Healthspan News

How can a holiday boost your immune health?

Posted 5 March 2015 12:00 AM by Healthspan

According to a new study, published in the journal Emotion, researchers at UC Berkley have discovered that seeing things that are beautiful and awe-inspiring may give our immune system a boost.

The team linked the positive emotions we feel when we see such sights at the Grand Canyon or Niagara falls with a boost to our body’s defenses. More specifically, they found that when we feel awe or are touched by the beauty of nature and art, our body produces lower levels of pro-inflammatory cells called cytokines. These cells are needed by the body, but sustained high levels have been linked to a number of chronic health conditions.

So next time you’re on holiday, spending time taking in your surroundings could even be good for your health. Boosting immunity is important to all of us, particularly at this time of year when winter bugs are doing the rounds. So we asked the experts to give us their top tips for giving your immune system a much needed helping hand.

1. Eat well

The best way to increase immunity is to make sure your diet is full of fresh fruit, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods. ‘An 80g serving of cherries, for example, is packed with vitamin C as well as natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help fight infection,’ says state registered dietitian, Helen Bond. ‘Seafoods are full of protein needed to make infection-fighting white blood cells to help crowd out viruses. They also contain zinc, which may help shorten the duration of colds. Garlic, chicken soup, live yoghurt and mushrooms are all good, too,’ adds Helen.

2. Get moving

Tempting though it is, don’t sink into couch potato mode. Get outside and make the most of the better weather. Regular exercise helps to increase the number of immune cells in your bloodstream says US research. So try to do something - a brisk walk, some gardening or a gym session for at least half an hour most days. Trainer Dan Roberts agrees, but warns it’s all a question of balance. ‘You need enough exercise to help boost circulation and get blood and nutrients to your immune cells but not so much you dent immunity. And if you’re feeling under the weather don’t overdo it.’ Relaxation techniques, such as yoga can help boost immunity, too.

3. Herbal help

Echinacea is a herbal favourite for warding off winter nasties,’ says Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition, Robert Hobson. A study carried out at the Common Cold research Centre at Cardiff University showed that taking it for four months may reduce the risk of catching a cold and lessen its severity if you do catch one.

4. Take it easy

When you are stressed and run down, you are twice as likely to develop symptoms when exposed to a common cold virus,” says GP and medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. “This is thought to be a result of high levels of stress hormones and depleted adrenal glands that interfere with immune function.”

5. Cover up

The virus particles of both the common cold and the flu are spread from person to person. “They may then enter a nearby person’s body through the eyes, nose or mouth,” says GP Dr Roger Henderson, In addition to avoiding people with a cold or the flu, it’s important for us all to wash our hands regularly throughout the day and to avoid touching your face after touching surfaces.

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