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Coronavirus, protecting the immune system

News of a third case of coronavirus in the UK will no doubt be causing alarm that the danger is getting closer to home.

So far, we know that the virus has affected more than 28,000 people and over 560 have since died. The majority of those that have contracted coronavirus are in mainland China and all but two of the deaths have occurred there.

But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. Anyone who has travelled to China recently is advised to get themselves checked.

Symptoms are like flu – fever, coughing, shortness of breath and a sore throat. On a positive note, most people who contract coronavirus are likely to fully recover, as they would from flu.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

Coronavirus aside, winter is when we are most likely to succumb to viruses. Because they spread so easily, it makes sense to do what we can to protect our immune systems. Of course, this is extremely difficult when you’re surrounded by people, for example in the office or on the train, who are coughing and sneezing without covering their mouths. It’s a sure way of spreading germs.

You could ask them politely to get out their hankies and always make sure you lead by example when you are sniffling. It makes sense to have some disposable tissues to hand. As the mantra goes, ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’.

When you’re out and about and among crowds, try and avoid touching things like handrails. It’s an idea to carry some hand sanitising gel with you to be on the safe side if you do make contact. Also always make sure that your hands are clean before touching your mouth and nose or rubbing your eyes. Parents should instil the clean hands policy in their children. Take time to explain how dirty hands can spread germs that lead to illness.

Other things to avoid are snack sharing and shaking hands – yes, it’s part of good business but, still. Of course, if you’re the one with the heavy cold, you could say, “sorry, I’d better not shake your hand as I’d hate for you to catch my cold.”

Boosting the immune system

It’s the winter months when our immune systems need some extra support against things like colds and flu.

Make sure you get plenty of vitamins A, C, D and E plus selenium to help give your body a fighting chance. At this time of year our vitamin D levels tend to be lower as we are less exposed to sunlight. It therefore makes sense to take a supplement.

I’m a great advocate of keeping the gut healthy as this also helps to keep the bugs at bay. The best way to achieve this is to eat fresh – preferably organic – food as much as possible. Nuts and seeds particularly are rich in zinc and immune-boosting nutrients. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Those who did ‘veganuary’ are probably well ahead with this.

When it’s cold, it’s tempting to choose ‘comfort foods’ but, unfortunately, these tend to be the ones that are bad for you. Usually they are highly processed. The problem with processed foods is that they contain large amounts of sugar, salt, additives and trans fats. They might satisfy in the short term but do your body no favours in the long term. This is partly because these foods leave you wanting more which creates a vicious circle. So, the more of them you eat, the less healthy you’ll be. And they’re bad for your waistline.

Try and reduce your dairy intake if you can and drink more herbal teas. Ginger and honey, ginger and chamomile and echinacea are especially good for boosting the immune system.

Sleep well

Also, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep for rejuvenating the body. Eight hours is recommended. To ensure a peaceful slumber, don’t eat too late and avoid looking at your phone or computer for at least an hour before retiring.

Remember, your immune system is there to protect you and guard against ill health. Don’t make it easy for the germs to attack, look after yourself and eat good nutritious food. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that you’ll avoid getting a cold or other virus but, by taking care, you’ll give your body better ammunition for fighting off the germs.

There are plenty of immune-boosting supplements available and I always advise choosing ‘food state’ ones as these are based on real foods. If in doubt, speak to a wellness practitioner for help.

As naturopathic nutritionist, I am more than happy to support you in this area. If you would like more information, feel free to email me ….

Also feel free to share this article with your friends and family on social media and help them to stay healthy.