10 Tips To Boost Your Immunity And Avoid Getting Sick This Flu Season
We learned many things from the Covid-19 pandemic, one of which was how important it is to keep our immune system healthy. Luckily, we can take that same logic into flu season.
From viruses in the workplace to kids passing them around at school, we all know that flu season is inevitable. We can take action by washing our hands regularly, but there are also other ways we can reduce our risk of getting the flu by boosting our immune systems. Here are 10 of our favorite ways to naturally boost our immune systems.
1. Increase Your Vitamin C and Zinc Intake
It's safe to say that we're aware that vitamin C and zinc are good for our immune system – they help fight off invading viruses and bacteria. Zinc “activates enzymes that break down proteins in viruses and bacteria so they are less able to spread,” as well as “increases the activation of cells responsible for fighting infection.” Vitamin C “stimulates both the production and function” of white blood cells and antibodies, as well as protects your body from the collateral damage of fighting off infections.
Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, kale, strawberries, papayas, and sweet yellow peppers. Foods high in zinc include meat, shellfish, nuts, dark chocolate, and eggs. While it’s smart to take supplements if you don’t eat enough of these foods, be sure to ask your doctor to run blood work to determine the right dosage for you.
2. Work On Your Gut Health
Gut health is linked to mental health, and it’s also linked to a strong immune system. Research shows that mice with stronger guts were healthier and had stronger immune systems, and the same goes for humans. You can improve your gut health by eating foods high in fiber, like fruits and vegetables, as well as those that contain probiotics, such as fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha.
3. Get Some Sunlight
Basking in the sun doesn’t only feel good, but it’s good for you too. Natural sunlight contains vitamin D, and vitamin D is an important nutrient when it comes to immunity. Though you should prioritize getting some sunshine everyday, it’s difficult (or impossible) to do so in some climates during the winter. Make sure to get your vitamin D levels tested to see what dosage you need of a vitamin D supplement, and try to eat foods rich in vitamin D like salmon, sardines, eggs, mushrooms, and dairy products.
Vitamin C stimulates both the production and function of white blood cells and antibodies.
4. Get Enough Sleep
We all have busy lives, and sometimes we put a good night’s sleep on the back burner. This is a huge mistake, as getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our immune health. According to UC Health, “When we sleep, our bodies produce a protein called cytokines, which target infection and inflammation, creating an immune response. Our bodies also produce T-cells during sleep, which are white blood cells that play a critical role in our body’s immune response to an infectious disease.”
Experts believe that “adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.”
5. Eat Foods That Boost Your Immune System
While it’s smart to include foods high in vitamin C and zinc during flu season, naturally anti-viral foods, like garlic, onion, ginger, and turmeric, are also good for immunity.
6. Drink Plenty of Water
Hydration is important during any time of year, but it’s especially important during flu season. This is because hydration helps your lymphatic system work properly. According to Nutri Advanced, “Being well hydrated is also important for a well-functioning lymphatic system which works closely with the immune system. The lymphatic system relies heavily on a clear and colorless fluid called lymph which is made up of about 90% water. Less body water content may mean less lymph production. A well-functioning lymphatic system helps to remove toxins, waste, debris, abnormal cells and pathogens from the system; it also helps to transport infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body.”
7. Know How To Manage Your Stress Levels
Similar to how gut health is linked to mental health and immunity, stress is related to your gut and immune system. According to the American Psychological Association, stress negatively affects every system in our bodies. “Glucocorticoids, including cortisol, are important for regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation. While this is valuable during stressful or threatening situations where injury might result in increased immune system activation, chronic stress can result in impaired communication between the immune system and the HPA axis. This impaired communication has been linked to the future development of numerous physical and mental health conditions, including chronic fatigue, metabolic disorders (e.g., diabetes, obesity), depression, and immune disorders.”
Stress negatively affects every system in our bodies, including our immune system.
Know how to manage your stress levels to strengthen your immune system. Whether it’s setting healthy boundaries at work or making time for yoga and meditation every day, make stress management a priority this flu season.
8. Work Out Regularly
We’re not saying that you have to work out every day (though it wouldn’t hurt), but upping your fitness routine can boost your immune system. Experts believe that adults should engage in "at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week" (that’s 21.4 minutes a day), which you can easily fit in with a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Exercising outside will help you get some sunlight, as well as decrease your stress levels – both of which are good for your immune system.
9. Increase Your Protein Intake
Many are aware of the fitness benefits of increasing your protein intake, but did you also know that it’s good for our immune systems? Teresa Cutter, co-founder of The Healthy Chef, writes, “Protein is made up of amino acids that are essential nutrients you can’t live without. Protein’s main function is to build and repair, as well as sustain muscle. The body is unable to maintain an adequate store of protein as we do fats and carbohydrates. So, a good quality protein shake or smoothie is a convenient and delicious way of ensuring you meet your daily protein intake to assist with recovery and to support a healthy immune system.”
She continues, “Without protein we would not exist. In a nutshell, dietary protein plays the following role in regards to immune health: Supports a healthy immune system - Helps you recover + repair - Builds antibodies - Boosts Immunity - promotes the synthesis of glutathione required for a healthy immune system.”
Needless to say, it’s important to up your protein intake during flu season. Invest in a good-quality protein powder or eat more foods high in protein like lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, and nuts.
10. Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
While we love to indulge in fall and holiday themed cocktails, it’s important to acknowledge that alcohol and immunity don’t get along very well. Back in 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised people to reduce their alcohol consumption (even though many of us were drinking more at home) to increase our chances of having a milder case of Covid-19 if we ended up getting it. They wrote, “Alcohol consumption is associated with a range of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and mental health disorders, which can make a person more vulnerable to Covid-19. In particular, alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes.”
While it’s nice to have a drink or two on a Friday night, be sure to limit your alcohol intake to strengthen your immune system. You can certainly still drink in moderation, but it's best to prioritize your immune health over alcohol consumption.
We all know that flu season is inevitable, but getting the flu isn’t. Use these strategies to improve your immune system to avoid getting sick this season; you’ll thank us later.
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