Infections such as bacteria and viruses cause colds and flu’s, not cold weather or getting cold.
Respiratory infections are more prevalent in the cooler months, but we are more likely to get sick because we are closed inside with others and therefore exposed to more germs than because of the cold weather.
Viruses can survive for longer in cold temperatures which can increase the risk for infection in someone with an already lowered immune function, but that will be because they are more susceptible to picking up a viral infection from someone else not because of the cold.
Studies have shown that cold water immersion can be beneficial for the immune system because it causes the lymph vessels to contract allowing the lymphatic system to remove toxins from the body more effectively.
Our circulatory system relies on our hearts to pump blood through the body, but the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump system and therefore relies on muscle contractions to move lymphatic fluids through the vessels. Without exercise the lymphatic system becomes sluggish causing fluids to stagnate and toxins to build up. This can also be a cause for colds and flu’s as well as other infections and diseases to manifest.
Cold water immersion triggers the production of white blood cells which are necessary to attack and destroy unwelcome pathogens. It also stimulates blood flow and improves circulation. When the lymphatic system is not all blocked up and congested the immune system is stronger and we can feel healthy and vibrant.
Reducing the body temperature can also help to reduce inflammation and swelling so is beneficial for pain relief, but another interesting factor is its impact on mood. Cold showers stimulate the production of dopamine and release neurotransmitters that increase happy feelings.
The effects of cold temperatures on your nose also play a role in the increased incidence of colds and illnesses during the winter months because lower temperatures weaken the immune response in the nose.
You may not have considered your nose as part of your immune system, but it plays a very important role in protecting you from illness. Our noses are sensitive to weather changes and they are one of the first lines of defense against sickness because of the tiny hairs and mucous that form a protective lining that keeps it from drying out. This lining also collects dust, bacteria, and other potential invaders and prevents them from entering the body.
When we get sick, and our noses start to run, it’s because of an immune response that tries to flush invaders out. Avoiding drastic temperature changes when the weather changes help the immune cells in the nose to maintain their protective function.
It’s essential to eat well during the winter and include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins in you diet.
Diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors affect the immune response, so it is always helpful to implement healthy strategies to give your immune system the best chance.
The mind body connection is also important when looking at immune function. Many physical ailments are linked to the effects of emotional stress. Stress can be difficult to define as it varies from person to person, but chronic stress can have a negative impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. Too much stress on an ongoing basis weakens the immune function and can make someone more susceptible to picking up a variety of infections.
Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 20 May 2021 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am