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With changing weather, cool rainy days and high allergy days this time of year, it seems like everyone is coming down with some sort of something. It is inevitable that we will all be exposed to germs at some point.
Germs are what can make us sick. There are ways to remain healthy and avoid these nasty little buggers and avoid catching whatever the latest illness is going around.
Boosting your immune system may help prevent whatever illnesses may be lying around the corner.
Get Adequate Rest
The recommendation for the proper seven to eight hours of rest is nothing new. It cannot be stressed enough just how important proper rest is every day, but especially when trying to get our immune systems working at their best. Much of the time, we prioritize everything else as more important than sleep, when sleep should be at the top of the list.
During sleep, while you are enjoying the stillness, your body is working fervently to heal, correct, and repair everything thrown at it during the day as your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. When you don’t get enough rest and sleep, production of these protective cytokines is reduced.
In these quiet times, the immune system is also working fervently, trying to find anything that may be trying to get in and infect. While sleeping, the brain releases hormones that promote tissue growth, and the repairing process begins.
Our bodies are also busy creating more white blood cells while we sleep, and those are the front-line warriors of our immune systems that go to fight against infection.
It is heard almost as often as getting enough rest. Hydration is crucial for many things and is necessary for the immune system to operate at peak performance. Staying hydrated helps to fight any infection that may try and make its way in, and it also plays a massive role in our mucus membranes.
Staying adequately hydrated helps our mucus membranes stay moist and ready to trap any bug or virus that may try to sneak in through the nasal passage. When the mucus membranes trap dirt, allergens, viruses, and bacteria, it prevents them from getting further into your system. Staying hydrated also helps regulate body temperature and rids the body of waste (which means flushing out germs, bacteria, viruses, and more).
Eat a Diet that Works Well for You and Your Body
Free from any personal dietary triggers, eating a whole foods diet is great for natural cold and flu prevention. Inflammation can occur when sick, injured, or after a strenuous workout as the body repairs. It is a part of the body’s natural healing process. However, when eating foods that don’t work well with your personal makeup, chronic inflammation can start to happen, weakening the immune system.
Once you figure out which foods work best with you and start focusing on your diet, natural, whole foods will help naturally bring down systemic inflammation and stress. An excellent place to start here is loading up on omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon or nuts and filling your plate with non-starchy veggies that are full in color and rich in antioxidants and nutrients. Always choose whole foods over processed foods where and when you can. And avoid sugar as best you can, as sugar is known to send the immune system into a downward spiral.
Focus on Immune Boosting Foods
When you regularly eat veggies that represent all the colors of the rainbow, you are already off to a great start on boosting that immune system. Below are some specific fruits and veggies that are high in immune-boosting vitamins. Try to incorporate them into your daily routine…and if you aren’t a fan of eating your veggies, there are tons of immune-boosting smoothie recipes out there!
- Vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant) is found in citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits), leafy greens, bell peppers, and strawberries.
- Vitamin E is found in almonds, hazelnuts, spinach, and broccoli.
- Vitamin A is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.
- Vitamin D is found in salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
- Zinc is found in oysters, crab, pumpkin seeds, meats/poultry.
Work Out Regularly
The exact relationship between the immune system and exercise is not completely clear, but it is known that regular exercise boosts immune function. Physical activities increase heart rate and breathing, which can help the body get rid of bacteria built up in the lungs and airways.
During and after exercise, the body temperature rises. This rise in temperature helps kill off and prevent any bugs from growing or spreading within. Being mindful of your level of exertion during physical activity is imperative when using exercise to boost the immune system.
Over-exercising or pushing yourself too hard can have the opposite effect and instead weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of getting sick. The body is a fantastic communicator. Make sure you are slowing down enough to listen to your body and decipher what it may be telling you.
Wash Your Hands
Most of the time, we constantly touch our face, bodies, nose, mouth, and eyes without even realizing it. Think about it for a minute; we are constantly touching things such as surfaces, objects, doorknobs, faucets, the list goes on. As easy as it sounds, washing your hands makes a huge difference when preventing infection.
Therefore, we are constantly spreading everything we touch to everything we touch. Germs spread from touching a doorknob, touching a phone, and touching the apple we put into our bodies. Often, eating food can be the easiest way to be hit with germs. Through the simple elementary act of washing our hands, the germs are removed before heading to the next step. Washing hands wipes the slate clean, kills the germs, and prevents getting and spreading germs.
While on the subject, let’s look at hand sanitizer vs. soap and water. The common first choice is always soap and water. It cleans and kills more of the bacteria more effectively. However, if soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is the next best option. Any way to wash up is better than not doing so at all.
Have Optimal Vitamin D Levels
The immune system and vitamin D have a very close relationship. Vitamin D helps decrease the risk of infection and plays a massive role in the action and reaction of fighting off infections.
The active form of vitamin D, vitamin D3, helps decrease the inflammatory response, which is known to happen when getting sick or fighting infection. Vitamin D levels tend to drop off during the winter months, especially for those living in northern climates due to the lack of being outside and the sun being too strong. And this also tends to be when cold and flu season is at its highest. Sunlight and food are great ways to get more vitamin D.
Staying well and keeping loved ones around you healthy is important all year, especially during cold and flu season. Remember to rest, hydrate, eat a healthy diet rich in immune-boosting foods, exercise, wash your hands, and bump up that vitamin D. A healthy and active immune system is the best insurance policy to keep us healthy.
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