After the deluge of colds and flu infections suffered last winter, with coughs and congestion lasting well into April, many people are looking anxiously at their options for supporting better immune function as we move into the winter months.
Viral infections can lead to secondary bacterial infections, with a plethora of symptoms: sinusitis, middle ear infection, conjunctivitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis, croup, laryngitis, asthma exacerbations and pneumonia. Antibiotics are not appropriate for viral infections and won’t strengthen the immune system to counter further infection. We need to find ways to support our immune system, which is quite complex but below are a few surprising things to consider.
If you already exercise moderately and regularly, there’s no gain in upping the level just to increase immunity. Heavy, long-term exercise (such as marathon running and intense gym training) could actually cause more harm.
This is down to our immune cells called neutrophils, which patrol the bloodstream and ingest invading microbes as well as general cell debris, increase in numbers immediately after and several hours following exercise. But while the number of neutrophils increases, their ability to ingest, and therefore destroy, microbes actually decreases.
A moderately energetic lifestyle is helpful. A moderate program can consist of: taking a daily 20 to 30-minute walks; going to the gym every other day and maybe bicycling a few times a week and playing golf three times a week.
Outdoor exercise has been shown to have overall better effects than equivalent amounts of exercise indoors, both physically (due to increased effort adapting to climatic conditions) and in self-esteem and mood.
Consuming high levels of refined sugar may compete with the absorption of vitamin C, which is very important for the health of those mucous membranes and for maintaining the normal functions of immune cells. Keeping vitamin C intake up is therefore a good strategy for supporting immune function and respiratory tract tissue.
Alison Cullen, nutrition therapist and health education manager at A.Vogel says, “Look beyond fruit – eat broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.” Alison advises in investing in good gut health as more of our immune cells live in our gut than anywhere else in the body.
Immune cells in the gut wall can produce antibodies and will also modulate responses so that immune reactions aren’t set up to foods and other harmless molecules. Having poor digestion means less likelihood of a good, stable population of friendly gut flora, which are part of our first line of immune defence.
Menopausal women are more vulnerable to respiratory tract infections. Drier mucous membranes, caused by falling oestrogen levels, are more vulnerable to respiratory tract infections, which gain access to the body through the mucus membranes of the nose, eyes and mouth.
Drier membranes are also more easily damaged by viral or bacterial infections, and thus become even more vulnerable to reinfection. Shallow breathing associated with menopausal stress can also reduce efficiency of circulation by promoting low blood pressure.
1. Improve hydration levels, we really do underestimate how important hydration is
2. Have plenty of bioflavonoids from fruit and veg in your diet
3. Use Sea Buckthorn or Hyaluronic acid supplements to support membrane hydration
4. Wash your hands before touching your nose, mouth and eyes
5. Top up with A.Vogel Echinaforce when infections are rife and take throughout the winter
Research published this year found that having a later chronotype (preferring to stay up late) was associated not only with greater morbidity but also with greater overall mortality.
Being a definite evening type was significantly associated with a higher prevalence of all diseases, but the associations were strongest for psychological disorders, followed by diabetes, neurological disorders, gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders and respiratory disorders.
It is vital to support healthy immune function with consistent quality sleep, it’s not just about the duration the quality of your sleep matters. Find out more about supporting your sleep.
Stress has a real physical impact on our health. In response to stressful situations a stress receptor known as corticotropin-releasing factor can send signals to immune system mast cells, activating them to release chemical substances such as histamine. Regular production of excess histamine can be part of the development of inflammatory and allergic diseases such as IBS, asthma, food allergies and autoimmune disorders such as lupus. Chronic stress is also associated with a decrease in T cells.
Really look at ways you can manage your stress levels. Modern life is stressful: learning to moderate the negative effects is massively beneficial for the immune system, as well as many other aspects of health. Use A.Vogel’s AvenaCalm or Stress Relief Daytime to support the nervous system.
Visit A.Vogel to look at ways to support your immune system as we move into winter.