Cold and flu season is here, so it’s time to get serious about fighting off those pesky cold and flu viruses. Read on for our tips on keeping your immune system healthy, so you can enjoy the holiday season without a pack of tissues and cough drops in tow.
Every day our immune systems throw on their jerseys and helmets and get revved up to face off against the opposing team—infection and illness. Like a football team, our immune systems keep us going strong by seeking out opposing players—like germs, pathogens, and even pollen—and tackling them out of our bodies. But sometimes those germs break through our defensive line, leaving us stuck with a cold or flu.
With Fall hikes, trips to the pumpkin patch and football season in full swing, no one wants to be stuck in bed with a stuffy nose, sore throat, or fever. Although it can be hard to prevent yourself from catching a cold, there are a few things you can do to strengthen your immune system and give yourself the home-field advantage this season.
A good night’s sleep is an important part of keeping yourself healthy and happy no matter what time of the year it is, but with flu season on its way, making sure you get a full eight hours every night could help boost your immune system. According to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Medical Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association, “Sleep allows our bodies to repair tissue damage, grow new tissue, and release hormones that renew our energy levels. This is critical to maintaining a healthy immune system.”
To get the best night’s sleep, stick to a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Also, try to turn off your electronic devices at least thirty minutes before bed and keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
When it comes to keeping your immune system healthy, a little exercise goes a long way. In addition to boosting immune function, “moderate exercise,” Dean states, “improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight and reduces stress levels. It also facilitates improved circulation, which allows cells and nutrients to move through the body freely and do their job effectively.”
If you have access to a pool during the fall and winter months go for a swim. If not, pull out your favorite scarf and take a brisk walk around your neighborhood. For moderate strength training, try Yoga with Adriene. Her “30 Days of Yoga” YouTube series is easy to keep up with and can be done from the coziness of your own living room!
Eating right is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Because your immune system is at its best when your body is nourished, sticking to a healthy diet can help keep it strong enough to fight off illness. Dean suggests eating “magnesium rich foods such as nuts and seeds” along with “walnuts, almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds” to help boost your immune system. So, when you carve up your jack-o-lantern this Fall, be sure to save the seeds!
Keep Stress Low
With the start of a new school year and rapidly approaching holidays, it can be difficult to keep your stress levels in check—but keeping your stress to a minimum could give you an advantage in this cold and flu season. Dean states that “stress does impact the immune system. Up to 90 percent of illness and disease is stress-related.”
Although managing stress can often feel like a catch-22, a few things you can do to reduce stress are—conveniently enough—also things that will boost your immune system, including exercise, eating healthy and sleeping well. In addition, it can be helpful to remember to pause and take a few calming breaths throughout the day. Deep breathing can increase oxygen flow to the brain and give your mood a boost.
Wash Your Hands
One of the number one suggestions for staying healthy during cold and flu seasons is to wash your hands well — no fancy soaps or gels required. The Mayo Clinic and the CDC both suggest that after lathering your hands with soap and warm water, you should scrub for at least 20 seconds. Then, when you dry your hands, be sure to use a clean towel or air-dryer. Keeping your hands clean will not only reduce your risk of catching germs from others, it can also help keep you from spreading your own germs.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will keep your immune system strong, leaving you to enjoy the fall colors and winter snowflakes! But, if you want to know more, and/or you find you get sick, check out our Cold & Flu Season Survival Guide.