Even with COVID-19 still raging across the nation, the drop in temperature and dark days are bound to make that annual winter cold come knocking on the door. With coworkers dropping like flies, taking sick days left and right, it is only natural that you will think: when am I next? Luckily, there are some preventative measures you can take to keep your odds of being ill in this sickly winter season pretty low. Brace yourself with immune-boosting habits so that when sickness season inevitably comes you are armed and ready.
We know sleeping can be the last thing on your mind when you have a million other things to do, but if you would rather not be bed-ridden for days with another nasty cold, it could be worth it to prioritize some new habits. Sleep may be the singlehanded most important way to boost your immune system. As the days get colder and everyone around you mysteriously gets the same sickness, this may be your sign to take the much-needed rest you have been putting off for weeks. Studies show that adults who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are three times more likely to get a cold than people who get over 8 hours. The optimal amount of sleep for an adult is between 7-9 hours a night, which increases your immune system’s adaptability and recovery process. Hacks for helping you get a peaceful, healthy night of sleep is exercising during the day, cutting out caffeine, switching off technology an hour before bed, and taking a natural supplement such as melatonin to really ease your way into a great night’s rest.
You are probably tired of people telling you how exercise will basically solve all your problems but in this case the experts are actually right. Getting consistent exercise will increase your immunity, lower your stress, and overall make you healthier than staying on the couch (annoying, I know). Exercise’s ability to help you sleep and feel better is important to boosting your immune system. We definitely are not saying you have to begin training for a marathon to survive this winter but going on daily 30-minute walks may just be the key to staying fit, healthy, and thriving.
Eat whole foods of fruit and vegetables
A diet of fruits and vegetables does not sound fun but done in the right way can be enjoyable as well as immunity-boosting. Nowadays you walk into the store and there are juices, snacks, and bars all claiming to “boost your immunity” but the real way to get all your needed nutrients is a lot more simple. It starts with eating whole fruits and vegetables that are already naturally packed with the vitamins and minerals needed to ward off that sickness for one more day. Contrary to popular belief, eating a strict diet of fruits and vegetables will not make you immune to every sickness coming your way this winter. In fact, being too strict on your diet could lower your defense system and make you more susceptible to catching a cold. But on the other side of the spectrum, eating or drinking too many sugar foods will derail the immune system cells that fight bacteria. Therefore, having a balance of what you eat, making sure not to splurge too much on sugary food, will be important when fighting off a cold. A plate mixed with healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, protein, and veggies will be the best way to keep your heart, soul, and immune system happy.
Drink lots of water
Hydration is key! And we do not mean the type of hydrating where you drink a Coke Zero and claim it has water in it. No, we mean drinking lots of water daily. A quick science lesson: there’s a fluid in your circulatory system called lymph which carries infection fighting immunity cells throughout your body and is almost entirely made up of water. If that sentence was complicated, basically it means that it is scientifically proven that if you are not hydrating enough, your body’s ability to respond to infection is severely delayed. On average, adults should be drinking between 2-3 liters of water a day. There’s no need to chug water every second of the day though. You can get your hydration in more appealing ways such as drinking a nice lemon, turmeric, or liquorice tea to make your body feel good while also downing much needed water. You can try coconut water and hydration tablets which will keep you filled with electrolytes needed to stay energetic and full.
It is scientifically proven that if you are not hydrating enough, your body’s ability to respond to infection is severely delayed. On average, adults should be drinking between 2-3 liters of water a day.
Piggybacking off the importance of drinking water, another way to improve your immunity is through limiting your alcohol consumption. We all know that alcohol is not the best for us, yet we still go out to the pub a few times a week and drink more than we should. As winter season is upon us though, it is time to reevaluate our customary drinking habits in favor of remaining healthy in an increasingly sick society. Alcohol consumption can suppress a wide range of immune functions and response. While there is no need to cut out alcohol completely, drinking in moderation is the best way to make sure your immune system is not being hindered due to excessive pub nights.
Take time for self-care
Self-care comes in many forms whether it be having a long bath after a busy day, putting on a face mask, or going to bed early. Whatever your form of self-care is, now is not the time to ignore it in favor of working longer hours and overexerting yourself. If you want to be extremely safe when it comes to sick season, taking at least 30 minutes out of your day to take care of yourself will make or break your success this winter. If you have no idea what to do for a self-care night in we recommend taking a hot detoxifying bath, reading a good book, or going on a walk listening to a relaxing podcast.
Urgent: read this before you start popping vitamin C pills!
Urgent: read this before you start popping vitamin C pills! While vitamin C is good for immunity and helps regulate white blood cells so you can fight viruses and bacteria, it is not the only supplement useful for a healthy immune system. Taking vitamin D, zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids will all help regulate your body’s natural defense mechanism. We do not advise popping all these supplements and suddenly thinking your body is immune to any diseases, however. In fact, there is little evidence to suggest that if you are already sick these supplements will help you recover faster. But for preventative measures, taking some of these supplements or eating foods filled with helpful vitamins will give you a leg up this winter. Vitamin C is most commonly found in oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes. You can find vitamin E in almonds, seeds, and peanut butter. Omega-3 and zinc will be in healthy fishes such as salmon. If you do not want to start going supplement crazy try to gear your diet towards food that is rich in nutrients that will ward off any poorly symptoms.
Stress can probably lower your internal defense mechanisms more than anything else. The worst part about stress is that it has a spiraling impact where in severe cases it can cause you to lose sleep, eat poorly, and prioritize unhealthy habits that will make you completely exposed to any virus. Taking a moment to stop and breathe once a day is one of the best ways to reduce stress and consequently boost your immunity. Exercising and self-care are two important ways to decrease stress, but if you do not have a lot of time to dedicate to yourself, taking a moment to breathe for as short as one minute can make the difference in your mentality and emotions. One of the most relaxing breathing exercises is the 4-7-8 technique. For this exercise, you completely exhale through your mouth, take an inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat however many times you need until you begin to feel more relaxed.
This may seem simple and sightly unorthodox but connecting with your friends and family can be a great way to boost your immunity. Keeping your endorphins lifted is one way to fight against sickness and increase your sense of well-being. Similar to how exercising releases endorphins and helps your immunity, simply connecting with others can make you stronger in the long run. Even though it is cold and dark out this winter, make a point to move every day and reach out to people who can help you remain positive during a tiring time.
Keeping your endorphins lifted is one way to fight against sickness
Take steps to avoid getting an infection
This is as simple as washing your hands after going grocery shopping or cleaning your fruit before consuming. At this point we all know the basic ways to stay virus-free thanks to COVID turning us all into mini germaphobes. Maybe one of the best and fool-proof ways to boost your immunity and not get sick this winter is to stay away from ill people. If your friend has a cold but still wants to go out, you may be better off staying home. It might even be time to bring back the purse hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes as you make your way into flu season.