The changing of the seasons can be wonderful – cozy knitwear, the perfect excuse to stay at home and binge-watch Netflix and a whole new batch of herbal teas to curl up with. But the colder weather can also be a bit of a pain, and often takes a toll on our bodies. If you’re struggling with a pesky cold, irritated and dry skin or an annoying cough, boost your immune system during cold weather with these handy tips!
Our immune systems are responsible for so many vital aspects of our well-being. The immune system works to keep our bodies free from bad bacteria, infections and illnesses. The cold weather often causes colds, coughs and other flu-like symptoms, as the change in temperature is a shock to our bodies.
How to Boost Your Immune System During Cold Weather
The change in weather can cause a dip in the effectiveness of our immune systems, making us more susceptible to these nasty bugs. There are ways to keep everything running smoothly and stay healthy through the winter months…
1Cram in Vitamin C
We all know about Vitamin C and that we’re meant to eat oranges when we start getting sick. But how does it actually help?
Vitamin C keeps our immune system working effectively, and fights off infections such as the common cold. It’s also really useful in treating any injuries and helps your body repair damaged cells. Vitamin C acts as an anti-oxidant, keeping our cells balanced from harmful free-radicals and strengthening our defence system.
While oranges are most people’s go-to, there are lots of other foods you can eat with high levels of Vitamin C. Citrus fruits can be fantastic, but you can also cram in more strawberries, cherries and leafy greens (which are also high in iron).
Staying hydrated is important at all times of the year, and drinking plenty of water keeps everything running smoothly. It’s especially crucial to drink lots of water in the colder months, as the cold winds can really take a toll on our bodies.
For one, your skin will get very dry! Drinking water keeps skin supple and health, as well as looking after our lips and hair. Try using coconut oil as a hair mask and lip balm – supernatural; super nourishing. Coconut water is also great for you, and offers higher hydration levels to your body than water does.
Aim for at least 2 liters of water per day. This will keep skin cells topped up with moisture, but also ensures that your organs are working to the best of their ability.
Keeping everything running smoothly makes a massive difference in terms of your immune system. If your body is already healthy and well-functioning, you’re more likely to be able to fight off any infections.
Going from the cold outdoors to shops and offices that pipe in hot air can wreak havoc on our bodies. For one, it’s really drying to the skin, but it also has a negative impact on our immune system. Cold weather weakens the cells that are responsible for keeping us infection-free, so we often get ill during the winter months.
Part of the issue is the lack of sunshine – Vitamin D is essential in keeping our immune systems running well, so when we don’t get enough of this, our bodies can really suffer. Running low on this vitamin means that the cells in our bodies can’t fight off infection as easily as normal, making us more susceptible to catching nasty germs.
Temperature changes play a big role, too – so staying warm can really help your body! If your nose gets cold, it’s likely that your body’s first line of defence won’t be working properly.
Your nose has little hairs present that alert your body to any germs or infections – this is why we often get blocked noses and mucus during the winter. Wearing a scarf and keeping your nose and throat warm really does help you – it’s not just an annoying thing your mom used to tell you.
Protect yourself from the extreme changes in temperature by layering up, throwing on a scarf and wrapping up warm when you’re out and about. Winter is the season of wearing three jumpers in the freezing mornings and being severely overheated by mid-afternoon, but it’s got to be done!
4Nourish Your Body
Looking after your body is the best way to stay healthy when the weather changes. Food, exercise and sleep all play massive roles in keeping your body in good condition.
Make sure you’re eating healthily, as always. The occasional treat is fine but try and squeeze in lots of fresh fruit and veg. When it’s cold outside, it can be so tempting to live off stews and soups and stodgy carbs!
Try and make sure you’re eating a balanced diet. Your body needs certain vitamins and minerals to keep it healthy and strong, so keep your plate colorful and fresh to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Exercise. Eurgh. A lot of us struggle just to get out of bed in the winter, let alone go on a 6 am jog and hit an evening pilates class. While that may all seem pretty unachievable, try and stay active during the colder months. The more active you are, the better condition your body will be in. Exercise keeps organs healthy and improves blood flow (important for our immune systems!).
Staying active also gives you a boost of endorphins. We often rely on the sun for Vitamin D and serotonin-production, both of which improve our moods. Not getting much sunshine can make us feel miserable and unmotivated. Exercising, even if it’s just for half an hour a day, can really help put us in a better mood. The better our minds feel, the better our immune system works!
Our immune systems are incredible, but they’re not magical. They need to be looked after, and getting enough rest really makes a difference to how well we’re fighting off nasty bacteria. The better rested we are, the more effectively our body can fight off any infections. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night and your body will be able to work to the best of its ability.
5Spice Things Up
Various herbs and spices are amazing to boost immune system. These can be added to your diet very easily!
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory that helps your body fight off any infections. It’s also an anti-bacterial, so really helps flush out any germs if you do get sick. Regularly consuming ginger is a good way to make sure your immune system is already strong. It also has amazing anti-nausea properties, so makes the perfect cure if you do get a stomach bug!
Chillies will boost your metabolism and help improve your blood flow, and they also contain Vitamin A. This vitamin is amazing at healing your body, and prevents infections. Try and add this spicy goodness to your diet all year round, as it will really help keep your defences high. The better your body is functioning all the time, the more likely it is to be able to fight off any winter bugs.
Turmeric is gold-dust and its benefits are massively underrated. This magical spice is packed with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories, meaning that your body will be ready to fight off any infections. It has quite a strong flavor, but can easily be added to porridge oats, smoothies and hot milk for a little golden latte! Be careful using it, however, as its bright yellow color can stain clothes if you’re not careful.
Probiotics are typically taken in tablet form, and are full of healthy bacteria and yeast. These will strengthen your gut and improve your body’s defences. As with everything, the stronger your body is, the easier it will be to fight off any infections when flu-season comes around. The majority of your immune system is based in your stomach and intestines, so keep these as healthy as possible!
Ideally, you’d be getting plenty of goodness from your diet, but these are a little top-up if you need it. As mentioned, keep your diet full of fresh fruit and veg, and healthy grains. You can also eat fermented foods (such as kimchi, which is delicious) to improve yeast levels in your gut and promote healthy bacteria growth.
These only need to be taken once a day, and can be found relatively-cheaply in most health-food stores and online. They will help reduce any inflammation caused by infection. As a happy side-effect, they also help regulate your digestive system and keep everything functioning nicely.
7Harness the Power of Nature
If you’re really struggling, physically and mentally, give essential oils a try. These are basically oils from plants, such as jasmine, eucalyptus and sweet orange.
You can use essential oils in a variety of ways, including topically (applying to the skin), diffusing, consuming and inhaling. Each oil has different properties and needs to be used in a certain way in order to get the full benefits.
Lavender oil is an amazing all-rounder, and helps in a variety of ways during the winter months. Lavender is a natural anti-bacterial, so is great for carrying around with you on public transport.
It also aids sleep, so can be used on your pillow, or in a room diffuser, to make sure you’re getting enough rest. Thieves also works in this way, and makes a great oil to carry around and use as a hand santitizer.
Lemon works wonders to boost immune system naturally, and can be consumed if this is easier for you. Add it to hot water in the mornings to cleanse your body and prepare yourself for the day. Follow the suggested ratio on the bottle to make sure you’re being safe
Invest in a good essential oil – you want something natural and organic in order to get all the true benefits. The same goes for any carrier oils (oils used to dilute the essential oil so that it’s safe to use on skin). Coconut oil is a perfect carrier oil, just make sure you go for a raw, virgin option!
Essential oils can be taken on public transport (including planes, thanks to the teeny bottles you can buy) and can also be used in the home.
Buy a diffuser to keep the room feeling clean and positive, or do steam inhalations to boost immune system. This can be done by adding a few drops to a hot bath, using in a steamy bathroom while you shower, or by adding drops to a bowl of steamy water and letting the steam flood your face and nose. So grab these tips to boost your immune system during cold weather.
Hi, I’m Lucy and I’m currently traveling around South East Asia with my trusty yoga mat and a constant craving for the ocean. I love finding healthy, eco-friendly ways to improve my well-being, even more of a challenge whilst on the road. When I’m not on the move, I’m writing for SleepHealthEnergy, your one-stop shop for everything related to getting a great night’s sleep, enjoying optimum health and having buckets of energy.