Getting sick is not only not fun, it can be costly.
There is the time off work which can reduce your income if you don’t have any sick leave. There is the cost of doctor’s visits and medication. There is also the cost of the conveniences you fall back on when you’re too sick to cook a good meal.
While most of us can’t avoid ever getting sick, it pays to take steps to strengthen your immune system and reduce the severity and duration of colds caught.
Here are six frugal and natural immune-boosting tips that won’t cost you anything extra but just may save you from the worst of the winter blues.
Boost your Immunity with Rest and Relaxation
Lack of sleep depresses the immune system. Sleep supports the function of T cells in the body, which play a vital role in the immune system. These cells specialise in attacking cells in the body infected by viruses. So getting regular sleep is the first step to keeping your immune system strong. And Winter is the perfect time to go into hibernation mode. When night falls, turn off the heater (to save money), snuggle under the covers and pay back a little of your sleep debt.
Stress also depresses the immune system. A good night’s sleep can help reduce stress along with relaxation techniques like meditation, but one the best way to de-stress and boost the immune system is to socialise with friends. A good laugh will lighten your mood, reduce stress and depression and improve your immune function.
Strengthen Your Immune System With Exercise
Regular, moderate exercise gives a boost to your pathogen-fighting T-cells, helping them to work faster and more effectively [source]. Too little exercise and these cells work more slowly and you can get sick more often. Too much exercise and you can run down your immune system.
30 minutes or more of moderate exercise (something as simple as walking) 3 or 4 times a week will not only see you fitter and healthier, it will help you ward off illness.
Sunlight to Ward off Sickness
Make the most of your exercise time and exercise outdoors to get an immune-boosting dose of Vitamin D and sunlight which “energises” your T-cells.
Your killer T-cells need adequate amounts of sunlight to go to work and work well.
A few minutes in direct sunlight each day is all that is needed. It’s important to note that using sunscreen blocks Vitamin D production. The Australian Cancer Council advises that for most people when the average UV indicator is below 3, sunscreen is not needed (check their page for more info).
Eat the Colours of the Rainbow
“Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.” Hippocrates, 460 BC – 377 BC
Not surprisingly, a healthy diet is good for your immune system. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide you with the vitamins and antioxidants (particularly, for the immune system, Vitamin C) your body needs to stay healthy. Eggs and lean meat provide zinc, which is an important immune-boosting nutrient along with other necessary nutrients.
On the other hand, simple sugars like table sugar and white flour (and products made from these) seem to depress the immune system. Maybe. As always, the recommendation is for a healthy, balanced diet.
Autumn is a time of abundance when it comes to fruit and vegetables, so check out what’s local and in season, and eat a variety of colours each day for maximum nutrition. Check out the guides to what’s in season in Autumn and what’s in season in Winter, to help you pick produce at its peak and at its cheapest.
Bacteria – The Immune System’s Friendly Helpers
80% of your immune system is located in your digestive system, so keeping your digestive system healthy is important for overall health. The bacteria Lactobacillus Casei Shirota, for example, well-known for being in Yakult, enhances the activity of your killer T cells.
Probiotics help keep your digestive system healthy and by extension, your immune system. Aside from supplements, other sources of good bacteria include good quality yoghurt (no sugary stuff – check the label for bacteria present), miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and any food that is lacto-fermented or cultured at home.
Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in the gut and nourish them so they work more efficiently. This helps build your immune system.
Prebiotics include anything from the onion and garlic family, whole grains, raw apple cider vinegar, legumes, chicory asparagus, beetroot to name just a few.
Dose up on the Medicine in Your Pantry
While a healthy diet will strengthen your immune system, there are some foods that will give it an extra boost. These include garlic (especially raw garlic), ginger, onions, mushrooms (especially shiitake) – thanks to the prebiotic nature, citrus fruits (in season in winter!) – bring on the Vitamin C, eggs, raw honey, green tea, spices (like turmeric and cinnamon) herbs (like thyme) and good old chicken soup.
Medicine never tasted so good.
If the budget allows for it, there’s one thing I swear by and that’s Olive Leaf Extract.* It’s not cheap, but it lasts ages if you have some as your cold is just starting, I’ve found it to be an effective cold combatant.
While you may not avoid getting sick this winter, these immune boosting tips will cost you nothing and may prevent the worst of the Winter ills.