As we head into cold and flu season, we’re all looking for ways to support our wellness through the winter and prevent us from getting sick. We're always told that avoiding those who are sick as well as practicing regular handwashing is the best way to avoid nasty bugs, but you can also help your immune system do its job by taking good care of your body. And, if you do happen to catch a cold, a strong immune system can help to lessen your symptoms and shorten the amount of time you’re feeling under the weather.
Here are several natural ways to boost your immune system that you can implement right away to start feeling your best.
1. Reduce Stress
While just thinking about trying to reduce your stress can leave you feeling even more tense and frazzled, the truth is that stress can have a huge impact on developing a strong immune system. So, taking the time to slow down now can help prevent an illness from forcing you to slow down later. Simple activities like going for a walk, doing an activity you enjoy, enjoying the benefits of aromatherapy, journaling, and taking time to laugh can help to reduce your stress levels. Plus, when you’re experiencing less worry and wandering thoughts, you’re more likely to get a better night’s sleep, which further boosts your immune system naturally.
2. Maintain Social Connections
Researchhas shown that our social connections can have an important impact on our immune system and overall health. In addition to your friendships being an important way to help support you and manage your stress levels, your social connections can also provide you with a place to encourage each other to practice healthy habits. Even if you’re not able to see your friends and family in person, you can still get creative in visiting via Zoom game nights or virtual coffee dates. Even walking your dog through the neighbourhood and waving to any neighbours you see can be a great way to help maintain social connections and check in on one another.
3. Move Your Body
We all know that exercise is an important part of health, and this applies to your immune system too. Working up a sweat also has a helpful effect on reducing stress and improving sleep to help create a strong immune system. The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to be intense to have these benefits. A routine of something you enjoy - whether it’s yoga, barre, dancing, weight lifting, or cycling, can havepowerful effects on your health.
4. Stay Hydrated
We might think about staying well-hydrated while we’re sick, but it can be an important part of preventing illness as well. This is because our body relies on nutrients in our bloodstream to support our immune system. If plain water isn’t doing it for you, herbal teas and flavouring your water with fresh fruit and herbs are great options.
5. Support Your Gut Health
Because more than 75% of your immune system is located in your gut, improving gut health is a sneaky way to further support your immune system. While eating a wide range of plant-based foods is a great way to support your gut health and ensure that you’re getting a diverse variety of nutrients, you can further support your digestive health by choosing foods that are rich in probiotics like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh.
6. Choose Immune-Boosting Foods
We’re often told to take Vitamin C to ward off cold and flu, and it’s for good reason. Vitamin C rich foods like brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bell peppers, strawberries, and oranges can all help to support your immune system. Antioxidant-rich foods like dark chocolate, pecans, blueberries, and sweet potatoes are also important to reach for as they can help your body absorb the nutrients it needs to keep you feeling your best.
7. Consider Supplements
While we’d all love to get all the nutrients we need from our diet, if you’re feeling like you need a little bit of extra support to get your through this cold and flu season, there are a few supplements you can consider. Most people are actually deficient in vitamin D, and this is an important supplement for us Canadians, who typically aren’t able to get enough sun exposure during the fall and winter seasons to keep our vitamin D levels topped up. Adequate vitamin D levels have been shown to have protective effects against colds and flu. Zinc is another supplement that is recommended to help protect you from getting sick, and to shorten the duration of your illness if you do come down with something. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before adding supplements to your routine.
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