Winter is on its way. The temperature has dropped; it is getting darker earlier and there is less sunshine. I’m not sure about you, but when I feel winter looming I want to hibernate. A place that is all too familiar. As a person in recovery, I have a propensity to withdraw. I want to wrap up cozy, stay home and eat warming stews and soups and close out the world. It is also a time when our immunity becomes compromised and we all too often get the common cold, or worse, flu! Here I share some tips to boost your immunity during the colder months, keeping you fighting fit. A healthy body and mind makes for a healthy recovery.
The Role of the Immune System
The immune system is our body’s natural defence system against foreign invaders, such as bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites. Should one of those nasties invade our system, the body attacks it and tries to destroy it. Usually it does. However, certain factors can contribute to a weakened immune system. Further, as people in early recovery will recognise, your immunity is already compromised because it is trying to repair the damage caused by years of drug and/or alcohol abuse. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to boost your immunity and keep those nasties at bay.
Tips for Boosting Immunity
Ensure you get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for a functioning mind, body and immunity. Lack of sleep can contribute to low energy, depression, stress and lowered immunity. The body uses sleep to rest and heal the body. Try and ensure you get a minimum of 7 hours sleep. Women are known to need more sleep – hooray!
Eat a diet that is rich in nutritious foods
Ensuring you consume lots of antioxidant vitamins (A, C, D, E), minerals (selenium and zinc), omega 3s and fibre. A diet low in nutrient dense foods will lower immunity. Further, you may want to avoid sugar, because that will feed infections. Choose fruits and vegetables with a range of deep colours across – from oranges, to reds and dark greens. Such as: Sweet potatoes (vitamins A, E and fibre), dark green leafy veg such as broccoli, kale and spinach (vitamins A, C, E, K and folate, calcium, zinc and iron); lemons, limes and kiwis (high in vitamin C–kiwi being the highest!); berries (also full of vitamin C and other antioxidants); mushrooms (vitamin D); avocado (vitamin E and omegas); pumpkin (vitamins A and C, potassium, zinc and fibre). Fatty fish (mackerel, salmon and trout), cheese and eggs provide vitamin D and omega 3s. Brazils, yellowfin tuna, sardines, turkey and chicken are great sources of selenium. Seafood, beef, and beans are great sources of zinc.
Exercise is known to boost immunity. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a sluggish immune system. As little as 20 minutes per day can make a difference. Further, the endorphins released from exercise will make you feel better and reduce stress levels and aid sleep.
Sunshine is great for a dose of vitamin D! Plus, the fresh air will energise you and get those endorphins going. Try wrapping up warm and taking brisk walks outside when the sun is out.
Your body will thank you for taking those simple steps. For me, when I am ill, everything feels so much more challenging. I can’t afford to not take care of my health and body; my recovery depends on it.
Here is a recipe to boost the immune system:
Broccoli, sesame and raisin salad with grilled halloumi
large head of broccoli, washed and cut into florets
1 small packet of halloumi cheese
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Steam the broccoli for a few minutes and then immediately plunge into cold water.
- Whilst the broccoli is steaming, slice the halloumi and either dry fry in a pan or griddle or grill for a few minutes until a light golden color. Leave to cool and then cut into chunks.
- Assemble the salad with the broccoli, raisins, halloumi, sesame seeds and then drizzle in oil and mix thoroughly. Season. Serve.
This can be eaten warm or cold and can be stored in the fridge for a few days.