Immune system fuel for winter

by Andy Bryenton

We all know that winter is the season when colds and other ailments tend to strike, but how can we boost our natural defences without breaking the bank?

Here are some easy ways to incorporate immune system strengthening factors into daily life that don’t cost the earth.

1) Swap out energy drinks and coffee for water. Having a morning pick me up of the dark roasted kind is great, but over-indulgence can lead to lack of sleep, and excess sugar from artificial drinks is also contra-indicated. Water helps out in its own way, not least in promoting lymph production, the fluid, which transports white blood cells and other aspects of the ‘military forces’ of your immune system. Cutting down on late-in-the-day caffeine and sugar boosts also helps.

2) Adapt to a little more sleep. It’s not surprising that the longer nights mean we are predisposed to want to sleep longer. Some animals hibernate all winter long, and while that seems tempting, a slight uptick in hours of rest will help the immune system, as much of our healing happens while in a sleep state.

3) Take care of good bacteria. Almost 80 per cent of your immune system lives in your digestive tract, and the front line is made up of beneficial bacteria. You can help these along by eating probiotic foods, such as yoghurt, Japanese miso soup or Korean kimchi to name but a few. Also, don’t fall into a common winter trap and take antibiotics to fight a cold. The common cold is viral, and antibiotics will harm the good bacteria which are on your side, leaving the virus untouched. If you do have a bacterial infection of the bad kind, your doctor will prescribe the right antibiotic to deal with it, but always consult first.

4) Other foods that boost immunity can be found everywhere. Lean meat or fish high in omega-3 cooked with spices like turmeric, garlic and cayenne pepper. Veggies like capsicum, beans and fruits high in vitamin C are all winners. Cut back on artificial sweeteners and processed sugars if possible, or replace them with honey in your hot drinks.

5) Despite the weather, get out and walk in the sunshine when you can. Vitamin D and a bit of exercise are a great immunity boost when sedentary and gloomy days have your system at a low ebb. Between all these easy to implement methods, you’ll be better prepared when the cold comes calling, and your immune system can show it the door.