Every winter it’s the same thing: colds, flus, and the general feeling of being under the weather. And this year, as with all years prior, your immune system is under constant attack. Of course, you don’t have to succumb to the ailments that seem to strike every time the weather turns cold. And you don’t have to rely on pharmaceutical means of bolstering your immune system in order to stave off illness. There are plenty of natural ways to boost your body’s natural immunity that don’t require a medicinal overload. So if you’re looking for a kinder, gentler way to avoid the many bugs that go around when the mercury plummets, here are just a few natural ways to keep your immune system strong throughout the year.
Get Your ZZZ’s
One of the very best things you can do for the health of your immune system, and well, for your health in general, is to get plenty of sleep, especially when your body is under attack from the kinds of pathogens that find stability in the cold, dry air of winter. The time you spend sleeping allows your body to rest and repair itself from the damages of the day. Sleep not only improves your mental state, but it gives your body the best opportunity to fight off illness. And when you fail to get the recommended eight hours a night, you compromise your immune system, hindering its ability to do its job. The good news is that your body will eventually force you to get the rest you need, but you probably don’t want your reason for sleeping to be the fact that you’re fighting off a cold or flu.
Studies have shown that viruses flourish in cold, dry conditions, which is perhaps why cold and flu bugs seem to be more prevalent in the winter. However, the other part of the equation is that your body is also drier in the winter. Both the cold air outside and the constantly running HVAC system inside your home can contribute to your mucus membranes drying out, and these are your first line of defense against airborne pathogens. In order to keep this essential part of your immune system functioning properly, it’s important that you stay hydrated. So if you’re already committed to drinking eight glasses of water every day, you might want to try upping the ante by working in other fluids like fresh-squeezed juices, tea, and even more water.
Up Your Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is not only responsible for giving you a sunny disposition, but it is also a major contributor to immune system strength. And as you may know, the best source of vitamin D is the sun, which is why many people tend to suffer from lower levels of this essential nutrient during the winter months. That said, there are plenty of natural ways to get your vitamin D when the sun is on sabbatical. It’s probably best to avoid the synthesized version of vitamin D found in supplements unless they are recommended by your health care provider. Not all supplements are created equal. Other ways to boost your vitamin D levels can be found in common foods. Try to work egg yolks, salmon (ONLY wild caught), and organ meats into your diet this winter.
This fermented tea has gained major popularity of late because of the digestion-friendly probiotics it delivers. But how can it help your immune system? Most people don’t realize the important role that the gut plays in immunity. And pathogens can enter your system in a variety of ways, including through the foods you ingest. Keeping your digestive system strong and healthy is therefore an excellent means of contributing to overall immune strength. Although you don’t necessarily want to go overboard with the probiotics, adding them to your diet can help you to feel great and fight illness. Again, a supplemental probiotic can be beneficial, but they too are not created equal. Always consult your health care provider before adding any supplement.
Work in Some Cold Weather Workouts
Exercising when you’re ill probably sounds antithetical. And the truth is that you should give your body a break when you’re sick so that it can devote available energy and resources to fighting the virus or bacterial infection attacking it. However, fitness and health go hand in hand, so you shouldn’t give up on regular exercise just because it’s snowing and blowing outside. Instead of jogging, strap on some skis and get outside for some cross-country exertion. Or hit up the local YMCA. You could swim a few laps or play a game of squash with a friend.
Keeping yourself in shape not only makes you feel great and helps you stave off major illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, but moderate exercise can also help your body stop cold and flu bugs, or at least lessen the intensity and duration of such ailments. So really, your best chances to naturally boost your immune system involve the same common sense rules doctors have been touting for years: eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
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