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Simple steps to beat the bugs

Rest and relaxation: make sure you get at least seven hours so that your body can heal to stay well this winter

My first visit to Bermuda was Christmas 1996. I remember riding a scooter in shorts and flip flops, scorching my shoulders and loving the warm breeze.

I sunbathed, swam, wore everything you can get away with when you’re 18 and haven’t even heard of stretch marks …. I still remember people pulling up next to us at lights, on bikes, wearing jackets and jeans. I thought they were mad, or at least had a thyroid problem. And yet two decades later (oh my God, that makes me feel old!) I’m the one wrapping up.

When you’re used to the freezing UK, Bermuda in November is warm and dreamy. (Unless it’s Rugby Classic week of course, which is always wet and muddy.

That sounds bad but it’s really a good thing when it comes to men in shorts, no?) I can’t remember exactly when I acclimatised, but I do know that I pulled on boots and dug out scarves the very second the wind got chilly. I love winter clothes, I just don’t like the bugs that come with them.

Everyone around us is dropping like flies and I’m waiting nervously for the fevers and coughs to begin.

Of course I’m a believer that good food and lots of sleep are both amazing for helping to fend off the germs, or at least for making them more short-lived.

The thing is, there’s only so much snot and sneezing you can avoid at primary school and sometimes getting sick is just inevitable.

The silver lining of course is that it’s all brilliant for building up those tiny immune systems, but that’s not much consolation when the small people invade your bed and cough into your face — all night long.

I love my children, in a frenzied, would throw myself off tall buildings for them kinda way, but I’m pretty motivated to keep them healthy and in their own beds. If you’re surrounded by bugs too, here are some tips for boosting immunity all-round. Good luck!

1. It’s about what you do, but what you DON’T DO, too

Avoiding the negative is just as important as embracing the positive. There’s no point washing down vitamin C with Coke or following your salad with a doughnut. Eating junk contributes to what we call the “toxic burden”. Your body has enough of a challenge dealing with germs and an absolutely massive amount of pollutants in your immediate environment and food supply. Keep in mind that your diet should build you up, not knock you down. Choose food that nourishes you!

2. Easy on the sugar

Several studies point to depressed immune function for at least a few hours after consuming lots of sugar, so cut back on processed options and look for naturally sweet things instead.

Medjool dates, fresh berries, a little dark chocolate. Replace sodas with Spindrift seltzer (Devil’s Isle) or La Croix infused sparkling water (Supermart).

3. Get enough sleep

Simple, but essential. Make sure you get at least seven hours so that your body can heal and restore. I say this while checking the clock and it’s just past midnight at Natural HQ. This is a case of do as I say, not do as I do!!

4. Exercise

Exercising regularly will improve the quality of your sleep. People who exercise are also less likely to get colds and flu, so at the very least try and go for a 30 minute walk, daily.

As an extra bonus, working out also helps to drain your lymph nodes and sweat out toxins, so let’s get moving.

5. Catch it early

We all know that prevention is better than cure. If you can tell you’re coming down with something, don’t leave it too late to rest up!

Eat well, get an early night and you might just bounce out of bed the next morning. If you don’t, remember that you’re usually most infectious in the early stages so avoid dragging your germs into the office. If I could write you a note, I would!

6. Go herbal

Hot drinks are obviously comforting if you have a cold or flu, but try and avoid regular tea and coffee. Instead, try good-quality herbal teas such as Pukka, Yogi or Traditional Medicinals, all of which have therapeutic combinations. For a sore throat, try Throat Coat (Supermart, Down to Earth, Lindo’s) which is very soothing. I’m also a huge fan of Olive Leaf Extract (Down to Earth) for its immune-boosting properties, but if you are on any medication or have a health condition, remember to run it past your physician first.

7. Steady-stream the antioxidants

I know it’s tempting to knock back thousands of milligrams of vitamin C but the reality is that there’s only so much you can absorb at once.

If you do supplement, I suggest you divide your doses through the day and be consistent. Nothing is better than real food though, so eat a steady stream of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. Usually, the darker the natural pigmentation, the more potent the nutrient value, so pack lots of dark, leafy greens into your diet, as well as butternut squash, berries and peppers.

8. Try zinc lozenges

Zinc lozenges can be really helpful for boosting immunity and Down to Earth usually carry a good one by Zand. I also like the chewables from Solgar (also Down to Earth) which are easily broken up into smaller doses for children.

If you’d prefer food sources — go for grass-fed beef/lamb, pumpkin seeds, sesame, cashews, quinoa and shrimp.

9. Get the right kind of bacteria

Your gut is at the heart of your immune function, with much of the job being done by the friendly bacteria living in your digestive tract.

Refined sugars, alcohol, the contraceptive pill, other medications, stress and parasitic infections can all deplete friendly bacteria over time. Build up your reserves with plain, live yoghurt, unsweetened kefir (or other fermented options) or supplement with a quality brand such as Solgar, Kyo-dophillus or Life Extension.

10. Ease up on stress

Stress usually impacts sleep but also depletes the body of nutrients needed to boost immunity. On top of that we usually eat badly when we’re stressed, reaching for short-term fixes (caffeine, sugar ...) that make the long-term picture worse.

It’s easy to say “de-stress” but of course that can be very hard to do. Small changes add up though, so delegate where you can, offload excess commitments and make sure you take yourself off the back burner!

•The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns is the managing director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda