FLU PROOF YOU AND YOUR FAMILY THIS WINTER
As New Zealand and Australia come out of their winter flu season, experts say Britain could be on track for the worst flu season in history. For some people the flu vaccination is a must. For most of us though we can reduce our chances of getting the flu with a few simple lifestyle changes that help to boost our immune system. Here’s how…
Look after your diet
Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of vegetable and fruit consumption on our immune systems. If you’re eating less than five portions of vegetables per day (fruits can be two of these portions) then you need to do something about it as your immune system will be taking a hit. Lovely autumn/winter veg include fennel, cabbage, squash, sweet potato, root vegetables, cavolo nero, kale and cauliflower (every bit as good as broccoli). Here’s recipe inspiration.
The British Association of Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy say that at least half of your plate should be vegetables – see image below. Nuts and seeds are also a great source of minerals for boosting your immune system (especially walnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds).
Look after your gut
Most of your body’s immune system resides in your gut and it’s programmed in a large part by the bacteria residing in your bowel. The foods you eat influence this bacteria and some foods help beneficial bacteria to grow, others help harmful bacteria to grow. Fermented foods (tempeh, miso, home pickled vegetables) and leafy greens (plus onions and garlic) are great for the good bacteria – find out more about how to look after your gut.
Short term stress can boost your immune system but long term stress can have a damaging effect on your immune system. Make sure you rest and get enough sleep. Take gentle exercise and get plenty of fresh air. Also avoid sugar and stimulants (coffee, tea & alcohol) where possible as they place additional stress on your body. Sometimes stress is unavoidable and that’s where we can help with our cupboard of herbal adaptogens – see more below.
Vitamin D supplements
Make sure you’re getting enough of it (you need at least 20 minutes sun exposure on your face and lower arms every day to maintain levels), if not you may want to supplement with 1000IU per day. Zinc (20-60mg per day) and Vitamin C supplements (1-4g per day in divided doses) may be useful but nothing beats getting these nutrients through eating vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, and good quality protein.
At the first sign of symptoms, try the following…
Lemon & honey – we all know this one but I would recommend making a tea with thyme or sage and crushed garlic or sliced ginger. Let it infuse and cool a little for 15 minutes, then add the juice of half a squeezed lemon. You can add honey at this stage too, but try to use good quality honey and just enough to taste. Keep drinking throughout the day, at least every 2 hours.
Bone broth – there’s something to the old adage of drinking chicken soup when you’re coming down with something. Chicken, lamb, fish and beef bones contain wonderful vitamins and minerals that help to boost your immune system. Find out more here.
Ear aches – these can keep little ones and their parents up all night but the following home remedy is the best: take 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add a clove of garlic cut into quarters. Leave to infuse for 30 minutes and then add 2 drops of lavender essential oil and stir. Take a small teaspoon (douse in boiling water and dry first), dip into oil mix and drop a few drops into your little one’s ear. To release air bubbles and allow oil to travel down the ear canal pull gently on the ear lobe. Repeat every couple of hours. Sometimes the ear is too painful to touch so getting your child off to sleep with some painkillers may be the only answer and then treat with infused oil once they are asleep.
Fevers – a fever is your body’s way of helping to fight an infection and within limits should be encouraged (very high temperatures can be dangerous). However, the fever makes us feel dreadful so here are some nice herbs that made into a tea can bring down your temperature to a more bearable level but still let your body do its work and help reduce discomfort: yarrow, peppermint, elderflower, elderberry, ginger and fresh lemon balm.
Coughs – make a super strong tea from dried herbs liquorice, marshmallow, thyme and aniseed. Allow to cool and add a little vegetable glycerin (you can get this from the chemist). Take 1 teaspoon as required – glycerin can make you thirsty so have a little water at the same time.
WHERE WE CAN HELP
Winter herb packs – give us a call on 07864 945 086 if you’d like to buy a winter herb pack for fevers or coughs (£5 for 100g plus P&P) or some pre-made natural cough syrups including Wild Cherry and Thyme & Liquorice.
Chronic infections – are you one of those people who is always getting colds and flu? If so, we can help. We are Western Medical Herbalists (trained in anatomy & physiology, pharmacology and pathology like your GP as well as herbal medicine and nutrition) we can prescribe herbal medicines to boost your body’s immune system, reduce the effects of stress on your body and help strengthen the mucous membrane where pathogens get into our bodies. Find out more.