With the cooler months just around the corner it’s time to give our immune system a little added boost. The good news is that this doesn’t need to mean a 20-step program and raiding the supplements aisle, no. This means going back to the basics of healthy living to strengthen our body’s natural defence systems against the common cold and those runny noses that come during the cooler months. It means more sleep, less stress, a little added dose of Vitamin C and learning to manage our stress.
Here is how you can reset your system and boost your immunity the clean way.
For the night owls reading this, it’s time to deliver a cold hard truth. Immunity and sleep go hand in hand, with no amount of Vitamin C and immunity boosting measures able undo a lack of quality time spent between the sheets. In fact, studies have shown a direct link between inadequate sleep and susceptibility to colds. Getting more than 6 hours sleep has not only been shown to help boost immunity, but has also been shown to help speed up recovery if you have caught the common cold or flu.
So if you have been finding it difficult to sleep due to stress and changes in routine, it may be time to take your sleep hygiene up a notch. That means going to bed at the same time each night, limiting screen time for at least 2 hours ahead of bed time, ensuring you have a dark room, exercising regularly and implementing relaxation techniques before you hit the pillow.
Look after your gut
When it comes to giving your immune system a good boost, one of the first steps is giving your pantry a Marie Kondo style makeover. This means ridding your cupboards and fridge of the artificial stuff and filling it with all the colours of the rainbow. Think plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and superfoods packed full of antioxidants.
A diet packed full of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives introduces high levels of free radicals into the body that in term causes inflammation. While short-term inflammation can be managed, prolonged inflammation in the body may leave you more susceptible to health alignments such as heart disease, certain types of cancers and even Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation in the body also has an effect on our gut microbiome and we know that a healthy gut means a strong immune system. Wholesome foods and fiber help good bacteria flourish which prevents pathogens from entering the body via the digestive tract. Eating wholesome means reducing gut inflammation and boosting your immune system the easy and tasty way!
Take your vitamins seriously
When it comes to building up your immunity, nothing quite compares to wholesome foods and natural sources. However, we also know that life tends to get in the way and making sure we tick all the boxes doesn’t always happen. So we’re here to remind you of the winter essentials that should be on rotation in your food repertoire.
We know that Vitamin C is the Holy Grail of immunity boosting, cold busting supplements with one study finding that taking around 2000mg of the supplement reduced the severity of colds in adults by 8%. Vitamin D plays an important role in decreasing our chances of getting sick, which makes it an important supplement, especially during the cooler months when the sun is not as accessible to us. Both vitamins are found in the Happy Way greens powder, which not only helps boost antioxidants in our body, limiting inflammation but also includes a multivitamin to ensure we tick all the boxes.
Eat more healthy fats
Now, please note we said healthy. While it may be tempting to bite into a burger or ten during isolation, the lure of takeaway food during the cooler months could be causing more damage than an expanding waistline. We’re all for balance, so a treat here or there is always on the agenda. However opting for healthy fat sources such as salmon, olive oil and avocado can work to boost the body’s response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation in the body can weaken the immune system over time leaving you more susceptible to colds and flus so opting for a healthy fat can help combat this. Olive oil in particular is highly anti-inflammatory and has been shown to aid in gut health. The perfect excuse to dip that home made bread in the good stuff.
Learn to manage your stress
Prolonged periods of stress and anxiety have been shown to suppress the immune system, which we already knew from personal experience. How many times has that university exam, promotion of significant life change been followed up with a cold or painful mouth ulcer? Too many times we predict.
If you are serious about giving your immune system a fighting chance this winter then you need to get serious about managing your stress. Stress and anxiety work to promote inflammation in the body as well as causing imbalance in cell function. This is particularly prominent in children who may be experiencing stress such as a change in their routine, or external causes of anxiety.
However, like all things in life, stress too can be managed. Find ways to manage your stress through yoga, meditation, pilates, more sleep, by limiting processed foods and artificial sources of sugar, sleep more and keep a gratefulness journal. The options are endless, it just take commitment and making healthy changes in your routine, which brings us to our next point…
Move your body! It’s one of the most effective ways to not only manage stress by boosting those happy chemicals in the brain, but to also boost your immunity. Now, this doesn’t need to mean getting up and going for an hour run every morning but it does mean committing to regularly moving, stretching and using your muscles. Moderate exercise is shown to help reduce inflammation in the body and is believed to help immune cells regenerate quicker. As little as 150 minutes of exercise per week has been shown to deliver such benefits.
Finally, hydrate and then hydrate some more
One of the quickest, most effective and cheapest ways to give your immune system a boost is to hydrate. Drinking water not only helps the body rid itself of toxins quicker, it also supports your overall health. This means allowing your kidneys to function at their optimum level, aiding a healthy digestion and allowing you to remain focused and feeling energised.
If you struggle to reach your 2l a day minimum, consider investing in a water bottle that you will carry with you at all times. Keep it at your bedside, leave it in your handbag and make it your new favourite accessory. Your body and immune system will thank you for it.