We can all notice a change in our mood during the winter months. With a shorter amount of daylight hours, colder and dull weather, it’s really not the best combination. However, it’s more than just our mood that needs a boost during the winter months. This period can cause issues for our immune system too, making us more likely to get ill. But, what exactly can we do to boost our immunities and keep our systems as high as possible?
Here, with vegetable seeds suppliers, Suttons, we take a look at what your immune system is and what are the top ways to make sure you stay fighting fit.
What is your immune system?
The immune system is what it says – a system. It’s not one 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.
Over the winter months, you may be required to have several immunisations in order to give yourself a good chance of remaining fit and healthy. 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 essential to eat 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, including zinc, folic acid and iron, have been found to alter our immune systems. Therefore, you must make sure you’re doing your upmost 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.
Health supplements are great way to give your body a boost if you can’t get enough vitamins into your diet through your food intake. There are many vitamins in tablet and liquid form that can help you maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
It’s sometimes hard in winter to get the required levels of vitamin D through just your diet. 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 must not that supplements should not be used constantly as a replacement to actual food. It’s much more beneficial for your body if you get these nutrients through a food source as it’s easier to absorb.
Exercise may not be high on your to-do list when you look at the dull, dark and cold skies. 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 an 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.
While it’s of course easier said than done at times, you must make sure you’re relaxed if you want to stay 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.
While you should always look to cut any stressful situations wherever possible, you must also ensure you get enough sleep. Without this, you will find yourself being run down, leaving your body susceptible to catching the 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 sleep each night.
Keep yourself right 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.
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