How to look after your wellbeing in winter

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Looking to support your immune system this cold & flu season? Get our top tips on how you and your family can stay fit and well in winter.

Young family of five walking through a grassy field
Photo by Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash

Can you prevent the common cold?

Keen to put a plan in place to increase your odds of remaining sneeze-free? Good idea. Cold symptoms can hang around for up to two weeks. And when you consider that adults typically get between two and four colds a year, that can add up to a lot of weeks!

While it’s not possible to completely prevent the spread of cold-causing viruses,  there are a number of things you can do, and commit to, to help improve your resistance to the common cold.

No one enjoys getting sick, right? And while adults typically get between two and four colds a year, your kids could get as many as 10 in a 12-month period . With statistics like that, it makes sense to do what you can to boost your family’s immune system, as a strategy to spend more healthy days than sick ones this season.

But what is the immune system anyway? And how can you improve it? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the immune system?

In a nutshell, your immune system is a network of cells and proteins that defend your body against infection, so taking steps to make sure it’s healthy and working as well as possible, is a good idea.

It’s also important to remember that your child’s immune system differs slightly from your own , but regardless there are things you can do to boost your family’s immune health against seasonal colds and flu.

9 diet & lifestyle tips to support your immune system and keep the family well

Here’s what you can do to improve your natural resilience to cold and flu viruses and keep your general wellbeing in tip top shape during the winter months. 

1. Get enough exercise

Working out is a great way to boost your immune system function. Exercising on a regular basis assists in boosting the cells in your body, creating more oxygen and fighting agencies to attack viruses and bacteria. There is even some evidence people who exercise take half as many sick days and recover faster than those who do not exercise.

Exercise also releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical, which can help stave off the winter blues. And winter is also the time we’re most likely to gain weight, so keep up a regular exercise routine to avoid those extra kilos.

Furthermore, if you get outside in the fresh air and sunshine you help your body produce vitamin D, healthy levels of vitamin D are important for immune function.

Getting out for a run with your kids or introducing them to the some old-school favourites like elastics and hopscotch are great ways to get the whole family active.

Exercise supports immune heath | Blackmores

2. Practice healthy hygiene habits

When you’re out and about, especially during cold and flu season, it’s recommended that you regularly wash your hands, especially after touching doors or using handrails on public transport. Use hand sanitiser when out and about

And while it’s not ground-breaking information, it never hurts to remind everyone in your home that washing your hands before and after touching food, using the loo or blowing your nose.

Regularly clean surfaces such as your telephone and keyboard, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and cover your mouth with your elbow if you cough or sneeze.

3. Eat an immune boosting diet

A healthy, nutritious diet, particularly one that’s rich in fruit and vegetables, is key to a healthy immune system  for both adults and children. Aim for five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day.

While it’s easy to eat lots of fresh, crunchy salads and seasonal fruits in summer, in winter, our diet often tends towards stodgy comfort food. 

A healthy diet is essential for keeping your immune system healthy so look for vibrant winter vegetables like carrots, parsnips, pumpkin and spinach. 

It’s easy to whip up warming soups and hearty stews, or add a healthy twist to traditional comfort foods like shepherd’s pie and lasagne. Garlic, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, turmeric, carrots, green leafy vegetables and lean red meat are great additions to winter warming soups. 

It’s also a good time to eat foods high in flavonoids, which support your immune system, like apples and blueberries which are perfect in a smoothie with a little Manuka honey. 

Foods rich is zinc are also a great way to help support your immune system health. 

Include oysters, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, cashews as part of your diet– the Australian RDI is 8 to 14mg each day, or 2 oysters, 150gm beef or lamb, 1 cup of pumpkin seeds or cashews.  

Struggling to get your kids to eat their greens? We get it – and our ‘Healthy eating for kids in 3 easy steps’ action plan, is designed to help. Take part to get yourself and your children on the journey quickly and easily. 

Immune-booster smoothie

A nutritious smoothie packed with flavonoid-rich foods and Manuka honey

Prep: 5 minutes
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1 large handful of blueberries
  • 1 tsp to 1tbsp raw cacao
  • 1 heaped tsp Manuka honey
  • Dollop of natural yoghurt
How to make
  • Place all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth
  • Pour into a large glass to serve. Serve chilled

4. Take steps to stress less

While one in three Australian adults are living with significant levels of stress, more than 70 per cent of us say that stress is impacting our health in some way . 

Plus, nearly half of Australian school kids are stressed, too. And thanks to the impact stress has on the immune system, you’re more susceptible to developing a cold when you’re experiencing it.

One way to de-stress? Yoga. Research shows it’s an effective way to slow both the markers of stress and the harmful health effects it can have . 

The good news is there’s a way to do yoga that’ll suit both you and your kids.

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is one of your immune system’s best friends. The flip-side if you’re not getting enough? The risk of suffering the symptoms of a cold if you’re exposed to a cold virus is about four times higher . 

While adults should aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night to support their immunity, how much children need depends on their age. 

If you’ve got yourself a reluctant sleeper a guided meditation just for kids or recognising those sleeping cues can help to settle into sleep. 

6. Be gutsy about your gut health

Research is finding that many elements of your health can be traced back to your gut. 

A healthy gut is made up of trillions of different micro-organisms and bacteria that help you digest food and ward off bad bacteria. 

It also plays a role in immune function, and a healthy immune system makes for a healthier you in winter. 

The good news is, by exercising  regularly and making sleep  a priority, you’re already doing two things that will keep the ‘good’ bugs living in your gut happy. 

Support your family’s gut health further and add in probiotic-rich foods like yoghurt or fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut.  

 

Banana and blueberry porridge

Start the day with a breakfast full of gut-friendly foods like this blueberry and banana quinoa porridge.

7. Avoid alcohol

Okay, so your kids don’t drink, but if you do, for the sake of your immune system, it pays to take it easy. 

Consuming too much alcohol decreases the frequency of lymphocytes , which are white blood cells that play a key role in immunity . 

Limit your intake to 10 standard drinks per week, and never have more than two standard drinks on any one day .

8. Have a laugh

Research suggests that laughter not only has a positive effect on modulating components of the immune system, it can even enhance your immunity . 

So why not get everyone on the couch to watch a family friendly, funny movie and have a good laugh together?

9. Keep your skin hydrated

Winter weather can be harsh on your skin. Cold air, wind and low humidity can cause skin to become dry, itchy and sensitive. The best way to keep skin hydrated is from the inside, so drink plenty of water and non-caffeinated fluids.

You can also moisturise your skin with coconut oil, eat foods with healthy fats like avocado nuts & seeds, and try using a humidifier in your home.

 

Natural skin care ingredients | Blackmores

Use natural ingredients and try do-it-yourself skin care hacks at home.