You’ve moved heavy jackets to the front of your closet and pulled out the wool blankets. You’re stock-piling Kleenex, hand sanitizer and lozenges. Cold and flu season is right around the corner, and you’ve learned its important to prepare at the get-go.
But did you know several self-care actions can safeguard you on the cellular level? Prepping your immune system for winter isn’t just about being healthy. It’s about gaining the strength and resilience to remain well.
A balanced immune system helps fight infection. Even in sickness, a strong immune response shortens recovery time and lessens symptom severity.
Here’s what you can do:
Feed Your Body Nutrients
Support your immune system with good nutrition. Focus on eating whole foods that include plenty of legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and dark green, leafy vegetables. Nutritionists point out vitamins C, A, D and E, selenium, zinc, Omega 3 acids and iron as particularly helpful in fighting seasonal illness.
Look up recipes that incorporate spices which boost immune response. Feel free to turn up the heat with garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, curry, onion and turmeric.
Water is necessary for the body to produce lymph, a fluid which contains white blood and other immune system cells. These cells fight off infection by identifying, attacking and destroying viral bacteria. The more lymph actively circulates, the stronger a body’s defense. Consider drinking hot water with lemon as a matter of status quo when the temperature drops and keeping plenty of fresh water on-hand throughout the day.
Sleep is necessary for the body to heal and rejuvenate. Studies show the ideal amount for physical and functional wellness is between 7 and 8 hours per night. Folks who typically clock in less than 6 are at higher risk of contracting disease. If your nights are restless, consider incorporating naps into your day.
Monitor Alcohol Intake
One major culprit of restless nights and ineffective sleep is alcohol consumption. Having a glass of wine at night may help you nod off initially, but the alcohol in your system will subsequently disrupt healthy sleep pattern.
On the cellular level, alcohol compromises the ability of white blood cells to attack harmful bacteria and disrupts the production of cytokines as well as T-cells. Cytokines are regulatory proteins which act as messengers to and from the site of infection, while T-cells target foreign viruses. Overuse of alcohol can result in vitamin deficiency, making you look and feel more tired and down.
Consider eliminating alcohol or limiting its use.
Take a Walk
A perfect way to encourage restorative sleep is to get plenty of exercise. Not only does it strengthen your body, but exercise elicits the release of “feel good” hormones which lower stress and bolster resistance to disease. The winter season provides lots of unique workout opportunities, many in the fresh air. If you’re not a skier or skater, bundle up and take an invigorating hike!
Go For the Gut
Did you know that 80% of your immune response occurs in your digestive tract? Stack the odds in your favor by making sure you ingest friendly bacteria. Probiotics can be found in several whole and fermented foods including miso, yogurt and kimchi. Taking probiotic supplements is another option. For best results, search out organic brands kept under refrigeration.
Soak in Sunlight
Expose yourself to at least 30 minutes of direct sunlight per week. This allows your body to absorb valuable vitamin D and may have a marked effect on your mood! Studies confirm the therapeutic impact of sunlight for a variety of mental health disorders including depression and Seasonal Affect Disorder.
After all, perhaps the best defense against illness and infection is a strong, sunny constitution!
What’s your favorite immune boosting tip?
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