6 Ways to Boost Your Immune System for Winter
For bacteria or viruses to infect your body and make you sick, they must first get past your immune system.
Your immune system exists to defeat viruses and bacteria before they can have a negative effect on your health. So why are we more susceptible to cold and flu symptoms in the winter months? Do our immune systems hibernate when the weather turns cold? Read on to learn all about boosting your immune system for winter.
Winter and Our Immune Systems
Winter and the cold temperatures that come with it have positive and negative sides. On the plus side, the cold temperatures kill off insects that carry diseases, like mosquitos. The opposite side has a darker reputation. Studies by Harvard University show that death rates peak during the winter months by as much as an additional 70%, with stroke and heart attack the leading causes.
Winter also brings on flu season. The flu viruses thrive and spread more readily in cold, dry air. Fighting off this virus, as well as other microorganisms that can make us sick, can be taxing on our immune systems. In addition, winter's natural darkness makes matters worse because we don't get the vitamin D that our bodies produce when exposed to sunlight.
We also spend much more time indoors during winter. Buildings don't have the natural range of air circulation that is found outdoors, making it easier for viruses and bacteria to hop from one host to another. We also tend to eat more processed foods during the winter holiday season. Processed foods are triggers for many people because of the abundance of chemicals in them, the high sugar content, and the poor-quality oils used to make them. These combine to overwork the immune system and cause inflammation.
These are just a few of the reasons we need to boost our immune systems during the winter.
6 Ways to Boost Your Immune System for Winter
Your immune system's job is to defend your body against invading pathogens. Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is your first line of defense and the single best way to keep your immune system in top-notch shape and working properly.
Focusing on the coming winter, let's look at some of the best ways to help us jump-start the activity of our immune systems.
1. Get Your Annual Flu Shot
Harvard Medical School reviewed the results of a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2017 that investigated the effect of an annual flu shot on a person's immune system. The study's results demonstrated that those who received an annual flu vaccination did not demonstrate a weakened immune system. In fact, those who got the flu shot each year were found to have a stronger immune system response to influenza exposure than those who only took the flu vaccine once. The study's conclusion recommended annual flu vaccination.
2. Get Moderate Exercise for a Boost
We've known for a long time that exercise has a profound effect on our immune systems. While prolonged, intense exercise can suppress the immune system, it can get a boost from moderate exercise sessions. Regular, moderate exercise may help your immune cells regenerate themselves and reduce inflammation.
Most of us should try about 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Good examples of immune system-boosting exercise include:
- Brisk walking
- Elliptical sessions
3. Eat Healthy Foods
Your immune system is a reflection of your healthy diet. During winter, we need to be aware of what we're eating, making certain we're getting the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that keep our bodies strong and working well. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, including whole grains and nuts, is the best way to give your immune system a boost during winter.
4. Watch Your Weight in Winter
Winter tends to be a time of lower activity levels, holiday feasting, and packing on a few pounds. Carrying around some extra pounds can have a negative impact on your body functions, including the effectiveness of your immune system. Obesity has been shown to lower vaccine effectiveness for such diseases as hepatitis B, influenza, and tetanus. Take the time during the winter to maintain a healthy weight by eating healthy foods, reducing your stress levels, getting plenty of sleep, and taking part in regular physical activity.
5. Go for Good Bacteria in Your Gut
The bacterial population living inside your gut works around the clock to keep your body systems healthy, happy, and working in good order. Keeping your bacteria population happy helps keep you happy by producing mood-elevating chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. A happy gut also curbs the urge to overeat and helps to keep your digestive system regulated.
Here are a few examples of foods that feed your gut bacteria:
Other steps you can take to help maintain your healthy weight in winter are eliminating sugar and avoiding processed foods.
6. Add Immune-Boosting Supplements to Your Stack
A stack can include ingredients that improve endurance, boost energy, and improve recovery. To give your immune system a boost, add ingredients to your stack known to beef up your immunity. Here are some of the most highly recommended:
- Vitamin D enhances the bacteria-fighting effects of white blood cells and decreases inflammation, thus promoting the quality of your immune response.
- Zinc as part of your supplement stack may help protect against respiratory tract infections, like the common cold. Zinc has also shown some antiviral activity.
- Vitamin C is the most popular supplement additive because it supports the function of different immune cells and enhances the protection they provide against infection.
- B-complex vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important nutrients for keeping the immune system healthy. Unfortunately, many adults are deficient in B-complex vitamins, which have a negative effect on their immune systems.
The Supplements You Need for Winter Immune Health
We've covered only a few of the immune-boosting nutrients you can add to your stack to support your winter immune system. For a wide variety of stack choices, visit Tiger Fitness for all your supplement needs.