Natural ways to boost immunity
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Can you catch a cold from being cold?
Mum’s winter mantra has always been "Wear a singlet or you'll catch a cold!" Is she right?
Research tells us that moderate exposure to the cold does not increase your susceptibility to infection. The main reason winter is ‘cold and flu season’ is that people spend more time indoors, in closer contact with other people. As a result, germs are more easily transmitted at this time of year.
A weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to catching a cold or virus at any time of the year. Fortunately, there are many ways you can naturally boost your immunity.
An immune friendly diet
Zinc and Vitamin C are particularly important for immune function. Zinc can be obtained from oysters, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Red capsicum, kiwi fruit and citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C.
A varied diet that is high in vegetables, fruit and wholefoods will expose you to a wide variety of other important nutrients that support immune health.
Highly processed food on the other hand, offers limited nutrients and is generally high in sugar, salt and saturated fat that causes inflammation within the body and negatively impacts gut flora. Processed food should be avoided where possible.[i]
A healthy gut
Scientists have discovered that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in regulating immune function. A significant portion of your lymphatic (immune) tissue is in the gut and the food you eat particularly impacts the gut microbiota.[ii] Support your gut health by eating a diet that is high in prebiotic foods including onion, garlic, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes and probiotic foods such as good quality, unsweetened yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha.
Vitamin D is synthesised in the body following sunlight exposure. It can also be obtained from foods including eggs, beef, veal and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Vitamin D’s chief role in the body is to maintain healthy bones however it has been shown to have a role to play in immune function. Deficiency has also been associated with a range of autoimmune conditions.[iii]
10-15 minutes of daily sun exposure is sufficient for the body’s Vitamin D needs however this is not always possible in colder seasons and supplementation can be required. Deficiency is common towards the end of winter, when your stores of Vitamin D have been depleted.
Other natural ways to support immune function include regular, moderate intensity exercise, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, moderate alcohol consumption and adequate sleep.
Mindful activities such as meditation, yoga and walking can assist with stress reduction and 7-8 hours of good quality sleep has the flow-on effect of improving concentration, productivity and exercise performance. Adequate sleep can also assist with maintaining a healthy weight.
Research has also shown that feeling happy can give your immune system an extra boost. So be sure to wear a singlet while incorporating these healthy practices to keep Mum happy. Then you can both benefit from improved immunity!