I’m a nutritionist – here’s 14 easy ways to prevent flu and Covid right now


WITH the nights noticeably flu longer, and temperatures steadily dropping, the winter months are edging ever closer.

With them comes an influx of coughs, sneezes and runny noses. But implementing small lifestyle changes now can help support your immune system and help you ward off illness over winter.

For starters you can book a free flu jab if you’re eligible, and if not, you can pay for one.

Suzie Sawyer, Clinical Nutritionist for Feel Alive, explains that the body provides two types of immunity.

The first, non-specific, is the general immunity that we’re born with.

“This includes the body’s defence mechanisms against a wide range of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. 

“Some of the first lines of defence are the skin, mucous membranes and stomach acidity.”

Second is specific immunity, which develops more slowly and – as the name suggests – is specific against particular pathogens you may have dealt with in the past.

Suzie explains that the presence of antigens (which combat particular pathogens – which cause disease) helps provide a more rapid answer when and if the pathogens are encountered again.

“Cytokines, proteins that stimulate or inhibit many normal cell functions, are part of this response,” explains Suzie. 

However, too many cytokines can be very harmful. It’s essential we show some love to our inner selves and be fit and ready to fight off any invaders.

Give these expert-approved tips a try…

There’s more than meets the eye to these tart little fruits.

Research has found that taking blackcurrant seed oil could help support the immune system.

Blackcurrants are packed with antioxidants, which help fight damaging free radicals in the body.

Try blackcurrants in capsule form: CurraNZ Immune Support (£15.49 for 30 capsules).

Stats from Public Health England’s Food Standards Agency, National Diet and Nutritional Survey suggests that only 27 per cent of adults are achieving the five-a-day recommendation of fruit and vegetable intake.

“With these foods being some of the most nutrient-dense on the planet, health, with a particular emphasis on immunity, is going to be a lot poorer as a result,” says Suzie.

She says vitamin C and the mineral manganese are essential for a normal immune response.

“Green, leafy vegetables, red peppers, berry fruits, whole grains and legumes all fit the bill,” she adds.

Thanks to the fact it contains the mineral zinc, cheese could help provide immune support, says Bina Mehta, Pharmacist at Boots.

Zinc helps ward off infection by activating enzymes flu that tackle proteins in viruses and bacteria.

Other sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, other dairy foods, bread and cereal products.

“Selenium is essential for the synthesis of key antioxidant flu enzyme glutathione, needed for the production of specific immune cells,” says Suzie.

However, data shows that 46 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men, in the 19-64 age group, have intake levels less than the lower reference nutrient intake (LRNI), of selenium, putting them at risk of impaired immunity.

However, just two Brazil nuts have been proven to raise selenium levels as much as a selenium supplement.

Other selenium sources include seafood and organ meats, such as kidneys and liver.

It’s been entrenched in us for years now, but the vitamin which comes primarily from the sun, plays a role in our immune health.

“Vitamin D is produced by the body when your skin is exposed to the sun, so it’s important to make sure you get enough vitamin D all year round. 

“Limited sunlight in winter months means we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight alone which is needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy and to support our immune system in winter when we are exposed to more viruses,” explains Bina.

The UK government recommends that between October and March, when sunlight is scarce, we should all maintain vitamin D levels with a supplement containing at least 10 micrograms of vitamin D; ideally D3.

“Babies from birth to one year of age should also have a daily supplement of 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D if they are breastfed or having less than 500ml of infant formula a day,” adds Bina.

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