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Term-time terrors

With the return to school it’s the season to boost your family’s immunity levels and head off the bugs

With the start of the school and college year many parents are wary about students sharing air and bugs in the classroom. Independent health stores get a lot of parents looking for advice when the school term starts, especially for coughs, colds and sinus problems.

“September going into October is a tricky time for colds and flu because the kids are back in school swapping not just holiday stories but bugs,” says Rob Whinnett of Blasta Wholefoods in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. “Also at home, we’re closing the windows and turning the central heating up, creating a great environment for bugs to multiply.”

Flu viruses are most viable when humidity is below 50% or over 100%. If you are indoors with the central heating turned up high viruses happily fourish. Bad diet, poor sleep, stress, smoking, over-exercising, a sedentary lifestyle and age all contribute to poor functioning of the immune system and a propensity to catch viruses.

“Exercise stimulates the circulation of your body’s immune cells that fight disease (antibodies and white blood cells), so they can act more quickly,” says Penny Hatzis, a naturopath who works with Sun Chlorella. “The rise in body temperature from exercise also helps the body fight infection, similar to a fever to help destroy pathogens.” Rob Whinnett agrees. “The best way to keep your immune system in top shape is to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight,” he says. “Other immune boosters include not smoking and drinking alcohol only in moderation. Get a good night's sleep and manage your stress levels.”

“If you’re sleep deprived, there is some evidence to suggest that taking a couple of 30-minute naps can decrease the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system,” says Penny Hatzis.

“Eat a diet rich in immune-boosting foods such as fresh fruit and veg (such as broccoli and spinach), garlic, ginger, turmeric, nuts and seeds (such as almonds and sunfower seeds), probiotic foods such as live yoghurt and fermented foods (sauerkraut, kefr, kombucha etc),” says Rob Whinnett.

“A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent nutrient deficiencies which can lead to an altered immune response,” says Penny Hatzis. “Vitamins D and A have been found to enhance the immune system. Chlorella is a green algae wholefood and a source of both vitamins and other important nutrients. A study published in the Nutrition Journal in 2012 showed that chlorella increased the activity of immune cells that kill viruses.”

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.

Camu camu – This South American fruit has amazingly high levels of vitamin C.

Echinacea – works to support your immune system.

Elderberry tincture or extract – can give the immune system a boost.

Garlic – regular intake can prevent colds.

Olive leaf extract – an antioxidant-rich immune supporter.

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

Probiotics – especially good if you have digestive problems or have been on an antibiotic recently.

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

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

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

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