We are in the peak of cold and flu season, and as the weather gets colder (or, more erratic in Texas!) and life gets fuller (holiday events! End of year push at work! Final exams at school!), we often forget about doing what it takes to strengthen our immune system. It’s impossible to avoid getting sick all together, but with these tips, I’ll show you how to boost your immune system, so you (hopefully!) have less frequent and less severe sicknesses this cold and flu season.
- Manage stress and get sleep. The most important, for sure, and I understand it’s also often the most difficult. Chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol wreaks havoc on your immune system. (See more on the detrimental impacts of stress here). Lack of sleep, as well, compromises immunity, leaving you susceptible to any illness that comes your way. (See my top tips to improve sleep naturally here.)
- Eat tons of vegetables. Numerous studies show the benefits of eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits when it comes to strengthening your immune system. I firmly believe that one of the reasons I get sick less frequently than most people (despite having dozens of people circulate through my office each week!) is that I consume 8-12 servings of veggies each and every day. Start with a veggie pack, move towards incorporating a veggie with every meal, and build gradually. Want to make it more fun? Check out these 20 healthy spiralized veggie recipes!
- Hydrate. Water keeps your mucus membranes hydrated (very important to trap pathogens and keep them from getting inside you!), helps flush out toxins that do get into your body, and helps carry oxygen to your cells to keep them functioning properly. I’ll spare you the energy boosting, digestive, and overall health benefits, but suffice it to say that there are very few things you could do for your health that would be more powerful than chugging a big glass right now!
- Take probiotics. Did you know that 70-80% of your immune system’s tissue and function is located in your digestive tract? It is so important to keep your gut happy, both for digestion and for keeping out pathogens, and taking a probiotic is one way to do that. I recommend taking one with 10 billion CFU or more (I like this brand), and prefer to take it on an empty stomach in the morning. Astragalus and ecinachea can both be powerful immune boosters, as well, and my favorite for when I’m just starting to feel sick are elderberry and zinc lozenges, but probiotics have the most science behind them, and remain my #1 recommendation.
- Drink bone broth. Did you know that there’s a biological reason we crave chicken soup when we are getting sick? The arginine and collagen in the broth make it incredibly supportive of your immune system; plus, it helps heal the gut and reduce inflammation, both of which contribute to getting sick less frequently. Plus, the soup often contains garlic, which is one of the most potent immune system boosters available.
- Consume less alcohol. Simply put, alcohol impedes your immune system’s function. If you’re getting sick, it can be tempting to drown your sorrows in a glass of wine, but I promise, it’s doing you more harm than good.
- Get some light exercise. Going all out in a HIIT class when you’re super stuffy or feeling sick to your stomach is not a good idea, but getting in some light exercise can improve immunity and reduce illness rate. That’s just one of many benefits of exercise, so get up and get moving!
Now it’s your turn … What is your favorite immune boosting tip? Which do you think is most powerful for you?