Five Ways To Boost Your Immunity This Winter
Posted by Samantha Nice
It’s safe to say we’ve all been more aware of our immunity lately, but with winter soon upon us, it's even more important ours is functioning at its best. Here, nutritional therapist and founder of Inessa, Aliza Marogy shares her expert advice for optimising your body’s natural defenses…
1. Ensure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
We all know that a good night’s sleep can really help our mood and mental function but it’s also incredibly important when it comes to our overall health. “Sleep is essential for helping the body to regulate immunological responses and studies show that failure to regularly get a full night’s sleep makes us more susceptible to catching illnesses,” says Aliza who suggests placing sleep as an even higher priority during the winter months and aiming for at least 8 hours. “If you struggle to sleep, try to go to bed at a sensible time and get into a routine of doing so. Avoid using screens for one hour before bedtime and steer clear of caffeinated foods and drinks after lunchtime,” suggests Aliza. “Don’t forget to ensure you’re getting exposure to natural light throughout the day as this helps to regulate melatonin – the hormone that helps us to sleep.”
2. Boost Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a big part when it comes to our overall health but especially to the functioning of our immune system. This is because it helps to activate our immune defence system as well as boosting the function of immune cells which help protect us from viruses and illnesses. Whilst we can get vitamin D through exposure to natural sunlight and some foods we eat, the NHS recommend that between October and early March that we should consider supplementation of 10 micrograms per day. “It’s worth getting a test once or twice a year to make sure your vitamin D levels are within a healthy range,” advises Aliza. “This year, testing and supplementing the right amount is particularly important as we’ve had fewer sunny days than usual and many of us have the potential to have low levels,” she adds. “When it comes to supplementation, make sure yours contains the superior and more bioavailable D3 from as opposed to vitamin D2 which can be harder for the body to utilise.”
3. Pay Attention To Your Diet
Eating a well-balanced diet is undeniably one of the best ways we can support our immune health so although it’s easy to fall off the wagon in the lead up to Christmas, try to be mindful of what you’re eating. “Be sure to eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, beans and pulses as these are the best way to ensure you’re ingesting lots of vitamins and minerals,” says Aliza. “One of my go-tos during winter is chicken soup as it’s full of vitamin-packed vegetables as well as chicken which is high in protein and contains amino acids for us to make antibodies,” she adds. “The healing effect of this age-old remedy is more than just an old wives’ tale – it’s been widely studied and shown to help speed recovery from common coughs and colds. Try adding in garlic, ginger and turmeric too as these are renowned for their antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties,” she adds.
“Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are also important for healthy immune function and one of the richest food sources is oily fish. Look to eat mackerel, trout, salmon and sardines but if you’re vegetarian or vegan, there are some plant-based sources of another essential fatty acid called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which your body is able to convert to EPA and DHA,” says Aliza. “That being said, conversion results can be lower so those who don’t eat oily fish should supplement plant sources with an algae-based vegan omega 3 supplement.”
4. Support Your Gut
“The health and balance of the gut microbiome plays a significant role in our overall immune function and whilst a varied diet is one of the best things you can do to support your gut microbes, you should also be conscious of your alcohol consumption and sleep too,” says Aliza. “Those with digestive issues may also benefit from specific, well-researched strains of probiotic bacteria,” she adds. “This can be done by consuming foods which naturally contain ‘good’ bacteria such as live yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha.”
5. Be Mindful Of Stress Levels
The past nearly two years have undeniably been stressful for the majority of us and unfortunately this can also be detrimental to our immunity. Heightened stress causes our cortisol (the stress hormone) levels to increase which in turn suppresses the effectiveness of our immunity system. Whilst we appreciate stress is often out of our control, there are several things we can do to help. “Stress management techniques such as deep breathing and meditation coupled with effective aromatherapy products can be really beneficial,” says Aliza. If you’ve had a particularly overwhelming day, be sure to carve out some time in the evening to unwind and switch off properly. This can be anything from a yoga class or session at home to a bath or even just 5 minutes of focused breathing. Take a look at our Scent To De-Stress range which has been expertly developed with stress in mind. Our favourites? The Real Luxury Bath Foam or our Moment Of Calm Oil Blend diffused through our Pod. Both help to create a moment of calm in minutes.