As the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors the likelihood of getting sick with a cold or the flu is often on the raise. Fortunately, there are steps anyone can take to boost their immune system. Below are 7 things that you can do to help keep your immune system strong and decrease your chances of getting sick:
- Wash your hands
The power to your health is in your hands, literally. In fact, one of the biggest advances in modern medicine is hand-washing. A well-known pediatrician, Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, wrote about how careless hand-washing habits of hospital personnel were often the cause of the spread of disease. Published studies demonstrated how this simple “procedure” considerably reduced the number of iatrogenic (hospital-acquired) illnesses.
And it is so simple: soap and water. No need for special antibacterial soap (which won’t kill viruses anyways, and contain triclosan, which is best avoided). Just rinse, lather up, scrub for a minimum of 20 seconds, rinse and dry, and you’re ready to go, germ-free!
- Get some sleep
I cannot overstate the importance of getting adequate sleep. Lack of sleep has a huge impact on your immune system and will leave you vulnerable if you come into contact with a virus. In fact, sleep deprivation may decrease your production of protective proteins (cytokines), infection-fighting antibodies and cells, which are needed to fight off infection or inflammation.
Adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, teenagers 8-9 hours, and children may need 10 hours or more of sleep every night.
- Eat like your health depends on it
It is a fact that sugar can depress the immune system by reducing the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by up to 40%, from anywhere between 30 minutes to 5 hours after ingestion. Alcohol has a similar effect on the immune system and it also deprives the body of immune-boosting nutrients. So, it is best to stay clear of sugar (especially the white refined stuff) and limit your alcohol.
Instead, reach for the rainbow. Go for beautiful deep greens (kale, spinach, collards, kiwis), and dark, rich reds (beets, red peppers, and berries), and don’t forget your oranges (carrots and oranges)! If you have a juicer or a high-speed blender, make yourself a daily juice or a smoothie. It’s an easy way to get all those immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients in.
- Bust a move
Get moving. Find an exercise regime that you enjoy and just do it! Whether you enjoy yoga, Zumba, dancing, swimming, walking, or running, exercising regularly will help boost your immune system. Doctors have found that exercise provides a boost to the cells in your body that attack bacteria. In fact, exercise is so powerful that it may even help your immune system protect against future cancers!
But it is important to know that this “boost” doesn’t last forever – so exercise regularly to fully benefit from this immune-boosting tip!
- Reduce your stress
The science is clear on this one: stress weakens the immune system and chronic stress puts your health at risk. So, it goes without saying that reducing your stress will help strengthen your immune system. But for many, the thought of trying to reduce their stress is, well, stressful!
Only you know what works best for you, but here are some suggestions:
- Meditate (tip: there are several mindfulness meditations on YouTube)
- read a book (keep it light – make sure that the book won’t add to your stress),
- go for a walk,
- go for a coffee with a friend (but stay away from those who drain you of your energy)
- watch a funny movie,
- unplug the TV and the radio and limit your exposure to negative news, and
- take a bath with some relaxing salts and essential oils.
This list is not exhaustive. The idea is to find something that brings you pleasure and peace. What speaks to you and helps you relax? Taking some time out every day doing one (or several) of these activities will help reduce your stress, in turn boosting your ability to keep colds and flus at bay.
- Get it straight
It is a fact: chiropractic boosts immunity.
Spinal misalignments (or subluxations) cause stress to the body and hinder the communication throughout your nervous system, which can result in pain, inflammation and disease. This leads to a poorly coordinated immune response.
Your chiropractor will check your spine for subluxations and give corrective adjustments to reduce the stress to your nervous system. This allows proper communication throughout your nervous system, ensuring that your immune system is receiving the messages it needs to work optimally.
So, make sure that chiropractic care is part of your care plan to ensure that your immune system is working optimally, not only this winter but throughout the year!
- Supplement it!
I eat well, so I don’t need supplements, right? Well, unless you are eating 100% organic food grown using biodiversity practices, chances are you are not getting all the vitamins, nutrients and minerals that your body needs.
When choosing a vitamin, it is important to know that not all vitamins are created equal. While some vitamins are nothing more than a tightly-packed tablet of GMO cornstarch, corn syrup, food colouring and non-absorbable synthetic vitamins, other good quality vitamins can be quite effective in supporting your body and health. I recommend a good quality vitamin with a high rate of absorption. After all, if they are not absorbable, you might as well be taking a sugar pill.
I believe that everyone can benefit, at a minimum, from a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D and a probiotic. I also recommend that you consult with a natural health practitioner or a nutritionist to learn which other vitamins may be beneficial for you.
And if you aren’t able to keep the colds and flus at bay, there are many natural supplements that you can use, from natural antibiotics like oil of oregano and garlic, and immune-boosting vitamins, such as Vitamin C and Zinc. Elderberry syrup and Echinacea tea can also be beneficial during this time of the year.
One last word
It is important to listen to your body. If you start to feel yourself coming down, don’t push yourself. Respect your body and take a day off. Drink plenty of fluids (water, herbal teas and coconut water are great!) and rest.
It’s also important not to leave your health decisions in the hands of someone else. Make sure you get all the facts, not just the ones from popular media or the makers of the flu shots. Oftentimes, there is more that meets the eyes.