to develop the virus once being exposed to it. A theory that might help us understand why this is, comes from the fact that cytokines (a type of protein that helps fight infection by regulating the immune system) is produced during extended sleep.
4)Replete nutrients when stressed: Long-term stress can deplete the body of vital nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E to name a few. This is why it is vital to ensure you are getting these vitamins every single day to give back what your body needs, especially during times of high stress. A study that was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that vitamin C may help the immune system fight off colds and flu and especially in those that are stressed where deficiencies are common. Also, any kind of physical or mental stress can deplete the body of magnesium as it tries to cope with the stress placed on it. A body that does not have enough magnesium (also known as nature's very own ‘tranquilliser’) will then start to show signs of being stressed, which is why it is important to replete this mineral especially in times of stress.
5) Increase human connection (digitally if you have to): Whether you like your own company or prefer being with people, for many years health care workers have considered social isolation a serious risk factor for chronic disease. A study that was published by the American Psychological Association has now shown that social isolation may actually increase stress, which in turn slows down the response from the body’s immune system. This also means that the body becomes slower at healing. Of course, currently, we are living in times of extreme social distancing due to the Covid19 pandemic, however, there are still many ways to increase human connection whether you have to socially distance or even isolate yourself completely. Skype is one of the easiest ways to connect with people online, plus it is free and means you can talk with your closest friends and family via video call safely from your home or even if you are out getting some fresh air alone.
6)Find ways to de-stress: Stress is unavoidable, and sometimes it motivates us to get important things done in our daily lives. However, it is long term stress that has the most detrimental effects on health. As the short term effects of one of the stress hormones such as cortisol being produced show that this can help to fight inflammation and disease, but it is the long term activation of this hormone that results in the opposite happening such as increased inflammation, disease and a less effective immune system. According to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, people that find an effective way to regulate personal long-term stress may be the ones who go on to achieve better overall health.
We hope these tips leave you feeling empowered when it comes to your health, and can help you to prevent cold, flu or respiratory conditions this year. If you require any further advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch - let’s look out for each other and stay healthy in 2021!