How many times a year do you catch a cold or come down with the flu? This winter, many of us are going to battle with a bug. Whether we win or lose that battle will depend on, in large part, our immune system’s ability to step up and protect us.
The immune system doesn’t reside in just one organ. It’s a complex of responses that can take place anywhere in the body where our health is threatened. When the immune response is strong, no invading bacteria, virus, yeast or parasite stands a chance. But often our lifestyles or eating habits put a strain on our defenses and leave us vulnerable. Here is a short list of do’s and don’ts to help you successfully navigate the cold and flu season.
Get enough sleep.
Even one night of modest sleep deprivation has been shown in studies to suppress immunological function. To keep your immune system strong, make sure to get a minimum of seven hours sleep every night.
Avoid a lot of sugary foods.
Refined and simple carbohydrates in the form of fructose, sucrose, honey and even fruit juice suppress your white blood cell activity and can paralyze your immune response for as long as 4 to 5 hours.
Manage your stress.
You’ve probably noticed that you’re more apt to get sick following a stressful event or after a difficult period. Stressful situations wreak havoc on the immune system. If you can’t eliminate the stress in your life make sure to counterbalance it with stress reduction methods like meditation, yoga, exercise or simply taking time for yourself.
Make sure to take a good multivitamin and mineral with additional antioxidants.
Studies have shown that antioxidant vitamins A, C and E and the minerals zinc and selenium give our immune systems a powerful boost.
7 more ways to strengthen your immune system:
Wash your hands.
Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Reduce your intake of red meat and alcohol.
Get 20 minutes of sun every day.
Don’t let personal conflicts go unresolved.
Want to stay healthy this flu season? Take care of your immune system and it will take care of you.
Sam Rose, CN MS is a Certified Nutritionist practicing in Santa Monica, CA.