With the winter season come the holidays—and the cold and flu. This year, in particular, flu season has started early and at higher, more aggressive levels than previous years. While there are no guarantees you can avoid a cold or flu, there are a few health tips you can follow to help you keep your immune system strong and avoid falling ill.
- Consider the Flu Vaccine
As the CDC says, getting vaccinated is the single best way to prevent the seasonal flu. However, some people are more hesitant about receiving vaccines or worry about a negative reaction. The CDC shares a helpful list of who can and who shouldn’t receive the flu vaccine, which is helpful to consult. You may also want to speak with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
- Drink a Lot of Fluids
The most common and frequent advice a doctor will share is to drink plenty of water. It helps flush out toxins in your body and can help you recover faster if you do fall ill or feel under the weather. While water is best, you can also enjoy hot tea, which has antioxidants. Add lemon, which thins mucus, and honey, which is antibacterial. If you reach for juice, make sure it’s an option without added sugar. Even better, make your own juice from carrots and apples, or blend a smoothie with fruits and vegetables.
- Wash Your Hands Frequently
It may sound obvious but washing your hands frequently is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after you touch any public doors, walls, elevator buttons…you get the drift. If you can’t always access a bathroom to wash your hands, carry along hand sanitizer. Even when you wash your hands frequently, doctors also recommend you avoid touching your face. If you have any bacteria on your fingers, you may transfer it to your mouth, nose or eyes.
- Up Your Protein and Probiotic Intake
While it’s important to maintain a healthy diet year-round, pay special attention to your protein and probiotic intake during the cold and flu season. Protein plays an important role in your body’s defense mechanism, so eating too little protein can deplete your immune system. Fish and eggs are some of the top sources of protein, as are nuts and legumes for vegans. As for probiotics, these live bacteria can boost your gut health and protect your immune system from foreign invaders like cold and flu bacteria. Greek yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, as are many fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and kombucha.
- Hit the Gym
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong. The World Health Organization recommends adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week. Add a mix of exercise types, such as cardio and weight-lifting. Consider using a DNA test, such as the Pathway Fit iQ, to gain insight into your genetic predisposition for exercise to get the most benefit from endurance and strength training.
- Enjoy Plenty of Fresh Air
Fresh air is beneficial for boosting your immune system and breathing in fresh oxygen. Spending just a few minutes outside each day can also help your body absorb vitamin D from the sun. Take your workouts from the gym to the outdoors, or when you’re home, open a window to increase air flow. This is especially helpful at night so you don’t sleep in a stuffy room where viruses and bacteria can thrive.
- Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can compromise your immune system’s ability to fight off colds and flu. By getting enough sleep, you give your brain and body time to recover from the day and prepare for the next. While eight hours is the general recommendation, you may need more during higher stress seasons, like the holidays, or if you have a high-stress job. Get a solid night’s sleep every night during flu season and, if you do fall ill, sleep more than you normally would to help your body recover faster.
While the cold and flu season is here, following these tips can help you keep your immune system strong, or recover faster if you do get sick. If you have any concerns about your health, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss appropriate preventative health steps to take.