We may be able to curl up next to a roaring fire, or at the very least turn our space heaters on full-blast, but we can’t completely escape the effects of a long, cold winter. Because something even scarier than winter coming? Flu season.
You wash your hands ten times a day. You stood in line for a flu shot. You avoid sick coworkers like it’s your actual job. Yet, there is still a chance you’ll catch the flu this year. We get it, life’s not fair, but if you’re looking to up your anti-flu efforts, look no further than your immune system. Let’s examine how you can boost your immune system before flu season rolls in.
This might just be the most enjoyable way to boost your immune system. Eating a healthy diet full of tasty foods will get your body ready to combat any flu or cold viruses that come your way. Have no fear, your favorite foods like Brussels sprouts, garlic, and nuts all make the cut. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are eight vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy immune system:
- Vitamin C (leafy greens, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, papaya)
- Vitamin E (almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seats, spinach, broccoli)
- Vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, squash)
- Vitamin D (orange juice, fortified cereals and milk, fat fish)
- Folate/Folic Acid (beans, peas, leafy green vegetables, enriched and 100 percent whole-grain products)
- Iron (beans, broccoli, kale, lean poultry, sea food)
- Selenium (garlic, broccoli, Brazil nuts, barley, sardines, tuna)
- Zinc (baked beans, chickpeas, oysters, crab, lean meats, poultry, yogurt)
It looks like leafy greens, broccoli, and beans cover a lot of your bases, so whip up a hearty salad for dinner tonight. Bon appétit!
Sweat It Out
Ready for a double whammy of defense? Exercising not only improves your immune system by boosting natural killer cells in the immune system, but it can also enhance vaccination response (you didn’t have a bruise on your arm for three days for nothing). Don’t worry, you don’t need to be running marathons anytime soon — researchers at the University of California-San Diego of Medicine found that as little as 20 minutes of exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects that are beneficial to your immune system.
Catch Some Zs
If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, then it’s time to hit the hay. Late night binge watching The Crown may feel bad in the morning, but it’s nothing a cup of coffee can’t fix, right? Wrong, actually. Studies have shown that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep have increased odds of getting sick when exposed to a virus. Why is a good night’s sleep so important during flu season? When you’re sleeping, your body reduces the production of infection-fighting antibodies and cells. Ouch. Set an alarm at night to remind you to get some shut eye, invest in blackout curtains, or try meditating before bed. Whatever works, make your sleep a priority if you don’t want to use up all of your sick days before Groundhog Day rolls around.
Skip the braces and unrequited school yard crushes, but embrace some of the healthier restrictions that you lived by when younger. Harvard Medical School recommends you put down that cigarette and minimize your alcohol consumption if you want to make your immune system stronger (unfortunately, all those antioxidants in your red wine are basically canceled out by how disruptive alcohol is to your immune system). A study in the journal Alcohol Research Current Reviews warns that alcohol can lead to immune-related health defects as well as a slower recovery time from illness and injury.
There’s some good news though, according to the study, “alcohol consumption does not have to be chronic to have negative health consequences.” Okay, that sounds bad, but what it means is that if you fully plan on indulging with a few mai tais on your spring beach vacation, feel free to, as long as you don’t overindulge year-round or when you want to avoid getting sick. For now, swap that cocktail for cocoa until flu season passes. And in regards to why cigarettes are bad for your immune system, just remember, they’re bad for your entire system. The gist is that the tar and chemicals in cigarette smoke make your immune system less effective at fighting off infections and make your body more susceptible to getting sick.