If you read my last article on those beastly little cold viruses that plague us all, you will know that your best line of defence is keeping your immune system in tip top condition. Not just for fighting colds but for any infection or illness that our body encounters.
Colds are one of the most common reasons we have time off work through the winter period and hospital beds are tied up with cold and flu cases. Colds and flu viruses are the biggest single killer of the elderly over winter.
I really cannot stress how everybody should take our motto ‘good food good health’ of eating a nutritionally balanced diet to give your body the best fighting chance at beating off viruses and illness.
Although diet is the main factor in keeping your immune system up to scratch, other factors are equally important, I believe sleep is also so very important and that we should all look at our sleep patterns and make sure we get a good seven hours sleep a night. A good nights sleep increases the release of immune stimulating hormones.
Stress is another strong factor, as this puts our body under untold pressure. People who have busy lives are generally under great amounts of stress and although all of us actually perform better when under a small amount of pressure, constant high stress levels are most certainly not good for us.
A lot of people are actually highly stressed because they cannot sleep, and therefore it is a vicious circle for many, this greatly weakens their immune system making it easier for them to be the victim of colds and other ailments, always feeling lethargic and rundown.
Our immune system is a highly specialised network of cells and organs working together, protecting us from bacterial and viral infections.
Obviously during the winter period our bodies are much more susceptible to viruses especially colds and flu, so to help maintain a healthy immune system we need to make sure we are eating a nutritionally balanced diet rich in minerals and vitamins that are vital for this.
So ‘good food good health’ really is the key. I know that during the winter months our diets alter but we still really do need to eat the five portions of different fruit and vegetables a day.
There are plenty of cheap vegetables at this time of the year and dried fruit counts just the same as fresh, also frozen fruit and veg is equally good, even some tinned fruit and vegetables count as well, as does a serving of fruit juice. There are also some very good vegetable drinks available now.
Another steadfast recipe of my dear old Nan is chicken soup or broth. Home made is best of course but even tinned is excellent and it is a proven fact that it helps to combat colds, flu and chills.
Eating a healthy diet does not have to be expensive if you try to use seasonal fruit and vegetables, and farm shops and markets give excellent value for money.
Relaxation is important to keep stress levels under control, and laughing is known to reduce stress hormones and increase the immune systems activity. So taking a little time out of your busy schedule will only benefit you, even if it is only putting your feet up for half an hour and watching a good comedy, chasing the children around the garden or park, anything that makes you feel good.
Exercise carried out in moderation regularly is beneficial for the immune system, reducing the risk of common infections and also help protect us from serious diseases too such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.
30 minutes a day of moderate intensity five days a week is thought to be the recommended exercise regime, and the 30 minutes does not have to be carried out all at the same time, it can be broken down into smaller periods to work into your schedule.
Wrapping up warm may help to keep colds at bay even though colds are caused by viruses and not by chilly weather. But being chilly makes blood vessels constrict, especially in the nose inhibiting immune response and making it more likely that viruses can take hold. So perhaps our parents and grandparents were right in telling us to dress sensibly after all!
The main vitamins and minerals we need for a healthy immune system are vitamin B6, C, D, E and copper, selenium and zinc. Although it is best to get these through a varied diet many of us would benefit from taking supplements through the winter periods, there are many reputable supplements and suppliers that can be taken to enhance and top up your diet.
Vitamin B6 is found in vegetables, whole cereals, bread, milk, pork, chicken and cod. It is available in supplement on its own or in a vitamin B complex.
Vitamin C is found in fruit and vegetables especially oranges, kiwis, peppers, broccoli and yams, and is available in supplements and tonics.
Vitamin D is found in oily fish and eggs. Is formed in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight and readily available in supplement form.
Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, wheat germ and plant oils such as soya, rape and corn. Available in supplement form.
So just take a look at your usual diet and see if there is any of the above requirements missing, and if so add these into your meals and get the natural benefits of good food good health.
Making meal times fun is a great way of getting children to eat vegetables they like and to add new ones to their diets, be a little imaginary when serving up.
For Children, many of the cereals that are now targeted at them often do have added vitamins, but I believe it still is best for whole grain cereals and plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products.
I am a strong believer in the power of garlic, and have long taken it in a supplement form to help my body fight colds. Many countries have used it not only in cooking, but some believe rubbing it on the soles of their feet helps too! – not one I feel inclined to try. Garlic is also a strong natural antiseptic.
Do not forget good food is good health
Sandra & Ted