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The immune system involves a complex system of cells that are found throughout your body, explains Andrea du Plessis, nutritional expert at Vital Health Foods. Immune cells circulate through your bloodstream and more of them are found where harmful organisms are most likely to enter your body, such as your respiratory and digestive systems.
Our nasal hairs also help filter out airborne pathogens, helped by our mucus, which traps particles and germs. “With winter upon us, it’s essential to support our immune systems during these colder months,” says Du Plessis. Many factors can affect the functioning of the immune system. Poor nutrition is a major contributor, as the immune system relies on a variety of nutrients to function at its best.
Young children and toddlers are more susceptible to colds and flu mainly because their immune systems have not matured yet. Natural vulnerability to infections, poor nutrition and the ease of virus transmission in a crèche or nursery school environment explain the higher incidence of respiratory infections in children compared with adults.
“Vitamin A in particular is important to help maintain the immune system, and many children under the age of 5 are found to be deficient, which further opens the gate to infection,” says Du Plessis. Foods rich in vitamin A include eggs, liver and full-cream dairy products. Vital has introduced Vital Kids Immune Support, a delicious raspberry-flavoured syrup packed with the immune-support nutrients vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc.
In adults, immune support is more complex. Nutrient shortages are exacerbated by poor eating habits, the increased stress of pressured lifestyles and nutrient depletion due to smoking and the use of medication. Important nutrients to help stave off winter colds and flu are Vitamin C and D.
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Du Plessis advises eating guavas and oranges, which both contain concentrated doses of vitamin C. Sunlight plays an important role in the production of vitamin D, so during the cloudy months, stock up on eggs and tinned oily fish to help get your recommended daily dose of vitamin D.
“Busy lifestyles, lack of sleep and exercise; and stress are all major factors that put the immune system under strain,” says Du Plessis. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week will help stimulate your immune system. And try to get enough sleep: losing even just one hour of sleep can decrease your body’s defenses the next day.
— Essentials magazine (@essentialsmagSA) May 29, 2017
To help you stay healthy this winter we’re giving away a Vital Health Foods hamper worth R2500. To stand a chance to win, simply fill in the form below.
Terms and conditions apply.
This competition closes on 30 June 2017.