As winter approaches, it’s important to look after your immune system, as you can be more susceptible to colds and flu in cooler temperatures. The good news? There are simple ways to boost your immune system and prevent illness.
Eat a rainbow
Nourishing your immune system requires a varied diet filled with nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats (1).
Boost your immunity by incorporating citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, garlic, ginger, and turmeric, which provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed for healthy immune function (2).
Love your guts
Taking care of your gut is crucial for a strong immune system. Consuming probiotics in supplements or foods like sauerkraut and kefir, along with prebiotic foods such as asparagus, onions and leeks can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, boost immunity, and protect against harmful pathogens (3,4).
Sip bone broth
Bone broth is rich in minerals and amino acids that enhance immune function and reduce inflammation. The gelatin and collagen in bone broth support a healthy gut lining, which plays a crucial role in immune system regulation (5).
Check your protein
Protein plays a vital role in the production of antibodies, enzymes, and immune cells that are critical for immune system regulation and function (6).
To strengthen your immune function, ensure an adequate intake of protein through sources like meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds, or add a protein shake into your daily routine.
Herbal immune boosters
Harness the power of immune-boosting herbs such as astragalus, andrographis, turmeric, echinacea, olive leaf, elderberry, thyme, green tea, St John’s wort, licorice, and holy basil.
These herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-balancing properties that boost the production and activity of immune cells, strengthening your body’s defence against pathogens (7,8,9).
Sweeten your defence
Manuka honey has immune-enhancing properties not found in regular honey. It is highly valued for its antibacterial properties, attributed to a compound called methylglyoxal (MGO) (12,13). Choose a higher MGO rating, which indicates superior quality and antibacterial strength.
Essential nutrients that contribute to the proper functioning of your immune system include vitamin A, C, D and E, zinc, selenium, iron, B vitamins, glutathione, and quercetin.
Sunshine for a vitamin D boost
Sweat it out
Exercise enhances immune function by improving the circulation of immune cells, increasing antibody production, reducing chronic inflammation, and removing bacteria and waste through sweat and via the lungs (22).
To reap these benefits, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Relax and release
Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, increasing your susceptibility to infections (25). Find activities that help you relax and unwind, such as reading, listening to music, meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature.
Positive experiences of social connection have been linked to various health benefits, including improved recovery from illness, better sleep, reduced stress levels and fewer coughs and colds (26,27).
Proper hydration is often overlooked but is vital for optimal immune function.
Adequate water intake supports nutrient transport and toxin elimination, and maintains the health of mucous membranes which act as a protective barrier against pathogens.
Recharge for resilience
Adequate sleep is crucial for a strong immune system (28). During sleep, your body repairs and regenerates, optimising the efficiency of your immune system. To improve sleep quality, have a wind-down routine, avoid keeping electronic devices in your bedroom and keep a regular sleep schedule.
Practice good hygiene
Maintaining good hygiene practices is vital for reducing the risk of infections (29). Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating and after being in public spaces.
Supporting your immune system during winter is crucial for staying healthy and resilient. A holistic approach that incorporates proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, stress management, exercise and immune-boosting herbs will strengthen your body's defences, allowing you to navigate winter with vitality.
Please contact your health professional for the prescription of herbal and nutritional remedies. Application of clinical judgement is necessary. Treatment recommendations should not replace medical treatment.