10 Tips to Prep Your Immune System for the Winter Sniffle Season
Preparing your immune system now so that it is strong and healthy for winter, will give you a better chance of passing through the 'cold and flu' season, without getting sick. And if your immune system is strong and you do catch a cold, your symptoms are likely to be less severe and your recovery time faster.
1. Stress less
Ongoing stress has a detrimental effect on the immune system and may increase your risk of contracting infections. This is not referring to isolated incidence of stress, but to the accumulated effect of ongoing stressors such as work stress, relationship problems and grief. So surf through everyday stresses with meditation, affirmations, counselling and adrenal herbs such as Siberian ginseng and withania (also known as ashwagandha).
2. Add vitamin C, D and Zinc
People who take vitamin C supplements might still catch the odd cold, but research shows that it will be less severe and of shorter duration than if they had not taken vitamin C, which is a great incentive to ensure you are getting enough of it. Your body cannot make or store vitamin C, so you need to take it daily. Top food sources include kiwifruit, strawberries, citrus, Brussels sprouts, capsicum and spinach.
One gram of vitamin C daily is a good dose to consider, used in conjunction with zinc. Low zinc status may increase susceptibility to viruses. Foods high in zinc include beef, home-made baked beans, cashews, egg yolks, ginger, milk, sunflower seeds and wholegrains.
Vitamin D builds immunity and helps fight off infection by regulating the activity of immune cells which elicit antiviral responses. Foods that can help boost Vitamin D levels include salmon, sardines, tuna, cod liver oil, egg yolks and mushrooms.
3. Get out and about
Exercise is one of the best ways to build stamina, stay energised and reduce depression. Exercise can flush bacteria and waste from the body through the lungs and via sweating. This is believed to reduce the chances of developing colds and coughs. The key is exercising regularly at a moderate intensity.
4. Love your guts
Fermented foods, like kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi, supply the good bacteria you need to maintain a healthy gut microbiome – the trillions of cells, microbes and genetic material that live in your intestinal tract and help to ward off pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Eating foods rich in prebiotic fibre (e.g. asparagus, onions, artichokes and dandelion greens) will ensure the probiotic bacteria thrive.
Besides consuming prebiotic-rich foods keeping your gut in good health by adding a probiotic is a useful strategy for maintaining a healthy immune system. With 70% of our immune system in our gut flora it flourishes with supplements such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
5. Spice up
Use lots of fresh ginger and garlic in your cooking to boost immunity. Ginger will soothe sore throats and coughs and ease indigestion and nausea. Garlic has powerful natural antibiotic and antiviral properties. If you’re not a fan of fresh garlic, take a supplement of aged garlic extract.
Toss hot chillies into your stir-fry – they are excellent for improving sluggish circulation, which in turn keeps you warm.
6. Go herbal
Immune formula products can also be a good option as they contain several immune-supporting herbs such as echinacea, astragalus, olive leaf and aged garlic.
Medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi, shiitake and cordyceps, boost immune cell production and fight inflammation in the body.
And, if you do wind up getting sick, try the Chinese herb andrographis – it is one of the most powerful cold-fighting remedies on earth.
7. Stop SNACC-ing
That stands for Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine and Chemicals. For the month before Winter hits, cut out sugar, alcohol and processed/junk foods which add very little in the way of nutrition but instead decrease white blood cell activity and contribute to a lowered immunity over time.
If you want to, start to reintroduce small amounts of what you’ve eliminated and see how you feel; you might want to leave some behind and continue to eat for greater health!
8. Get more sleep
Getting enough rest and plenty of sleep is crucial. During sleep, the immune system’s fuel tank is topped up. Additionally, the natural hormone called melatonin that is released at night, not only encourages sleep, it also supports the immune system. In a study published in 2009, people who slept less than seven hours per night over a two-week period were nearly three times more likely to get sick after exposure to a cold virus than people who slept more than eight hours.
9. Check your protein
One of the vital roles protein plays in your body is supporting the immune system. Your immune system is made up of proteins and too little protein can weaken it. Up your protein foods including, meat, poultry and seafood as well as eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, or add a protein shake to your daily routine, particularly if you are exercising.
10. Seasonal Eating
Eating seasonally offers countless benefits to your body, to the community and to the environment.
When it comes to supporting immune health, buying fresh and organic produce rich in vitamins and minerals means you are putting more vitamin and minerals into your system. When consumed, these nutrients go straight to work, boosting the immune system with zinc, vitamins A, B and C, antioxidants and fibre. And the best time to get the highest nutrient content is through seasonal eating – like eating fresh broccoli and pumpkin in autumn to get the most vitamin C.
You’re also eating better quality, think about it, foods transported miles across the country inevitably loose some of their nutrients and are likely preserved with unnatural chemicals to keep up their appearances. Seasonal foods, on the other hand, are fresher, transported from local farms and offer higher quality vitamins and minerals.
And don’t forget to hydrate, water helps carry oxygen to your body’s cells and helps with the removal from toxins from the body. So drinking two litres of water daily can have a positive impact on your immune system.
Information presented is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace advice or treatment from qualified healthcare professionals. The information is not intended to treat or diagnose. Always consult your healthcare professional before taking nutritional or herbal supplements. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have any allergies or diagnosed conditions, or are taking prescription medications, always consult your healthcare professional before taking nutritional or herbal supplements.