One thing that many of us can’t escape as we enter the colder months is those nasty cold and flu viruses that seem to take over our system. So how exactly should we be preparing our immune system for winter?
As we become even more cautious about our health due to the recent pandemic, your body’s ability to fight off diseases and illnesses has never been more important. The major player in such is your immune system. We all have various immunity strengths but one thing we can all do is help boost it!
What Is Your Immune System
We’ve all heard of the immune system and have a vague understanding of such, but what is it? Our immune system is made up of white blood cells, the spleen, bone marrow, the lymphatic system, the thymus, the tonsils as well as the adenoids and appendix. You see our body has a whole community of parts which all work to help us stay fit and fight against unwelcome germs, bacteria and viruses.
Our body works to protect us from harmful substances that can make us feel under the weather or very ill. Alongside working as a defence system, the immune system maintains the overall health of our body. There are various ways of how our immune system works to protects us. Our skin acts as the physical barrier from viruses whilst tears, saliva and mucus offer further protection. That’s why when we have a cold, we get blocked noses and cough up phlegm. Whilst it’s not the nicest, they prevent germs from entering our bloodstream as they’re anti-bacterial and neutralise any negative germs.
One’s immunity can be broken into three categories. The first is having an innate level of immunity, basically referring to your levels from the day you are born. The second is an adaptive immunity where your protection develops as you go through life. Your immunity learns how to fight off colds and flues etc due to the exposure of such or through vaccines. Over time your body develops a range of antibodies to prevent you from getting really ill from small viruses. The third category to one’s immunity is ‘passive immunity’. This relates to gaining a temporary type of immunity from another person.
Why Is The Immune System Important
Having a healthy immune system is important throughout your life. As we get older, our immune system starts to lose its strength, making us more susceptible to diseases and cancers. Building a strong immune system means our body can work to protect us from harmful microorganisms.
Many things can trigger our immune system into action such as a simple allergy e.g. pollen as well as a virus causing cold or even a small cut. Anything that impacts our body, the immune system goes straight to work in defending our body. Without it, we can become easily ill, and it can spiral into the decline of other organ functions etc.
Getting our immune system tough and ready for winter can take a little effort, but there are tried and tested things that will spare you a winter virus.
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Here Are Tips For How You Can Prepare Your Immune System For Winter
- Be Less Stressed
Stress can really impact our health and overall functioning of our body. We can feel tired, neglect eating and drinking properly, and our body lacks the right vitamins and produces hormones which can negatively impact the immune system. Whether in childhood, adolescence or adulthood, being stressed frequently can downregulate our immune systems by producing the stress hormone called cortisol. Furthermore, when stressed our body demands more nutrients such as Vitamin A and D, Zinc and Selenium. Cortisol plays an important role in the immune systems function as it acts as an anti-inflammatory. When we stress frequently, our body and immune system can become ‘resistant’ to such. This means the immune system won’t respond properly to when it’s actually needed. Calm yourself down with this.
- Catch Those Zzzz’s
Our bodies heal the best when we’re doing nothing but sleeping. When we sleep, especially when we hit those deeper sleep zones, our body focuses on repairing itself. Those who lack the essential eight hours of sleep can become more vulnerable to illnesses such as colds and the flu. It was discovered that those who lacked the advised hours of sleep over a period time were discovered to have a noticeable decrease in immune cell production and activity. Furthermore, sleep loss is linked with increased levels of cortisol which is linked to stress. Get some extra z’s with this deep sleep pillow spray.
- Get Moving
One thing which the immune system responds to well is exercise. I know it’s something that not all of us enjoy, but if you want to tackle those pesky colds during the wintertime, then it’s time to get your trainers on. Research suggests that daily exercise is linked to the overall reduction of the risk of infection. Those who exercise regularly are said to have better functioning white blood cells (the ones that fight off infections). With each exercise session, your immune function is said to enhance. It is suggested that low impact exercises are most effective for the general population, whilst for young adults, HIIT (high intensity internal training) workouts are more effective. If you struggle to workout out, do not fear as it is advised to avoid intense exercise sessions of up to 90 minutes, as it is shown to increase cortisol and adrenaline levels for up to 72 hours post workout, ultimately reducing immune function. If you can’t get into nature you can still get in a work out.
- Your 5-a-day
We all know that it’s important to get your 5-a-day, whether that’s vegetables or fruit. But if you’re looking to boost your immune system for the colder months, then there are some greens that are more beneficial than others in doing to. These include peppers (specially cayenne peppers) which are rich in immune boosting nutrients and antioxidants; as well as mushrooms full of vitamin D, Selenium and B-vitamins. One of the best fruits to tackle those nasty winter bugs is the Kiwi. Known to be one of the leading sources of vitamin C, it’s boasting antioxidants which will help to build a strong immune system. Juicing with this bad boy is the best way to get those nutrients in. Yes. I have a Breville.
- Keep Hydrated
Many of us don’t drink enough. And that doesn’t include juices, tea or coffee. We’re just walking about the fountain of youth which is water. Hydration is not only important for our immune system but for the general functioning of our body. When we are dehydrated, our whole body is effective on multiple levels. This includes our physical performance, our ability to focus, our mood, digestions, heart and kidney function. This can increase your susceptibility to contact illnesses through the colder months, which makes it even more important to drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day. Spring water is my go to.
- Quick and Easy Supplements
Sometimes we can’t do everything all at once to boost our immune systems. One great way to start your immune boosting journey is through the taking of supplements. There’s many vitamins and oil tablets you can take to start your day right. A quick and easy method of supporting your immune system in an effective way. Supplements matter.
- Good Foods
They say you are what you eat. So, if you eat food that’s good to the body, your body will be good to you. And that goes for eating foods which can help the functioning of the immune system. These include turmeric, sweet potato, carrots, nuts and citrus fruits. Even the trusted old fashioned chicken soup is great for the immune system – there’s a reason why it’s our go to when we have a cold.
Healthy fats are not only an important aspect in every diet, but especially for the improvement of immunity. You can find healthy fats as well as Omega-3 fatty acids (which are great) in food such as olive oil, salmon and chia seeds.
Another key player in the food game are fermented foods/probiotics. We’ve all heard of and had a probiotic drink over the years, and they’re there to help support and improve the good gut bacteria. Promoting a healthy digestive system, probiotics help with the general encouragement of your body and immunity functioning to its best. You can find these ‘good bacteria’ in foods such as yogurt (Greek style yogurt is one of the better options), the German delicacy sauerkraut as well as kimchi, kefir and natto.
We love to use food to help us heal, energise and comfort us when we feel under the weather. However, it’s best to avoid foods that have high levels of sugar as well as alcohol when the immune system is functioning to its fullest capacity.
- A Boost in a Beverage
We’ve already stated that the best drink for your immune system is water, but for those that struggle to drink only water, there are a few drinks which are also beneficial to the functioning of your immune system. The first being many herbal teas such as green or ginger tea. Ginger contains many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which helps fight infections. Green tea also holds anti-inflammatory properties as well as being rich in polyphenols.
One unexpected beverage is coffee. The caffeine within it is known to have many positive effects on the immune system by helping reduce the levels of various inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, black coffee is known to be an antioxidant whilst some coffee brews are a source of probiotics.