Colds and flu

Updated 09 October 2017

Cold-proof your body

Have you noticed how people, when they feel the onset of cold and flu symptoms, suddenly start medicating themselves fervently in a desperate attempt to ward off the worst?

Have you noticed how people, when they feel the onset of cold and flu symptoms, suddenly start medicating themselves fervently with vitamins, effervescent tablets, special potions, bags of oranges, steaming hot herbal teas and veggie-packed power soups in a desperate attempt to ward off the inevitable? Just take a look around your office and check out the mutis on some of your colleagues' desks and you'll see what I mean.

Whereas all these measures can definitely help to keep the worst of colds and flu at bay, it makes much more sense to cold-proof your body long before you become a victim in the first place. You can do this by boosting your immune system - your first line of defence against illness - with essential nutrients and healthy lifestyle choices on a daily basis.

Instead of relying on a last-minute rescue attempt, a healthy routine will ensure strong immunity in the long-term – lowering your risk not only of colds and flu, but also of all kinds of other infections and diseases. 

Try to incorporate some of the following tips into your lifestyle:

  • Make sure you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night as fatigue lowers your resistance.
  • Reduce your stress levels and learn to relax as too much stress impairs your immune system.
  • Stop smoking - no surprises here. Smoking increases your risk of viral and bacterial disease.
  • Exercise daily. At least 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week will help boost your immunity.
  • Drink enough water to help your body maintain and regulate its systems such as transporting nutrients to cells within the blood and to allow your kidneys to flush out toxins.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. It's one of the easiest ways to prevent infection from bacteria and viruses.
  • Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates (white bread, cake and biscuits), the so-called "bad" fats (trans and saturated fats) and sugar which can lower your resistance and increase your risk for infection.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables daily as they are loaded with antioxidants that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can also interfere with your immune system. Go for the brightly coloured fruits and veggies - purple, blue, red, orange and yellow - as these are especially rich in the three major antioxidant vitamins C, E and beta-carotene. 

Treat your body well today, and it will return the favour tomorrow.


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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