How To Look After Your Gut Health This Winter

It's common knowledge your gut plays an important role in the overall health of your immune system. From the foods to eat more of to the benefits of sleep and staying active, here’s what the experts want you to know about this important connection.
By Tor West

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.

Know The Signs

“Given the gastrointestinal tract is where we get 75% of our immune system, it’s a no-brainer to look after your gut as we head into the colder, winter months. Improved gut health won’t necessarily ‘boost’ your immune system by itself, but robust gut health is a powerful building block in a healthy immune system. Symptoms of an under-functioning immune system include fatigue and tiredness; struggling to sleep or stay asleep; frequent colds and sore throats; cuts and bruises which take longer to heal; and digestive issues like bloating, constipation and loose stools.” – Simone Thomas, wellness expert

Eat More Fibre

“Our gut is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria, often referred to as the gut microbiome. Like a fingerprint, every individual has a unique microbiome. One of the most important functions of the microbiome is to ferment the fibre we eat and produce anti-inflammatory molecules called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs play an important role in initiating and managing our immune response when ‘bad’ bacteria, or a virus, infect the body. The more different types of microbes you have in your gut, the stronger your immune response will be. You can increase the diversity of the microbiome by consuming specific fibres – also known as prebiotics – including leeks, onion, asparagus and chicory root. Fibre in any form also makes a difference – think wholegrains, nuts, fruit and other vegetables, too.” – Dr Caitlin Hall, chief dietitian & head of clinical research at Myota

Get Stress Under Control

“Stress weakens the immune system and can cause inflammatory conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, to flare up. If you are prone to stress, try to get it under control as it will help your gut health and immunity. Relaxation exercises like meditation and deep breathing will keep your mind calm. Remember, the gut-brain connection is real – the brain can have a direct effect on the condition of the gut, and a happy mind leads to a happy gut. Even if it’s a couple of minutes on an app like Headspace or Calm or spending five minutes writing in a journal.” – Simone

A recent study found that people who ate a GUT-FRIENDLY DIET were 40% LESS LIKELY to have SEVERE COVID SYMPTOMS.

Cut Back On Processed Food

“It’s probably not a surprise to hear that ultra-processed foods are troublesome for the gut microbiome – think artificially sweetened soft drinks, foods that are highly processed such as pre-packaged snacks, bread, cakes and biscuits, sweetened breakfast cereals and ready-to-eat meals. Aim to make 50% of your diet rich in whole, plant-based foods to nourish the gut microbiome. Use every meal as an opportunity to feed your gut good bugs – whether it’s adding a new vegetable each week, or choosing brown rice instead of white, even the small things make a difference and will add up over time.” – Debbie Cotton, head of clinical education at Invivo Healthcare

Aim For Colour

“The pigments that give richly coloured fruits and vegetables their colour are a fantastic source of food for the microbiome and reduce inflammation. For example, flavonoids (found in blueberries and cranberries) have been shown to support the immune system and metabolism as well as having a prebiotic and antibacterial effect. Other phytochemicals – the name given to these health-promoting nutrients found in plants – such as carotenoids, found in carrots and spinach, may reduce stomach inflammation and are antioxidants that fight free radicals.” – Debbie

Try Fermented Foods

“A recent study found that people who ate a gut-friendly diet were 40% less likely to have severe Covid symptoms or require hospitalisation than others. One of the simplest ways to support the gut microbiome is to include foods naturally rich in probiotics, which top up the levels of good gut bacteria. Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, traditional cheeses, live yoghurt and kefir all contain live bacteria, so try to include at least one or two servings every day. Try to mix things up throughout the week, as studies also show the gut thrives on diversity. All plants are great, but the key is to aim for diversity. Your gut bugs all have different preferences and giving them diverse food keeps them happy.” – Natasha Evans, nutritional therapist

Make Your Own Bone Broth

“If you roast a chicken on a Sunday, get into the habit of simmering the bones to make your own broth. Bone broth is packed with nutrients, including glutamine and collagen, which help support a healthy digestive tract to support immunity. And while plants may get the majority of the airtime when it comes to supporting the gut, don’t discount meat and fish, which play an important role in our immune system. They provide bioavailable nutrients (i.e. nutrients the body can recognise) that directly support immune function, such as zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D and iron.” – Natasha


Take A Multi-Strain Probiotic

“Up to 80% of our immune cells live in our gut and they are constantly communicating with your bacteria. Different species of bacteria produce different acids and antimicrobial compounds, so if you are looking to take a probiotic, look for a multi-strain formula. Studies show probiotic supplements can reduce the number of episodes of upper respiratory tract infections (such as colds and flu) by 47% and the duration of an infection by two days. Live bacteria supplements have also been shown to increase the body’s response to vaccines, such as the flu vaccine. A multi-strain formula like Bio-Kult Brighten, which contains 24 strains of live bacteria, is worth a try. Start with one or two capsules per day and increase to four capsules if you are feeling run down.” – Claire Barnes, technical advisor at Bio-Kult

Bolster Your Resources

“Supporting the immune system through supplementation should focus on both resistance to infection (inhibiting pathogens) and tolerance (accepting microbes and reducing inflammation). If you think of the body like a castle, it must defend itself from attackers (resistance) but at the same time it needs to maintain the structure of the castle, feed the inhabitants and decide which battles are worth fighting (tolerance). Rather than choosing supplements which solely focus on killing off invaders, look for formulas which will keep you healthy whilst you are fighting an infection. Supplements containing zinc, magnesium, vitamins A, C and D, polyphenols and live bacteria supplements take a two-pronged attack.” – Claire

Cook With Garlic

“When it comes to enhancing immunity via gut health, we should be aiming to eat at least seven portions of vegetables and one fruit each day. Garlic in particular has benefits to our gut health and immunity. Garlic contains a certain type of prebiotic that feeds our gut microbes as well as allicin and other nutrients shown to enhance the immune system. When cooking with garlic, crush and chop the cloves and set aside for at least ten minutes before heating to increase the allicin content.” – Claire

DISTURBED sleep and SHORT SLEEP duration are both associated with IMBALANCED GUT MICROBES.

Top Up With Vitamin D

“From October to April, the NHS recommends supplementing with vitamin D, which can also help support gut health by strengthening the gut barrier and reducing inflammation in the gut. Plus, vitamin D receptors are found on most cells of the immune system. Testing your vitamin D levels now and again in a few months will give you a good idea of how much you need to supplement with.” – Claire

Exercise Outdoors

“A gentle cycle, walk or jog, or strength training, for at least 30 minutes three to five times per week maintains the gut barrier, reduces inflammation and induces positive changes in your gut microbiome. If you can exercise outdoors, even better, especially when it comes to stress reduction. In the winter months, opt for gentle exercise indoors, such as stretching and yoga, to relax the mind and body.” – Claire

Get Quality Sleep

“Disturbed sleep and short sleep duration are both associated with imbalanced gut microbes. Similarly, growing evidence suggests our gut microbes can affect the quality of our sleep. Establish a solid bedtime routine and in the winter months, aim to get into bed earlier and get outside as much as possible during the day to support your circadian rhythm, balance gut microbes and support immunity.” – Claire


DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily