Around this time of year avoiding the cold and flu seems almost impossible. On top of this, those that participate in lots of hard training can be more susceptible to getting sick. The good news is, there are things that we can do to minimise our chance of getting sick as well as decrease the severity of the cold or flu in the case that we get it. Here are 5 tips for boosting your body’s immune system:
1. Get enough Vitamin C.
This is probably one of the easiest vitamins to get. Vitamin C is plentiful in citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit), berries, capsicums, tomatoes and dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. Whilst having enough Vitamin C doesn’t necessarily stop someone from getting sick, there is some research suggesting that it could reduce the length of time that someone is unwell.
2. Plenty of vegetables
Having a good variety of vegetables within the diet provides the body a range antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This will likely be better than trying to supplement individual nutrients or reaching for a ‘supergreens’ mix. Aim for 5 serves (5 cups of salad vegetables, or 2.5 cups of cooked vegetables) throughout each day. When it comes to vegetables, eat the rainbow - the more colours the better.
3. Get enough sleep
It is recommended for the average adult to have between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Whilst a very small portion of people may be able to get away with less, not getting enough sleep causes stress on the body, which can result in the body being less able to fight off colds or bacterial infections. Treat yourself to a sleep in!
4. Put in enough fuel
Carbohydrates are the main fuel for the body. Having enough fuel in the body also plays a role in stopping us from getting sick. People on a low carbohydrate intake along with intense exercise regimes causes the release of stress hormones that can be responsible for depressing immune function making them more likely to catch a cold or the flu. Make sure to fuel properly before, during and after exercise to minimise the chance of getting sick.
5. Eat probiotic foods
Probiotics contain good bacteria that are responsible for keeping the digestive system healthy. Research has shown that having enough good bacteria in the digestive system can be protective against infections as well as help to fight off the cold and flu more quickly. Try to get more fermented foods and drinks into your diet – Yakult, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, yoghurt, sour cream, miso, kefir, kombucha.