Tackling the flu the natural way!
If you’re not on the list for the annual flu jab, and with fears of a “twindemic” with Covid, are there any natural ways to help fight off the dreaded lurgy?
When it comes to fighting off the flu, it seems nature is already one step ahead of us. In fact, building our immunity against the virus happens in the run-up to the winter months … and it comes from sunshine.
The UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun throughout the summer stimulate the production of vitamin D within our bodies. This is important because Vitamin D – known as the sunshine vitamin – helps our immune system fight bacteria and viruses.
Unsurprisingly during winter, sun exposure drops significantly as we cover up to protect ourselves from the cold. Research shows that lower vitamin D levels are linked to higher rates of cold, flu and respiratory infections. But according to a 2007 report in the Journal of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 50% of adults in the UK have insufficient levels, of whom 16% are severely deficient in winter and spring.
SO WHAT IS FLU?
The CDC describes flu as a “contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses” as opposed to Covid which is caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Symptoms usually come on suddenly and include feeling feverish, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and tiredness. It spreads via tiny droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
Many experts agree that taking vitamin D supplements, especially at this time of the year, can help reduce the risk of respiratory illness. The trouble is, neither the supplements nor the sunshine is without risk. We have discussed the importance of using SPF all year round in an article here; too many vitamin D supplements over a long period can cause a build-up of calcium (known as hypercalcaemia) which can weaken bones and cause damage to the kidneys.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, the current UK guidelines from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend ten micrograms a day between October and early March. You can also boost immunity with vitamin D-rich foods, such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, fresh tuna), red meat, liver, egg yolks, fat spreads and fortified breakfast cereals.
OTHER NATURAL WAYS TO TACKLE FLU
Vitamin C also helps the immune system and boosts white blood cells. Eat plenty of colourful fruit and veg, such as peppers, leafy greens, kiwi, berries, oranges and tomatoes. Keeping water intake up keeps us hydrated. Good old H 2 O oxygenates the blood and flushes out harmful toxins from our immune system.
Sleep is vital for sustaining the functioning of the immune system. Research reveals a lack of shut-eye causes stress hormones to inhibit the effectiveness of T cells in the body.
Zinc also helps our bodies make germ-fighting white blood cells and may slow down how fast the virus multiplies. Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet that includes things like shellfish, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds.
Please note, the above is not intended as medical advice. Please discuss issues with a medical professional to understand the best course of action and treatment for you.