The air is cold, the nights are long, and flu and cold season is well and truly upon us. This year, viruses are back with a vengeance. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, our immune systems are less equipped to deal with common colds and viruses. Fewer social interactions have meant we’ve been exposed to fewer germs, reducing the number of antibodies our bodies use to fight them off (1). So, while things are almost back to normal after the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for us to boost our immune systems to protect ourselves from nasty viruses. Our lifestyles have a big impact on our immune systems, and we can introduce small habits into our daily routines to enhance immunity and keep colds at bay this winter. Introducing the ultimate flu-fighting and cold-combatting daily routine:
6:30 AM – Hydrate
Start your day off by drinking a big glass of water. H2O really is your best friend when it comes to comes looking after your health and topping up your hydration after sleep is important for supporting immunity. Staying hydrated helps to lubricate the mucous membrane barriers in your mouth and nose, your first defence against most viruses. Water aids lymphatic drainage (a system which involves flushing out unwanted toxins, bacteria, and viruses from the body) and carries important nutrients and antibodies to where they are needed (2).
6:45 AM – Get Some Fresh Air
This might sound bonkers on a nippy December morning, but don’t wrap up too warm as the cold air is good for you (see a recent Insta Live we did with Cold Water Immersion expert Anna Gough. who explains how we should embrace the cold and breathe through it) Crucially though, the natural early morning light helps to keep our circadian rhythms in check. This will support the functioning of your immune system (3) and help you to fall asleep at a reasonable time at night (we’ll get on to why sleep is so important for immunity later).
7:00 AM – Move Your Body
For extra immunity points, bring your workout outdoors with you. We love Caroline’s Circuits for her 30-minute strengthening online programs (yes, we’ve done these via a smart phone in the park!) Not only does exercise help you to keep on top of your physical and mental health, but it’s also super important for our immune health. Research tells us that exercise is anti-inflammatory, reduces illness risk, and improves metabolic health and immune defence activity (4). You don’t always have to start the day off with an intense HIIT workout; carving out some time for a gentle morning jog, a quick session on the yoga mat or even 10 minutes of stretching every few hours will not go unappreciated by your immune system.
7:30 AM – (Hot-to-) Cold Shower
Cold water therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years for its reported health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory properties and immune function support. A Dutch clinical trial revealed that 30 days of hot showers that ended with 30-90 seconds of cold showering led to a 29% reduction in sick leave. Combined with regular physical exercise, sick leave was reduced by a whopping 54% (5).
8:00 AM – Nutritious Breakfast
When breaking your fast from the night before, consider the best ingredients to get your body going. Try yoghurt or porridge topped with berries and nuts or seeds for an immunity-boosting start to the day. Yoghurt is packed with immunity-supporting protein and probiotics while oats contain several nutrients involved in the innate and adaptive immune systems including fibre and micronutrients like zinc and iron (6). If you find yourself short on time in the mornings try preparing something the night before to avoid adding to the morning mayhem. Overnight oats are a huge time saver and perfect for sleepyheads out there – we love a bircher muesli, created in the early 1900s by a Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner. He believed eating raw apples cured his own jaundice, so he encouraged his patients to eat raw fruit and vegetables for a healthier life. Oats, grated apple and carrots, spices, raisins, milk and a splash of juice – you’ll thank yourself in the morning for making a Bircher muesli the night before.
8:30 AM – Supplement Time
The easiest way to support your immune system to fight off colds and viruses is to take immunity-supporting vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron and vitamin C, D and A. Leapfrog IMMUNE contains vitamin C and zinc, as well as 250mg of Lactoferrin. Found naturally in cows’ milk, Lactoferrin is a hero ingredient proven to prevent common viral infections and cold-like symptoms (7). An anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory protein, Lactoferrin balances our immune system, encouraging it to fight infection when it needs to before bringing the body back into balance. Chew one chewable Leapfrog IMMUNE tablet every morning – one month on, one month off – throughout flu season to maintain continual immune support. You’ll Leapfrog right over those pesky coughs and colds.
12:30 PM – Eat a Balanced Lunch
Gut health and immunity are intrinsically linked; over half of our immune cells live in the digestive tract. The gut microbiota residing in our digestive tracts regulate immune homeostasis – the balance between eliminating invading pathogens and tolerating healthy self-tissue. To keep our gut microbiome happy and healthy it’s important to nourish it with a diet that steadily increases microbiome diversity (8). A recipe that we’ve been loving recently is Dr Maria Papavergos’ (aka @thelifestyledentist) Chickpea Donburi that’s packed full of colourful veggies and fibre:
1. Mix three delicious and high-fibre whole grains such as brown basmati rice, wild rice, and emmer to make your base. This will add texture and support your gut by slowing down the absorption of carbs.
2. Top with a rainbow of veg. Try roasted squash, beetroot, and chickpeas, as well as some crunchy carrots, and radishes. Sprinkle with coriander, green chillies, and spring onions for an explosion of flavour.
3. Add a fried egg on top for some yolky deliciousness.
4. Grated ginger, garlic, turmeric, lemon juice, sesame oil and soy sauce make for a delicious and healthy dressing to splash over at the end.
3 PM – Breathe
Squeezing in some time for a short meditation could also help you avoid catching a cold. How? Meditation helps regulate the stress response, thereby suppressing inflammation (9). A review of studies on mindfulness meditation also reveals mindfulness meditation has possible effects on cell-mediated immunity and immune system biomarkers (10). Try and squeeze it in before the kids come home! We like Anna Gough for some guided breathwork, or the brilliant Alan Dolan @breathguru who has recorded an anti-anxiety breathwork session especially for Leapfrog.
7 PM – Dinner Time
Making a nutritious dinner doesn’t need to be difficult either. Create a satisfying balanced meal in just 15 minutes with this ‘get creative yourself’ recipe inspired by @lucie_baker on TikTok. The easy formula for a balanced meal divides your plate up for you:
• ¼ plate good quality protein. Salmon is a rich source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids which support immune health by reducing inflammation.
• ¼ plate complex carbohydrate. Lentils or quinoa would work nicely here.
• ½ plate of vegetables. Courgettes fried in coconut oil are a scrummy way to get veg in.
• Thumb-sized portion of fat. A drizzle of tahini and a sprinkle of crispy onions would tie this dish together perfectly.
9:30 PM – Take your Leapfrog SNOOZE
When starting to wind down for the night, releasing stress and easing our minds will get our bodies ready for the restorative sleep necessary to keep colds away. Leapfrog SNOOZE is an anti-anxiety, anti-stress, and sleep-promoting chewable tablet that can be taken 2 hours before bed. As well as Lactoferrin, it contains natural Lactium – also derived from milk – which induces a sense of calm and promotes sleep by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Yes, you can sleep like a baby again.
10:30 PM – Catch those ZZZs
A study revealed that participants infected with a common cold were 2.94 times more likely to develop cold symptoms if they had slept less than 7 hours, compared to their counterparts who had more hours of sleep (11). For optimum immune functioning, we should get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. So don’t skip on sleep; get to bed on time and prioritise sleep to prevent the sniffles this flu season.
Take home message
Supporting your immune system is more important than ever this year in flu and cold season. Incorporating these small adjustments to your daily routine – eating a nutritious and balanced breakfast, moving your body, and taking supplements when you feel you need them – can have a positive impact on your immune health.