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Don't want to catch a cold?

Prevention is better than cure, so it is important to keep our immune system strong, especially during the colder months when there all sorts of nasty bugs flying around. Treat your body right, and you might find that even if you get a cold, you are over it within 24 hours instead of laid up in bed for a whole week.

Eating well, sleeping well and minimising stress are the best ways to boost your immunity but is there any evidence for particular foods or supplements?

Vitamin C can be helpful for reducing the lengths of colds and severity of symptoms if you’ve been consuming it regularly[1],[2]. If you start when you’re already ill, it’s too late! Vitamin C protects you from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, red pepper, papaya, broccoli, strawberries and kiwi fruit.

The government recommends that we all take vitamin D supplements, but can it help fight nasty bugs? Systematic reviews have found that regular supplementation with vitamin D can reduce upper respiratory tract infections[3].

Protein is part of the immune system and we need a regular supply of it to keep our immune cells maintained. Examples of protein foods are eggs, fish, meat, poultry, legumes, soya and nuts.

Zinc is involved in many reactions within the body and is a co-factor in many immune reactions. If you easily catch colds, it is worth making sure you are getting enough zinc. Zinc is found in poultry, pumpkin seeds, pecans, split peas, brazil nuts and oats. Taking zinc supplements at the first sign of a cold might reduce its duration[4].

The best way to avoid cold and flu is to eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, get plenty of sleep, manage stress, stay away from sick people and wash your hands after touching surfaces that might be contaminated with germs. Supplements may help support your immunity if you are already doing these things.

Working with a nutritional therapist can help you to improve your diet to ensure optimal levels of nutrients to support your immunity.

[1] Hemilä, H. (2017). Vitamin C and infections. Nutrients, 9(4).

[2] Hemilä, H., Chalker, E., Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold ( Review ) Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Review, (1), 1–3.

[3] Autier, P., et al (2017). Effect of vitamin D supplementation on non-skeletal disorders: a systematic review of meta-analyses and randomised trials. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol, 2017.

[4] Das, R. R., & Singh, M. (2014). Oral Zinc for the Common Cold. Jama, 311(14), 1440.

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