In the UK, winter is synonymous with picking up a cold. As soon as the dark nights creep in, the temperature drops and the outdoors becomes less appealing, many of us suffer a downturn in health, picking up nasty winter bugs that can take a few weeks to fully shake off.
It doesn’t need to be like that though. Read our advice on how to avoid winter colds….
How to Avoid Winter Colds
Colds and other airborne bugs aren’t more prevalent in the winter – it’s entirely possible to pick up a bug in the summer months too. The difference is in our ability to fight off bugs. A number of lifestyle factors play a part in reducing our immunity, many of which just happen to be more prevalent in our lives during the winter months.
Our immunity is the overriding factor in whether or not we manage to get through the winter without picking up a cold, so to avoid winter bugs, boosting your immunity is a far more successful approach than avoiding contact with all other humans and keeping yourself locked indoors!
How is our immunity reduced?
There are a number of factors that play a part in reducing our immunity, many of which have a negative effect on other aspects of our health.
- Being ‘run-down’ – not getting enough sleep.
- Poor diet – too many processed foods.
- Too much alcohol.
- Not enough exercise.
- Too much exercise – yes, it can be a problem!
- High stress levels.
- Antibiotics – they kill good bacteria as well as bad.
These are the common factors that affect our ability to fight off bugs. When you look at the list and apply a little detective work, it’s easy to see why winter is the main season for colds and flu. Think about it…
During the winter, especially towards Christmas and New Year, there are a lot more parties than usual. What happens at parties? We drink too much, eat the wrong foods, stay up too late etc.
When the weather is bad, many of us are less inclined to head out of the house to exercise, so our health-boosting benefits from training are at best, reduced and at worst, lost altogether!
Then there is the high stress that comes with Christmas – family stress, financial stress, much more to organise in terms of presents to buy, parties to attend, travel to take care of. It all adds up!
When you consider these factors that are more prevalent during the winter, it’s easy to understand how colds and other bugs are much more common in the winter. The good news is that there are ways to make these factors less damaging to your health, but you have to take the time and care to ensure that you do enough to look after yourself, otherwise despite your best efforts you’ll still end up with the usual winter colds.
How do I Boost my Immunity?
Much of the research agrees that immunity begins in the gut – a healthy bacterial profile is key to boosting immunity.
With this in mind, we have to begin with improving our gut health. There are different approaches to this one, but the most common one is to start with a high intake of both cooked and raw vegetables. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi are also particularly effective at boosting gut bacteria.
The next step is to use a probiotic yogurt or supplement – by supplementing your gut with new bacteria, you help to boost the population of healthy bacteria and boost your immunity. This is especially important to do after you’ve undergone a course of antibiotics, where much of the bacteria in your gut would have been killed off with the medication.
A good vitamin D and multivitamin supplement is a great way to help support immunity too. Some people argue there’s no use for a multivitamin, but I personally think they are worth it as both an insurance premium and a fantastic mineral boost – there’s more than just vitamins that your body needs.
The final nutritional step is to reduce the amount of alcohol and sugar you consume as they can have a negative effect on gut health. By all means have a drink, but certainly don’t do it every night! Give your body a chance to rest and recover.
Self-Care and Immunity
There is an integral self-care aspect of immunity. Try to ease stress where you can – don’t overwork, plan ahead and if you can see stressful circumstances arising, take steps to avoid them. Give yourself an early night when you need it, relax at home with a DVD instead of heading out once in a while.
If it’s a choice between hosting a party or being a guest at one, be the guest – it’s a lot less stressful! Don’t leave all of your Christmas shopping to the last minute – plan ahead and give yourself time. Last minute rushing is a huge reason we get stressed.
Try not to get dragged into organising a work Christmas party. The less you can take on, the better. Stress is massive drain on your ability to fight a cold, so avoid it where you can!
Take the time to exercise regularly, but don’t overdo it. You’re not training for the olympics, you’re just trying to stay fit and healthy. If you are low on energy, train less hard. Ride out the busy, stressful peak of the winter and then you’ll be good to go again!
Follow these steps and you’ll avoid a winter cold!