Staying well this festive season

Winter can be a struggle health wise, especially when children bring home ‘coughs and colds’. With the build-up to Christmas and New Year, we become busy with preparations and planning. It can be a pretty stressful time. If you manage to survive until Christmas day (without getting ill), then we can finally succumb just as we sit down and relax!

So why not anticipate this season by boosting your immune defences and overall levels of health & vitality?

Every day we are exposed to millions of different bacteria, viruses and other foreign bodies. Their aim is to ‘survive’ and use us as their host, creating havoc and in the worst case, overwhelming us. Fortunately, we have our own defence force, the immune system. Its job is to identify what is not part of us, examine it and decide whether it is a threat, in which case it will try to kill or neutralise it. It is a very sophisticated system and can change to adapt to its environment and circumstances.

So how can we help support our immune system?


  • Vitamin C – a nutrient essential for our immune cell response. Vitamin C is readily available in citrus fruit, blackcurrants, pineapple, rosehips, strawberries and green veg including broccoli, Brussel sprouts, parsley, bell peppers, sweet potatoes & tomatoes. Consider consuming traditional honey and lemon drinks (made with juice of ½ lemon) more regularly, rather than just when you are ill.
  • Zinc also supports our immunity. It can be found in meat, especially beef, liver, seafood (oysters, herring), bell peppers, egg yolks, ginger, nuts, pumpkin & sunflower seeds.
  • Garlic is antimicrobial, be brave throw it in your stir fry, add to soups & stews or cook whole cloves with your Sunday roast veg.
  • Onion is antibacterial & antiviral. Cut and leave for 10mins before cooking to allow all the useful compounds to release. Try onion soup.
  • Ginger is anti-inflammatory. Make a fresh ginger root tea with lemon (store root ginger pre sliced in the freezer) or make a ginger, sweet potato & coconut soup (see later).
  • Honey, especially unpasteurised (i.e not heat treated) such as locally produced, is antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial. Sore throat? Take a teaspoon of honey slowly, to ease the discomfort.
  • Stress, has a hugely debilitating effect on our immune function. Be sure to take time for self: get some fresh air, take a ten minute walk, join an exercise class, learn a new skill, socialise, join the local quiz club, get belly laughing!
  • If you can afford it, opt for unprocessed organic foods to minimise intake of immune-suppressing toxins. Try to avoid plastic wrapped fruit, veg and so on.

During an infection:

  • Drink plenty of water. Got to bed early. Grab your lemon & honey drink.
  • Avoid sugar. Sugar can suppress our immunity for up to 8 hours, but it also feeds bacteria, viruses and fungus and promotes mucous production, so it will prolong an infection. At the first sign of illness cut out all cakes, biscuits, sweets and stick to vitamin-rich fruits, such as citrus and berries. Consider those boozy nights out & Christmas parties, work on damage limitation: ensure you try & flush through nasty microbes by drinking plenty of water when you get home, during the night (if you wake) and the following day. Avoid caffeine the day after.
  • Sage inhibits bacterial growth. Try a leaf or two steeped in hot water, then drink. Not to everyone’s taste! Also seems to ease mucous.
  • Beta Glucans are natural sugars found in certain types of mushrooms such as Shitake (add to soups), theycan activate the immune cells of the body and reduce the symptoms and duration especially with respiratory issues. Oats are also a good source, try and find the biggest sized ones you can. Use as an alternative crumble topping, mixed with seeds, dried cranberries and cacao nibs, no need for any fat.
  • Cut out dairy for first few days


Looking to go the extra mile? Boost your levels of good gut bacteria with a quality probiotic capsule or powder, containing high amounts of Lactobacillus and Acidophilus strains. Researchers found young children supplemented with probiotics and a little vitamin C every day, suffered fewer coughs and colds or required less medication if they were ill, reducing the time they were off school.


So hopefully these few tips will help support you through this winter. Stay healthy. Wishing you all a wonderful festive season!