We all desire to be healthy all year round, even during the colder months. But how exactly can you do that, especially during winter? Let’s find out how to boost your immune system!
Effects of Cold Weather on the Immune System
Common reasons as to why your immunity may be compromised during the winter include:
- Staying in enclosed places longer increases your risk of infections
- Viruses live longer in low humidity and cold temperatures
- Inhaling cold air causes the blood vessel to constrict as a means to retain heat.
This decreases white blood cell circulation to the mucosal, thus increasing the susceptibility for germ entry.
- Lower temperature decreases immune response causing the immune system to get easily attacked.
- Reduced vitamin D levels due to lack of enough sun exposure
How to Boost Your Immune System?
Winter is one of those seasons that comes with an expensive tag on your health. Researchers believe exposure to cold weather may negatively impact your health and lower your body’s ability to fight off infections. That’s why infections such as cold and flu are rampant and can easily transfer from one person to another in wintertime.
1. Engage in regular exercise or physical activity
The cold temperatures during the winter may prompt people to stay indoors with minimal to no physical activity. This causes your muscles to lay dormant and your circulation to become sluggish, affecting different aspects of your life, including mood, energy levels, and weight issues.
Sparing 30 minutes of your time 3-4 times a week to engage in physical exercise can boost your immune system and promote overall health.
Exercising during the winter doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to a gym or go running. You can work out in the comfort of your home and still put yourself in a better position to strengthen your immune system.
Some of the best indoor workouts for winter include:
- Jumping jacks
- Rope skipping
- Marching in place
- Jogging in place
- Air jump rope
- Arm circles
- Jumping jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Biceps curls
- Triceps dips
- Overhead press
- Water bottle weights
- Kidlifting for those with young children
- Band push-ups
- Band overhead triceps extension
- Straight leg raising
- Wall shin raises
- Side plank
- Band curl
- Band shoulder press
2. Eat real food
The immune system is strengthened by various nutrients present in natural foods. However, most people rarely eat food in its natural form during the winter because all the fresh summer fruits and vegetables are out of season. But winter comes with other superfoods that you should take advantage of, such as:
- Winter squash
- Citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
Including fermented natural foods such as fermented pickles, sauerkraut, or fermented beets may also help improve your gut health by increasing your good bacteria, thus strengthening your immune system even more.
3. Get enough sleep
Studies show that a lack of sleep can adversely affect your immune system and contribute to weight gain, among other issues.
A good night’s sleep helps your body to rest and your cells to rejuvenate. It also lowers your stress levels which helps boost the ability to fight against cold and flu.
Researchers recommend sleeping for at least 7 hours to experience the immune-boosting benefits.
Also, avoid blue light exposure or drinking coffee late at night as this can interfere with your sleep hormones.
4. Ensure adequate intake of vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. It offers both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties, which are essential for the activation of immune defenses.
Low vitamin D levels have been shown to increase susceptibility to infections and other immune-related conditions.
Low vitamin D levels are also associated with reduced lung function, decreasing your body’s ability to fight respiratory conditions.
The best way to obtain vitamin D is through sun exposure. However, during the winter months, taking a vitamin D supplement may be your only option.
Still, research shows that the body can store vitamin D in the liver and fat cells. So spending enough time outdoors in spring, summer, and fall may ensure adequate vitamin D storage to take you through the cold months.
You can also consume foods fortified with vitamin D, such as plant milk, cereals, and bread; however, most of these foods are highly processed and thus not good for you.
5. Avoid added sugar
Sugar is an immune killer! It causes inflammation and curbs your immune cells from performing their functions. Sugar also disrupts your gut flora, throwing your good gut bacteria off balance and putting you at risk of infections.
Moreover, sugar has zero nutrients and can greatly contribute to weight gain, obesity, and even type 2 diabetes.
If you have a sweet tooth, try things like dried fruit and always ensure proper intake of fiber and healthy fats to help you fight any cravings that may prompt you to look for something sweet.
6. Avoid smoking
Most people that smoke do it even more during the winter. As such, you may need professional help if self-regulating is difficult.
Components of cigarettes such as nicotine suppress immune function, causing it to work less effectively to protect you against attacks.
Smoking may also lead to autoimmune conditions where the body attacks its healthy cells and tissues, thus suppressing your immunity even further.
Staying healthy during the winter can be challenging, but is essential, since this is when your immunity is at its lowest.
Some things you can do to ensure your immunity is at its peak include engaging in regular physical exercise, getting enough sleep, eating natural food, eliminating added sugar from your diet, getting vitamin D, and avoiding smoking.
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