Winter bugs can be a curse. From the sniffles to the full blown flu, as soon as the easterly winds begin to blow and the weather cools, coughs and colds creep in and threaten to disrupt normal routine.
So what can we do to survive the seasons round up of bugs and viruses?
Immune system health
There is much you can do to keep your immune system in flu fighting shape. It’s important to recognise that your immune system is just that – a system. It does not operate in isolation. This means many lifestyle and dietary factors in conjunction with age and underlying health issues will all effect the balance of its complex functioning in the body.
Address the stress.
This can be easier said than done but it is vitally important to check in with your stress levels during flu season. Stress negatively impacts your immune system. The longer you operate under stress the greater the impact on your immune response.
The release of the stress hormone cortisol into the system initially boosts immunity. Why? because the body needs to be tip top to fight or run like hell in pressured situations. Longer term stress hormone release builds inflammation in the body and supresses T cells that help control your immune response. How often do you feel under the weather when you push yourself too hard or have to deal with a highly stressful situation? This is the impact stress has on your physical health and it clearly doesn’t help with warding off winter bugs.
What to do?
Be aware of your stress levels during winter months. Consciously engaging your parasympathetic system will keep inflammation levels in your body low and improve immune boosting T Cell levels.
You don’t have to adopt the habits of a yogi to improve your immunity. Interjecting deep breathing exercises in your day will help to keep stress hormones in check. Walking in nature is a great stress leveller or a short daily meditation via an app like Headspace is great for relaxation. During the Christmas season be aware of what’s on your plate.
Moderate exercise is great for keeping your immune system in good shape.
Your breathing rate during moderate exercise helps flush bacteria out of your lungs whilst white blood cells and antibodies whizz around your body detecting early signs of illness. Your increased body temperature helps prevent bacteria growth so all told regular moderate exercise should be on the list during the winter months.
There is good evidence that a deficiency in micronutrients contributes to a decreased functioning of our immune system. What nutrients should you be conscious of?
- Folic acid
- Vitamin A, B6, C and E.
The winter months might be a time for over indulgence but making sure you are getting adequate vegetables, fruit and whole grain food is vital for staving off the coughs and colds.
Vitamin C is one of the most well-known supporters of our immune function but did you know that sugar limits its absorption rate in the body. Avoiding winter bugs is just one health positive in limiting sugar intake.
Did you know that 70-80% of your immune tissue is located in your digestive tract? An amazing fact and testament to the importance of maintaining a healthy gut flora. Signs it may be out of kilter include bloating, sugar cravings and constant fatigue.
Certain types of gut flora support the function of immune cells so an imbalance can lead to an increased possibility of picking up colds and viruses.
Improve your gut health
By making sure you are eating lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods alongside prebiotics such raw cacao, onions, garlic, artichoke, leeks, asparagus (we know it’s not the season), oats, apples and flaxseeds.
Other life style factors
- If you enjoy a drink, try to keep it to a moderate amount. Alcohol consumption above moderate levels can negatively impact the immune system alongside smoking, so no better time to quit.
- Maintaining a healthy weight and staying within recognised limits helps the bodies overall function and that includes immunity.
- Getting a good night’s sleep helps support the bodies overall functioning including immune response. As the nights are drawing in getting to bed 30 mins earlier won’t feel like you are missing out on daylight hours.