How (not only) to strengthen immunity in winter?

What is immunity?

Immunity is the body's ability to defend itself against pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that can cause infection or disease. There are two types of immunity, namely:

  • Non-specific immunity - the innate immunity that we are born with
  • Specific immunity - acquired (adaptive) immunity that develops over the course of life; an organism exposed to a foreign structure (antigen) linked to a pathogen develops specific antibodies that it uses the next time it encounters that antigen. Vaccination is also based on this principle. 

Weakened immunity manifests itself in greater susceptibility to various infections, chronic diseases and allergies, fatigue, exhaustion, skin problems and wound healing problems.

Why do we get sick more in winter?

You've probably also wondered why doctors have waiting rooms full of cold and cough patients in winter. It's because the cold temperatures encourage the spread of viruses and bacteria. The cold climate dries out the mucous membranes in the nasopharynx, making it easier for pathogens to penetrate. We also tend to stay indoors rather than outdoors in winter, making it easier to transmit infection.

Vitamin D, which we get from sunlight, also plays a vital role in regulating the immune system. In winter, the days are shorter and the sunlight is less intense, so the amount of vitamin D we take in is lower. According to scientific studies, vitamin D deficiency is associated with impaired functioning of the immune system, increased risk of infections and susceptibility to autoimmune diseases.

 


How to strengthen immunity?

Fortunately, there are ways you can boost your immune system and avoid respiratory illnesses, or at least reduce their duration and course. How to do it?

1. Get enough sleep and avoid stress

Sleep and circadian rhythms have a strong regulatory influence on immune function. Over the past 15 years, research based on a systems approach to neuroimmunology has accumulated evidence that sleep boosts immunity. Sleep deprivation has been associated with increased inflammatory markers, increased susceptibility to infection and immune disorders. 

Follow sleep hygiene rules and try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a day. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up frequently during the night, try herbs or herbal blends such as Somnia - a blend of herbs and cannabis to promote sleep. CBD or CBN oils may also be suitable. The cannabinoids CBD and CBN are known for their potential to help with insomnia.

2. Eat healthy, supplement with vitamins and minerals

Proper nutrition supports the function of immune cells and allows them to fight pathogens effectively. Treat yourself to a high-quality, tasty and balanced diet. Eat real foods instead of processed foods - fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, and complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, oatmeal, buckwheat and legumes instead of fast sugars. 

According to current studies, each phase of the body's immune response is dependent on the presence of micronutrients. Vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron and protein are critical for immune cell growth and function. Don't forget fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in marine fish, for example. Walnuts, avocados, hemp seeds and flaxseed oil are also rich sources of healthy fats.

3. Include probiotics in your diet

It is known that 70-80% of immune cells reside in the gut, so a balanced diet and support for the gut microbiota will significantly boost your health and immunity. Consuming probiotics can also help.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that positively affect the gut flora and help improve immune function. Scientific studies report that the beneficial properties of consuming probiotics have been shown to treat allergies, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, infections and infant colic, as well as some forms of cancer.

And which foods are the greatest sources of probiotics? These include fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi) and fermented dairy products (kefir, buttermilk). You can also take probiotics in the form of dietary supplements, you can find a variety of them in the pharmacy.

4. Move around

Research shows that lack of physical activity is linked to a high incidence of cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that physical inactivity is the fourth most common risk factor for global mortality. Moderate exercise boosts immunity and reduces the risk of upper respiratory tract infections.

Moderate to vigorous intensity exercise for 60 minutes or less is optimal for boosting immunity. Incorporate walking, swimming, cycling, badminton, or skiing, skating or cross-country skiing into your weekly routine.

Our tip: Try supplementing movement with Hemnia's Collagen drink with hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. Collagen is the basic building block of connective tissues, a protein that aids in muscle regeneration, ensures joint mobility and also supports the health and beauty of skin, nails and hair. 

 

5. Don't let stress get the better of you

Adequate short-term stress can be beneficial as it will challenge you to perform better, increase motivation and help you adapt to new situations. However, in the case of long-term, so-called chronic stress, scientific studies show that the body's natural immune responses are weakened, resulting in a variety of diseases. 

What difficulties are there if you are exposed to chronic stress for a long time?

  • Higher risk of viral infection (related to higher levels of catecholamines and suppressor T-cells)
  • release of histamine, which can cause severe bronchoconstriction in asthmatics
  • higher risk of developing diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
  • changes in the acid concentration in the stomach, which can lead to gastric ulcers, stress ulcers or ulcerative colitis
  • build-up of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • risk of psychiatric illness (neurosis, depression, schizophrenia)

Studies in animals, mostly rats, have revealed a link between stress and the progression of cancerous tumours. Chronic and acute stress appears to promote tumour growth.

How to best deal with stress and not allow it to weaken your immune system?

  • Yoga, breathing exercises, meditation - try incorporating some of these relaxation techniques into your routine, even just 5-10 minutes a day is enough to get started.
  • Aromatherapy - essential oils can induce mental well-being, get an aroma lamp, diffuser or try an aromatherapy massage or bath.
  • CBD - as studies have shown, CBD (cannabidiol) has the potential to effectively reduce the stress response and its manifestations (anxiety, fear, depression, burnout); try CBD oils or capsules, CBD vapes, such as the premium Balance of Mind vaping pen with 40% CBD, 40% CBG, 20% CBN, supplemented with ginseng, lemon balm and rosemary.

Conclusion

The winter season brings with it a greater risk of various infectious diseases such as colds and flu, so it's important to have a strong immune system. In particular, you can support your immunity by getting enough and good quality sleep, a good diet and exercise. Make sure you take vitamins and minerals, include foods rich in probiotics in your diet and indulge in regular relaxation to calm your body and mind. If you struggle with stress and insomnia, try herbal blends or CBD.

Finally, here's one more tip to boost your immunity. The Hemnia range now includes a hot new product, the Immunity Support Patch, which contains ginseng, echinacea and elderberry extract, plus vitamins C and D3. These patches are transparent, support natural immunity for up to 24 hours and are suitable for daily use.

Winter is a challenge for the immune system, but if you take proper care of yourself and your health, you will maintain your strength, resilience and energy during this challenging time.

 

Author: Michaela Mádlová, translation: AI

 

Photo: Shutterstock

Resources:

  • Scientific Journal Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry

 


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