Six ‘winter-proofing’ steps to avoid colds and flu this year

Dr Hilary assures flu jab is 'safe as houses' on Lorraine

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Every winter your chance of coming down with something like a cold or flu is much higher. Not only does cold, dry air weaken resistance but people spend more time indoors making it easier for things to spread. With this in mind it is worth making some lifestyle changes to try to stay as healthy as possible this winter.

A&E doctor and medical director at REDjuvenate Medical, Doctor Qian Xu, spoke with about the six best ways to stay healthy.

Start with sleep

This is one of my favourite winter tips because there is nothing better than being in a warm bed while the world around you is freezing cold. When we sleep, virtually every part of our body goes through changes.

Your neurons switch from awake to sleep and start sending signals to your organs that it’s time for rest. In this sleep state, your body begins its process of recovery, clearing out the toxins that have built up in your body through the day.

A lack of sleep makes your body more susceptible to illness and increases the time it takes for you to recover if you catch the dreaded winter flu. So grab your duvet and make sure you sleep for at least seven to nine hours a night in winter.

Drink plenty

Sorry, this isn’t an excuse to drink more mulled wine and festive hot chocolate. During winter, it can be hard to drink enough fluids. This is a biological impact of winter; your thirst reduces to help the body conserve heat.

Our bodies were designed without the comfort of extra warm clothes and central heating so drink at least two litres of water a day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Hydration is key to fighting off infections.

Eat the right foods

Winter is hard. The idea of eating a salad can feel so alien when outside is grey and rainy, but nutrients become even more important to your body as you try and stave off colds and flu.

The best approach is to shift your diet with the seasons. Choose seasonal produce. They tend to be grown locally and are naturally rich in the vitamins and minerals your body needs in the season. Local produce mirrors the environment you are living in and works best for what your body needs.

Move more

Exercise is a key to good health no matter what time of the year. We are meant to move, but our lives have become relatively sedentary. We often find ourselves stuck sitting at a desk, barely moving for hours on end – it’s not the best for a healthy lifestyle.

In winter, you must stay active. When we exercise, our body releases cytokines that help regulate inflammation. Inflammation is not always bad; it plays a huge part in regulating the immune response that enables you to fight off disease and illness.

Vital vitamins

A little-known fact about vitamins, the essential micronutrients, is that they cannot be created in our bodies, either at all or enough to provide what we need.

We have to obtain our vitamins from our diet to help our body function normally and protect ourselves from the threats of germs and illness. While we have talked about foods, there may be supplements that can help you fight off the winter flu.

Vitamin D – This is the sunshine vitamin. Your body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Quite hard in winter when there is no sun. Taking a vitamin D supplement has been shown to help keep your body healthy and improve your resistance to certain diseases.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C strengthens your body’s immune system. It won’t help you keep an immunity against the dreaded cold and flu, but it will reduce the severity of any cold you may catch.

Vitamin B – There are many B vitamins, each bringing your body different benefits, from maintaining your cell health to making you feel energised. Vitamin B12 is the most beneficial for you in the winter months as it plays a part in regulating your nervous system.

Iron – Iron is an often overlooked mineral. It is responsible for producing haemoglobin that is responsible for carrying oxygen around your body. It also plays a role in helping to regulate your body temperature, and staying warm will help you stay healthy through winter.

See the light

The nights begin to draw in, the clocks turn back, and daylight suddenly becomes a distant memory.

You should try to spend as much time outside in the few lighter hours as possible, whether this is a walk at lunch or just a quick dash outside. It all helps to keep your body healthier in winter.

Even with a walk at lunch, you might not be getting enough of the light your body needs to function optimally.

We have all heard that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps help fight the winter blues, but sunlight is formed of many different wavelengths. Red light – the longest light wavelength found in the sun, is what your body takes into the mitochondria to boost your energy.

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