The immune system is ‘a system’ and to function well, it requires balance. Whilst there are still a lot of things we don’t know about immune responses, and little scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function, healthy living strategies are a good place to start to help your immune system this winter.
Here are Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa’s top tips
Most health experts agree that we don’t get more colds and viruses in the winter because we actually are being exposed to colder temperatures but because we spend more time indoors with people who pass on their germs. Try to get some fresh air whenever you can. Getting out regularly for a short walk will additionally help you get sunlight exposure to increase levels of vitamin D which reduces the risk of seasonal affective disorder, osteomalacia and rickets.
Get the flu jab
This is especially important for those who are at risk such as pregnant women, the elderly, or people with certain diseases such as coeliac disease, as well as carers. For example, we know that having the flu jab significantly lowers the rates of sickness and death in older people when compared with no vaccination.
Beat the blues
Attempting to boost the cells of the immune system with vitamins and supplements is complicated because the immune system is made up of so many different parts that we can over-boost our cells which can increase other risks such as strokes. Ask your GP for further advice before taking supplements.
Studying the relationship between stress and the immune system is challenging in that stress for one matter is very hard to define. However, keeping stress levels manageable reduces levels of cortisol and excessive adrenaline which can affect our body’s natural balances.
Sleep through it
Getting enough sleep is essential in the winter. Not getting enough sleep increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol and can even lead to inflammation in the body. Try to get eight hours of good quality sleep a night.
Walk it off
Regular exercise will make you feel more energetic, can improve your mood and will help you manage your weight better, especially after an indulgent Christmas. There is also some limited research suggesting that moderate exercise can strengthen the immune system by promoting good circulation.
Eat your oats
Eat porridge for breakfast. Rolled oats are a super-grain which contain lots of antioxidants and anti-microbial properties which can kill or slow the production of microbes in your body which cause infectious illness.
Spice things up
Having a healthy sex life involves our nervous, circulatory and muscular systems for starters and therefore contributes to a healthy lifestyle. A study by Wilkes University in the USA concluded that sex boosts the production immunoglobulin which is an antibody which helps fights colds and other viruses.
A healthy immune system needs good, regular nourishment. We know that those who are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day and swap from white to multi-grains. Avoid sugar, just 10 teaspoons of sugar a day may impair the ability of white blood cells to fight viruses.
It sounds a little silly but laughter may increase the production of antibodies and white blood cells in your body and reduce hormones associated with stress. So not only does laughing help you mentally, but also physically! Many argue that a positive state of mind helps keep us well and helps recovery from sickness.
For more information, visit Your DoctorLast modified: November 17, 2020