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 for dealing with illness when it hits. But what can we do to stay healthy in the first place? Here are six things you can do to help boost your immunity naturally:
Drink plenty of fluids.
Water is the best. Many of us have heard that we should drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. That can be hard to do. Instead, try drinking a glass of water when you wake up to start your day off right. Your body is dehydrated from sleeping, so this is a great way to remedy that immediately. Another tip: If you like warm drinks in the winter, try non-caffeinated teas, which you can include in your daily water tally.
We often think of exercise as a way to prevent chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, or as a way to keep weight in control. But exercise also can contribute to general good health including a healthy immune system. Exercise can promote 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 drains your ability to stay strong. If you have big or little stressors daily, your system is constantly pushed to overcome that stress. One way I de-stress is by giving myself time for “self-care.” This means different things for different people, but essentially it’s doing things that “refill your tank.” I like to read a good book, get a massage or exercise. Even singing or prayer can lift me up.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is a regenerative process for your body. When you are sleep deprived your natural immune cells, or T cells, go down, and inflammatory cytokines (inflammation cells) go up. That means good sleep results in strengthening your immunity.
Eat foods with probiotics.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines probiotics as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit.” Research shows that probiotics are some of the best foods to boost immunity. Include regularly eating fermented and cultured foods that contain probiotics (look for “live active cultures” on the label). Some foods that contain probiotics are:
- unpasteurized sauerkraut and kimchi
- cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir (a thick, creamy and drinkable yogurt), lassi (an Indian drink made from a yogurt or buttermilk base with water) and leban (a liquid or semisolid food made from curdled milk
- tofu, miso, natto (fermented soybeans), shoyu or tamari (types of Japanese soy sauce) and tempeh (an Indonesian dish made from fermented soybeans)
- kombucha (fermented, lightly sweetened black or green tea drink) and kvass (traditional Slavic and Baltic fermented beverage commonly made from rye bread)
If you haven’t tried probiotic foods before, the flavors can be strong, so you may want to start with a little at a time. Even a teaspoon or so a day can help you develop a taste for these beneficial foods. If you want to explore taking a probiotic supplement, talk to your health provider. There are a variety of options available in the vitamin section of natural food stores.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help keep you well. Eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits daily to ensure you’re getting a variety of nutrients. Lean proteins and complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and quinoa, are also part of a healthy diet. Minimize processed foods, sugar and beverages that have no nutrients, like pop.
Although it can be challenging to do all of these things on an ongoing basis, do as much as you can. Consistently taking good care of yourself is the best way to support your overall health and immunity.