It’s Thursday afternoon. You’re sitting at your office desk, starting to wrap up the working week before going away for the June long weekend with friends. A Winter getaway, a cosy fire pit, warm drinks, and some laughs over a glass of red. You’ve been looking forward to this for months – now it’s just around the corner.  

Suddenly, there’s a knock at your office door. A colleague, your assistant, opens the door. Her nose is red and swollen, her voice husky, as she informs you that your client is in the waiting room. You watch as she coughs into her hand and then uses that same germ-riddled hand to pull your door closed. Is that an itch you feel in your throat? That wasn’t there before. A sense of dread starts to build – oh no, are you getting sick now too? You can’t be! Not right before your recovery weekend away!  

So, the question is, why do we tend to get sick more frequently in Winter? And how can we, not only as individuals but as workplaces, best safeguard ourselves and our employees, to avoid catching every common cold or flu during Winter?  

The answer is immunity. Our immune system keeps us healthy by protecting us from foreign infections and cells, such as COVID, the flu, or a cold. When we get sick, the symptoms and severity of the illness depends on 2 things: 1) The virus factors (type, viral load, tilter, viability of virus in vitro); and 2) The host’s immune system (genetics, age, biological sex, nutritional status, neuroendocrine immune regulation, and physical status). This is the reason that illnesses like pneumonia are treated with more care in young, elderly, and vulnerable populations, as they lack the immunity to cope.  

In summary, we know there are numerous factors contributing to our immunity, and in the colder months, we tend to limit our exposure to some of these factors. So, let’s break this down – what can we do to improve immunity as individuals and in the workplace?  


1. Play immune D-efence (Get your Vitamin D!)  

    Vitamin D has many important functions in our body, such as aiding in calcium absorption for bone health, heart health and immunity. Strong correlations have been found between Vitamin D status and the incidence or severity of immune regulated illnesses (colds, flu & COVID), cancers, and autoimmune disorders. For those lacking in Vitamin D, supplementation has been shown to decrease the risk of respiratory infections such as tonsilitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia. So, where can you get your natural Vitamin D? See our list below.   

    Sources of Vitamin D:  

    • Seafoods (particularly salmon, tuna, sardines)  
    • Egg yolks  
    • Mushrooms  
    • Red meat & liver  
    • Sun exposure 

    2. Exercise

      Physical activity at a moderate intensity (3 – 5 out of 10) for 20-30 minutes per day has been shown to boost immune defense against infections and cancers, improve overall health and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. One study on immune responses concluded that increasing the body’s core temperature through exercise, before exposure to cold air, enhances our ability to fend of infections.   

      Click here for a guide to exercising when experiencing cold and flu symptoms.   

      3. Nutrition  

        Malnourishment is the leading cause of immunodeficiency across all ages as it decreases the availability of our cells to fight off foreign infections. Using nutrition to enhance immunity is particularly important for malnourished or vulnerable individuals (elderly, frail, obese or immunocompromised).   

        Check out our table below to help you to choose foods that will boost your immunity through micronutrient intake.    

        Micronutrient   Role in immunity   Food Sources  
        Vitamin A    · Helps the body produce natural defences such as mucous barriers around your eyes, lungs, gut, and genitals. These barriers trap bacteria and foreign infections, preventing them entering the bloodstream.  · Aids in white blood cell production – fights off infections should they enter the body.    · Leafy green vegetables.  · Orange vegetables (carrots, pumpkin).  · Tomatoes.  · Capsicum.  · Milk.  · Eggs.   
        Vitamin D   · Reduces risk of respiratory infections (colds, flus, and COVID-19).  · Heart health.    · Seafood (salmon, prawns).  · Mushrooms.  · Egg yolk.  · Beef liver.    
        Vitamin C    · Helps produce white blood cells and their effectiveness in fighting infection.  · Strengthens skin barriers (infections and wound healing).      · Vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, capsicums).  · Citrus fruits.  · Strawberries.  · Tomatoes.  
        Vitamin E    · Supports the growth of T-cells to fight off infection & prompt other immune cells into an immune response.    · Sunflower seeds.  · Almonds.  · Peanuts.  · Spinach.  · Mango.  · Avocado.   
        Vitamin B6   · Helps with the efficiency of the immune system.   · Fish (tuna, salmon).  · Chickpeas.  · Poultry.   
        Vitamin B12   · Production of red blood cells to provide oxygen to the immune system.   · Nutritional yeast.  · Meat, poultry, fish.  · Dairy products.  · Eggs.    
        Folate   · Helps B12 produce red blood cells.    · Dark leafy green vegetables.  · Beans & lentils.  · Wholegrain breads.  · Peanuts.  · Oranges.  · Strawberries.  
        Zinc   · Wards off infection and reduces susceptibility of infection.   · Pumpkin seeds.  · Red meat.  · Shellfish.  · Legumes.   
        Copper   · Antihistamine.  · Helps produce red and white blood cells.  · Allows cells to ‘talk’ to each other via neurotransmitters, enhancing the efficiency of an immune response.   · Seafood.  · Nuts & seeds.  · Wholegrains.  
        Iron   · Required for immune cell growth, and red blood cell production.  · Red meat.  · Fish.  · Poultry.  · Grains.  · Eggs.  · Dried fruit.    
        Selenium   · Lowers oxidative stress on the body, reducing inflammation and enhancing immunity.   · Seafood.  · Meat.  · Wholegrains.  · Vegetables.    

         Our every diet does allow for adequate opportunities to meet micronutrient requirements, however sometimes our bodies can struggle to absorb or digest nutrients efficiently. This is where supplementation and seeking medical advice may be recommended for you.   

        Click here to boost your vitamin and mineral intake now with this veggie rich recipe.   

        4. Stress/Mindset  

          Psychological stress can reduce our immune system’s response to infectious agents, increase our risk of upper respiratory tract infections and slow our inflammatory or healing processes. In fact, Corticosteroid, a hormone released in response to stress, can actually suppress the effectiveness our immune system.   

          Try these strategies to reduce your stress:  

          • Mindfulness & meditation activities.  
          • Low-moderate intensity exercise (yoga, walks, Pilates, swimming).  
          • Therapy.  
          • Social activities.  
          • Reading, writing in a journal, creative activities.  
          • Fishing.   
          • Regular weekend getaways or short holidays.   

          Click here for some practical tools for managing stress & fatigue 

          5. Drink up!  

            Water makes up 40-65% of our body mass, contributing to many essential bodily functions such as transporting oxygen to our cells, aiding in digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients from our food, and flushing out bacteria from our kidney and bladder. Illness, infection, and disease can also increase our body’s water requirements.  

            Aim for:  

            • 2-3L of water per day.  

            Increase your water by:  

            • Keeping a water bottle at your desk.  
            • Setting reminders to drink throughout the day.  
            • Adding some lemon, lime, cucumber, mint leaves, or strawberries to your water if you don’t like plain water.   
            • Consume foods or drinks with high-water content (E.g., fruit, vegetables, tea, milk).  

            6. Prioritise sleep   

              We all know sleep influences many different areas of our life. What you may not know is that poor sleep quality and quantity can impact your immune system, increasing your susceptibility to getting sick and less robust in recovering from illnesses you catch.