It’s winter time. The days are shorter, the temperature is cooler and our environment is generally a little damper and less desirable. It’s also the time of year that many of us express health in less than optimal ways. Whether it’s a bout with the flu or a case of the common cold, not many people would argue the fact that they’d be better off without it!
Consider this: we are constantly surrounded by germs. Year-round, germs are everywhere. They’re on door handles, supermarket trolleys, office equipment and even floating through the air! So if we’re always surrounded by these potentially harmful pathogens, why is that we typically only fall victim to them in the winter months?
Fundamentally it is because our immune system is compromised!
If you want to avoid these winter woes or are struggling to bounce back, consider these ideas as tools for building a stronger immune system:
Get more sleep
There are more hours of darkness – the sun rises later and sets much earlier. In wonderful wellness utopia, you would wake up with the sun and nod off soon after it sets. While this isn’t achievable for many of us, it is still highly advised that you look spend more time in the scratcher if you want to avoid an immune-compromised state! Try to rearrange your weekly commitments so that you are not getting up hours before work for a workout or a meeting. Train in the evening or simply train less in the darker months. Even if you can manage this on two or three weekdays, your body will thank you – as will your brain.
Look after your gut
As much as 80% of your immune system is in the gut. Therefore, the things you put into your body are going to directly affect what sort of immune response you might get this winter. Keep up the daily habits of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice in your water or tea. Eat more warming foods – we tend to digest cooked foods much more easily than raw foods in the winter. Bone broth is a fantastic option for boosting immunity as it is probiotic and best served hot! Avoid processed “foods” that feed the bad bacteria and damage the good guys in the gut.
Cook with spices
Cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and peppers are all superb at providing that warming feeling. These spices literally raise the temperature of the body. Increased body temp not only feels better on colder days; it helps to increase the activity of the immune system to fight off invaders. Furthermore, the micronutrient make-ups of these spices are worth having on your side!
A note about exercise
Rarely is complete rest a good idea. Daily movement is important for more than just maintaining your fitness. Promoting circulation and lymph flow is critical for optimal immune function. While we don’t recommend that you run or gym at 5:00am every weekday morning, be sure to keep up some form of physical activity to keep your mind and immune system sharp. Some great ways to avoid super early, super cold starts and to lighten the physical load of running are maintenance modalities like yoga and pilates. Perhaps swap out two of your early runs for some afternoon or evening stretching.
If you’d like some help adjusting your training programme to carry you safely through the winter months, or you think some nutritional advice might be beneficial, get in touch with us for a chat.
Tim Leeming. Exercise Nutritionist.