January and February are often long cold months, and during this time of year many people develop colds, flu or other illnesses, which are usually the result of a weakened immune system. In this brief article we suggest some ways to boost your immune system, to help you stay healthy and fit.
It’s important to incorporate lots of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains into your diet. All of these items contain plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants, which help to boost your immune function. Good vegetables to eat at this time of the year include carrots, broccoli, cabbage and squash (or pumpkin). Think about making vegetable stews (with lentils or beans) or soups to feel warm inside, when the weather is cold outside.
Also consider adding ginger to your food. A veggie stir-fry with ginger and garlic, served with wholegrain brown rice, is quick and nutritious and really does help boost your immune system. Click here for our recipe stir fry with ginger.
Include a minimum of one juice each day to help boost your immune system. It’s a quick and easy way to give your body maximum vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. Consider starting the day with a ginger shot: one apple and a 2cm chunk of ginger put through your juicer gives you a warming boost. Click here for this months juice recipe: brocc-happy.
Sleep and rest
Remember to build into your week and each day a time to rest. This would be a time when you can completely switch off from the stresses of the day; a time to focus on yourself. This might be five minutes curled up on a sofa with a magazine, or fifty minutes luxuriating in a hot bath with the candles lit. If listening to or playing music, or sewing, knitting or painting helps you to relax, then create time to do this each day.
Sleep is also important in keeping your immune system in tip-top shape (sleep). Create a healthy bed time routine, minimising the amount of television, caffeine and alcohol immediately before going to bed, to give you time to unwind before sleep. Consider purchasing a relaxation CD or downloading a Yoga Nidra app to play whilst lying in bed just before sleep.
Exercise: Yoga, dance, walks
Getting outside and walking helps boost your immune system. Physical activity helps to clear out the lymph system meaning that our immune system can function more effectively, getting rid of toxins and keeping viruses and bacteria at bay. Exercise also boosts various brain chemicals, like endorphins, leading to a natural boost in mood and energy levels. So, find a type of exercise that you enjoy and regularly schedule time for yourself to do it.
At this time of year, when the days are shorter and cooler, we are more likely to stay huddled up inside. However, this is the time when we most need to get moving outside, to feel the sun on our face to give our body some much needed vitamin D. So, plan time to go outside during the sunlight hours, breath in the fresh air – even a ten minute walk during lunch time can help. If the weather stays grey, you might consider taking a vitamin D food supplement, to help boost your immunity. Here in Spain, the sky is often blue, even when the temperature dips, so we get chance to feel the sun on our skin during our morning walks or in the yoga class on the terrace.
Sitting quietly in meditation can help to improve your immunity, according to many international researchers. As little as ten minutes a day could be all it takes. Find that quiet place and meditate.
Laugh – often
Dr Bernie Siegal writes a lot about the health boosting benefits of laughter. He combined laughter with drinking high amounts of vitamin C to help to combat cancer. So pull out your favourite comedies and play them, laugh with friends, partners and children. Build time into every week to laugh well. Singing out loud to happy songs also helps to increase our happy feelings – and feeling happy improves our immune system. So, next time you are sat in a traffic jam, turn up the radio and sing your head off! Smile at the person in the next car looking at you and maybe you will brighten their day too :o)
Keeping your immune system in tip-top shape, by incorporating all (or even some) of the above activities into your day, means that you will stay healthy even when people all around you have colds – honest! Try it for yourself.
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).