Catching a cold can happen to most of us at some time during the year, so how can you stay well and be prepared?

Immune-boosting diet

As ever, start with a nourishing diet based on healthy protein such as lean meat, poultry, eggs, fish and pulses, as well as wholegrains and essential fats from seeds, nuts and oily fish, with plenty of colourful fresh vegetables and fruit. Kale, spinach, green, red and yellow peppers, carrots, berries and oranges are all great sources of vitamin C which has been shown to help speed up the time it takes to get over an infection should you succumb.

Onions, leeks and mushrooms are thought to be important for immune health, whilst garlic appears not only to prevent attack by the common cold virus but also to speed up recovery when infected. Add it liberally to your diet or consider supplementing to step up your defences against the baddies. Ditch sweet, processed foods, as sugar has a detrimental effect on the immune system and reduce your alcohol intake. Munching on zinc-rich sesame and pumpkin seeds or spreading pumpkin butter on toast or crackers makes a tasty snack and may help boost your immunity. Studies have shown that supplementing zinc may not only ward off colds but, when taken within a day of the onset of cold symptoms, also speeds recovery. Research also points to the benefits of omega 3 fats found in oily fish for enhanced immunity. So include at least two portions a week or supplement DHA-rich fish oils.

First line defence

The respiratory tract is one of our first lines of defence, so it makes sense to keep it healthy and functioning well. Salt therapy, used for centuries by different cultures around the world, can now bring you benefits in the comfort of your own home. Regular use of a safe, natural inhaler called a Saltpipe can naturally calm the cells that line the respiratory system and stimulate the cleansing process. Regular daily use may aid recovery from respiratory illnesses, such as colds and flu, and help sinus problems and chest infections.

Battle the bugs

Cold, low humidity air dries out the nasal passages, making the transmission of viruses more likely. So keep the herbs echinacea and pelargonium to hand and ready to take at the first sign of infection. These herbs have been traditionally used to relieve symptoms of the common cold and influenza-type infections such as sore throat, cough or runny nose.

Rest and relaxation

Research supports a link between regular moderate exercise, such as a daily walk, and a healthy immune system. But don’t over-do it as intense exercise actually lowers immune function - and don’t stress! Psychological stress can lower resistance to infection. Yoga, meditation and tai chi are all good stress busters. Finally, make sure you have regular restorative sleep – one study suggests that compared to having seven or more hours sleep a night, getting fewer than five hours sleep makes you significantly more susceptible to an infection.

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