It’s that time of year again, folks. Sniffles are spreading, colds are catching and the flu bug is back with a mean bite. But absolutely no one wants to spend the fall and winter season sick, miserable and buried under a mountain of used tissues. (Especially when it involved the whole family taking turns getting sick.)
When it comes to cold and flu season, your best defense is a good offense. By keeping that immune system in tip-top shape, you give yourself a much better chance of fighting off illness before it sets in. So here are seven surefire ways to help keep that immune system ready for action!
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1. Elderberry Syrup
Elderberries have been utilized for their medicinal properties for centuries, dating back to ancient Egypt. They’re packed with vitamin C and an absolute powerhouse of antioxidants, filled with flavonols, anthocyanins and phenolic acids. Today, elderberry syrups and supplements are still widely popular for their immune-boosting abilities.
Multiple studies have found elderberry especially useful in combating influenza symptoms and significantly speeding up recovery time (sometimes improving symptoms as soon as within 24 hours). Incorporating elderberry supplements on a regular basis may help strengthen your immune system throughout the year. And if the flu bug does bite, elderberries could have you on the road to feeling better faster.
Making It Happen
Elderberries themselves can be a bit tricky to process at home (raw berries or improperly processed berries can actually make you sick). But not to worry, there’s an assortment of safe and effective elderberry supplements available on the market. You can buy elderberry in syrup, capsule or even gummy form and keep the whole family happy and healthy this flu season.
Like most other supplements I take, I prefer taking things in liquid form for fast absorption whenever possible. (I’m just not a huge fan of stuff in pill or capsule form when I can avoid it.) Elderberry syrup is safe, effective and quite affordable.
If you have little ones or picky eaters with an aversion to anything that looks like medicine, not to worry. You can find elderberry gummies to appease even the most suspicious medicine or supplement taker in your house. And if you’re a big kid at heart that just loves living the gummy lifestyle, you’ll find no judgment with these squishy little guys.
From improving cardiovascular health and blood pressure to fighting against a plethora of diseases, regular exercise is a pivotal cornerstone of good health. A consistent exercise routine is going to contribute to your overall well-being and help maintain healthy immune function. Plus, because exercise promotes good blood circulation, it may even contribute more directly to immune health by allowing cells to travel more efficiently throughout the body to perform their jobs.
Making It Happen
Regular exercise is key to your long-term health picture, so now is the time to get started. Begin by setting a goal for how many days you will be active throughout the week (three days a week is a good starting point). Also, decide how and where you will be getting active (e.g. a local gym or with home workouts) and what kinds of exercise you’ll incorporate which days (cardio, strength training, yoga, etc.).
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Like many women, upper body strength has always been one of my weaker areas. I'm not great with pushups and triceps-intensive moves, but one of my goals this year is to improve! One way I work on that is with bodyweight exercises to build strength and form. (Dont forget to save this post to find it later when you're at the gym!) ▪ This simple bodyweight resistance workout can be done at the gym or from home! All you need is a bench/chair and mat/towel. ▪ •10 Narrow pushups •10 Forearm pushups •10 Forearm extension pushups •15 Bench dips •5-10 Triceps power extensions ▪ Complete all 5 moves to perform one round. Rest 30 seconds between moves and then 1-2 minutes between rounds.
Write down your exercise goals in your day planner or wall calendar and check off your activities as you complete them to help stay motivated track your progress during the week. If you’re looking for some ideas to get started, be sure to check out my Instagram account! I post free, full workouts for both the gym and at home.
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 you’ll probably be better off with water. Like we learning my Is Drinking Juice Good For You? post, most store-bought fruit juices (even “100% fruit juice” brands) are stripped of most of their essential nutrients during the factory deaeration process. (Meaning you might as well be drinking sugar water.) Your body is made of and requires water for all vital bodily functions. Proper hydration plays a key role all throughout the body, including your immune system.
Making It Happen
You’ve probably heard the old 8×8 glasses of water a day myth. It’s not a bad place to start, but the actual recommendation by The Institute of Medicine is a minimum of about 13 (104oz) cups a day for men and 9 (72oz) for women.
A Water Bottle That Motivates You
Decide how much water you want to take in per day and decide on a method for tracking it. Some people find a motivational water bottle extremely effective for meeting their water goals. These half gallon water bottles have marked times to help you self-pace your water intake throughout the day.
Go For A Gallon
There are also benefits associated with going above and beyond the bare minimum and drinking a gallon (128oz) of water a day. I actually have an entire post dedicated to learning how I learned to begin successfully drinking a gallon of water a day and the benefits I experienced. For more tips and strategies to succeed in upping your water intake, check out the post I Tried Drinking a Gallon of Water a Day.
4. 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. Sadly, according to a 2017 study by the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults consume enough fruits and veggies.
Making it Happen
The USDA recommends men consume 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables daily. Women are recommended to consume 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit a day and 2 to 2 ½ cups of vegetables. Try to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies with each meal and don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things.
Refridgerator Meal Planner
You’re most likely to succeed with a little planning and preparation, so sit down and come up with a weekly meal plan and grocery list. If you’re a visual planner a magnetic meal planner for your fridge a great way to go. You can plan out your meals, have a place to write down grocery needs as they arise and won’t have to listen to your family ask “what’s for dinner tonight?” for the millionth time this week.
Notebook Meal Planner
If you don’t have space for a fridge or wall planner, try opting for a notepad instead. You can still plan out your meals for the week and easily carry the whole thing along with your grocery list with you when you go to the supermarket.
Reusable Lunch Containers
Doing a weekly meal prep can be a huge gamechanger in your nutritional routine. And even if you’re just preparing a couple meals, like breakfast or lunch, it can save you a lot of time and clean up the rest of the week. One big must-have item on your list for meal prepping successfully are some solid reusable lunch containers. Personally, I prefer ones that have multiple compartments to help keep foods from touching and getting soggy. For more tips on meal prepping, see my post on how to Meal Prep like a Pro.
5. Take a Multi-vitamin
It’s still not entirely clear exactly how much nutrients are absorbed through via vitamin supplements, so it’s best to glean as much nourishment as possible through whole foods. But a multi-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. In other words, a daily multi-vitamin in your regular long-term routine may do more good than popping a bunch of vitamin C pills when you feel sickness coming on.
Making it Happen
There are a LOT of options out there when it comes to multivitamins. But finding a high-quality option that suits your needs doesn’t have to be overly complicated or break the bank. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your doctor or nutritionist to recommend the best multi-vitamin to suit your needs. Personally, I’m a fan of Rainbow Light multivitamins.
Rainbow Light Multivitamins
Rainbow Light is a top rated multivitamin option that meets recommended daily intakes for nearly all the essentially required minerals and vitamins. Not only does it pack a big dose of nutrients, but it also contains vegetable juices, digestive enzymes, and probiotics (which are excellent for promoting good digestive health).
One of Rainbow Light’s biggest swaying points may also be that it is highly-friendly for individuals struggling with food allergies and sensitivities, as it’s completely gluten, dairy, peanuts, soy, eggs, fish, and shellfish-free. (Which for me personally has become an issue, as I’ve discovered many multi-vitamins contain some form of wheat or gluten.) These vitmains range from $34-38 for a bottle of 150 tablets (which is not bad at all, considering you’ll be set on high-quality multivitamins for about half a year).
6. 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). Incorporating a daily dose of ACV in the mornings can be an effective way to help give that immune system an extra boost year round, and especially in cold and flu season.
Making it Happen
Steer clear of ACV vinegar pills or tablets, as some research has found such supplements to be questionable in effectiveness. (Pills and tablets have also been shown caused esophageal injury when swallowed incorrectly, which is simply no bueno.) Get started by incorporating a high-quality, organic, unfiltered ACV.
Go Raw and Unfiltered
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 some because it has a very strong acidic flavor. Personally, my preferred method for taking ACV is by mixing a tablespoon of Bragg ACV in a glass with a splash of apple juice, 4oz of water and a pinch of cinnamon.
Sleep is a vital part of your body’s recuperation process, but many people struggle to get enough of it. Research 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.
Making it Happen
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 have you on the mend faster once a cold or flu has set in. So as tempting as a late night Netflix binge may sound, do your body some good and get to bed at a consistent time each night and shoot for those 7-9 hours.
Add Some (Good) Noise
If you’re a light or restless sleeper like me, small things like abnormal sounds can disturb your slumbers. Try using a sound machine. A constant, gentle background noise (like white noise or gentle rain sounds) can help cancel out distracting external sounds like passing traffic, the neighbors annoying cat or those random sounds that go bump in the night. I’ve been using one for over a decade now and absolutely swear by it to everyone I meet (I even take it on the road with me when I travel).
Monitor Your Nightly Quality of Sleep
If you want to dive a little deeper and learn more about the quality of sleep you’re getting at night, there are some pretty nifty tools out there to help you study and gather information on the quality of your sleep. A sleep tracking pad is one such tool that can help monitor your cycles of sleep, heart rate and even detect patterns of snoring.
Do you have any immune boosting tips or tricks that you use to stay happy and healthy during cold and flu season? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!
All writing copyright © 2018 Rachel Elise Weems Woods
Originally published 11-23-18. Updated 11-15-18.
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