Depending on when you’re reading this winter may well be on the way and that means it’s more important than ever to ensure our immune system is in tip top condition.
There’s more colds as well as flu around at this time of year and they’re easier to catch seeing as we spend so much more time indoors with friends, family and work colleagues.
But we can build up our defences so that if we do fall prey to a virus it won’t be as long-lasting or as nasty. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways we can boost our immunity. First though, what is our immune system and how does it work?
How our immune system works
A system of cells, tissues and organs that work together to keep us healthy, the immune system is the body’s defence system against illness. It prevents bacteria and viruses from entering our systems by gearing up and fighting them with ‘good’ white blood cells. These are known as phagocytes and lymphocytes. The former attack foreign substances while the latter release antibodies.
Top ways to boost the immune system
There are quite a few ways to give our immune system a better fighting chance against foreign invaders.
Eating a balanced diet
Vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D are known to be good for the immune system. So too are the minerals copper, folate, iron, selenium and zinc. Eating a diet full of fruit, vegetables, lean protein, beans, lentils, wholegrains, dairy and a handful of nuts and seeds should cover this. Add in fermented foods such as live yoghurt or kefir to add interest too (both are good for gut health). A supplement can be used to ‘fill in’ any gaps, especially vitamin D since sunlight is harder to come by during the winter months.
Getting enough sleep
Our body repairs itself when we sleep. If we don’t get enough rest – most of need around seven hours a night - then our immune system weakens and we’re more likely to fall prey to illness. Party season is more likely to make this happen.
Cutting back on alcohol
It’s not easy to monitor our alcohol intake when there’s lots of Christmas and New Year events to attend. But staying hydrated is one of the best ways to boost our immune system. So, try to match one alcoholic drink with one glass of water or low-sugar fruit drink. Keep yourself topped up with water during the day too as it really does help stave off infections.
Exercising on a regular basis
It can be tempting to stay indoors when it gets colder and that often means getting less exercise. But our immune system is helped when we go for a run, play badminton or take the dog out for a walk. We feel mentally refreshed too.
Additional ways to boost your immunity include:
- Washing your hands regularly
- Do activities you love, such as crafting, reading etc
- Avoid emotional stress (write down your worries)
- Cut back on your caffeine intake (this can affect sleep)
- Keep up with friends for chats
- Consider taking up yoga, Pilates or learning breathing exercises