As we approach our next winter with shorter days and colder evenings, it’s in our best interests to prepare physically, as well as emotionally, in the hopes of seeing out winter without falling prey to the increased levels of viral infections and winter blues.
Upon closer inspection, looking after ourselves physically has a positive knock-on effect for our emotional health.
So, while great physical health does not predict emotionally stable mental health, it can most certainly do its part in keeping you feeling your best self even when things are gloomy around you.
That being said, this article hopes to equip you with the relevant know-how in order to boost your immune system so that you stay healthy no matter what winter has in store for you.
Not only do we want to share several methods of assisting your immune system in warding off dangers, but we also want to point out effective natural factors.
Truth is that nature has plenty of immune-boosting sources out there waiting to be utilized.
What we often find is that natural products have less annoying symptoms than synthetic compounds but this is not to say that natural is better than synthetic medicine and should replace it entirely.
Synthetic medicine has its place as the dominant force for dealing with today’s medical problems.
Natural products have their place not as a replacement for synthetic medicine but rather a complementary product in the toolkit of staying healthy. And when it comes to helping out our immune systems, natural products do a fine job of bolstering it.
Right then, let us jump into the natural products and medications that you should consider when looking to ready yourself for the upcoming winter and flu-season.
General Healthy Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System
Before we take a look at natural products you can eat or drink to aid your immune system in preparation for the cold season, it’s important to understand that a variety of methods exist that are more lifestyle-related but can nonetheless contribute significantly to your overall immune system’s state of security.
The immune system is an incredibly complex system. As such, there is no “One Pill Fix” for it. It’s no surprise then that many healthy-living strategies that are recommended for the health benefit of other aspects of your physiology are also recommended for the best chance of maintaining a healthy immune system in the face of environmental danger.
Some good healthy habits to get into include the following:
- Refrain from smoking. This does tremendous damage to your body as a whole and suppresses the immune system response.
2. Exercise regularly. Not only does this increase the circulation speed of white blood cells thereby allowing for faster pathogen detection, it also makes you feel great thanks to endorphin release – another bonus for when the cold weather is getting a bit much!
3. Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of leafy greens and a rainbow collection of fruit. This ensures your immune system is being optimally sustained for it’s inevitable fight against viruses and other pathogens.
4. Avoid drinking alcohol or limit yourself to only drinking in moderation. This is another immunosuppressant that has additional negative effects including a reduction in quality of sleep. This effect on sleep compounds the damaging effects of alcohol on the immune system.
5. Stick to a sleep schedule of at least 8 hours. The circadian rhythm exerts a strong regulatory influence on the functioning of the immune system. In other words, if your sleep is disrupted, then so will your immune functioning be. This puts your body in a compromised state making you more likely to fall ill.
6. Reduce stress where possible. Chronic stress increases the levels of free radicals which damage cell health and compromise the immune system.
Try to take time to relax so that your mind is away from your sources of stress. A few brilliant sources of de-stressing is that of a meditation practice and yoga practice (among sport, long walks, and anything else that makes you feel relaxed) as they do not take a lot of time out of your day but infer significant benefits.
Natural Remedies that May Help Boost Your Immune System
These do not serve as a replacement for healthy living or prescription medicine for when you do get sick. Rather, these natural remedies serve as additional tools for your health toolkit in the quest for strengthening your immune system for the cold and flu season.
- Vitamin C is a vitamin found naturally in vegetables and fruit, most notably in citrus fruit. If you’re looking for a vegetable that is packed with vitamin C, then red bell peppers are a great choice as they contain three times as much vitamin C as that found in an orange.
While vitamin C is not the magical immune system booster it has always been touted to be, research has shown that it does play a role in immune system regulation along with other micronutrients.
2. Echinacea, a native plant of South America, has been shown to reduce the severity of flu infection and even quicken the recovery time after one contract a cold. Research into its role in long-term immune system regulation is ongoing, however.
3. Ginger contains a plethora of anti-inflammatory properties to assist the immune system in warding off bacteria and viruses.
The consumption method is easy in the case of ginger – simply add it to your tea for a soothing hot drink or cut some fresh ginger into your morning smoothie.
4. Elderberries are another remedy that, while not a replacement for doctor-recommended medication, are packed with vitamin C and other anti-inflammatory compounds such as flavanols and anthocyanins.
Elderberries are normally found in the form of a lozenge or syrup. If you’d like to get the best-of-the-best, see your local herbalist who makes fresh elderberry syrup.
5. Zinc has been shown to decrease the duration of colds if taken within 24 hours from cold symptom onset.
It plays a similar role to vitamin C in that it helps cellular repair and growth as well as assisting with optimal immune functioning.
A good diet can provide sufficient amounts of zinc with shellfish, dairy products, nuts and whole grains all providing varying quantities of zinc.
For a Healthy Immune System, Look After Your Gut
Gut health is a somewhat underrated topic when it comes to personal health, yet research continues to show us that there is a tremendously significant link between the gut and a multitude of other bodily functions and features.
Our guts are incredibly complex, but our understanding improves as the latest research sheds lights on its inner workings.
Numerous studies have shown that there are clear correlations between gut health and mental health, skin conditions, the immune system, cancer, and even your general mood.
The effect of your gut health on the immune system is no different.
As such, it’s best to ensure that your gut health is in good shape by following a few useful pieces of advice.
Apart from the standard “good health” advice that we mentioned earlier, there is a particularly useful dietary addition that will stand your gut health in good stead – probiotics.
Some research suggests that taking a probiotic can support a healthy microbiome thereby supporting a healthy immune system and serving as a preventative measure for the development of gut inflammation and other intestinal problems.
Probiotics are available as pills but there are plenty of pill-free options to satisfy your probiotic intake.
Foods such as fermented vegetables, kombucha, sauerkraut, and miso serve as fantastic sources of probiotics and may help improve gut health significantly thereby inferring immune system protection.
Who is GI Doc Cape Town?
GI Doc Cape Town is a practice founded to provide medical solutions in the area of gastroenterology.
Over the years, Dr Eduan Deetlefs has earned the reputation of a trusted health expert providing consultative, diagnostic, and therapeutic endoscopic and related services to patients in Cape Town and beyond.
Book an appointment online or give us a call at 021 551 8678.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.
© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town
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