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Immunity this winter

In conversation with London GP, Dr Mayor 

Why do we tend to get more ill in the winter?

A multitude of bugs prefer colder weather. Influenza, for example, spreads from September through to March each year in the UK. But it’s not just the flu that we have to be worried about; hundreds of viruses can cause hundreds of different symptoms from a sore throat and fever, to exhaustion, diarrhoea and body aches.

In the winter we spend more time indoors in close proximity to other people meaning viruses will quite simply spread more easily. The cold air and lack of humidity also make our throats and nose more susceptible to infections.

So, it is even more important to optimise our immunity during the winter.

What is the role of Vitamin D in the immune system? 

Vitamin D plays a crucial role as an ‘immune booster’, which has been a big headline during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Vitamin D receptor is expressed on immune cells – B cells & cytotoxic T cells – and therefore it can modulate innate immune responses. It is these immune responses that help our body overcome viral and sometimes bacterial infections, without the need of medication.  

In order for our body to launch an effective, specific and rapid immune response we need good stores of Vitamin D.We don’t get much Vitamin D absorbed from our food and we have little sun in the winter, so I encourage my patients to support a healthy, balanced diet with supplements. 

How important can your nutrition and lifestyle be in protecting yourself against illness? 

Nutrition and lifestyle are vital aspects of our overall health, whether it is immune boosting, cardio-protective or gut health. A balanced, healthy diet and regular exercise is essential.

Having attended over 5,000 lectures regarding emerging operations, medicines and treatment plans, the last slide of every lecture is the same – the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle. We must start pro-active healthcare and take responsibility for our own health.

What are you main pieces of advice for staying healthy through the winter months? 

There’s no doubt that maintaining a good diet and regular exercise can help avoid winter blues and keep our bodies fit and healthy. Read your food labels – avoid foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt. Exercise regularly – get your family involved too, get outdoors and stay active. And, of course – take your vitamin supplements!