Considering that communicable diseases like colds and flu are highly contagious and have no cure other than to run their course, your best bet is to prevent becoming ill in the first place. But, even if you do get sick this season, the severity and longevity of illness is highly dependent on the strength of your immune system and your body’s ability to fight off the invading virus.
Low Immunity Sets the Stage for Sickness
Any illness, whether bacterial, fungal or viral, shows up in individuals who are “susceptible.” Making healthy lifestyle choices during cold and flu season (and all year round) will help build defenses in your body so you are not susceptible to illness. But there are several very easy, all-natural steps you can take to strengthen your immune system and arm yourself against colds and flu today.
1. Eat Probiotic Foods
Did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? There are trillions of beneficial bacteria in your intestines that help you fight disease and absorb nutrients. Keeping this population healthy and strong is arguably your strongest defense against colds, flus and many other diseases. Replenish your gut flora daily by incorporating wholesome fermented foods and drinks into your diet like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchee.
Fermenting your own vegetables is far more effective and affordable than buying probiotic supplements or other mass-marked products that only claim to boost your immunity. Not only will keeping your gut flora healthy help protect you from disease, but it can also give you better digestion.
And from real ginger beer to homemade pickles, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy probiotic foods at least once a day.
2. Eat Enough Good Food
Make sure you get three meals a day that include plenty of fresh vegetables, and enjoy healthy snacks if you need them, so your blood sugar stays relatively even throughout the day. It takes calories to form antibodies and dispatch them to the front lines when germs invade. When your calorie intake dwindles because you don’t eat enough or you skip meals, your body prioritizes other functions while your immune system is left to operate at a deficit.
But you don’t want to eat just anything! The nutrition that you get from whole fruits and vegetables is outstanding for preventing illness. Many vitamins, including vitamin C, are antioxidants and will protect cells—including those of your immune system—from damage by toxins in the environment.
Dark-colored produce (berries, kale, broccoli) tends to be higher in flavonoids, polyphenols and other antioxidants. Just make sure you eat a little saturated fat from butter or coconut oil with those veggies, so you can absorb all their nutrients.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Whatever amount of sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning, whether that’s 6 hours or 10—make sure you get it! Insufficient sleep depresses the immune system, opening the door to colds, upper-respiratory infections, and other nagging ills. Also consider your caffeine intake, and don’t let it keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
If you have a constricted airway that prevents you from sleeping deeply, Breathe-Right strips on your nose can be very helpful. If you have insomnia (which I often do), then sublingual spray melatonin can quickly and gently ensure you get a good night of rest. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant that helps boost the immune system, too. Read more