Banish colds, ease stress and improve your energy levels with these simple health hacks for the sniffle season.
- Stress less
Researchers at Duke University have found that stress damages the immune system and ups your odds of getting bacterial infections. Learning relaxation techniques that suit you is crucial: yoga, tai chi and transcendental meditation all decrease stress hormones and get blissful endorphins – the so-called ‘happy hormones – flowing.
- Vim, vigour and vitamin C
People who take vitamin C supplements might still catch the odd cold, but research shows that it will be less severe and of shorter duration than if they had not taken vitamin C, which is a great incentive to ensure you are getting enough of it. Your body cannot make or store vitamin C, so you need to take it daily. Top food sources include kiwifruit, strawberries, citrus, Brussels sprouts, capsicum and spinach.
- Get out and about
Exercise is one of the best ways to build stamina, stay energised and reduce depression. A University of Southern California study found that when participants went for a vigorous 30-minute walk, they reduced muscle tension in their bodies by 20 percent. Up the ante by walking in natural surroundings: Japanese studies show that ‘forest bathing’ – spending time in bushland or other green space – reduces blood pressure, improves immune function and boosts mental acuity.
- Love your guts
Fermented foods, like kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi, supply the probiotics you need to maintain a healthy gut microbiome – the trillions of cells, microbes and genetic material that live in your intestinal tract and help to ward off pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Eating foods rich in prebiotic fibre (e.g. asparagus, onions, artichokes and dandelion greens) will ensure the probiotic bacteria thrive.
- Spice up your season
Use lots of fresh ginger and garlic in your cooking to boost immunity. Ginger will soothe sore throats and coughs and ease indigestion and nausea, while garlic has powerful natural antibiotic and antiviral properties. Toss hot chillies into your stir-fry – they are excellent for improving sluggish circulation, which in turn keeps you warm.
- Pick a plant
Plant-based health remedies have long been an integral part of both traditional Western and Chinese medicine, and herbs have been proven to do everything from alleviating high blood pressure and easing pain to destroying germs. Medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi, shiitake and cordyceps, boost immune cell production and fight inflammation in the body. The antioxidant polyphenols found in green tea boost metabolism, burn fat, protect against liver disease, control blood sugar levels and lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol. And, if you do wind up getting sick, try the Chinese herb andrographis – it is one of the most powerful cold-fighting remedies on earth.
- Stop SNACC-ing
That stands for Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine and Chemicals. For one month, cut out sweets, coffee, empty calories and food additives, then reintroduce small amounts of what you’ve eliminated and see how you feel; you might want to leave some behind for good.