It’s cold and flu szn, here’s how to keep those coughs and runny noses at bay
image SpongeBob SquarePants / Paramount Pictures
words Sophie Lou Wilson
Have you wondered why literally everyone seems to be getting ill at the moment? Us too. If it’s not that weeklong flu bug then it’s a perpetual runny nose and lingering cough. This winter has been one of the coldest in recent years – we had the chilliest start to December since 2010 – so it’s hardly surprising that we’re getting sick. Scientists have found that cold temperatures lower immunity and make us more susceptible to viruses. Furthermore, we’re still in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic with one study finding that immunity may be weakened for months after recovering from covid.
“The cold, dry air of winter can dry out the mucus membranes in the nose,” explains Paula Baker-Parkin from Nourished, whose super nutrient gummies are designed to boost immunity. “This can make it easier for viruses to enter the body. Additionally, people tend to spend more time indoors which can increase the chances of coming into contact with someone who is sick.” Basically, our bodies are dealing with a lot right now, so here’s how to boost your immune system to fight off winter colds.
How to boost your immune system naturally
Each winter, thousands of us will suffer through coughs, colds and flu. While most of the time, they’re pretty harmless in the long term, it’s still rubbish when you’re not feeling your best. There’s no catch all way to make sure you avoid illness entirely, but there are some things you can do to naturally strengthen your immunity so that when you do get ill, you can fight it off fairly quickly and get on with your life.
Before we get into foods, vitamins and supplements to boost your immune system, we need to talk about stress and sleep. Yes, as always, that’s what it all comes back to. High levels of stress and not enough sleep are two of the main culprits behind a weakened immune system. Luckily, having a balanced, healthy diet full of the right vitamins will help manage your stress and sleep at the same time as giving your immune system a boost. Regularly moving your body and doing mindfulness exercises can also help keep you fighting fit.
How to boost your immune system with food
We hate to break it to you, but if you want to stay well, you better eat your fruit and veg. There’s some truth to the apple a day saying, after all. Aim to eat citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruits to get your vitamin C. Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are great for their antioxidants. However, if you want to make sure you’re getting a decent amount of this good stuff on a daily basis then you might want to try vitamins and supplements that pack in a powerful blend of vitamins and antioxidants all in one place.
Vitamins and supplements for immunity
Vitamins and supplements are another way to boost your immune system naturally. If you’re feeling sick it can be hard to feel good about anything. Consequently, many wellness products are designed with immunity in mind. But with the range of vitamins and supplements available today, where do you start?
Baker-Parkin suggests looking out for certain key ingredients. “There are several nutrients, such as vitamin C and D along with Zinc and Selenium that are important for the immune system to function properly,” she says. “Getting an adequate amount of these nutrients through a healthy diet or supplements may help support your immunity.” It’s about working these ingredients into your daily routine. So, rather than chugging Vitamin C tablets when you feel cold symptoms coming on, try adding it to your diet all year round.
Herbs and mushrooms for immunity
You might have already known about everything we’ve mentioned so far, but what about alternative medicinal ways to boost your immune system? Tom Smales, pharmacologist and co-founder of Wunder Workshop recommends looking to herbs and mushrooms for their healing qualities. Botanical supplements like echinacea, propolis and elderberry can strengthen your body’s immune response.
Wunder Workshop’s Botanical Guardian formula, for instance, is crafted with those herbs mentioned plus rosehip, rock rose and mustard flower essence to support a healthy immune system, both in times of need and as a preventative measure that you can take throughout the year. Smales recommends it “for anyone who is feeling a scratchy throat coming on, to beat the bug before it forces you to stay in bed.”
Smales also suggests immuno-modulators to help maintain a robust immune system on a more regular basis. “The list includes potent medicinal mushrooms - cordyceps, reishi, chaga and turkey tail - all of which are in various clinical trials for their immune supporting effects,” Smales explains.
Whether you’re looking for daily vitamins or fancy trying some herbal supplements, below we’ve rounded up a selection of our best immune boosters below to help you beat those colds and feel your best.