With the temperatures dropping and the clocks moving to shorter daylight hours, winter seems to be on its way. This time of year also signals the season of coughs and colds, so how can you best support your immune system to avoid picking up every cough or cold that’s flying around or the kids bring home from school? Here are my top 10 ways to help build resilience and keep you thriving this winter.
Eat a diet rich in natural foods
Aim to focus your diet on real food that comes from nature rather than foods that are heavily processed or have lots of added ingredients. There is plenty of research linked to immune health and longevity that supports the Mediterranean diet as a really good way of eating. So, what does this mean? Well it is all about seasonal, local foods, eating plenty of fish, lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some grains.
Eat the rainbow
Do you eat a rainbow every day? Eating a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables will help you benefit from phytochemicals, plant compounds which protect your cells from damage, support your immune system and help to reduce inflammation in the body. Fruit and vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamin C, essential for immune function.
Fibre rich foods
Looking after your gut bacteria is vital for immune health. Almost three quarters of your immune cells are located in your digestive system so feeding your gut bugs will benefit your immune health. Fibre rich foods such as vegetables and fruit, including asparagus, green bananas and artichokes, wholegrains and legumes are all fantastic sources to keep those gut bugs happy.
Ensure you are eating plenty of healthy fats. Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as walnuts and flaxseeds help to reduce inflammation and regulate immune response.
Soak up the sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D is vital for the immune system to be balanced and working appropriately. The best source of vitamin D is from the action of sunlight on your skin, so getting outside and exposed to natural light is key. As winter approaches our opportunity for absorbing sunlight reduces therefore supplementation may be necessary to help maintain good levels. If you think you might be deficient in vitamin D it is advisable to get tested before considering supplementation. We can also get some vitamin D from our diet; food sources include oily fish and eggs.
Avoid those snack attacks
How often are you eating? Are you a three meals a day person or do you like to snack? These are things worth considering when it comes to immune health as constant grazing can inhibit immune function. Try to focus your diet on eating three satisfying meals a day without snacking, to give your body time in between meals to rest, digest and repair.
Supporting resilience is not just about eating a healthy diet, our lifestyle is equally important. There are lots of lifestyle factors that can also support immune health.
The Power of Sleep
Sleep is crucial to our health. It is as important to good health as good nutrition and adequate exercise. Without proper amounts of rest and sleep, our ability to concentrate, make judgements, and participate in daily activities decreases and irritability increases.
During sleep our body rests and repairs itself, conserves energy and fixes and consolidates our memories. This is also a time when new immune cells are produced. Aim to get 7-9 hours sleep a night, switch those devices off two hours before bed and ensure that your bedroom is a place that invites sleep.
Are you continually busy and have little time to rest and relax? When we are stressed our immune system cannot function optimally. Maybe it’s time to take stock and assess your stress levels. Anything you can do to manage your stress will be helpful, this could be deep breathing, going for a walk, practicing meditation or mindfulness, or simply chatting to friends and family.
Make sure you are drinking enough
When the temperature starts to drop it is easy to forget to drink, but hydration at this time of year is just as important for our body. Water is essential for life, around 60% of our body is made up of water and it has many important roles, including helping to remove toxins from the body. Drinking plenty of water may help to prevent a build-up of toxins having a negative effect on your immune system.
Keep on moving
We know that exercise is good for us for many reasons, but did you know that it also supports a healthy immune system? Movement promotes good circulation which allows immune cells to move through the body and do their job. Walking, running, yoga or just less sitting at your desk all have a positive effect. If you can get out in the fresh air, you will also increase your vitamin D levels and help promote your sleep, a win all round.
There is plenty you can do to support your immune system this winter. Why not also try my immune supporting Super Smoothie recipe, a quick and simple way to get lots of nutrients into your diet.
Disclaimer: Nutritional Therapy is not a replacement for medical advice, practitioners always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. The information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure any diseases or conditions.