Stay fighting fit this winter: ensure your immune system is high
The winter months can often see our moods dip. Along with the shorter daylight hours, we must deal with colder nights and dull weather. However, it’s not just our moods that can suffer during this period as the winter can also have a huge impact on our immune systems. This means that we could stand a higher chance of getting ill if we don’t give it a boost to keep it high.
Here, alongside vegetable seeds suppliers, Suttons, we look at how you can look after your immune system to help minimise illness and stay fighting fit this winter.
What is your immune system?
Your immune system is exactly what it says it is – a system. It’s not one single entity that you can pinpoint. It’s a network of cells, organs and tissues that work in unison to protect you. This ‘barrier’ helps destroy germs and parasites by trying to get rid of any unfamiliar bodies. If your immune system is healthy, then your body can fight off any harmful bacteria.
There are numerous immunisations you can have to help you try to stay fit and healthy over the colder period. For those who are most at risk during the winter months, such as the elderly, you will be entitled to free flu jabs. Some workforces also offer this service to their staff to try to restrict sick days. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you can still pay for the immunisation at selected pharmacies. While the NHS recommends that you get your flu jab in October or November, you can still have the injection at any point of the winter.
Fruit and vegetables are extremely important when it comes to your diet. Your immune system is like any fighting force and needs good nourishment to perform well. You should stock your daily diets full of foods enriched in vitamins to give yourself the necessary requirements throughout the year, not just in winter.
Your immune system can be altered due to micronutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, folic acid and iron. Therefore, you must make sure you’re doing your upmost to eat foods rich in these nutrients. Items you should be adding to your shopping basket over the coming months include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, poultry and sunflower seeds. Each are packed full of nutrients to help keep your immune system in good condition.
Health supplements can be used to give your body a great boost if you aren’t getting the correct vitamin intake via your diet. There are many vitamins in tablet and liquid form that can help you maintain a healthy and balanced diet. In winter, it’s sometimes hard to get the required levels of vitamin D through diet alone. Temperatures and a lack of sunshine mean that we don’t receive our natural dosage of the vitamin via the sun’s rays and need to receive our intake elsewhere.
You should look to take vitamin C as this is a great immune system booster that we have at our disposal. If you don’t receive enough of this vitamin form in your diet — kale and oranges are two nutrient-rich foods — be sure to take a supplement to help keep your levels high. After all, if you lack in this vitamin, you’ll be more prone to getting sick.
Of course, although supplements are a great addition to your diet, make sure you don’t rely on them instead of actual food. It’s much more beneficial for your body if you get these nutrients through a food source as it’s easier to absorb.
When you see the dull, dark and cold skies on a winter night or morning, you may not feel enthused to exercise. You may feel more inclined to curl up in front of the fire, but this isn’t necessarily the best option. Exercising can help reduce your chances of getting a cold, flu or other illness as it can help flush bacteria from your lungs and airways. The change in body temperature can also play a part in preventing an illness. This is because the rise during and straight after exercise can prevent bacteria from growing and ultimately fight any infection in a similar way it would if you had a fever.
A major player in staying in good condition is by relaxing. This can include monitoring your stress levels. This is an area in which scientists are actively working to discover the exact link as it can be difficult to pin down exactly what a stressful situation means to a certain individual. However, stress has been found to have a strain on your immune system as well as your personal or work life.
While you should obviously try to eradicate any stressful situations from your life, you must also ensure you have enough sleep. Without this, you will find yourself being run down, leaving your body susceptible to catching the common cold. During sleep, your immune system releases cytokines proteins. Some of these proteins can aid your sleep, while others can fight off infections and inflammation, meaning it’s crucial to get a good sleep if you are to properly protect your body. It’s recommended that you aim for between seven and nine hours sleep each night.
Kick the habits
You should look to kick the habits too. Quit smoking and stop drinking excessively can be a huge help. If you’re a smoker, there are obvious health implications. However, did you know that the high levels of toxins in a cigarette can make your immune system less effective? Therefore, you are more likely to get sick.
Incorporate the above points and you can give yourself a great chance of staying fit this winter. It can be a long slog before we reach the bright summer nights once again, but by keeping your immune system working, you won’t feel worse due to illness.