Immune System Myths You Need To Stop Believing
It’s almost winter, and you know what that means- flu season. Men are pretty notorious when it comes to the dreaded ‘man-flu’. So, it’s probably for the best that you save yourself (and your partner) the headache. Our immune system is a complex network in the body that is working hard to protect us from all the germ that lurk in the world. But even though immune systems are largely responsible for protecting us from toxins and illness, science doesn’t fully understand it. As pieces of research find out more about this complex system, we find out that some of the myths we’ve been believing are pretty false. Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), Linda Drummond, helps us bust the two biggest misconceptions when it comes to our immune systems.
Myth #1: All I need for a winter immune system boost is a multi-vitamin or more Vitamin C.
“This is probably the most common misconception – that nutritional supplements, or greater doses of one particular vitamin, can be an effective protective solution,” says Linda. Vitamin C does play a role in boosting your immune system, but research shows that taking vitamin C doesn’t actually stop you from developing colds and flu. Other studies show that in some cases, vitamin C can help to shorten the duration of a cold but not prevent you from getting sick. While nutritional supplements are great at supporting improved health for vulnerable people, such as children, the elderly and pregnant women- it doesn’t do much if you are a healthy individual.
Linda says that you should focus on eating a variety of healthy foods, including “lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, dairy, meat, chicken or fish, beans and lentils, and plant fats provides not just Vitamin C, but also the other immune-boosting nutrients such as Vitamins A, D and the B’s, as well as trace elements such as zinc and selenium”. The food that you put in your body is more important than what you supplement with. “Supplements are not the antidote to unhealthy eating. They can help to fill in gaps in an otherwise healthy eating plan, and you should get your dietitian’s advice on this”, says Linda. Simply put- there is no substitute for healthy eating.
Myth #2: To improve my immunity in winter all I have to do is focus on the food I eat and the supplements I consume.
Nope, not true. “While healthy eating is a vital immune-boosting strategy, and nutritional supplementation may be necessary for you if you have a compromised immune system. It remains one critical aspect of having an effective immune system during the challenging winter months”, says Linda. Our bodies are complex thus we need loads of things to help keep us performing at our best. So, we need sufficient sleep, regular exercise and a positive mental and emotional state. Meaning that during winter, we need to focus on our whole body and lifestyles in order to develop our resistance to illnesses. Linda advises that “we must get enough quality rest that is balanced by also getting daily physical exercise. We need to take regular action to manage stress, develop mindfulness and be in charge of our disruptive emotions”.
Okay, now that we’ve busted the two biggest immune system myths- how do you boost your immune system? Linda gives us tips to achieve that much-needed boost.
- Eating healthily by focusing on a variety of minimally processed quality foods. Aiming for at least five colourful vegetables and fruit daily.
- Keeping high energy, sugar salt and fatty foods to a minimum. That means no overindulging in highly processed foods.
- Staying warm, especially at night.
- Being active for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Keeping stress and anxieties to a minimum.
- Take care to keep good hygiene.
Related: Flu-Beater Bacon Recipe