Wellbeing

5 Fast Ways To Boost Your Immune System This Winter

Winter is officially upon us which means cold and flu season is now in full swing. While upping your vitamin C intake is a good idea, there’s also a bunch of proactive steps you could be taking to help your body fight the cold and come out swinging this winter.

Your immune system works to protect you against diseases, so if you’re not looking after yourself right, it affects whether you’ll be more susceptible to colds and infections. Treat your immune system like a queen and reap the rewards of a healthy winter season.

Here’s five ways to boost your own immune system that go way beyond upping the Vitamin C.

#1 Stress less

Right, sounds simple enough (not really). Unfortunately, daily stresses are just part and parcel of being an adult, but it’s the stresses that linger in our minds that are bad news for our immune systems. Stress is actually an immune suppressor, otherwise known as a cold’s best friend.

stress

As holistic healer Amanda Froelich puts it, chronic stress can make you more vulnerable than ever to illness. “The continuation of stress exposes the body to a steady cascade of stress hormones – cortisol and adrenalin – which suppress the immune system,” she says. So try taking a more meditative approach to stress this winter. Breathe deeply, think of that happy place and focus on letting go, she says.

Reece Carter, The Cusp‘s very own herbal medicine expert, says it might be worth trying some gentle and proven herbal remedies to help soothe an overactive mind or an overworked body. Oil up on peppermint and lavender, turbo charge your tea with green tea and lemon balm and load up on gotu kola and ashwaganda. For more info, read this.

#2 Be careful what you put in your mouth/belly

It sounds obvious but it bares repeating – cut the processed foods and your body will thank you later. Carla Oates from The Beauty Chef told The Cusp about her approach to food and how it can have a positive impact on your skin, your belly and your immune system as a whole. “Our gut is where 70% of the immune system lies,” she says, “[it’s] where we metabolise hormones, where we make detoxifying enzymes and where we make nutrients.” Carla preaches that a healthy immune system begins in your belly, so eating fermented foods full of nutrients and natural probiotics, drinking lots of water and looking out for low HI (human intervention) food is what you should be aiming for.

Immune-boosting foods include ginger, garlic, citrus, berries, pineapple and carrots – keep an eye out for these on your next weekly shop.

#3 Sleep in

Yep, you read that right. It’s finally time to rid yourself of that early alarm or get into bed earlier at night – it’s actually healthier if you do. Our body does some incredible stuff while we sleep, repairing our body and regulating all our hormones – it’s prime time for ensuring we stay healthy.

sleep

Fatigue has been proven to increase our susceptibility to illness, as immune systems that function on a small amount of sleep are less likely to produce the antibodies needed to fight common colds or illnesses. A study from the University of Chicago found that poor sleep disrupts the immune system and can even accelerate cancer growth. Another study saw researchers limit test subjects’ sleep to four hours a night and then give them the flu vaccine – as a result their immune system only produced half the normal number of antibodies to the flu virus than those who got a full night’s rest.

If that’s not motivation enough to take a morning off when you’re getting sick, then I don’t know what is.

#4 Get into your spice rack

Spices are like the sword and shield for your immune system warrior. Not only will they bring some much needed flavour into your life, but their antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory properties do wonders for your health.

Nutritional counsellor and The Cusp health expert, Nikki Heyder from NOOD, says that you should never be scared of adding spice to your meals, simply because you don’t know how much to use or which spice goes with what. It’s all about experimenting and seeing what’s right for you. Nikki says spices “not only boost flavour but can add amazing nutritional benefits including improving circulation, firing up your metabolism, reducing inflammation, boosting antioxidants and balancing hormones.”

Turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon and cayenne pepper are all great – check out how to use them and what they’re good for on our profile here.

#5 Get moving

While leaving the comfort of your bed in the middle of winter doesn’t sound that appealing, exercise is actually quite vital to keeping colds at bay. A joint study from Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina looked at the effects of regular activity on your immune system and found that the more physically fit and active you are, the less likely you are to catch frequent colds in the winter months.

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Come on buddy, you can do it!

The study followed a group of healthy adults aged 18 to 85 years old over the course of a 12 week period, and found that those in the top fitness level (those who did five or more days of exercise a week) experienced 43% fewer days with cold symptoms than those in the lowest 25% of fitness levels (participants who did one day or less of exercise). Not only that, but if these fitter participants developed a cold, it was much less severe.

So quit the excuses, crank the Beyoncé and get out there. Your future self will thank you this winter.


Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.