It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the temperature has dropped and Strictly is back on the box. The reduced sunlight and colder days can not only leave us feeling a bit down, they can also make us more susceptible to colds and other bugs – particularly if our immune system isn’t in fighting form.

Professor Glenn Gibson writes for Female First

Professor Glenn Gibson writes for Female First

More than a psychological myth, studies show that gut health plays a huge role in maintaining your overall wellbeing, impacting everything from your mood to common colds.

Professor Glenn Gibson, leading gut expert from the University of Reading has five simple tips to help up our health game and feel brighter.

1. Don't skimp on sleep

Getting enough undisturbed sleep is vital for fighting off feelings of sluggishness and keeping your body’s defences up.  Aim for about eight hours a night and try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern. Switching off electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed may help you drift off as the blue light inhibits our body’s feeling of sleepiness.

2. Be good to your gut

You may well be wondering what the health of your digestive system has to do with fighting off winter bugs and your mood? Well in actual fact, a lot. About 70% of our immune system lies in the gut. You can strengthen your body’s natural defences by taking a prebiotic supplement like Bimuno® to boost levels of "friendly bacteria" in the gut. Since gut health is closely linked to the levels of Serotonin, ‘the happy chemical’ produced in the brain, a healthy digestive system may also help reduce stress and improve mood.

3. Let in some light

As the days become shorter, the lack of sunlight means your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy. Even taking a brief lunchtime walk can have an impact, and make sure your work and home environments are as light and airy as possible.

4. Get plenty of vitamic C

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C, which supports your natural immune resistance and cell protection. Vitamin C boosts immunity by encouraging the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infections. Great food sources of vitamin C include berries, oranges, kiwi, peppers, and dark green vegetables.

5. Exercise regularly

Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling tired on dark, chilly evenings but you might be surprised by how energetic you feel after getting involved in some kind of physical activity. Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and a stronger immune system. Try to reach the recommended goal of 150 minutes of exercise a week, not only will you feel full of beans, it might combat any winter weight gain.