Five easy ways to boost your immune system this cold and flu season
This Morning: Dr Chris on how to boost the immune system
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Your immune system is among one of the best defences you have against viruses, especially during cold and flu season. According to Sarah Stanner, science director at the British Nutrition Foundation, there is “no individual nutrient, food or supplement that will boost immunity, or stop us getting highly infectious viruses like COVID-19″.
However, ensuring you have enough energy and are getting sufficient nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet can help your immune system to function at its best capacity.
Therefore, there are some lifestyle changes you can make that can help towards strengthening your immune system.
A strong immune system will help you to stay as healthy as possible during the winter months by fighting off bacteria and viruses.
Five easy lifestyle changes you can make to help boost your immune system
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things your body needs to function at full capacity.
Furthermore, a 2015 study found that poor quality sleep could be linked to a heightened risk of illness.
Researchers followed 164 healthy adult participants and concluded that those who slept fewer than six hours each night were more susceptible to catching a cold than those who slept for longer periods.
The NHS said most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep each night. However, it adds that “most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly”.
The NHS further notes that poor sleep can put people at risk of certain medical conditions, “including obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes” and may even shorten life expectancy.
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Try to reduce stress
Being open and honest about stress and anxiety is becoming more and more important.
According to experts, relieving stress and anxiety could help to improve your immune health.
Research shows that long-term stress can actually negatively impact immune function.
The NHS adds: “Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout.”
Coping with stress can be difficult, and talking to someone about how you feel can be a much-needed weight off your shoulders.
Every Mind Matters, from the NHS, also advises breaking up tasks into smaller chunks, focussing on positive things daily, incorporating more exercise into your routine and making plans for days that feel particularly overwhelming.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetable are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and chemical compounds which can help your body in a number of ways.
Antioxidants within fruit and vegetables can also help to decrease inflammation.
High levels of fibre found in many plant foods can also feed the good bacteria in your stomach, helping to keep harmful pathogens at bay.
According to Ms Stanner, it is important to focus on getting as many of these nutrients into your diet as possible.
She said: “Each micronutrient plays a different role in the immune system – don’t make a hero of just one.”
The best way to do this is to ensure you are eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day – whether that is as a snack, meal or side dish.
Eat more healthy fats
Fat does not need to be a bad word, and in fact, certain fats are essential for a healthy diet.
Healthy fats can be found in food such as avocados or salmon, as well as cooking oils like olive oil.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help to fight inflammation.
Further studies have also found additional links to suggest some healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, may decrease the risk of conditions such as type two diabetes or heart disease.
Add moderate exercise into your routine
Exercise is beneficial for more than just weight maintenance.
In fact, adding in a regular exercise routine can work wonders for your entire body.
Although there is evidence to suggest prolonged, high-intensity exercise can suppress some people’s immune system, it is widely agreed that around 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can give your immune function a boost.
Examples of moderate exercise include swimming, jogging, going for a brisk walk or riding your bike at a steady speed.
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