With fall fun on everyone’s mind, it’s easy to overlook the upcoming cold and flu season that’s upon us. And while we’ve heard tips to help prevent catching and spreading the flu, have you helped your immune system to prepare?
By adopting healthy habits early on, these easy tips to boost immune health will be a part of your routine long before cold and flu season. Keep in mind, though, that your immune systemis complex and there are multiple factors that can impact it. The key to keeping your immune system running strong is balance; these tips will help keep you energized and healthy!
Catch Some ZZZ’s
A lack of sleep can cause undue stress for your entire body. With sleep deprivation comes an imbalance in hormones and cells that are vital for immune health. By losing out on valuable hours of sleep, you are suppressing immune system function.
Tip: Develop healthy sleep habits. This starts with what you do before bed, as well as ensuring you sleep the proper number of hours recommended for your age group. As Nicholas Bower, DO, a physician at ChoiceOne Urgent Care, adds, "Getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night, while maintaining regular bed times, does the trick for most people."
Soothe Your Stress
Whether it’s a major event or those pesky everyday annoyances, stress is something that each of us can relate to. However, it could be taking a major toll as experts have found that as much as 90 percent of illnesses and diseases are the result of stress.
While stress often starts out as psychological, it can have a huge physical impact on our bodies, including a spike in cortisol, among other hormones. This makes our bodies more susceptible to infection, including the cold and flu.
Tip: Destressing is often easier said than done, however, if left unchecked, stress can severely impact your health and quality of life. Start by pinpointing what it is that is actually causing you stress to learn more about your personal triggers. Also, try incorporating these tips to reduce serious stress.
Get More From Your Food
Diet is the primary way that our bodies get the nutrition they need to function; the immune system is a major part of that. As Dr. Bower emphasizes, "One of the most important things we can do for our immune system is consume a diet loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables."
Keep in mind that diet is not only important once you come down with a cold or the flu. To support immune health keep these key vitamins in mind: Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc.
Tip: To get more of these vitamins, try incorporating these nutrient rich foods into your diet: Citrus fruits, Red bell peppers, Broccoli, Garlic, Ginger, Spinach, Yogurt, Almonds, Tumeric, Green tea, Papaya, Kiwi, Lean meats (chicken and seafood) and Sunflower seeds.
Keep in mind, even if you can’t eat all of these foods, taking a multivitamin is a great way to get more of these key nutrients. If you are deficient in one or more of these, work with your physician to determine if a supplement might be right for you.
Soak Up Some Sunshine
With colder temperatures most of us head straight indoors, but by doing that you could be missing out on Vitamin D, a vital nutrient for your immune health. Vitamin D actually helps to decrease inflammation and increases your body’s antimicrobial defense, along with many other benefits. Put your knowledge of Vitamin D and other vitamins to the test.
In addition to the perks of Vitamin D, Dr. Bower notes that, "Sunlight can increase energy and provide a positive outlook day-to-day, which makes us more likely to exercise, eat a healthy diet and stick to a healthy sleep routine—all of which support immune health."
Tip: Spend more time outdoors during the winter months; aim to get between 20 to 30 minutes of sunshine each day. Of course winter months can bring with them dreary weather, so if spending extra time outside isn’t feasible, incorporate more Vitamin D rich foods, such as: fish, cheese, milk and breakfast foods (e.g., healthy cereals or breakfast bars).
Keep Up the Pace
Regular activity and exercise are essential for immune health. As much as 20 to 30 minutes of daily physical activity can be all that you need to get an immune health boost. As Dr. Bower describes, "30 minute workouts that elevate the heart rate, 4 to 5 times per week can improve sleep, assist with digestion, increase energy and boost the immune system."
Tip: Incorporate small amounts of exercise throughout the day, this will add up in a big way. Also, while fresh air is great, you can utilize indoor facilities during the winter months as a safe and easy way to keep your activity and exercise up.
Catching the flu can be quite a doozy. But by adopting these healthy behaviors, you will give your immune health the support it needs to last all winter long. Furthermore, these habits not only support your immune system, they also support overall health and energy--something that is in short supply during the winter months.
Keep The Flu At Bay
Remember, flu prevention doesn’t stop with immune health, practicing flu prevention techniques are essential for you and your family. One of the easiest ways to keep the flu at bay is to get a flu shot.
At ChoiceOne Urgent Care, flu shots will be available to you and your family throughout the entire flu season. You can depend on the experts at ChoiceOne Urgent Care to support you all flu season long with flu prevention, diagnosis and care.