If you're dealing with fevers, aches, chills, pain, and pure exhaustion for no less than seven to ten days, it's safe to say you're dealing with a case of the flu—and this year it's worse than ever. As a mother of two school-age children, I'm doing all that I can to prevent the flu from sweeping through our household. My second child was born during the month of January and caught respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) the day he was born, and I’ve since become a complete germaphobe. While I don’t suggest you go that route, as a holistic health coach, I’m happy to share several other ways to keep these winter sick bugs at bay.
Here are my top eight recommendations, in no particular order:
1. Make sure you're getting enough vitamin D.
Whether you get some in your diet or soak up five to ten minutes of sunshine, research shows that getting enough vitamin D is a contributing factor to the health of your immune system. This is a little more difficult in the winter months, so don't be afraid to take a supplement.
This one should come as no surprise since our bodies are 50 to 60 percent water. Staying hydrated is important when it comes to functioning optimally. Water aids in digestion, lubrication, and oxygenation within your body. It also plays an important role in flushing out toxins from the body and in the production of lymph in your immune system, which helps carry disease-fighting cells throughout the body.
A good gauge of how hydrated you are is the color of your urine. It's not always a sexy point of reference, but it's helpful to know, the lighter your urine color, the more hydrated you usually are.
3. Get enough exercise.
Exercise makes you feel happier, healthier, and more energetic. It can be hard to motivate yourself to do it, but once you’ve finished and your endorphins are flowing, you'll feel great. Exercise is a great way to decrease the amount of stress hormones released by your body, and stress can lower the functionality of your immune system. More exercise and lower stress may help your body fight off infection, and it's a great way to cleanse, sweat, and flush toxins. When it comes to choosing what type of exercise you engage in, just be sure to pick something you actually like to do for exercise to make it more fun.
4. Sleep. A lot.
Sleep, sleep, and more sleep. Sleep is so good for our bodies, and too often we let it fall by the wayside. When we sleep, our bodies have a chance to restore, rebuild, and reconnect. It’s also an opportunity for your mind to relax. Sleep, your circadian rhythms, and your immune system are all interconnected, and when you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system is suppressed, and you’re more susceptible to catching something to make you sick. Adults on average need seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
5. Prioritize nourishment.
You are what you eat, so the choices you make on how you fuel your body affect everything including your immune system. Sugar along with inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, and soy all negatively affect your body’s ability to function optimally, but there are certain foods that play a role in supporting your immune system as well.
6. Eat garlic.
Garlic has sulfur-containing compounds that give it medicinal properties that have been used for centuries. These compounds play a role in boosting the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses like those that cause the common cold or flu. Garlic is also great for reducing inflammation as well.
I use garlic a ton when cooking, either minced and sautéed in my veggies or chopped and mixed in with seasoning for chicken or fish. Just brush your teeth after, or carry some mints to help with the garlic breath!
7. Take a probiotic.
Stress, diet, and toxins can all affect the ratio of healthy to unhealthy gut bacteria within your body. With about 70 percent of your immune system in your gut, balancing the good to bad gut bacteria is important to staying healthy. Adding a daily probiotic can be helpful, and if you don't want to take a supplement, focus on fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, or kombucha.
8. Focus on vitamin C.
Vitamin C is famous for supporting your immune system, so if you’ve been exposed or are feeling sick, adding extra to your diet can help. Kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries are just some of the foods that have high levels of vitamin C. A high-quality supplement will work as well.
Incorporating these recommendations along with maintaining good hygiene and a healthy, positive outlook are all great ways to fight against flu season. Good luck!
Want more tips for staying healthy through cold and flu season? Here are some ideas.
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