The summer holidays have drawn to a close, and as the Autumn school term begins, there is often a rise in coughs, colds, and those pesky sniffles. Whilst none of us can completely eliminate our risk of falling ill, enjoying a nourishing diet and implementing healthy lifestyle practices may give our body and our immune system the best chance to do their job.
Here are 5 top diet and lifestyle tips to keep us fighting fit during the new school term…
- Enjoy a nourishing diet, and don’t forget these essential nutrients
Our diet plays a key role in keeping our immune system strong. For example, zinc helps reduce rhinovirus replication, which is the most frequent cause of cold symptoms. Selenium and vitamin C both have antioxidant properties, which not only can help to reduce inflammation but can also support immunity. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining the integrity of mucosal cells lining the GI tract, eye and respiratory system, which act as the first line of defence against infection. Lastly, vitamin D is required for immune regulation, with those living in countries in the northern hemisphere having an increased risk of deficiency during the winter months. Meeting our dietary requirements for these essential nutrients is vital for an efficient immune response. Deficiencies in one or more of these nutrients may weaken the immune system providing a window of opportunity for infectious agents to take hold.
- Support gut health
As much as 70% of our immune system lies within the gut, and our gut bacteria can communicate with these immune cells influencing their function. Exciting research has illustrated that probiotics have immune-modulating properties, with a large review concluding that probiotics were 47% more effective than a placebo in reducing the number of people experiencing coughs and colds. Moreover, the authors concluded that probiotics may reduce the duration of symptoms by approximately 2 days (1). However, it’s important to note that probiotics work in a strain-specific manner, meaning that not all probiotics have these immune benefits. For example, research has shown that L. rhamnosusmay reduce the number, severity and duration of respiratory tract infections in children (2,3). Whilst further studies have shown that children taking a daily combination of Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium bifidum with a little vitamin C for 6 months experienced fewer respiratory tract infections and took fewer sick days off school (4). Lastly, a study of 581 healthy but ‘academically stressed’ students taking B. bifidum had a reduced occurrence of upper respiratory infections (5).
Try: Immunity Support
3. Natural Remedies
When the sniffles strike, some natural remedies could be considered. Echinacea is a purple flowering plant belonging to the daisy family, which has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It contains a wide range of plant chemicals, including caffeic acid, phenolic acids, rosmarinic acid and more which may be responsible for its immune benefits. Research suggests that echinacea can activate chemicals in the body that may fight off upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold.Echinacea may modestly reduce the symptoms of a cold whilst possibly quickening recovery if taken when symptoms first start or as a preventative measure (6). If under 12, it is important to seek guidance from a health care practitioner before taking echinacea.
Try: Immunity Sheild
4. Manage Stress
Our body can’t distinguish between psychological or physiological causes of stress. Both induce the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which has immunosuppressant effects. Siberian ginseng is a small woody shrub species native to northeastern Asia. The root is the most widely used component, as it has the highest concentration of biologically active components. Siberian ginseng may help fight stress, enhance physical energy and relieve common cold symptoms. Chemicals called polysaccharides are one of the components which may be responsible for these immune support effects. If under 12, it is important to seek guidance from a health care practitioner before taking Siberian ginseng.
Try: Vitality Balance
5. Support Sleep
Ever noticed yourself feeling run down after a sleepless night? Sleep deprivation is a significant stressor on the body, increasing the likelihood of falling ill after exposure to an infectious agent. Sleep is a time when our body repairs and recovers, therefore is crucial for keeping our immune system strong. Late-night eating, heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol are all components that reduce sleep quality. Instead, opt for calming plants, such as a lemon balm or valerian root, before bed. You can also opt for a small bedtime snack rich in tryptophan (protein) and carbohydrates which aids with melatonin production. Try chicken/hummus on an oatcake or banana with a glass of milk!
Try: Sleep Rest + Prebio *Not suitable for children under 12.