Winter can be challenging on your immune system. As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, your body needs to adjust and find strength to avoid getting sick. People are more susceptible to colds and flu in the cooler temperatures, with viruses spreading more easily in dry air and closed environments. Luckily, there are lots of great ways to boost your immune system in winter, most of which are very easy to implement.
From food consumption to rest, sunshine, and exercise, there are many ways to boost your immunity during winter. This blog post will explain why winter makes you sick and then look at seven simple and effective ways to stay healthy in the cold.
Why winter makes you sick
As temperatures plummet and people head indoors, colds, flu, and other viruses are more likely to flourish and spread in the community. The frequency and duration of sickness increases, and people with chronic and immunocompromised conditions need to be extra careful. There are many reasons why this is the case, from the nature of diseases themselves to weather conditions and living environments.
While cold temperatures alone won't cause sickness, winter weather influences how we relate to viruses and respond to disease. Exposure to cold dry air can have a negative impact on the immune system, and people often react in the worst way possible.
According to studies, low temperatures may have a direct impact on the body — affecting the immune response. Spending more time inside also makes it easier for viruses to spread, with close personal contact, dry inside air, and reduced vitamin D levels all playing a role.
7 tips for boosting your immune system during winter
If you want to stay healthy and avoid getting sick, you may want to change your lifestyle in the following ways:
1. Eat plenty of fresh, healthy foods
If you want to stay healthy in the cold weather, good food is essential. The foods you eat have a direct impact on your immune system — fresh, healthy ingredients are able to energise the body and stimulate the healing response. Like everything in life, balance is the key to good eating, so try to eat a well-rounded diet with all the macronutrients.
While protein is essential to keep your immune system firing, carbohydrates and healthy fats can also be beneficial. Eating lots of fresh unprocessed foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, is the best way to avoid winter sickness.
2. Take immune-boosting ingredients and supplements
Specific compounds in foods are known to have a positive impact on the immune system, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, and zinc. Citrus fruits are recommended during winter, as are red capsicum, broccoli, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and spinach. Supplements can also be a great idea, including multivitamin and mineral formulations, amino acids, spirulina, acai berries, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and goji berries. While these "superfoods" are often hyped, they can be a powerful and efficient way to boost your nutrient intake.
3. Enjoy lots of stress-free rest
To fight disease successfully, the body needs to have enough energy. While healthy foods provide you with fuel, getting lots of sleep gives your immune system time to reset and regenerate. Not all sleep is equal, however — the best quality sleep is free of distractions and worries.
You can improve the quality of your sleep by dealing with stressful events early in the day, turning off electronic devices, implementing a wind-down routine, and keeping to a regular sleeping schedule.
4. Get outside and enjoy the sunshine
Colds and flu flourish in dry indoor environments, which is often where we escape in an effort to avoid getting sick. Indoor environments expose us to dry heating systems, not to mention other people who may be suffering from viruses. Spending time outside also has a direct impact on how well we respond to sickness. According to research, vitamin D plays an essential role in maintaining the immune system, and the best source of vitamin D is the sun.
5. Move your body on a regular basis
Exercise is essential throughout the year, but it has even more impact during the colder months. Studies show regular exercise helps to regulate your blood pressure, boost your metabolism, and reduce your stress levels. This has a powerful effect across your body, with your circulatory system and gut able to respond much better to disease.
Consistency is key when it comes to exercise, so start small and try to develop a routine. Home-based fitness is a great idea during winter because you're more likely to stick with it regardless of the weather. If you have a treadmill at home, this simple 15 minute interval training program helps you make the most of your time by combining strength and cardio workouts.
6. Develop good personal hygiene habits
Since the onset of the global pandemic, personal hygiene has been a big concern for everyone. It's not all about COVID, however — regular hand-washing and bathing routines can stop many diseases in their tracks. Washing your hands every time you get home is a good idea, and keeping a bottle of hand sanitiser in your car helps you to avoid exposure while on the go. Other personal hygiene habits are also important, including brushing your teeth often, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and trying not to touch your face too often when out in public.
7. Practise social distancing when needed
Along with personal hygiene, COVID-19 also taught us all about social distancing. If you do get sick, stay home. Self isolating is a simple way to avoid passing your illness onto others and further spreading the infection through the community. If the people in your life are suffering from colds and flu, the best advice is to stay away. Face masks still serve a purpose in busy public spaces, not just for COVID but also for regular colds and flu.
Staying healthy in winter is about setting up sustainable habits to follow all year round. By making a few small changes to your lifestyle, you can boost your immunity and enjoy the colder months.