Great tips to build your family's immunity for winter


Winter is here, and all signs point to a cold, wet one with plenty of nasty colds and flus hanging around, writes NSM Virginnia Thomas, a trained clinical nutritionist with a special interest in how kids are nourished.  

You might think that kids with runny noses and pockets full of snotty tissues are just part of the parenting gig, but they don’t need to be. Take some time now to build up your family’s immunity and make this winter a no-go zone for sickness. 

Here are my top 10 tips to boost your immunity starting now!

  1. Use food as medicine. Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. As a general rule, the darker/brighter the colour the more nutrient-dense. Make a big pot of soup with lots of vegies – it’s comforting, quick and so good for you! Also, consume good-quality proteins such as fish, organic chicken, grass-fed meat, eggs and nuts. Protein provides the building blocks for every cell in your body including those cells that fight infection.
  2. Learn to love infection fighting foods such as onions, garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric, black pepper and cinnamon. Go ahead, chow down on a big bowl of curry!
  3. Increase foods rich in vitamin C such as broccoli, red capsicum, oranges, dark leafy greens and kiwifruit.
  4. Munch on mushrooms which contain lots of nutrients including beta-glucans, which enhance immunity. So throw some shitake into a stir-fry or make a rich, delicious beef stroganoff.
  5. Get friendly with zinc found in oysters, beef, lamb, spinach and pumpkin seeds.
  6. Reduce your sugar consumption! This is absolutely vital and applies all year round, not just during winter. Sugar actually suppresses the immune system with effects lasting up to five hours after consumption.
  7. Love your guts. Did you know that 70 per cent of the body’s immune system is found in the gut, so healthy gut bacteria is vital for good health. Look after your gut by consuming probiotic foods including yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha in your diet.
  8. Exercise, outdoors if possible. This not only helps you stay fit during winter but will improve your mood and give you a great dose of immune-boosting vitamin D from the sun.
  9. Drink plenty of water or herbal teas, to remain hydrated. And reduce coffee to one great and delicious cup per day.
  10. Get at least eight hours of good-quality sleep every night. It’s not always easy when you’re a mum, but it’s true that an hour before midnight is worth two after. Aim to have at least three nights a week in bed before 10.30pm. I hear you all saying ‘impossible!’, but give it a go and see how much better you feel.

Oh no, you’ve caught a cold – what now?

If despite all your best efforts you do get sick, here are my tips to reduce the severity and duration of the dreaded lurgy and have you back to normal quick sticks.

  • Sleep. Yep, the old solider-on mantra could make you feel worse and spread germs. At the first sign of a sniffle, head to bed.
  • Epsom salts bath. Add 1 cup of Epsom salts to a warm bath and then soak. Not only will this force you to relax for 20 minutes, but the Epsom salts will help to draw out the toxins as well as replace much-needed magnesium to help your body fight the infection. Add a few drops of an essential oil and enjoy the relaxing aroma, too. If you don’t have a bath, try a foot soak instead.
  • Stinky feet cold cure. This might sound weird but, trust me, it works. Crush a couple of cloves of garlic and mix with a little coconut oil or olive oil. Simply rub into your clean feet, pop on a pair of socks and hop into bed. 
  • Sip on this flu bomb tea. Bring 500ml water in a small saucepan to the boil. Remove from heat and add a sliced 5cm-piece ginger, 1 sliced lemon, 1 stick of cinnamon (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon), ½ tsp chilli flakes (or some chopped chilli) and 1 crushed garlic clove. Cover with a lid and allow mixture to steep for 10 minutes. Strain liquid into a large mug, add honey to taste (not too much due to its sugar content) and enjoy!
  • Dose up on vitamin C and zinc. I like BioCeuticals ArmaForce supplements because they also contain olive leaf extract, which I swear by at the first sign of a cold.
  • Sooth a sore throat. Mix a teaspoon of salt into warm water and then gargle.
  • Indulge in chicken soup. Just good old-fashioned chicken stock with a few vegies, lots of herbs and a little chicken thrown in can make just about anything feel better.

Here’s hoping that you won’t need to put any of these ‘cures’ into action. I wish you and your family a healthy, sickness-free winter.

If you found this article helpful, pop over to Virginnia’s blog Nourishing Pantry for more tips on using food for optimal health.

If you have any other tricks to build immunity, please let mums know about them in the comments section below.

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