Are you feeling the cooler weather like me? In Sydney, mornings are crisp and (some) days are full of sun shining warmth. However, these cooler temperatures are also the beginning of cold and flu season. Here are my top tips to boost your immunity this winter.
Sticking to a diet of seasonal whole foods will help to keep you healthy. Have you noticed how the winter fruits are the ones full on vitamin C – oranges, mandarins, kiwi fruit, grapefruit? I have even noticed the price of capsicums coming down. Mother nature has a wonderful knack of knowing what foods we need to keep healthy in each season.
My top nutrients for immune health are:
- Vitamin C – citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit), berries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, capsicums, Papaya, rockmelon, strawberries
- Zinc – Almonds, basil, capsicums, Brazil nuts, broad beans, butter beans, cashews, chestnuts, chicken, duck, eggs, liver, mushrooms, oysters, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, red meats, sesame seeds, spinach, sunflower seeds, turkey, walnuts, whole grains
- Vitamin D – calamari, cheese, cod liver oil, egg yolk, milk, sprouted seeds
When we are in a state of stress (mental, physical, or emotional), our bodies produce cortisol to help cope with that stress. When cortisol levels are high, the number of lymphocytes (white blood cell, immune fighting power forces in the body) are reduced. When we are stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced.
It is also important to de-stress in the right way to help the immune system. Turning to alcohol or smoking during times of stress will not help the immune system. Instead, try some yoga, breathing or meditation practices. Or try a simpler act of relaxation such as spending time in green space, going for a gentle walk in your lunch break, or sitting in the garden with a cup of tea.
See more tips to reduce stress here.
As the weather cools, we are usually less likely to exercise, especially if you usually exercise in the cooler mornings. Who doesn’t want to stay in that warm, cosy bed? It is important to keep up your exercise routine over winter as physical exercise helps to modulate the immune system.
It is important to eat within 30-40 minutes after exercise to help support the immune system. During exercise, our muscles are “damaged” (in a good way) and our bodies are placed in a state of stress. By having something to eat, this will help to repair the muscles and stop cortisol levels rising too high (as a result of the stress). Damaged muscles and elevated cortisol have a negative impact on our immune system.
As exercise is important, rest or sleep is just as important for our immune system. When we sleep, our immune systems produce proteins called cytokines. Certain cytokines are used when we are sick with an infection, have inflammation or are under stress, and so we need more of them.
If we are not getting enough sleep, our bodies may not be producing enough of these protective cytokines. Sleep deprivation also reduces infection fighting antibodies.
See our tips for better sleep here.
Take an Immune Specific Probiotic
With more and more research into different strains of probiotics and their functions, we know that there are some probiotics that will specifically help to boost the immune system. Book an appointment with one of our Naturopaths or Nutritionists to discuss the best probiotic for you.
In order to keep your immune system functioning at it’s best this winter, keep up your diet of fresh, wholefoods, exercise and sleep well and take time out to relax or unwind regularly. If you would like to talk more about your immune health, book and appointment with one of our naturopaths or nutritionists.