Beat the winter blues! Top 5 ways to boost your immune system

Winter’s just around the corner, and those nasty cold and flu bugs are already making their appearance SuperBad 3. So, how can you fight them off? By boosting your immune system! These are my top 5 must-haves to help build immunity against colds and flu this season.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral, and even a slight deficiency can negatively affect your immune function. People most at risk of zinc deficiency include: the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding women, breastfed babies older than 6 months, vegetarians, people with gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

Supplementing your diet with zinc can help reduce the duration and severity of the common cold in otherwise healthy people, and it helps with wound healing too. So where can you get it from? Zinc is found in many foods sources, and oysters are the best choice. Other good sources include: red meat, chicken, beans, nuts, eggs and dairy. It’s definitely a good idea to supplement your diet with zinc, especially during autumn and winter, so speak to your pharmacist about a zinc supplement to suit you.

Selenium

Selenium is a trace element that helps strengthen immune system function as well as Thyroid and reproductive health. Dietary sources of selenium include seafood, nuts (specifically Brazil nuts), organ meats such as liver, and dairy. By taking selenium (either alone or in a combination supplement) your immune system will thank you.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant, and can be found in foods such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin E supplements usually come in combination with others – so add it to your list of must have immune boosters!

Vitamin C

Good old vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant and immune booster – and it’s a perfect daily supplement to help prevent colds and flu. Citrus fruits such as oranges, tomatoes and berries are all great natural sources of vitamin C. And if you’re a smoker, then listen up: smoking (even second hand smoke) puts oxidative stress on your body, and this eats up your vitamin C reserves! Smokers need double the amount of vitamin C than non-smokers, to keep their blood levels normal. Yet another reason to stop! Aim for at least 500mg – 1000mg of vitamin C daily.

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Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for healthy sight, immune function and reproductive health, and it’s found in food sources such as organ meats, green leafy vegetables and dairy. If you eat a varied diet, it’s fairly easy to make sure you’re getting enough. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and young children risk becoming deficient. Very importantly, if a child develops measles and has low vitamin A levels, the disease can become severe, and vitamin A supplements can be life-saving. Speak to your doctor to find out if your family could benefit from this type of supplement.
Remember, taking too much of anything can be detrimental to your health, so when choosing a vitamin or mineral supplement always make sure that it’s suitable for your age.

Want to find out more about boosting your immune system and staying healthy this winter? Why not chat to one of our doctors? They’re available 24/7 to answer your health questions. Simply sign up on our website, and download the free Hello Doctor app from the Google Play or iTunes store

Written by Dr Lynelle Hoeks