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Natural Immune Boosters

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We all want to avoid a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, colds and flu.  Extreme changes in temperature, lack of sleep and exercise, Christmas holiday stress can result in a compromised immune system.

Keep it strong by exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, drinking lots of water and eating a healthy nutrient rich diet.

One under-valued way of keeping bugs at bay, is washing your hands frequently. Bugs lurk on door handles, shopping trollies, money, railings and banisters and about everywhere you can touch when you’re out and about, including work spaces.  As soon as you come home and before you eat or prepare food, wash your hands.

Wash your hands regularly at work.  Using your own utensils and mugs in the workplace and taking them home each night to wash, can help avoid cross contamination and the dirty wash cloth of the communal kitchen area.

Make your own tea or coffee, this avoids others hands on your mug which may be harbouring nasties, which will go straight to your mouth. In coffee houses ask for take-out, even if sitting in, as this guarantees a paper cup that is fresh and hygienic. This is potentially safer than washed and recirculated glasses and mugs, which may harbour germs if not cleaned to a high standard.

The same goes for bars, if you’re out and about drinking over the Christmas period.  Bottled drinks drunk straight from the bottle, usually carry less germs than recirculated glasses, especially during busy periods. Avoid eating nuts and crisps that are out on the bar, as these are known to harbour bugs, you don’t know who’s had their hands in them!

As well as the legendary vitamin C and multi-vitamins and mineral supplements, try adding the following foods to your diet, to give the immune system a boost at this time of year. Here’s some natural favourites to keep handy over the festive period:

Chicken soup’s healing powers are well known. The hot broth provides needed fluids, while the salt helps to keep the nasal passages clear and the mucus thin, just like cough medicine.

Chicken is especially rich in a compound called carnosine, and it’s this that helps reduce that stuffy, congested feeling in your nose and throat. It’s thought that carnosine minimises inflammation in the upper respiratory tract by stopping the migration of white blood cells. The benefit only lasts for as long as the soup remains in the body – so be sure to make up a big batch!

Bone broths are restorative and therapeutic because they’re packed with immune-boosting minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, silicon and sulphur.

Garlic and onions have several antioxidants and can ward off a number of viruses and bacteria, thereby preventing infections. Garlic’s medicinal properties are highest when it’s eaten raw and cut, sliced, or chopped up.

Mushrooms are extremely high in antioxidants. They’ve been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. They are also known to be a good source of fibre, B vitamins, and essential minerals such as selenium and copper. Studies show that mushrooms increase the production of cytokines, which help fight off infection. The most powerful cold- and flu-fighting types are shitake, maitake, and reishi.

Probiotics, also known as “live and active cultures,” are healthy bacteria found in yogurt. They help stimulate your immune system to fight disease. Make sure you opt for the natural full fat variety, to avoid a sugar loaded product.

Among many benefits, hot tea soothes the throat and helps keep us warm. But what makes it so healthy? It is filled with disease-fight polyphenols, flavonoids, and catechins. These antioxidants have been shown to destroy cell-damaging free radicals and boost the body’s immune response. Black tea and green tea are the most well-known, but they all have benefits.

Use as an anti-inflammatory, and as an immune booster. Ginger helps to break down the build-up of toxins in the organs, which make you vulnerable to infections. Add some fresh ginger and some lemon to hot water for an immune-boosting drink.


These simple, natural staple ingredients and healthy tips can mean the difference between avoiding a bug and if you do catch one, making the duration of infection a lot shorter.


Beth Etherington, Nutritional Therapist, Clinicanutrition and The Sugar Hunter

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