Or perhaps you are one of the many people who has already been knocked sideways by one of the many bugs going around and you’re hoping you can get back to normal without getting ill again? You are not alone!
Winter can be a wonderful time to slow down and reflect on the year. But often we are so busy with a long to-do list and lots of places to be that by the time that we get to those special events and gatherings, we are exhausted. It can be tempting to comfort eat, drink a lot of alcohol and scrimp on the sleep.
But although as a species we don’t hibernate, like most other animals in this climate we are built to slow down at this time of year to conserve energy. And when we ignore what our body is telling us it needs, our immunity does tend to struggle to keep the bugs at bay.
Here are some tips to incorporate during this season to help support your immune system:
- Elderberry – full of antioxidants, this fruit may help to immobilise some viruses, reducing the way that they spread and multiply. Best taken as a syrup or a lozenge, berries should not be eaten raw. There are many natural products on the market.
- Vitamin D – most people benefit during the winter months from supplementation of at least 800IU (equivalent to 10 micrograms) of Vitamin D because there isn’t adequate light for us to produce enough at this time. You can ask your GP for a test if you suspect that you are deficient, and some individuals have an increased requirement and may need a higher dose.
- Vitamin C Rich Foods – include plenty of the following: Guavas, kiwi fruit, red peppers, strawberries, blackberries, oranges, papaya, broccoli, tomatoes and kale.
- Water – keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water or teas. Aim for at least two litres per day. Green tea, rosehip and lemon and ginger teas are all great choices. Look out for teas which are formulated to support immunity too.
- Sleep – it may not seem like you have enough time for it but it is one of your best defences against illness! Aim to spend at least an hour away from screens before bed, do something restful such as reading or having a warm bath to improve sleep quality.
- Zinc Rich Foods – zinc is another nutrient that is used more quickly when your immune system is at work. The best sources are animal foods such as oysters, shellfish, beef, pork and chicken. But good vegetarian sources include tofu (firm), pumpkin seeds, lentils, yogurt, oats and shiitake mushrooms.
- Reduce sugar and alcohol – this may be a hard sell at this time of year. But if you can minimise sugar and alcohol intake on the nights when you are home, this can help because these substances can put added stress on your immune system.
- Mindfulness – this may seem like a strange one but our busy overworked minds can also play a part in our body’s reduced resistance to illness. Taking a few minutes out to try a mindfulness exercise or listen to a short meditation track can help to instil a calmer state of mind.
Victoria Bell, Nutritional Therapist