As we creep towards the colder, darker months of winter, it’s time to start shifting our attention to supporting our immune systems.
Many of us will already be fighting off sniffles or feeling run down, while the next few months will continue to be rife with colds, flu and other germs.
Yet, you don’t have to panic – the arrival of autumn and winter don’t necessarily mean you will get sick! In fact, there is plenty you can do to support your wellbeing and to give your immune system a boost throughout autumn and winter.
From reducing stress to eating the rainbow (and plenty of vitamin C-rich Jaffa!), read on to find out our top ways to support your body during cold and flu season.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Enjoying a balanced, vibrant diet is one of the best things we can do for our health. To boost the immune system, aim to eat plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables (focusing on vitamin C-rich foods, such as our Jaffa oranges and lemons, as well as zinc, which can be found in beans, pumpkin seeds and more). It is also helpful to reduce the amount of inflammatory ingredients in your diet, which can add stress to both the body and immune system. These inflammatory ingredients include excessive alcohol, vegetable oils, trans fats and highly processed foods and sugars.
CATCH SOME SLEEP
It’s often overlooked when it comes to our immune health, yet sleep is crucial for supporting our bodies at all times of the year. Getting plenty of sleep enables our bodies to refresh and repair – and studies show that people who don’t sleep well are more likely to get sick or run down. If you struggle with sleep, eat your last meal around 6pm and consider running yourself a hot bath with magnesium-rich Epsom salts before bedtime.
Many of us spend the build-up to Christmas feeling tired, run down and stressed out. Unfortunately, stress impacts our immune system, making it more difficult for our bodies to fight off germs and nasties. If you’re feeling frazzled, it’s crucial to add in soothing, calming routines to your day to help reduce stress on the body. You might like to try yoga Nidra, a meditation, journalling or breath work, such as the 4/7/8 technique.
One of the quickest and most effective ways to calm the nervous system (and therefore support the immune system) is to spend time outdoors in nature. Studies have also shown that essential oils from trees (phytoncides) can help to support the immune system. Similarly, using essential oils, such as lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and Tea Tree, in a diffuser can also support health.
LOVE YOUR GUT
More and more, scientists and researchers are starting to recognise the importance of our gut when it comes to good health. As well as being crucial when it comes to our mental health, the gut also plays a big part in our immune system – around 70% of the immune system is actually housed in the gut. You can support your gut by eating a range of different plant-based foods (aim for 30 per week!), and adding prebiotic (green bananas, garlic and Jerusalem artichoke) and probiotic (yoghurt, kombucha, miso, kimchi, sourdough) foods to your diet. These foods help to boost your ‘good’ bacteria and enable them to thrive.
SPEND TIME WITH LOVED ONES
Surrounding ourselves with friends and loved ones – and forging strong connections to others – is also a powerful way to boost the immune system. What’s more, hugs – even a hug with a pet, if you live on your own – are known to boost the love hormone Oxytocin, lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol as a result.
TAKE VITAMIN D
Vitamin D – the so-called sunshine vitamin – is a hormone and plays a huge role in our immune response. Our bodies form the active form of vitamin D after we’ve been in the sunshine. However, living in the UK means that it is difficult for us to get enough vitamin D from the sunshine from October until March. Instead, you might like to consider a supplement to top up your levels and support your immune system. Other ways you can boost your vitamin D levels include eating mushrooms (you can enhance how much vitamin D they hold by exposing them to sunlight).
MAKE SOME IMMUNE BOOSTING SHOTS
Finally, you might like to try making these Jaffa orange and lemon immune-boosting shots at home! They are cheap and simple to make and packed with vitamin C and anti-inflammatory goodness (such as turmeric, garlic and ginger). Find the recipe for Jaffa Immune Boosting Shots here.