10 scientifically-backed ways to boost your immunity this winter

The winter is coming! Aside from exciting family gatherings, it is the time of the year when colds and flu are rampant. Having the winter season means you will be staying much of your time indoors, where germs and bad bacteria are easily spread, especially COVID-19. Hence, you need to boost your immune system to fight off any sickness from ruining your holiday plans, but how do you possibly do it? 

Boosting your immune system

Your immune system is not a single entity but, as the term refers to itself – a system. It needs balance and harmony among all the body systems to function well. There are still a lot of study areas that the researchers need to work on, specifically on the intricacies and relatedness of the immune response. Presently, there is no apparent scientific evidence about the direct link between your overall lifestyle and enhanced immune function. However, the impacts of one’s lifestyle on the immune system should be further studied. 

Although scientific research is yet to dig deep into the immune response and lifestyle, there are present studies exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress and other factors on the immune response; these are being conducted in animals and in humans studies. As of the present year, the general healthy-living strategies are the most recommended since they have high tendencies to help immune function. Plus, they come with other proven health benefits [1]. 

Moreover, these are ten (10) scientifically-backed and proven ways to boost your immune system to prepare your body for the winter season. 

Get vaccinated 

The first thing to do is get vaccinated. You must keep your body up to date on vaccinations during the winter months. Every once in a while, flu viruses and strains can appear and become widespread during winter months. When you are vaccinated, you are protecting yourself and other susceptible people around you. 

During vaccination, your body can activate the immune system’s memory. A weakened microbe, a fragment or resemblance, is added to the body when you get vaccinated. 

From there, the immune system will then be activated without us becoming sick, and this can prevent us from acquiring dangerous infectious diseases. Vaccinating yourself can provide lifelong protection, but of course, for some vaccines, the effects will diminish after a few years and booster doses are needed. One example is getting a flu shot, as it is a great protective measure, considering that every year there are more than 40,000 deaths recorded from influenza. 

Maintain a healthy weight

Keeping a healthy weight does not just include healthy food consumption but a proper overall lifestyle as well. With your body being overweight, your immune system functions are compromised. Obesity can cause inflammation that can weaken your immune responses. It is also linked to weakening immune responses to several harmful diseases, such as COVID-19, H1N1 influenza and surgical site infections.

You may want to also prioritise getting enough sleep and limiting sugar intake to manage your weight. Plus, quit drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking to take care of your body’s wellness. 

Wash your hands frequently

Apparently, washing your hands will not technically boost your immune system, but it can protect you from getting sick. Hand washing can prevent you from having diarrhoea-related illnesses about 30 percent and about 20 percent from respiratory infections, including colds. 

Microscopic germs can get into food and drinks from unwashed hands, which apparently make you sick. From there, these germs may be passed on to other people. Hence, washing your hands frequently is an effective way to strengthen your immunity [2]. 

Eat immunity-boosting foods

As your energy and body fuel come from the foods that you eat, they are a significant factor in boosting your immunity. Your body needs essential nutrients like protein, healthy fats and vitamins from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and more. Particularly, foods that are high in vitamin C and antioxidants are much preferable in building a strong immune system. By having these two nutritional contents in your diet, your body can fight disease-causing free radicals and inflammation. 

Adding colourful fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits like orange, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage and potent superfoods like blueberries and pomegranates can help in immunity. Moreover, health experts also added other best vitamins for boosting your immune system, which are vitamin B6, vitamin E and zinc. 

Aside from eating healthy ones, you must also avoid certain foods that are not good for you. This includes eating deep-fried or processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat. Research studies show that echinacea, garlic and green tea can aid in preventing a simple cold, but they can’t help you whenever you have already acquired it. 

Manage stress

Chronic stress is one of the important factors that can cause several diseases as it can weaken your immunity. Being stressed for months and years can take a toll on your immune system. When this happens, you are susceptible to getting sick easily and quickly, especially for people who are older or already have poor health conditions. You can manage stress by meditating, praying, journaling or simply sitting outside with a cup of tea to help you feel calm [3].

Remember to prioritise your mental health 

Furthermore, mental health may be underestimated when it comes to immunity; however, it can be another factor that may weaken your system. Your mental health should be prioritised, even more during winter. For some people, they may struggle with anxiety and depression because of changes in weather or social events. 

Anxiety and depression are normal reactions; in fact, 18 percent of adults may have these two. Some signs of poor mental health are anticipation, concern, feelings of fear, nervousness, isolation and others that affect your immune system. 

Supplement when necessary

Getting all the needed essential nutrients by food consumption can be a real challenge, but you can always opt to take supplements. Vitamin D is one important nutrient that your body needs to fight off foreign organisms like germs, and you can get your source through dietary supplements. 

The best supplement to boost your immune system is through taking multivitamins. Health experts emphasised that people who are following a well-balanced diet do not necessarily have to take multivitamins, but they can still take them for added wellness. 

Having enough zinc in your body can help in fighting off various respiratory viruses, while vitamins C, D and B12 help whenever you are feeling under the weather. There are many vitamin supplements claiming to strengthen immunity without scientific evidence, but the very one that makes sense is vitamin D supplements, as, during the winter, our exposure to sunlight is reduced. 

Stay hydrated 

Drinking water in winter is important because the air can be dry. Water is essential to the body as it performs two functions: (1) carrying oxygen to the cells and (2) flushing bacteria and infections that can put toxins away from cells. Consuming 8 to 10 glasses of water daily is a scientifically-backed way to boost your immune system. You must also limit your alcohol consumption and avoid smoking because these two unhealthy practices can dehydrate your body.

Basically, water plays an important part in immune function. When you are hydrated, you are allowing your body to properly circulate the infection-fighting immune cells. Water generally keeps your body system at its optimal peak. 

Perform physical activity

We all know that eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are key to protecting health and lifespan.

Doing regular physical activity can help in making you feel better, have better sleep and reduce anxiety. When combined with a healthy diet, you can easily maintain your weight. However, there are appropriate physical activities based on your age that experts generally recommend [4].

By following the most suitable physical activity for your age group, you can get immediate and long-term health benefits. In addition, emerging research studies suggest that physical activity is potentially beneficial to the body’s immune response [5]. 

Use essential oils

Here’s a new addition to the usual scientifically-proven ways to boost your immunity during the winter season. Using essential oils may provide your body with extracts from certain healthy fruits. Plus, essential oils can give aromatic effects, as they come from flowers as well. Essential oils are used to treat several minor health problems, such as headaches and stress. They are considered one of the effective ways to boost your immune response, especially the ones made in lemon, peppermint or eucalyptus. 

However, the majority of information on the effectiveness of essential oils in immunity can be anecdotal, and it still needs more research, particularly in humans. On the other hand, some essential oils, specifically eucalyptus and ginger, seem to have immune function-enhancing properties in multiple studies [6]. 

The bottom line

In boosting your immunity, it is essential to consider your age as well. As you age, your immune response gets weaker, which can put you at risk for various diseases, most especially COVID-19 or immunodeficiency disorder. You may need to double your efforts if you are over 50 years old to protect yourself from getting sick this winter season. However, at whatever time of the year, you must keep your immune system strong. 

[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system 
[2] https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html 
[3] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2004/07/stress-immune 
[4] https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/age-chart.html 
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7387807/ 
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6943609/

Photograph: Just dance/Shutterstock
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