It’s that time of year where it feels like you are constantly fighting off a cold and there are so many bugs going around. We need to be doing everything we can to help our bodies and immune system this winter. So, I have put together my little winter survival guide with my top tips and favourite things that help me stay healthy and well during cold and flu season.
My number one non-negotiable is exercise!
I am, of course, a huge advocate of exercise and its many mental and physical health benefits, but I am always impressed by the science behind exercise and its ability to boost immunity. Did you know that exercising increases the number of white blood cells? White blood cells are responsible for fighting infection. When we exercise we increase blood flow around the body so not only does it increase the number of these infection fighting cells but also helps to circulate these cells around the body more quickly and effectively.
When we exercise we increase our breathing rate and how deeply we breathe. This helps to flush the bacteria out of lungs & airways – this may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu or other illness by 40-50%.
As we age our immune system becomes less effective and we are more prone to coughs, colds and other illnesses than we were in our 20s and 30s. Exercise helps to mitigate this age-related decline in your immune system.
Finally, exercise has been shown to slow down the release of stress hormones. This is great for our immunity as research has shown that stress increases the chance of illness and lowers immunity.
So, what is the best exercise for immunity? Well, the answer is a mixture. Incorporating walking, running, cycling or swimming for cardiovascular benefits combined with some higher intensity workouts such as strength, weight training and HIIT to give you the biggest immunity boost. (And always remember that overtraining impairs immunity so get that balance just right!) Going outside for a walk in the sun for just 30 minutes can really boost our VItamin D levels too – Vit D can help decrease the risk of getting a virus, improving our immune cell production.
Next up in my survival guide is sleep.
We have recently discussed in another blog the key benefits of good quality sleep and how to help your body hit the sleep target – you can read more on this here. But when it comes to immunity, sleep provides essential support to your body’s immune system & this really must be seen as a priority when helping our bodies fight these infections effectively.
Without adequate, quality sleep our bodies suffer especially our immune system. Getting enough hours of high-quality uninterrupted sleep gives us strong innate (our immediate response to infection) and adaptive (long-term adaptive response) immunity. Research has found that during our nightly sleep some components of our immune system wake up and do their work. In the same way that sleep helps to consolidate learning and memory, it does the same for immunity – sleep reinforces the immune system’s ability to remember how to recognise and react to pathogens (infections, viruses etc.).
Improving sleep often starts by focusing on our habits, routines, sleeping environment, and even whether we have the best mattress. Collectively, this is known as sleep hygiene, and even straightforward steps, such as having a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding using your phone before and in bed and dodging the caffeine and alcohol can make it easier to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t forget to take a look at the recent blog on eating your way to good sleep for more top sleep tips.
That leads me nicely onto my next point – eating for immunity.
A well balanced, healthy diet is key to success here. Your immune system cannot function to its full potential if it is not fuelled correctly to fight off the infections! In the same way it is vital to refuel after workouts, you need to feed your body for winter. In the winter months especially, we need to make sure we are getting adequate fruit and vegetables to get our vitamins and minerals. Given the shorter days and lacking sunlight in the UK in the winter it is recommended to supplement your diet with Vitamin D through the winter months.
Finally, I have a couple of key supplements which I swear by for helping my immune system.
Those of you who know me will know that I am a huge advocate of turmeric shots from The Turmeric Co. Do you know about the amazing benefits of taking turmeric? It boosts energy, flights infection, supports your immune system and is a powerful antioxidant not to mention it is rich in vitamins. I take two daily shots of Turmeric Vitamin C/D from The Turmeric Co. Use my code caroline10 to shop their range – the turmeric and ginger ones are my favourite!
As mentioned above Vitamin D is key over winter in the UK as we don’t get enough from the sunshine so I make sure I have a daily supplement of this to help my bone strength and immune system.
Ashwagandha – this has been dubbed the miracle herb and for good reason! It has been shown to regulate mood by increasing the body’s ability to manage stress. Ashwagandha is thought to control mediators of stress such as heat shock proteins, cortisol and other stress markers. Reducing stress levels on the body can help boost the immune system and allow the body to deal with the infections presented without additional stress. Ashwagandha is a root herb so not the easiest to incorporate into your regular diet and meals so I take the Wild Nutrition supplement which you can find here .
What are your go-to immune boosting products?