Nutrition for Colds & Flu

As soon as Autumn comes around, it seems that coming down with some sort of cold or flu like illness also awaits us! Most of us spend these winter months trying to wrap up, ward off the germs and generally avoiding anyone with a runny nose!

Rather than waiting for a cold/flu to set in (and let’s face it, it’ll only be a matter of timing!) another suggestion is to improve your natural immunity and immune response to guard off and prevent illness from occurring.

In doing so, you not only reduce the occurrence of common colds but you will also strengthen your immune system against any other future illnesses.

We do this by starting where the immune system resides: the gut. Did you know? 70% of our immune cells are found in our gut so by strengthening it, we are much less likely to get sick.

Here are some of my go to’s for boosting your immune function:

Vitamin D – Vitamin D is essential for the modulation of the immune system and as our daily lifestyles don’t typically result in us getting enough through food or sunlight, a daily supplement can ensure adequate levels for preventing and supporting us through any illnesses.  Optimal levels are thought to be between 80 to 100 ng/mmol, so ask your doctor for a test before supplementation.

Vitamin C – when we think of immunity the first vitamin we think of is Vitamin C – it’s a powerhouse for building our immune function and a deficiency has been associated with frequent colds and illnesses. Vitamin C rich foods include Papaya, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Strawberries and of course most citrus fruits.

Zinc – Zinc is important for the maintenance and development of our immune cells of both our innate (our first line of defence) and adaptive (what we acquire over time) immune system. A zinc deficiency can significantly impair our immune function and increase our risk of illness. Zinc rich foods include sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, turkey, lentils, cashews and quinoa.

Probiotics – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two of the most important types of bacteria for your gut, and have been shown to support our immune response. In addition, you could also add fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and kombucha as these foods contain probiotics themselves.

Bone Broth – the best way to describe bone broth is as an elixir for the gut. The natural gelatin, collagen, and amino acids help to repair the gut lining, improve wound healing, and support immune cells. Chicken soup anyone? Check out my simple bone broth recipe here.

Cooking with Ginger, Onion and Garlic – these are all antimicrobial and antiviral and can be used in cooking or on their own. If you feel like you’re coming down with a cold, start taking one raw clove of garlic per day.

Manuka Honey – quite a lot of research has shown that Manuka honey is antiviral, antimicrobial and a natural immune booster. Ideally it should have an UMF of 20+.

Stress Management – chronic or long term stress can suppress our immune response as we produce more and more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol interferes with white cell formation and lowers the levels of the antibodies we need as our first line of defence. Activities including meditation, socialising, getting out in the fresh air, gentle exercise etc. can all be forms of stress management.

Adequate Sleep – poor sleep can cause an activation of our inflammatory immune system, resulting in a weakened immune response. Aim for a minimum of 7-8 hours per night, and avoid using digital technology an hour before bedtime.

Essential Oils – using essential oils including Peppermint and Eucalyptus oil can aid symptoms of congestion often associated with the onset of a cold. The preferred ways to use them are by adding a few drops to a bowl of bowling water and using as a steamer, or dabbing onto tissue and inhaling/placing on a pillow at bedtime.

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