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Fight off colds and flu

A woman blowing her nose

Combat seasonal bugs the natural way with our expert advice

Colds, flu and seasonal bugs are more common during the winter months but they don’t have to be inevitable. Follow these simple steps from our natural health experts and boost your immunity in time for winter.

Start with the basics

“Make sure your diet is rich in fruit and vegetables and low in sugar and saturated fats,” says Dr David Mantle, medical adviser at nutrition brand Pharma Nord ( “High dietary sugar and fat intake can suppress immune function. Modern food processing methods can leave our diet lacking in key nutrients, so take a high quality multivitamin daily. Beta 1,3 1,6 glucans are also important to activate your natural immune defences.

Try a supplement combining beta glucans with selenium and vitamin D3 for extra immune support.”

Stock up on vitamin C

“Vitamin C is vital for maintaining healthy immune function,” says Helen Bond, state registered dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association ( “Sources include citrus fruits such as strawberries, oranges and blackcurrants, as well as broccoli, peppers and sprouts. Whilst vitamin C will not have any effect on how many colds you catch, research has shown that a daily dose of vitamin C might shorten the length and severity of colds in the ordinary population.”

Try Manuka Honey

“Top of my winter essentials list is manuka honey,” says nutritional therapist Susie Perry Debice ( “It contains methylglyoxal, better known as MGO, a natural antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory compound that helps the immune system fight off infections and has a great reputation for combating throat and stomach infections. A good tip when looking to buy a manuka honey is to check for authenticity. Look for one that originates from New Zealand and has an MGO content of 100 to 250 or above to ensure your money has been well spent. Children or adults who tend to suffer from frequent throat infections may benefit from a lozenge or syrup too.”

For more information on manuka honey, visit

Think zinc

“When taken within 24 hours of symptoms, zinc can reduce the duration and severity of the common cold by up to 50 per cent,” says Dr David Mantle. “Zinc lozenges are effective as they deliver zinc directly to the source of the cold. They can be combined with vitamin C from acerola cherries for extra potency. Acerola cherries are known for their exceptionally high vitamin C content – 30 times that of an orange!”

Stay hydrated

“Adequate hydration is essential,” says Helen Bond. “Water and other fluids helps all of your body’s systems function at optimum levels including your immune system. Drinking plenty of fluid helps the body flush away toxins and ensures that your cells get all of the oxygen they need to function at their best. Water also allows your kidneys to remove toxins from your body plus allows your cells to take in the nutrients they need, whilst expelling waste products. Being well hydrated ensures that your eyes and mouth remain as moist as they need to be so they can repel dirt, dust and other nasties that might cause infection. Being well hydrated also keeps your digestive system in tip top condition so that you can properly digest your food and increase the transit time of removing waste from the body.”

Take probiotics

“70 to 80 per cent of your immune system is located in your digestive system,” explains Marianna Sulic, a nutritionist with Udo’s Choice ( “Research is establishing the importance of supplementing with probiotics as they help support the immune function of the gut by increasing the number of immune cells. Probiotics are the ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria that are normal inhabitants of the intestinal tract. Friendly bacteria help the body to function, maintain health and fight infection. ‘Bad’ or ‘pathogenic’ bacteria can cause intestinal microflora imbalances and lead to ill health. One of the best food sources of naturally-occurring healthy bacteria (probiotics) is live-cultured yoghurt, especially handmade. Similar to yoghurt, the fermented dairy product kefir is a unique combination of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains. Other fermented foods that act as probiotics are sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and kimchi, an Asian form of pickled sauerkraut. The superfoods spirulina and chlorella have also been shown to contain healthy bacteria which helps to increase the amount of both Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the digestive tract.”

A photo of echinacea flowers

Enlist some herbal help

“Take the herbal remedy echinacea at the first sign of feeling run down to help support the immune system to fight off colds and flu,” says Alison Cullen, nutritional therapist with A.Vogel ( New research shows that echinacea reduces the risk of pneumonia and other secondary complications following a cold or the flu, and reduces the likelihood of reinfection. The meta-analysis included six clinical trials with 2,458 participants and found that 65 per cent of infections leading to pneumonia could be prevented by using echinacea, whilst reinfections were reduced by 58 per cent.

Choose vitamin D3

“The ‘sunshine’ vitamin has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties,” says Dr David Mantle. “As just 10 per cent of our daily requirement can come from food, you should consider topping up with a supplement. More than half of UK adults are deficient due to a lack of strong sunlight, particularly during the winter. Choose vitamin D3 as it’s identical to the kind produced naturally in the skin. Oil-based capsules are more easily absorbed by the body. Avoid dry, chalky tablets.”

Did you know?
Sleeping fewer than seven hours a night can increase your risk of catching a cold.

Did you know?
Not washing your hands – especially after using communal telephones, travelling on public transport or touching door handles – is one of the easiest ways to catch a cold, transmitting the common cold virus to entry points in our body like our nose and eyes.

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