This time of year, we get asked this question almost daily – and it’s an important one! Not only does seasonal illness take a toll on your body at the time of sickness, but it can also cause other conditions to flare, i.e. an autoimmune condition, thyroid dysfunction, or other chronic illnesses. When one gets a cold or the flu, many times they take antibiotics even though these illnesses are caused by viruses and cannot be treated with antibiotics. The problem is, taking antibiotics repeatedly can damage your gut and lead to a host of other problems (that’s for another day).
You want to ensure that you have a strong foundation of health and following the tips below can go a long way in decreasing your risk of becoming sick:
- Wash Your Hands. This seems like common sense, but how often do you do it? How long do you do it for? In order to kill viruses, you must scrub your hands for 20 seconds. We tell the kiddos to sing the ABCs one time through, and that gets you close to 20 seconds. But hey, if that’s what it takes to get you to 20 seconds, that’s what it takes!
- Reduce Sugar and Alcohol Consumption. We know. Easier said than done this time of year. However, consuming too much (even in moderation) suppresses the immune system making it more difficult for your body to fight off infections.
- Eat Anti-Viral Foods. Foods as citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, and almonds, green tea, and shellfish are all great immune-boosting foods. The good news is, it would be quite difficult to over-do it on these ones!
- Reduce Your Stress. When our stress hormones are elevated, our immune system will take a hit. Some of the best ways to de-stress include meditation/prayer, yoga, and coloring! These things can specifically take you out of the “fight or flight” mode we are in too often and help put us into “rest and digest” mode.
- Get 7-9 Hours of Sleep Every Night. It is when we sleep that our bodies really work to get rid of the toxins and pathogens lingering within. When we are sleep deprived, not only is our immune function decreased, but our bodies may be holding on to things that are actually making us sick. Try putting the electronics down after dark and keeping a consistent bedtime routine.
- Move Your Body: Exercise can boost the immune system by increasing your circulation, allowing antibodies to travel throughout the bloodstream faster, making it easier to fight off an illness. It is doubly effective however, as it is also a great way to reduce stress. Just 20 minutes a day can help jump-start the immune system!
- Optimize Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc. These are all powerful immune modulators. The best way to get Vitamin D is from the sun. Many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, so work with your provider to see where your levels are and find out if you may need to supplement. Foods rich in vitamin C include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, oranges, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes. Foods high in zinc include meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Supplement with Antioxidants: Antioxidants are very important pieces to immune functions, helping to get rid of the toxins in our body. Glutathione is the chief antioxidant in our body, responsible for not only enhancing immunity, but also helping to detoxify your body. Curcumin, from turmeric, is another great antioxidant that has also been shown to help with joint health and cardiovascular function.
Supporting your immune system, reducing your stress, getting adequate exercise and rest are not only key factors in preventing a cold or the flu, but they are integral in optimizing your total health and wellness.
For more information, visit their website at www.parkerlaneih.com or call them at 252-631-5815.
By Contributing Author: Holly Parker, ParkerLane Integrative Health