Winter can be a nice shift from the hotter days of summer, but it can be tough on our health. During the colder months our immune system works twice as hard to protect us from falling ill. Feeling under the weather with the onset of winter? Read on to see ways to build up your winter immunity and steer clear off cold and flu to stay healthy.
How are we at risk of winter flu?
There are many factors that make our immune system work overtime during the wintertime. Common colds and viruses such as the flu spread from one person to the other more frequently during colder seasons (1). The cold also usually makes people stay indoors more, increasing the risk of infection within households.
A combination of less time outside and less daylight also spells trouble for our immune systems. Decreased exposure to sunlight means a decrease in the body’s production of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been related with an increase of infections from the body (2).
With more time spent indoors, people also tend to exercise less or are generally less active. While there is no direct correlation between getting sick in winter and physical activity, exercise has been proven to boost immunity and with less of it, we could become more prone to sickness (3).
Finally, breathing in cold air is also an overlooked factor when talking about winter immunity and winter flu. One of the main ways viruses enter our bodies is through our noses. To combat this, our noses have built-in defenses to prevent viruses and microbes from doing harm to our bodies. When we breathe in cold air, these defense mechanisms are compromised, allowing harmful foreign bodies easier access (1).
How do we boost winter immunity?
When the colder months usher in winter flu, we need to help our immune system in any way we can. Here are some tips to help boost winter immunity and fight winter flu:
Eat warm foods
Aside from eating food with high nutritional value, it helps to eat warm food to warm up your body from the inside out. It may also help to add healthy spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic, as their immune-boosting properties are just as important as the flavour they lend to meals when it comes to building winter immunity (4,5,6). Add foods rich in vitamins and minerals to your daily diet. Sources of vitamins like B complex, zinc, magnesium and Vitamins C & D are in abundance in leafy vegetables, liver, fish, legumes and citrus fruit will strengthen your immune system in vulnerable weather (17). Avoid foods like added salt and sugars, that suppress the immune system from working at its full potential.
Break a sweat
The winter months can make you feel lethargic. Even so, it helps to make a habit of exercising, as physical activity can strengthen your winter immunity (3).
Rest and sleep
Our immune system is highly dependent on the amount of sleep we get. If we want it to function properly in order to protect us from winter flu (7), it helps to get at least six hours of undisturbed nighttime sleep.
Sometimes, the steps mentioned above alone might not be enough to protect you from winter flu. If you feel that your winter immunity needs a little more help, consider taking supplements to help boost your winter immunity. It can help ensure that you meet your daily targets for nutrients alongside a well-balanced diet.
Simply put, to fight infections of the winter flu, follow these simple tips - wash your hands regularly, eat foods high in vitamins, increase your intake of immune boosting supplements, avoid processed foods that may suppress the working of your immune system.
Supplementation to boost winter immunity
Here are some vitamins and nutrients to help increase your immunity during winter:
An essential trace mineral, zinc maintains healthy immune system function. Studies have found that zinc can reduce the duration of cold symptoms as well as help with the overall function of the immune system (8).
Iron’s main function in increasing winter immunity is by fighting off illnesses. It also plays a role in increasing white blood cell count (9).
*Iron should only be taken if prescribed by your doctor.
Winter flu can be kept at bay with regular intake of astaxanthin supplements that support immune system health. Astaxanthin has also been found to improve our auto-immune response (10).
This super herb that has an established place in traditional Indian medicine is known to support immune system health. Taken as a tea during the colder months of the year, it serves as an immune booster and an ideal wintertime beverage. Ashwagandha has also been found to help in the production and activation of white blood cells (11).
Including probiotics supplements in your diet can introduce probiotic strains to your body that support healthy immune system function (9).
Vitamin B complex
The group of B vitamins included in vitamin B complex supplements work together to maintain healthy immune system function. Investing in a daily supplement with all eight B vitamins can be what your body needs to strengthen its winter immunity. Vitamin B deficiency has been said to affect the body’s auto-immune response (12).
As the vitamin associated most closely with a strong immune system, vitamin C supplements are one of your best bets for supporting immune system function. This vitamin has also been found to stimulate white blood cell production (13).
Vitamin D supplements become incredibly important during the colder months as this vitamin is best taken in by the body from healthy sun exposure. During the colder months, sun exposure is limited, and you may become at risk for a vitamin D deficiency, which could affect healthy immune system functioning (14).
Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, plays a role in the maintenance of healthy immune system function, acting as an immunomodulator for our cells (9).
Fish oil does wonders for the body and many people take these supplements for different reasons. Fish oil is linked to healthy immune system function. It can also help in auto-immune function and responses (15).
Biotin, though frequently thought of as the beauty supplement for its role in supporting skin and hair health, also plays a part in the maintenance of healthy immune system function. Biotin deficiency has been shown to slow down immune cell functions (16). By taking biotin supplements in the colder months of the year, you can help maintain your body’s nutrient levels to support healthy immune system function.
While winter time is usually a time for rest and relaxation, our immune system is working overtime to make sure we don’t get sick. That’s why we should give it all the help it needs so that we can enjoy the season by being sick-free with our families and friends. Luckily with Vitable Australia’s vitamin subscription and vitamin delivery services, you won’t have to stress about getting your vitamin fix. Get your daily dose of personalised vitamin packs right at your doorstep with our vitamin delivery services.
Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
- Why do Colds and Flu Strike in Winter (n.d.), Accessed October 7, 2021 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320099#Common-cold-vs.-flu
- Can Cold Weather Make You Sick (2020), Accessed October 7, 2021 from https://www.verywellhealth.com/does-cold-weather-cause-the-cold-or-flu-770379
- How to Boost Your Immune System (2021), Accessed October 7, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
- Spicing Up the Immune System by Curcumin (2007), Accessed October 7, 2020 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17211725/
- Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger and Health in Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence (2013), Accessed October 7, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/
- Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds (2015), Accessed October 7, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417560/
- How Sleep Affects Immunity (2020), Accessed October 7, 2020 from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-sleep-affects-immunity
- Zinc for the Common Cold (2013), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23775705/
- Herbs and Natural Supplements (2015), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://www.elsevier.com/books/herbs-and-natural-supplements-2-volume-set/braun/978-0-7295-5384-1
- Astaxanthin, a Carotenoid, Stimulates Immune Response by Enhancing IFN-y and IL-2 Secretion in Primary Cultured Lymphocytes in Vitro and ex Vivo (2016), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4730289/
- Clinical Research Supports Effectiveness of Ashwagandha to Boost Body’s Immunity (2008), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://nunm.edu/2008/08/clinical-research-supports-effectiveness-of-ashwagandha-to-boost-bodys-immunity/
- Understanding Nutrition: Australian and New Zealand Edition (2017), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://books.google.com.ph/books/about/Understanding_Nutrition_Australian_and_N.html?id=43lGDwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y
- Vitamin C (n.d.) Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C
- Vitamin D (n.d.), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-D
- Fish Oil Supplementation Modulates Immune Function in Healthy Infants (2007), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17374672/
- Biotin Deficiency Enhances the Inflammatory Response of Human Dendritic Cells (2016), Accessed October 9, 2021 from https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpcell.00141.2016
- https://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/health/cold-flu-are-common-as-seasons-change-ensure-you-are-taking-these-vitamins-101645436830054.html#:~:text=People%20tend%20to%20feel%20lethargic,and%20whole%20grains%20among%20others. Apr 2022