It can be hard to stay well all winter, what with less natural light and darker days to contend with, air conditioned buildings, bugs and viruses flying around and changing weather temperatures like we are having in Scotland just now. There is currently a vomiting bug going around my daughter`s school – oh the joys!  Your immune system is an amazing network of cells and organs, a gatekeeper designed to defend you against millions of bacteria, viruses and toxins. How well your immune system works depends on many factors.

As we are in the season of colds, flus and other nasty bugs here are some suggestions to help get your immune system in tip top condition! Having a strong immune system doesn’t make you immune to never “catching” anything, but certainly helps you to recover quicker and have less intense symptoms if you do succumb to an infection. Having an immune power diet is a great way to start providing you with a wide range of immune boosting nutrients such as zinc, selenium, magnesium, beta-carotene and Vitamin C. Include lean proteins such as meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu etc helps the body repair itself and fight infection. Focus on wholegrain carbs such a wholewheat pasta, wholegrain rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, new potatoes and oats which provide a powerhouse of nutrients to help strengthen your defences.

Brightly coloured fruit and veg from apples to pears, carrots to sweet potatoes, broccoli to bananas provide a wide spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants. Particularly powerful are shitake mushrooms, avocados, berries, chilli, citrus fruits, ginger, garlic and onions. Healthy fats such as oily fish, eggs, grass fed meat, nuts, seeds, flaxseeds, olive oil and avocados also help boost your immunity and keep the cells that fight infection healthy.
Remember to keep your fluid intake up with water and herbal teas as well as any caffeine you may drink. Try some warming herbal teas such as lemon and ginger and ones with cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamon in them or a glass of mulled wine!  Enjoy cooking warming nourishing food for you and your family in the colder darker months such as soups, stews, casseroles and curries.

Other supporters of the immune system are probiotic supplements, fermented foods, fresh air, sunlight, exercise, yoga, time out, relaxation, gratitude music, time with friends and family, having some fun and doing somethings you enjoy, not just chores and obligations!

Now there are many things which deplete or compromise our immunity and make us more susceptible to bugs, infections and viruses. Too much stress, sugar, junk and processed foods and alcohol along with antibiotics, lack of sleep, fresh air and exercise may mean we seem to be catching infection after infection. If you do get ill take some time out to rest and heal if you can, enjoy a hot toddy or lemon, ginger and honey drink and do anything that helps you feel a little better.

Making small changes to your daily diet and lifestyle can go a long way to boosting your immune system and helping you stay a bit healthier this winter. What steps can you start to make now. It could be a piece of fruit instead of a chocolate bar for a snack, adding more veg to your evening meal, having a warming bowl of porridge in the morning instead of a sugary cereal, reducing the amount of prosecco you have on a night out! or going out at lunchtie for a walk.   Anne xx