When it comes to illness, prevention is key, says our columnist
Typically many of us ‘react’ to illness – meaning we only give our immune system the attention it deserves when we actually start to feel unwell. This approach isn’t always effective, as building up good levels of nutrients in the body doesn’t happen overnight. During times of heightened risk of infection or during times when we might be particularly susceptible, investing in our immune system’s ‘armoury’ is important.
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated an association between vitamin D deficiency and vulnerability to seasonal influenza. Not everyone will have had a decent length of summer sun exposure and we can only get around 10 percent of our required intake from food, so supplementation is recommended.
Research has shown it to optimise the immune system via its ability to increase white blood cells, which your body needs to fight infection. It is found in a variety of foods such as seeds and green leafy vegetables, but it is a mineral which people are commonly low in. Zinc has a potent ability to improve the anti-viral mechanisms of the immune system. Research has shown its crucial role in inhibiting the progression and replication of viruses including Sindbis virus (a virus that originated in Egypt and is transmitted by mosquitos) and Ebola virus (a deadly virus that causes levels of blood clotting cells to drop).
Vitamin C found in fruit and vegetables are by far the best sources. Vitamin C supports a healthy immune system and contributes to protect against infection. However, vitamin C must be consistently topped up as it cannot be manufactured by the body when there is need to support healing and defence. Research has shown that food and food-grown sources of vitamin C (when supplemented) are more effective and better retained by the body for longer, in comparison to synthetic versions.
Get good sleep
Research has shown that the recommended hours of sleep are 10.30pm-6.30am.
A colourful diet
Regularly eating a rainbow of different fruits and vegetables can provide antioxidant protection when you need it.
Moderate exercise, three or four times a week, can improve immune defences against infection.
Henrietta Norton is an established nutritional therapist, women’s health expert and founder of award-winning supplement brand Wild Nutrition
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