During the cooler months, strengthening the immune system becomes a focus for many people. But our immune system does more than just helping our body to ward off common colds and the flu – it also helps our body to react to foreign substances and forms part of our anti-cancer response.  

Whether you feel as though through winter, you’re more likely to succumb to the bugs flying around or simply feel as though you’re frequently ‘fighting something off’, it can take a toll on your energy, mood and general sparkle for life.

Feeling unwell is no fun, and often it’s not until you’re sick that you appreciate just how good being well feels. The best thing you can do to avoid getting sick is to take little steps every day that support your immune system. Here are a few tips for keeping well through winter and beyond.

Detoxification and elimination pathways

You want to make sure your elimination pathways are functioning optimally so that any unwanted substances can be swiftly removed from the body. This starts with supporting your liver as it is the first place all substances (entering via the gut) go before they can be directed out of the body. Our liver is the key organ responsible for helping our body to process and prepare these substances for elimination, substances that if they were to accumulate, would be harmful to us.This process is called detoxification, and it goes on inside us, all day every day. Essentially, it is a transformation process, where the liver converts a problematic substance into a less harmful form so it can then be excreted safely from your body and removed forever. If our liver is overwhelmed and the mechanisms of detoxification and elimination are compromised, every process inside of us that creates health and energy, as well as those processes that help to prevent illness and disease, can be affected. 

The liver detoxification pathways require nutrients to function, so dietary choices can influence how efficiently each phase of detoxification is able to proceed. For the first stage of detoxification, numerous nutrients, including B vitamins, are essential. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids are also important, and these are found in colourful plant foods. For phase two liver detoxification pathways, we require specific amino acids and sulphur. Sulphur can be obtained from Brassica family vegetables, eggs, onion and garlic, and we get our amino acids from protein foods. 

Wash your hands every time you come home

When we’re out and about we touch things that many other people may also have touched. And then, when we’re home, we may begin eating without thinking about what might be on our hands. By making a conscious effort to wash your hands each time you come home, as well as before you eat, you can help to reduce the chances of these new germs having a bigger impact on your immune system.

Keep your fluids up

In winter, many people struggle to drink enough water and can unknowingly become dehydrated. Remember it’s water that will also help to move unwanted substances out of your body as your kidneys need the water to filter your blood – your urine contains the waste products removed in this process. If you find drinking cold water at this time of year difficult (which is natural), try warming it up and adding some fresh lemon — this will also add some immune-supporting vitamin C.

Put great nutrients in your body

Nutrients are essential for healthy immune system function — particularly zinc and antioxidants from plant foods. Ensuring your body is brimming with good-quality nutrients will help your immune.