January can be a bleak old time. Finances are frail, diets barren, calendars empty and wine racks apologetic. What’s more, it’s at this time of year that traditionally we feel a little run down, runny-nosed and wobbly.

It’s important at this time of year, then, to pay respect to your immune system. When treated well, this ‘barrier’ helps destroy germs and parasites by trying to get rid of any unfamiliar bodies and fighting off harmful bacteria. With that in mind, and with the help of Sutton’s, purveyor of vegetable seeds, here are 5 IDEAL ways to keep your immune system fighting fit this winter.

GET A JAB

Don’t listen to the anti-vaxxers. Over the winter months, you may find it beneficial to go through immunisation to several common viruses, particularly if you’re above 65, in your teens or part of an ‘at risk’ group. Flu jabs, in particular, are available free of charge to those groups. These can give you a better chance of staying fit and healthy as the cold front hits. And good lord, is it hitting right now.

In the UK, the NHS recommends that you receive a flu jab in either in October or November. However, it’s still possible to have the injection at any point in the winter if you feel it will be helpful.

KEEP YOUR BODY NOURISHED

When it’s cold outside it’s all too eat your body weight in comfort food. This is because cold weather makes your body temperature drop, giving us the urge to consume more calories to keep ourselves warm. What’s more, it’s been suggested that we’re actually genetically disposed to overeating and store more fat during the winter months, similarly to the way that big grizzly bears put on body fat in preparation for hibernation. However, it’s all too easy for that warming comfort food to contain little nutritional value which spells disaster for our immune system.  

Your immune system is like any fighting force and needs good nourishment to perform well.  Recent research has discovered that certain micronutrient deficiencies, including the likes of zinc, folic acid and iron deficiencies, can alter our immune systems for the worst. Therefore, you must make sure you’re doing your upmost to eat foods rich in these nutrients.  These include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, poultry and sunflower seeds- each are packed full of nutrients to help keep your immune system in good nick.

TAKE SUPPLEMENTS

Although certainly not a replacement for a healthy, balanced diet, supplements are a sensible way to keep things topped up if you’re worried about not getting quite enough of the good stuff in your diet.

You may, for instance, find it tough in winter to get the requisite vitamin D level through your diet alone. Temperatures and a lack of sunshine mean that we don’t receive our natural dosage via the sun’s rays and need to receive our intake elsewhere.  

One of the biggest immune system boosters that we have at our disposal is vitamin C. If you don’t receive enough of this vitamin form in your diet — kale and oranges are two nutrient-rich foods — be sure to take a supplement to help keep your levels high. After all, if you lack in this vitamin, you’ll be more prone to getting sick.

EXERCISE

Looking out the window and seeing the dull, dark skies can be one hell of an obstacle to putting on your gym shorts and pummeling the pavement. But good, regular exercise can help reduce your chances of getting a cold, flu or other illness as it can help flush bacteria from your lungs and airways.

The change in body temperature when you take part in any form of exercise can also play a significant part in preventing an illness. This is because the rise during and straight after exercise can prevent bacteria from growing and ultimately fight any infection in a similar way it would if you had a fever.  

REST & RELAX

Stress has been found to place strain on your immune system so it’s important to keep chilled (metaphorically), cool and calm.

As well as cutting keeping stress at bay, be sure you’re resting well. If you’re lacking sleep, you’ll be leaving your body susceptible to catching the common cold. During sleep, your immune system releases cytokines proteins. Some of these proteins can aid your sleep, while others can fight off infections and inflammation, meaning it’s crucial to get a good night’s rest to properly protect your body.

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Rachel is the beauty and fashion director at IDEAL. She loves trying new products and is an avid fan of London's fashion, from the high end to the high street.