It’s flu season, and once again the pressure is on for everyone to get their flu jabs. Fortunately, for those of us with a needle-phobia, there are a number of dietary and lifestyle methods we can use to enhance our immune function and prevent those winter bugs!
Increase Zinc Intake
Zinc is one of those minerals that often gets overlooked by many people. When we think of mineral supplements, most of us tend to think of Magnesium, Iron and Calcium, all of which are very important minerals. Zinc on the other hand, while spoken about less often is a mineral that is vitally important in some of our most basic functions including digestion and of course, immune function.
One recent study of elderly subjects found daily Zinc supplementation effective in preventing flu infection . When compared with a group receiving a placebo supplement, those receiving a zinc supplement, in a group that is high risk of flu, experienced no flu infections. I’m sure we’d all like to pass the year with no flu!
We routinely test Zinc levels in our clinic and invariably find people to have some degree of Zinc deficiency. While Zinc is readily available in the diet, the Zinc dilemma is that those with low levels of Zinc, have the hardest time absorbing Zinc from food. This make supplementation particularly important.
Boost Vitamin D
With a nickname like the sunshine vitamin it’s not surprising to hear that Vitamin D has a role in improving the immune system and enhancing our resistance to flues. A recent review of a number of studies showed that 2,000 IU of Vitamin D / day for one year virtually eliminated incidence of colds and flues .
But if Vitamin D is obtained from the sun where do we get this in winter?
While Vitamin D can be found in many common foods, see the table below. Regular intake of 2,000 IU / day can be difficult without supplementation.
|Food||Practical Quantity||Vitamin D Content in IU|
|Herring (Atlantic, pickled)||100 grams||680 IU|
|Salmon (cooked)||100 grams||360 IU|
|Milk||1 Cup||98 IU|
|Liver (beef, cooked)||100 grams||30 IU|
|Egg (including yolk)||1 Whole Egg||25 IU|
|Butter||10 grams||5.6 IU|
Vitamin D supplementation can be found in most health food stores, or is available from our Naturopath.
Take a Probiotic
While natural and alternative medicine has long acknowledged the importance of the gut and bowel with every aspect of our overall health, this is something that medical science is now beginning to validate. We often talk about the importance of daily probiotic use for ensuring good digestive function and bowel health, but did you know that it is also important for ensuring good immune health?
A large study following 326 children up to five years old found that daily dietary probiotic supplementation reduced the incidence of antibiotic use by up to 84% . Given we don’t tend to take antibiotics when we’re feeling well this would reflect a reduction in cold and flu incidence. The good news for us, is that this doesn’t just apply to children! A similar study of adults found daily probiotic use increased the activity of immune system cells by up to 19% .
It is important to consult with a natural health practitioner when choosing a probiotic. While some probiotic organisms provide defence from cold and flu, others have different functions in the body and don’t offer the same level of protection. Talk with our Naturopath to get relevant advice for your situation.
Consult With Our Naturopath
So rather than being stuck home in bed, why not get the most out of life this winter! As a Naturopathic practitioner we have a number of ways of helping to boost your immune function to ward of the dangers of the winter flu! Rest assured, none of our methods involve injecting your body with a form of the virus, whether living or dead!
Talk with us today and find out how diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine can be used to boost your immune system!
-  Prasad, A. S., et al, Zinc supplementation decreases incidence of infections in the elderly: effect of zinc on generation of cytokines and oxidative stress.
-  Cannell, J. J., et al, Use of vitamin D in clinical practice.
-  Leyer, G. J., et al, Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children.
-  Sheih, Y. Y., et al, Systemic immunity-enhancing effects in healthy subjects following dietary consumption of the lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001.