Boost Your Immune System to Avoid Getting Sick This Winter

Originally posted by Brynn on rxnutrition.ca 11/16/14

It is officially cold and flu season - it seems like one after another everyone around me is getting sick. It is hard to avoid being around people who are sick and no one wants to quarantine themselves all winter so the it is important get our immune system working for us and fighting off all these circulating germs. 

Here’s 8 SIMPLE ways to boost your immune system to avoid getting sick this winter: 

1. Eat a balanced diet with whole foods.
This is very straightforward but our body needs a lot of nutrients to support our immune system.  Vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as minerals selenium and zinc support your immune system. Eating clean, natural foods i.e. plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds is important to staying healthy.  Avoid processed and fried foods, soft drinks, and artificial sweeteners or refined sugars as they tend suppress the immune system.

2. Stay Clean
Good hygiene is half the battle against cold and flu viruses. Make sure to wash your hands regularly especially after being around people who are sick. Also try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. 

3. Get some zzz’s
Try and get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. The body rejuvenates and strengthens when it’s at rest.

4. Get friendly with your friendly bacteria  
Did you know that 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system? This means that keeping a healthy gut is very important to keep a strong immune system. Probiotics are good bacteria that can be found in fermented foods, such as raw sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kimchi or my favourite source kombucha, or in the form of supplements. 

Also, try to avoid taking antibiotics. Though they are helpful in fighting the bacteria causing infections, they also attack your healthy bacteria in the digestive system and suppress immune function. If you really have to take them then make sure to take good quality probiotics! 

5. Exercise
Exercise not only makes you look and feel great, it also increases our immune function, improves sleep quality, and makes our body stronger. 

6. Catch some rays 
Vitamin D directly boosts the immune system by promoting the release and activities of immune cells, which help destroy cold and flu viruses. 

So if you are lucky enough to see the sun in the winter try to go outside without sunscreen a few times a week for about 30 minutes when the sun is not the strongest. If you live in a cold climate like me, taking Vitamin D supplements is recommended, especially during the winter months. 

7. Use herbs and spices.
Eat and cook with onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, oregano, curry, and turmeric. They all have natural antibiotic, anti fungal or antibacterial properties or contain components that help to boost our immune system. 

8. Relax! 
Ever notice when you are stressed, you tend to get sick? When I was in University, I would get sick every exam period! Chronic stress and depression weakens the immune system and makes us more vulnerable to illness. It’s important to take the time to relax and have fun!

Already caught something or starting to feel sick? Try some natural remedies before taking OTC drugs or antibiotics.  

Oil of Oregano

  • Oregano oil is a potent natural antibiotic and antiviral
  • When you feel a sore throat coming on, gargle water with a couple drops a couple times a day 
  • Or drink a couple drops in a glass of water to help kill flu or infection 

Hot water with honey and lemon

  • This one is simple and most people do it already. Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion and help prevent dehydration.
  • Lemon helps to alkanize your body as disease thrives in an acidic environment. It also has natural antibacterial properties and high levels of vitamin C. 
  • Raw honey offers tons of protection against germs due to its strong antibacterial and anti-microbial properties 

Epsom Salt Bath

  • Taking a bath is not only relaxing when you are sick, but Epsom Salt Baths can be really beneficial as they detox the body, improve circulation, reduce stress, and also relieve inflammation

Steam   

  • Steam will help relieve congestion. Take a hot shower or steam your face with hot water and a few drops of essential oil, such as eucalyptus