We are currently in the heart of winter. Daily we are experiencing frosty morning, dark nights and sniffles galore. It’s the time of year when people start to feel a bit down in the dumps, have lower energy and are much more prone to getting sick. I have detailed below my top 10 tips for kicking your immune systems butt this winter so you can avoid that annoying cold or flu. These tips will equally help keep you feeling more positive during these chilly months until the warm sun rays of spring appear.
1. Keep hydrated! This is a big one. Often during winter we forget to drink enough water due to the cold weather. However, being inside in the heating can be very drying. Hydration is so important for pretty much every body function. It will make you feel more energetic and improve your immune function. Aim for at least 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
2. Eat a well balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables contain so many essential vitamins and minerals to keep your body functioning properly. Vitamin C found in citrus fruit and berries is particularly important during these winter months. A balanced diet of 3 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit daily will ensure you are obtaining adequate nutrition to stimulate your immune system so you can fight off any nasty viruses you come into contact with. Remember variety is key so aim to have a plate that looks like a rainbow with as many different coloured fruit and vegetables as possible.
3. Sleep- In order to have a properly functioning immune system we need to have adequate rest. During sleep our bodies have the opportunity to rest and restore themselves. Different people require different amounts of sleep so I advise you to listen to your body. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and if you are having trouble falling asleep or waking during the night ask your health practitioner how they can help. Poor sleep is one reason people feel fatigued, sad or constantly have a low immune system.
4. Get outside and absorb some sunlight or get on a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is one of the most important Vitamins for both the immune system and mood. It can be difficult to get enough Vitamin D during winter. Aim for 20 minutes direct sunlight mid morning or mid afternoon for best absorption. Increasing egg yolks, butter or ghee and fish can also help boost your vitamin D intake. If your blood test shows you are low in Vitamin D (as so many of us are) make sure to take a supplement throughout winter.
5. Exercise! Exercise has been shown to be one of the best ways to boost your immune system as well as to boost mood. It can be hard getting motivated in these winter months but once you get moving you will certainly feel better. You can even exercise at home if it’s too cold and dark to go out. Check out some HIIT training videos on YouTube, pick up a skipping rope or do some jumping jacks. Anything that gets your heart pumping is great. Doing a class at the gym with friends is also a great way to increase your social interaction, which is so important for boosting mood. Aim for at least 20 minutes high intensity exercise three times a week.
6. Use immune boosting herbs and spices such as onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Herbs and spices used in cooking are an excellent way to add immune boosting properties to your food. Check out my immune boosting quinoa recipe as an example: http://dionne-healthnaturally.blogspot.com.au/2017/06/immune-boosting-turmeric-quinoa.html
7. Ensure adequate protein intake. Protein is so important as it is what your immune system is actually made up of. It also contains zinc, an important mineral for the immune system. Your neurotransmitters for positive mood are also made up of protein. To be fair amino acids from protein are the building blocks of our body so it is needed for all functions. Protein should be included in all meals and can be in the form of meat, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy.
8. Drink herbal teas. This will first of all help with hydration, will keep you warm and you can choose certain teas that have immune boosting properties. Try green tea for its antioxidants, lemongrass and ginger tea or cinnamon tea for its warming and immune enhancing ability.
9. Start your day with a glass of warm water and the juice of ½ a lemon (you can add a dash of honey too). This is a great way to add some vitamin C into your diet. It will also help with digestion so you can better absorb all your nutrients. Did you know that the majority of your immune system is found in your gut? Therefore, keeping your digestive system healthy will help you have a better functioning immune system.
10. Practice relaxation daily. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to lowered immune function. We have all been there, after a stressful even when we can finally relax we get sick. Make sure you are listening to your body and treating it with love. Some of my favourite forms of relaxation include meditation, deep breathing, yoga, walking, a warm bath or using essential oils. Just 5 minutes a day can make all the difference :)