It’s that time of year again. Sniffles are a’sneakin’, colds are a’catchin’ and the flu bug is back with a mean bite. No one wants to get stuck sick, miserable and buried under a mountain of used tissues and empty NyQuil bottles. When it comes to cold and flu season, your best defense is a good offense by keeping that immune system in tip-top shape for fighting off illness. Here are six surefire ways to help keep that immune system ready for action!
From improving cardiovascular health and blood pressure to fighting against a plethora of diseases, regular exercise is a pivotal cornerstone of good health. A regular exercise routine is going to contribute to your overall well-being and help the body maintain healthy immune function. And because exercise promotes good blood circulation, it may even contribute more directly by allowing cells to travel more efficiently throughout the body to perform their jobs.
Staying well-hydrated plays a big role in immune health by helping the body run more smoothly. You might be tempted to reach for a big glass of OJ during flu season, but unless you make your own fresh juice, try opting for water. Most store-bought fruit juices (even “100% fruit juice” brands) are stripped of most of their essential nutrients during the factory deaeration process, then recolored and flavored before shipping out to supermarkets. Your body is made of and requires water for all vital bodily functions. The Institute of Medicine recommends a minimum of about 13 cups a day for men and 9 for women (although there are benefits associated with drinking more than the minimal recommendations).
Eat Your Greens
Your diet plays a pivotal role in many aspects of your health, including the immune system. Research indicates that your body absorbs vitamins, minerals, and nutrients best from whole food sources, so getting those greens in with meals will do you more good than solely relying on man-made vitamins and supplements. Try filling half or more of your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal. Also, focus on branching out a little bit to incorporate a variety of different fruits and veggies in your diet instead of the same few things over and over.
Take a Multi-vitamin
It’s still not entirely clear how much nutrients is absorbed by the body through via vitamin and supplement pills, so it’s best to glean as much nourishment as you can through whole foods. But if you feel you’re struggling to get enough in, a vitamin may help to supplement what you aren’t already getting through your diet. Some research indicates you may be better off taking a multi-vitamin vs single vitamin supplements (i.g., a daily multi-vitamin in your regular routine may do more good than popping a bunch of vitamin c pills when you feel a cold coming on). Ask your doctor or nutritionist to recommend the best multi-vitamin to suit your needs.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar has been used for centuries for its medicinal purposes. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is associated with a variety of benefits, from lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels, killing bacteria to possibly fighting cancer. Some people use it to treat a cough or a sore throat (a trick Hippocrates himself, the father of medicine, used it to treat his patients). There are different ways to incorporate ACV, the easiest of which is in cooking and salad dressings. You can also drink or gargle it, although you may want to dilute by mixing it in glass or juice or water since it has a very strong, acidic flavor. Opt for organic, unfiltered ACV over more processed kinds of vinegar. Steer clear of ACV vinegar pills or tablets, as some research has found such supplements to be questionable in effectiveness or even to have caused esophageal injury when swallowed incorrectly.
Sleep is a vital part of your body’s recuperation process, but many people struggle to get enough of it. Reseach has shown how sleep deprivation directly interferes with immune function by reducing the body’s production of killer cells (the little guys who help you fight off sickness and disease). One study even found that getting mildly inadequate amounts of sleep can make you nearly three times as likely to develop a cold. The National Sleep Foundation recommends for adults 18-64 to get an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Getting enough shuteye in your regular routine can help your body resist illness before it strikes or get you on the mend faster once a cold or flu has set in. So turn off Netflix, put your phone down at night and get to bed tonight!
All writing copyright © 2018 Rachel Elise Weems Woods
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