Tips and tricks to help you stay happy and healthy this winter
It's that time of year again... Cold and flu season when we're all trying our best to avoid getting sick so that we can all continue on with our lives. And if anyone so much as sneezes in your vicinity you instantly avoid them like the plague.
While there is no cure for the common cold once you get it, there are lots of ways you can reduce your risk of getting a cold, and reduce the severity if you do get one. Here are five natural ways you can reduce your risk this winter.
1. Eat healthy
Eat foods high in phytochemicals, the natural chemicals found in plant foods which boost the vitamins needed to improve your immune system. These are found in all fruit and veg, particularly dark green, red and yellow veg and fruit.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties which can help soothe a sore throat and can also kill the cold virus. Fresh ginger root works best but you can also buy ready made ginger tea.
Vitamin D plays a major role influencing genes required in the body's immune response. Therefore having a Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to significantly impair your immune response, making you more susceptible to getting colds and flus. Make sure you get enough Vitamin D by spending time in the sun daily, and through food sources like eggs and dairy.
There are some other nutrients, like Zinc and Vitamin C, which are often said to prevent or reduce the severity of colds. However there is conflicting evidence of this and the results would only be very minimal anyway. Zinc may prevent the cold virus from spreading, so if you take it within the first 24 hrs of getting symptoms it might reduce the length of your cold by about a day. And Vitamin C might have a minimal effect as well but only if you take it regularly all throughout the year.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water. Having a cold can dehydrate you, and being dehydrated can make the cold worse. Symptoms such as runny nose, sweating, vomiting and diarrhoea can cause dehydration, but even if you don't have these symptoms, just having a slightly elevated body temperature increases the amount of water your body uses. So drinking lots of water is the best way to stay hydrated.
Avoid alcohol and too much caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which means they dehydrate you. Alcohol also affects the immune system from functioning properly.
3. Hot drinks and soups
The steam from hot drinks and soups relieves congestion while you breathe it in. There are also antioxidants in black and green tea which help to fight inflammation.
Ginger tea with lemon and honey is good as a natural remedy to soothe the throat and also provides nutrients to boost your immune system.
4. Aerobic exercise
Moderate aerobic exercise (anything that makes you huff and puff) is a great way to prevent colds. It increases circulation and blood flow throughout the body, which means immune cells are better circulated and can therefore find illness earlier before it spreads.
If you are already sick though, don't go too hard. And if you have a fever, don't exercise.
5. Rest and relax
Sleeping is one of the best ways to allow your body and immune system to fight off colds. Try to aim for at least 7-8 hours a day. Of course it can be hard to get to sleep when you're sick. Having a hot drink or a steamy shower can help clear your congestion long enough to get to sleep, or you can also try higher pillows.
Staying stress-free also helps to prevent getting colds. When we're stressed the body releases cortisol, which interferes and weakens your immune system. Regular meditation or taking time out for yourself helps to keep your stress levels down.
These are all natural ways you can help to prevent or relieve symptoms of colds and flus. But sometimes you just need cold and flu medication to get through it. If your symptoms last longer than a week you should see your GP.