Winter for some can often mean cold and flu season or generally feeling unwell as our bodies try to fight off the infection. The great news is there are simple things we can do to help boost our immune systems to give them greater fighting power.
Vitamin C – this tops the nutrient list when it comes to immunity. Since our bodies cannot produce or store Vitamin C, an adequate daily intake of this nutrient is essential for optimum health. Food sources for Vitamin C include peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, kiwi, spinach, kale and broccoli. It helps stimulate the production of disease-fighting white blood cells, plays an important role in the way our immune cells function and helps reduce inflammation. Try making a bug-busting smoothie by blending 1 cup of kale or spinach, 1 cup of chopped kiwi, the juice of half a lemon, freshly grated ginger and 1 cup of milk or dairy alternative such as almond milk.
Echinacea – this flowering plant has been used medicinally for many years as it is believed to help the body fight infections and reduce the duration of colds. Many studies have looked at its efficacy. While there have been mixed results, there has been evidence to suggest that Echinacea helps to increase our white blood cell count which are our germ-fighting cells. Consult a professional to find out more about the use of echinacea to treat or prevent colds.
Garlic – a superstar immune booster. Garlic is thought to have viral and bacterial fighting properties. Although garlic can be taken in supplement form, it is just as easy to include in our diets. Add some freshly chopped or whole cloves to soups, stews, roasts and pastas – pretty much any meal can benefit from the delicious taste of garlic.
Sleep – ensuring we get enough good quality sleep is an essential part of keeping our immune systems strong. Being sleep deprived reduces our bodies’ ability to fight off infections. Around 8 hours is the recommended average for adults, so try to get an early night whenever possible.
Reduce stress levels – this can be easier said than done, however it is important that we realize the impact of stress on our immunity. Many studies have shown that our stress hormones can have a detrimental effect on immunity by reducing the number of immune cells we produce, further negatively affecting their function. Try to do more of the things that make you feel happy and relaxed and include some “me-time” whenever possible. It may be helpful to practice relaxation techniques such a meditation, deep breathing and yoga.
Wash your hands – Many viruses are difficult to avoid as they are so easily spread from person to person. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is a simple way of trying to avoid the spread of these germs. Although using antibacterial hand gels can be helpful and convenient, they should not be a substitute for thorough hand washing.