How To Stay Healthy This Winter

5 tips to boost your immune system naturally

With winter now in full swing, so are all the bugs and viruses in the air.

When everyone around you is coughing and spluttering, how can you avoid falling prey to the dreaded lurgy?

It’s impossible to avoid it, unless you go and hibernate in a tree somewhere, but there’s lots of things you can do to protect yourself from getting sick.

Learn how to stay healthy this winter by boosting your immune system naturally

Why do we get sick in winter?

Bacteria and viruses are around us all the time, so why do we become susceptible in winter?

Well, the viruses that cause the common cold spread easier in cold, dry air.

Also, we spend more time indoors with the windows closed, making it easier for viruses to spread through the air and jump from person to person.

According to research carried out by the University of Cambridge in the UK, the change in seasons affects our gene activity. In winter months, our immune cells change, and we increase the number of genes responsible for suppressing inflammation and down regulating the body’s response to infection, which as a result makes it harder for us to fight off viruses.

How to boost your immune system naturally

Tip #1 – Eat immune-boosting foods

In winter it’s easy to gorge on carb-laden, comfort foods which provide little in the way of nutrition. Winter stews and hotpots are hearty meals and a great way to increase your nutritional intake.

Add garlic and ginger to meals as they contain antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help boost the immune system.

Foods high in vitamin C and antioxidants such as citrus fruit, kiwis, berries and green veggies (kale, broccoli and spinach) are also essential. Nuts and seeds (pumpkin, chia and sunflower) not only provide a good source of protein but are also high in iron and zinc – important minerals for the immune system.

Tip #2 – Drink more herbal tea

When it’s cold outside drinking lots of water can be a challenge. Try swopping your glass of water for a warm cup of herbal tea. Apart from being relaxing, drinking herbal tea regularly has numerous health benefits.

Opting for a daily cup of green tea or matcha will increase your antioxidant levels and support your immune system. Green tea is high in catechins, a type of antioxidant that helps fight off viruses and prevent free radical damage in your cells

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Tip #3 – Stay active 

Regular movement and exercise helps flush out bacteria from the lungs and reduce the risk of infection. By staying active, your antibodies and white blood cells (the cells that fight off infection) circulate the body faster, enabling them to detect illnesses early on. The temperature rise that occurs when you exercise helps prevent bacteria from growing and enables your body to fight the infection more efficiently.

Tip #4 – Check your vitamin D and iron 

Low vitamin D and iron levels can affect your immune system and how it functions.

Vitamin D is required to produce white blood cells and prevent autoimmune conditions.

Iron is essential for making immune cells and antibodies. Iron deficiency can make you more susceptible to infection and make it harder for you to recover from colds and flu.

Zinc is another key nutrient for a healthy immune system. It helps with tissue healing and antibody production.

Tip #5 – Improve your gut health 

You might be wondering what your gut health has to do with boosting your immune system. Well, a lot actually.

80% of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal system. So poor gut health is linked to low immune system function. Unbalanced gut flora and inflamed intestinal membranes (the lining of your gut wall) can compromise your gut barrier, making you more prone to fungal infections and harmful bacteria. Foreign molecules can pass through to the bloodstream wreaking havoc in your body.

Populating your gut with probiotics (friendly bacteria) will support your gastrointestinal system and prevent an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best strains of probiotics to use as some are more effective for treating immune-related disorders.

To heal your gut wall and reduce inflammation, try glutamine or slippery elm which are fantastic for repairing the gut wall.

Hurrah for winter wellness

Avoid the dreaded lurgy this winter by getting your immune system in check and supporting your body with the right nutrients. Drink herbal teas, eat immune-boosting foods and improve your gut health so you can step into spring healthier and happier.

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Michelle is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist. Her areas of expertise include digestive issues, detoxification, weight loss, hormonal health, natural fertility management and mental health. Michelle is also a wellness blogger and author who believes good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are key for optimum health and vitality.

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