When it comes to battling cold, some swear on mom’s chicken soup, others on ginger, honey, and lemon. Do those home remedies really work, and what immune-boosting strategies are the best?
In this article, you’ll learn which foods are your allies, and which habits you might want to change to protect your health – all year long.
Why does wintertime weaken our immune system?
Autumn usually comes with a surge of cold and flu cases. It appears we’re more likely to get sick during colder months, and scientists believe it is due to a combination of factors.
Lower temperatures seem to suppress our immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to infections. When exposed to cold, our blood vessels constrict to prevent heat loss. Narrowed blood vessels in our upper respiratory tract might prevent white blood cells from reaching the mucous membrane, limiting our body’s ability to fight off germs.
Less sun means less vitamin D, which forms in our skin during exposure to sunlight and has an essential role in keeping our immune system up and running optimally.
Less outdoor time (more time spent in closed spaces and proximity to others) helps germs spread faster. Winter chill also makes us more likely to skip a workout in favour of a lazy night in, and regular physical exercise is one of the best immunity boosters!
Food for your immune system
When it comes to nutrition, eating whole food will do much more than gulping a handful of supplements. Except if you have medical conditions, you can get enough vitamins and minerals from eating diverse food.
Discover which nutrients are crucial for ramping up immune defences, and where to get your daily dose!
- Vitamin C is considered a superhero of immunity. It increases the production of white blood cells which fight infections. Stock up on citrus fruits, but don’t forget other excellent sources of this vitamin – bell peppers, papaya, spinach, kiwi, kale, brussels sprouts, and strawberries.
- Better known for its role in antioxidant protection than immunity, vitamin E is, in fact, crucial for regulating and maintaining the proper functioning of our immune system. You’ll get plenty with nuts and seeds, avocado, and leafy greens.
- Vitamin A helps strengthen our immune system. For your daily dose, think colours – carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins are rich in carotenoids which convert into vitamin A in our body. Combine them with liver, fish oils, milk, and eggs, and you’ll be covered.
- In recent years, zinc has stepped up as an effective immunity booster. Research suggests that it does it by controlling and tampering potentially harmful inflammation. To get your dose of zinc, indulge in seafood – oysters, crab, lobster, and mussels are great sources. Too much zinc can inhibit our immune system, so do not overdo it.
- The cells of our immune system can synthesise and respond to vitamin D, making it an important factor for fighting infections. In summer, you can get enough from sunlight, but in winter, make sure you eat oily fish, liver, and egg yolks. Because there aren’t many food sources, you can choose fortified foods or a quality vitamin D supplement.
Your genes might make you susceptible to lower levels of specific vitamins. Discover where you stand with a DNA test. Among other things, it will reveal your genetic predispositions for micronutrients, including those with the strongest impact on your immune system!
Top 3 of immunity
For the best results, combine foods with different immunity-boosting properties. We’ve made a list of the powerhouse foods that pack a punch – make sure they’re regulars on your menu!
Honey has been praised for its medicinal purposes throughout human history. Research suggests it has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Honey stimulates immunity by reducing inflammation and boosting the production of T and B lymphocytes, antibodies, natural killer cells, and other agents of your immune system.
For centuries, garlic has been hailed for its protective and curative benefits, and modern research supports its proclaimed advantages. Its potent organosulfur compounds might protect against microbial infections, cancer, inflammation, and enhance the immune system by stimulating certain cell types. If you happen to cross paths with a hungry vampire, it repels them too – or so claim the old stories!
Green tea, rich in antioxidants flavonoids, will boost not just your energy reserves, but also your immune system. Research suggests it can boost “regulatory T cells” that play a crucial role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune diseases. Scientists are also researching its ability to help control inflammation and prevent cancer.
Healthy habits, healthy you
There are no shortcuts to health, so an occasional orange won’t protect you from cold. It takes dedication and commitment to keep your body in peak condition. Here are six habits you should adopt to help your immune system excel at its job!
- Don’t smoke. We won’t waste time listing many harmful effects of smoking, so don’t start if you’re a non-smoker, take care to avoid passive smoking, and seek help if you can’t get rid of the habit on your own.
- Exercise regularly. Regular, moderate exercise may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate. Think jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or light hiking.
- Eat fresh and balanced meals. Unprocessed food is richer in nutrients – not just vitamins and minerals, but also fibre. It supports a healthy gut which many studies link with good immunity. When you can’t get your fruits and veggies fresh, choose frozen. They’re the best alternative to fresh produce, but make sure there’s no added sugar or salt.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excessive kilos don’t just put a strain on your belt but also on your health. Maintain a healthy weight with regular physical activity and healthy nutrition.
- Get enough quality sleep. There is a close connection between sleep and immunity, and research shows that cutting back on shut-eye can make you more susceptible to diseases. If you have trouble sleeping, check out our blog, where we offer you long-term tips and quick fixes for sound sleep.
- Avoid stress. Finding yourself in a stressful situation throws you off balance, and it has the same effect on your immune system. Do your best to avoid chronic stress. When that is not possible, engage in stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, journaling, reading or anything else that calms your mind.
What works for me?
The condition of your immune system depends on a delicate balance of many factors, including your unique physique, so it can be hard to figure out what works best for you. Luckily, you can take a peek into the functioning of our body.
A DNA test reveals your genetic predispositions for a wide variety of health-related traits. And with personalised recommendations, you will be able to adjust our tips and tricks to your unique needs.
Fine-tune your lifestyle and supercharge your immune defences!