How to Boost your Immune System naturally ready for Winter

Beat those winter bugs

Over the next few months we will be bombarded with increased levels of bacteria and viruses and your immune system will need to be your best friend. The extent to which you suffer will depend on how robust your immune system is. It’s now time to get your body ready, primed for winter – think of it as a bit like servicing your car before a long trip.

Why should I start strengthening my immune system for winter?

We spend more time indoors

As the days shorten, we tend to be in closer contact with people in confined spaces and therefore our exposure to bugs is increased.

Reduced sunshine

I’m sure you know that sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D. With less sunshine we get less vitamin D. Among its many roles, vitamin D is vital for healthy immune function.

Decreased exercise

In winter many of us decrease our exercise levels and become more sedentary. It’s well established that moderate exercise boosts immunity.

The winter months can be stressful

Compared to the summer months which include numerous holidays and generally have a more relaxed “vibe” the colder, winter months are often more about work and less about fun and rest. Excess or prolonged stress really takes its toll on your immune system.

What can I do to increase my immune system?

  • Have your Vitamin D levels tested and consider taking a supplement if needed. Most of us would benefit from taking at least 1000iu of a good vitamin D supplement (with the co-factors needed for absorption and utilisation of this vitamin) over the winter months but some may need higher doses if their starting levels are low.
  • Vitamins A, C, E along with Zinc and Selenium are all important for good immunity. Make sure you are eating a good healthy diet with lots of variety of fruit and vegetables or consider an additional supplement over the winter months.
  • Your immune system is largely made of protein. Aim to have some with every meal.
  • Good quality echinacea has been shown to reduce infection rates when you fly. Consider taking a supplement if you are a frequent traveller.
  • Keep up your exercise routine to help stimulate your immunity.
  • Schedule regular “down time” into your winter calendar to manage your stress levels.
  • If your past history shows that you frequently succumb to respiratory infections, make an appointment now for a personalised assessment on how to get through the next few months. We’ve had great success in helping our naturopathic clients significantly reduce the number and severity of colds and respiratory infections they experience.

A word on zinc

Like all vitamins and minerals, zinc plays an important part in maintaining our health.  It is critical to numerous metabolic processes and is, in fact, an essential component of more than 100 enzymatic reactions in our bodies.  We find zinc throughout the body but its highest concentrations are in the eyes, liver, bones, prostate, semen and hair.

In addition to helping maintain a healthy immune system, zinc is important for:

  • General growth and development including growth of new cells and reproduction
  • Eyesight
  • Our ability to endure physical and mental stress and exertion
  • Taste and smell
  • Maintenance of a healthy prostate

Good sources of well absorbed (i.e.bio-available) zinc include:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry (especially the dark meat)
  • Fish and seafood
  • Liver
  • Nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin and sesame seeds)
  • Mushrooms (especially crimini)

Wholegrains (e.g. oats) also contain zinc but, due to other nutrients (specifically, phytates) within the grain, the zinc may not be as readily absorbed into your body. Vegetables also contain zinc but in relatively small quantities. For non-meat eaters, eating a variety of beans and legumes will be an important source of zinc. Dark chocolate and cacao can also provide some useful zinc (so feel free to indulge in a good quality dark chocolate occasionally).

Generally speaking if you eat meat and have a varied diet you should be able to meet your needs for zinc without a supplement. Sometimes, if your need for zinc exceeds your dietary intake, it is possible to run a bit low on zinc.  It is also possible that, in some instances, your zinc levels can be disrupted by other minerals or by poor digestion and therefore could be a bit low in spite of consumption.  These are the sorts of things I consider during a naturopathic consultation.

What if you do catch a bug?

If you do get sick, rest is vital – ‘soldiering on’ is not smart in the long run. You need to allow your immune system to do its job. Also, eat nutritious, simple foods (there is a reason why chicken broths taste good when you are sick). Read more about how to convalesce successfully.

If you want to do more when you are sick, consider making an appointment for a “quick naturopathic consultation” to get your individualised herbal tonic or nutrients. (Remember, antibiotics will only help with bacterial infections and most of the seasonal bugs are viral).

Follow these tips and give your body the best chance of fighting off the bugs this winter or call the clinic on 9620 9503 for a personalised treatment plan to get you through the winter.
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