How to stay healthy this winter
3rd October 2019
As the nights start drawing in and the temperature begins to drop, it’s important not only to think of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas, but also to think about maintaining your health over the winter months. Each winter there are millions of cases of the common cold and also plenty of cases of the flu - which can even be fatal for those who are vulnerable or who have immune systems that can’t fight it off.
To avoid nasty illnesses as best as you can this winter, it’s important to maintain a healthy immune system. Your immune system is a network of cells, organs and tissues in the body which work to defend against infections, bacteria and viruses. And like all parts of the body, it needs the right care and attention in order to be most effective.
So to look after your immune system and stay healthy this winter, we have a few tips for you to follow.
Get your vitamins
Vitamins and minerals are essential for proper bodily function and each one is responsible for something different. When it comes to looking after your immune system, the ones you want to be getting more of are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E.
Vitamin A contributes to the growth and development of cell, while vitamin D enhances their function. Because our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, it makes sense that we get less of this in winter.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is possibly the most important ingredient when it comes to a healthy immune system. Along with vitamin E (which is also an antioxidant), it protects your cells from damage and neutralises harmful substances. Vitamin C also contributes towards white blood cell production, which is key because a low white blood cell count can make you more prone to getting ill.
In order to make sure your body (and immune system) gets the vitamins it needs, you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables Try and keep it varied and pack in lots of orange and dark green ones. You can also get all the vitamins your body needs in a Multivitamin or an Immunity vitamin, which a lot of people find easier.
Exercise at home
Exercise is not only important for keeping fit but it also helps to fight off winter tiredness. Because there are fewer hours of daylight in winter, this can mess with your internal body clock and leave you feeling tired throughout the day. This is due to a substance called melatonin, which relies on sunlight to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Because the winter months are usually filled with less-than-delightful weather though, this can deter a lot of people from going to the gym and also makes activities such as tennis a little unfeasible. Try to find an exercise routine or activity that you can do at home to make you more likely to keep it up through the winter months.
Maintain good hygiene
Even if you’re looking after your immune system properly, there are still plenty of bacteria around that your body won’t be able to fight off. To protect yourself from infection, it’s important to follow good hygiene practices such as washing your hands regularly and using a sanitiser gel after touching any public surfaces.
Cook with spices
Not only is spicy food the perfect choice to warm you up on a cold day, but it could also be more beneficial to your health than you realise. Things like garlic, ginger, chilli, cayenne pepper, turmeric and cinnamon have all been shown to help to boost your immune system and many of them have additional antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties.
Get your flu jab
Even if you keep your immune system as healthy as possible, the flu is still a prevalent and potentially dangerous illness that you will want to avoid. Although it’s mistakenly used as an interchangeable word for a cold, the flu is actually a much harsher virus and can make sufferers very ill, leaving them out of action for weeks at a time.
Thankfully, there is an effective vaccination against it, which should protect you over the winter months. Those who are at risk and should definitely consider getting one are those who:
- Are pregnant
- Are 65 years or older
- Have an underlying health condition
- Have a weakened immune system
Of course, it’s not just those high-risk individuals who should get a flu jab. While those groups are entitled to free flu vaccines on the NHS, anyone can get one and should consider it for a healthy winter period.