Sometimes, avoiding cold and flu viruses is impossible. This is especially likely to be true if you’re around many people at work or you have kids going off to school who may bring viruses back with them. However, what you can do is boost your immune system to fight off viruses before they cause an infection. The great news is many of the natural ways to boost immune system function also improve your overall health — it’s a win–win situation! Here are some options to try.
1. Eat More Vegetables
Eating a balanced diet is important for your health in all sorts of ways. In particular, vegetables contain the vitamins you need for a strong immune system. Top choices include arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. These and other cruciferous vegetables may increase the number of cell surface proteins that are crucial for an immune response.
A study in mice found that a lack of vegetables led to a decrease in these cell proteins, which could result in less efficient immune function.
In addition, making sure your meals contain a colorful range of vegetables will help increase your vitamin C intake. This can prevent colds and flu, especially if you’re stressed.
2. Stay Active
The cold weather may make you lose motivation to exercise — but it’s important to stay fit if you want to avoid colds and flu. There are a few reasons why exercising matters so much. For one thing, staying active helps reduce your stress levels by decreasing the amount of stress hormones your body releases. This prevents illness exacerbated by stress. Another reason is it improves the circulation of white blood cells, which are your first line of defense against viruses and microbes.
Exercise also reduces inflammation, helping you to recover faster and preventing chronic illnesses. To see these results, stick to an exercise schedule and try to be as active as possible throughout the winter.
3. Increase Your Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is important for all sorts of health reasons, including bone maintenance and cardiovascular function. It also contributes to a strong immune system. Since a top source of vitamin D is sunlight, it becomes harder to find just when you need it most.
The good news is vitamin D is also present in several types of food, including egg yolks, fish like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, and liver. If you have dark skin, it’s especially important to receive sufficient vitamin D from your diet, as you’ll absorb less from the sunlight than someone with light skin. To gain extra, you can purchase supplements — those containing vitamin D3 (also called cholecalciferol) are best because D3 specifically raises the level of vitamin in your blood.
4. Reduce Stress
Stress is often linked to illness — that includes making you more susceptible to colds and flu. The reason for this is that stress releases the hormone cortisol, which has an important function in reducing inflammation and fighting disease. However, when your body is constantly producing the hormone, it becomes less effective, meaning you’re less well-equipped to fight viruses.
It’s important to find ways to relieve stress. This could include taking more time for self-care by incorporating activities like yoga and meditation into your daily routine.
5. Sleep Enough
Make sure you sleep enough every night to give your immune system the chance to destroy viruses before they can affect you. Studies have found that consistently sleeping at least eight hours a night gives the body sufficient time to resist cold and flu viruses, meaning you’ll be less likely to fall sick. This may be because your body produces proteins called cytokines during long periods of sleep, which help regulate the immune system and contribute toward the fight against an infection.
6. Use Essential Oils
Each essential oil has its own unique benefits and many can boost the immune system. As well as keeping colds and flu at bay, they can reduce symptoms and discomfort if you do have the sniffles. They can also help you to destress. You can use essential oils in all sorts of ways, including in a diffuser, in bathwater, or by applying a few drops to your pillow.
7. Cut Down on Alcohol
People are often tempted to drink more during winter. More activities involve being indoors, and alcohol tends to be on offer during holiday parties. However, it’s best to cut down on drinking or even to avoid alcohol entirely. This is because alcohol can damage dendritic cells, which play an important role in immunity. Less alcohol means healthier dendritic cells and, therefore, a stronger immune system.
8. Drink More Green Tea
If you’re looking for a drink to warm up on a cold winter’s day, green tea is a top choice. It’s packed with antioxidants, which provide a huge number of health benefits. As it’s best to drink a few cups a day, you may like to replace your regular coffee with green tea.
9. Receive a Flu Vaccine
Prepare your body to fight the flu virus by getting vaccinated. Since there’s a different influenza virus in circulation every year, it’s important to receive an annual shot.
10. Improve Your Hygiene Practices
You can limit your risk of exposure to viruses as well as bacteria and other germs by practicing good hygiene. Avoid family members catching something from each other by ensuring no one shares towels, drinking glasses, utensils, or toothbrushes. In addition, make sure your family members (sick or otherwise) always cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing.
Keep your home as germ free as possible by disinfecting surfaces, doorknobs, and items you need to share like remote controls, keyboards, and toys. Finally, wash your hands frequently (paying attention to your fingernails), especially before cooking, eating, or putting in contact lenses.
At LaCura, we have essential oils specifically chosen to boost your immune system. Use them regularly throughout the winter to protect yourself from colds and flu. Then, continue the good habit to fight off other illnesses during the rest of the year. Check out our shop to find the right products for you.