There are plenty of things to love about winter: the festive holiday celebrations, the cozy evenings by the fireplace, the beautiful snow. Or maybe for you, the best part about winter is looking forward to spring.
But we can all agree on one thing—there’s nothing to love about cold and flu season.
The common cold is the leading cause of missed time at work or school, and it is estimated that between about 20 percent of Americans will experience flu-like symptoms this coming winter—but you don’t have to be one of them.
Beat the sniffles and kick the flu to the curb this year with these five simple ways to support your immune health, stay healthy, and decrease your risk of falling victim to the 200-plus viruses that can cause colds.
EXERCISE EVERY DAY
There’s never been a better time to hit the gym on the regular. Moving your body for just thirty minutes a day supports your lymphatic system (your body’s detox system) and increases the presence of leukocytes, the cells in your blood that fight infection.
However, if you are already sick (or just feeling “under the weather”), it’s best to stay home and rest. Exercise will just put further strain on your body and prevent you from getting well quickly.
TAKE YOUR SUPPLEMENTS
If you’re worried that you’re not getting all the immune-boosting nutrients you need from your diet alone, you may want to take a few key supplements during the cold and flu season. Vitamins A, B6, C, D and Zinc all support immune health.
And, as always, it’s important to eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day in order to stay healthy and provide your body with the nourishment it needs to fight off disease.
CUT OUT SUGAR
Processed sugars suppress your body’s immune system, increase inflammation, and reduce white blood cells’ ability to destroy bacteria. So, during a season when sickness abounds, it’s important to limit your sugar intake.
Skip the sugary sodas and coffee drinks and enjoy holiday treats in moderation to support your immune health.
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Whether you’re trying to prevent sickness or recover from sickness, sleep is crucial. Fatigue can increase your susceptibility to illness, and lack of sleep can prevent a speedy recovery.
Take care to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, and cut out caffeine after 3pm to minimize insomnia.
WATCH YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Chronic stress increases your risk for both the common cold and the flu. Stress hormones suppress your immune system, and stress can also lead to insomnia—indirectly affecting your ability to get enough sleep.
The holidays can be a busy (and stressful) season, so be careful to watch your own stress levels and give yourself a break when you need one. You may also want to try adding a mindfulness or meditation practice into your daily routine to minimize stress.
Keep these tips in mind to support your immune system and stay healthy this winter (and all year long)!