Even though many of us are still in denial about it, the truth is autumn is in the air and we all know what that means: Flu vaccines will soon be touted left, right and centre!
Earlier this year we told you how research from Public Health England (PHE) found that the winter flu vaccine given to people last winter protected a mere three in a hundred people.
Now, when public health officials have no qualms publishing results like that, then you know something very fishy is going on in the pro-vaccine camp.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘predictions’, the past winter was supposed to be dominated by the influenza A(H3N2) virus. However, because it mutated so rapidly, the virus strain used in the vaccine was ineffective against the virus that was circulating.
Power of 10
If you want to cut the vaccine developers (and the WHO) some slack then you could argue that this was an honest mistake and that speedy mutations of the flu virus is something outside of their control.
But that makes the case against having a flu jab even stronger…
So instead of getting a painful injection against a virus strain that is likely not even going to do the rounds, here are 10 simple small ways to give your immune system an extra boost before the flu season is in full force.
1. Keep it clean: Since 80 per cent of infections are transmitted by touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on, washing your hands regularly during the day – especially after you’ve been touching surfaces in public places – is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself against infections.
2. Sleep: Getting your seven to nine hours a night means your body can repair and heal itself and ward off infections. In fact, skimping on sleep is as disruptive to the immune system as stress, according to a 2012 study.
3. Build up a sweat: Getting your blood pumping regularly can increase the activity of white blood cells that attack viruses. As little as 30 minutes of exercise a day can dramatically improve your overall health.
4. Zinc: A study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that zinc lozenges cut the duration of colds from seven days to four days, and reduced coughing from five days to two days. While it’s not a cure-all, foods rich in zinc, like oysters and wheat germ, may offer some protection.
5. A healthy balance: Getting the right amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals as part of a healthy diet leaves your body in optimal condition to ward off infections. This means cutting back on sugary, fatty foods and increasing your intake of vegetables, fruit and lean protein.
6. Garlic: The anti-microbial properties of this pungent bulb (and its relative, the onion) can fight off certain bacteria and viruses, as can the compounds in other herbs and spices, like thyme. Garlic’s immune-protective action is attributed to the compound allicin, which seems to block infections.
7. Don’t raise your glass: Alcohol suppresses both the part of the immune system that protects you from coming down with something and the part that fights off the germs already in your system. So drinking too much alcohol puts you at increased risk of catching every bug lurking around.
8. Massage: While there’s been little research into exactly how it works, massage certainly increases circulation, which may help promote the general state of wellness in the body. A good massage stimulates blood flow, which in turn helps nutrients to circulate around the body faster and it increases absorption.
9. Have a cuppa: Staying hydrated during the winter months by drinking plenty of water helps your immune system to work optimally. Adding to that, a regular cup of green tea will give you the added benefits of more concentrated antioxidants, in particular EGCG, which helps fight off viruses by increasing the number of regulatory T cells in the body, a marker of stronger immune system functioning.
10. Pepper it up: A cup of chopped red bell pepper contains 190 milligrams of vitamin C, which is more than twice as much as an orange. We already know that Vitamin C is an all-powerful flu-fighter, but red bell peppers have the added benefit of being rich in vitamin A, which aids the growth of mucosal cells, the first line of defence against bacteria.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
The Best Immunity-Boosting Breakfasts, published online 19.10.13, huffingtonpost.com
Natural Immune System Boosters, published online 19.10.13, huffingtonpost.com