No time for illness? How to beat off winter illnesses

Nutritionist Julie Clark has some tips on how to beat off winter illnesses. 

Quick frankly, if you’re juggling work, parenthood and the hectic family arrangements that go hand in hand with this time of year, you are simply far too busy to be ill! So now is the crucial time to get your defences up and ready.

If your body is healthy and your immune system is firing on all cylinders then you could be surrounded by people with colds, your toddler could sneeze in your face or you could shake hands with a germ-infested person and you would not get ill. However, due to the demands of motherhood, work and life in general many of us simply don’t have this luxury.

Here are my top five foods which are proven to help boost your immune system this winter:

Live yogurt contains ‘friendly’ bacteria beneficial for immune function. Avoid the high sugar, fruit flavoured versions and choose a good organic natural yogurt.

Garlic possesses anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Simply add it to your cooking as much as possible.

Cabbage contains glutamine, an immune-strengthening nutrient. There are many types of cabbage and lots of ways to cook it. Personally I like Savoy cabbage shredded and stir fried in olive oil and garlic.

Grapefruit is a great source of vitamin C and is packed with natural chemical compounds called flavonoids which boost the immune system. Add half a fresh grapefruit to your breakfast.

Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, an important nutrient for the immune system. You only need a very small handful a day for a good intake of this vital mineral.

It is also worth bearing in mind that sufficient exercise and sleep are vital for a healthy immune system, so make sure you are keeping as active as possible in the day and allow yourself time to recharge at night!

Five ways to lower your immune system

In the same way that we can boost our intake of key nutrients to increase the efficiency of our immune system, the following elements can also reduce its effectiveness, opening us up to colds and infections:

Dehydration affects cell function causing a lowering of energy and immune function. Drink plenty of water and do not allow yourself to get thirsty.

Alcohol supresses the function of white blood cells. Avoid binge drinking and allow two days a week to be alcohol free.

Sugar consumption in excess also affects the white blood cells, rendering them up to 40% less effective.

Smoking, enough said!

Stress depletes the body of all nutrients associated with the immune system. Finding ways to ‘chill out’ is extremely important (I know this is especially difficult this time of year!).

If you do fall victim to a cold this Christmas, avoid dairy foods as this can help reduce the amount of mucous that you produce, drink plenty of honey and lemon for its soothing properties and invest in a natural supplement such as Sambucol, which is a Black Elderberry Extract suitable for both adults and children and is proven to prevent and reduce symptoms of the flu and cold virus.

*Julie Clark is a registered family nutritionist, Mum of two and author. For more information, visit

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