The colder weather has definitely settled and we’re now spending more time indoors. This is the time of the year when nasty viruses travel.
The Hart & Soul team has gathered some tips to help you further build your immune system all year round.
A number of things can have an overpowering effect on our immune system, starting with what we eat – or don’t eat. Eating a balanced variety of each of the main food groups (proteins, fruits & vegetables, grains & pulses and legumes) should cover you on the nutrient front. Healthy eating helps boost your immune system.
1. GOOD GUTS = GOOD HEALTH
The Human Microbiome is certainly a hot topic at the moment, and with good reason. Your gut microbiota is made up of trillions of microbial organisms. In fact, we have more bacteria cells in and on us than we do human cells! We all know that the state of our gut health has a deep effect on our overall health and immunity. About two thirds of our immune system is distributed around our gut– so to keep your microbiota happy, feed it the right things!
At Hart & Soul, we’re starting with fibres. They are digested by the bacteria present in your gut and stimulate their growth. Vegetables, grains, pulses and legumes are the best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiota.
You should aim to eat at least 30g of fibre a day. Certain types of dietary fibre – known as prebiotic – also enhance the growth of beneficial bacteria. Prebiotic foods include onion, garlic, leek, asparagus, artichoke and oats, as well as cooked and cooled starches like potatoes, wholegrain pasta and rice. Adding small amounts of fermented foods to your diet (such as tempeh, miso, yoghurt or kombucha) will also help the growth of good gut bacteria.
2. SMART SUPPLEMENTS
Our bodies can become devoid of certain nutrients and vitamins when we’re unwell, which makes topping them up important for good health.
Many products claim to give your immune system the boost it needs to keep you running at your best; however, your body can only absorb so much of any vitamin in a given day. The rest is expelled from the body with urine. Supplements can also generate their own side effects, and need to be approached with caution. That’s why, at Hart & Soul, we prefer to use natural remedies as much as we can.
Research has shown that certain herbs can help reduce how often we get struck down with a cold, as well as reducing the severity and length of symptoms. Elderberry, Echinacea, Andrographis and Olive Leaf have all been shown to help fight respiratory symptoms that come with the dreaded winter cold.
Some more common ingredients can also be included in your everyday diet to boost your immune system. Think garlic, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, turmeric, chia seeds, ginger & cinnamon. These are both delicious and versatile, add them to meals, soups, shakes and smoothies!
The nippy weather is definitely making it harder to maintain the exercise routine you committed to in summer; however, skipping your regular workout could increase your risk of catching a cold or other infection (alongside other drawbacks of inactivity such as mood swings and high blood pressure). There is evidence that daily exercise increases your resistance to infection, and makes you less likely to develop symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD). Exercise is a known mood booster and can tempt you away from staying indoors or snacking!
Taking your exercise outside has also been shown to support an increase in mood, lower blood pressure, a reduction in bodily inflammation, and can support your overall immune system. So put on this extra layer, and get moving!
The average adult should be aiming for two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise (walking, yoga) or one hour and 15 minutes of high-intensity exercise (running, HIIT) every week.
4. TIME FOR A GOOD SNOOZE
Winter is also a great season to use the cold outdoors as an excuse to catch up on sleep, especially with recent findings showing that a lack of sleep increases your chances of falling sick! Your body heals and regenerates as you sleep, while on the other hand sleep deprivation stops our immune system from building up, leading to less protection against winter bugs and illnesses.
Making the most of the morning can do our health a world of good too! Studies have shown that night owls tend to eat more in the evening, and fewer fruits and vegetables overall than those who go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. With that in mind, it might be time to give up the late nights! Try and get into the routine of seven to eight hours sleep a night, and embrace a healthier you.