Brilliant tips on building up your family's immunity

It’s well and truly time to take out the hat, gloves, scarfs, thermal undies, winter jackets and hot water bottles and stock up on heating oil, coal, kindling and firewood. 

It’s well and truly time to take out the hat, gloves, scarfs, thermal undies, winter jackets and hot water bottles and stock up on heating oil, coal, kindling and firewood. It has to be said that there is something nice about this time of year. But it’s not so great when you’re dying with a cold, cough, sore throat, flu or as we call it down this part of the county- consumption or the chill! There are much more germs knocking about too, kids are so vulnerable. They pick up a lot, if their immune system isn’t functioning properly! The thing about it is, all you want to do is curl up on the couch with fire lighting under a blanket and your favourite movie on! But that doesn’t really happen, the show must go on. Kids still have to get to school, play-school or child-minder and you have to work. So I believe prevention is better than the cure. Here are some of the many immune boosting nutrients.
We all know the Vitamin C; it has great anti-viral support... Most animals make their own but not us, it’s one of the tricky vitamins. Being water soluble, we don’t retain it in our bodies. We excrete it out if we have too much. Most people think and go straight for oranges, where in fact there is more Vitamin C in other vegetables and fruit like peppers, watercress, broccoli and kiwi fruit. This will help to shorten the length and the intensity of the cold or flu.  My kids love Natures Plus chewable Vitamin C, and they are shaped in different animals plus they don’t have any of the nasty sweeteners just xylitol. They are wheat and dairy free too.
Zinc is a very versatile mineral; it is known for its antiviral properties...especially with the immune system. A great way to tell if you are zinc deficient is by the white spots on your nails, it has a lot of other functions in the body not just immune function. Foods that are high in zinc are seed especially pumpkins, shellfish, eggs and green leafy vegetables. You can find lozenges that contain zinc; they are excellent and soothe the lining of the throat  
There are two herbs that are really supportive when dealing with upper respiratory infections they are Echinacea and Elderberry. 
Echinacea is purple cone like flower that has incredible immune modulators, anti–inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-viral and antibacterial properties. This can be taken in tincture form in small amount of water or juice (good quality) or tablet form. You can give it to all the family members.
Elderberries are a dark blue, purplish berry. They are just ending their season now, were you one of the lucky ones to gather them from the trees and make a syrup or tonic? My pantry is full of elderberry tonic jars. I make it every year and at least I have something that is natural, immune supportive and tasty. The kids totally love it and thank god I’m not running around trying to bribe them with yet another one of my concoctions. They take it very willingly. These berries have potent antiviral properties and an antioxidant called Anthocyanin. In one study it was reported to have killed the deadly swine flu, that’s how robust these little berries are. The best way to take this is liquid form and most of these are found in health food shops and pharmacies.
Probiotics; it’s not the first thing that people think of when you mention immunity. It’s always linked with building up your good bacteria after antibiotics. In fact there has and still is a massive amount of research on Probiotics even in Ireland. 70% of your immunity is found in your intestine, so having a well-functioning digestive system is critical. This is part if the body’s defence system against the invading pathogens. Probiotics are found in supermarket in yoghurts. These contain a lot of ghastly sugar that in turn weaken your immune system. So the best form is to take a supplement that contains millions and billions of good bacteria. Another type of foods that has high amount of bacteria is the fermented food; kombucha, sauerkraut or kefir and if you are adventurous you can make it yourself!!
The last vitamin is Vitamin D... It’s surprising to think this can support or protect our immunity, but this has been researched to improve immune health. There are 2 ways in which we can obtain Vitamin D. From foods like herring, mackerel or salmon. The other way is by sunlight, it’s absorbed through our skin and the darker pigment we have the more D is needed, and the timing of the day is crucial. This remarkable nutrient enables your body to produce over 200 antimicrobial peptides, which are vital in combating a wide range of infections.
Water is also so vital to help eliminate toxins, especially when the colds and flu are about.  
There are so many different types of vitamins, minerals and herbs that will help to build, strengthen and fight any winter bugs. I am just scratching the surface. You don’t have to buy every single one that I suggest. Try one and stick to it .Everyone is different some people have a stronger immunity than others. Kids are the same too, you know yourself which one will without a doubt catch an infection faster. So maybe they are the one to keep a steady flow of immune boosting nutrients. Keeping your food real, unprocessed, varied and wholesome, that is half the battle.
There are also some factors just to be aware of that will weaken the defence force... like; junk food, caffeine, smoking, alcohol, stress and not getting enough sleep.
Before taking any supplement, please seek advice from your doctor, health care practitioner or Nutritional Therapist.
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Till the next time, I wish you health and happiness
B x.

Betty O'Neill

Betty O'Neill is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and a registered member of the NTOI (Nutritional Therapies of Ireland). She is extremely passionate about all things to do with food and nutrition.

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