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There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning with a tight chest and a throat that feels like razor blades when you swallow. This is prime cold and flu season, so, to prevent an attack on your immune system, take the following precautions.

Sleep

sleep

Not getting enough sleep can compromise your immune system’s ability to fight off colds and flu. Different people require different amounts of sleep, depending on their unique genetic make-up. But, as a rule of thumb, research suggests adults should get about eight hours a night.

If it takes you considerable time to wind down before bed, try avoiding your phone for at least an hour before you hit the pillow. The blue light on the phone stimulates the brain and keep you awake for longer. Make sure you’re going to bed at roughly the same time each night, too, to regulate your circadian rhythm so you feel sleepy and awake at the right times.

Exercise

exercise

According to Reader’s Digest, just 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day can have anti-inflammatory effects on your body, helping to boost your immune system.

The science behind exercise is that it activates the sympathetic nervous system, a pathway that increases heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, releasing an immunity hormone into the blood stream. Moderate exercise has an abundance of other health benefits, too, like controlling hypertension and diabetes, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s, and reducing anxiety and stress.

Supplement boosters

supplements

If you’re a fan of fish, great. If not, hold your nose and keep in mind the multiple nutritional and cold-busting benefits it provides! Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon contain omega-3, which increases white blood cell activity. This is responsible for consuming bacteria in our bodies, helping to keep viral and bacterial infections at bay.

Zinc supplements can also help boost immunity, according to a study. Although zinc is naturally found in foods such as sesame and pumpkin seeds, lentils, and turkey, older people are less likely to get adequate amounts from their diet, making them more susceptible to infection.

Stress

stress

Psychological stress can contribute to a state where your physical level of resistance is lower than usual. The body adopts a fight or flight response when the mind believes it is under threat, releasing stress hormones into your body. (Of course, stress is subjective, so what you find stressful may not negatively affect someone else.) In this mode, your immune system is suppressed, making it harder for your body to protect you from illness.

Home remedies

remedies

Traditional healers swear by key ingredients that work their magic on specific illnesses. Have a look in your kitchen cupboard; you’ll probably find you stock many of them already.

Ginger, honey and lemon tea, for example, is a well-known germ buster. Ginger is a potent antioxidant that flushes out toxins in the body. It can also help to relieve an upset stomach, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweats. Meanwhile, honey soothes a sore throat, making it an effective and natural cough suppressant. Lastly, lemons are rich in vitamin C, which you need on a daily basis for continued health, as your body doesn’t produce or store it.

Finally, don’t forget the most basic rule: wash your hands regularly and thoroughly to stop germs getting into your system. As we’re now in the throes of winter, take heed of our tips and arm your immune system with rest, exercise and diet.

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