As the winter approaches it is important to keep our immune systems healthy.

Our immune system is made up of a complex network of cells, organs and proteins that defend your body against germs and viruses that make you ill. Every time your body kills a germ it keeps a record of it so that if it comes into contact again it knows how to destroy it quickly.

We have two subsystems of immune response in the body the innate system and the adaptive system.

The innate system gives you a good defence against germs that enter your system. It does this by using your immune cells known as killer cells. Yes, we do have killer cells in our body to protect us against illness. This is the job of the innate system, and the germs will generally enter the body by the skin or digestive system.

The adaptive system is makes antibodies that will fight germs that have we have previously been in contact with. This is known as the acquired immune response. This immune system is constantly changing over time and because of this it is able to combat viruses that change and adapt also.

Here are 10 ways in which you can help to keep your immune system healthy:

 

Make sure you eat well

It sounds simple but eating a healthy diet is important to keeping healthy. For a strong immune system, you need to have a healthy gut and in order to achieve this you need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Grass fed meat and wholegrains plus pluses such as beans and lentils. The more variety the better as this gives the gut a variety of microbiome to stay healthy. As we go into winter a good choice would be warming soups and stews that you can pack with vegetables.

 

Make sure you stay hydrated

In the summer it especially when it is hot, we can easily stay hydrated by having water. It is still important in the winter as becoming dehydrated can lead to headaches and can pull us down leaving us open to bugs. Some people say that only water counts but tea and coffee can also count as long as you do have too much caffeine. Also, fruit juice but do watch the sugar content. Carbonated drinks are not great so keep them to a minimum.

 

Get some exercise

Taking some moderate exercise each day is great for both you mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise strengthens the body but is also good for dealing with stress. When we exercise, we produce endorphins, this makes us feel happier. It also helps to lower cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone. It has been shown that half an hour of moderate exercise a day will boost your immune system. People who exercise are less likely to have acute illnesses such as colds and flu. It has also been shown that they have lower rates of more chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you don’t exercise at the moment, then look for something you enjoy. A brisk walk each day, swimming, bike riding or maybe you are thinking of starting couch to 5K. What ever it is for you make a start. Start slow and build up. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to carry on.

 

Sleep is really important

We need to sleep so our body can recover from the day. We tend to sleep more when we are ill, this is because the body can then heal and recover from the illness. When we are asleep our bodies produce immune cells that are important to fight infection. As a rule, getting 7-8 hours’ sleep a night is what to aim for. If you have trouble sleeping then try and make sure the room is dark, avoid bright lights of any kind. Try unwinding with a nice warm bath before bed. Do not watch television in bed before sleeping. Get yourself into a good routine and try and go to bed at the same time each night.

 

Reduce stress

Our mental and physical wellbeing are connected so if we want to stay healthy then stress levels should not go too high. If we have long term stress then this can cause inflammation in the body and lead to the immune system being compromised. If you struggle with stress then why not try doing some exercise this can help, if not you could try yoga or Pilates, meditation, or mindfulness. All of these things can help you to reduce your stress, and this will help with your immune system to stay healthy.

 

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

If you drink too much this has a detrimental effect on your immune system. The reason for this is that alcohol is a toxin, so if we have a lot to drink then our bodies need to work harder to expel the toxins from the body. This takes a lot of effort for the body to do and so the immune system is neglected at this time. It has been shown that heavy drinkers suffer more form viruses than other people who drink a lot less. Drinking too much over a period of time will also damage your liver and can cause other illnesses. Having the occasional drink with a meal or friends is perfectly alright too do just don’t go overboard. Your head and intestines will thank you for it in the morning. Next time you go out why not try and alcohol-free gin, beer or wine some of them are very good and you cannot taste the difference.

 

Wash your hands

During the pandemic we got used to washing our hands more frequently. When we touch things, other people have handled we can pick up germs from them. Children are particularly prone to picking up germs this way as they tend to handle things and then hands go to mouth. This is why germs spread quickly in play groups and nurseries, also when they first start school, they do seem to pick up a lot of germs. Regularly washing hands can help stop germs from spreading.

 

Vitamins and minerals

I get asked a lot whether people should be taking a supplement. The answer in most cases is yes, although not all supplements are equal. The more cheaper supplements tent to have a lot of fillers in them and although you think you are saving money, you are in fact putting a lot down the toilet and getting minimal vitamins and minerals. The main vitamins to make sure you are getting enough of is vitamin C as this has been shown to shorten the length of colds should you catch one. Vitamin D we get through sunlight on our bodies, in the winter there is a lot less sunlight and the days are shorter so a supplement may well be a good idea. Lastly zinc this helps support a healthy immune system and has been shown to shorten the length of a cold. Although supplements are a good idea it should not be a substitute for a healthy diet. Make sure you eat a rainbow of colours as this will ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

 

Taking over the counter medication

When we get a headache or feel unwell, we are likely to reach for over the counter medicines such as paracetamol, lempsips, couch mixtures and ibuprofen. The problem with taking these while we might feel better, they do not help our immune systems. They suppress the immune system and that then can take longer for you to get well and lay you susceptible to more infections. The occasional paracetamol will not cause any harm but to take them long term will affect your immune system. Instead of these why not try something homeopathic aconite and Gelsemium are good for colds and flu. Belladonna can help with headaches and bryonia for dry hard coughs. Homeopathic remedies will do you no harm, have no side affects and will not weaken your immune system.

 

Overweight

If you are overweight, then losing weight will help the immune system. Being overweight you are more likely to catch colds and viruses compared to someone who is not overweight. When we are overweight, our body has to work harder to try and keep things in balance. Start by cutting out refined sugar, pastries, cakes, and chocolates. Just by cutting out or lowering your sugar intake will reduce inflammation in the body and reduce your weight. This also has other health benefits such as reducing your change of type 2 diabetes.

 

Conclusion

My tops tips for supporting your immune system in winter are eat well, make sure you have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, make sure you get enough sleep at night, exercise daily and manage your stress levels. Take a supplement if you need to in the winter. I am happy to advise. Use homeopathy for minor illnesses such as colds and flu. My kits are available to buy on the website.