How to keep your immune system fighting fit in the winter
Our moods often drop during the winter months, don’t they? This is perhaps because the number of daylight hours can be considerably shorter, the nights will be a lot colder and, well, put quite simply, the weather is a whole lot duller. However, it’s not just our mood that we need to give an almighty boost during these depressing months. Winter can also have a huge impact on our immune system, too. Therefore, we can be susceptible to getting ill. But, what exactly can we do to make sure it is fully boosted and to keep it high?
Here, with vegetable seeds suppliers, Suttons, we take a look at what exactly your immune system is as well as looking at what the best ways are to make sure you minimise illness and keep fighting fit.
What is your immune system?
Put simply, your immune system is precisely what it says it is – a system. It’s not one single entity that you can pinpoint. It’s a network of cells, organs and tissues that work in unison to protect you. This ‘barrier’ helps destroy germs and parasites by trying to get rid of any unfamiliar bodies. If your immune system is healthy, then your body can fight off any harmful bacteria.
Over the winter months, you may find it beneficial to have several immunisations. These can give you a better chance of staying fit and healthy as the cold front hits. For those who are most at risk during the winter months, such as the elderly, you will be entitled to free flu jabs. Some workforces also offer this service to their staff to try to restrict sick days. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you can still pay for the immunisation at selected pharmacies.
In the UK, the NHS recommends that you receive a flu job in either in October or November. However, it’s still possible to have the injection at any point of the winter if you feel it will be beneficial.
Your diet is crucial. You must make sure you eat enough fruit and vegetables. Your immune system is like any fighting force and needs good nourishment to perform well. You should stock your daily diets full of foods enriched in vitamins to give yourself the necessary requirements throughout the year, not just in winter.
Recent research has discovered that certain micronutrient deficiencies, including the likes of zinc, folic acid and iron deficiencies, can alter our immune systems. Therefore, you must make sure you’re doing your upmost to eat foods rich in these nutrients. Items you should be adding to your shopping basket over the coming months include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, poultry and sunflower seeds. Each are packed full of nutrients to help keep your immune system in good condition.
If you don’t think that you can get a big enough intake of vitamins into your diet through your food, health supplements can be a great boost for your body. There are many vitamins in tablet and liquid form that can help you maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
You may find it extremely hard in winter to obtain the satisfactory vitamin D level through your diet alone. Temperatures and a lack of sunshine mean that we don’t receive our natural dosage of the vitamin via the sun’s rays and need to receive our intake elsewhere.
One of the biggest immune system boosters that we have at our disposal is vitamin C. If you don’t receive enough of this vitamin form in your diet — kale and oranges are two nutrient-rich foods — be sure to take a supplement to help keep your levels high. After all, if you lack in this vitamin, you’ll be more prone to getting sick.
While vitamins can be a big help, it’s vital to understand that supplements should not be thought of as a long-term alternative to actual food. It’s much more beneficial for your body if you get these nutrients through a food source as it’s easier to absorb.
When you look out the window and see the dull, dark and cold skies, it’s likely that exercise isn’t high on your to-do list. You may feel more inclined to curl up in front of the fire, but this isn’t necessarily the best option. Exercising can help reduce your chances of getting a cold, flu or other illness as it can help flush bacteria from your lungs and airways.
The change in body temperature when you take part in any form of exercise can also play a significant part in preventing an illness. This is because the rise during and straight after exercise can prevent bacteria from growing and ultimately fight any infection in a similar way it would if you had a fever.
Quit the habits
There’s never a best time to quit smoking or heavy drinking habits, however, you should look to quit if you’re wanting to stay as healthy as possible over winter. Did you know that the toxins from cigarettes are high enough so that your immune system takes a hit and is less effective? And with this brings the ever more likelihood of you becoming ill! A great way to help beat the cravings can be stop smoking gum and lozenges as well as nicotine patches.
Okay, so it may not be as easy as saying it, but it’s key to relax if you want to stay in peak health. This can include monitoring your stress levels. This is an area in which scientists are actively working to discover the exact link as it can be difficult to pin down exactly what a stressful situation means to a certain individual. However, stress has been found to have a strain on your immune system as well as your personal or work life.
As well is cutting any stressful situations wherever possible, be sure you’re not sleep deprived. If you are, you will find yourself being run down, leaving your body susceptible to catching the common cold. During sleep, your immune system releases cytokines proteins. Some of these proteins can aid your sleep, while others can fight off infections and inflammation, meaning it’s crucial to get a good sleep if you are to properly protect your body. It’s recommended that you aim for between seven and nine hours sleep each night.
Following the above tips will give you a good chance of keeping yourself right this winter. It can be a long slog before we reach the bright summer nights once again, but by keeping your immune system working, you won’t feel worse due to illness.