It’s that dreaded time of year when coughs and colds are at a high and everyone around you seems to be sniffling and spluttering. With bugs and viruses galore, how can you avoid getting sick this winter? Learn how to boost your immune system naturally, which foods to eat and the best supplements to take for a healthy immune system.
Why do people get sick in the winter?
As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, sickness levels tend to soar. Why?
Firstly, the viruses and bacteria that cause colds and flus spread easier in colder weather. We also tend to spend more time shut indoors, giving bugs the opportunity to disperse through the air and spread from person to person.
Secondly, in winter, our exposure to daylight decreases compromising our Vitamin D levels (which is essential for immune health). Our immune cells also change in winter, reducing our ability to fight infection and control inflammation in the body.
How can you boost your immune system?
Staying well in winter can help balance your mood (avoiding the winter blues) and keep you motivated and energised despite the cold days.
How to boost your immune system naturally
Stay hydrated by drinking warming herbal teas and filtered water. Your immune cells function much better when they are well-hydrated.
Move your body. Regular exercise and movement (such as going for a light stroll) helps you flush out bugs from the body. It also improves your circulation and stimulates your lymphatic system, enabling antibodies and immune cells to circulate more efficiently around the body to detect and remove harmful bacteria and viruses.
Get good quality sleep as when you’re asleep, your body is able to fight off infections quicker. We produce and release a type of protein called cytokines when we sleep. These proteins target infection and inflammation, allowing our immune system to do what it needs to.
Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates like bread and pastries (as these are also high in sugar). Sugar in any form has a negative effect on your immune system and can prevent your phagocytes (the cells that eat up the bad bugs) from working.
Improve your gut health. Up to 80% of our immune cells are located in our gastrointestinal system. So, if you suffer with any gut-related issues such as bloating, constipation or IBS, your immune system may also be compromised.
Foods to boost your immune system
Avoiding carb-laden, stodgy foods and opting for nutritious alternatives is the best way to keep your immune system in check. The following foods contain essential nutrients to increase antioxidant levels, reduce inflammation and provide immune-boosting minerals and vitamins.
Citrus fruits, berries, kiwis and red grapes
Kale, spinach, broccoli, chard and cabbage
Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds
Supplements to boost the immune system
- Vitamin C stimulates the immune system and helps your body produce antibodies and white blood cells to fight off infection.
- Vitamin A supports the mucous membranes (the lining) of your respiratory tract. It prevents bacteria and viruses from penetrating through and causing havoc in your body. Vitamin A also helps you produce antibodies to protect you against future infection.
- Zinc is a key mineral needed for the production and function of your immune cells. With its antioxidant and antiviral properties, Zinc helps protect your cells and promote healing in the body.
- Probiotics are “good” bacteria which help restore and maintain your gut flora to keep your immune system working optimally. If there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, your immune system is likely to suffer.
- Vitamin D primes your immune cells to attack and ward off viruses and bacteria. A lack of Vitamin D can make you more susceptible to getting sick and autoimmune conditions.
Stay well this winter
Avoid getting sick this winter by boosting your immune system naturally. Stay hydrated, avoid sugar, eat immune-boosting foods and get good quality sleep. Supporting your diet with the right vitamins and minerals will help improve your gut function, increase antioxidant levels and stimulate your immune system to fight off the dreaded lurgy.