Maintaining a strong immune system through the winter months requires some modifications, changes, and common sense. Many people get (expect) to get a cold or flu through the lurgy months, often blaming more virulent bacteria or virus. The truth is you are constantly surrounded by ‘bugs’ during all seasons of the year and winter is no worse than summer. Becoming unwell is simply a reflection of your immune systems strength to protect you against bacteria and viruses that surround you all year round. However, people tend to get sick in winter more than summer, so lets’ look at why that is.
The Problem – Inactivity, reduced outside time, close proximity to carriers.
During winter (designated as May thru October for this article) daylight hours become shorter, temperatures drop, and outside activities become less attractive. The common response is to do less, eat more comfort food, and increasing screen time. Your weakened immune system hasn’t a chance to defend you from the winter lurgy. Being: stagnant and stuck inside, away from fresh air and sunshine (vitamin D); providing your body with poor sustenance; and being closer in proximity to the coughing and sneezing incubators (read children) of flu viruses, you have episodes of sickness. Your ability to stay well or quickly bounce back, is dependent on keeping a strong immune system. Here is how you can achieve more resilience this winter.
The Solution – Keep immune system strong, modify to the seasons.
Keep a strong immune system all year by changing with the seasons. It’s natural to change through the seasons – trees lose their leaves, animals hibernate, some plants become abundant while others stop – ‘change’ you must and better you will be (I’m channelling my Yoda). To maintain a strong immune system:
- Modify your activity habits to keep moving. Movement is vital for body function. For example: walking will reduce stress, improve oxygenation of the blood, and release chemicals that improve immune function; stretching fascia tissues aids immune function by enhancing movement of cells through the whole body; and, exercising with a friend/group releases endorphins that help you feel good at a time when people can get down and depressed.
- Modify your diet: reduce phlegm producing foods such as diary, sugar, and wheat products (bread, cereals); stimulate your immune system through your gut by eating or adding herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, curry, peppers, and cinnamon; and, keep hydrated through teas, soups, or juicy winter fruits like grapefruit and oranges.
- Modify your house: keep air temperature above 16 degrees, particularly in your bedroom, as breathing cold air impacts lung function and bugs love moist, warm lungs. Putting extra blankets on your bed won’t save you – you need to have the air temperature above 16 degrees whilst you sleep.
- Modify your clothing: wear socks and gloves to help the extremities stay warm – when the temperature is cold blood flow is compromised at the extremities hence gloves and socks help reduce this stress on the body; use layers to keep you warm outside; and, raincoats to keep you dry.
- Keep your Chiropractic appointments. The strength of your immune system is dependent on multiple responses which are co-ordinated by your nerve system. Blockages of these vital messages will lessen the effectiveness of your response to invading viruses and bacteria. Keep those channels open through maintaining your spine with Chiropractic adjustments.
Seasons change and so must you to maintain a strong immune system throughout the year. Winter often results in flu and illness due to immune systems being weakened by people not modifying their health habits and habitats. Implement the modifications suggested above and sail through winter whilst others are crashing around you. Finally, tell me your success story on your next appointment as we ensure your nerve system is free from choking and supporting you and your immune system through the lurgy months.
I hope to help you soon.
Dr Matt Short – Chiropractor, P.G. Dip Musculoskeletal Management – Otago