The winter months can play havoc on our moods. It’s a dull time of year on the weather front, the nights are colder and the daylight hours are shorter. Unfortunately, though, our immune systems can also be affected during these months, with winter making us susceptible to getting ill. But, what can we do to give it a boost and keep it high?
Here, vegetable seeds suppliers, Suttons, take you through what your immune system is and just what can be done to minimise illness and keep you fighting fit.
What is your immune system?
The immune system isn’t a single entity that you can pinpoint. It’s a network of cells, organs and tissues that work in unison to protect you. This ‘barrier’ helps destroy germs and parasites by trying to get rid of any unfamiliar bodies. If your immune system is healthy, then your body can fight off any harmful bacteria.
To remain fit and healthy over the winter months, you may be required to get several immunisations. For those who are most at risk during the winter months, such as the elderly, you will be entitled to free flu jabs. Some workforces also offer this service to their staff to try to restrict sick days. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you can still pay for the immunisation at selected pharmacies. While the NHS recommends that you get your flu jab in October or November, you can still have the injection at any point of the winter.
It’s crucial that you consume enough fruit and vegetables. Your immune system is like any fighting force and needs good nourishment to perform well. You should stock your daily diets full of foods enriched in vitamins to give yourself the necessary requirements throughout the year, not just in winter.
Certain micronutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, folic acid and iron, can change our immune systems. Therefore, you must make sure you’re doing your utmost to eat foods rich in these nutrients. Items you should be adding to your shopping basket over the coming months include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, poultry and sunflower seeds. Each are packed full of nutrients to help keep your immune system in good condition.
If your diet doesn’t provide enough vitamins, health supplements can give your body a boost. There are many vitamins in tablet and liquid form that can help you maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
Sometimes in winter, it’s difficult to get the required levels of vitamin D through diet alone. Temperatures and a lack of sunshine mean that we don’t receive our natural dosage of the vitamin via the sun’s rays and need to receive our intake elsewhere. Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters available to us. If you don’t receive enough of this vitamin form in your diet — kale and oranges are two nutrient-rich foods — be sure to take a supplement to help keep your levels high. After all, if you lack in this vitamin, you’ll be more prone to getting sick.
You should also note that supplements shouldn’t be a consistent replacement for food. It’s much more beneficial for your body if you get these nutrients through a food source as it’s easier to absorb.
When it’s dull, dark and cold, exercise may not be one of your go-to pastimes. You may feel more inclined to curl up in front of the fire, but this isn’t necessarily the best option. Exercising can help reduce your chances of getting a cold, flu or other illness as it can help flush bacteria from your lungs and airways. The change in body temperature can also play a part in preventing illness. This is because the rise during and straight after exercise can prevent bacteria from growing and ultimately fight any infection in a similar way it would if you had a fever.
Okay, so this one may be easier said than done. However, relaxing is vital to staying in peak health. This can include monitoring your stress levels. This is an area in which scientists are actively working to discover the exact link as it can be difficult to pin down exactly what a stressful situation means to a certain individual. However, stress has been found to have a strain on your immune system as well as your personal or work life.
You should also make sure you are sleeping long enough while also cutting any stressful situations wherever possible. Without this, you will find yourself being run down, leaving your body susceptible to catching a common cold. During sleep, your immune system releases cytokines proteins. Some of these proteins can aid your sleep, while others can fight off infections and inflammation, meaning it’s crucial to get a good sleep if you are to properly protect your body. It’s recommended that you aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
Try to keep yourself in the best possible condition this winter. It can be a long slog before we reach the bright summer nights once again, but by keeping your immune system working, you won’t feel worse due to illness.