Tips for avoiding the flu this season, according to a naturopath

Monday, 22 May 2023

Gut health and good digestion

When it comes to keeping your immune system in shape, gut health and good digestion are where to start. Why? Because 60-70% of the immune system is situated in the digestive tract. You can support digestion with high-fibre and high-polyphenol foods like turmeric, green tea, grapes and red cabbage. This nutritional combo provides the gut microbiome with diversity, which makes it more capable and resilient.

Vitamin D is key

Increasing your vitamin D intake is another way to boost your immunity during cold and flu season. Vitamin D regulates the activity of immune cells that produce antiviral responses in the body, which help to fight off infection. Sunshine, supplements, and fortified foods are all great ways of getting healthy doses of vitamin D into your system!

If we’re talking vitamins – vitamin C is also key, but we shouldn’t rely only on low-dose vitamin C levels without considering supporting nutrients such as zinc and iron.

Stress less

Stress has a detrimental effect on our immune system – it can change the microbial composition of the gut which, in turn, sends distress signals and can provoke inflammation. Lack of sleep can also impact our immunity, and you’ll often find stress and quality of sleep go hand in hand.

Create immune-boosting habits

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Five tips for forming immune-boosting habits include:

  1. Tacking new habits onto existing ones (aka “habit stacking”)
  2. Aim to eat the rainbow by the end of a seven day week by introducing colourful foods one at a time and adding extra vegetables to meals in your rotation
  3. Go to bed at the same time each night and keep your bedroom environment dark
  4. Take your morning or afternoon cuppa outside to get some vitamin D – bonus points if the cuppa is a gut-loving green/ginger tea or a turmeric latte
  5. Take a vitamin D supplement if you don't have time to go outside (but be mindful that supplements aren’t a substitute for full-spectrum sunlight)

Avoiding the flu

Keep germs at bay by keeping your hands clean and washing them regularly (with soap and water). This is especially important after you’ve been out in public.

Herbal teas containing echinacea, astragalus and licorice help to regulate the immune system.

You can also sip on an oxymel, a herbal remedy dating back to ancient times that’s easy to whip up at home. It’s a mixture of apple cider vinegar, honey and a selection of immune-enhancing herbs such as garlic, ginger and horseradish.

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