Winter is here, and it well and truly feels like winter has arrived with this chill in the air. When winter arrives its time to boost your immune system to combat the cold and flu season. You can take steps to keep yourself and your family well this winter.
Here are my 10 tips:
1. Eat a balanced and whole food diet.
What are whole foods you ask? Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural form as you can find, such as eating an apple from a tree rather than drinking apple juice. When we consume a whole food diet we receive many nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as minerals magnesium selenium, zinc and also Omega 3s, which all support your immune system. Whole foods include good quality sources of animal protein, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, as well as plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Eating a whole food diet means avoid eating processed meats, processed baked goods, deep fried foods, soft drinks, artificial sweeteners and refined sugars. Eating too much of these can actually suppresses your immune system.
2. Drink plenty of water.
Water makes up 60% of adult body weight. Keeping hydrated supports the production of lymph, which in the lymphatic liquid that carries white blood cells and other immune cells around the body. Staying hydrated is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health. If you find water boring or just can’t keep up with it, you can make it more exciting by adding some lemon, ginger, cucumber or even some fruit which will provide extra nutrients into the water including Vitamin C.
3. Spice up your cooking.
Herbs and spices contain immune boosting constituents and are a simple way to add flavour and nutrition into your winter menu. Onions, garlic, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, turmeric, coriander, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, shallots, cinnamon and cloves will all help boost your immune system this winter.
4. Ensure you sleep 7 to 8 hours a day.
Sleep rejuvenates and strengthens your body especially during the hours of 10pm to 2am. Chronic stress can cause your adrenals to become depleted/ exhausted which can suppress the immune system and increase the risk of illness. Listen to your body and give it time to repair and recover. If you can sleep 7 to 8 hours a day and take an afternoon nap if required, your body will thank you.
5. Boost your Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is required to boost our immune system and keep our body healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables contain the best sources of Vitamin C. Good food sources of Vitamin C include berries, kiwifruit, capsicums, and dark green vegetables.
6. Gut friendly bacteria boost.
80% of our immune system is located in our gastrointestinal tract. So keeping your gut health on track and happy is so important in keeping your immune system functioning at it’s best. Probiotics are good bacteria that are found in fermented and whole foods, which include yogurt, kimchi, raw sauerkraut, miso, pickles and kefir. If you are more suseptible to colds and flus you can take Probiotic supplements but be sure to check with a natural health practitioner which strains are best for you.
7. Spend time in the sun.
It is now clear that Vitamin D is required to strengthen our immune system. A deficiency in Vitamin D increases your susceptibility to infection. Try to go outside at least a few times a week for about 15-20 minutes, without sunscreen, at lunch time to increase your absorption. This is a recommendation for the Winter sun and if you have fair skin please only spend the time you know won’t burn your skin. You can also get small doses of vitamin D from fatty fish and mushrooms.
Exercising not only improves mental and physical health, it increases our immune function by changing our white blood cells and increasing their circulation. Exercise improves your quality of sleep, makes your body stronger whilst boosting wellbeing and mood. My favourite form of exercise is yoga, any form, yoga increases strength and flexibility whilst using relaxation techniques to reduce stress and pain.
9. Laugh, relax and enjoy life.
Stress and negative emotions can suppress the immune system which makes us more vulnerable to infections. It’s important for us to remember take the time to enjoy life and have as much fun as you can, always. Laughter really is the best medicine!
10. Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Chicken soup is nourishment for your soul. The longer you cook chicken bones/ carcass to create the broth, the soup will contain nutrient dense and immune boosting properties. I recommend cooking the bones for a minimum of 18 hours in a slow cooker to really extract all the nutrients from the bone, then remove the bones and make your chicken soup whatever way you enjoy it best. Winter is all about soups, broths and warming foods, make sure to stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables and make the most of the season.