Immune Boosting Tips

The flu season is nearly upon us and once again the experts are saying that it is going to be a big season. If you are not doing so already, now is the time to look at your lifestyle and make some changes to ensure your immune system is ready for the season ahead.

I’ve pulled together a list of tips. Some you will already know but some you might not have heard of.

  • Sleep: For some time now we have known that chronic sleep problems can lead to conditions such as weight gain and elevated blood pressure. Inadequate sleep also has a detrimental effect on the immune system by decreasing the natural killer and cellular immune response. Most of us should be aiming for between 7 to 9 hours of good sleep each night.
  • Stress: Research has clearly shown that the increased cortisol production caused by stress makes you more susceptible to catching a cold. It also makes your symptoms more intense when you do catch a cold. It may seem impossible sometimes but you can affect your stress levels and make a significant difference to your health.
  • Exercise: People who take part in half an hour of moderate exercise regularly are less are less likely to succumb to the common cold than those who do not exercise. This is because moderate physical activity increases the levels of leukocytes in the bloodstream. Leukocytes are cells which fight infection. It is important to remember that moderate levels of exercise is the key as too much high intensity exercise can have the same effect on the body as excessive stress.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Adequate nutrition is vital to support immune function. Adequate levels of vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folic acid, iron, zinc, copper are vital to support the protective activities of the immune cells. There are those that argue that a balanced diet should supply you with all the nutrients you need but let’s consider the balanced diet for a moment. In a recent study less than 50% of Queensland adults consumed the recommended two or more serves of fruit on a daily basis with an average intake of 1.6 serves daily. Only 9.1% of Queensland adults consumed the recommended five or more serves of vegetables on a daily basis with an average of 2.4 serves daily. Even if you are getting your 5 and 2 daily, you really need to consider the quality of that 5 and 2 and how fresh it is?
  • Social engagement: This might seem like a strange thing to add to the list but being socially engaged is good for your immune system. Good for your physical and mental health social engagement can be either formal or informal so long as it is done regularly.
  • Probiotics: In 20011 a systematic review was published by the Cochrane Library on the effectiveness and safety of probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). The review determined that “Probiotics were better than placebo in reducing the number of participants experiencing episodes of acute URTIs, the rate ratio of episodes of acute URTI and reducing antibiotic use”. Clinically we find that probiotic supplementation is particularly beneficial for those who have recently undertaken a course of antibiotics. This does not mean that eating yoghurt will provide the same effect as we know that the use of probiotics is strain specific. Off the shelf products in your supermarket may not contain the appropriate strain of probiotic in quantities to have a therapeutic effect.

Perhaps the most important tip for this flu season is to keep your germs to yourself. If you do get sick, stay at home and don’t spread your virus with everyone at work. Unless you are getting treatment stay at home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Practice good personal hygiene by coughing and sneezing into a tissue, dispose of tissues appropriately, wash your hands regularly and don’t let sick children share drink bottles or cups.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine has a long history of using a number of very specific approaches to support those suffering a viral illness. It is also commonly used to support your general well-being in order to ensure your immune system is healthy enough to deal with such infections as best it can.

About Ian Murray

Ian is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner at Kenmore Centre for Health. This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.
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