As winter fast approaches so does the cold and flu season. Most of the infections we suffer are mild, but there is the potential for more serious infections such as influenza. Other infections such as Epstein Barr or Ross River Fever can cause long lasting detrimental effects. Therefore it is important to have your immune system functioning as best it can in order to avoid those winter nasties.
Our immune system is incredibly complex and it keeps us free from disease by fighting against bacteria, viruses and other microbes, collectively known as pathogens. It is made up of white blood cells and the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system and often become enlarged and sore when the immune system is defending us from an infection.
There are a number of factors which affect how well our immune system is working:
- Poor dietary choices leading to a deficiency in necessary vitamins and minerals such as zinc and vitamins A, C & E as well as some B group vitamins
- poor digestive health
- too little or too much exercise
- lack of sleep
How can you stop infection?
- Good hygiene – cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, always wash your hands well, dispose of tissues quickly, avoid sharing utensils or towels
- Drink plenty of water
- Minimize the use of heaters – they dry out mucus membranes in the upper respiratory tract reducing the effect of one of the body’s natural defence mechanisms.
- Eat healthy with lots of fresh vegetables, lean protein and nuts and seeds
Foods to boost the immune system include garlic, onions, yellow & orange vegetables, berries, mushrooms (esp. reishi, shiitake & oyster), brazil nuts and green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and spinach. Fermented foods also help to boost your immunity by promoting healthy gut flora which is essential to a good immune system.
There are also a number of herbs which can give your immune system a boost. These include Echinacea and Andrographis. If you have tried Echinacea in the past and found it didn’t work then it may be that the product you used was poor quality or was an inadequate dose. There are specific parts of the Echinacea herb which need to be used to be effective and many in the market place do not use the correct plant part. Therefore it is always important to see a naturopath to ensure you are getting a quality product which will be beneficial to your health.
The next time you feel you are succumbing to an infection, come and see us. We can help reduce the severity and the duration of your cough, cold or flu.