Transitioning from summer into fall can be tricky, particularly if you have a somewhat weak immune system. A cold is easily caught!
No time to spare on a cold this year? Try beefing up your immune system as a first line of defence against winter-time illnesses.
The immune system is your body’s natural defence system. It’s an intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that band together to defend your body against invaders. Those invaders can include bacteria, viruses, parasites, even a fungus, all with the potential to make us sick. They are everywhere – in our homes, offices, and backyards. A healthy immune system protects us by first creating a barrier that stops those invaders, or antigens, from entering the body. And if one slips by the barrier, the immune system produces white blood cells, and other chemicals and proteins that attack and destroy these foreign substances. They try to find the antigen and get rid of it before it can reproduce. Failing that, the immune system revs up even more to destroy the invaders as they multiply.
The immune system can recognize millions of different antigens. And it can produce what it needs to eradicate nearly all of them. When it’s working properly, this elaborate defence system can keep health problems ranging from serious illnesses to a common cold.
And although most people recover within a week from a cold, that’s a week of misery you don’t have to suffer through! There’s no single pill or supplement you can take to boost your immune system. Instead, adopting these healthy living habits cannot only support the immune system this fall, but help improve your immunity for a lifetime! So here are a few tips to protect you from getting ill this season and boost your immune system.
Eat a Healthy Diet – a poor diet can hurt your immune system as much as a healthy diet can improve it! A diet high in empty calories not only leads to gain weight, but it can leave you more prone to infections. Plus, being overweight is associated with a number of health problems that can also drag your immune system down.
Eating food high in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, can boost your overall health and help protect you from viruses and flu germs. Dark leafy greens, berries, salmon, and sweet potatoes help build up your immune system’s defences and consuming citrus fruits will help clear out cold/flu viruses quickly. Five cups of fruits and veggies a day is recommended.
Other immune-boosting foods include fresh garlic, mushrooms and onions which may have antiviral and antibiotic properties. Choose lean cuts of protein if you eat meat, and avoid refined sugar whenever possible.
Get plenty of rest – stay balanced this season by prioritizing rest and relaxation. Sleep is part of the cure for many health ailments and is linked to a strong immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get enough quality sleep (quality being the key word here) every night, which is between seven and nine hours, depending on the individual, have weaker immune systems and are more prone to illness.
Regular bouts with insomnia may not only leave you feeling fatigued during the day, but also leave you vulnerable to illnesses, including colds, flu, and other infections. Long term, poor sleep also has been shown to increase the risk of other health problems, including obesity and diabetes.
Get Moving – Shedding calories and maintaining an exercise regimen this season can reduce your risk of wintertime sniffles.
Sitting around not only can leave you feeling sluggish, it also can make your immune system sluggish. Exercise, on the other hand, helps boost immunity and even small amounts are effective. Get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes most days of the week to see benefits. This can include fast walking, aerobics, cycling– almost any activity that makes you break a sweat!
Practice stress management – When your body is under constant stress, you’re more vulnerable to everything from the common cold to major diseases. That’s because a steady cascade of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, weaken the immune system. Chronic stress is linked to heart disease and hypertension, and it can also have an effect on white blood cell function. Look what you can do to manage your stress, whether it be meditating, practice yoga or a long relaxing walk.
Wash and Repeat – keep bad germs and bacteria at bay by washing your hands frequently and properly – especially before eating, handling food or touching your face. Aim for at least 20 seconds of scrubbing (not just a quick rub) and rinse away.
Cover up – with the quick change in weather our bodies are more likely to catch a bug. Cover up once the chill starts; especially the back of your neck. Welcome back a high collar sweater and cozy scarves.
Having said all this, don’t let the fear of a fall cold keep you from enjoying the season! Bundle up and get outside while you can; winter will be here before you know it…
Take care this fall and remember prevention is key!