As we head into the colder months our lifestyles often change, putting an end to the immune-friendly practices we do so easily through summer. E.g. being active outdoors, getting vitamin D from the sun, and eating a rainbow of fresh, in-season foods. This has a knock-on effect to our immune system, just when it needs to be at its strongest to ward off winter bugs.
So, if you find yourself reaching for comfort food, and spending less time on the move, it’s a good idea to kick build some immune-friendly practices into your routine.
5 ways to build your immune system during winter
- Maintain good hygiene
One benefit of the global pandemic has been the renewed spotlight on hygiene. And while it’s not possible to eliminate all risk while out and about, maintaining a few simple hygiene practices will go a long way towards keeping germs at bay. Using hand sanitiser, carrying tissues to stifle your own coughs and sneezes, and always washing your hands before preparing or eating food are the best habits to stick to.
- Eat a balanced diet
Immune-friendly vitamins and minerals can be found in many food sources. From colourful fruit and vegetables to fatty fish and shellfish, poultry, nuts and legumes, there’s no reason your winter plate shouldn’t be as bright, nutritious and varied as your summer one.
For extra immune support, keep up the bread, milk, yoghurt and cereals during winter, as these foods are commonly fortified with beneficial vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron and vitamin D.
- Manage stress
Stress triggers in our modern lives are many and often seem to go hand in hand with bouts of ill health. This isn’t a coincidence.
The impact of stress on our immune health can be felt in several ways. As well as increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, stress decreases the amount of infection-fighting white cells in our blood, and can lead to anxiety and depression, which have been known to create higher levels of inflammation throughout the body.
Positive stress management can involve simple rituals like meditation or mindfulness, exercise, talking to a friend or loved one, or a quiet activity like reading. Whatever this looks like for you, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Get active
According to this 2016 study, exercise helps boost the production of immune system cells and lowers inflammation in our bodies. So, while it’s tempting to pull up the covers and stay inside, exercising during winter doesn’t need to involve battling the elements. Pay a visit to your local pool or yoga studio, incorporate an easy ride to the shops, or simply rug up, wrap your hands around a warm latte and stroll around your local park, appreciating the winter colours.
- Add a dietary supplement
There are a broad range of dietary supplements that support your immune health. From vitamins C and D, to calcium, zinc and selenium, talk to your pharmacist or GP to determine which combination works best for you.