As the daylight hours fade, you’ll probably find yourself desperate to dodge the common cold. It’s true that winter has an impact on our immune system but thankfully, there are some things you can do right now to help.
From sleep hygiene to fermented drinks, here are five ways to boost your immune system naturally this winter.
1. Try to maintain a balanced, healthy diet
It goes without saying that maintaining a balanced diet is the foundation of good health. But what does that look like during winter?
It’s said that if 80% of your diet is made up of nutritionally dense food, you’re striking a good balance. So if you crave hearty meals and comfort foods throughout winter, enjoy the treats but make sure to get in your nutrients.
Sources of essential nutrients include:
Fruits and vegetables for daily doses of vitamins (vitamin C is one of the best vitamins to boost our immune system)
Whole grain carbohydrates for sustained energy
Quality sources of protein to support every cell of your body (including antibodies for the immune system)
Healthy fats for improved brain function and reduced inflammation
Bonus tip: get regular helpings of fermented foods and drinks.
Fermented foods and drinks get a special mention because they're packed full of health benefits thanks to the live bacteria created in the process. The microorganisms present in fermented food have a positive impact on the gut microbiome which plays an important role in the human immune system.
Eating more fermented foods and drinks could look like...
Topping your meals with kimchi or sauerkraut
Enjoying fermented drinks like cordials, kombucha, and kefir.
Adding deep flavour to dishes with miso paste
It’s important to enjoy food as a way to experience culture, community and creativity. But if you want to boost your immune system too, consider a balanced diet with lots of variety and fermented foods and drinks.
2. Pencil in regular exercise
When you’re in the midst of the colder darker days, motivation for exercise is hard to find. While hibernation mode may be tempting, studies show that, along with being a fantastic way to maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise supports a healthy immune system as well as reducing the risk of heart disease.
But maybe you don’t want to leave the house
The beauty of the modern-day is that you don't even have to leave your home to get a good workout. There are apps, YouTube videos and memberships designed specifically for exercising from the comfort of your home.
Or maybe you need a change of scenery
On the other hand, you could work from home and crave a change of scenery. Whether it's a physical activity like cycling through the park or walking to the gym, get some fresh air if you’re feeling cooped up.
Plus, simply getting outside can help you maintain a strong immune system.
Listen to your body
The most important thing is listening to your body. It’s not uncommon to feel less energy during the winter so make sure to experiment with different types of exercise. Find something that makes you feel good, otherwise, you’ll find it stressful.
3. Manage your stress levels
Stress in small doses can help you feel motivated, but stress maintained for long periods of time can take its toll on the body. This is called chronic stress and the immune system doesn’t function well when you’re in this state.
Feeling like it’s out of your control?
If you look at everything that's causing you stress, the majority are likely to be external factors you can’t control. Or at least, you can’t control them immediately. While you can’t always control the stressors, you can try to manage the way you respond.
Here are some things you can do
Often, the last thing you want to do when you’re stressed is to eat healthy foods and get your exercise in.
In reality, the things you can control like diet, exercise, and sleep will help your body manage the high levels of cortisol better and prevent too much damage to the immune system function. Consider caring for your emotional health too with calming activities, writing out your feelings, or talking to a counsellor.
4. Try to stay hydrated
Have you noticed that throughout summer, the hot days remind you how important it is to drink up but in winter, it’s the last thing on your mind? Despite the cold, it’s still crucial for a healthy immune system.