As the leaves blow outside your window, we approach the perfect storm. The kids have returned to school where germs multiply, holiday stress is beginning to mount, sleep is deprived, exercise is skipped and our diet maybe compromised by too many special occasion foods and alcohol. Here are my top 5 tips to keep the “God Bless You” directed elsewhere.
- Frequent Hand Washing and Don’t Touch Your Face. To catch a cold or the flu, the virus needs to get in through your eyes, nose or mouth. Every time you touch your face, you increase your chances of getting sick and the average person touches their face 16 times in an hour! Frequent, correctly washed hands will reduce your chances of getting sick so say the alphabet or count to 20 as you wash and make sure the soap covers your entire hands including between your fingers and beneath your nails.
- Flu Shot. This is especially important in the very young, older adults or those with poor immune systems. Children are more apt to catch the virus due to inadequate hand washing, the fact that they touch everything and don’t cover their mouth when they sneeze. Older adults are more apt to experience secondary complications related to the flu.
- Adequate Rest. Lack of sleep reduces your immune system function making you more susceptible to the virus. Even those who get the flu vaccine but are sleep deprived build fewer antibodies according to research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. For example, on day 10-post vaccine, the sleep-deprived group had ½ the antibodies of the control, well-rested group.
- Regular Exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever. Chronic stress lowers your resistance to infection. Exercise enhances your immune system by promoting better circulation, which allows cells and other protective agents to do their job more effectively. Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed the rates of flu in 641 health, inactive versus moderately active 20-70 year olds for one year. Those who obtained regular moderate activity lowered their risk of flu by 33% and the greatest benefit as seen in the fall and winter season.
- Healthy Diet.
- Stay hydrated preferably in the form of water. It’s free and calorie free. Every living cell is made of water so in order for them to function best, they need to be topped off. Fluid also keeps our blood and GI system moving so that we circulate needed nutrients and dispose of those we don’t need or that are harmful.
- Eat adequate protein. Protein is part both the body’s defense and repair mechanism against infection. Good sources of lean protein include: seafood, lean meat, skinless poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, unsalted nuts, and seeds.
- Eat your 5 a day fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that help ward off illness and keep cells healthy.
- Vitamin A helps keeps our immune system strong by keeping skin and tissues in your mouth, stomach intestines and respiratory system healthy. Good sources of Vitamin A include sweet potatoes, carrots, ale, green leafy vegetables, squash, herbs, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs, cantaloupe and vitamin A fortified dairy products and cereals.
- Vitamin C protects your from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Good sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, red and green peppers, papaya, strawberries, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, potatoes and vitamin C fortified juices and cereals.
- Zinc helps the immune system work properly and is important for wounds to heal. Zinc is found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, low-fat milk, mushrooms, spinach, whole grains, beans and nuts.
- Limit alcohol and don’t smoke as both of these put a strain on your immune system
- Eat probiotic rich, low-fat Greek yogurt daily. Greek yogurt is higher in protein and contains gut friendly bacteria that will help keep your immune system healthy.
Pick one to two tips and start growing your stronger immune system today.