7 Immune System Boosters for Cold and Flu Season

December 16, 2023 1:06 pm

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Unless you’re a hermit living in isolation, it’s likely you’ve been surrounded by the first waves of cold and flu season — coughing, stuffy noses, sneezing and worse coming from everyone from your family members to your work colleagues. While you can’t always limit your exposure, there are strategies to make your immune system as strong as possible as the viruses surge all around you.

1. DRINK MORE WATER: Adequate hydration not only keeps your energy levels up, but also allows your body to shuttle toxins and waste materials out of your system faster. That improves your immune system’s ability to fight infection.

Although water is the best beverage for hydration, you can also add in more foods with electrolytes and complex carbs, which help your body better absorb the fluids you drink. Opt for foods like celery, broth-based soups, fruits and vegetables and Greek yogurt.

2. PRIORITIZE SLEEP: Skimping on sleep, or even just getting by on the minimum, can lower your immune response because you’re not giving your body the amount of restorative time it needs to fight off invaders.
Many studies have shown you need plenty of sleep to perform at your highest level. Not prioritizing or sleep reducing the quality of your sleep with habits like Netflix binges, can make you more susceptible to colds.

3. DRINK LESS ALCOHOL: Tipping back a few too many — or even one more than you planned — can have a ripple effect that results in dehydration and poor sleep, the two immune boosters you need the most.
Alcohol clears the body usually after five or six hours, but there are longer-term effects. Making unhealthy food choices, sleeping less than you planned and skipping workouts can all have a negative effect on your immune system.

4. WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN: Hand sanitizer and antimicrobial cleaners are good alternatives, but gold-fashioned hand washing is the best defense against viruses.

The Centers for Disease Control emphasizes that washing your hands with soap and water can help prevent infections because so many items in our everyday world potentially have germs that could make us sick. For instance, you might be vigilant about not touching bathroom door handles, but what about pushing elevator buttons or turning on the spigot of a shared water cooler? You never know where cold germs might be lurking, so upping your hand washing during cold and flu season is a must.

5. FOCUS ON YOUR GUT: The conclusion of numerous studies; better gut bacteria, better immune system.
According to UCLA Health, 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. And cells lining the gut produce antibodies that are essential for fighting off bacteria and viruses. Ways boost your gut health, include lowering stress, increasing exercise, eating more vegetables and increasing consumption of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut.

6. EXERCISE MORE: In the quest to stay healthy stick to your workout routine. According to the National Institutes of Health, exercise improves the way your body’s immune system fights disease, making it more efficient at fighting infection,

Even if you already have some of the early symptoms of a cold like a stuffy nose or fatigue, physical activity can be helpful. Physical activity helps flush bacteria out of the lungs and also increases your body temperature — a process that may prevent bacteria growth.

7. DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE: Whether it’s resting your chin on your hand, rubbing your eyes, licking your fingers after making lunch or scratching your nose, you likely touch your face more than you realize. Even with frequent hand washing, germs can still accumulate on the hands in the between-washing times, and the CDC notes that germs can easily get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth.

This is all to say:
In many ways, healthy habits build on each other, just like unhealthy habits do. For example, when you sleep better and eat more nutrient-dense foods, you tend to have more energy for working out and less time for stressing out. Putting a few immune-happy strategies in place first can help the rest fall in line — and maybe help you dodge some of those cold and flu bugs going around.

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