Four tips to help you take care of your immune system this winter

Your immune system is incredibly complex, consisting of many different glands, cells and hormones that work throughout your body. It’s your body’s defense against internal and external threats like viruses, bacteria, and toxins. When it’s working properly, your immune system ignores harmless or helpful cells and organisms in your body (like good bacteria in your gut) and works to neutralise and get rid of harmful cells and organisms (like cold or flu viruses).

Taking care of your immune system gives your body a better chance at fighting off certain illnesses so that you either don’t get sick from them, or your illness doesn’t last as long. Fortunately, there are a few easy things you can do to take better care of your immune system so that it can take better care of you.

Tip 1: Get enough sleep
It might be strange to think that something as simple as sleep can affect how your body reacts to threats, but sleep is the body’s way of resetting and healing itself. Good quality sleep positively affects your immune system’s functioning, and on the other hand, disrupted sleep can interfere with how your immune system works. Keep up good sleep habits like not drinking caffeine in the evening, trying to go to bed around the same time every night, and stopping screen time a few hours before bedtime to ensure you get enough hours of uninterrupted rest every night.

Tip 2: Eat a balanced diet
A varied diet made up of nutritious foods is important for supporting your immune system. While your immune system needs various vitamins and minerals to perform at its peak, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc are particularly important.

Vitamin D can be found in foods like fatty fish (salmon and trout), canned fish (sardines and herring), egg yolks, beef and fish liver. Citrus fruits, berries, melons, peppers and broccoli are rich in vitamin C. You’ll find zinc in beef, seafood, beans, nuts, and tofu. Get into the habit of reaching for these types of foods whenever you go to the grocery store and enjoy immune support throughout the year.

It’s worth mentioning that meeting your nutritional goals through diet alone is not always possible. We often struggle to eat these nutritious foods in the quantities that are needed to truly reap the rewards. This means that your body may need extra support from time to time. If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough of these vitamins and minerals, consider a supplement. Look for products that contain vitamin C, D and zinc in an easy-to-take, tasty formula – that way you’ll be more likely to stick to taking them.

Cutting back on processed sugars like those found in soft drinks, fast food and sugary desserts is another great step you can take towards building a balanced diet and getting the nutrition you need to support your immune system. Meal prepping can help here as you’ll be less likely to grab a quick, sugary snack if you already have a more nutritious one ready to go. You could also try incorporating something like a protein shake into your daily menu to help make sure your body has the protein and key nutrients it needs.

Tip 3: Live an active life
Exercise is essential for living strong and happy lives. It has many benefits, including supporting the immune system. Keeping active improves circulation, decreases stress, and improves sleep, all of which benefit the immune system. So, whatever you do, don’t stop exercising in winter. Try and keep active, even if you have to adapt your regular schedule to work around plummeting temperatures and fewer hours of daylight.

Tip 4: Reduce stress
Long-term stress can disrupt the hormones that regulate the immune system, making it harder to ward off diseases. Try managing stress with meditation, yoga, reading a book, or drawing to bring levels down.

Immune health isn’t something we should take for granted. Just by eating a balanced diet, moving more, improving habits, and sticking to a better sleep routine you are supporting your body’s ability to fight off intruders.

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