How to look after your immune system in autumn and winter
11 January 2019
As the colder months draw in, coughs, colds and the flu are commonplace, spreading from person to person via small droplets in the air. With a strong immune system, your body is better prepared to fight off infection, saving yourself days in bed surrounded by tissues and tablets.
As we age, our immune response can become reduced, leading to a greater risk of infection. However, there are many small but effective practical ways that you can boost your immune system to keep colds at bay and perhaps even turn back the clock on ageing. Prepare early to ensure your immune system is strong and healthy ahead of those frosty days.
Eat a balanced diet
Fill half of your plate with fruit and vegetables and the other half with whole grains and lean proteins. Fruit and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, strengthening the immune system so aim for five portions each day. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are especially good in the winter months due to their high levels of vitamin C, so why not consider eating a rainbow of fruit and veg. Mushrooms, garlic and spices are also recommended to help to keep your immune system active. Soups are a great way to incorporate lots of vegetables, herbs and spices into one dish.
Consider vitamin tablets or supplements
To ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals into your body, considering supplements. Vitamin C is vital for the immune system boosting the respiratory tract. Vitamin D supports bone health and your immune system. Zinc helps to boost immune function, aiding in the production of antibodies. Magnesium, potassium and calcium help to avoid fatigue. Probiotic supplements, containing ‘friendly bacteria’, can help to reduce the incidence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
30 minutes of exercise, whether it’s a brisk walk, a jog, pilates, yoga or cycling, all help to give your body a boost of energy and keep your immune system active. Exercise boosts circulation, releases mood-boosting endorphins and can help you to sleep well. As your heart starts pumping faster, white blood cells begin to circulate around the body at an increased rate, helping to fight off the first signs of infection. If you are not already exercising regularly, start in stages; take the stairs instead of the lift, walk instead of catching a bus and then build up as you are able.
Get enough sleep
Ensure your energy levels are topped up by getting at least eight hours of sleep a night. Wrap up in a warm duvet to fight the winter chill and get into the habit of setting a good bedtime routine to see you through the night. Healthy sleep increases cognitive ability, mental health, blood sugar regulation and enables our immune systems to remember and fight off pathogens.
Enjoy the fresh air and take a walk outside. Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D, which could reduce the risk of getting the flu. Time outside can also boost your mood and help you to keep active. Be sure to wrap up warm and wear a thick coat, scarf, gloves and hat on those colder days.
Practice healthy habits
Whether it is keeping up with your flu vaccinations, regularly washing your hands or giving up smoking, small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on the health of your immune system. As we get older, regular check-ins with the doctor can help keep on top of any underlying health issues. Avoid stress where you can by allowing time to relax and by surrounding yourself with a support network of friends or family.
Support your immune health and enjoy the winter months without having to battle a cold or a cough. At PegasusLife, we are not just passionate about ensuring our residents have a beautiful home, we also want them to be happy, healthy and living independent, fulfilling lives.
Get in touch to find out what life could be life surrounded by a great community at one of our developments around the UK.