For many, winter is synonymous with catching the latest bug. Research published in December 2022 suggests that one reason is that colder temperatures appear to weaken the body’s ability to fight off viruses as they enter the nasal passage. (1) Spending a lot of time indoors also increases your exposure to others who are sick, allowing viruses to spread more easily from one person to another.
But this doesn’t mean that you have to simply accept being ill every time the weather turns. In fact, there are several actions you can take that can help keep you healthy and your immune system strong in the colder months. Here are several to think about taking, starting today.
Tip 1: Develop Good Hygiene Practices
Realistically, you want to engage in good hygiene practices all year long. But taking the steps needed to mind your hygiene may be even more helpful during the winter months by stopping the spread of whatever bacteria or virus is going around.
Practices to consider implementing into your daily life include:
- washing your hands often
- keeping your hands off your face (more specifically, out of your nose, eyes, and mouth)
- and keeping your distance from people who aren’t feeling well.
Tip 2: Increase Your Water Intake
You’ve likely heard that drinking water is good for your health. Yet, in one survey, more than three-quarters of the respondents said that they don’t consume enough. (2)
Proper hydration is important for strong immune function. Our circulatory system is responsible for delivering nutrients throughout the body, along with removing toxins. Making sure it has enough water to do both helps support our immunity. (3)
Keep a glass or bottle of water with you at all times and sip on it throughout the day, giving your bloodstream the fluids it needs to function effectively.
Tip 3: Work on Losing Excess Weight
Obesity is tied with inflammation, and carrying extra weight may even increase your risk of contracting a flu virus, potentially by impairing the function of cells that help the body fight off infection. (4)
Actions you can take to support your weight loss efforts include eating more whole foods and fewer foods that have been processed. Increasing your physical activity helps as well. If you’re not very active now, start with just five minutes per day. As this becomes easier, increase the amount slowly, working your way up to 30 minutes of activity daily (or more).
Tip 4: Get Your Sleep
Sleep is not a luxury or something you should try to get when you “have more time.” If you don’t get enough shuteye on a regular basis, it can negatively affect your immune system—both now and in the future—due to the way it impacts both innate immunity (the ability of your body to fight off illness through biological evolution) and adaptive immunity (immunity that we build after being exposed to a new virus or bacteria). (5)
Making sleep a priority today helps enable you to stay healthier in the months ahead.
Tip 5: Find Ways to Deal With Your Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of life. But if you don’t find a way to deal with your stressors effectively, it can hurt your body’s immune response by reducing the number of cells you have that are responsible for fighting off viruses. (6)
What can you do to help lower your stress levels?
- Listen to your favorite music
- Go for a walk
- Take the time to stop what you’re doing several times throughout the day and take a few deep breaths
- Talking to a close family member, friend, or mental health professional can help release your stress as well
Tip 6: Adjust Your Dietary Supplement Regimen
You may already be taking some type of dietary supplement. Adding certain nutrients to your current regimen may be helpful during the winter months. Nutrients connected with stronger immunity include vitamins A, C, D, and E, along with iron, zinc, and selenium. (7)
Taking actions such as these can help your immune system stay strong this winter. That makes it a season of health versus being a season of illness, and that is a great thing.