Unfortunately, ’tis the season for sniffles, chills, and sneezes. To protect yourself, it’s important to build up your immune system, your body’s natural defense against all of the ick. And while getting sick is sometimes unavoidable, there are things you can do every day to fight off colds, the flu, COVID, and more. Here are some tips for building up your immune system this winter.
Keep Your Gut Happy
Having a happy gut is key for overall health; in fact, experts believe 80% of your immune system is in your gut. Whenever possible, eat whole, unprocessed foods rich in fiber to reduce inflammation and encourage good gut bacteria, all of which support a healthy immune system.
Get Some Sleep
If you don’t get enough quality sleep, your immune system will suffer. Studies show that those who sleep less are more likely to catch colds than those who sleep better. Adults should aim for seven or more hours of sleep per night.
Modern medicine can be a wonderful thing. Vaccines aim to make your immune system smarter by “teaching” it to recognize and fight off certain viruses. Make sure to discuss vaccinations with your doctor and that you are staying up to date on them.
Eat the Good Stuff
By eating the “good stuff,” we mean ensuring your diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and dairy. It’s also smart to eat a lot of leafy greens because their antioxidants decrease inflammation. Eating the good stuff also means limiting saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars. Here is a little cheat sheet of what nutrients you can find in common foods:
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruit, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach.
- Vitamin B6: Chicken, salmon, tuna, bananas, green vegetables, and potatoes (with the skin).
- Vitamin E: Almonds, sunflower and safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and spinach.
- Zinc: Oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, and dairy products.
- Magnesium: Whole wheat products, nuts, and seeds.
Wash Your Hands
We know this one is a no-brainer, but consider it a friendly reminder to wash your hands frequently and scrub them for at least 20 seconds each time.
Moderate exercise is a major immune system booster, and it’s a way to reduce anxiety and encourage a better sleep schedule.
Nobody likes being dehydrated: You get headaches, your physical performance is hindered, you lose focus, your digestion and mood suffer, and it’s hard on your heart and kidneys. The best way to combat this? Drink water!
Take Your Vitamins
If you’re making healthy choices, the foods you eat should contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, but there’s no shame in supplements if you don’t feel like you’re getting enough of these nutrients from your diet. Be sure to check with your doctor first because too much of a good thing can also be dangerous.