By The Beauty Chef, Carla Oates
Your skin can suffer from the impact of viral assault on the body’s immune function in winter, so staying strong and healthy is more important than ever.
Your immune system is a complex network, working hard to defend you against invaders that can make you sick, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and some types of fungus. When an unwelcome visitor enters your body, your immune system identifies it then produces white blood cells and other substances to attack and destroy it – and it works harder than ever in winter. Here are a few ways you can help support it…
To do its job well, your immune system needs plenty of phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C, iron, zinc, calcium, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin E. Antioxidants hunt down free radicals that damage your cells, cause inflammation and tax your immune system – so eat plenty of colourful, antioxidant-rich fresh fruit and veg plus lean protein, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Where possible, avoid fried foods, processed meats, sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Onions, leeks and garlic contain an antioxidant called quercetin, which is antibiotic and antiviral and survives the cooking process while garlic also contains immune-boosting compounds. Ginger, turmeric, extra-virgin olive oil and green tea are also powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory.
KEEP YOUR GUT HEALTHY
It’s estimated that 70–80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut, meaning a healthy gut is essential for strong immunity.
Eating probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or natural yoghurt with each meal can help foster good gut bacteria, as does taking a quality probiotic supplement. Also, consume at least 20g of resistant starch, such as legumes, daily. This feeds beneficial bacteria in your colon, prompting them to make immunity-boosting short-chain fatty acids and do other good things for your health.
EAT GOOD FATS
A good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6s is vital as healthy fats help to keep inflammation in check, which in turn contributes to a healthy immune system. Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil also play a key role in immune health. Inadequate saturated fatty acids in blood cells may hamper their ability to recognise and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi.
MANAGE STRESS & SLEEP
The immune-dampening effects of the stress hormone cortisol have been well documented. Resting, good sleep, taking regular time out and meditating daily all reduce stress in the body.
Sleep deprivation, in particular, can elevate cortisol levels. Studies have also shown that lack of sleep can turn on genes linked to inflammation, which taxes the immune system, and suppresses immune function. And research has shown that sleep-deprived people get less protection from cold and flu vaccines. Aim for 7–8 hours a night.
How do you look after your skin during winter?
A variation of this article was originally published in Wellbeing Magazine.
Visit The Digest for more beauty and wellbeing inspiration.