Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!

For a fit and fighting immune system, you'll need to incorporate some moderate exercise into your daily routine to give it a boost. But just be careful not to overdo it on the exercise, as intense and lengthy workout sessions can suppress your immune system. So, balance is key here. You can take a brisk walk or jog around the block during the permitted 06:00 - 09:00 during lockdown and maybe some cycling if you have a stationary bicycle at home. You should aim to get at least one and half hours of exercise a week. But if you're looking for something more challenging, take a look at our list of at-home workouts. Also, you can join Sweat 1000 and gain UNLIMITED access to their LIVE and saved workouts on @sweat1000live. Find out more about these workouts and membership fees here.

exercise woman tying her running shoes sitting on the floor

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep and your immune system go hand in hand, and if you're not getting enough sleep each night, you're increasing your chance of catching a nasty flu! Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night while teens require eight to ten hours and younger children need up to 14 hours. If you're not getting enough sleep or are struggling to fall asleep, then consider these quick tips:

individual asleep on sromach in bed with white linens

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water daily is essential for overall health. So naturally, this is absolutely essential in supporting your immune system. The rule of thumb is drinking two litres of water a day, or follow the 8x8 rule – eight glasses of eight ounces (roughly 240ml). If plain water is getting boring, spruce it up with some flavour! Slice some cucumber, lemons, oranges and even strawberries and place them in a jug full of water and let it infuse overnight. This will make your water extra refreshing.

water poured into a glass

Eat Wholesome Meals

To strengthen your immune system, ensure your diet is full of nutrient-rich, whole foods. Include a lot of plant foods in your diet, like fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes as they contain antioxidants that may give you an upper hand against colds and flus. Another must to add to your diet is garlic! It's believed to have antiviral and antibacterial qualities that help fight off colds. And to ensure you get all the goodness you need to build a strong immune system this winter, we compiled a selection of smoothie bowl recipes for you to try.

smoothie bowl filled with fruit

Lower Your Stress Levels

Stress is part of our every day lives. It's something that we all have to deal with. Not only is it not good for our overall health, but it also lowers the effectiveness of the immune system. This is why it is important to learn how to lower your stress levels. This is where you can get creative. You can start by doing the things you love like reading, painting, crafting, exercising, journaling, doing some yoga or meditation. Or, how about drawing the perfect bubble bath? The options are endless.

bath salts with scrub brush and orchid with candles in the background

Take Supplements

Support your immune system by taking supplements. A few options that are great at helping combat the seasonal sniffles are Vitamin C, Echinacea and Vitamin B12. Take these daily and you're sure to build an immune system made of steel! Vitamin C and Echinacea taken daily can help reduce the duration of colds and Vitamin B12 is important in white blood cell production, which is essential for a fit and fighting immune system. Also, consider taking a daily multivitamin.

vitamins and fruit on a white table

Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is a game of fine balance. We must firstly understand all the factors that may affect the our digestive tract. Then, we must learn to treat our own bodies accordingly to our individual needs. Keeping up with all of this while going about our daily business, may seem impossible. Nevertheless, improving our digestive health may prevent a range of diseases. These include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, asthma and eczema and depression.

Pre-biotics vs. Pro-biotics

People often misunderstand pre and pro-biotics as opposing ways to treat bad gut bacteria. There is also usually an implied competition between these two digestive health supplements. In fact, pre and pro-biotics should be used in conjunction to achieve digestive health. They feed off one another (quite literally), to promote balance in the intestinal tract.

Pre-biotics

Pre-biotics are a type of non-digestible fibres which feed the good bacteria already found in the large intestine. Used simultaneously with pro-biotics, they may increase this good bacteria. Pre-biotics can be found naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, especially ones high in soluble fibre. Examples of foods high in prebiotics include, berries, bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, oatmeal and apples (with the skin on.) Legumes such as lentils, beans and peas are also great sources of fibre.

oatmeal

Pre-biotic supplements come in many strains as well. They may be marketed to aid weight loss, bone health and other illnesses. Make sure to research these supplements thoroughly before paying a bucket load for something you don't need. Regardless, pre-biotics have been shown to decrease inflammation in the intestine. So, make sure to include them in your lifestyle choices one way or another.

Pro-biotics

Pro-biotics are live bacteria found in certain foods or nutritional supplements. They are produced by the process of fermentation in foods such a yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso, for example. Of course, there are many different varieties of yogurt available in stores. Plain Greek yogurt and Bulgarian yogurt varieties are recommend as the most beneficial to digestive health. These yogurts also contain less sugar than flavoured varieties. If you are put off by the tangy taste of plain yogurt, add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of natural honey to your serving for extra sweetness.

Alternatively, make a batch of your own sauerkraut at home. All you will need is about 1 kg of white cabbage, sea salt, an empty glass jar, large mixing bowl and a tea towel.

sauerkraut

Method:

  1. Sterilise the glass jar, mixing bowl and any other utensils you will be using. Make sure your hands are impeccably clean as well.
  2. Grate or shred the cabbage to your desired consistency.
  3. Place the grated cabbage into the mixing bowl. Add 4 - 5 teaspoons of sea salt. (The ratio of salt to cabbage is pivotal to the fermentation process. Experts suggest that you weigh your shredded cabbage to estimate the amount of salt needed. The salt ratio should be between 2.25 - 2.5% of the cabbage weight.)
  4. Rub the salt into the cabbage. It should start to release its own salty brine. Leave the mixture to stand for five minutes before rubbing again.
  5. Transfer the cabbage and brine into a clear glass jar. Press the cabbage down into the jar with a wooden spoon. The brine should just cover the top of the cabbage.
  6. Leave the mixture to ferment for at least 5 - 7 days at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Open the lid after the first day to release pressure. Make sure to keep the mixture pressed firmly down into the jar - you can cover the top with cling wrap or weigh it down with leftover cabbage leaves.
  7. Place your homemade sauerkraut into the fridge once you are happy with its taste and texture. It should keep for between one week to a month refrigerated.

Adapted from BBC Good Food Recipes

Supplements

Pro-biotic supplements are also readily available from health stores and pharmacies. Dischem has a wide range of pro-biotic supplements available.

However, it is important to remember that there are millions of pro-biotic strains out there. Each of these may be used to treat a different set of digestive problems. Therefore, always consult your doctor first to find the right strain for you. You may have to use more than one kind to achieve gut balance. Using one type of pro-biotic supplement for an extended period may also prove ineffective. This is why it is so important to include as many fermented and fibrous foods in your diet as possible.

Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is a game of fine balance. We must firstly understand all the factors that may affect the our digestive tract. Then, we must learn to treat our own bodies accordingly to our individual needs. Keeping up with all of this while going about our daily business, may seem impossible. Nevertheless, improving our digestive health may prevent a range of diseases. These include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, asthma and eczema and depression.

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

People often misunderstand pre and probiotics as opposing ways to treat bad gut bacteria. There is also usually an implied competition between these two digestive health supplements. In fact, pre and probiotics should be used in conjunction to achieve digestive health. They feed off one another (quite literally), to promote balance in the intestinal tract.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fibres which feed the good bacteria already found in the large intestine. Used simultaneously with probiotics, they may increase this good bacteria. Prebiotics can be found naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, especially ones high in soluble fibre. Examples of foods high in prebiotics include, berries, bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, oatmeal and apples (with the skin on.) Legumes such as lentils, beans and peas are also great sources of fibre.

oatmeal

Prebiotic supplements come in many strains as well. They may be marketed to aid weight loss, bone health and other illnesses. Make sure to research these supplements thoroughly before paying a bucket load for something you don't need. Regardless, prebiotics have been shown to decrease inflammation in the intestine. So, make sure to include them in your lifestyle choices one way or another.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods or nutritional supplements. They are produced by the process of fermentation in foods such a yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso, for example. Of course, there are many different varieties of yogurt available in stores. Plain Greek yogurt and Bulgarian yogurt varieties are recommend as the most beneficial to digestive health. These yogurts also contain less sugar than flavoured varieties. If you are put off by the tangy taste of plain yogurt, add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of natural honey to your serving for extra sweetness.

Alternatively, make a batch of your own sauerkraut at home. All you will need is about 1 kg of white cabbage, sea salt, an empty glass jar, large mixing bowl and a tea towel.

sauerkraut

Method: 

  1. Sterilise the glass jar, mixing bowl and any other utensils you will be using. Make sure your hands are impeccably clean as well.
  2. Grate or shred the cabbage to your desired consistency.
  3. Place the grated cabbage into the mixing bowl. Add 4 - 5 teaspoons of sea salt. (The ratio of salt to cabbage is pivotal to the fermentation process. Experts suggest that you weigh your shredded cabbage to estimate the amount of salt needed. The salt ratio should be between 2.25 - 2.5% of the cabbage weight.)
  4. Rub the salt into the cabbage. It should start to release its own salty brine. Leave the mixture to stand for five minutes before rubbing again.
  5. Transfer the cabbage and brine into a clear glass jar. Press the cabbage down into the jar with a wooden spoon. The brine should just cover the top of the cabbage.
  6. Leave the mixture to ferment for at least 5 - 7 days at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Open the lid after the first day to release pressure. Make sure to keep the mixture pressed firmly down into the jar - you can cover the top with cling wrap or weigh it down with leftover cabbage leaves.
  7. Place your homemade sauerkraut into the fridge once you are happy with its taste and texture. It should keep for between one week to a month refrigerated.

Adapted from BBC Good Food Recipes

Supplements

Probiotic supplements are also readily available from health stores and pharmacies. Dischem has a wide range of probiotic supplements available.

However, it is important to remember that there are millions of probiotic strains out there. Each of these may be used to treat a different set of digestive problems. Therefore, always consult your doctor first to find the right strain for you. You may have to use more than one kind to achieve gut balance. Using one type of probiotic supplement for an extended period may also prove ineffective. This is why it is so important to include as many fermented and fibrous foods in your diet as possible.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a herbal remedy used for the symptomatic relief of colds, influenza-type infections and upper respiratory tract conditions. It helps the body fight the symptoms of these infections by supporting and strengthening your immune system.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants (betacarotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E) can be found in fruit, vegetables, nuts, wholegrains and some meats, poultry and fish. They neutralise free radicals that damage cell membranes and other structures in the body. Free radicals are linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and liver and heart disease.

Cranberry

The superfood is jam-packed with immune-boosting nutrients and antioxidants, and reportedly helps prevent bladder infections, promotes dental health and lowers blood pressure.

Spirulina

Spirulina, another superfood, is a type of algae that has a high nutritional value and significant amounts of amino acids (the building blocks of protein). It helps to boost the immune system, speed up recovery after illness, protect against allergic reactions and maintain healthy skin, hair and nails.

Zinc

Zinc is necessary for the proper function of more than 70 enzymes in our bodies. Besides keeping our immune systems in good working order, it also aids the release of insulin, enhances white blood cell functions, helps with acne and helps to rid the body of harmful metals.

 

Eat fresh, seasonal foods

Yoghurt. Probiotics, or the live active cultures found in yogurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs, which in turn equals a healthy immune system.

Oats and barley. These grains contain beta-glucan, a type of fibre with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than Echinacea. It boosts immunity, speeds wound healing and may help antibiotics work better.

Garlic. The immune booster contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria.

Fish and seafood. Selenium helps white blood cells produce cytokines – proteins that help get rid of the flu virus. Fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, increasing airflow and protecting lungs from colds and respiratory infections.

Mushrooms. Mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, which help to fight infections.

Get a flu shot

Flu viruses change, and every year the flu vaccine is adapted to the virus in circulation that year. The vaccination can reduce the risk of flu by up to 50 to 60%, keeping you away from the doctor, hospital casualty visits, and even hospital admissions. The best time to get a flu shot in SA is before the end of April, but you can still get it at any time during the winter season. Get it at most Dis-Chem and Clicks stores nationwide, plus your local pharmacy, GP, clinic or hospital.

Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before taking any health products.