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Why am I catching recurring colds? And 5 ways to boost your immune system

Are you catching recurring colds more than once or twice a year? If the answer is yes, your immune system may need some support.

It’s that time of year… lots of blocked or runny noses, tickly throats, dry coughs, sore throats and accompanying headaches. It is normal to contract the common cold once or twice per year but if you’re catching recurring colds, then it is time to question the underlying reason…. potentially a weak immune system.

We are continually exposed to a wide variety of viruses and the common cold can be caused by several of them. So, it is easy to see why we may catch cold after cold as the seasons change. The key to having a fighting chance of protecting yourself against the cold is to look after your immune system the best you can. As I always say, prevention is better than cure. However, I will give you a few handy tips for how you can both boost your immune system but also what to do when a cold strikes.

Love your immune system and protect your health to ward off recurring colds

Firstly, sorry to disappoint, but there really isn’t one magic supplement, nutrient or food you can consume to magically strengthen your immune system. It is a complex and intricate system which requires a multi-faceted comprehensive care plan. The immune system is an integration of many parts that tirelessly work to protect the body from pathogens, microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites as well as cancer.  It deserves your love and attention, and below are 5 areas of focus to get you moving in the right direction to stronger immunity.

5 steps to stronger immunity to fight recurring colds

1. Stress less!

You might be surprised that this is the highest point on the list, but I cannot emphasise enough the correlation between prolonged CHRONIC stress and the weakening effect it has on the immune system. This is something I often talk about around my own journey into health coaching.

We are talking about extended periods of stress here… not short periods of stress.

Stress increases cortisol and adrenaline (the stress hormones), which when in excess can increase inflammation in the body and negatively impact our body’s white blood cell function…. these are our immune cells! Stress not only impacts our ability to fight disease but can also lead to the development of allergies and/or autoimmune conditions.

Life is full of stresses which are hard to avoid but we can work to build the body’s resilience to stress and nurture our response and reaction.

2. Get a good night’s sleep

This is proven to increase the level of natural killer cells.

‘What are natural killer cells?’ I hear you ask. Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell that are present in the blood, spleen, bone marrow and lymph nodes and their job is to attack what they do not recognise e.g. pathogens and abnormal body cells (cancerous cells)

3. Diet

Some foods harm and some foods heal. Sometimes, we are simply not eating enough nutrients, and nutrient deficiency is one of the most common causes of a compromised immune system.

Aim to:

  • Eat real, whole foods – Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts
  • Boost your Omega-3 fats – oily fish, avocado, extra virgin olive oil drizzled on meals, nuts, flax, chia seeds etc.
  • Avoid trans-fats – they are harmful and have zero use in the body (cakes, biscuits, ready meals, takeaways etc)
  • Avoid processed foods as they are pro-inflammatory
  • Consume adequate protein – Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of our bodily systems and are vital to the proper functioning of our cells.
  • Hydrate with 2 litres of water per day
  • Reduce sugar – it compromises the immune system and did you know it competes with vitamin C for absorption into white blood cells! For the record, Vitamin C is going to do the exact opposite to sugar and instead boost your immune system.
  • Avoid alcohol – again, it depresses the immune system and is pro-inflammatory.

4. Key vitamins and minerals which support immunity need to be considered

Getting these key nutrients through diet is always the preferred method but if your diet is lacking you can consider supplementation. Again, it is important to remember that none of these work in isolation and their function is often interrelated.

Key vitamins and minerals

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D 
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A and beta-carotenes (think orange foods like carrot, butternut squash, mango, sweet potato etc)
  • B Vitamins
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Selenium

5. Medicinal mushrooms

The use of medical mushrooms is rising in popularity, and it is easy to understand why. Medicinal mushrooms contain a variety of compounds that help to optimise the immune function and even exert anti-tumour activity.

Some immune-boosting mushrooms you could try:

  • Reishi – boosts both number and activity of many different immune cells
  • Shitake – increases immune cells and has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Turkey Tail – a great one for all the above reasons but also helps to calm down an over-active immune system (so useful in presence of auto-immune conditions)
  • Chaga – modulates the immune system as well as calming inflammation.
  • Cordyceps – strengthens the immune system and helps battle viruses. 

Help! It is too late, I am in the throes of a cold and need some relief now…

Even with a robust immune system, sometimes a virus takes hold, and a pesky cold develops. Often, we rush to the pharmacy and dose up on all the medicines to get rid of the symptoms so we can just feel semi-normal to crack on with daily life.

BUT did you know that most of the symptoms we experience during a cold are our body’s defence mechanisms doing their job. For example, how many times have you tried to suppress a fever with paracetamol? Did you know that supressing a fever can prolong the infection? Unless a fever is running precariously high, we should let it run its course and do its job, which is to create an environment where pathogens are unable to continue existence.

Natural support of a recurring cold often sees the symptoms worsen for a short while as you are assisting the mechanisms to get the job done. Providing you have been caring for your immune system, you should be able to shift the worst of a cold reasonably quickly (3-4 days).

To help your immune system kick recurring colds to the curb you can use the below suggestions

1. Rest

Rest isn’t just for pansies. We must get over this mentality that we need to push through colds because all it does is prolong the infection. When we rest our autonomic nervous system switches to parasympathetic dominance so the immune system can function at its best. When we sleep, immune-strengthening compounds are released.

2. Hydrate (with water or herbal teas… or even better warm water with lemon and ginger!)

This keeps the respiratory tract moist and helps to repel viral infections and make it a less hospitable environment. Keeping hydrated also improves the function of white blood cells.

3. Avoid sugar… so no fruit juices!

Remember that competition with Vitamin C for white blood cell absorption.

4. Vitamin C

Up the intake of the powerhouse and supplement Vitamin C while fighting a cold. Our body can not retain Vitamin C so it’s important to keep the levels high.

5. Echinacea

Echinacea is a brilliant herb for acute bacterial and viral infections but also infection prevention. This can be taken as a fluid extract, as a dried root in tea, or even a dried powdered extract. Visit your local herbalist or supplement store for advice.

If you found this useful but would like more guidance on how you can implement healthy habits and boost your immune system, you can book a health coaching discovery call. Or if you want to take full ownership of your health today, book straight onto one of my health coaching packages and let’s get you booked in for your initial consultation.

Otherwise, drop your email here and keep up to date with the latest health tips. You can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to keep up to date with support and advice.

Keep well and cold free!

Nikki @ The Root Cause x

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Nikki Spencer

Hi, I’m Nikki Spencer and I am a qualified Health Coach with over 15 years of coaching experience. I am currently in my final year of training to become a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist with the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM). I used naturopathic principles to heal by body and boost by inner and outer vitality….and i feel on top of the world! I am so excited to inspire, guide and support you to do the same!

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