’Tis the time to be jolly, it’s also the time when cold and flu comes to say hello! Here are some top tips to keep that immune system in tip top condition;
The dry winter air can affect our mucus and saliva. These substances help protect us from catching infections and viruses, but if we’re dehydrated, these barriers are not as effective. Dehydration also boosts levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and this hormone lowers our immune system. Apart from being thirsty, other signs that you need up your water intake are; a dry throat and nostrils, dark yellow pee, not peeing much, headaches, cracked lips, muscle cramps and tiredness.
Yes really, make sure you are eating enough calories. The body needs calories to keep warm and every activity you do will need more effort than usual. If you aren’t eating enough of the right foods or taking up extreme diets to fit into that party dress/ suit, lack of nutrients naturally increase the levels of stress hormones, which we now know, impact the immune system. So try not to skip meals and ensure they are balanced with protein, carbohydrates, fibre and healthy fats.
WATCH YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
I know it tastes nice, but sugar is not your friend, especially at this time of year when it is everywhere! Whether is in the form of sweets, biscuits or alcohol, it can knock your blood sugars out, mess up your hormones and cause inflammation in the body- all of which will affect your immune system.
To support your body through the sugar filled festive season, complex carbs (wholegrains, brown rice, oats, also raise levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin.) and raw nuts, balance the blood sugars. Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids are very important for the immune system and reducing inflammation, especially if you already are suffering with an infection, along with zinc and vitamins E, A and phytochemicals.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR TUMMY
Your gut is a very important component of the immune system and can be susceptible to infections. Our tummy is full of beneficial bacterial fighting off harmful micro-organisms, so help them out by consuming a probiotic supplement or probiotic foods such as Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, or Kombucha to name a few.
The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight, but there’s not much of that around right now. Vitamin D has an important role in the immune response and a deficiency has been linked to almost every immunodeficient condition and autoimmune disease. These days you can find it in liquid form or as a spray if your diet is not varied enough. You can find vitamin D in fortified foods and mushrooms to name a few.
MEDITATE, REST AND HUG SOMEONE
As mentioned above, too much of the stress hormone cortisol can lower our immune system. So through the party season, take some time out to meditate. This doesn’t mean sitting in silence for an hour, (though that would be great), you could try free apps like Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace, that offer all different types of meditations, guided or just soothing music.
In the past, our ancestors would use winter as a season of extended rest. Sleep enables the body to heal itself, it is essential for all the processes in the body. It allows a better rate of cell regeneration and increases those natural killer cells keeping the immune system strong. If you are burning the candle at both ends, you may find yourself burnt out! So remember to rest to keep that immune system strong.
Physical touch also helps keeps the immune system strong by reducing that stress hormone cortisol- so go get yourself plenty of hugs this Christmas!
Sources: healthline.com/ nhs.co.uk/ hlbenefits.com/ cytoplan