When the weather begins to grow colder, it can be much easier to catch a cold or something even worse like the flu. While there’s no catch-all method for protecting your health, you can take steps to boost your immune system and reduce your risk of getting sick this season. The biggest factor in your immune health is your diet, and many foods rich with vitamins and nutrients are great to incorporate into your menu. That’s not all you can do, however, as making lifestyle changes will give your health a serious boost as well. Check out these tips for improving your immune system so you can have a happy, healthy flu season:
- Get plenty of sleep: Everyday Health pointed out that when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more cortisol. In large amounts, this hormone can weaken your immune system.
- Eat fresh produce: Fruits and vegetables contain many helpful nutrients from vitamins to antioxidants that can perk you up, keep you healthy and give your immune system the strength it needs to fight off any invading illnesses.
- Cut back on alcohol: Drinking excessively can weaken your immune system, but you don’t need to go without a drink. A study from Oregon Health and Science University revealed that moderate alcohol consumption can actually give you an immune boost.
- Get vitamin D: Vitamin D can boost your health and reduce the risk of getting sick, but the best source of this vitamin, the sun, may not be adequate for people who live too far north. Everyday Health suggested supplements for people who live above the 42-degree latitude line – including residents of Boston.
- Quit smoking: Studies have shown that nicotine suppresses the immune system’s ability to fight invaders. Quitting, in addition to reducing the risk of a multitude of illnesses, can help keep you healthy during cold and flu season.
- Take supplements: Some of the vitamins and nutrients that provide the most benefits aren’t all that plentiful in the foods you eat regularly. Supplement your diet with things like Echinacea, probiotics and ginseng. Harvard Health pointed out that echinacea should only be taken as a short-term solution to boost health.
- Drink more tea: Regularly brewing cups of herbal teas, such as chamomile, can help increase your amount of plant-based polyphenols, which can help your body fight bacteria, according to Women’s Day.
- Season with garlic: Studies have shown that garlic may have the potential to fend off bacteria and viruses like the common cold, the National Institutes of Health reported. The flavorful food is also loaded with vitamins and nutrients like vitamins B6 and C.
- Eat chicken soup: Your mother was onto something when she brought you chicken soup to feed your cold. If you do happen to get sick, make a bowl of soup. Prevention magazine pointed out that the sodium content of the broth can help thin mucus when you’re sick, and chicken releases an amino acid called cysteine that has similar effects as medicines prescribed for bronchitis.
Following these tips, washing your hands frequently and dressing appropriately for the weather can help you stay healthy and avoid getting sick this season. If you do come down with something, it’s important to take care of yourself. Stay home, if possible, and drink lots of fluids to give your body the tools it needs to fight off whatever bug you catch. For illnesses like the flu, it’s important to see a doctor as well. If not treated properly, flu symptoms can turn dangerous.