Happy Monday! And for those of you that were off today, I’m jealous! As we enter the heart of the cold & flu season I wanted to share some precautions that I have been taking to try and boost my immune system to *hopefully* avoid getting sick. By now it feels like an obvious disclaimer, but I am not a doctor! These are simply daily rituals that I have incorporated into my life after extensive research on my own and so far, I have remained healthy this season.
Simple Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Avoid touching your face and be diligent about hand washing
This should be a given, but you should be washing your hands frequently. ESPECIALLY before eating, after interacting with someone that might be overcoming a cold and if you sneeze/blow your nose. I have also made it a habit to avoid touching my face which not only helps with acne prevention (!!!) but also prevents the spreading of any potential germs you might be picking up with your hands.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet
Another given, but you should ALWAYS be eating a diet based on whole foods. Making sure that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will aid in supporting a healthy immune system. If you haven’t already, increase your intake of leafy greens (adding spinach or kale to a smoothie is an easy way to do this!) and go easy on the sugar and alcohol.
Increase your intake of garlic
Incorporating more garlic into my diet is something I started in the fall after reading about how it’s basically the most amazing thing ever (i.e. it contains a ton of antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal compounds) that not only prevents illness, but is show to shorten the span of the common cold. The key here is that it needs to be RAW garlic, not cooked (apparently just heating up for 45 seconds could decrease the health benefits!). The easiest way I’ve found to incorporate raw garlic into my diet is to chop a clove finely and throw it into a homemade salad dressing, homemade brushetta, or stir fry (after cooking is complete!).
Staying hydrated is a important all year long, not just during cold and flu season. However, there are ways to step up your hydration during the winter to help support a healthy immune system. Adding citrus (like orange or lemon slices) is a good way to make drinking water more exciting and it gives you an extra dose of vitamin C. As well, green tea is full of healthy antioxidants that ward off free radicals to keep you healthy. I am also a HUGE fan of echinacea tea, which is known for it’s antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (also it just tastes delicious).
We all know that getting a good night’s rest is important. However, did you know that lack of sleep slowly kills your immune system thus making you more susceptible to catching a cold? Now you do. And if you aren’t convinced to catch some zzz’s and want to continue to burn the midnight oil, just know in a recent study, participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were 2.94 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep. The numbers don’t lie people!
I know this is a lot easier said than done, but reducing stress is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system. When we’re stressed, our body releases a hormone called cortisol which inhibits the reproduction of white blood cells and lowers the level of antibodies in our system preventing you from effectively fighting off a cold. If trying to de-stress tends to add stress to your life (me in a nutshell) start with a simple 10-15 minute yoga practice in the evening. This will allow you to decompress from the day, get your body moving and aid in a better night’s rest.
If you do end up getting sick this winter, know that it’s not the end of the world. At the end of the day we can only do so much to prevent sickness and, especially when working in an office or traveling, you are likely to pick up something. And if you do get sick, do your part to stop the spread of germs by washing your hands and covering your mouth when you sneeze. Above all else, it is important to LISTEN to your body and head to a doctor if things get serious!