With the days getting shorter and the winds getting cooler, colds and coughs are starting to spread all over campus. Give your immunity a natural healthy boost with these six handy tips!
1: Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D supports your body’s autoimmunity, but in the winter when the sun vanishes and the flu season begins, it’s easy to fall short of your daily dose of vitamin D, making you more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Now, nobody can magic the sun out from behind the clouds, but there are tons of other ways you can get more Vitamin D into your system, the simplest being eating foods rich in it. Salmon and other ‘fatty fish’ are a great source, and whilst fresh fish can be expensive, buying frozen is a great way to make it easier on your budget (10% student discount at Iceland!). Not a fish-fan? Eggs are another great source of Vitamin D, maybe try a breakfast omelette in the winter mornings to give your immunity a little kick? And lots of breakfast cereals are full of Vitamin D, either naturally or through artificial fortification.
2: Exercise often
Everyone struggles to muster the motivation to go for a run when it’s less than ten degrees outside. With the stress of university exercise can easily become something of a lost priority, and this can damage your immunity too. Exercise increases the speed of your white blood cell circulation, helping your body to tackle any bugs before the physical symptoms develop.
Gyms are a well-heated and motivational environment to keep you working hard even during the bitter winter months, and many do decent student discounts, meaning that membership does not have to leave you out of pocket. I’d also suggest arranging to go with friends or putting a designated gym hour into your timetable, to make sure you commit to giving yourself time to exercise each week. And don’t forget about all the sports teams and societies on campus, they’re a great and social way to keep fighting fit.
3: Sprinkle on the cinnamon
Cinnamon isn’t just a delicious, warm, festive spice…it’s a superspice! It’s great for your gut, and reduces bacteria’s ability to multiply, helping your colds clear up quicker. Another reason to love pumpkin-spice lattes.
I personally love cinnamon, I sprinkle it on anything, from coffee, to porridge, to peanut-butter on toast! So if you’re making a carrot cake this autumn, add a dash of cinnamon, and turn your bake into an immunity-boosting superbake!
4: Make sure you’re drinking enough water
This one seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget to keep drinking when your day gets busy. Water helps your kidneys flush toxins effectively from the body, and supports the normal function of your digestive system. What’s more, water is essential for the circulation of nutrients around the body, meaning that being dehydrated will hinder all the positive impacts of everything else you are eating.
Cold & flu medications, and pain-relief drugs like Ibuprofen can also dehydrate you, so if you’re taking any to relieve the symptoms of your illness be sure to keep drinking throughout the day.
5: Get some Zinc in your diet
Zinc is essential when it comes to maintaining a strong immune system, and helps to stop your immune system from spiraling out of control when you develop an infection. Moreover, studies show zinc can dramatically reduce the duration and severity of the common cold. Some people choose to take zinc tablets or lozenges, but you should be able get all the zinc you need by eating a balanced diet.
Red meat, fish, chickpeas & eggs are all famously zinc-rich foods you can eat to keep your immune system running like clockwork, but a lesser-known source of zinc is pumpkin seeds. Very seasonal at the moment, pumpkin seeds are full of antioxidants and a great way to get some more zinc in your diet. Add some to your porridge, stir them into your overnight oats, throw a handful in your trail mix – or just eat them as they are! Pumpkin seeds are just one of many zinc-rich foods that will help your immune system function well this autumn & winter.
6: Stress less, sleep more
…I know, this one is easier said than done, but stress and sleep are really important in maintaining a healthy and functional immune system. This is because excessive stress and reduced sleep can interfere with your body’s ability to regulate the hormone cortisol, which can suppress the immune system, making the body more susceptible to disease.
To help your sleep, try to reduce the amount of blue light you are exposed to before going to bed, and if going without your phone or laptop for half an hour before sleeping feels a tad too tough, you can download all sorts of apps that make your screens ‘warmer’. Try to leave an hour or so after eating before you go to bed too, as lying on your back can interfere with digestion, leading to discomfort that could keep you awake.
As for stress, we all feel overwhelmed at times, but you can speak to your tutors, lecturers, and academic mentors if you feel your workload is getting too much to handle. There’s also tons of wellbeing support available on and off-campus for students if you think you need some help and advice with managing stress.