8 Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System This Winter
During the cold winter months, we’re all more susceptible to illnesses such as colds and flu. Our immune system is our defense against the bacteria and viruses that cause these sicknesses – but unfortunately, our immune system can become weakened in cold weather. So what are some ways to strengthen your immune system this winter?
Our immune system is a complex system made up of many parts, and there are lots of ways in which it can become weakened. But there are also lifestyle choices we can make that are hugely beneficial for the health of our immune system. In fact, if you adopt the right habits this winter, you can build your immune system up to be stronger and healthier than it’s ever been before! So let’s dive in and learn about what the immune system is, why the immune system is weak in the winter, and the power of healthy habits to boost your immunity this winter.
What Is The Immune System?
The immune system is a complex network of organs, tissues, cells, and substances that work in concert to:
- Protect the body from bacteria and viruses.
- Help us heal from injuries and illnesses.
- Clear away unwanted cells and pathogens.
Important components of the immune system are:
- Lymphatic system (thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, bone marrow)
- White blood cells
- Complement system
- Substances such as mucus and stomach acid
Image by EVG Kowalievska on Pexels: Why is my immune system weak in the winter?
Why Is My Immune System Weak In The Winter?
Research from a team at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital and Northeastern University suggests that cold temperatures impair the immunity response in the nose.
The nose is one of the first points of contact between the outside world and the inside of the body. A drop in nasal tissue temperature of just 5°C can reduce immune response by almost half, making us much more susceptible to airborne viruses during colder weather. These findings explain why we’re more vulnerable to illnesses during winter.
How To Build Up Your Immune System For Winter
We’ve established that cold weather can compromise the function of our immune systems. So, how can I make my immune system stronger in winter?
There are several actions you can take to override the immune system-depleting effects of cold winter weather. Building healthy habits is a crucial part of staying healthy and strengthening your immune system as the temperature drops.
Healthy Habits To Boost Your Immunity This Winter
If you can build healthy habits for winter, you’ll find it easy to maintain a strong immune system. The power of using habits to your advantage can’t be overstated. Humans are creatures of habit, and actions become easy to take when they become habitual (i.e. you don’t have to think about them; you just do them).
To create a habit:
- Be specific about the goal (e.g. “Do not smoke”).
- Create a plan of action.
- Make it compelling and fun (focus on a strong “why?”).
- Be flexible (good enough is good enough – beware perfectionism!).
- Have a social support network.
Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System This Winter
Let’s take a look at some of the top ways to strengthen your immune system this winter.
1. Eat A Healthy, Nutrient-Rich Diet
Plenty of research confirms what’s intuitively obvious to most of us: eating a healthy diet, rich in nutrients and vitamins, is good for strengthening our immune system.
There are several different diets that are considered healthy, and what they all have in common is that they have plants at their core. Plant-based foods should make up the bulk of your calories. A diet high in fruits and vegetables will boost your immune system this winter.
2. Stay Properly Hydrated
Staying properly hydrated is crucial for overall health and wellness. Research shows that having enough water in the body is crucial for kidney, heart, and gastrointestinal functioning, all of which play essential roles in the functioning of a healthy immune system.
3. Get Sufficient High-Quality Sleep
Research shows that sleep and circadian rhythms have a strong effect on immune system functioning. Sleep affects every organ in the body and is essential for physical and psychological wellbeing. To strengthen your immune system this winter, try to get between seven and nine hours of good quality sleep at roughly the same time every night.
4. Exercise Regularly
Research suggests that regular exercise helps to strengthen the immune system. To make exercise a daily habit, pick a form of exercise that you enjoy. It’s important to do some form of cardio exercise for heart and lung health, as well as some resistance exercise to maintain muscle and bone strength.
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5. Limit Alcohol Intake
Research suggests that alcohol abuse leads to increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. To strengthen your immune system in winter, aim to stay within the CDC guidelines for alcohol consumption of two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women.
6. Don’t Smoke
Research shows that smoking is terrible for your health in numerous ways. Quitting smoking is the single most beneficial thing you can do for your health. If you smoke, make quitting your number one priority this winter!
7. Get Regular Sunlight Exposure
Research suggests that regular sunlight exposure is important for immune system function. Sunlight contains vitamin D, which is essential for immune health. Getting enough sunlight can be more difficult during the winter months, so taking a vitamin D supplement can be an invaluable solution for people living in areas that get little sunlight in winter.
8. Take Supplements
It can be difficult to get all the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that you need from diet and sunlight exposure alone, particularly in the winter months. For this reason, taking good quality supplements, such as a multivitamin or vitamin D capsule, can be very helpful.
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