Supporting your immune system this winter
Do you get lots of colds and flu? Once you’ve got something does it linger for a long time before it goes? Are you left feeling wiped out after you’ve had a bug?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then these are all signs that your immune system may be struggling.
That was certainly me until my early thirties. Even as a child I had every childhood illness going, I got glandular fever as a teenager, and then developed endometriosis – a chronic inflammatory gynaecological condition. It’s thought that one of the reasons endometriosis develops is that the immune system is not strong enough to stop it. By my twenties without fail I always got flu or whatever virus was going around every winter and got hit really hard by it. Along with the two weeks off work feeling ill, it would then take me months to feel back to normal. These were all red flags that my immune system was struggling, but at the time, other than repeated visits to my GP, I didn’t know what to do about it.
Our immune system works hard to monitor for any viruses or bacteria entering our bodies and then take action against them to prevent them from making us ill. However, like any system in the body, our immune systems can get out of balance and not work as well as it should.
The good news is that there are plenty of simple diet and lifestyle steps you can take to support your immune system. Following these made a big difference to my health. Yes, I still get the odd cold, but that’s about it now and I can get rid of it quickly.
So, I wanted to share with you my 8 practical steps for starting to support your immune system:
Step 1 – keep hydrated
Like any part of the body, the immune system needs adequate hydration to work well. Staying hydrated also helps to flush any toxins out of our bodies. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses of water a day – this doesn’t include tea and coffee. Smoothies, soups and herbal teas all count and will also be giving you other immune supporting nutrients.
Step 2 – look after your gut health
A large part of our immune system is actually in our gut and having plenty of good bacteria in our gut helps keep our immune system working well. Support your gut by including probiotic foods such as live yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut in your diet every day.
Step 3 – feed your immune system the nutrients it needs
Our immune cells need a range of nutrients to help them work, but vitamins A and C, zinc and selenium are important. Include foods rich in these nutrients in your diet every day and use my free-e-book for find out more about foods rich in these nutrients and recipes that use them.
Step 4 – optimise your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is needed not just for our immune cells to function but also to regulate the immune system and give it a boost if needed. Our main source of vitamin D is direct sunlight exposure on the skin. There are also some food sources of vitamin D (find out more in the free e-book), but it can be hard to get enough vitamin D from food alone in the winter, so it’s worth getting your vitamin D levels checked.
Step 5 – get enough sleep
We need 7 to 9 hours sleep a night for our immune system to work well. Getting less than 7 hours sleep a night can make us more at risk of getting colds.
Step 6 – manage your stress levels
Stress can reduce your immune function and increase levels of inflammation in the body making us more likely to pick up infections. Manage your stress levels by doing at least 10 minutes a day of something relaxing, such as going for a walk, doing some yoga or having a soak in the bath.
Step 7 – get moving
Doing 30 – 60 minutes of exercise five times a week can support your immune system and help get your lymphatic fluid moving that transports immunes cells and helps remove waste products. However, don’t exercise if you are already feeling exhausted or ill, and be careful about doing lots of high intensity exercise that can reduce your immunity.
Step 8 – reduce substances that do not support your immune system
Alcohol, sugar and smoking all reduce the strength of the immune system making us more susceptible to infections. Avoid processed foods which are often low in nutrients and high in sugar as well as caffeine which can reduce our nutrient absorption.
For more tips about supporting your immune system along with recipes that incorporate the nutrients needed for immune health download my free e-book
And for more tailored immune support, including recommendations on supplements, then do get in touch to book a free discovery call to find out how nutritional therapy could support you.
Please do share with anyone you think may find this useful.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Emma Belton Nutrition disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.