Jenna Hope, Registered Nutritionist, provides 5 lifestyle changes you can make to support your immune system and overall health.
Our immune system is often challenged by two key factors: the winter months and the ageing process. As we enter into the winter months, the colder weather allows unwanted pathogens and bacteria to travel between us which is why we’re often far more prone to cold and flu during this time. In addition to the winter, as we age the production of the key fighter cells (otherwise known as the T-Cells) also decline. Don’t worry though as this is a really natural part of ageing and the good news is that our diet and lifestyle choices can help to support our immune function and may help to support our immune function for longer. Below are some top tips for supporting a healthy immune system this winter.
Lifestyle Changes To Support Your Immune System
Protein plays various roles in the body including: supporting hormone production, muscle growth and repair, hair structure and is fundamental in the production of the immune cells. Strong evidence has shown that protein-energy malnutrition e.g. inadequate protein intake has been associated with impaired immunity and delayed antibody production. The recommendations are to consume around 0.8-1g of protein per kg body weight, however, if you’re a keen exerciser you may need around 1.2-1.5g of protein per kg body weight. The best sources of protein include: good quality meat, fish, diary, eggs, nuts and seeds such as Linwoods Shelled Hemp Seeds. Adding one portion of Shelled Hemp Seeds to your porridge or yoghurt in the morning can provide 7g of protein! Shelled Hemp Seeds are also rich in iron and zinc, both of which play key roles in contributing to supporting the immune function.
Exercise in moderation
It’s common knowledge that moderate exercise can be beneficial for supporting our long-term cardiovascular health, metabolic health and skeletal health. Regular, moderate exercise is deemed as 45-60 minutes between three and five times per week. However, the research shows that overexercising without adequate rest can increase the risk of infection and a compromised immune system. Adequate rest and recovery includes: optimal nutrition, rehydration and prioritising sleep. So remember moderation over abundance!
Add a portion of flaxseeds to your daily diet
Flaxseeds are rich in magnesium which plays an important role in supporting energy and reducing tiredness and fatigue throughout the winter months. The Linwoods Immune Support flaxseed and hemp seed blend is an excellent way to support the immune system this winter, it’s loaded with Vitamins B12, C, D to help support the immune function and is also rich in zinc and iron too. Vitamins B12 and iron can be challenging to obtain from a vegan diet and so if you’re following a more plant heavy diet adding one portion to your porridge or soup each day is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough.
Prioritise your sleep
Sleep has been deemed to be more important than diet and exercise alone yet it’s often something which we cut short in an attempt to fit everything else into our day. Sleep plays a pivotal role in nurturing our immunity as we use this time to replenish, reset and clean our systems. When sleep is compromised we may notice our immune system becomes compromised too. The recommendations are to sleep between 7-9 hours per night but some evidence highlights that when you sleep may be just as important as how long you sleep for.
Research has shown that disrupting the internal circadian clock by sleeping during the day rather than at night can lead to an increase in inflammation and a compromised immune system. We know that sleeping throughout the night isn’t feasible for everyone however, where possible do try to the hit pillow a little earlier at night.
Incorporate more pre and probiotic rich foods
The gut microbiome is a primary site of the immune cell function and therefore nurturing the beneficial microbes within the gut can help with supporting the immune cells. Consuming a variety of pre and probiotic rich foods can contribute to nourishing the beneficial bacteria in the gut and maintaining a positive balance. Where possible try to incorporate probiotic rich foods such as live yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and kimchi into the diet alongside prebiotic sources such as garlic, leeks, bananas and asparagus to help promote a beneficial microbiome. Additionally, Linwoods Milled Flaxseed With Bio Cultures and Vitamin D also contains live cultures to help populate a healthy gut. Vitamin D also contributes to supporting the immune function and deficiency can impact not only immunity but mood and bone health too. One serving contains 4g of protein, 6g of fibre and 5µg of Vitamin D making it a great way to support energy and keeping you feeling fuller for longer too. Try adding one serving to your yoghurt or porridge bowl in the morning.
Supporting a healthy immune system requires a multi-dimensional approach and therefore being aware of a variety of lifestyle and dietary factors can really support immunity this winter. If this feels overwhelming, try to focus on one key point at a time in order to ensure long-term sustainable dietary change. It really doesn’t have to be challenging, simply giving your pet an extra cuddle each day can help to support your immunity too!
- Haspel, J. A., Anafi, R., Brown, M. K., Cermakian, N., Depner, C., Desplats, P., … & Solt, L. A. (2020). Perfect timing: circadian rhythms, sleep, and immunity—an NIH workshop summary. JCI insight, 5(1).
- Ragnoli, B., Pochetti, P., Pignatti, P., Barbieri, M., Mondini, L., Ruggero, L., … & Malerba, M. (2022). Sleep deprivation, immune suppression and SARS-CoV-2 infection. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(2), 904.
- Chandra, R. K. (1997). Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 66(2), 460S-463S.
Jenna Hope is a nutritionist registered with the Association for Nutrition. She graduated with a first-class undergraduate degree in nutrition and exercise and a master’s degree in human nutrition. She works closely with individuals, brands, companies and media outlets to help them implement smarter strategies for nutrition. With a passion for making nutrition smarter, clearer and simpler, she provides advice which you can implement in everyday life.
Jenna has worked with hundreds of leading brands including ASOS, eBay, Phillips, David Lloyd, Accenture and the Daily Telegraph, delivering corporate talks, presentations, strategies and consultation services that help create smarter strategies to support teams, products and services. Featured regularly in leading media outlets such as Sky News, ITV news, Yahoo, This Morning, Women’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Red Magazine and the Daily Telegraph, it is her mission to educate as many people as she can on the smart ways nutrition can change your life.
As the co-founder of The Yoghurt & Juice Network, a company which specialises in nutrition education in schools, colleges and universities, Jenna is passionate about nutrition being taught from a young age and being inclusive for all. She is an avid foodie and is passionate about food never being boring, but always enjoyable and nutritious.