How to strengthen your immunity this winter

  • 16 Jan 2013
  • Reading time 2 mins
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Winter's is well and truly upon us. And that means colds and flu are too. If you suffer from more than two colds a year you need to boost your immunity - fast! If you want to learn how a few simple changes can help make your natural defences stronger, read on:

Poor nutrition is the most common cause of a weakened immune system, so it's vital you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your immune strength is totally dependent on an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals and other immune- boosting nutrients. Colourful salads and dark green vegetables are loaded with flu-fighting Phytonutrients, so pile your plate high. Most people tend to eat less fruit and vegetables in the winter, which means less immunity boosting vitamin C.

Research shows Vitamin C reduces your chances of getting a cold as well as the severity and duration if you do catch one. Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, but did you know broccoli, potatoes, kale, peas and chilli peppers are also high in vitamin C? Your body can’t store a lot of extra vitamin C, so your best bet is to get regular doses throughout the day. Garlic repels more than vampires, it also has antiviral properties and is a known immunity booster so add it where you can.

Reduce your intake of alcohol, tea, coffee sugar and processed foods. All of these dramatically decrease immune function. Vitamin D is essential for proper immune functioning. Unfortunately, we need to get it through exposure to sunlight as there are no significant dietary sources. In the winter, there's less light which means, less vitamin D. For optimal health, you'll want your level to be between 50 and 70ng/ml. It may require several months of taking 5,000 - 10,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily (especially during winter) - but it will be well worth the effort. Monitor your Vitamin D status every three months until you are in the desired 50 and 70ng/ml range, then cut back to a maintenance dose of at least 2,000 IU a day.

A strong immune system relies heavily on having a healthy, well-functioning gut. A recent study confirmed that probiotics can help fight off colds. Choose a probiotic with 10-20 billion organisms and take one every day. Get plenty of sleep to allow the body to restore and repair itself. You should be aiming for at least seven hours a night. Regular exercise helps keep your immune system healthy so build up a sweat and try to keep moving throughout the winter. Reduce stress, breathing exercises, yoga or simply walking the dog will help relieve tension and boost your immunity. Avoid antibacterial soap, it can increase the risk of creating resistant bacteria and dry out the skin, making it easier for viruses to attack. Wash your hands frequently with hot water and chemical-free soap.