It's winter, and the flu and cold season is here to stay for a while. Many of us have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to dealing with illness when it hits us. However, as they say, precaution is better than cure.
So what can we do to stay healthy in the first place? Here are six things you can do to take care of your immune system:
- Drink lots of fluids.
Water is the absolute best. Many of us have heard that we should drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. That can be difficult to do. Instead, try drinking a glass of water when you wake up to give your day a healthy start. Your body needs water after a night of being dehydrated, so this is a great way to remedy that immediately.
And here’s another tip: If you like warm drinks in the winter, try non-caffeinated teas or decaf coffee as they are way healthier than their caffeinated alternatives.
- Exercise regularly.
We often think of exercise as a way to prevent diseases, such as heart issues and high blood pressure, or as a way to keep weight in control. But exercise also can contribute to an overall good health including a healthy immune system. Exercise can lead to good blood circulation, which allows your cells and substances of the immune system to move through your body freely to do their job efficiently.
- Stress less.
Stress drains your ability to stay strong and healthy. If you have big or little stressors daily, your system is constantly pushed to overcome that stress. One should always take out some time for "self-care." This means different things for different people, but essentially it's doing things that rejuvenate you.
- Get a good night's sleep.
Sleep is basically a regenerative process for your body. When you are sleeping, your natural immune cells, or T cells, go down, and inflammatory cytokines (inflammation cells) go up. That means good sleep results in strengthening of your immunity.
- Eat foods with probiotics.
Include regularly eating fermented and cultured foods that contain probiotics (look for "live active cultures" on the label) as they not only boost your immunity but are great for your gut’s health. Some foods that contain probiotics are:
- unpasteurized sauerkraut & kimchi
- cottage cheese, yogurt, lassi
If you haven't tried probiotic foods before, the flavors can be strong, so you may want to start with smaller quantities. Even a teaspoon or so a day can help you develop a taste for these amazingly healthy foods.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential to keep you well. The best diet plans are those that include a rainbow of vegetables and fruits daily to ensure you're getting a variety of nutrients. Lean proteins and complex carbohydrates, like chicken, oats and quinoa, are also part of a healthy diet. Minimize processed foods, sugar and beverages that have no nutritional value at all.
Although it can be challenging to do all of these things on an ongoing basis, do as much as you can to ensure you adhere to a healthy meal plan.