1. Eat Healthy
In the cooler months we tend to crave warmer, richer, denser foods in attempt to keep our bodies warm. Take care to avoid over-consumption of convenient foods and switch attention to healthy, nutrient rich foods. Sweet Potato and carrots contain betacarotene which can be converted to vitamin A to help prevent and fight infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses. Onions contain flavanoids, particularly quercitin which is a powerful antioxidant that is also a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory compound. Onions and garlic are both rich is sulphur containing compounds which can add to their antibacterial health benefits. Foods such as soups, casseroles and stir fries are great winter dishes, as plenty of nutritious vegetables and herbs can be easily added for health benefits and flavour. Avoid adding dairy such as cream and milk into soups and simply use purified/filtered water and flavour with your vegetables and herbs.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
During summer it’s quite easy to drink water during the day as it also acts to cool the body down, in winter however we often don’t drink enough water and can become dehydrated. The body needs water in order to remove waste from the body and to transport minerals in and out of the cells. When the body lacks water it has to work twice as hard to get oxygenated blood to the the cells, this can result in the organs and us feeling fatigued and exhausted. A good way to increase water intake during the colder months is through herbal teas which have their own added health benefits. Fresh ginger and lemon tea can help to stimulate the liver to eliminate toxins, it’s warming and has a number of immune boosting properties. This tea is antibacterial which can aid in a sort throat. is antiviral and has a number of digestive benefits as well. Avoid adding sugar to your tea, use a good Manuka honey as this has added antimicrobial effects. There are also applications you can download on your phone that remind you to drink water and track your water intake throughout the day. Simply search drink water into the app search and you will have a variety to choose from.
3. Minimise the Use of Heaters
During the cooler months it’s not unusual to be indoors most of the day either at home or at work with the heater on. If this is the case for you, it’s important to check the filters of these heaters regularly, particularly if someone in the house or at work is already sick. A dirty air-conditioning filter can effectively capture mould spores, dust particles or other irritants and they end up being spread around the home or office. Anyone with respiratory allergies, breathing problems, asthma or an already compromised immune system are more likely to be effected. Heaters also dry the air which can in turn dry out the mucous membranes of the nose and upper respiratory tract, reducing defences against infection.
If you are indoors for the majority of the day at work or at home, consider getting a salt lamp or burning beeswax candles. Himalayan Salt lamps and beeswax candles work as air purifiers. When turned on and lit they both release negative ions into the air where they neutralise positive ions such as pollen, dust, dirt, pollutants and allergens resulting in cleaner air. There are an abundance of negative ions in certain environments such as the beach, waterfalls, mountains and when we’re in these environments we inhale a significant amount of them. Once they reach the blood stream negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood hormone serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, stress and boost energy during the day.
There is increasing research surfacing that is showing that regular, moderate intensity exercise can boost the immune system. This is a result of increased circulation of immune cells throughout the body resulting in an increase in the production of macrophages: the cells that attack bacteria and viruses. After exercise the functioning of the immune system will return to normal within a few hours however consistent, regular exercise can increase the longevity of these immune boosting properties. There is however a fine balance, as exercising too regularly and at a high intensity can leave us burnt out and more susceptible to infection. Research has also found that during intense physical exertion, the body produces certain hormones that temporarily lower immunity. This is important for people regularly involved in high intensity sports as their immunity will need to be supported more, as well as encouraging rest and recovery. When possible get outside to exercise, fresh air is a better alternative to recycled air that may be circulating inside the gym.
Lack of sleep can effect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus such as the common cold. Lack of sleep can also effect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep the immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep. So, your body needs sleep in order to fight infections. Long term lack of sleep may also increase your risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is 7-8 hours of good sleep every night. School ages children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
6. Proper Hygiene
The most common way to spread viruses is from direct contact from an infected person to another and often it’s the little things that we don’t think twice about that can be contributing the most. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and make sure to wash your hands regularly, dispose of used tissues and minimise sharing objects with others, particularly towels. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, etc. Simple but very effective.