Q & A: How to beat colds and flu

“I keep on getting colds and flu. What can I do to strengthen my immune system?”

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer answers.


Did you know that echinacea gets its name from the Greek word for prickly hedgehog? This is because of the pointed scales on the dried flower heads. But you can avoid feeling prickly this winter by taking Echinacea!

Echinacea is a well-known herb that has been used for centuries to ward off colds and other nasty bugs.  It supports the immune system by increasing white blood cell production, helping to protect the body from infection.

It’s particularly effective if you’ve been around people with colds and you want to protect yourself from catching one too. But if you’re unlucky enough to pick up a cold or flu this winter, echinacea also contains natural anti-viral substances, helping to lessen those annoying symptoms.


A member of the geranium family and native to South Africa, pelargonium has recently been enjoying a surge in popularity as a natural alternative to antibiotics.

Start to use pelargonium at the very first sign of a cold, whether that’s a sniffle or a sore throat: Research shows it helps to kick-start your body’s natural defences as well as helping to relieve typical cold symptoms such as a sore throat and nasal congestion. It may also prevent secondary infections such as bronchitis, which can prolong the misery of any cold or flu episode


Zinc is one of the hardest working minerals and shell fish are packed full of it! While clams, crab, lobster, oysters and mussels may not be part of your average weekly shop, when it comes to boosting your immune system, these zinc-filled fish should be top of the list.

Zinc plays an essential role in supporting the immune system. It also works in partnership with immune-boosting vitamin C, so squeezing some lemon over your delicious shellfish makes complete sense!

However, if you are not a fan of shellfish, eggs and wholegrains such as brown rice, pasta or quinoa, also provide good amounts of zinc. But if you are, why not combine the two and create a nutritious paella, with brown rice and a range of shellfish – an immune-boosting, zinc-filled treat!


A healthy digestive system is key to having a strong immune system. The live cultures in yoghurt have a positive and protective effect on the immune system by supporting your digestion.

Look for yoghurts with high levels of friendly bacterial strains or cultures; yoghurts that feature the word ‘bio-cultures’ contain lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains, and these are found in the largest numbers in the digestive tract, which makes them the most beneficial for health.

Try to avoid the fruit and sugar-laden yoghurt varieties – sugar actually destroys the good bacteria that naturally reside in the body.  But if plain yoghurt is just too bland, then why not eat it with some blueberries? Blueberries are high in antioxidants and also provide support for the immune system – another bug-busting superfood to add to the list.