Winter is a challenging season for health and wellbeing at the best of times: the distinct shortage of sunlight and warmth takes its cumulative toll mentally and physically. This year, the increasingly alarming news about the spread of Coronavirus and potential pandemic risks cautioned by the WHO have added even more pressure to say the least.
What can be done in the workplace to help prevent and alleviate such health risks? According to Harvard Health, our lifestyle choices are our first line of defence. Alongside the recommendations to avoid the spread of infection, daily habits around exercise, food, smoking, sleep and of course stress will either expose us to or protect us from bugs and viruses. Follow these 12 top lifestyle and nutrition tips for a strong immune system:
- Get a vitamin D check – vitamin D can help prevent upper respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and colds. If you are deficient, a supplement is an effective way to top up your levels.
- Plenty of colourful fruit and veg: include vitamin C containing foods such as citrus, red peppers, leafy greens, antioxidant rich ones such as blueberries, mushrooms, kale, broccoli, red onions and orange foods such as squash or sweet potatoes. These fibre rich plant foods will also help feed and support the ‘healthy bacteria’ which populate the lower digestive tract and play a key part in immunity.
- Zinc rich foods. Zinc is said to stop cold viruses from multiplying. Good sources are nuts and seeds, seafood, eggs and legumes.
- Garlic: known to help prevent as well as reduce cold symptoms. Add liberally to cooking although raw chopped garlic is most powerful.
- Keep hydrated – drink plenty of water, either plain or in hot drinks:
- Green tea contains an antioxidant shown to support our immune function.
- A cup of hot water, lemon (vit C), ginger (helps clear congestion) and honey (antibacterial, soothes a sore throat.)
- Replace coffee with a turmeric latte
- Chicken soup, bone or vegetable broth rich in proteins and minerals. Both soothing and a great support for your gut lining (where the majority of your immune cells reside).
- Boost your probiotic foods: the ‘good bacteria’ in our gut play a key role in our immune system. Aim to boost your levels naturally by including more fermented foods in your diet such as plain yogurt, miso, pickles and fermented accompaniments such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
- Avoid infection by washing your hands regularly, especially after spending time in public transport.
Try to minimise or avoid the things that deplete your immunity such as:
- Smoking: can make you more prone to bacteria and infections and by irritating your lungs can make symptoms worse.
- Alcohol: increases your likelihood of infection and may make your bug last longer
- Sugar: for several hours after eating sweet food or drinking a fizzy drink, your immune system is weakened and far less effective at gobbling up bacteria
- Stress: when we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced, so it’s even more important to manage your stress and response to it in the colder months.
Want to equip your employees with the tools to build a stronger immune system through diet and lifestyle?
Check out our workplace wellbeing and nutrition workshops for inspiration. Some of our most relevant topics include ‘The 7 Nutrition Habits of Highly Effective People’, ‘Healthy on the Go’, ‘Sleep Detective’ and ‘Stress Buster’ among many more.