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Winter ills and What to Do...

By: New Zealand Doctors Speaking out with Science PART ONE

With Winter upon us I am often asked what is the best way to prevent those pesky infections that plague so many of us this time of the year. This article is split into 3 parts. Part 1 will cover some general immune boosting strategies. Part 2 will discuss some immune boosting supplements and Part 3 will describe some strategies if you do succumb to winter ills.

Most patients I see are unaware of the various options to prevent and treat infections. Luckily, there are plenty of natural alternatives to conventional medicines such as antibiotics and over the counter ‘cold and flu’ remedies. Whilst antibiotics may be appropriate for some, they are best avoided, if possible, due to their potential side effects. These include the ‘napalm’ effect of killing most of your bacteria, including the ‘good’ ones, i.e. the ones that support our health. The most likely good bacteria killed by oral antibiotics are the ones in the gut. The gut microbiome is an essential part of our immune system and any disturbance to this can have detrimental effects. This includes increased susceptibility to infections for a significant amount of time after each course. This depends on the amount of time and which particular antibiotics are taken, and the age of the person taking them. However, saying all that if you are suffering with a winter ill (or any symptom) it is best to get assessed by a medical provider to determine the safest course of treatment for you as an individual.

  • Limit sugar! This means sugar in all its forms, e.g. rice, flour, refined grains, fruit juice, soda, puddings, and lollies etc. After eating refined sugar your immune system is suppressed for hours.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially warm ones like herbal teas and homemade vegetable soups or a bone broth drink. These fluids help your immune system function better. Keep a bottle of filtered water with you wherever you go and sip it frequently.

  • Eat protein with every meal and snack, as protein helps your detox and immune systems work better. The protein can be plant-based (e.g. nuts, seeds, legumes) or organic grass-fed animal protein. I fusing vegetarian or especially if using vegan sources of protein please consume a wide range of non-animal protein sources to ensure you intake the complete range of essential amino acids critical for optimal health.

  • Eat plenty of vegetables as they are high in nutrients that are required by the immune system. Ideally 8-10 portions of vegetables a day, which is best to be made up mostly of the above ground vegetables. The reason being is that above ground vegetable contain less carbohydrates and more detoxification components. You can also attain these nutrients from fruit but due to the fructose (sugar) content of them, limit fruit to a maximum of 2 pieces/day. Some fruits contain higher amounts of fructose than others, an example being ripe bananas contain more fructose than kiwi fruit. In addition, try to eat a rainbow of different coloured vegetables as this helps ensure you get a wide range of nutrients.

  • Adding natural flavourings such as ginger, garlic, onions, and spices helps add extra anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial nutrients to your meals.

  • The immune system can be boosted by regular mild to moderate exercise (of about 30-45 minutes each time). When you are feeling run down or like you are coming down with an infection avoid moderate-severe exertion as this will suppress your immune system.

  • Reduce stress. There are many strategies to reduce stress. Some examples can be found here.

  • Sleep repairs you and your immune system. Check out my sleep top tips blogs here.

  • Daily saline nasal flushes help protect you from infections. Your pharmacy will have devices to help you flush your nasal passages, with one example being a neti-pot.

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elocal Digital Edition – May 2024 (#277)

elocal Digital Edition
May 2024 (#277)

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