February 22nd, 2021
5 effective ways to boost your immune system this winter
It’s that time of year when coughs and colds start to spread, despite our best efforts to avoid them. Whilst the pandemic has made many people more conscious of their hygiene, such as by washing hands after touching surfaces, this isn’t always enough.
If you find that you regularly get sick at this time of year, it may be because your body’s natural defences aren’t working as effectively as they could be. Read on for five effective ways to boost your immune system this winter.
1. Make sure you get enough sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely tied, so if you want to boost your immune system, you should aim to get at least seven hours of good quality sleep per night.
According to a 2015 study, people who get less than six hours of sleep per night were significantly more likely to catch a cold compared to those who were well rested.
Whilst getting enough sleep is a good start, if you want to feel the health benefits even more strongly you also need to ensure that you get good quality sleep.
If you want to improve the quality of your sleep, here are a few things you can do:
- Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption during the day
- Go to sleep at the same time each evening
- Avoid using your mobile phone before bed.
2. Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Having a healthy and balanced diet is an essential part of maintaining a healthy immune system throughout winter.
Foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all rich in vitamins and antioxidants, which can help you to fight off any germs or viruses. Many fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system.
You can also boost your immune system by making sure you eat enough healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil or fish.
Probiotic foods, such as yoghurt, also contain beneficial bacteria which can help to keep your digestive tract healthy, preventing bacteria and viruses from entering your body.
Make sure that you get enough vitamins and minerals through a healthy diet, as this can be a great way to ensure your immune system is as effective as it can be.
3. Try to minimise your exposure to stress
Stress doesn’t just affect your mental wellbeing – it can also have an impact on your physical health too.
High levels of stress can hamper your immune system’s response to germs by lowering the number of white blood cells. This means when you do encounter pathogens, your body can’t fight them off as effectively.
Stress can also indirectly affect the immune system, such as by hindering the body’s ability to digest food. This can lower the amount of vitamins that you get in your diet, making you more susceptible to infection.
Furthermore, high levels of stress can also cause people to use unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking or smoking, which can affect your wellbeing.
Whilst it may be easier said than done, reducing the amount of stress in your life can be a good way to make sure your immune system is working at its best. You may want to consider relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or meditation, as these can be easy and effective ways to reduce your stress levels.
4. Get regular exercise
It is well known that exercise has a wide array of benefits, including better physical fitness and improved mood. But one of the lesser-known ways that exercise can help you is by providing a boost to your immune system.
Getting regular exercise is a great way of improving your cardiovascular health, lowering your blood pressure, and controlling body weight.
These factors all play an important role in managing the body’s immune system, allowing your immune cells to travel throughout the body easily and do their job more effectively. Regular moderate exercise can also promote the regrowth of immune cells, helping your body to ward off illness.
Experts recommend that you should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week if you want to improve your health and boost your immune system.
If you are unsure about how you can fit exercise into your schedule, click here for seven tips to increase your physical activity easily.
5. Use supplements in moderation
Although they are not a replacement for a healthy and balanced diet, using health supplements in moderation can be a good way to boost your immune system if you are lacking in any vitamins.
Here are three of the most useful supplements for boosting your immune system:
- Vitamin C: This vitamin plays a key role in warding off illness by enhancing the function of immune cells. Studies have shown that vitamin C supplements can reduce both the duration and severity of infections such as the common cold.
- Vitamin D: Many people are deficient in this important vitamin, especially in winter when they don’t get enough sunlight to allow their body to produce it. Vitamin D supports the growth of immune cells, allowing your body to fight infection more effectively.
- Zinc: This mineral is essential for the healthy functioning of the immune system, as it plays an important role in cell growth and communication.