Keeping your immune system in tip-top shape is vital for staying well over the winter period.
The colder weather brings viruses like colds, flu and stomach bugs.
Staying well during winter can be challenging, here we share our 7 proven ways to naturally support winter immunity:
Increase vitamin C and zinc rich foods – these nutrients have long been known to play a large role in immune functioning and have a greater effect together rather than by themselves (1).
Additional vitamin C if you do come down with a cold may actually help you to get rid of it quicker.
Many fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and juices, soups and smoothies can be a great way to increase your intake.
Zinc is found in pumpkin seeds, shellfish, beef, lamb, cashew nuts, lentils, beans and mushrooms.
Top up your vitamin D levels – the best source of vitamin D is from skin exposure to sunlight, during the winter sun exposure and vitamin D levels fall.
Research is showing that vitamin D not only plays a role in bone health but has potent immune regulatory actions (2).
Some foods like egg yolk and salmon have very small quantities of vitamin D and during the winter a supplement may be wise.
Support your good gut bacteria - the complex eco-system that reside in the gut, collectively called your microbiome, have a strong influence on immune functioning by communicating with the immune system to ensure it responds effectively (3).
This is no surprise as over 70% of the immune system is in the gut.
Gut bacteria feed on certain fibre provided in the diet, these prebiotics can be found in oats, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, leeks, garlic, bananas, chicory, asparagus.
Probiotic foods, that contain live bacteria, can provide good support.
This includes live yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and tempeh. For extra support, probiotics are available in capsule, liquid or powder form.
Eat more mushrooms – oyster, reishi and cordyceps mushrooms are all rich in a compound called beta glucans (1,3/1,6).
This has been sown to trigger a specific type of immune cell that can recognise and kill foreign invaders (4), like a virus.
Invest in some echinacea – this traditional herb has long been known to have immune supportive properties and not only shows promise for preventing colds but can be useful if you do come down with one. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties (5).
Try yoga, meditation, visualisation, breathing techniques, arts and crafts or gentle walks to rebalance your stress hormones.
Avoid blue light emitting devices (TV, smartphone, laptop, eBook readers) for at least 90 minutes prior to bed, aim to go to bed at the same time every night and rise at the same time every day.
If you experience issues with sleeping magnesium may be of use for helping you to “wind down”.
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Written by Kelly Rose DipION FdSc VN