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Immunity facts and figures

YHL takes a look at some facts, figures and statistics about colds, flu and the immune system

Stress can weaken the immune system and increase chronic inflammation. Research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine has shown that yoga may help to boost the immune system and decrease inflammation in the body. The analysis of 15 different clinical trials found an overall pattern that yoga reduces pro-inflammatory markers. Most of the research studies involved yoga programmes lasting from eight to 12 weeks.

Here’s another good reason to give up smoking: research has shown that smokers and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke have reduced amounts of vitamin C in their bodies. Vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection. Studies show that smokers require 35 mg more vitamin C daily than non-smokers.

Half a teaspoon of honey before bedtime has been found to be superior in relieving night-time cough symptoms and improving sleep quality compared to over the counter medications. Manuka honey is thought to have added antiseptic qualities.

More than 200 different viruses are known to cause the symptoms of the common cold. An estimated 30–35 per cent of all adult colds are caused by rhinoviruses.

Mushrooms are the only vegetarian food that can make vitamin D as they contain a specific compound called ergosterol. Ergosterol is converted into vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, similarly to how human skin synthesises the vitamin in response to sun exposure. As vitamin D plays a key role in supporting the immune system, give your mushrooms a boost by putting them in the sun for at least 15 minutes.

Oily fish such as sardines, anchovies, herring, salmon and mackerel are rich in omega-3. Omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation which may help to increase airflow and protect the lungs from colds and respiration infections.

Up to 77 per cent of people with flu have no symptoms, according to a study published in The Lancet. However, they can still pass it on to people who are more vulnerable to infection, such as those with underlying conditions and the elderly.

Adults suffer two to five colds each year while school children can suffer seven to 10 colds.

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