1. Get enough Vitamin D – It’s very rare that people in the UK will be getting enough Vitamin D. I would not like to presume (and there are tests, such as a serum test, to determine your levels), but it is most likely that we need to supplement Vitamin D. A suggested level to supplement is 5000 IUs a day for adults and 2000 IUs a day for children. Vitamin D interacts with every single cell in our bodies, and when levels are adequate, then Vitamin D activates an immune agent called Cathelicidin. This is the first line of defence for our bodies to kill of germs and viruses.
2. Take a probiotic – Don’t just take a probiotic when your stomach is upset, but think about taking one all the time to boost your immune system. Due to modern farming methods and food processing we struggle to get the compounds beta 1,3/1,6 glucans, which occur naturally in some bacteria (yeast and fungus) in our diet. Beta 1,3/1,6 glucans ‘unlock’ our immune defences, allowing us to defend ourselves naturally. These compounds can be found in probiotics. They also ensure adequate digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food we eat, which is essential, as nutrient deficiencies will compromise the immune system dramatically.
3. Eat lots and lots of vegetables and some fruit – This is essential to make sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs to enhance its immunity. Green leafy vegetables, garlic, onions, kiwis, lemon, ginger, and mushrooms are among some of your best sources for cold and flu fighting properties.
4. Drink 2.5-3L of water a day – Many people do not drink enough water, especially in the winter months, and become dehydrated without really knowing it. If your body is dehydrated it will not be functioning optimally and again your immune system will be compromised. Minimise caffeine when you feel your immunity may be compromised. Consider putting an electrolyte tablet in your water.
5. Get enough good quality sleep – Recent research has shown that poor quality sleep increases our susceptibility to germs and compromises our health. Sleep allows for greater production of white blood cells, which combat disease and germs.
6. Get enough Zinc – zinc deficiency produces a rapid decline in T cell production. T cells elevate the immune system when germs, bacteria and viruses challenge our health. The elderly and vegetarians are two groups of people who tend to be more prone to zinc deficiency. Sources of zinc in plants and grains are not as bioavailable as they are in meats and seafood. Therefore, some may consider supplementation.
7. Avoid processed foods – processed foods contain minimal nutritional benefit, and contain additives dyes, bad fats, sugars, gluten and starches. These will produce inflammation, compromise the gut, and cause high blood sugar.
8. Be sensible about your training – Physical activity and strength training will boost your immunise system, but if you are already feeling unwell, you are probably best to get some rest. Research has shown that people who are more physically active had a 43% lower incidence of illness.
9. Minimise Cortisol – Minimise caffeine – People respond differently to caffeine, and coffee or caffeine do not appear to directly affect the immune system. However, if you are increasing cortisol, or draining your adrenals, which are common responses to caffeine intake, you will lower your immunity. Therefore, if you are feeling ‘stressed’ try to avoid it.
Green tea is good coffee alternative, as it is an anti-inflammatory and will help combat viruses and germs.
10. Supplement Glutamine – Glutamine is an amino acid, which is used as a fuel for immune cells. Stress, intense exercise or nutrient deficiencies can drain your body’s stores or glutamine and therefore reduce your immune system efficiency. Instead of taking a supplement you could boost your glutamine levels by eating grass-fed meats, spinach, parsley and cabbage.