Building Immunity This Winter
Do you get the sniffles when cold and flu season rolls around? Or perhaps you’re wondering how to boost your immune system throughout Winter? Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to naturally boost your immune system, including herbs, supplements, teas and simple lifestyle practices to improve immune health. Read on for my top picks to help build your immunity this Winter.
What does the immune system do?
Before we dive into the best ways to improve your immune health this Winter, it’s useful to know how your body is operating. Your immune system protects your body from outside invaders, or ‘pathogens’, including various forms of bacteria, fungi, toxins and viruses. When the immune system is working well, it can easily differentiate between which bacteria and cells are yours, and which don’t belong within you. When something gets into your system that shouldn’t be there (like a virus) the body jumps into action by switching on its defence mechanisms, which include symptoms like a cough, runny nose, high temperature, perhaps increased elimination or vomiting, and even changes in hunger and metabolism. Yep, your symptoms are just trying to help you! If you can prevent pathogens from entering the body in the first place however, you’ll escape nasty symptoms, and if you can improve your immune health, your body will be able to fight off foreign invaders quicker and easier, leaving you with far less symptoms too. So, to start building a strong immune system, focus on these practices and products:
Reduce Stress To Improve Your Immune Health
Stress harms the immune system, and is often a key contributing factor to why we become ill in the first place. When we’re stressed, the body releases cortisol (commonly known as the ‘stress hormone’). In short bursts, this is natural and actually healthy, but when we’re exposed to chronic stress – as so many of us are – this puts a huge amount of pressure on the body, and the circulating levels of cortisol start to cause damage. During periods of stress, the body uses important minerals like magnesium and vitamin C to try and help your body deal with the strain. It also uses up antioxidants like the mineral selenium, and vitamins A and E. Antioxidants are vital for protecting our cells, and so in a vicious cycle, the more antioxidants are used up via stress, the more stress we experience due to increases in inflammation and damage to the cells. Reducing stress is therefore one of the most important things you can do to build your immunity this Winter. Here are four ways to start reducing stress:
Breathing techniques to reduce stress: use a simple breathing practice of inhaling for a count of 4, holding for 7, and exhaling for a count of 8. This can quickly calm the nervous system and help reduce feelings of stress.
Herbal tinctures to reduce stress: The Wunder Workshop Bearhug Tincture is designed to provide the body and mind with a sense of calm, ease, comfort and positivity. With a blend of soothing lavender, verbena, oat tops and lemon balm, combined with mimulus flower, the tincture helps reduce everyday fears, stresses and anxieties, which helps your body get back to improving your immune health.
Stress-reducing teas: It sounds simple, but if you rush through your day, skipping breakfast and grabbing a takeaway coffee without pausing for a moment, your body is likely in a constant state of stress. Many cultures such as those in Japan have traditions of stopping to drink tea mindfully, which is said to be one of the key contributors to their impressive longevity. You can create your own tea ritual at home by pouring yourself a cup, sitting down, and noticing the scents as you sip. Notice your thoughts as you drink your tea, be aware of your breathing, and any emotions that arise. Our favourite teas to reduce stress all come from the Pukka Organic Calm Collection, with 30 individually-wrapped sachets including calming chamomile, vanilla & manuka honey, and many more of their most popular relaxing teas.
Ashwagandha for stress reduction: Blended with potent Ayurvedic herbs and spices, Wunder Workshop’s Golden Balance contains KSM-66 ashwagandha to support you through times of stress and prevent burnout. It manages cortisol levels and hormone balance, and is a deliciously comforting drink to add to your bedtime routine.
Optimise Your Sleep For a Stronger Immune System
Whilst we sleep, the body gets to work clearing away waste products in the form of unwanted cells, bacteria and damaged tissue, as well as replenishing and rebuilding important parts of the immune system. One of the lesser known but vital parts of the immune system that is most active whilst we sleep is the glymphatic system. The glymphatic system essentially ‘clears away’ debris and waste from the brain whilst we sleep, which is an important aspect of preventing cognitive decline and reduces the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. During sleep, the body also releases proteins called cytokines, which we need if we’re experiencing illness, and which also promote sleep. If your sleep is compromised, so is your mood, blood sugar levels, ability to heal from injury, your hormone balance and your immune health. Here are three ways to improve your sleep:
Supplements for sleep: Use Pukka’s Night Time Capsules to give yourself a naturally soothing helping hand when it comes to enhancing your sleep. A concentrated blend of some of the world’s finest herbs including ashwagandha, valerian and gotu-kola, the capsules are easy to take and work as a gentle adaptogen and sedative to help restore your natural sleep rhythm.
Create a Relaxing Sleep Routine: You’ve probably heard how a morning routine can set you up for a more balanced and energised day. In the same way, an evening routine prepares the body and mind for a calmer night and deeper sleep. One of the most effective practices to add to your evening routine to improve sleep is a relaxing bath. Use Aery Aromatherapy’s Heavily Meditated Bath Salts to relax your muscles and promote better sleep. Research shows that a warm bath a couple of hours before bed triggers the body to rapidly cool itself down when you step out of the water, encouraging a release of the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin.
Tea For Sleep & Immune Health: Add a cup of Pukka’s Organic Night Time Berry Tea with a blend of 13 well known fruits and herbs to help improve your sleep, including chamomile, echinacea, ginger, valerian, lavender, elderberries and blackcurrant. The ingredients in this tea double-up as an effective way to build your immune health too.
Foods have incredibly powerful properties to help build the immune system, but some of the things we consume can hurt it too. If you can reduce sugar, junk food and one-too-many cocktails even just a little bit this Winter, you’ll go a long way to preventing illness. If you can add in immune-boosting foods like mushrooms, berries, citrus, broccoli, garlic, ginger, leafy greens and leeks, you’ll be providing yourself with an abundance of natural vitamins. You can add these immune-boosting foods seamlessly to your routine by drinking warm water and lemon juice in the morning (full of vitamin C), adding broccoli (high in vitamin C) and mushrooms to your mid-week stir-fry (high in beta-glucans and b vitamins), mixing a handful of berries into your porridge (a great source of antioxidants), and popping ginger into your smoothie (one of the best anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthening herbs there is). Here are three top picks from Yogamatters to help you get more immune-boosting foods into your diet:
Ginger Tea For Immunity: Ginger is a powerful herb to help protect the immune system. The Three Ginger Tea From Pukka includes a trio of caffeine-free ginger, galangal and golden turmeric to warm you up from the inside-out this Winter.
Immune-Boosting Recipes: Be inspired by recipes from The Immunity Cookbook by Kate Llewellyn-Waters, including her Immunity Smoothie amongst the 100 recipes using accessible ingredients. You’ll learn how your immune system and gut work, and everyday ways to improve immunity.
Nettles For Immune Health: An invigorating skin and lung tonic, Wunder Workhop’s Purify Nettle Tea is a soothing blend of nettle, liquorice, sage, mullein, dandelion and thyme. Perfect to help you feel lighter and brighter, this is a great tea for when you need something cleansing a
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