The kids are back in school, the air is crisp, and leaves are beginning to fall. You know what that means—cold and flu season is upon us. Who has the time (or desire) to get hit by one of this season’s ugliest bugs? No one, that’s who! Prepare yourself before you get sick with these immune-boosting tips.
1. Eat pumpkin. This popular fall veg is chock full of antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamins like vitamins A and C. These have been proven to help prevent and shorten the length of the common cold. Another bonus: According to a study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, taking pumpkin seed oil can help postmenopausal women reduce their risk of, and possibly prevent, hypertension. Add pumpkin puree to your next smoothie, roast some for soup, or add pumpkin seeds to your afternoon snack stash.
2. Get the Flu Shot! You’ve heard it a hundred times, but we’re going to tell you again—it’s time for an annual flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone over 6 months should have an annual flu shot, especially if they’re at high risk of flu-related complications. This includes those over 65, diabetics, pregnant women, young children, asthmatics, those suffering from heart disease or stroke, people with cancer or HIV/AIDS, and children with neurological disorders. “The best way to prevent seasonal flu,” they say, “is to get vaccinated every year.” The vaccine is readily available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies and is offered as an injection or nasal spray. More detailed information on the flu shot can be found here!
3. Wash Your Hands! This one’s obvious, but worth repeating—even those of us with the best intentions can slack on hand washing. Been to the park with the kids? Wash your hands. Took the subway to work? Wash your hands. Went to the grocery store? Yep, you’ve got it – wash your hands! Use warm water and soap. Lather up and sing a verse of happy birthday (slowly) before rinsing the bubbles away. This is your best protection against contracting a bug.
4. Get to Bed! We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep. Getting enough zzz’s can help increase work performance, boost memory, increase longevity, and decrease the risk of diseases. Sleeping enough (we’re talking 7 to 9 hours each night) can also boost immunity. According to a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, getting plenty of sleep can affect your endocrine system, which is responsible for your hormones, to help you ward off a cold, flu, and other diseases.
5. Relax! Stress does bad things to our bodies. In addition to increasing our blood pressure, being stressed boosts our risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and various mental disorders. When we’re stressed, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone essential for the fight-or-flight response. Too much of this hormone can have adverse effects on all bodily systems, including immune function. Decrease tension the natural way by deep breathing, meditating, having a massage, and stretching regularly.
6. Eat well. It’s no surprise that eating well is important to good health. Fueling your body vitamin-rich foods like fruits and vegetables can help ward off illnesses. Some cold-fighting superstars include: pumpkin, citrus fruits, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, yogurt, and turmeric. Add these to your meals for an added boost. Plus, cut down on refined carbs and sugar to optimize your immune health.
7. Exercise. Add exercise to your daily routine. Even a half hour walk is enough to reap illness-fighting benefits. According to MedlinePlus, official site of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, exercise could help prevent or rid your body of a cold. Some believe physical activity could clear bacteria from your lungs, prevent bacteria from growing, and slow the release of cortisol related to stress, among other bonuses. Time to get moving!