Now that the glow of Summer has subsided and the dark nights have crept in, you could be forgiven for feeling a little low. With shortened daylight hours lowering our Vitamin D intake and cold mornings bringing on runny noses, our immune system and overall mood can suffer. This time of the year has us sticking our toe out of bed in the morning and pulling our duvet back up underneath our chin, wishing it was Sunday again. Perhaps Shakespeare had it right when he famously wrote, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” But don’t despair, it’s not really all doom and gloom. It’s all about perception and preparing!
Just as the grass needs the rain to stay looking fresh and lush, we too can use the cooler, wetter months to nourish ourselves. Winter is a great time to hibernate and get the rest our body needs, taking the time to really boost our immune system to stay healthy and happy. While most of us love the warmth a Summer day can bring, we can get just as much joy from feeling a brisk refreshing breeze on our face, whilst wrapped up warm with a thick coat and scarf. It’s all about appreciating the now and dressing appropriately! So … that’s our outside covered, but what about our insides?
There are several ways (and we are going to give you 10) with which you can prepare yourself for the change in season and truly enjoy it. So, let’s begin …
- Take advantage of the cold, dark nights and get heaps of sleep!
Getting in lots of shut eye cannot be underestimated. Not only do your cells recover while you sleep, but there is strong evidence to suggest that sleep enhances our immune defences. Plus, it’s nice and warm in bed, so a good excuse to jump in earlier.
2. Add some garlic to your evening meals
Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent and immune booster. This means it’s great for keeping the bugs at bay and not just the vampires! One clove contains 5mg of calcium, 12mg of potassium and more than 100 sulfuric compounds – meaning its superhero powers can wipe out bacteria and infection.
3. Eat plenty of vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale.
These vegetables contain antibacterial and antiviral agents to help keep us disease free. When broken down by blending, chopping or biting, a chemical reaction converts the sulfur-containing compounds into isothiocyanates, which help to fight cancer and boost our immunity.
4. Cut down or cut out alcohol.
There is evidence to suggest an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health problems, such as susceptibility to pneumonia. Alcohol is believed to disrupt the body’s immune pathways causing impairment and an inability to defend against infection. All the more reason to reach for a hot cuppa instead!
5. Consider increasing your yoghurt intake.
Fermented milk products have been shown to reduce respiratory illnesses in children and adults. Not to mention the other health benefits of probiotics such as weight loss (as we all tend to eat more in winter), heart health and digestion.
6. Vitamin D.
Yes, there will be days in winter where you can still get out there and enjoy the sun’s rays. In a major global study, it was discovered that Vitamin D reduces the risk of colds and flu. Just 15 minutes a day is all you need!
7. Don’t be afraid to get a little closer to your significant other!
While it can be very tempting to jump into bed and binge watch your favourite shows on Netflix, regular sex has been said to help immunity by boosting levels of immunoglobulin (an antibody that helps fight off colds and other viruses). Who knew?
Well, they do say it is the best medicine, right? But further to that, it is known to help de-stress us. Stress is intrinsically linked to our immune system. Ever noticed how you get sick when you are stressed? That’s because being stressed causes a wave of stress hormones to pump around our body. This can interfere with our immune system and make us susceptible to infection and tissue damage. So, if you find yourself reaching for the remote to find a comedy, that’s great, just make sure you complete No.7 above first.
9. Eat Porridge.
Not only is porridge a nice hot breakfast to warm us up in the morning, rolled oats are full of antioxidants and antimicrobial properties – ideal for boosting our immune system.
You can’t underestimate supplements. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to make sure we look after ourselves through eating a healthy diet and getting lots of exercise, we just need a little helping hand to ensure we are getting the right amount of daily vitamins and minerals our body needs. If you want to give your body the best chance of staying healthy this winter, try adding some Vitamin C, Echinacea and Zinc to your daily routine, to name but a few. Vitamin C has anti-viral and immune enhancing properties, Echinacea and Zinc can help prevent and treat a long list of infections.
If you try and include some, or all, of the above this Winter there is no doubt you will be doing yourself a huge favour, not to mention having lived through and enjoyed the cooler winter months with less stress and a positive attitude. “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day?” If you follow the above, we probably could. Happy winter.