Cold and flu season has arrived once again, but that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to winter illnesses. These five tips can help boost your immune system, giving your body the best possible chance of fighting off sickness.
1. Keep Stress to a Minimum
Although daily stress is often unavoidable and harmless, long-term stress can be detrimental to the immune system. In stressful situations, the body goes into “fight or flight” mode to help you survive. This process causes the stress hormone known as cortisol to increase. As cortisol levels rise, functions deemed unnecessary for survival are weakened – including the immune system.
Chronic stress causes the immune system to be weakened on a regular basis, making your body less able to protect you against sickness. It is highly important to manage your stress levels, as doing so can have a positive impact on both your mental and physical health.
2. Make Sleep a Priority
Research has shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick than their well-rested peers. A recent study by the University of Washington examined 11 pairs of identical twins. It found that twins who received less sleep suffered from a more depressed immune system than their siblings. This was due to an interruption in the flow of white blood cells, which help fight infection.
The recommended amount of sleep for adults is at least seven hours, but keep in mind that it’s also important to have quality, uninterrupted sleep. Your immune system – just like every part of your body – needs its rest in order to function properly.
3. Eat the Right Foods
A healthy diet is hugely important when it comes to maintaining a strong immune system. Spinach is a great food to incorporate into your meals, as it’s rich in folic acid, Vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which means it’s packed full of amazing things that detox the body and prevent illness. It also contains high amounts of Vitamin C and calcium.
Pink and red grapefruits are also great, as they contain the antioxidant and immune booster lycopene. If you aren’t a fan, stick to other citrus fruits such as oranges, mandarins, lemons, and limes, which carry large amounts of Vitamin C.
Foods containing probiotics are also recommended, as they help maintain a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut – where most of the immune system is located. Yogurt and soft cheeses are both great sources of probiotics.
4. Get Enough Vitamin D
Studies have found that Vitamin D acts like an activation button for the immune system’s T-cells, which kill off bacteria and infections. If Vitamin D is plentiful, the T-cells become active and are able to do their job. If Vitamin D is lacking in the blood, T-cells can remain dormant and unaware of potential threats. It makes sense, when you consider that Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among those who suffer from autoimmune disease.
Sunlight is an easy way to ensure you get enough Vitamin D, but it can also be ingested by eating foods such as eggs and fatty fish. If you go the sun route, be sure to wear sunscreen and remember that excessive sun exposure is a risk factor for skin cancer.
5. Stay Active
Any kind of exercise is great for maintaining a strong immune system, as those who partake in moderate workouts on a daily basis have been linked to fewer severe colds and sick days. Researchers believe that being active increases the activity of T-cells, strengthening the immune system’s response to viruses.
Yoga is a fabulous choice for boosting the immune system, as it helps lower stress hormones and calm the nervous system. It also improves the circulation of white blood cells and helps people achieve good, quality sleep.
Although there is no guaranteed way to avoid getting sick this winter, these tips can help boost your immune system and contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle.