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Boost your immunity

How to Boost Your Immune System against Influenza (Flu)

, by AussiePharmaDirect, 9 min reading time

Picture this: winter months from June to September, when the cold winds blow and the sniffles abound. It's a time when tissues become a hot commodity, and hand sanitisers transform into prized possessions. So, what's the deal with this flu season, you ask?

Well, the Australian flu season strikes during the winter months. Just when you thought winter couldn't get any chillier, here comes the influenza virus, ready to party in your respiratory system. The colder temperatures and cosy indoor environments create the perfect breeding ground for these little troublemakers. Not everyone is equally susceptible to catching the flu. Age, overall health, genetics, and previous exposure to similar viruses can influence the immune response. Lifestyle choices, including nutrition, exercise, and stress levels, can also impact immune function. 

So, what can you do to defend yourself against the flu? For those seeking to defend themselves against the flu, we're about to venture into the realm of immune system fortification, exploring various strategies that can potentially bolster your defences against the flu.

Changes to your lifestyle habits

Changing to a healthy lifestyle and maintaining it plays a crucial role in nurturing a strong immune system. The immune system is responsible for defending the body against harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances. Consider the tips below to support your body's defence mechanisms and keep you in the best possible shape.

1. Prioritise getting enough sleep

During sleep, your body repairs and rejuvenates itself, ensuring that all systems, including your immune system, are functioning optimally. With a little experimentation and mindfulness, you can find the best methods available to enhance your sleep quality. Here's why it matters:

  • Immune cell production: Sleep plays a role in the production and release of immune cells, such as T cells and cytokines, which are important in fighting off infections. Sufficient sleep ensures an adequate supply of these immune cells, enhancing your body's ability to respond to pathogens effectively.
  • Inflammation regulation: Sleep helps regulate inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to illnesses. Sufficient sleep allows the body to regulate inflammatory responses, maintaining a balanced immune system.
  • Immune memory and response: Sleep is also involved in the formation of immune memory. During sleep, the immune system can better recognise and remember pathogens it has previously encountered, leading to a more efficient response upon future exposure.

For adults, the National Sleep Foundation recommends getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Children, on the other hand, have varying sleep needs based on their age:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
  • School-age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours

2. Manage your stress effectively

Next, we have the sneaky stress monster. Chronic stress has been associated with accelerated immune system ageing. Research suggests that stress-related changes in immune function can contribute to premature ageing of the immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to age-related diseases. 

In the midst of life's hustle and bustle, it's easy to forget about self-care. If it feels like ages since you last prioritised self-care, it's time to give yourself permission to indulge. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practising relaxation techniques like meditation, engaging in hobbies, or seeking support from loved ones as spending quality time with loved ones can also help foster a sense of connection and alleviate stress.

3. Eat a balanced diet

Now, let's talk about the fuel your body needs – a balanced diet from immune-boosting food. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides the nutrients your immune system craves. Incorporate a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables into your meals, as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While the exact number of servings may vary based on individual needs and dietary guidelines, a general recommendation is to aim for at least five servings per day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests a daily intake of a minimum of 400 grams (or five servings) of fruits and vegetables. To put it into perspective, a single serving is roughly equivalent to:

  • One medium-sized fruit, such as an apple, orange, or banana.
  • A half-cup of chopped fruits or vegetables, like berries, melons, or carrots.
  • A cup of leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, or lettuce.

Remember, this is a minimum recommendation, and exceeding it is even better for your health! The Dietary Reference Intake for lean proteins like poultry, fish, beans, tofu or legumes suggests that adults should consume a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or about 0.36 grams per pound.

4. Take supplements as a way to support immune health

Taking supplements can be a helpful addition to a well-rounded approach to supporting immune health, and one of the prominent brands in the Australian supplement market is Australian NaturalCare. Known for their commitment to quality and natural ingredients, Australian NaturalCare offers a diverse range of supplements to address various health needs.

While it's important to prioritise a nutrient-rich diet as the primary source of essential vitamins and minerals, supplements can offer daily immune support when dietary intake may be inadequate or when specific needs arise. 

Here are some of the essential immune support supplements with their benefits:

Vitamin C: Vitamin C plays a crucial role in supporting the function of various immune cells and helps protect against oxidative stress. While citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens are excellent natural sources of vitamin C, supplements can provide an extra dose when needed.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for immune function and has been linked to reduced risk of respiratory infections. Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but supplementation may be necessary, especially for individuals with limited sun exposure or those living in areas with long winters. 

Zinc: Zinc is involved in various immune functions, including the development and activation of immune cells. It helps support the body's defence mechanisms against infections. While zinc can be obtained from foods like lean meats, legumes, and nuts, supplements may be useful for individuals at risk of deficiency or during times of increased immune demands.

Probiotics: Probiotic supplements can help support gut health, enhance the body's immune response, and reduce the severity and duration of certain infections. However, there are different strains of probiotics that have varying effects on the body due to their unique characteristics and interactions with the gut microbiome.

5. Stay hydrated

Hydration is often underestimated but it actually plays a crucial role in maintaining a strong immune system. It helps ensure the proper functioning of immune cells, including the production and movement of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting off infections. Well-hydrated immune cells are better equipped to detect and destroy pathogens effectively.

To ensure proper hydration, it is commonly recommended to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. While specific water intake requirements according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines vary depending on factors such as age, activity level, climate, and individual needs, generally adults would need to aim for around 8 cups (approximately 2 litres) of water per day. This includes water obtained from both beverages and food.

6. Engage in an exercise regimen

Now, let's get moving! Regular exercise not only benefits your physical fitness but also enhances your immune system. Engaging in moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming can help improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and boost the production of immune cells. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, along with strength training exercises for muscle maintenance and development, and make it a fun part of your routine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidelines that outline the recommended amount and type of physical activity for various age groups to ensure that individuals of certain ages meet their recommended physical activity levels.

Look out for the telltale signs of influenza

As influenza continues to circulate (with the prominent ones being Influenza A and Influenza B), it's important to be vigilant about our health and seek appropriate measures to identify the cause of our flu symptoms. This is also not forgetting the fact there are also differences between Influenza A and Influenza B that you should be aware of. Plus, with the ongoing impact of COVID-19, it's understandable that one may feel confused about the origin of their symptoms. For peace of mind and accurate identification of the viral infection, there are options available.

Now you don't have to take a gander which of these conditions you might be having if you're showing the symptoms because now there are combination test kits by various brands designed to detect both Influenza A/B and COVID-19 viruses! By using this test kit, you can obtain valuable information about your condition and distinguish between influenza and COVID-19. By detecting specific antigens associated with Influenza A/B and COVID-19, the test kit provides valuable insights that can aid in proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you experience flu-like symptoms or suspect exposure to influenza or COVID-19, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or your local health authorities for appropriate testing and guidance.


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