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5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally This Winter

January 19th, 2022

Winter’s here and that means the cold and flu season has arrived too. With an increased chance of getting sick, people often think about how they can protect themselves by strengthening their immune systems. There’s no magic trick to strengthen your immune system but the best thing anyone can do is adopt a healthy lifestyle in every part of their life. There are a number of ways you can improve and protect your health, from developing healthy eating habits to ensuring you get a good night’s rest each night.

Interested in learning about strengthening your immune system this winter? We’re going to take a look at how you can do this, some things to avoid, and how the immune system is affected by the ageing process.

How Is The Immune System Affected By Aging?

As we age, our immune system’s response to common infections seems to be reduced. Scientists have suggested a number of reasons for this, from the reduction of T cells to bone marrow not producing stem cells as effectively. Something we can control, however, is our diet. There’s research to suggest that a weakened immune system may be related to nutrition in the elderly. As people age, they tend to eat less and often they eat the same meals each day. This can, at times, result in a form of malnutrition called micronutrient malnutrition. This means becoming deficient in a range of micronutrients like B vitamins or vitamin D.

A note on vitamin supplements for health and immunity 

Today, walk into almost any store and you’ll see a whole shelf of vitamins and supplements that state they support and boost immunity. Of course, the right amount of vitamins and minerals are important for our bodies to work properly, but if we eat a healthy, balanced diet we can generally get the right amount ourselves. If you don’t eat meat or fish, you may also be more at risk of vitamin deficiencies. This all depends on the individual, though, and it’s important to speak with your doctor for guidance. 

Vitamin D, for example, will need to be supplemented by everyone during the winter months (as stated by the NHS) because of the limited sunlight we can absorb and the increased amount of time we spend indoors.

We’ve all also heard the advice to “double up” on vitamins and supplements during the colder season or when cold and flu is going around. As shown by the NHS, there is no research to suggest that increasing your vitamin above the recommended daily intake will benefit you in any way. If you need advice on your vitamin intake make sure you speak with a healthcare professional for support.

older couple sat on bench

Healthy Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System 

People often think your immune system is one entity, but the reality is it’s an incredibly complex system which protects your body against dangerous illnesses and infections. This means that developing a stronger immune system isn’t so simple. However, a healthier lifestyle begins with making small changes, so let’s take a look at some habits you can start to establish and then build upon. 

1. Eat healthy food and encourage a balanced diet 

Some good healthy eating tips include having a good amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet. Of course, don’t deprive yourself. A balanced diet also means enjoying your favourite treats in moderation too. Here’s an example of what a balanced day diet plan would look like: 

Breakfast – Porridge with your choice of milk or eggs on toast with a side of fruit.

Lunch –  Tuna on whole grain bread with salad, lentil soup with a range of vegetables, or an omelette.

Dinner – A protein of your choice (chicken, beef, fish, chickpeas) with mashed potatoes or rice and vegetables.

Snacks – a handful of nuts, greek yoghurt, dark chocolate, or an energy bar.

Remember to stay hydrated too!

2. Stay active and maintain a healthy weight 

Physical activity isn’t just for bodybuilders or fitness fanatics, it’s essential for us all. It’s an important factor of being healthy and supporting a fully functioning immune system. Exercise can improve immune function by increasing your blood circulation, making it easier for immune cells and other molecules to travel more easily around your body.

You can incorporate movement into your daily routine by walking to and around the shops, doing the garden, or playing with the younger members of your family. You can also start working on an exercise plan which caters to your energy levels and health condition. For example, if you’re quite active you could join a walking or jogging club. If you have restricted mobility try adding some chair exercises into your daily routine. Need more inspiration? Take a look at our exercise tips for seniors.

3. Minimize risk of infection 

This tip is as simple as washing your hands with soap frequently to get rid of germs and other nasties. People frequently rub their eyes or put their hands near their mouth without realising and germs then enter the body and can make us ill. Washing your hands after being in public spaces, before meals, and after using the bathroom can greatly reduce the risk of spreading germs. Another top tip: keep some hand sanitizer or a pack of hand wipes in your bag when you’re out and about.

older people exercising in group session

4. Get 8 hours of sleep 

Failing to get enough sleep each night results in more than just a bad mood or a lack of focus. A prolonged lack of sleep can negatively affect your immune system, according to the NHS. We’ve all been there, tossing and turning all night which leads to an irregular sleeping pattern. If you struggle to get enough sleep, try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day to regulate your circadian rhythm. You can also try and add more exercise into your daily routine to use up more of your energy.

5. Have regular health checks 

There’s no denying the fact that old age can increase the risk of developing health issues. Combat this by booking regular appointments with your doctor. You’ll be invited to check-ups every 5 years if you’re between the age of 40 and 74 and don’t already have a pre-existing condition. This is a great way to spot any concerns early and prevent them from getting worse. It could be as simple as monitoring your weight or eating habits.

Avoiding Factors That Negatively Impact the Immune System

wooden blocks spell out 'get good sleep'

We’ve taken a look into factors that positively affect your immune system and ways you can add these into your daily habits and routines. Now, it’s time to look at some things you can avoid that have a negative impact on your health. Cutting out these habits, wherever possible, is key for a healthy and happy life. To prevent illness, try avoiding the following:

1. Smoking 

Research by the NHS shows that smoking is one of the biggest causes of death in the UK. It can increase the chances of you developing a range of serious health conditions from cancer, heart disease, respiratory issues, and having a stroke. Smoking for a long period of time can actually cause irreversible damage to vital organs in your body, so it’s important to stop as soon as possible. Need a little help quitting? Why not try: 

  • Tracking your progress by keeping tabs of money saved and days passed 
  • Consider a smoking aid like nicotine patches
  • Join a support group with people in the same position 
  • Divert your focus to something else by starting a new hobby 

2. Drinking too much alcohol 

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice alcoholic beverage in moderation. We should all make room for the finer things in life now and then. However, excessive drinking can lead to a range of health issues, not to mention the negative impact it can have on our immune system. Research suggests that in the short term, alcohol consumption causes a drop in immune function. If you enjoy a drink, try to limit your consumption to one or two drinks twice a week.

3. Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety, especially chronic stress, aren’t great for fighting off common colds, germs, and flu. Research shows that it comprises your immune system and makes it harder for your body to respond to invasions. Worried that your stress levels are rising? Try adding a de-stress routine into your day by spending time meditating and finding quiet. If it doesn’t improve or you can’t control the stressful stimulus, you can speak to your doctor about other methods and strategies. 

Practicing a Healthy Lifestyle With New Care Homes 

Practicing a healthy lifestyle for a strong immune system means developing healthy habits, from eating well to exercising and moving as much as possible. We work with health care professionals to ensure our residents are moving enough and eating well with a specialist diet plan which accounts for their health needs. We also have a range of activities central to our living experience especially for resident enjoyment and wellbeing.  If you’d like more information on how we encourage our residents to lead a healthy and happy life, feel free to contact us for more information.