It’s that time of year again when colds and flu viruses are on the rise. To protect yourself and keep your immune system healthy and strong, follow the suggestions below:
• Consume your antioxidants – those nutrients that keep us protected from free radicals- in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods contain a lot of important vitamins and minerals, including: vitamin B6, vitamins A, C, Selenium and Iron. Think about your food choices and if necessary, keep a food diary. So often, it’s easy to get caught up in consuming comfort foods in the colder months, so be mindful of eating sufficient fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting enough nutrients.
• Take a multivitamin, but talk with your doctor regarding the ratio and amounts of vitamins and minerals you should be taking in. Too much a specific vitamin is not a good thing. For example, doses of Zinc that are over 150 mg can impair resistance to colds while doses below that can improve resistance and immunity. If you experience headaches and stomach upset, you could be ingesting too much of a specific vitamin.
• Research immune boosting herbs. For example, elderberry has been shown to ward off flu viruses; astragulus is an herb known to boost the immune system, and garlic can block enzymes that contribute to viral infections via the agent allicin. A recent study that examined how garlic treats colds found that participants who took garlic supplements had fewer than half the colds that those who did not take them and had fewer sick days as well.
• Get enough sleep and aim for a minimum of 7 hours per night. A 2009 study done by Carnegie Melon revealed that those participants that got 8 or more hours of sleep per night were three times less likely to get a cold than those who got 7 hours or less.
• Get sufficient exercise – at least 45 minutes several days a week. However, be mindful of getting too much exercise. Research showed that marathon runners (in contrast to those that run for recreation) were more likely to contract cold and flu infections.
• Keep your stress level low and include a stress reduction program into your life. Engaging in regular social activities and deep relaxation or meditation are great ways to keep everyday stress at bay and maintain a strong immune system.