20 Dec How to Boost Your Immune System This Winter
This post is written in partnership with New Chapter, Vermont-based maker of whole-food vitamins and supplements, however, all opinions are my own. I only work with and recommend companies whose products I love, and I’m so excited to share these with you!
Why Do We Get Sick in the Winter?
It’s common knowledge that colds and the flu are more prevalent during the winter, and that we are more susceptible to airborne viruses at this time of year. Here are some of the contributing causes to this seasonal upturn in becoming unwell:
• Lifestyle change: we switch from summer fun (travel, cookouts, lack of schedule) to one of the busiest work seasons of the year.
• Daylight Saving ends: as the days get shorter, we are exposed to less daylight, lowering our levels of Vitamin D and Melatonin, both essential for healthy immune function.
• Breathing warm, dry indoor air both dries out our mucus membranes (one of the immune system’s first line of defense) and means we are constantly exposed to airborne antigens.
• We spend more time indoors with the window sealed, making us more likely to breathe the same air as someone with the flu.
• Some viruses may survive better in colder, drier climates.
• Stress levels can become high over the holidays and we may reduce our hours of restful and restorative sleep due to work deadlines, holiday parties, increased travel and family commitments.
• Diet changes: we eat less fresh produce and crave higher carbohydrate, possibly less nutrient dense produce.
In the last year there has been more and more scientific research into boosting immunity, and the studies show that supporting your body’s natural defenses to help your immune system function optimally is the best strategy to prevent colds and the flu.
Being active, managing stress and prioritizing healthy sleep are essential to great immune health, but our nutrition and supplementation routines are where we can make some of the biggest changes:
Eat a Non-Processed, Nutrient Dense Diet
One of the best ways we can support our body’s immune system is by eating a diet low in processed foods and high in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Consuming processed foods can be stressful for the body by using up valuable antioxidants that could be used elsewhere to promote wellness. Instead, a diet full of great proteins, healthy fats and an abundance of fresh produce provides your body with the nutrients it needs for general wellness and a robust immune system.
Additionally, eating seasonally can be a huge benefit to our health and immunity, as local and seasonal foods are typically composed of a balance of macro (protein, carbs, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are helpful to our bodies at that time of year, and ayurvedic principles dictate that we should eat in tune with nature to prevent ‘dis-ease’ in the body. For example, winter squashes and sweet potatoes are packed full of beta carotene (which converts to Vitamin A in the body), which can help you see in the dim light of winter, and dark leafy greens such as kale are a great source of calcium, a mineral that is needed to help the body absorb Vitamin D (of which levels can be low in the winter).
Whilst I encourage my clients to eat a seasonal diet packed full of fresh produce I also recommend a great quality daily multivitamin such as New Chapter’s Every Woman’s One Daily Multivitamin, which provides you with stress, energy and immune support. With our soils being depleted of essential minerals, and the toll of environmental stressors on our health taking a multivitamin is a great way to ensure you are giving your body the tools it needs for optimum health and immunity.
Prioritize Gut Health
With 70% of your immune system housed in your gut, great gut health is one of the first lines of defense against invading antigens and ensuring a robust immune system. A healthy gut has two components: integrity of the intestinal lining and a diverse microbiome. If these are compromised antigens, bacteria and other unwanted substances can get into the bloodstream, triggering an immune and inflammatory response that can be detrimental to health.
Limiting processed foods and alcohol can be beneficial to gut health, as can ensuring a diet high in fibre rich fresh produce (see above) and including fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut. I also recommend taking a probiotic to optimize gut health – my go-to daily probiotic is New Chapter’s All-Flora Probiotic as it contains a combination of pre, pro and post biotics for complete digestive wellness and microbiome balance.
Increase Micronutrient Intake
In addition to ensuring a multitude of vitamin and mineral rich foods in your diet, boosting your antioxidant intake can help your body’s natural defenses. I include the following in my winter diet:
• Vitamin A: found in yellow/orange plant foods, organ meats, oily fish.
• Vitamin E: found in nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables.
• Iron: found in red meats, seafood, beans and pulses, green leafy vegetables.
• Copper: found in shellfish, seeds and nuts, organ meats, whole-grain products, dark chocolate.
• Selenium: found in Brazil nuts, seafoods, organ meats.
In the winter months I also include New Chapter’s Elderberry Force into my daily wellness routine, a blend of antioxidant and flavonoid rich and immune supporting Elderberry and Black Currant.
Boost Immunity with Mushrooms
Mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional medicine for their health boosting properties and are known to contain immune boosting compounds called alpha and beta glucans. Whilst it can be challenging to include fresh mushrooms and adaptogens in our diets, we can easily add them into our wellness routine and boost immune health with New Chapter’s Immune Support Reishi and Shiitake Mushroom Blend. This diverse selection of mushrooms supports your immune system, boosts vitality and promotes overall wellness.
You can find all of the New Chapter products mentioned here in your local health food store, Whole Foods, CVS, on Amazon, or at www.newchapter.com.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.