Winter has well and truly arrived, along with the sniffles. But before you reach for the medicine, here’s how to help your body fight off bugs the natural way
Winter is a time for snuggly jumpers, mulled wine and… nasty bugs.
People all around you are sniffling and sneezing and it feels like it’s only a matter of time before you’re the one coughing and spluttering.
When colds or flu hit, your first reaction might be to dose up on painkillers and decongestants. If you feel rotten, cold medicines can help to keep you going. But there are plenty of natural ways to banish the bugs.
Here are our top 10 recommendations…
1 Warm drinks
You’ll be happy to know that warm drinks can help to relieve stuffiness and soothe the nose and throat. This includes tea!
But try not to have too much dairy — such as lattes or other drinks made entirely with milk — as it is mucus-forming and inflammatory.
Quest Nutra Pharma nutritionist Alix Woods says: ‘If you have too much dairy it may take longer to shake off that bout of sinus or flu.’
2 Salt water
Gargling with salt water can ease a sore throat. Mix up the solution with a teaspoon of salt dissolved into a pint of previously boiled water that’s been allowed to cool. It’ll help clear mucus and kill germs.
Getting proper rest and staying warm can make a big difference to how quickly you recover. It will allow your body the time and resources to fight off the infection.
Michela Vagnini, nutritionist at Nature’s Plus, says: ‘The sleep-wake cycle regulates the normal functioning of the immune system. Infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced when you’re stressed or don’t get enough sleep.’
Put a few slices of raw ginger root in boiling water to soothe a cough or sore throat. Ginger is also a good remedy for nausea, which can be another side effect of flu.
5 Vitamin C
Vitamin C will help your body fight infection. You can get it from limes, oranges, grapefruits, leafy greens and other fruit and veg. But if you don’t fancy eating these things, add fresh lemon juice to hot tea with honey.
‘Vitamin C is the key vitamin in immune response and protection,’ says Michela. ‘It’s one of the most well-established traditional antioxidants. Studies have shown that Vitamin C can help with cold and flu symptoms — specifically one study showed that reported symptoms in the test group decreased 85 per cent after the administration of Vitamin C.’
6 Warm baths
Warm baths or showers will relax you and the steam will ease congestion. For extra help for body aches, add Epsom salt and baking soda, or a few drops of soothing essential oil, such as tea tree, rosemary, thyme, orange or lavender.
7 A hug
You read that correctly! According to Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at Superfood UK: ‘A hug or passing touch can help decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol decreases your immune response. So snuggle up and enjoy the immune-boosting properties of a good old cuddle!’ We’re in.
8 Chicken soup
Delicious and soothing, chicken soup is a good shout for when you’re feeling rough. Research suggests that a bowl of chicken soup with vegetables, from a can or prepared from scratch if you have a kind friend or partner, can slow the movement of neutrophils in your body.
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that help to defend your body against infection. When they’re moving slowly, they are more concentrated in the areas of your body that require the most healing. Chicken soup also has high nutritional value and helps keep you hydrated.
Flu spreads more easily in dry environments.
‘Studies conducted over the last 70 years showed that homes kept at 40-60 per cent relative humidity — the optimal range — are likely to have fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces,’ Michela says. ‘Plus, humidifiers can be a great help in keeping air moist and making it easier to breathe when we have a cold.’
Reduce spreading the virus and nasal inflammation by temporarily adding a cool-mist humidifier to your bedroom. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil may also help with breathing. Remember to change the water each day.
You must drink plenty of water. Eight or more 250ml glasses will keep mucous membranes moist and help relieve dry eyes and other common symptoms. Fluids also help to make mucus thinner so that it’s easier to expel.
Edited by Kim Gregory