The sunshine and warm temperatures were my main motivation for my move from New York to California last summer, but I had also secretly hoped I would be escaping my annual cold. This cold-free fantasy lasted about seven months until I came down with a stuffy nose, a persistent cough and familiar sinus headache.
I did some research and learned that the average person will acquire the cold virus at least two to four times a year and it can last anywhere from one to two weeks. The good news is, we can stay healthy and happy this winter with some small changes to keep our immune system strong (besides doing what your mother taught you, washing your hands!)
Avoid sugar, especially artificial sugars like aspartame. Sugar is in everything that comes in a package, from candy bars to even the “healthy” items like granola bars. Sugar is a huge threat to the body because it weakens the immune system. When the immune system is weak your body has to work harder and this puts it in a state of imbalance leaving you sick. Ideally, your only sugar source should be from fresh fruit like grapefruit and strawberries, since they also contain essential vitamins to fight illness.
2. Being A Couch Potato
I know it might be cold and dark out when you leave work, but exercise is crucial in maintaining a healthy immune system. Before you head home after work, go to yoga or spin class, spend an hour at the gym, or even walk home if possible.
Now that your holiday shopping is finished and New Years Eve has been planned, take some serious time to decompress. Listen to your body, do you feel more exhausted than usual? Stress is related to 99 percent of all illnesses. Some helpful stress reduction tips include; not saying yes to every invite, organizing yourself at work with a to do list and planning meals ahead of time.
A glass of wine every once and a while won’t hurt, but heavy alcohol use suppresses the immune system. Alcohol dehydrates the body making your immune system weak and you more accessible to illness. Caffeine is also a culprit! Make sure you drink tons of water instead of, or with, coffee to help you stay hydrated.
Smokers get more severe and more frequent colds than nonsmokers. Even just being around someone smoking can weaken the immune system. If you smoke, there is nothing like a New Year’s resolution to quit. If you live or work with someone who smokes stay away from them when they are smoking.
6. Processed Foods
Avoid food that comes in a package. This food is full of sugars and white carbs, which make your body work harder than necessary while suppressing your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to sickness. Whenever you’re grocery shopping, fill your basket with fruits and veggies. Add some red peppers and kale which contain Vitamin A and C. Some other healthy options are salmon, with its Omega-3 Fatty Acids to combat inflammation in the body, and yogurt without added sugar, to add healthy bacteria for a strong immune system.
7. Taking Cold Medication
Over the counter medicine only masks a cold. When you stop taking the medicine, you will likely get sick again shortly thereafter. Get back to basics with a natural remedy like a Neti Pot, feed your soul with some good old fashion chicken soup, and put a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep. Acupuncture also helps to boost your immune system.
8. Staying Up Too Late
It is always important to get your beauty sleep, but even more important during cold and flu season. Aim for at least eight to ten hours of restful sleep a night.
9. Being Negative
By simply changing your outlook on life you can avoid getting sick. If you are having a rough day, just think of all of the positive things in your life and focus on that. The more you think positive thoughts, the happier your immune system will be. Just remember it takes more muscles to frown than to smile!
10. Artificial Heat
This might be the hardest one to avoid this winter. Artificial heat dries up your sinuses leaving them susceptible to colds and the flu, so keep moisture in the air with a humidifier, especially while sleeping.