It is that time of year again – winter colds are all around us. Two weeks ago my annual fall cold set in and I was coughing and feeling sluggish all week. It is crazy how much a cold can drain your energy and effect your day. Now I am on the mend, finally! Now that my cold has diminished, I am determined keep it away for the rest of the winter! So today for our Friday Five here on Angel Road I thought I would gather together some useful, lesser-known tips to help keep your immune system strong and healthy this winter.
1. Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D. As the colder weather sets in we often spend reduced time outside in sunlight, which is the ideal way to obtain Vitamin D. However, there are some other great ways to still get vitamin D: mushrooms and egg yolks for example, maybe have a vegetable omelet for breakfast. Many people reach for supplements of Vitamin D in the colder months when we spend less time outside and when the common workday prevents exposure to sunlight. Not all supplements are created equal – look for oil based supplements such as cod liver oil.
2. Consider adding probiotics into your routine. ‘Pro ’ what you ask? Probiotics provide good bacteria to aid the functioning of your gut, reduce inflammation and improve your immune system. Your gut plays a major factor in protecting your body so it needs to be strong and well functioning. Probiotics can come in supplement form but we like to simply grab a Kombucha Tea every once and while from the health food store.
3. A surprising nutrient to also contemplate is Zinc which can bolster your immune system. If you do come down with the dreaded cold, zinc will help reduce the time frame of your cold and could cut your cold down by two or three days. Zinc aids the thymus glands and can help you recover quickly. Pumpkin seeds (the perfect snack in the fall) nuts, beans, spinach or mushrooms are all foods that contain zinc.
4. A key factor in the strength of our immune systems is the function of our white blood cells. It is important to be mindful of what foods we ingest that can negatively affect our white blood cell function. Reach for foods that have lots of antioxidant vitamins such as carrots, onions, spinach, brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. Fruit is also great, especially apples, kiwi, citrus fruits, berries and red grapes. Another thing to consider is your alcohol consumption; while drinking in moderation is fine, too much alcohol can inhibit your white blood cell function. For more advice on what vitamins to have in your diet and what foods to eat to aid your immune system, this Harvard Health article is very helpful.
5. To keep our immune system strong and ready to fight off infection we should consider what we put into our bodies, but also how we treat our bodies. Stress is a major influencers to a diminished immune system, making you more likely to catch a cold. Many of us too often accept stress as an inevitable part of life, but simple short meditation or aromatherapy treatments can make a world of difference. We also need to make sleep a priority. When we sleep our body has time to re-nourish itself, mend and fight off infection. If you feel a cold coming on, be sure to aim for 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Regular exercise has also shown to help fight off infection due to the stronger white blood cells that are developed through exercise. Routine exercise also helps to release your endorphins allowing your body to relax and aid your sleep. However, when you feeling slightly under the weather do not push your self too hard, take it easy and maybe take a walk or go to yoga. Of course, the age old lesson from our mothers’ still applies, some fresh air or deep breathing can do wonders. Head out for a walk or open your windows to let in some fresh air.