Any time of the year, adopting a strategy for giving yourself an immunity boost is an excellent way to help preserve your health and reduce your risk of common ailments. Your immune system is constantly working hard to fight off foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. But sometimes, it needs a little extra help.
During the winter months, it’s a lot easier to get sick. Viruses can live longer in colder temperatures, particularly when humidity levels are low. Plus, during the winter, we tend to spend more time in enclosed spaces and less time outdoors, which increases the risk of infection spreading.
However, while illness is more common in winter, it’s not inevitable. Taking extra steps to support your immune system and protect yourself can help you to avoid becoming a victim of flu season.
Here are some of the easiest ways to achieve an immunity boost this season to protect yourself from common winter woes.
1.Get Flu Shots, Booster Shots, and Other Vaccinations
While it’s possible to suffer from influenza (the flu) at any time of the year, it’s more common during the winter months. The flu virus thrives in cold weather, and lack of exposure to sunlight and vitamin D can make your body the perfect host for new infections.
While you can side-step the effects of flu season by washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact with people who are coughing and sneezing, and taking extra steps to keep yourself warm, the easiest option is to get one step ahead of the flu with a jab. The flu vaccine contains harmless components from strains of four different flu viruses.
When you receive your job, your immune system reacts, making cells and antibodies to protect you against the flu. You can find a nearby center offering a vaccine with the CDC Flu Vaccine finder.
Don’t underestimate the importance of other vaccinations too. Top up your protection against COVID with a booster shot if you’re eligible. Your exposure to the COVID virus may increase during the winter months when you’re spending more time in enclosed spaces.
2.Maintain an Active Lifestyle
During the winter, we’re more inclined to spend time indoors, living a “sedentary lifestyle.” However, lack of exercise can hamper your immune system and make vaccines less effective. Studies show a single session of moderate exercise can be enough to increase the performance of vaccines in people with compromised immune systems.
What’s more, moderate exercise is a great way to reduce inflammation, which helps your immune cells to regenerate quickly and easily. Since enclosing yourself in a specific space such as a gym, might increase your chances of infection, it may be best to focus on more outdoor exercise.
Try going for a run in winter, or experimenting with hikes, cycling, ice skating, and other ways to stay active. Before going outside, make sure you’re properly dressed, with the right shoes to keep you stable on icy terrains, and plenty of layers for warmth.
3.Get Plenty of Sleep for an Immunity Boost
Sleep will help you to maintain a consistent immunity boost at any time of the year – not just flu season. Studies consistently show that sleep and immunity have a close link. One study found those who slept fewer than 6 hours per night were more likely to catch a cold than people who slept for more than 6 hours each night.
Sleep helps with cell regeneration, and assists the body in removing toxins from your system. Plus, it ensures you can preserve your energy each day, so you’re not exposing your body to excess stress. Although it can be difficult to sleep during a busy time of the year, sticking to a regular routine can help protect you from a range of common ailments.
Try practicing good sleep hygiene, by creating a night-time routine. You could drink a warm cup of tea before bed, take a hot bath to relax your muscles, or even experiment with meditation and yoga. It’s also worth making sure you’re not exposed to any distractions in your bedroom, such as unpredictable sounds, or bright lights.
4.Stock up on Fruits and Vegetables
With fewer options for produce on the shelves in winter, it’s tempting to rely heavily on carb-laden foods for your winter meals. However, you should still be focused on maintaining a balanced diet. Whole plant foods are rich in antioxidants and nutrients which can deliver a crucial immunity boost.
The antioxidants in foods such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and legumes decrease inflammation by combatting free radicals. Additionally, the fiber in plant-based foods is essential for feeding the “gut microbiome” – the healthy bacteria living in your gut.
Experts believe a robust gut microbiome is an important part of maintaining immunity, as the health of your gut is generally linked to your overall health.
Fruits and vegetables are also rich with prebiotics, probiotics, and vitamins, such as vitamin C, which can help to reduce the duration of the common cold.
5.Upgrade your Diet
While you’re increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, it’s worth looking at other ways to enhance your diet. For instance, healthy fats from foods such as salmon, mackerel, nuts, and olive oil can reduce inflammation and make it easier for your immune system to fight off pathogens.
Fermented foods are also an excellent immunity boosting tool. They’re rich in probiotics, which protect your gut biome and strengthen your digestive tract. The healthier your gut bacteria, the easier it is for your immune cells to differentiate between harmful cells, and healthy cells.
If you’re not a fan of fermented foods such as Kimchi and Kombucha, you can always consider probiotic supplements as an alternative.
Where possible, avoid added sugars and refined carbs, as these can contribute to an increased risk of weight gain. Obesity can increase your chances of getting sick, particularly during flu season. One study found people with obesity who received the flu vaccine still had twice the risk of getting flu than non-obese individuals who received the vaccine.
6.Try Taking Supplements
One of the reasons our immune systems struggle during the winter months, is that we don’t always have access to as many vitamins and minerals as we’d get during other times of the year. Vitamin D deficiencies are more common in winter, due to a lack of sunshine. You can increase your Vitamin D intake by eating spinach, kale, soybeans, and other foods rich in the vitamin. Or you can simply opt for a supplementary source.
Alongside vitamin D, try increasing your intake of:
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an excellent tool for increasing immunity and helping you to recover faster from illness. While you might not be able to avoid flu and colds entirely, consuming vitamin C could help you to rapidly recover.
Zinc: Zinc can also assist with reducing the duration of colds and other forms of sickness. Aside from supplementing, you can also increase your zinc take with pumpkin seeds, oysters, pork, and chickpeas.
Garlic: Including more garlic in your meals during winter could be a fantastic way to give yourself an immunity boost. One study found supplementing with garlic reduced the chances of people getting the common cold by around 30%.
It’s worth checking your Circle DNA report to see whether there are any specific deficiencies you may have which could contribute to a problematic immune system.
7.Drink Plenty of Water
While staying hydrated won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, it is an important step in preserving your overall health. Dehydration causes a host of problems, from an increased risk of fatigue and headaches, to decreased kidney and heart function.
During the winter months, make sure you’re still regularly maintaining your fluid intake with fresh water. Avoid drinking too many juices and sodas as this will increase your sugar intake, and could contribute to weight gain.
If you’re not a fan of the taste of water, consider naturally flavoring your water with fresh fruit and herbs such as mint. This will give you a tasty treat, while also ensuring you can maintain your hydration levels. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, make sure you’re drinking about 15.5 cups of water each day.
8.Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress is a common part of everyday life, particularly during the winter months when you’re tackling the challenges of holiday prepping. However, long-term stress can hamper your immunity, promoting inflammation, and making it tougher for your immune cells to operate.
Find ways to reduce your stress levels by committing to regular relaxation techniques. Exercising will simultaneously reduce your stress levels, and reduce your risk of gaining excess holiday weight. Practicing meditation and investing some time into yoga could also be great ways to de-stress.
If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, consider talking to a friend or family member for extra support, or think about seeing a licensed counsellor or therapist.
Boost Your Immunity This Winter
Giving yourself an immunity boost this winter is a fantastic way to protect yourself from common ailments, and ensure you can start the new year on the right foot.
Furthermore, check your CircleDNA test for genetic health insights and genetic health risks that could contribute to your overall health and immunity.
- CDC: Flu vaccine finder: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/flu-finder-widget.html
- NCBI: Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26477922/
- NCBI: Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26118561/
- NCBI: Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota
- NCBI: The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity
- NCBI: Increased risk of influenza among vaccinated adults who are obese
- NCBI: Garlic for the common cold