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Why is it that some of us seem to get more ill than others? And is it inevitable or can we take steps to avoid it?
Especially during the winter months, we become aware of all the infections going round and might become concerned about how well our immune system is working. We all want to avoid the dreadful discomfort that comes with an infection, not to mention the disruption it causes in our day-to-day lives.
We are exposed to millions of different microbes (bacteria and viruses) and other foreign bodies every day. Their priority is to survive and they use us as accommodation, either by latching onto our cells or by living inside our tissues, creating havoc and, in severe cases, even overwhelming us. Fortunately, we have a complex and intelligent system - the immune system which acts as the body’s own defence force. Its job is to identify what is not part of us, examine it and decide whether it is a threat, in which case it will try to kill or neutralise it. It is a very sophisticated system and can change to adapt to its environment and circumstances.
So how can we help support our immune system?
The best place to start for the prevention of infections is actually to boost our levels of good bugs! When researchers gave young children probiotics with a little vitamin C every day, they found that the children got fewer coughs and colds. If they did get an infection the symptoms weren’t as bad and they didn’t need as much medication. They also needed less time off school. Further research shows that the bacterial strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG was effective in reducing the number, severity and duration of respiratory tract infections in children., So probiotics, including L. rhamnosus GG, may be the best thing to take all winter to prevent coughs and colds.
Other nutrients that play an important role in the prevention of infections include the following:
Although the above can be used as a preventative protocol against infections, they can also be very beneficial during an infection alongside the following nutrients for further immune support:
What’s best to eat when we are ill?
When you are ill, you start to feel really tired, achy and feverish. This is a sign that your body is trying to fight the infection and it’s trying to make you rest. Rather than fighting the symptoms and reaching for pills, it is better to support your body naturally by resting and having plenty of fluids and nutrients. You can include the following foods:
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 Garaiova I et al. Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015; 69 (3): 373-9.
 Hojsak I et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centres: A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 29 (3): 312-6.
 Kumpu M et al. The use of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and viral findings in the nasopharynx of children attending day care. J Med Virol. 2013; 85:1632-8.
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