Cold and flu season is in full swing here in Utah, and unfortunately it’s alive and well in my home too! Nearly everyone in my family (including me!) has had a cold or flu in the past month or so. So after performing a “detox” of our house to protect us from further sickness (washing bedding, disinfecting surfaces, you know the drill…) I think we could all benefit from a bit of extra protection on the inside, too!
Luckily, bolstering your immune system to help your body stay healthy is not a hard or complicated thing to do! Making good choices about food, sleep, and exercise can be the difference between a season of sickness and staying healthy.
Here’s a list of natural & easy ways to help bolster your immune system this winter.
Your white blood cells help fight off sickness and disease, but they can’t function properly without adequate sources of protein. The Institute of Medicine recommends getting at least 10%, but no more than 35%, of your daily calories from dietary protein. Good sources of dietary protein include seafood, white-meat poultry, dairy foods, eggs, beans, and soy.
Fruits and Vegetables
Don’t forget your fruits and veggies! Your immune system needs nutrients to work properly, and the best sources of beneficial nutrients are fruits and vegetables. Aim to eat between 5 and 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. While this may sound like a lot, it is totally doable. Whipping up a simple Green Smoothie for breakfast can have you starting your day with 3-4 servings under your belt already!
Research indicates that there is a link between immune health and the presence of “good bacteria” in our digestive tracts. Eating probiotic foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and miso, or taking a probiotic supplement, can increase the number of good bacteria in your digestive tract, potentially helping your gut ward off sickness and infection. For more information about the different kinds of probiotics available, click here.
Vitamin D is an important factor in immune system health, but many of us aren’t getting enough of it! We get our primary and best source of Vitamin D simply being out in the sun, but that can be hard to do during the generally overcast winter months. So take advantage of sunshine when you can, and make sure to utilize good food sources of Vitamin D, like salmon, tuna, mushrooms, and eggs.
Forced air heating can quickly diminish the humidity of air circulating through your home. Warm, dry air can dry out your nasal passages, which can lead to crusting and eventual bacterial infections. You can eliminate nasal dryness by utilizing a saline nasal spray. This will add moisture as well as help flush out bacteria and germs. (Get a recipe for a DIY nasal spray by clicking here.)
Getting adequate sleep is crucial for a healthy immune system. You can’t expect your body to be able to fight off illness or infection if it’s “running on fumes”! Make it a priority to get 8 hours of sleep every night.
We all know that hand-washing is an important step in staying healthy, but it’s easy to feel like you have to be washing your hands all the time! Just make sure you wash at important intervals, including before eating, before and after prepping or handling food, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing or coughing. Washing with soap and water is best, but hand sanitizer can be really helpful on-the-go.
De-stress! Stress can really do a number on your body, including compromising your immune system which makes you more susceptible to illness. Schedule a bit of calm and quite “you time” into each day, where you can practice yoga, do some meditation, or even just grab coffee with a friend.