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How to boost your immune system this winter

herbal tea

Summer’s a distant memory, autumn has faded and winter is here. While there’s loads to love about this season (cue moody skies, homemade soups and pattering rain) it also means colds, flus and other ailments are inevitable.

There’s no shortage of controversy surrounding the flu shot, so why not take the natural approach this winter? Or at least double up and arm yourself with an immune system that packs a punch. Prevention is always better than a cure, so the best advice is to get ahead before you start to feel that tingle in your throat or ache in your joints. The good news is, you can get there with a handful of simple, everyday habits. Here’s how:

Stay fit

Just because it’s cloudy and cold outside it doesn’t mean you should slack off when it comes to physical exercise. A great way to stay motivated is to enlist a friend and bounce of each other’s energy and enthusiasm levels. Make the most of winter sunlight with walks on the beach, bike rides in the forest and alpine snow sports. If you can’t bring yourself to work up a sweat outdoors try signing up for low-intensity yoga classes, buying a membership to your local indoor swimming pool or even working out to YouTube videos while watching TV.

breakfastBoost your breakfast

Diet has a huge influence on your immune system, which means winter could call for a few tweaks. Start your day right with a nourishing breakfast. If you’re looking for inspiration check out vegan gems like cranberry ginger crumble fruit bake and sweet potato breakfast bowls from The Green Loot.

Shun processed sugars

Did you know that certain foods can jeopardise your immune system and keep it from functioning at its best? Refined and processed sugars are two of the biggest culprits, with experts asserting that eating or drinking 100 grams of sugar, the same amount found in two cans of soft drink, can suppress the function of white blood cells and reduce their ability to kill germs by 40%.

berries Load up on superfoods

Next time you hit the supermarket make a point of loading up on foods with immune boosting benefits. Unprocessed whole grain foods are always a winner, as are zinc-rich proteins like lean beef and fish. Antioxidants naturally strengthen the immune system and are found in foods like blackberries, pecans and dark chocolate. Need an instant fix? Try blitzing up a cocktail of goodness in a smoothie or juice.

Stock up on supplements

This winter why not experiment with natural, immune boosting supplements that make it easy to get a serious hit of vitamins, minerals and other things that your body will love? Vitamin C is a well-loved supplement in most households, Krill oil uses healthy fat derivatives to tame inflammation and support the vital organs, while a high-quality multivitamin can offer all-round benefits. Of course, be sure to do your research, opt for a trusted brand and check in with your GP before adding any supplements to your daily diet.

herbal teaDrink up

Just like summer, it’s pivotal to stay hydrated in winter. Along with a host of other benefits, H2O actively improves oxygen levels and fluid balance in the blood. This stimulates production of lymph, a colourless fluid that’s used by the immune system to circulate white blood cells around the body and distribute essential nutrients. Finding it hard to meet your eight glasses a day? Learn to love caffeine-free teas, the ultimate winter warmer.

Destress

Studies prove that high stress levels can weaken the immune system and leave it vulnerable to everything from colds and flus to cancer. This winter destressing should be at the top of your priority list. Funnily enough, it turns out that laughter can be one of the best medicines. As a natural relaxer it offers both physical and emotional benefits, with research suggesting that a healthy dose of laughter can improve mental health, relieve stress and boost the immune system.

bedSleep well

The body needs sleep to repair itself, as does the immune system when it comes to fighting off germs. As tempting as it can be to stay up late watching reruns of The Bridge, make sure you get your daily eight hours or uninterrupted sleep. If you’re struggling with sleep apnea, a weak bladder or the relentless snoring of a partner, winter is the perfect excuse to bite the bullet and address any issues that could be messing with your sleep patterns.

The final verdict? Don’t let yourself succumb to the winter body blues. Stay active, eat smart and nurture your body with everything from sleep to laughter.