It always seems to happen. Around the same time every year, beginning as early as mid-November, the influenza virus makes its comeback. Sometimes with a vengeance. We hear people sniffling, sneezing, and coughing, and hope to goodness they’re covering their mouths and washing their hands. But the best thing we can do is take care of ourselves. Here are seven ways to boost your immune system to ward off flu season.
Eat a healthy diet
Food is a powerful tool for fending off viruses and helping our bodies heal themselves. There are quite a number of different foods that can help to boost your immune system. These include:
- Blueberries. These small but mighty superfoods contain antioxidants and plenty of immunity-boosting vitamins.
- Citrus. Fruits like oranges, grapefruit, mangos etc are packed with vitamin C.
- Peppers. Believe it or not, bell peppers have around the same amount of vitamin C in them as citrus fruits do!
- Mushrooms. These contain vitamin D, which helps to keep the immune system strong.
- Cruciferous vegetables. These include kale, bok choi, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. They provide fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, and antioxidants.
Try and stay away from processed foods. Those containing a lot of gluten, sugar and preservatives will drastically decrease your immune function.
Keep your exercise levels up
Exercise is good for us – we know that. But at this time of y ear, it’s especially good for helping ward off colds and viruses. Frank Lipman MD, an integrative and functional medicine physician and founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, says, “Exercise is an immune-booster and it can be helpful if you feel well enough to do it.” According to the American Council On Exercise, “During moderate exercise, immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses.” So, if you’re feeling up to it, exercise when you can! Your body will thank you later.
Get enough sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep at night. Sleep is crucial for your body. It helps to repair cells and gives you energy for the next day. Loss of sleep can result in a suppressed immune system. So, even if you aren’t feeling ill, get enough sleep.
Take care of your gut
Did you know 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? There are literally billions of helpful bacteria in there! They live in your intestines, helping to fight viruses and refresh nutrients daily. One way to boost the good bacteria in your gut is to take a probiotic every day – one with at least 25 billion units in it. Another way is to introduce foods and drinks like yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir.
Keep stress levels low
Easier said than done, we know. But studies have actually shown psychological stress affects your physical health. If you’re stressed all the time, your body’s inflammatory response will go up. Not only that, stress is generally bad for you anyway. Lower it by activities such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.
Always wash your hands
This may seem like common sense, but we often forget. Public places can be crawling with germs and viruses. Then, if we touch our faces, we give them a direct route into our immune systems. If you can, wash your hands whenever you’ve been in public and touched surfaces that might be unclean. It’s also a good idea to carry some hand sanitizer in case you don’t have access to soap and water.
Make sure you drink enough water each day. Make it a habit to carry a water bottle with you – to work, in the car, on the train, wherever. Being dehydrated makes you feel ill and hinders your recovery.
Of course, if you suspect you’re ill – rather than just a little under the weather – don’t diagnose yourself. Make an appointment to see your doctor or other medical professional as soon as you can.