Boost Your Immune System For Winter

Last Updated: Wednesday 5th December 2007

©Anne Cross

Print Version

Boost Your Immune System For Winter

Inside your body is your immune system – your gatekeeper – which is designed to defend you against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites that would love to invade your body and cause havoc and many unpleasant symptoms.

How well your immune system works depends on many factors and as we are approaching the season of colds, flus and other nasty bugs it is a good idea to try to get our immune systems in tip top condition so we succumb to as few bugs as possible and if we do succumb to recover quickly. Natural health practitioners actually view having one or 2 colds a year as positive and healthy – like a mini detox –helping your body to get rid of wastes and toxins that have accumulated. The unpleasant symptoms you experience during an infection such as a runny nose, fever, coughing and diarrhea are actually part of the natural healing process.

So getting sick now and again can actually help keep your immune system in peak condition, however catching lots of infections such as stomach bugs, colds or tonsillitis can indicate your immune system is struggling.
So what can you do to boost your immune system?

The Immune Power Diet
Good nutrition is vital for a healthy immune system. Eat good quality proteins daily such as meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds – these foods help the body to repair itself. Ditch white refined carbohydrates and focus on wholegrain breads, oats, barely, brown rice, quinoa etc. These provide many vitamins and minerals needed for a good immune response. Obviously plenty of fruit and veg, eat rainbow colours of green, orange, red, yellow and purple for a full spectrum of nutrients. Try raw, steamed, stir fried, stewed, in soups, smoothies and salads. Reishi, oyster and shiitake mushrooms have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Try fresh or dried in soups and casseroles. Essential fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, seeds and nuts, flaxseed and walnut oils help boost the immune system. Especially power boosting foods include avocados, blueberries, chillis, citrus fruits, dark chocolate, fish and shellfish, garlic, ginger, onions, parsley, rosemary, seaweeds all have different nutrients for the immune system such as zinc, selenium, Vitamins A, C & E, B6, magnesium, and plant chemicals called phytonutrients. We still need to drink plenty of water in winter but if cold water does not appeal try some warming herbal teas such as apple and ginger, lemon and ginger, ginseng or Echinacea.

Supplements and Herbs
These can help boost the immune system and reduce severity of infections and include Vitamin C, zinc, a good quality multi vitamin / mineral, Echinacea, cats claw, glutamine, elderberry, astragalus, propolis, colloidal silver and green superfoods. Some have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Also probiotics which are natural strains of healthy bacteria found in your gut. Did you know that a large part of your immune system is located in your gut? Healthy bacteria are essential for good immune response. These supplements are especially important after stomach bugs and antibiotics.

Other Immune Helpers
Other factors which can have a positive effect on our immune systems are fresh air, nature, natural light, moderate exercise, peace and calmness, good relationships, meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, deep breathing, gratitude, forgiveness, music, sex – but don`t go crazy as this can deplete immune function!, fun and laughter. So this winter try to have several walks in the winter daylight, meet up with friends, eat good food and laugh well to keep your immune system strong. Enjoy your glass of mulled wine and mince pie alongside your healthy foods! A little of what you enjoy does you good – nobody can be good all the time!

It is also a good idea to try to do something you want each day rather than everything being what you have to do.

Enemies of the immune System
The following can compromise our immune health and reduce our resistance to infections. Burnt food, too much coffee, alcohol, sugary foods, additives and chemicals in foods, antibiotics, drugs, lack of or too much exercise, stress, smoke, pollution, overwork and toxic metals – many of which deplete vital nutrients which your immune system needs to stay healthy. Also negative emotions and attitudes such as anger, pessimism, frustration, lack of sleep, job dissatisfaction, unhappiness will compromise your immune system. So look out for these drainers in your daily life.

If you do succumb to bugs this winter wrap up warm, drink plenty of fluids, gargle with salt water or tea tree oil, have a Hot Toddy and try making a healing soup from red onions, garlic, carrots, sweet potato, fresh ginger, turmeric and coconut milk. Puree and serve with love! Relax and let your body heal.

Anne Cross

Anne Cross

Anne Cross, Nutritional Therapist
BSc Nutritional Medicine
Member BANT (British Association of Nutritional Therapists)
Anne studied Nutritional Medicine for 4 years with the Plaskett Nutritional College / Thames Valley University.
She enjoys seeing clients on a 1:1 basis, writing about Nutrition, doing small workshops and also enjoys supervising student clinics at the College of Natural Medicine in Edinburgh.
Anne also believes that one of the main aspects of Nutritional Therapy is education and empowerment of her clients to help them take control of their own health and wellbeing.
Today to keep up with demands of 21st Century living we need to pay more attention to keep our bodies, minds and spirits well. Our Natural Balance can be disturbed by poor diet, stress, lack of nutrients, infection and negative thoughts etc. Nutritional Therapy is one way we can begin to get this balance back.