By Kishan Vithlani, Clinical Director at Qured
We typically associate colds and flu with the winter season, but you can catch a virus at any time of the year. This springtime, colds and flu aren’t the only health conditions to contend with, it is also the start of the Hayfever season. Luckily, there are measures you can take to reduce the chances of falling ill this spring and minimise the symptoms of cold, flu and Hayfever.
It’s good to have a balanced diet throughout the year with enough varied fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These foods help us intake sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals needed for healthy body functioning. We tend to gain weight in the winter and eat more carbohydrate-heavy ‘comfort foods’. But this intuitive eating doesn’t necessarily provide us with the extra nutrients we need.
We often think that taking high doses of vitamin C supplements will stop us from catching a cold or the flu, however, there’s little evidence to support this. Nonetheless, we still need enough vitamin C in our diet to maintain a healthy immune system. The NHS suggests 40 mg a day, (there is 72 mg in one potato, and 51 mg in one small orange). Additionally, taking zinc supplements within a day of symptoms beginning may reduce the severity and duration of common cold symptoms.
Our gut contains a large proportion of our immune defences along its mucosal lining so it’s important to keep our gut healthy by consuming probiotic foods with good bacteria such as yoghurt, kefir, and kimchi. This can be helpful to balance the effects of antibiotics if they are prescribed to you during an illness.
If you suffer from dry skin or eyes due to weather conditions, try including more foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These include fish, flax seeds, hemp, and walnuts which are good for skin and hair.
To stay healthy, Vitamin D is an important micronutrient for numerous reasons. Not only is vitamin D thought to be linked to low mood, but also is considered to make people less susceptible to infection or illness. If you suffer from sore joints or muscles, vitamin D may relieve this too. Foods with high levels of vitamin D include oily fish like salmon and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified foods including fat spreads, fortified cereals and milk.
We should try to get all the nutrients we need from our diet as some studies show that many supplements may have little to no effect on the average person. However, it is recommended by The Department of Health that you should take a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement to help maintain healthy body functioning.
To reduce the effects of fatigue, you should avoid eating and drinking alcohol late at night, as this has been said to disrupt melatonin and human growth hormone (HGH). You should also avoid caffeine consumption after 3-4 in the afternoon.
Alongside being conscious of Coronavirus, it’s important that we are aware of different ways to monitor our overall health and wellbeing heading into spring. As the seasons rapidly change, having a balanced diet with a range of vitamins and minerals is crucial to fighting illness, fatigue and maintaining a positive mood for the rest of the year.
The key to managing your symptoms of hayfever is preparation and planning ahead of travel. Firstly, be mindful of where you are going and check the pollen levels before you go. The next step is to make sure you equip yourself with the best strategies to stop pollen sticking to you and following you. This also depends on how hay fever affects you, whether it’s the watery eyes, the runny nose, sneezing or all of it. Firstly try to avoid the amount of pollen you expose yourself to by keeping windows and doors shut, avoid walking or laying on grass and avoid drying your clothes outside.
When you are going out, limit the pollen getting to your mouth and nose by using petroleum jelly around your nostrils, this will stop the pollen getting into your respiratory tracts. You can use well-fitting wrap around sunglasses to limit the pollen getting to your eyes. Once you have been out, remember to change your clothes and have a shower to get rid of any pollen that may have stuck to your hair and body. It’s also useful to realise that pollen not only sticks to you but also to your pets so make sure you keep them clean. You should also remember to regularly vacuum and dust your house to get rid of any buildup of pollen on floors and surfaces.
There is also a link between hayfever and your diet. There are certain foods which are rich in histamine (the component that is released in response to an allergen) and this can therefore worsen your hayfever symptoms.
Common foods include dairy, alcohol, caffeine, fermented foods and nuts, particularly cashews, walnuts, pistachios and almonds. If you are a smoker or around cigarette smoke, this may worsen your symptoms too due to the toxins from the smoke making your respiratory tract more sensitive. There are also foods that can help with managing hay fever. In particular, studies have shown that ginger and vitamin C can be very effective due to their antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. There is also evidence to support the benefits of an increased oral intake of omega 3 to help reduce and prevent symptoms.
Some animal studies have suggested turmeric and onions being effective too but further research is required to determine its uses in humans. For many years, bee pollen has frequently been suggested to help with preventing hay fever by ingesting small amounts throughout the year, to cause desensitisation and prevent symptoms during the spring and summer. Although there is limited evidence to prove this, there is some supporting evidence in animal studies along with other anecdotal evidence indicating the use of locally sourced honey. Fortunately, the above ingredients can easily be incorporated into meal plans and therefore allow you to determine your own conclusions.