a lady holding a coffee mug, she is rugged up wearing a scarf and warm jacket

It’s that time of year again.

A time where cold and flus run rampant, your mum warns you to add an extra layer and hot water with honey becomes a permanent resident on your bedside table. But have you ever stopped to wonder, why does cold weather make you sick? Is the seasonal link between winter and the sniffles a real thing? And most importantly, how can we bolster our immunity in winter?

 

a bedside table with a tissue box and mug of hot water

 

Turns out, cold weather alone doesn’t make you sick. But the way we live in the winter months may be the perfect environment for pathogens to thrive.  A time where germs are free to do their germy thing.

Surprisingly, there’s still some debate surrounding why we are more prone to sickness in the colder months. But today, scientists largely agree that it’s due to a combination of factors…  

 

Less Vitamin D

There’s a reason lazing about in the sun feels so darn good. When we’re exposed to sunlight, our skin naturally produces Vitamin D, which in turn can support immunity, boost heart health and promote healthy bones and teeth.

And in winter? Days in the sun become few and far between, meaning our lower levels of Vitamin D may make us more prone to infection.

 

a women sitting next to a window with the sun shining on her face, getting that sweet dose of vitamin d 

 

Cold, dry air


Have you ever found yourself sick after prolonged exposure to indoor heating and cooling? The dry environment could be to blame. Studies suggest that the humidity of the air we breathe plays a role on how viruses spread. 

It has to do with the behaviour of sneeze particles (gross, right?)  In dry air, these particles are more inclined to break down into teeny, tiny droplets and stay floating in the air for an extended period… Ready for someone to breathe them in.

Not only that, the mucus in our nose (aka snot) acts as a natural moisture barrier, stopping any pathogens in their tracks. In dry air, we can become stripped of this mucus, leaving an open door for pathogens to waltz right on in.

 

More time indoors

When it’s pouring with rain or blowing a gale, the best place to be is indoors. And many scientists believe that this simple occurrence could be a huge contributor to the spike in sickness. To get straight to the point: winter means more confined spaces, shared air and communal surfaces.

 

So, Why Should We Look After Our Immunity In Winter?

As you can see, cold weather doesn’t cause cold and flu viruses – but it can create the perfect environment for them to thrive.

And although the odds are against us at this time of year, there are steps we can take to boost our immunity in winter. Things like getting enough exercise, eating a nutritious diet, washing and sanitising our hands, getting enough sleep and of course, following the advice of our doctor. 

You can also begin to prioritise foods that are rich in Vitamin C (yes, eat your sunshine).

 

Cut slices of oranges, pomegranate and grapefruit

 

When many of us think of Vitamin C rich foods we turn to our faithful orange juice. But there are plenty of other foods that are equal (dare we say, better) in their Vitamin C content:

  • Guava
  • Strawberries
  • Lemons
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Mustard Spinach
  • Thyme
  • Chili

 

Medicinal Mushrooms For Immunity

At Natura Mushrooms, we’re advocates for the holistic health benefits of fungi. Many medicinal mushrooms contain an impressive concentration of antioxidants and bioactive compounds, working to support our immune system through winter.

Here are our 3 favourite immune-boosting mushrooms…

Turkey Tail         

One of the most widely researched mushrooms, Turkey Tail has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It has a rich concentration of flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that can help to lower oxidative stress and inflammation (which makes perfect sense, because many scientists agree that there’s a clear link between inflammation and disease).

Oh, and we couldn’t mention Turkey Tail without saying the words gut health. You see, Turkey Tail is rich in prebiotics, which in turn, promotes a healthy microbiome. Those teeny, tiny microorganisms inside our gut interact with our immune system, helping to ward off infections.

 Turkey tail mushroom for winter immunity

 

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane is usually recognised for its brain-boosting properties, but we can’t sidestep the fact that it also offers a hit of immunity.

Lion’s Mane is rich in Beta-glucans, which help to protect against bacteria, viruses and other pathogenic microorganisms. Essentially, Beta-glucans make sure our immune cells are working as they should.

Lion’s Mane is also an anti-inflammatory, which assists the management of infection and disease. And similarly to Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane can help increase good gut bacteria, which is good for, well, a whole lot.

 Lion's mane growing from a tree trunk on the forest floor

Maitake

Last but certainly not least, the immune-boosting Maitake is rich in Beta-glucans, fibre, amino acids and Vitamin D.

One particular study tested Maitake’s response to the influenza vaccination, the common cold and other pathogenic viruses. The study found that cold and flu symptoms were notably reduced when receiving Maitake supplements, and it also increased antibody production in response to the vaccination. The fact that it tastes delicious is a bonus.

Ready to medicinal mushrooms to your diet this winter? Discover our range of mushrooms and begin to nourish your mind, body and spirit.

 Maitake mushroom growing near green moss

 

Written by Shane and Ash, the scientists, mushrooms farmers and garden enthusiasts behind Natura Mushrooms. 

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202617/#:~:text=%CE%B2%2DGlucan%20has%20been%20shown,and%20cancer%20chemotherapeutics%20(11).

https://healthsci.mcmaster.ca/learningtechlab/news/2017/04/06/does-cold-weather-actually-make-you-sick

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20151016-the-real-reason-germs-spread-in-the-winter

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23155399/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4910181/

https://www.ffhdj.com/index.php/ffhd/article/view/363