It’s a common belief that we are all more likely to get ill when the seasons change. In this article, we discuss the benefits of being proactive with our immune support.
Overall, our bodies do an exceptional job of protecting us from disease-causing micro-organisms, but occasionally these protection mechanisms fail and we fall ill.
Our amazing immune system
Our immune ‘system’ is made up of an intricate web of physiological and biochemical interconnections. Throughout the year, or seasonally, our bodies undergo immune pattern changes – they do not range from ‘weak’ to ‘strong’, but simply fluctuate depending on what our body needs at that particular time.
A number of biochemical factors determine an immune response. These markers are measured clinically through blood screening and include inflammatory receptors, C-reactive proteins and white blood cell count (WBC). Gene expression of these markers has been shown to follow seasonal variation, with some being more prominent or active in the summer and some during the wintertime. This means that you are likely to be susceptible to different illnesses at different times of the year.
Gut bacteria also change seasonally depending upon what we are eating, the environment we are spending time in and stress levels amongst other things. The billions of bacteria making up our gut microflora or microbiome and the bacteria of the gastro-intestinal tract are estimated to account for 70% of our immune system, so these bacterial changes can impact our susceptibility to illness.
Other factors that affect our chances of being susceptible to seasonal infections include exposure to allergens and current and past infections. As a result there is a complex array of interactions in our body at any one time, which determines how well an individual may ‘fight off’ seasonal flu or develop symptoms of arthritis, for example.
What can you do to help support your immune system?
- Support good bacteria in the gutConsume kefir and probiotic yoghurt regularly and take a friendly bacteria supplement that contains strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus.
- Eat smart
Food contains a variety of nutrients that support our immune systems, including:
● Vitamin C, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system in adults and children and contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.* It has also been found to contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Vitamin C is typically found in fruit and vegetables and is particularly high in broccoli, kiwi, sweet peppers and citrus fruits.
● Vitamin D, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Vitamin D is found in several varieties of mushrooms and of course is produced by your body naturally through exposure to sunlight.
● Magnesium, which contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Seeds, nuts and leafy greens provide an abundance of this essential mineral.
● Zinc, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system and to the protection of cells from oxidative stress*. Zinc is found in a number of food groups. Red meat, seafood, poultry and grains are all good sources of this nutrient.
*Oxidative stress is a term used to describe a natural body process of cell aging. It is defined as an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body and their elimination by protective mechanisms, such as detoxification, which can lead to chronic illness.
- Go outside
Exposure to sunlight has been well documented to affect both immune levels and mental health. Sunlight is the most effective way to increase your levels of vitamin D which plays a critical role in promoting the immune response. Lack of sunlight during the winter months is linked to conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other forms of depression.
- Take time to relax
As well as a good night’s sleep, good old R&R does wonders to help us recuperate both mentally and physically. Having this ‘downtime’ in our regular schedule further supports all body systems and is widely considered to support our immune system.
And to support your health all year round…
- Take daily walks in the sunshine, ideally for 30 minutes or more
- Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, essential fats, and some starchy carbohydrates such as rice and/or potatoes. Remember to limit refined sugars and processed foods and drink plenty of water
- Relax and enjoy a hobby or pastime every week
- Maintain a regular sleeping pattern, with the aim of keeping a routine at bedtime, ideally notching up 8 hours’ sleep each night
- Avoid smoking
- Limit weekly alcohol intake
- Avoid excessive caffeine intake – particularly around mealtimes, as this can reduce the absorption of certain nutrients from your food
- Take a supplement of friendly bacteria with strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus daily
- Take a multivitamin or supplement that includes the above immune-supporting nutrients daily
Want to know more?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying healthy please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107