Many of us get to the end of the year and find our immune system is too weak to handle the stress and excess of the silly season. So how can you build it up so you don’t get sick over the Christmas break?
Naturopath Mim Beim explains there are several reasons as to why your immune system may be under par. Once you’ve determined the cause, there are natural remedies, diet and lifestyle changes you can try.
A weakened immune system increases your likelihood of catching any virus doing the rounds. If possible, try to avoid contact with people harbouring viruses. Viruses can live for up to three hours outside the body and may linger on places such as doorknobs, desks and keyboards. Wash your hands often. If you don’t have a sink handy, use an alcohol gel. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes, which are all easy virus entry points. One sneeze contains about 20,000 virus-containing droplets and can travel several metres. Keep your distance!
Stress and cortisol
Stress gets blamed for all sorts of health problems, for good reason. Cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands during stress, suppresses the immune system. Practise yoga, learn meditation, seek counselling – find a strategy to help you deal with stress.
A group of herbs known as adaptogens also help the body cope with stress. These include Siberian and Korean ginseng, schisandra, licorice, withania and rhodiola. Herbs that directly affect immunity and are often used in combination with adaptogens include echinacea, garlic, wild indigo, andrographis and olive leaf.
Diet and supplements
Iron-deficiency anaemia, the most common nutritional deficiency in Australia, can contribute to a poor immune system. It is diagnosed with a blood test. Iron-rich foods include red meat, dried fruit and dark green leafy vegetables. Vitamin C and zinc are a good combination for immune support and can be taken on a daily basis. Take about 500mg to 1000mg of vitamin C and 22mg of zinc.
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, protein and essential fats will boost immunity, as will cutting out sugar. Just one teaspoon decreases neutrophil (white blood cells that fight infection) activity for several hours.