It’s toxic smog and not falling temperature that makes you ill in winter. Air pollutants not only increase your chances of getting infected with viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, but also worsen symptoms and make you more ill. If there is a risk from cold weather at all, it’s for people with latent infection and for those who work or travel in closed spaces with contagious people.
It’s possible to beat winter infections without staying locked up inside your home or breathe through stifling masks and respirators.
Here’s how you can boost immunity.
Lower stress, sleep well
Stressful situations, both physical and psychosocial, pushes up inflammation and compromise your body’s immune response at a cellular level. Psychological stress lowers your body’s ability to flight viruses and other pathogens by disrupting communication between the nervous, endocrine (hormonal) and immune systems. Studies in mice have shown that stressful situations delay the production of antibodies in animals infected with an influenza virus as well as herpes simplex virus, both viruses that cause disease in humans. So get six to seven hours of sleep and adopt methods to de-stress, such as music, dance or exercise.
Since thirst goes down in the winter months, dehydration becomes fairly common in dry, cold weather. It dries the mucosal lining inside the nose and throat and raise risk of infections. Dehydration also makes the blood viscous and puts pressure on the heart by making it work harder to pump blood. Along with nutrients, water moves white blood cells and other immune cells such as T-cells from the bone marrow and the thymus where they are produced and mature to all parts of the body to fight infection.
Take lunchtime walks
In clean air, physical activity rids the lungs of airborne bacteria and viruses that are linked to common airway and lung infections. In Indian winter, its best to go for sunshine walks as pollution is the highest in the morning and late evenings when low temperatures settle pollutants close to the earth’s surface. Moderate exercise –100 steps per minute, or 3,000 steps in 30 minutes five times a week – will keep your immune system on track.
Exercise also boosts the production of macrophagus, the cells that fight bacteria along with T cells. It increases blood flow that circulates white blood cells that fight infection, while simultaneously lowering the secretion of stress-related hormones such as cortisol that suppress immune function.
Try to go for a healthy mix of meats and legumes for protein; red meats, yeast, cereals and nuts for B-complex vitamins, and fresh fruits and vegetables for anti-oxidants and micronutrients. Some superfoods that boost immunity include:
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