Stop winter viruses and infections with a healthy and balanced immune system

Winter Viruses

For as long as I can remember, everyone in my family has taken live bacteria probiotic capsules, including my daughter-in-law when she was pregnant with my first grandchild to boost our immune system. She also took my Omega 3 capsules throughout her pregnancy. My mother, who is almost 82, never misses a day of taking her probiotics.

When my granddaughter, Jessie, started attending nursery in spring, 2021, she seemed to pick up one virus after another. We put her on a child’s probiotic as well as giving her lots of full fat Greek yoghurt and bone broth.

As a family, we take probiotics, not because we are plagued with gut disorders. We take them for the overall benefits of ‘friendly’ bacteria, including:

  • helping to give us a resilient and strong immune system, able to protect us against viruses and bugs and prevent inflammation and infections
  • helping to properly digest food
  • absorb nutrients
  • manufacture important vitamins and hormones (including the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin, around 90% of which is manufactured in the gut)
  • ‘crowd out’ pathogenic, disease-causing strains of bacteria, fungi and yeasts
  • reduce the risk of bowel infections like Clostridium difficile
  • reduce our risk of colo-rectal cancers

Effectiveness of our immune system:

We are all in rude health and are grateful for it, and although we have good genes in the family, we attribute the effectiveness of our immune system, and the protection that it gives us to the ongoing support we give our gut.

This winter, with Covid-19 and its variants joining all the usual ‘bugs’ that tend to be rife during the colder months of the year, having a strong immune system is paramount. When you have an abundance of ‘friendly’ bacteria in your gut, it’s harder for the pathogenic bacteria and viruses (the ones that come with a cold or flu) to take hold. Probiotics also help the body to produce certain vitamins and hormones that help keep us strong, physically and mentally.

The good bacteria form a barrier along your intestinal lining to prevent bacteria and viruses from passing through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream. Even if the bacteria or virus get through, the friendly bacteria actually communicate with your body to produce substances that neutralise the bacteria and/or virus before they cause damage. In short, supplementing with probiotics is the easiest way to build up your good bacteria and keep your immune system supporting you all year long.

By fine-tuning certain aspects of your health routine, such as diet and stress management, you can help strengthen your immune system’s defence against bacteria, toxic chemicals, and viruses that cause conditions like the common cold and flu.

Let’s not forget about hand washing:

It is important that you wash your hands regularly with hot, soapy water, especially before eating, preparing food, and always after touching door handles, etc in public places. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, anti-bac soap either. If you’re not sure how to wash your hands correctly, this may help.

Immune System - Handwashing

Dietary and supplement advice:

  • Take live bacteria probiotics daily – up to 80% of the immune system resides within the gut, so keeping your microbiome healthy and diverse will help in preventing you from becoming ill. Take one capsule twice daily before meals
  • Consume probiotics from food as well wherever you can – good sources include: kombucha, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurts with added cultures (I recommend the dairy-free Coconut Collaborative yoghurts)
  • Eat zinc-rich foods as this is an important component of the immune system; foods containing zinc include grass-fed meats, shellfish, chickpeas, eggs, pumpkin seeds and nuts
  • Get your vitamin D levels checked, and if your levels are low then take a supplement to boost your levels. Try and spend 30 minutes outside in the winter sun whenever you can, without SPF on, so that you can absorb the vitamin D from the sun
  • Ensure you’re eating plenty of oily fish, at least three times weekly. If not, consider supplementing so that you are getting plenty of anti-oxidants, especially through the winter months. Check out our high-strength Omega 3 fish oil capsules here, full of healthy essential fatty acids. Take one capsule daily with food
  • Medicinal mushrooms can be used to modulate the immune system and reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections. You can get these in supplement form, or you can buy shiitake mushrooms and add them to your meals (stir-fries, soups, etc). The beneficial ingredient in the mushrooms is beta glucans. Beta glucans can also be found in oats, so try starting your day with a bowl of porridge
  • Make sure you are including plenty of vitamin C in your diet; you can get vitamin C from the following foods: broccoli, cauliflower, papaya, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, carrots, bell peppers and kiwis. You can also take a vitamin C supplement, but make sure each capsule contains a minimum of 1000mg to have a therapeutic effect.
  • Coconut oil has anti-viral properties so use it when cooking
  • Garlic is anti-viral so try and add this to your meals or take it in supplement form. You can check out our high-strength aged, odour-controlled Garlic tablets here. Take one tablet daily with food
  • Green tea and manuka honey also have anti-viral properties, so you could add a teaspoon of honey to your green tea
  • Bone broth is extremely nourishing, and provides lots of minerals and nutrients to improve your gut health and, in turn, your immune system
  • Try taking Echinacea – in September of every year, I begin to take Echinacea tincture daily in water, made up by my medicinal herbalist. I take it daily until the end of March. Echinacea has a long tradition of helping to support the immune system and reduce infections
Immune System - Nebuliser
Ultrasonic mesh nebuliser and portable pocket inhalator
  • None of us know what’s going to be facing us this winter with Covid-19, its variants and other viruses and bugs, so I think it a good idea to have a nebuliser at home and a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide kills pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and has been shown to help reduce symptoms of colds and flu, especially respiratory issues, as well as rhinitis, sinusitis and throat infections. Put three parts water and one part 3% hydrogen peroxide in the tank, and begin using the nebuliser at the first signs of any infection so as to try and avoid having to use antibiotics. If I’ve been mixing with lots of people, I will use my nebuliser too, because you don’t know what viruses and bugs people may be carrying, so it can be used as a preventative too
  • For full details on how to use a nebuliser with hydrogen peroxide, check out this very helpful video from Dr. David Marquis
  • If you don’t have a nebuliser, you can pick up a reasonably priced one like this.
Immune System - Meditation

Lifestyle advice:

  • Try to reduce stress where possible, taking time to relax, as stress dampens your immune system. This includes making sure you are getting enough sleep, as sleep deprivation also reduces the effectiveness of your immune system
  • Exercise (of any kind) for 30 minutes every day helps to boost the immune system. Avoid over-exercising when you are feeling run down though, as this will lower your immune defences

Food combinations that promote a healthy immune system:

  • Porridge with pumpkin seeds and berries
  • Fresh pressed juices with oranges, kiwis, red pepper, carrots
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi added to the side of meals
  • Pan-fried shiitake mushrooms with fresh garlic and wilted spinach on toast for an immune boosting lunch
  • Fresh soup, using lots of vitamin C-rich vegetables. Check out my gluten-free and dairy-free recipes, that include lots of nourishing soups, lunches and dinners, full of healthy immune-enhancing ingredients.
  • Sip on green tea throughout the day with a teaspoon of manuka honey
  • Include bone broth in your daily cooking

Kate, who now takes my Live Bacteria probiotics regularly, recently contacted me, as she feels very different this winter compared to previous years.

“I thought I would mention to you one of the outcomes I attribute to continued use of the Live Bacteria capsules – this winter, I haven’t had a cold or indeed any ‘winter bugs’ (unheard of for me, as I’ve always come down with streaming colds in the winter months). My tongue, which can sometimes be coated, is clear and I think this is also down to the gut-balancing effects of the Live Bacteria, enabling proper absorption of nutrients and hopefully fortifying my immune system.

If that is the case, especially in view of having gone through a pandemic, I feel it is worth highlighting these positive effects to encourage people to be more aware of the importance of balancing the gut in order to support proper absorption of nutrients, which in turn supports the immune system.”