Every year we dread the coming of winter months; knowing wholeheartedly that once temperatures start to drop, the consequential influx of colds and flus runs rampant. When this season hits, it’s important to remember that some of the most simple precautions will help us stay safe in the long run. Take note of these tips to keep you healthy and happy this year:
The first and foremost defense against colds and flus is handwashing. Since our hands are one of the first points of contact, they usually also end up being the culprit when we get sick. Without washing our hands, germs accumulate and get deposited on various surfaces we touch - handrails, toys, table tops, even other people. Same goes for food and different parts of our own bodies, like our eyes, nose and mouth. Research estimates that routine handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections up to 21% and prevent up to a million deaths each year. Even something as simple as using hand sanitizer can help reduce the spread of infection and ensure you, and those around you, stay healthy and safe.
However, we need to ensure we’re alert and awake enough to remember to take these little safety measures, which means that getting enough sleep is also just as important to your immune system. Fatigue not only affects our proficiency at work, but it also influences the vulnerability of your immune system, making you susceptible to illnesses of all sorts. Ensure you get a good night’s sleep by creating a comfortable environment and engaging in relaxing activities before bed. Be sure to read up in our last blog post: The Good Science Behind Sleep (link below) on the other benefits that come along with a refreshing night’s rest.
Physical exercise is the next preventative measure on the list, and for good reason! Physical activity stimulates the circulation of blood and immune cells; not only making you stronger internally and externally, but also flushing out various toxins in your body through sweat, exertion, etc. Next time you’re feeling the beginning stages of illness, try going for a light jog and drink lots of water. Combined, it should help alleviate some of the symptoms and regulate your body’s heating/cooling systems.
Although there are many things we can do to ensure we don’t get sick, these actions are nothing if we don’t fuel them properly with healthy, nutritional foods! Next time you go the grocery store, be sure to stock up on these immune-beneficial foods and ingredients:
- Yogurt: Yogurt contains probiotics that are invaluable in helping maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in our stomachs. Upwards of 60% of our immune defenses reside (and take action) in our gut, therefore it goes without saying that anything beneficial for our digestive tract is beneficial for health overall.
- Garlic: This is a must-have for any kitchen bent on fighting off colds and flus. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has been noted for its wonderful effect on fighting infection and promoting overall health. Its versatility allows us to use it as garnish or an addition to almost any meal or sauce, giving us access to one of the best natural ingredients in fighting off sickness, anytime and anywhere!
- Mushrooms: Although many people would agree that fungus boosting immunity seems absurd, mushrooms have actually been used around the world for centuries as immune-supporting food. Studies have shown that ingesting mushrooms increases the production and activity of white blood cells, which are primarily used in fighting off infections.
- Berries: These fruits are high in antioxidants, which help stave off illness and increase immune system strength.
- Vitamin C: Research has shown that Vitamin C has huge benefits to the immune system as well as reducing symptom length and intensity of current illnesses. It neutralizes harmful oxidants and enhances immune function (killing off infectious cells/viruses).
- Vitamin A: This vitamin helps regulate the immune system in similar ways to its Vitamin C counterpart; by producing and aiding white blood cells in the destruction of dangerous infections.
- Zinc: Anyone who has taken Zinc before will swear by its ability to support your immune system. It helps with maintenance on the skin, all the way to gene regulation in white blood cell production. It also dips its hand into cell replication, as well as acting as an integral part of musculoskeletal system and 200+ metabolic functions in the body. Zinc can be found in shellfish, meat and dairy products.
All things being equal, none of these things are immediate cure-alls for sickness. Rather, they comprise a long list of choices we can make to better our lifestyle. Our immune system will not give us more than we give it, therefore the only way to ensure health is to constantly make health-conscious decisions, both in food and activity. Don’t be afraid to enjoy this winter season for the simple fact of avoiding the common cold! Instead, prepare to enjoy it by taking into account the benefits of these healthy tips and foods that’ll save you from illness in the long run! As always, consult your health practitioner before making any major changes to lifestyle or diet.
The Blog post on sleep can be found here: http://drmarkwensley.com/blog/good-science-behind-sleep