Winter is coming and, especially with the cold and flu season, it’s important to know what we can do to keep a strong and balanced immune system to stay healthy and avoid infections.
1. Eat a balanced diet with whole foods.
You need many nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as minerals selenium and zinc, and Omega 3s, to support your immune system. Focus on eating whole foods, such as quality animal protein (if you're an omnivore), legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, as well as plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Superfoods such as bee pollen, camu camu, reishi mushroom, and micro algae can give you an extra boost.
Avoid processed meats, fried foods, soft drinks, processed baked goods, or products with artificial sweeteners or refined sugars. Eating too much of them suppresses the immune system.
2. Get plenty of vitamin C.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are our best sources of vitamin C, which help to strengthen our immune system and keep our body healthy. Great food sources of vitamin C include berries, citrus, kiwi, bell peppers, and dark green vegetables.
3. Use herbs and spices.
Cook with onions, garlic, ginger, black peppercorn, cayenne pepper, allspice, curry, and turmeric. They contain components that help to boost our immune system.
4. Drink plenty of clean water.
Water helps in the production of lymph, which carries white blood cells and other immune system cells. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your health. For an extra boost, add a slice of lemon, which will provide extra vitamin C.
5. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day.
Chronic fatigue is known to increase risks of illness. The body rejuvenates and strengthens when it’s at rest. If you can, sleep 7 to 8 hours a day, and if needed, take an afternoon nap. Your body will thank you.
6. Say hello to friendly bacteria.
It’s known that about 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system. So keeping a healthy gut is very important to keep a strong immune system. Probiotics are good bacteria that can be found in whole and fermented foods, such as raw sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, kimchi and microalgae, or in the form of supplements. If you take supplements, it’s best to choose a brand that offers different sources of bacteria and one that's ideally refrigerated.
7. If possible, avoid antibiotics.
As much as possible, try to avoid antibiotics. They've been shown to attack beneficial bacteria in the digestive system and suppress immune functions. Unless you really have to take them, see if you can find a natural alternative first.
If you have a cold, sip on a cup of hot water with lemon, ginger, and organic honey. You can also get echinacea or zinc, which are great for flu and cold. Make sure you get plenty of vitamin C and drink a lot of water. If you're taking antibiotics or any other medication, take quality probiotics.
Exercising is not only a great way to get in shape, but it also increases our immune function, improves sleep quality, and makes our body stronger. If you do not have any health conditions that prevent you from exercising, find the time to workout, even if it’s only a long walk!
9. Soak up some sun.
Vitamin D is important to strengthen our immune system, so try to go outside a few times a week for about 30 minutes, without sunscreen, when the sun is not at its highest. You can also get small doses of vitamin D from fatty fish.
10. Relax, laugh, and enjoy life.
Chronic stress and depression can weaken the immune system and makes us more vulnerable to illness. It’s important to take the time to enjoy life and have fun!