Winter Health

See yourself into spring with our complete guide to resisting the last of the winter bugs

Despite Christmas and Valentine’s Day coming and going, winter is still in full swing. With regular cold snaps on the horizon, this is no time to get complacent: March, with its amorous rabbits and budding flowers, is still a long way away.

If you’ve spent most of winter in a bizarre mix of duvet day and biohazard containment, here’s your chance to venture outside with our tips to avoid colds, sniffles, bugs and anything else Jack Frost can throw at you.  

Immune boosters

You’re much more likely to get ill without an efficient immune system to fight off invading diseases. Viral infections and common colds occur when a harmful foreign substance invades the body from an outside source. These substances, often harmful bacteria, are known as antigens.

Fortunately, a few easily-found foodstuffs can launch a pre-emptive strike against illness. In research published in the journal Food Pathogens and Diseases, garlic and ginger were found to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria in the body, while ginseng boosts antibodies, which fight off antigens already present. A multivitamin every day should see off any straggling bacteria.

You need the D

Vitamin D, that is. The Journal of Investigative Medicine found that ‘deficiency in vitamin D is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection’ in addition to being scientifically proven to improve your mood. Vitamin D comes from sunlight, and when you go to work and come home in the dark during the winter months, sun is often hard to come by. This is the real cause of the famous ‘winter blues’.

A glass of orange juice every morning – a small one, as it’s chock-full of sugar – will see you heading to work with a spring in your step. Oily fish such as tuna and mackerel are also full of the vitamin, as are diary products such as cheese and egg yolks. Omelette for dinner, anyone?

Common as muck

Muscle aches, having not been to the gym in weeks? Blocked nose? Headaches? High temperature over 38°C? Chances are you’ve caught a full-blown cold. Dodge it by maintaining cleanliness, especially when it comes to washing your hands and eating utensils.

If your newly-revamped immune system can’t manage to fight it off once caught, there’s not much you can do. Plenty of rest, lots of water and the normal treatments: decongestants for your bunged-up nose, painkillers to assist with the headaches. The worst of it will be over in a few days.

Perk up

Vitamin D does more than just make you happier; it also decreases the production of a hormone called melatonin. Too much melatonin will result in lethargy, and the lack of sunlight during winter is what keeps you consistently tired.

Unfortunately, coffee is a short-term solution. In addition to extra vitamin D, a study from the University of Georgia found regular exercise plays a ‘consistent and significant role in reducing fatigue’. A short morning workout – even better if you can get outdoors – will reduce the effects of lethargy and could see off winter weight gain while you’re at it. Switching sugary junk foods to whole grain carbohydrates will also prove more efficient at fuelling your body. Consider swapping Crunchy Nut for good old-fashioned, cheaper porridge to keep your energy levels shored up till lunchtime.

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