Australia is on track for our worst flu season since 2009. Children, pregnant women, elderly and individuals with a weakened immune system due to chronic illness are at a higher risk than healthy individuals for getting the flu. So what can you do to reduce your risk?
1. GET THE FLU SHOT
The most important thing is to make sure to get the right timing for flu shot. The vaccine only lasts for approx. 3-4 months, therefore getting it early in the season, say March won’t cover you for the whole season (April-October). Now is the time to get your jab if you haven’t already because it takes roughly 2 weeks for your body to build up the antibodies to the virus! The virus changes each season so the vaccine you received last year will not be effective against this year’s virus.
Be responsible, if you or someone in your family is sick or getting sick, stay home, do your part to prevent the spread of the virus, you never know who may come into contact with them. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when coughing and nose when sneezing. You know the drill.
Sleep allows your body to recover, if you’re tired, sleep. Don’t over do it. Lack of sleep contributes to a weakened immune system, aim for 7-9 hours each night.
4. STRESS LESS
Stress can also weaken our immune system, if you're feeling stressed, take a break and do something that relaxes you (reading, medication or go for a walk outdoors). Intense exercise suppresses our immune system. If your unwell, don’t push yourself to do intense exercise, this puts more stress on our bodies, a gentle 20-30 minute walk or stretch is enough, your body is already working overtime to recover.
Ok this is my jam, let’s look at which foods and nutrients below play a role in immunity.
NOURISH YOUR GUT
70-80% of our immune system is located in our large intestine. So, of course it makes sense that having a well fed (from prebiotics) diverse microbiome (from probiotics and fermented foods) will strengthen and enhance our immune system. Include fermented foods which contain the strains Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei Shirota (in Yakult Light) or Lactobacillus brevis. Read more about what to look for in probiotics here.
Found in plant foods such as broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Found in kiwi, pineapple, cabbage, citrus fruits (oranges, lemon, mandarines), berries, capsicum. Vitamin C does not cure a cold, research shows if you eat it BEFORE OR WHEN YOU FEEL IT COMING ON, it may reduce the length and severity of the common cold.
Sunlight is a best way, but shorter, wintery days means there is less opportunity to get our daily dose of Vitamin D. Food sources include eggs and mushrooms.
GARLIC + ONIONS
Stimulates immune cells and antibody production. It is a fermentable fibre, which will feed and strengthen the gut bugs to help improve the immune system. I have heard anecdotal evidence of people eating raw garlic and swear by it (personally haven't tried it!), just might need to be mindful of garlic breath if you're doing it in the workplace!
Found in Brazil nuts, oysters, canned sardines and yellow fin tuna.
Found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, wheat germ tofu and beans. Our bodies absorb zinc better from animal than plant foods. Research has shown daily doses of 50 mg or more of zinc is effective at reducing the length and severity of a cold if taken within 24hrs of onset.
Make sure you are eating enough so your body has energy to fight the virus.
IMMUNE BOOSTING FOOD OPTIONS
Greek Yoghurt with berries or kiwi and nuts
Porridge with a dollop of yoghurt, berries
Chicken soup (chicken noodle, pho, Greek avgolemono chicken soup, chicken and vegetable, ramen)
Snack on orange, kiwi or berries
Beef and veg casserole
Prawn and garlic pasta
Salmon and Leek Frittata
Crispy skin salmon with garlicky greens
As always make sure you have a diet with a variety of vegetables, lean protein, wholegrains and healthy fats. Try to include these whole foods as part of your diet everyday, not just in flu season.
Reminder, when you are cooking your veggies, make sure you don't overcook them as water soluble vitamins (vitamins B and C) will leach out of the veg and provide you will little nutrients. Aim for crisp, bright coloured veg. If your cooking water has changed colour or your veg looks dull and limp, you have overcooked it.
Last point (and something I want you to share with everyone because it is important)...
If your GP prescribes you with antibiotics for your flu, DO NOT take it. Antibiotics work on BACTERIA, the flu is a VIRAL infection caused by a VIRUS, therefore it will do nothing.
This is sounds simple, but I see this all the time. It will destroy the bacteria in your microbiome, leaving you with lower diversity, which we know is not as good as a very diverse microbiome.
Check out Healthdirect for great infographics on tips for the cold and flu.
If you found this helpful or know someone who would, please share-knowledge is key!
Thank you for taking the time to read this,