Winter is right around the corner and, inevitably, it is the time when most people become sick with a cold or the flu. Start fortifying your health now with these immune boosting tips to jump start your immunity and help your body ward off illness.
Make Self-Care a Consistent Priority
This is my #1 tip because self-care lowers your stress level and improves your mental health – both beneficial to your immune system – and ultimately helps you take better care of those around you. If you’re rundown, you’re not as able to take care of your partner and/or kids, which may make everyone more prone to illness.
Self-care should be done consistently and conscientiously, not just when you have the time. Here are a few self-care ideas:
- Pursue leisure activities that make you smile. Ride your bike, take your dog for a walk, play an instrument, garden, cook, read a book, etc.
- Schedule relaxation time. Book a massage or facial, take a bath, turn off your phone and read a good book, write in your journal, meditate, or enjoy a low-key yoga class.
- Use your “No Button”. Don’t overcommit yourself – this is especially important during the busy holiday months. Pick and choose your activities and obligations and don’t be afraid to say “No” to some activities.
- Connect with others who enhance your life. Meet up with friends or family that have a positive impact on your life. Limit your time with negative people and situations.
- Set boundaries. With cell phones, tablets, and laptops readily available at our fingertips, many of us are working when we shouldn’t be. When you’re done for the day at the office, don’t check your work email again that evening or weekend.
- And, of course, strive to live a healthy lifestyle through eating nutritious and immune boosting foods, daily exercise, and quality sleep (more on that in the next sections).
Add Immune Boosting Foods to Your Diet
Strive to eat nutrient-dense whole foods the majority of the time including vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, legumes, and healthy fats (i.e., olive oil, avocado, coconut oil). This will help boost your immunity, body, and mental health, especially in the winter months.
For an extra immune boost, incorporate these foods into your diet:
- Green vegetables. The phytonutrients in green vegetables keep your immune defenses strong while the fiber is beneficial to the good bacteria in your stomach.
- Garlic and onions. These vegetables are especially known for their anti-viral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties, plus they enhance flavor in many dishes. Raw or cooked, you will reap the benefits.
- Fermented foods. Foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, or kefir are great sources of probiotics to help your gut function optimally. These do not need to be eaten daily, a few times per week is beneficial. If you’re not a fan, try incorporating apple cider vinegar to salads instead.
- Bone broth. This superfood contains essential amino acids to aid your immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve gut health. Enjoy a hot bowl of bone broth before a meal, as a midday snack, or even as breakfast to warm up your body for the day.
- Coconut oil. This healthy fat contains lauric acid and caprylic acid which are known to fight off bacteria and viruses. Add coconut oil to smoothies or baking recipes.
- Ginger, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, and cayenne pepper contain powerful antioxidants to protect cells from damage and provide anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits. Not only may they help you from catching a cold, they may also prevent larger health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
- Hot tea. A cup of tea is soothing, high in antioxidants and a great source of hydration. Many types of teas have health benefits that date back centuries. Look for tea that contains: turmeric, licorice, ginger, peppermint, chamomile, lemongrass, hibiscus, or green tea. If you do get sick, tea can help ease symptoms and aid in your recovery.
Keep Up with Your Workouts
Colder weather tends to make people want to hunker down in their homes and forego the gym. Winter, however, is not the time to back away from your workout because regular physical activity increases the production of many different types of white blood cells, including macrophages, which helps destroy harmful bacteria and viruses as they travel through your body. Plus, a good exercise session can facilitate an overall sense of immediate well-being, lower stress levels, and improve sleep quality (another important factor in boosting your immunity).
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is a time for your body to recharge. Getting a good night’s sleep, which is 7-9 hours per night, on a regular basis has many benefits, all of which contribute to boosting your immunity.
The benefits of sleep include stress reduction, inflammation reduction, a healthier heart, and reducing the risk of depression. For those who struggle with sleep, my blog post shares sleep tips that you can incorporate into your nighttime routine.