Within the last month, our house has been struck by cold viruses and the winter vomiting bug. From speaking to friends and clients I know we are not alone with these infections. As winter progresses it really is important to give your immune system as much support as you can, especially if you already have a chronic ill-health condition such as asthma, ME or diabetes.

Let’s start with the cold virus. Hydration is key here as the membranes lining your ear, nose and throat passages need plenty of moisture to stay healthy and be able to repel invading germs.

Sipping warm fluids like honey, lemon, ginger and turmeric tea soothes any inflammation and improves circulation, helping your immune system fight off the infection. I drank mug after mug of this concoction when I had the cold and it helped enormously! To make it, simply add a wedge of fresh lemon, a thumbnail sized piece of fresh ginger, ½ teaspoon raw honey and one teaspoon of turmeric to hot water.

There has been a lot of attention given to vitamin D lately, and new public health guidelines recommend all adults supplement with at least 1000iu of the vitamin throughout winter. Children and teenagers need it too and are often more exposed to infections due to germs spreading quickly around classrooms.

Vitamin D is essential for immune health so it is worth having your levels checked to ensure you are not deficient. Oral sprays and capsule supplements are widely available and can be taken until spring, when sunlight exposure improves.

Vitamin C is a popular nutrient for immune support and has the ability to impede viral replication, thereby slowing the spread of an infection. Eating more citrus fruits, kiwi fruits, peppers and watercress will help, but if you are really at risk of infection it is advisable to take a supplement too.

Stomach bugs are a real nightmare and can be difficult to avoid. I have been taking probiotics recently (probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive system) and this may be why I didn’t suffer too badly with the bug. Probiotics make up the majority of our immune system and work alongside other nutrients like vitamin D to protect us from infections of all kinds. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, natural yoghurt and kimchee nurture the good bacteria. Traditionally, we ate many more fermented foods than we do now, and including them regularly can be helpful for our immunity.

A favourite herbal tea that I use to ease nausea and soothe an upset stomach is slippery elm tea. The powdered bark of the slippery elm can be bought from healthfood stores and once mixed with hot water and a dab of honey, makes a restorative drink.

With less than a month till Christmas now is the time to give your immune system the boost it needs, to ensure you enjoy the festivities to the full!

- Sally Duffin is a nutritional therapist and writer based in Holgate, York.