5 ways to support your immune health this winter
It’s the beginning of winter and as the seasons change colds and flus come with the colder weather, we experience different pollens which can also test our immune system and the potential for getting sick increases.
Here are some simple ways to support your immune health this winter
1. Have some carrot soup
Carrots are full of beta carotene which we convert into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for healthy mucus membranes which is our first line of defence against viruses and bacteria. As Beta-carotene requires dietary fat for conversion into Vit A add a splash of extra virgin olive oil to serve. This makes the soup creamy and will help keep hunger at bay for a few hours. Olive oil is also full of plant chemicals and oleic acid which have anti-inflammatory effects. Fresh ginger has potent anti-inflammatory qualities and is widely studied for its health benefits and adds warmth to the soup.
1.5 litres stock (chicken or vegetable) or ½ and half with can of coconut cream
1 piece ginger root (about thumbnail size) or two tablespoon minced ginger
1.5 kg carrots roughly chopped
2 large zucchinis
Splash Extra virgin olive oil to serve
2. Eat colourful fruit and vegetables.
Eating brightly coloured fruit and veg rich in Vitamin A, C and E will also support white blood cell production and protect against disease. By making meals as colourful as possible and adding a variety of greens, oranges, yellows and reds you will get all the good stuff you need to help fight disease. Diversity in plant food has been linked with increased diversity in gut bacteria i.e. your microbiome. A diverse microbiome is a healthy one which will protect you.
3. Get adequate Protein
No one food will magically fend off the flu but certain nutrients lead the way in protecting your body from the billions of bacteria and viruses they come in contact with. Protein is a key one. The immune system is built on protein and food high in protein contains additional immune boosting nutrients. Good sources include organic tofu, chicken, seafood, lean beef and legumes.
These also contain zinc which is key in the production of infection fighting white blood cells. Including quality lean protein at every meal will help improve your immune system. Eating protein with every meal will also help stabilize blood sugars which has a positive effect on your immune system and will stop you from reaching for sugary snacks. Sugar has a depressive effect on your immune system.
4. Spend time in the sun
New research highlights the integral role Vit D plays in immune response. Sunshine helps to energize out T cells (Thymus cells) which are the first cells in our immune response. The sunshine increases their motility helping them movement which in turn increases hydrogen peroxide production which is released by our white blood cells to kill invading bacteria and viruses. I love the image of the sunlight waking up our immune cells into action.
New research highlights the integral role Vit D plays in immune response. Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to increase in colds and flu. Getting your levels checked is a great idea and going for a walk outside each day for 20 mins a day will reduce your risk of illness.
5. Optimize your sleep
Sleep is one of the best things we can do to improve our health. Unfortunately, we are now sleeping less than we did and have lower sleep quality than ever before. Having regular good quality sleep can improve glucose metabolism and immunity. In fact, nearly all of our body systems are affected by poor sleep particularly hormones, cognition and immunity.
If you want to improve your health, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do. Regulating your sleep wake cycle is key. Blue lights from screens can disrupt this. Simple hacks like getting exposure to sunlight not your phone first thing in the morning and avoiding your phone at night (or using blue light filters or glasses) will help reset this sleep wake cycle. Blue light from electronic devices disrupts both early morning and evening circadian rhythms confusing our bodies and hormones.
Melatonin is needed to help us relax and sleep. Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant in the body fighting any free radical damage so when we don’t produce enough, we have poor sleep, hormone irregularities and are more likely to catching colds and flu.
Create a bedtime routine using some of the following: Listening to podcasts, reading or journaling, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, doing some gentle stretches, colouring, listening to music or just tidying the bedroom. Whatever works. Your body will thank you.
Book in a consultation today if you would like some personalised advice on how to support your immune system for optimal health.
This post is meant for general education purposes only and does not constitute or replace specific advice from your health care practitioner. Always practice good hygiene such as covering your face when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands regularly and wiping down surfaces.