‘Tis the season for sweater weather, cozying up with your favourite cup of tea, and for… the cold and flu! Here are 6 ways to strengthen your immune system to keep you protected in the upcoming cold months and all year long!
1. Skip the vitamin supplements and go for whole fruits and vegetables
Many people take vitamin C supplements to combat sickness, but research shows that long term daily supplementation with vitamin C does not appear to prevent or treat colds. There is some evidence for a modest reduction in the duration and severity of cold symptoms, but even then, it takes relatively high doses.
A diet with increased intake of fruits and veggies provides various vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that help improve immune function. Obtaining these nutrients from whole foods rather than through supplementation provides a greater benefit.
Try this refreshing sparkling ginger turmeric lemonade recipe below, which is packed with vitamin C-rich lemons and antioxidant-rich turmeric and ginger. You could keep it in your fridge and take it to work/school daily, or make it into a tea if you prefer it hot.
2. Heal your Gut
Approximately 70% of your immune system is located in your gut! There’s been lots of buzz about probiotics/prebiotics and fermented foods to support healthy digestion, but did you know that having a balanced gut flora also strengthens your immunity?
These bacteria play an essential role in fighting harmful foreign invaders in the body, as well as producing certain compounds that aid in an alert immune response.
Food-based prebiotics are fruits and vegetables like onions, garlic, leeks, oranges, and probiotics include kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh!
3. Get your Vitamin D
Our skin can make Vitamin D when exposed to UV rays (sunlight or tanning beds). How much gets created depends on the intensity of the UV rays, our skin tone, clothing/layers, to name a few.
It can be difficult to get enough vitamin D during the fall and winter months, due to limited sunlight depending on where you live. Even if it’s a sunny day in the winter, the intensity of the UV rays as well as our layered clothing would limit or completely eliminate getting vitamin D from the sun.
In North America, it’s suspected most of the population (women & men) is lacking sufficient vitamin D outside of the summer months, so it’s important to make an intentional effort on meeting your needs (via food or supplements). A registered dietitian or your doctor can help you sort that out!
Studies have found that vitamin D is a key factor in innate and adaptive immunity, and that individuals who are vitamin D deficient are more likely to catch the cold or flu.
Foods naturally containing vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, and foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk or milk alternatives.
Just like many things on this list that have a multitude of health benefits, exercise also contributes to an optimal immune system! Moderate intensity exercises have been proven to have protective effects on immunity, but prolonged periods of strenuous exercise may have a negative effect.
So, take advantage of the days when the weather isn’t too wet, and enjoy the fresh, crisp air, while taking a brisk stroll through the park!
Stress can often be overlooked as an area we can work on in order to improve our physical health, yet research has found that stress management, especially chronic or long-term stress (that doesn’t have to be severe), helps to bolster immunity and fight off infection.
This time of year can get especially busy, so schedule time to take a break for yourself at least once a week, doing what helps you destress, whether that be through meditating, or watching your favourite show on Netflix!
Sleep and your immune system are influenced by one another, and being deprived of sleep makes one more susceptible to infection.
So, depending on when your day ends and when you have to get up the next morning, make sure you prioritize getting enough hours of sleep each night to feel revitalized, and to uphold this essential part of boosting your immune system and overall health!
This blog has lots of tips on sleep health, and a free downloadable with 30+ tips to improve your environment that would help you improve your sleep quality, too.
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This blog was written with the help of nutrition and dietetic students, Miguelle and Celine.
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5 Ways to Strengthen your Immune System. [Date Retrieved: Dec 4, 2018]. https://wellseek.co/2018/02/14/5-ways-strengthen-immune-system/