As the last of the leaves make their final descent, the cold, harsh reality of winter begins to set in. That of chilled extremities, short days, and the inevitable fight with the cold and/or flu. While no one can promise you that you won’t get sick this winter, there are ways to maximize your chances of staying healthy, all without resorting to heavy duty medications or potentially harmful antimicrobial agents. From immune boosting elixirs to simple routines to incorporate into your day, a guide to fighting for your right to a healthy immune system.
Get Some Sleep
Seems so easy, doesn’t it? While it’s a simple solution, it’s also an extremely effective one. Sleep is critical if you want to maintain a strong immune system, your ultimate defense against getting sick. If you’re not getting enough shut-eye, your body doesn’t have the chance to recharge and strengthen itself which leaves you more vulnerable to all those nasty bugs and viruses running rampant this time of year. Make getting a solid 8 hours a priority and take a little extra time to establish a solid sleep environment. Clear your bedroom of unnecessary clutter, keep your bedding clean and cozy, avoid using your computer, phone, or tablet just before going to sleep, and try incorporating a little mindful meditation into your pre-bed routine.
Again, a no brainer but so important in the fight against seasonal maladies. A diet rich in nutrients helps your body stay strong and resist infection. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, try starting your day with a green smoothie. They’re a breeze to prepare, they taste delicious, and they pack a powerful nutritional punch. If you’re stuck for ideas, consult the recipes at the bottom of this page for a little inspiration. Looking to add some immune boosting super foods to your diet? Try eating more kefir, oats, garlic, sweet potatoes, turmeric, kale, and ginger.
According to research, moderate exercise (we’re talking an hour a day or so) helps boost immune function, thereby reducing your chances of catching a cold. If an hour a day seems daunting, try breaking it up. A brisk walk in the morning or during your coffee break, some yoga to decompress after work, a family stroll after dinner, and already you’ve fulfilled your daily requirement. Because it can be hard to get motivated to get outside when it’s cold and dark out, consider signing up for some classes. It’s a great way to socialize and get some exercise all at once and chances are, if you’ve already committed to it, you’ll feel more inclined to attend.
Practice Nasal Irrigation
Bring up the subject of Neti pots and you’re likely to encounter two camps: those who swear by it and those who swear they’ll never do it. The concept is pretty simple. Fill a small, gravy boat-like vessel with warm water and salt and pour into your nostril to cleanse your sinuses. It sounds painful but in reality, when done correctly, it’s entirely painless and can actually become a soothing daily practice. Nasal irrigation is a great way to clear debris out of your nasal passages (excellent if you live in the city and inhale exhaust fumes and other pollutants all day) and helps keep your sinuses clear and less susceptible to infection. Once you get into the habit, using your Neti pot is as easy as brushing your teeth. Just make sure that you always use distilled or previously boiled water to avoid any water-borne contaminants.
Wash Your Hands
While there’s no need to get too vigilant, making the effort to wash your hands regularly can go a long way as far as cold and flu prevention is concerned. If you think about all the things you touch on a daily basis (subway poles, grocery cart handles, elevator buttons, door knobs), you start to realize that you’re sharing germs with a lot more people than you’d initially suspected. It’s not so much the touching that causes the problem, it’s the subsequent contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth that can spread the infection. That being said, you don’t have to go crazy with antibacterial soaps or gels. Just simple soap and water will do the trick.
Thanks to the colder weather, thermostats are cranked this time of year, leaving the air that we breathe a lot dryer than our bodies are keen on. Hydration is key when it comes to supporting optimal immune function so make sure that you’re getting plenty of water throughout the day in order to replenish depleted stores. If you find that you feel parched at home, try setting up a vaporizer in your bedroom to keep the air moist. Some find that leaving bowls of water sitting around a room can also help, especially if the environment is especially arid. In addition to getting plenty to drink, don’t forget to keep your lips and nose well moisturized. Cracked skin is more susceptible to infection so before going to bed, apply a heavy duty moisturizer like Aquaphor or Vaseline to your lips and around your nostrils.
Immune Boosting Smoothie Recipes
Kale (2 large leaves)
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup almond milk
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 cup water
Throw all ingredients into a blender, blend until smooth. Add more water or almond milk if you’d like the consistency to be a little thinner.
Spinach (1 large handful)
1 beet, quartered
1 apple, quartered
1 cup frozen berries
Generous sprinkling of hemp hearts
2 cups water
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until desired you’ve reached your desired consistency. Feel free to add more water if it seems too thick.
1 beet, quartered
1 apple, quartered
1 carrot, chopped
1 knob ginger, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups water
Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.