It’s that time of year again! During the winter months, we become more susceptible to illnesses such as the common cold and flu, although it is not fully understood why this is. In the most part symptoms are mild - a runny nose or a chesty cough. However, the flu can cause more severe symptoms which can lead to young players missing school and football training. It is therefore important that that we do all we can to prevent these illnesses. Looking after our immune system is essential to help reduce the risk of becoming ill. Here are some simple, easy tips to try and reduce the risk of the ‘winter sniffles’.
Drink plenty of water
White blood cells, which circulate in our blood and lymphatic system, fight infections in our bodies by attacking any foreign bacteria, viruses, or germs. Dehydration can impact blood flow and the flow of lymph fluid, impairing our ability to respond to infection in the body. It is therefore important to stay hydrated during the winter months. Encourage your son to drink plenty – try some hot water with sugar-free squash or honey and lemon!
Increase fruit and vegetable consumption
Fruit and vegetables contain lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that help boost our immune system and keep us healthy. Our bodies cannot produce these nutrients naturally, nor can our body store many of them, therefore it is important to consume these regularly. During winter months, when our immune system can be compromised this is particularly important. Players should aim to ‘eat a rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables each day i.e. a range of colours of fruits and vegetables. Different colours of fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals e.g. red/orange fruits and vegetables are high in Vitamin A which supports healthy immune function. Players should ideally aim for 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit per day. One pot dishes and smoothies are a great way to include ‘stealth’ fruit and veg into a young player’s diet. Try our Peach and Ginger Immune Booster or our Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry.
Consume oily fish at least twice a week
During the winter months, our bodies can become deficient in Vitamin D, a.k.a. the sunshine vitamin, due to lack of sunlight exposure on our skin. Vitamin D deficiency can impair immune function and increase a player’s risk of illness and infection. Foods such as liver, eggs, and oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines all contain Vitamin D. Try this Mackerel Fishcake recipe as recommended by Chris Lomas, our Performance Nutrition Chef here at Finch Farm.
The digestive system plays an important role in supporting the immune system. Probiotic drinks such as Yakult, promote the development of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, which helps maintain a healthy digestive system and ensures nutrients are absorbed effectively. Aim for one of these per day.
Our hands are in constant contact with the surfaces around us. As a result, it can be particularly easy to pick up germs in communal areas such as classrooms, changing rooms, and in the gym. Washing hands with warm water and soap regularly throughout the day can help prevent these germs spreading. Key times to consider washing our hands include after toilet use, public transport use, gym sessions, use of communal equipment (e.g. computers) as well as before and after eating. Additionally, try to avoid hand-to-face contact where possible, as our nose and mouth provide a gateway entry for these bacteria to enter our bodies. As hand washing facilities may not always be available, carrying a small alcohol-based sanitiser gel can help kill bacteria and keep our hands clean. These are positioned throughout the academy and players are encouraged to use them regularly.
Our immune function can become impaired if we do not get sufficient rest. Young players should be aiming for at least 8 hours sleep each evening. Aim to limit use of electrical devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops etc., before going to bed as these can increase mental stimulation and affect sleep quality.