Why it's time to go natural to beat those winter bugs

PUBLISHED: 14:35 29 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:35 29 December 2017

So did you go down with a bug this Christmas too? (Picture: Thinkstock)

So did you go down with a bug this Christmas too? (Picture: Thinkstock)


Here you go... happy new year!

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry - that saying has been frustratingly true for my family this Christmas. With the presents purchased, the turkey stuffed and all preparation complete, the household was hit by a sickness bug. In fact, I’m writing this column from my bed which I haven’t vacated since Christmas Eve.

I did manage to honour my commitment to broadcast the BBC Radio Norfolk breakfast show on Christmas Day, however my croaking voice couldn’t provide much festive cheer. The rest of the break has been a write-off!

But I’m using my column this week to appeal to parents, in particular, to ‘love’ their immune systems. I’m learning quickly that I might need to take more precautions in future. I’ve never been bothered by the odd bout of sickness, I’m robust and within 24 hours I’m usually back on my feet - but not this time.

I’m focusing on parents because our systems are bombarded with a greater exposure to nasty bugs. With two little children attending various playgroups and pre-school sessions, both have become incubators for these clever little infections. And the timeline of the illness always appears to be the same - first the kids get mild symptoms... then it hits me like a train.

I’ve become more susceptible to catching bugs recently. I’m proud of my unblemished record of attendance at work, however in the past two months I’ve succumbed on two separate occasions. Shift work will take its toll, especially early-morning starts, but obviously my immune system is under a little strain. So, what can I do to help it? My editor Tim gulps vitamin supplements daily to ward off the sniffles, but does that really work?

A recent new study says we’ve been taking the wrong supplements for years and should switch to vitamin D pills instead. Some academics even want vitamin D to be added to food so that everyone gets enough.

But doesn’t vitamin C work for colds? It’s bad news again, I’m afraid. A recent study busted the myth about vitamin C preventing colds. Regular ingestion had no effect on common cold incidence in the ordinary population. However, it can stop them from lasting so long and ease some of the more severe symptoms.

So go natural. Rather than gulping down fistfuls of artificial pills rely on Mother Nature instead. Eat plenty of fruit and veg to ensure you’re getting the protective nutrients to support the natural function of the immune system. You can give your body a further helping hand by topping up levels of vitamin E (oily fish, avocado, brazil nuts), zinc (wholewheat, oats, soya) and B vitamins (lean red meat, dairy, lentils) and eating a varied diet.

Remember to ‘swing into action’ quickly when you start to feel unwell. A tickle in your throat. A cloudy head. An achy body. Yep, you’re coming down with something. Again. Staying hydrated cuts down on symptoms like a sore throat and stuffy nose. Rest, gargle with warm water... I could go on!

The average adult gets three colds per year, each lasting an average of nine days - so we spend a month feeling unwell. Serious complications are extremely rare but every year thousands of deaths are attributed to illnesses picked up over winter, mainly flu. Young children and the elderly are usually hit hardest but even healthy people can be struck down.

I conclude this week’s column as the kettle reaches the boil, the honey and lemon already waiting in the mug. If you’ve felt under the weather over Christmas I wish you a speedy recovery. Let’s make a pledge to boost our immune systems in the New Year!

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