Lorraine: Dr Hilary busts cold and flu myths
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“If a person really is getting one cold after another but are seemingly ‘healthy’, I would be asking to look deeper at their diet and lifestyle,” said Dr Jenna Macciochi. The health and disease specialist said that there is now “a large body of evidence” that shows the incidence and severity of illness is increased in people who have low vitamin D reserves. “Approximately one in five Brits have low vitamin D levels,” Dr Macciochi highlighted. “And that vitamin D deficiency makes you three to four times more likely to catch a cold.”
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms
Dr Sarah Jarvis, writing on behalf of Patient, cautioned that low levels of vitamin D can lead to the weakening and softening of bones in adults; this condition is known as osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis (i.e. thinning of the bones) increases the likelihood of fractures.
While many people may not experience symptoms of deficiency, some may complain of feeling tired or achey.
“Because symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are often very non-specific or vague, the problem is often missed,” Dr Jarvis added.
The NHS recommends children from the age of one, and adults, to take daily vitamin D supplementation daily – especially during the autumn and winter.
If, however, you have been topping up on vitamin D supplements daily, but still find yourself falling ill, what could the problem be?
Dr Macciochi said: “The other thing to consider is whether someone is inadvertently suppressing their immunity by being stressed.”
The stress response is orchestrated from the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, Dr Macciochi explained.
The HPA leads to the production of cortisol and adrenaline, which should be switched off once the threat has passed.
However, when a person experiences bouts of chronic stress, the HPA goes into overdrive.
Then the overdrive of HPA could even serve as a further source of stress, dialling down the immune system.
For those who continually feel under the weather, lethargic, and unwell, Dr Macciochi shares her advice.
“It’s worth asking yourself, can you factor in 15 minutes a day to an activity that empties your stress cup?
“For example, a walk in nature or even just five to 10 minutes of sitting mindfully away from screens,” Dr Macciochi said.
“Or engaging in an activity that can make you feel so much happier can be a great activity to help de-stress.”
People who seemingly have a weakened immune system could also be lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals you get from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
“Higher fruit and vegetables intake is scientifically shown to give us better protection from infections and prevent chronic disease,” Dr Macciochi emphasised.
While the NHS tells you to aim for at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily, Dr Macciochi recommends you should be working towards “eight or more” daily.
“Alternatively, you may want to add more plant fibre through adding a handful of beans or lentils into your favourite dish,” she added.
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