With cold and flu season getting into full swing, what can you do to help fight off the winter bugs? Frankie Brogan, Senior Nutritionist at Pharma Nord, has some handy tips.
How to help your immune system
1. A little bit of learning goes a long way
Your immune system is the key defence against sickness and understanding a little bit about how it works will help you to tackle some of the worst that winter throws at us.
After you've had a cold or flu, your immune system is stimulated and raised, meaning you're much less likely to get a cold or flu again right away. This is known as adaptive immunity, which is able to remember infections with the help of specialized B and T cells (our white blood cells).
White blood cells play especially important roles in fighting infections, such as digesting foreign invaders, inflammation and preventing the spread of infection. The activity of these cells is usually stimulated by an infection, but what if you could put them on alert without getting a cold? A nutritional substance has shown the ability to do just that - 1,3 1,6 beta glucans.
2. Get your defences ready
Beta glucans 1,3 1,6 are a specific purified yeast derivative which are harmless, yet can prime the immune system in the same way as for a harmful flu or cold – but without the symptoms.
In research, this immunity boost reduces the chance of catching a cold or a flu, including through the cold autumn or winter months which represent peak cold and flu season1, 2.
You can find 1,3 1,6 beta glucans in Bio-Glucan Plus.
3. Top up on the sunshine vitamin
Another important nutrient for immunity is vitamin D. Our own body will produce vitamin D provided there is an adequate amount of UVB light from sun exposure, meaning our intakes during the darker months aren't usually enough.
Vitamin D is essential for a healthy functioning immune system. It's believed that vitamin D helps stimulate the production of peptide - substances in the body that are able to fight off bacteria, fungi and viruses3.
4. Get out and about
While the UK doesn’t get enough sunshine during the winter months to make enough vitamin D3, getting out and about will still help, not just in terms of producing vitamin D3 but also for general all-round health. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous but you’ll be surprised by how much better you feel both physically and mentally after a brisk walk in the winter sunshine – just make sure you wrap up warm!
5. Selenium – it’s elementary
While many of us are low in vitamin D, many of us are also low in the trace element selenium. Selenium forms an important part of selenoproteins, substances in the body with incredible properties, but a lot of us simply aren't getting enough.
A recent study found that over half of women and a quarter of men in the UK are not getting enough selenium to support good health.
Selenium is found in food such as brazil nuts, but the amounts can vary greatly depending on origins and farming methods, so they can go from very low levels to almost toxic levels if consumed too regularly. As a result, selenium supplements such as SelenoPrecise can present a reliable way to get the right amount for good health.
6. Eat well – but go easy on the sweet treats
It's the perfect time of year for comfort food, though for many people, this means cakes, sweets and sugary treats. However, sugary foods can wreak havoc on your health.
When our blood sugar is too high (known as hyperglycemia), we can experience issues including tiredness and fatigue, excessive thirst and urges to go to the loo coupled with altered vision, such as blurriness. Ultimately, we will release masses of insulin into the bloodstream as well, which may often result in low blood sugar also known as hypoglycaemia – the sugar 'crash'.
Bio-Gluco Control can help you to keep the sugar cycle under control as it contains the Chromium supplement, ChromoPrecise, to promote healthy blood sugar balance, as well as Delphinol, which may help slow down sugar release into the bloodstream.
1. Auinger A, Riede L, Bothe G, Busch R, Gruenwald J. Yeast (1,3)-(1,6)-beta-glucan helps to maintain the body’s defence against pathogens: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicentric study in healthy subjects. European Journal of Nutrition. 2013;52(8):1913-1918.
2. Stier H, Ebbeskotte V, Gruenwald J. Immune-modulatory effects of dietary Yeast Beta-1,3/1,6-D-glucan. Nutrition Journal. 2014;13(1).
3. Martineau A, Jolliffe D, Hooper R, Greenberg L, Aloia J, Bergman P et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. 2017.
4. Derbyshire, E. (2018). Micronutrient Intakes of British Adults Across Mid-Life: A Secondary Analysis of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Frontiers in Nutrition, 5.