Fall to winter season is for most people synonymous for cold and flu season. Why is this? Is there anything you can do to strengthen your immune system during this season? In this article, I provide seven ways to fortify your immune system naturally.
These seven ways are easy to do, and almost anyone can practice for free. You don’t need to buy any of those expensive supplements to fortify your immune system. Try these “free” methods, and they are not only great for your health, but for your wallet too :-).
Why are we more prone to get the flu in winter?
Have you ever asked yourself, why you are more prone to get a cold or flu during winter? The National Institute of Child Health wanted to find exactly that in one of their studies.
The researchers have found that “at winter temperatures, the virus’s outer covering, or envelope, hardens to a rubbery gel that could shield the virus as it passes from person to person. At warmer temperatures, however, the protective gel melts to a liquid phase. But this liquid phase apparently isn’t tough enough to protect the virus against the elements, and so the virus loses its ability to spread from person to person.”
However, here is the good news. Allah subuhanawuta’la has programmed our body in a way that it can protect itself from many diseases caused by these viruses. To wage war against these viruses in the winter months, something amazing happens inside our body. Our genes change their genetic activities depending on the season. According to a research by the University of Cambridge, around one-fourth of the activity of our genes differ from summer to winter. These changes in the genetic activities help our immune system to step up its fight against these bad intruders!
However, for allowing our body to do its job to protect itself, we need to “assist” our body to realise the seasonal changes.
What do I mean by “assist? Glad you asked that! You see, your body realises the seasonal changes by environmental cues such as daylight and ambient temperature. So for your body to know that it’s winter you got to spend some time outside so that it can feel the seasonal change and trigger the immune system to work for you.
So this means, curling up inside your home (or at work) the whole day, you aren’t assisting your body in doing its job.
The seven natural ways I recommend you are centred on the philosophy of “helping your body to cure itself”. So by following these seven ways, you are indeed helping your body first and foremost to sense the season and then you are providing the essential nutrients to strengthen your body’s immune system so that you can thrive in winter just like in summer, bi’idnillah!
Ok, you probably know that exercise is good for you. As cliché as it may sound, regular exercise is as important as eating and drinking for a healthy body.
When it comes to strengthening your immune system, the importance of exercise is, unfortunately, less appreciated.
I hope this article will change your notion. Now before I explain, how exercise is going to help you to strengthen your immune system, I want you to have a basic understanding of what a lymphatic system is.
Your lymphatic system consists of a network of tissues and many different organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. So, one of the primary functions of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
However, carrying many of these immune cells around your body relies heavily on the pumping action of your body movements. And that’s where the exercise and also deep breathing plays an important role.
So your body movements help your lymphatic system to work effectively and thus to fortify your immune system.
Simple walking, jogging, swimming, yoga or any other type of exercise would help you a lot to make your lymphatic system work.
#2. Get some cold exposure
Here is another simple but essential way to fortify your immune system: Go out for a walk in the cold!
First and foremost, by getting out in the cold, you are indeed helping your body sense the season.
Secondly, a simple walk in the cold helps you in many different ways to improve your immune system. The most important of all, you are helping your lymph system to work better, as I discussed earlier.
Thirdly, by going out for a walk, you are getting the essential vitamin D, which is important especially in winter months. I’ve talked about it extensively in this blog post.
But that’s not all. A study in 2014 found that daily brief cold stress can increase both the numbers and activity of cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells, who are responsible for killing foreign invaders.
In other words, a simple short walk in the cold helps your immune system to work better.
There is also another way of getting some cold exposure. That is by taking a contrast shower.
Contrast shower is all about alternating hot and cold showers. While taking your shower, follow this simple technique:
- Stand for 2 minutes in warm water
- Switch your shower to 30 seconds of cold water
- Switch to 1 minute normal/moderate temperature
Repeat the steps 2 to 3, three times.
That’s it, with a simple contrast shower, you are helping your immune system work better.
#3. Drink A lot of Water
Water is critical for your overall health, that’s perhaps not news for you. I’ve already discussed it in one of my previous articles.
When it comes to improving your immune system water becomes more important. Even a small percentage of drop in our ideal hydration level affects the immune system negatively.
That’s why I recommend drinking at least eight glasses (around 2 litres) of water every day. If you aren’t fond of drinking much water, at least get some unsweetened warm tea.
I love drinking mint and turmeric tea in winter months. Want to know my turmeric tea recipe? Get it here for free!
The key is hydrating in winter. Drink a lot of unsweetened, natural fluid in whatever form you like.
#4. Drink bone broth (chicken/meat soup)
Now talking about hydration, soup in cold season is an excellent way of adding more hydration to our body.
Ask your grandma, what she did when she caught a cold. Most probably, she made a chicken bone broth soup. And here is the thing, science now verifies this action as very “scientific”. Now a lot of scientific studies verify that chicken bone/meat bone broth soups are indeed great for health.
Substances such as chondroitin sulfate found in bone broth are linked to both anti-inflammatories as well as immunoregulatory effects. Some other studies published in “The Journal of Neurochemistry” found that bone broth even plays a significant role in detoxifying at cellular levels.
Bone broth contains an abundance of minerals, as well as over fifteen different amino acids and proteins like collagen, and gelatin. If prepared well, you can improve the nutritional content of bone broth and improve your health while enjoying the warm soup in cold days.
Here is an easy recipe to prepare bone broth: Bone Broth Recipe
#5. Eat Local Seasonal Foods
Stanford University researchers discovered, even our microbes in the gut can change considerably with each season. So all these changes in genetic and microbial activities do affect our immune system, the composition of our blood and even the fat tissue.
So what is happening is, our immune system is adapting to different seasonal variations. To support our immune system during these times, we need to include many seasonal foods.
Seasonal vegetables, in particular, are a tremendous gift from Allah subuhanawuta’la as it helps to protect us against many diseases that are prone to spread at particular seasons. They also are helpful to our body in getting a heavenly mix of nutrients and plant chemicals that we need during the different seasons. Like in winter you need much more nutrients so that your immune system will be strong and ready to fight if needed.
In winter, we are more likely to come down with the flu, so vitamins like A and C helps to strengthen our immune systems. And most vegetables that blossom in winter are full of such vital vitamins. Brussel sprouts don’t have a good rep, but, it being a winter vegetable, means it has twice as much vitamin C as an orange. Or a serving of kale gives you double the recommended amount of vitamins A and C.
Whenever you can, snap up more seasonal vegetables than not, and remember, that Allah subuhanawuta’la knows exactly what is best for us and that is why He has given many things that we need, in the right place and the right time.
Seasonal foods change from location to location. That’s why I always ask my clients to eat local and seasonal foods.
And the best way to find them is from your local farmers market.
Want to increase your essential nutrients intake and improve your immune system? Here is a quick and easy way:
#6. Get Enough Sleep
Just like food, the amount of sleep your body needs depends on the season.
When the days are short, and nights are long, you naturally need more sleep. And again, there is a reason why you need more sleep during winter than summer.
In cold winter days, your immune system needs to work hard fighting off the prevalent viruses around this time. So this means, you need to fortify your immune system to keep yourself healthy.
And getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to fortify your immune system. Sleep not only affects whether or not you are getting sick, but it also affects how quickly you recover when you get sick.
In a study reported by the Journal of Applied Physiology, scientists found that sleep helps wounds heal faster. People who slept normally healed in about 4.2 days. Those sleep-deprived test persons took about five days to heal.
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are essentially traffic signals that pull more immune cells to the injured site. So as long as you sleep enough, your immune system can release enough cytokines to do the necessary recovery work.
However, when you are deprived of sleep, the production of your cytokines will be decreased, delaying your recovery from an infection, as well as leaving you more likely to get an infection.
So sleep well to fortify your immune system. And how much sleep? Well, it depends on person to person, but most of us need a minimum of 7-8 hours daily.
#7. Have some Halal fun and connect with people you love
Ok, this is perhaps the easiest of all. I mean who doesn’t like to have fun and spend time with people they love, right?
You may wonder, what having fun and connecting with people you love has to do with strengthening your immune system. Well, quite a lot.
Having fun, laughing and connecting with your loved ones provide you with a lot of positive emotions and help to destress you from your daily stresses.
You know that stress is bad for you. But here is the thing, it’s even worse for your immune system. When you’re stressed, your immune system’s ability to fight off infections becomes drastically reduced. Not only you are susceptible to infections and diseases, but also it takes longer to get cured when you are under stress.
A study conducted at Indiana State University School of Nursing found that simple laughter can reduce stress and improve natural killer cell activity of your immune system.
So there is much more to laughter than you can think of. Here is what I suggest for you do at least 15 minutes daily. Take some time to have some halal fun with those you love. And it’ll not only improve your immune system but will also improve your relationship.