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Immune support

Autumn is here and with it come coughs and colds. Read on for advice on how to boost your body’s immunity and survive the season in top health

Why do we get colds?

“Flu viruses are most viable when humidity is below 50% or over 100%,” says Alison Cullen, nutritional therapist at A.Vogel. “If you are indoors with the central heating turned up high viruses happily flourish. Bad diet, poor sleep, stress, smoking, heavy exposure to infectious particles, over-exercising, sedentary lifestyle and age all contribute to low immune function.”

Roisin Armstrong is an acupuncturist and kinesiologist based in Holywood, Co Down. She recommends Dr Wolz Zell Oxygen Immunkomplex to clients when they need help with immunity. “Autumn is a tricky time for germs especially for those who care for young children,” says Roisin. “Youngsters congregating back to school bring with them their own individual collections of germs that everyone needs to acclimatise to.”

“Children are particularly prone to passing on viruses as they are less likely to wash their hands properly and put their hands over their mouths when coughing and sneezing,” says Adrienne Benjamin, a nutritionist at ProVen Probiotics. “They are also more likely to share toys and games.”

The health store experience

“Customers often ask for vitamin C and D to boost the immune system,” says Helena Murphy at Loop de Loop in Castletownbere, Co Cork, “or a good multi vitamin for preparing for winter and something to help with energy too.”

“With kids back to school with the weather becoming colder, the sun in hiding and our vitamin D levels dropping we see an influx of customers who are looking for ways to boost their child’s health and their own for the winter ahead,” says Rob Coffey from Full of Beans in Waterford.

Natural support for immunity

“The best things to take for preparing for winter health are vitamin C and D to help the immune system,” says Helena Murphy. “Echinacea is great for reliving common cold and flu symptoms and a good manuka honey will help too”

“It is difficult to obtain high amounts of vitamin D through diet alone, so supplements are needed. Other go-to products for keeping the immune system working at its best are fish oils and plenty of vitamin C,” says Rob Coffey.

“Zinc is important to help combat the effects of stress and build up your immune system,” says Roisin Armstrong. “Two of my favourite remedies are echinacea and black elderberry. Both are excellent for all age groups.”

“The key nutrients that can help to support a healthy immune system include vitamins C and D, zinc, selenium and omega 3 fatty acids,” says Adrienne Benjamin. “Elderberry, echinacea and garlic have also been shown to have immune-boosting properties.”

The role of probiotics

“Whilst antibiotics are designed to destroy bacterial infections, they have no impact on viruses,” says Adrienne Benjamin.

“Furthermore, antibiotics also destroy the friendly bacteria that our bodies require to maintain a balanced digestive system and support immunity. Probiotics contain friendly bacteria that can help to replenish gut bacteria if antibiotics are required. They are also helpful alongside a healthy varied diet and adequate sleep to support the body in fighting viral infections.”

“A healthy gut has a direct impact on our immune system,” says Rob Coffey. “To support a healthy digestive system we recommend eating foods that are full of bacteria and live enzymes or a good broad spectrum probiotic.”

Did you know?
Viruses can live for up to three days on objects such as escalator handrails, door handles, coffee cups, drinking glasses and plastic surfaces. Wash your hands to keep bugs at bay, especially after using the bathroom and before cooking.

Lifestyle advice

Antioxidants – from fruits, vegetables and nuts are good for the immune system.

Exercise – five times a week will help to control stress and enhance your immune system.

Neti pot – wash out your sinuses with a saline solution to keep out sinus infections.

Reduce stress – because it lowers the immune system.

Sleep – for eight hours a night to ensure your immune system is working at its best.

Stroke a pet –good for stress control and boosts the immune system.

Sugar – can have a negative effect on your immune system, so cut consumption right down.

Vitamins and minerals for immune support

Beta-glucans – derived from mushrooms, can boost a weakened immune system.

Vitamin D – being D-deficient undermines your immune system so take a supplement.

Echinacea – works to support your immune system.

Elderberry tincture – can give the immune system a boost.

Olive leaf extract – an antioxidant-rich immune supporter.

Manuka honey – look for the UMF logo to guarantee the real stuff with anti-inflammatory properties.

Multivitamin – ensure you are getting everything you need and in particular vitamins C and B complex.

Selenium – the antioxidants in selenium can help the body fight a cold.

Zinc – can help fight infection and shorten the duration of a cold.

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