Winter is without a doubt the most magical season; you get to pull out your winter wardrobe, cosy up by the fire, eat lots of yummy festive foods and although it might have been and gone now - the most exciting part is without a doubt CHRISTMAAAS. But unfortunately, the colder months also see a rise in the number of deaths as an increased number of people suffer from illnesses such as colds and flu. It’s a fact that our immune systems are more vulnerable during the winter and this is in part due to the fact that we tend to spend more time wrapped up by the fire indoors, than we do outside which means that we subsequently absorb less vitamin D – which is essential to fight bacteria, viruses, infection and reduce inflammation. Therefore during the winter, it is more important than ever to take good care of your immune system – which is surprisingly easy if you follow the tips below!
- Don’t Stress Stress is one of the biggest causes of digestive problems and can also lead to inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. When you’re stressed the body produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol which can cause the body to attack itself as it struggles to regulate its inflammatory response. Stress can also cause the body to not produce adequate numbers of white blood cells (which fight off bacteria and virus’) and this can further impair the immune system. Therefore it’s important to identify causes of stress and do what you can to overcome them whether that be through a yoga practice or a walk outside.
- Exercise It has been proven that those who exercise regularly outside are less likely to suffer from illness in the winter months and when they do fall ill, they suffer from fewer symptoms which are also less severe. Being active is also likely to benefit your mental health so make sure you get moving!
- Sleep Lack of sleep has been linked to a weakened immune system and lower levels of white blood cells. Aim for 6-8 hours of good quality sleep per night and if you struggle nodding off, try some meditation or a bedtime yoga flow beforehand.
- Eat Food is one of the most important factors for good overall health, especially the immune system.The smallest change to your diet can have a huge impact on how you feel so by including the 10 flu fighting foods included below, you’re sure to stay healthy all winter.
1. Spinach is one of the most nutrient dense veggies – it contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A and C which help fight infection. Spinach also contains folate which is known for its immune boosting properties as it increases the production of white blood cells.
2. Pumpkin Seeds contain high levels of zinc – a mineral which is more than essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Lower levels of zinc have been linked to a weakened immune system and the mineral has even been proven to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold. Other zinc rich foods include chickpeas, sunflower seeds and cashews.
3. Garlic has natural antibacterial, anti viral and anti inflammatory properties meaning that its great for fighting off colds and flu. It has also been proven to increase the number of t-cells in your blood, which help to fight against viruses. The health benefits of garlic are at their most powerful when it’s raw, so try crushing a clove into your tahini dressing or hummus.
4. Cinnamon doesn’t only boost the immune system, it works at fighting the pathogens which cause illness as it is antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial!
5. Oranges are renowned for their high vitamin C content. This vitamin helps to boost the immune system by attacking the nucleic acid of the virus – and as it can’t be stored by our bodies, it’s important that we include foods which contain it everyday. Other great sources are kale, tomatoes and peas.
6. Root Ginger is beneficial for the digestive system as it aids the secretion of digestive enzymes leading to an increased number of nutrients being absorbed. It also works at reducing inflammation and fighting infection.
7. Turmeric is one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet and also has anti-inflammatory properties which is amazing, seen as inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases which cause health to deteriorate. Try adding a pinch to your morning oats or frothy almond milk for a delicious warming drink.
8. Mushrooms are the only plant source of vitamin D as like humans, they synthesise Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight and they’re also a great source of zinc too!
9. Lemons and Limes both contain high amounts of vitamin C, which as we know is amazing for boosting the immune system but they also contain polyphenols (which have been proven to help fight cancer), making them even more beneficial.
10. Probiotics are essential for optimum health as they help to fight harmful bacteria in the gut – where 70%-80% of your immune system is located! Probiotic supplements are great for keeping your levels of friendly bacteria high but you should also aim to include fermented foods into your diet such as coconut kefir, unpasteurised sauerkraut and kombucha.
What are your top tips for boosting your immunity? Leave them in the comments or let me know on Instagram – here’s to a healthy and happy winter!