Our moods are often known to suffer during the winter months. We have to put up with shorter daylight hours, colder nights and dull weather. However, there’s more than just our mood that may need a boost during a cold snap. Winter can wreak havoc with our immune systems, too, meaning we have a higher chance of getting ill. So, what can we actually do to give it a boost and keep it high?
Here, alongside vegetable seeds suppliers, Suttons, we discuss what your immune system is and how to best minimise illness and stay fighting fit this winter.
What is your Immune System?
The immune system is exactly that – 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.
You might choose to have several immunisations to make sure you have the best chance of staying fit and healthy over the colder months. 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.
It’s vital that you have enough fruit and vegetables in 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.
Micronutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, folic acid and iron, can alter our immune systems. 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 are a way to give your body a great boost if you don’t get enough vitamins 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.
Vitamin C is a great immune system booster that is available to us. 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.
While they are a great addition to your diet, they shouldn’t be constantly used as an alternative to 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.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you look at the dull, dark and cold skies. 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.
Relaxing is a major part of staying in peak health. 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.
As well is trying to remove any stressful situations from your life wherever possible, you must 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
If you’re a heavy drinker or smoker, there’s never a ‘best’ time to quit. You should look to kick the habit today. 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. Stop smoking lozenges are a great way to help you fight the addiction.
Give yourself a great chance of staying fit this winter by incorporating the above points into your everyday life. 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.